With Artūras in Vilnius

The first person I will write about is Artūras. If you ever want a real tour of a city, meet someone like Artūras who knows so much about the city they live in. This way you can walk and talk with just the two of you, and you don’t need to try to listen over the chatter of the people around you, or listen to the unnecessarily long and drawn out descriptions of monuments and historic sites that are commonly heard on regular group tours. Artūras is fluent in Lithuanian and Russian. He says he is lucky he has Russian relatives, because then he didn’t have to study Russian, he knows it from growing up with Russian speakers in his family. He also speaks English rather well. One of the many topics I discussed with him was the grammatical components of the Lithuanian language. One of the first pieces of information he told me about the Lithuanian language is that Lithuanian probably has every type of grammar there is found in languages. In other words, it is a very complicated language. I already knew it was a complicated language, but knowing it is, and learning about the various components that make it so, are very different. Lithuanian has seven cases (English has three which are not actually significant to learning the language since they don’t cause changes in the adjective and noun endings as they do in other languages, so most English speakers do not know what cases are unless they try to learn a language that has them). Lithuanian also has tenses that are just as complicated as the set of tenses found in English. Artūras told me that English speakers tend to find Lithuanian tenses easier to learn because we have complicated ones ourselves, but I can’t personally imagine coupling our ridiculous tenses with a set of Russian cases (this is what I am comparing it to because of these two languages I have the most knowledge). He also said that the only language that Lithuanian is related to is Latvian, but the languages are not mutually intelligible. I believe Lithuanian is the oldest (still spoken) European language, and many of its words have obviously Latin or Sanskrit roots.

Maybe this will be more interesting than the grammar of a foreign language. The name of Lithuania in Lithuanian is “Lietuva.” My host told me this word is similar to the word is similar to the Lithuanian word for rain, which is something like “lietus.” He said that the name “Lietuva” actually comes from the word for rain, and the name basically translates to “Rainland.” So Lithuania’s name is actually “Rainland.”

Artūras went to Minsk, I believe, last spring (this is the capitol of Belarus, a country that right now I think would be very difficult for a citizen of the United States to visit) and said it was the cleanest city he had ever visited because everywhere he looked, he could not find garbage. He said that while he was there he looked around specifically to try to find garbage maybe under a stairwell, or hidden by a bush, but there was none. The reason for this, he said, is that the current Belorussian regime promotes cleanliness. They have propaganda about cleanliness in the country that the country should be clean on the streets, but also you should keep your living space clean as well. I think this is a very interesting value to be promoted with the use of propaganda. In addition, there are no homeless or drunk people on the streets. My host said that if a drunk person stumbled out onto the street, that police would come out of nowhere within five minutes of the person appearing on the street, and the person would be taken away. He said the country has many police.

Artūras also hitchhiked with a friend across Europe. He said when they were trying to get out of Lithuania and Poland it was harder because hitchhiking is not as common, but once they got to Germany for example, they would barely have to stick out their hands and they would have a ride to the next stop. While Artūras and his friend were hitchhiking, he said they had a tent that they would set up at truck stops and just sleep in the parking lot. In the morning they would make food in their tent,  and then clean everything up. After that, all they had to do was go to the side of the road to catch a ride. I think this is so interesting because I don’t think it would be very simple to do this in the United States.


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