I have written little bits here and there from the last few days, but none of them were really interesting enough to post by themselves. I still don’t know if they will capture your attention, but perhaps they will provide further insight into who I am and how I think of people and the world.
I wonder if you know, today is Ukraine’s Independence Day. In Vilnius’ Cathedral Square last night they had a bonfire to show support. I mentioned in another post that yesterday the Baltic countries also celebrated the 25th anniversary of the human chain.
It is really rainy today in Lithuania, but I wanted to get out of the house since I feel like I have been there every time Guoda and Tautvydas are there and perhaps they are getting tired of me. Unfortunately, because of the rain, I could not go very far so I ended up at a mall that is about a ten to fifteen minute walk from where I am staying. I am now sitting at a café and observing some teenagers below me. They are sitting on a mesh contraption shaped like a couch. There are two girls and one boy. The girls appear to be friends, and the boy is one of the girls’ boyfriends. The boy is sitting with his arm around his girlfriend’s shoulder doing nothing but occasionally looking around and even less frequently interacting with his girlfriend’s friend. Both of the girls are texting (I assume), or doing something else on their phones. The typical head bent over and slouching back of a teenager caught up in social media, has taken over their posture; I know because I was a young teenager with a new cell phone once too. The girlfriend is paying even less attention to her boyfriend then the friend is, and I can tell the boy is starting to get bored. This situation is sad to me. I have observed the children and their mothers in a park, and how free they seemed, but now I am seeing much to my disappointment that in this situation these teenagers are no different than the wired in teenagers of America.
(Yes, if you are wondering, I do realize I am sitting here typing on my computer working on my own form of social media while I complain about what I am seeing below me, but I am also not here with anyone but myself).
It is now the next day from when I was sitting in a café at the mall and writing. Yesterday was very rainy. When I left earlier to go to the mall, there was only a cold drizzle that fell from the sky. As I sat at the mall looking out the window, I watched as the drizzle turned into a downpour and I wondered when I would be able to return to the apartment.
They have a restaurant at this mall called La Crepe that I decided to try since I was temporarily stuck there. La Crepe is a chain restaurant and I have seen them allover Vilnius, but chain restaurants are part of a country’s culture (unless it is McDonald’s, Burger King, KFC, or any other American fast-food chain that has managed to make its way into another country). I have noticed that many restaurants here serve crepes or pizza, and of course potato dishes. Pizzerias serve crepes, and La Crepe serves pizza. It is a very strange combination, but if that is what people like, I cannot argue. I enjoy both of them myself if they are good, I just never pictured them having a place on the same menu.
An ambulance just drove by, and it reminded me that in Kazan’ my host mom had asked me why ambulances sometimes have the word “ambulance” written backwards across the front of the car. I had no idea that this happened, but we looked it up and found that it was so cars driving in front of it could read what it was in their mirror and get out of the way.
Today I encountered a man from Malta. When I ran into him, I did not really have a direction that I intended on going. I had plans for later in the day but right then I was just enjoying walking down the street by myself and enjoying the city.
I was about to keep walking on my way but he started talking to me. In the beginning I knew little about Malta, only that it was an island. In all honesty there are so many countries out in the world that I can’t possibly know about every single one of them, and Malta was one that I did not know. I study Russian and in accordance with this, I study mainly the history, culture and literature of countries that speak the Russian language or that were part of the former Soviet Union because they have intertwined histories.
The man and I went to a café to chat a little before he had to take off to fulfill his prior commitments. He was only in Lithuania for a few days gaining a visa to Belarus. He is leaving for Minsk tonight. The Baltic States are not only beautiful hidden pockets of culture and history, but they also serve as very useful gateways to apply for visas for surrounding countries.
We talked about a few different topics including Russian and Russia of course. These topics seem to always come up in conversations when I meet someone. Through this conversation I learned that people in Malta are bilingual speaking both Maltese and English. Later, when I looked up a bit of information about the country I found that these are both official languages of Malta. In addition to these two languages he mentioned that he learned Russian and Arabic. Perhaps another language as well, but these four are what I remember.
I don’t know the story behind his interest in Arabic, but we talked about how and why he ended up learning Russian. In Malta he used to own a restaurant and he would get a lot of Russian clientele. A Russian woman ended up working for him and suggested that he translate the menu for his restaurant into Russian. I wasn’t very clear on this point, but I think that this was before he knew Russian so this woman probably helped him. He also spent a few months in St. Petersburg and said that while being there, hearing and seeing Russian everyday it was hard not to learn the language. At his restaurant after he learned Russian, his Russian customers would always wonder why and how he knew Russian.
From this, we moved on, to a discussion of differences in restaurant etiquette in Malta, Lithuania and America. I have discussed a few differences in education, fitness and the grammar of languages; I never thought I would end up in a conversation about the differences in customer service at restaurants. He said that in Malta if the restaurant was a good restaurant, not necessarily expensive, but good, you will always find the real owner at the restaurant. Since he has been in Lithuania he has not seen the real owner of a restaurant here, although most of the restaurants I have seen here are chains. From my experience in Lithuania when you sit down at a restaurant they give you about two minutes to look at the menu before asking if you are ready to order. Sometimes these menus are around twenty pages long (with the back section usually being beverages or dessert) so I have had a waiter or waitress come back sometimes three or four times before I am actually ready to order, or else they hover nearby ready to pounce as soon as I look up from my menu. I know that in the United States the staff at restaurants will annoyingly return before you are obviously ready to order as well, but not in the same short intervals that they do here. In the United States sometimes people take a long time to decide what to order and this is normal. We like to slowly examine each dish, and chat about something interesting while we are doing it, so it makes going through the menu much slower. People that I know usually go to restaurants to spend time with people, catch up with old friends, or meet for the purpose of business. The point is to talk over a meal. I have never been to a restaurant in the United States just to eat. I think the only other noticeable way that restaurants in Lithuania differ from restaurants in America is that like many European restaurants, they will not give you your check unless you ask for it. In the United States, as soon as they see that people have set their forks down they walk over with the check as if they want you to leave. This man I met made a comment that we are both from more relaxed countries than Lithuania based on how quickly we choose what to order from the menu. I tend to disagree, having spent about a week in Lithuania now, and I think that the country is rather more relaxed than the high speed culture of America (I of course cannot speak for Malta), but like the exercise and education differ between countries, so do the expectations in a restaurant.
This expectancy of high speed decision making extends to cafes as well. In the United States I will stand at a Starbucks (or another coffee shop) for ten minutes deciding what drink I want to order. I of course will not stand in line while I am trying to make up my mind; I stand off to the side and let others go before me if they are ready. In Lithuania, even if I stand off to the side to examine the list of drinks, the barista stares at me, waiting. Maybe here people make quick decisions concerning their food and drink. I like to know my options and enjoy knowing that I am making the right decision for myself when it comes to what kind of food I put in my body.
I can’t say too much more about this man, most of what I know about him is information I filled in myself. He gave me only little bits of insight into who he was because he kept choosing to interrupt the conversation or stop talking. It was very frustrating for me, but some people choose to be like this and I cannot change that.
Over these last few days, although the sun still peaks through the mass of gray clouds on occasion, the bite of fall is in the air. Fall is my favorite time of year, but adjusting from summer clothing to those required in autumn is always difficult. As it is I seem to have forgotten to pack a pair of shoes for the time in between summer and winter, and at the moment I am left wearing my summer sandals through the rainy and windy days.
I think wearing my summer sandals in the rain and cool air yesterday took my body heat, for when I went to bed I could not easily fall asleep because I was so cold. Instead I stared out the window across the room from my bed and noticed a pale green light that slowly faded in and out, in and out. Since I had nothing better to do while I waited for sleep to take me, I started to create a story stemming from the green light. I started thinking of aliens because of the color, and thus the story began.
In an apartment across the way lives a seemingly normal family. They have two children, as is common with families today. The young boy names Lynas and the older girl called Leanna attend school as anyone their ages should, and the parents go to work. On a normal day, when they all come home in the evening, the mother makes dinner while the father helps his children with their homework. Life went on normally for them, but for one difference. In the depths of night when they thought the city was sleeping, a green pale light throbbed from their windows admitting an eerie glow on the buildings and streets around it.
What did this light mean? No one knew. Everyone who saw it covinced themselves that their eyes were playing tricks on them and the light wasn’t real. They thought they must have just been too tired to think clearly and never mentioned the incident to anyone.
However, one day a girl in Lynas’ year was walking home with her mother. Her mother had had an evening shift working at a hotel, and her daughter had come to visit her. By the end of the evening shift, the mother was very tired, so when the green light started throbbing in front of her eyes, she didn’t think much of it until her daughter pointed it out.
I didn’t get very far in the story, or else I don’t remember the rest. That’s what I came up with last night though, Perhaps I will write more if I ever have interest in doing so.
Today I went back to the first restaurant I went to in Lithuania when I was staying with my first host in the hopes of trying a new traditional dish. However, when the translation on the menu reads something like “boiled,” “fried” or “stuffed pig’s ear”, it just does not sound appetizing to me, so I did not get it. After lunch I started to head in the direction of the museum I wanted to go to yesterday, but the weather was cleared up enough that I decided it was time to try another interesting flavor of ice cream. This time I tried Marzipan with fruit or something.
After I ate the ice cream I still had time to go to the museum, so I headed on my way. Unfortunately I don’t know all of the streets in Vilnius well, so I got a bit lost, but I eventually made it there. The museum was more of a story, you go from room to room reading about how different parts of the holocaust affected the Lithuanian Jewish population. There are pieces of the story told from the point of view of the those who administered the harm, and many diary entries from those who suffered. I think I was already slightly worn out when I got there because I had been walking around all day, but I planned to take my time going through the museum anyway. Unfortunately, as I started to make my way through the first room, two younger German guys started to practice as if they were giving a tour to people who spoke English, and I could not concentrate on what I was reading. They carried on like this the whole time I was in the museum (which was over an hour) and I was so frustrated by the end of it because I knew I could have gotten so much more out of the museum.
I had to return to the apartment before 6:00 P.M. because my next program was holding its online orientation then. I sat on my bed for an hour listening to someone talk at me about St. Petersburg and the program that was about to start. Some of the information was helpful because I did not know it before, but the lady talking kept saying that if we had any further questions about this information, we would explore them in more depth later at the orientation when we got there. So, why did we talk about them during the online orientation at all? It seems like a waste of time. I was still listening to the orientation as first Guoda and then Tautvydas came home, and I felt rude having to sit on my computer, but it was mandatory for me to “attend.”