Last night it took what felt like forever to fall asleep. I spent a lot of time staring out the window and thinking. I knew that the next day was the day I was supposed to get my passport back with my new Russian Visa, so of course I was worrying. This morning I woke up too early, but I eventually got myself to fall back asleep for a small time. When 9:00 A.M. rolled around, I waited for a bit, but I quickly checked my email to see if the visa center had emailed me. I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to just walk in and assume they had my passport already, or if they were supposed to contact me and let me know somehow. Why else was the lady at the desk so persistent about seeing if I had a working phone in Lithuania or not? It made no sense. Time passed and I still received no email. I ate breakfast and showered, worked on writing a little and waited. When 12:00 came and went I decided it was time for me to email the visa center to see what I was expected to do. I immediately got a response and was told I could just walk in and pick up my passport. Of course, things are never that simple. It took me about 45 minutes to walk to the center, but I enjoyed a new view of Vilnius since I decided to take a new route.
When I got to the center, at first I wasn’t sure who I was supposed to ask to get my passport back. When I did find someone, they asked me if I had the agreement that I apparently signed when I gave them my documents in the first place. My immediate thoughts were I signed what? What agreement is she talking about? I vaguely remembered signing something, but everything has been so stressful, how am I supposed to remember one piece of paper? Thankfully when they gave me the papers, I put them inside a book inside of my bag so that they would stay in decent condition, and they hadn’t moved since then so I had the agreement with me. It just took some shuffling through papers before I found it. The second hiccup in the process of getting my passport back was in part because the lady I dealt with today was different from the one I had been communicating and meeting with at every other point in the process. I had turned in my AIDS Certificate as I was supposed to about five days ago, honoring another agreement I signed that said I would turn it in before I received my passport back. Apparently the AIDS Certificate was not attached to the rest of the papers that accompanied my passport, so the lady helping me today at first thought I hadn’t turned it in. Thankfully she found the copy of the certificate, but I never go places like this unprepared. I had made an extra copy of the certificate just in case I needed it. One thing I have learned on this trip is just to have two or three copies of every important document, because you honestly don’t know if or when you will need it. It has been very helpful to me since I had to turn a copy of my passport (the identification page) in to the visa center with my other documents, and when I went to get my HIV test, I had to use my other copy of my passport as a form of identification. Now I am left with only one copy of the passport since the visa center took one, but one copy can be so useful.
I am happy to say I have my passport in hand with my new visa pasted inside. However, I will also say this, after so much time of not having my passport, or preparing for this time, I literally have my passport for about five days before I will give it to people running my program in St. Petersburg so they can start the process for the visa extension. Right now though, I am not going to worry about that. I am going to concentrate on having a grand time during my last few days in Vilnius, and then the process of my return trip to Russia (back through Poland and Germany).
When I got my passport back, it was around 2:00 P.M., so afterward I realized I was really hungry. I returned to a street for lunch that I had been to before, but I knew this street had a few souvenir shops, and I decided it was time for me to start my souvenir purchases. I like to go into shops and look around some days before I actually buy any souvenirs, if I have time, so I already knew where one particular shop was that I wanted to visit. I ate at a restaurant close to this shop, and one of the things I decided to order today was a glass of beer in celebration of my getting my passport and visa back. I found out much later (after the next series of events occurred) that September 1st is a holiday in Lithuania as well as the United States, but they are two very different holidays. Apparently in Lithuania on September 1st, it is a law that they will not sell alcohol. I think that this is just in stores though because I saw many people at the restaurant I went to, with a beer, so it must be okay at restaurants because they can moderate how much a person gets. The reason for them not selling alcohol is because September 1st marks the start of a new school year, and it is a huge celebration where (I am told) all of the students dress up and carry flowers or something, and they don’t want the students to get drunk. (These are not just elementary school students; they are secondary school students and university students as well). Guoda told me that of course this ban on selling alcohol doesn’t work, because the students will just buy it the day before since they know they won’t be able to get it the next day. I had no idea about this holiday when I was out today, so the next series of events ensued.
As I was looking around in the shop again, and collecting a few things I wanted to buy, some loud noises coming from the open street started penetrating the peace of the shop. I stepped outside to see what was going on, and viewed what appeared to be some sort of parade. In the beginning it was typical, just a group of girls in the front in a uniform, and a marching band following them. I didn’t see any uniforms after them, so I was confused because there were still a lot of people walking in the same direction as the band. As I continued to watch I started to see people with the German flag draped around their shoulders, or painted on their faces. The Ukrainian flag, French flag, Latvian flag, Italian flag, and so many more were all there, including some that I did not recognize. After a short time, I decided it would be safer if I went back in the shop and continued my browsing of souvenirs for the duration of the parade because some of the people had started walking on the sidewalk, and one guy decided it would be funny if he shoved his flag in my face. It was not funny, and I thought later that I should have just taken it out of his hand because it was a very rude action on his part.
The parade continued past the people cloaked in flags from various countries onto what I later figured out were groups of people in different specializations because the parade was of university students from Vilnius University. Maybe the flags represented some sort of international studies specialization, I don’t know. I only recognized a few of the specializations because the words sounded similar either to those in English, or in Russian, or because their costumes gave it away. A few of the specializations I recognized included psychology, chemistry, and what I could only assume was premed. As the groups passed, they were all chanting. Of course I have no idea what they were saying, except that it was about their specializations, because it was all in Lithuanian. It was an interesting event to witness nonetheless, even though I watched the majority of it from the inside of a souvenir shop.
Now, returning back to the topic of my visa, I think I can say this safely since I have my passport and visa back. I am happy to say that it can be done; a U.S. citizen can successfully apply for a Russian visa outside of the United States. However, if I never have to go through this process again, I will be very happy. If I do have to go through this process again, I got through it successfully this time, so I know I can not only physically getting the paperwork together and carry it with me for months before I actually have to submit it, but I can mentally endure the strain and stress that the whole process can put on someone.