The Rain and the Sun

Well, I see what happens when I disappear from the internet for a month or more. Patrick Rothfuss bands together with some awesome people, creates a Name of the Wind card deck, crushes Kickstarter into tiny pieces, and wraps up the whole thing before I get my wifi signal back. Whew! (And I still haven’t told my story about ellipsis marks…)

Well, it’s okay. Because things tend to be okay when one is in Lithuania. That’s right. I have arrived in the land of eternal sunshine (no seriously, it’s summer here, so the sun only sits below the horizon from about 11-4.) If there is one thing I learned on my first day, it is that it rains a lot in Vilnius. I flew in, I got caught in the rain, got a taxi, got to my hostel, went looking for the Ministry of Education, failed to find it, and got caught in the rain again. As a result, my diploma now looks like your white shirt after it’s been through the wash with your brand new red one. I know I have more than one copy, but I’m rather inclined to frame the tie-dyed one.

It was one the bus ride to Klaipeda that I finally relaxed. I feel totally at home here. And well, seeing as I’ve summered here twice before, why shouldn’t I? Maybe it’ll just be a thing. I took a walk on my second day down to the sculpture garden and wrote for an hour. I wrote more in that hour than I have on any given day since November, clearly I should summer here more. I’m using the summer to return to a more intensive writing schedule… maybe…. My intensive school schedule (seven hours of class a day, not to mention homework) takes up most of my time. But if I can at least fall into the habit of writing every day, maybe I can start boosting my daily word count soon. Gonna mark up my calendar again… We’ll see how well that works….

I’ve officially finished my first week of class. I got a… 98.2 in my phonology class and made at least one new friend in my grammar class. She reminds me a bit of sister, actually. They have a similar glamour about their dress. Tomorrow, Annie and I head for the old town market and possibly akropolis (the mall) as she needs clothes. Then we’re meeting Austeija and possibly other classmates at nine. pm. Did I mention it doesn’t get dark until 11?

We have five graduates this year, exciting, and we get to hear their thesis defenses next week. In the meantime, I am trying to come up with a thesis of my own–I am thinking studying politeness in the context of restaurant ordering–and figuring out how to complete such a project at the same as an oral practicum. But the program director says he thinks it’s possible, so I’ll give it a whirl, and hopefully by this time next year, I’ll be fitting for my cap and gown.

My minuscule knowledge of the Lithuanian has been validated by native speakers, and I am getting more comfortable with it. My joke that “I know about enough to say ‘atsiprašau, bet aš labai mazai suprantu lietuviškai’ has been well recieved.” For those of you who don’t know Lithuanian, that means “I’m sorry, but I understand very little Lithuanian. I am trying to come up with something else clever about Lithuania to tell you, but the more familiar I get with it, the more ordinary everything seems. So here are a few things which will affect my day tomorrow:

Tomorrow, Annie and I will walk to the market in old town. Where there is a city in Lithuania, there is an open air market, where farmers and knitters and others sell everything from fresh honey to handknitted socks to bras and underwear (not handknitted). Last year, I bought my mother socks from the old market, and she wore them so much she wore holes in them. Most of the knitters are old Lithuanian or Russian ladies who know very little English. But they are very nice and we always find alternate ways to communicate. Lithuania is very far north (as you may have guessed by now) so knitted socks are a wonderful thing (if less necessary in the summer.)

We will pay for socks, honey, and whatever else with litas, the Lithuanian currency, which looks, well… European. Coins represent 1centa to 5 litas, in silver and gold colors with the 2 lita and 5 lita coins being two-toned. The 1, 2, and 5 centa coins are so light they feel like the play money you give to kids in the US. But the general rule to the coinage is that the more a coin weighs, the more it is worth. Bills start at 10 litas and continue in varying increments to 200. They mostly depict famous writers, with the notable exception being the 10 lita bill which depicts two pilots. All are Lithuanian heroes, mostly nationalists who fought to preserves traditional culture in language during Russian, Soviet, and Nazi occupation. (Lithuania was occupied by Russia both before and after it became the Soviet Union).

From there, we may visit the amber stalls in Theatre Square. Amber is common in Lithuania,and washes up on the shore of the Baltic Sea. There is an amber makers guild, and lots of people sell it. Compared to US prices it is incredibly cheap. Also in Theatre Square is the balcony where Hitler spoke when the Nazis took Klaipeda. The story goes that he got really upset that the statue of a girl on the fountain in the middle of the square wasn’t facing him while he was speaking.

We may wander old town and look at the art work. It seems that every corner you turn has another statue, carving, or something else on it. Last year we saw a giant checkerboard, a carving of a piano, a statue of a man climbing out the river, a weathervane with all sorts of odds and ends, and down what appears to be a random alley, a dragon and the story of Klaipeda. Klaipeda is Lithuanian for “lost foot.” The story says that a tribe of ancient people were seeking a new home, and two brothers set off in search of one. When they reached a swamp, brother A went one direction, and brother B went the other. Brother A eventually found a wonderful place by the seaside and the tribe moved there. But brother b never showed up, and when they went looking for him in the swamp, all they found was his footprint.

From there, we’ll catch the bus to Akropolis. We’ll buy bus tickets at a red-roofed information booth–they also sell maps, magazines, and snacks (probably other stuff too, just not sure what.) We’ll save a few centas buying them here, and with our student IDs. They’re little paper tickets, which we’ll punch when we get on the bus. Each bus has a puncher with a different pattern, and city officials do random spot checks to make sure everyone’s ticket matches. They move the punchers around, so you can’t cheat.

Akropolis is any ordinary mall, with full dine in restaurants and an ice skating rink. We’re sure to go Pegasus Kynygynas (the bookstore) so I can look for Vejo Vardas (the Name of the Wind). Then we’ll take the bus home. It drops us on right across the street from the university. How’s that for a taste of Lithuania? More to come later (perhaps even a literal taste because I love the food.)

Viso gero!

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