Tuesday, April 22, 2014

English(wo)man in LT

Guess it is time for a little update once again. I have been terribly busy with my thesis the last few weeks but the end is luckily in sight. I have to hand in my work May 12th and I'm looking so much forward to the moment that this thesis burden falls off my shoulders. Quantity-wise it all goes fine. Previous week, during a hot spring evening, a loud thunderstruck marked my 30.000th written word; interesting timing. Also quality-wise it finally goes into the right direction, even though I expect some excessive coffee usage during the last week before the deadline.

Two weeks ago my dear friend Sarah from England visited me in Kaunas. We had a great time and a lot to catch up as we hadn't seen each other since August last year, when we were in Northern France for some fantastic ballooning during Mondial Air Ballons '13. We did some sightseeing in both Kaunas and Vilnius this time. It's always nice to have a close friend around. My life in the Netherlands is so different from that in Lithuania that I value it a lot to show others around in my kind of second world. I guess also later, when my Baltic adventure has come to an end, it's good to have loved ones around that can easily create a visual image in their heads that accompany my stories of the 'good old times' in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

To come back to Sarah's visit I can say we had loads of fun. Furthermore, Sarah noticed immediately how bad the pavements in Kaunas were, stating she could hardly keep her eyes off her feet because she was afraid to stumble. My father said the same when he visited me last year. I guess I got used to it already. Another thing Sarah noticed were the relatively low food prices in Lithuania. She was so kind to treat me on many meals and coffee's and with just around 50 euro's we survived for a long weekend, together, eating out several times a day. What a delight for a greedy Dutchman like me. Then something else: waiter and waitress behavior. Of course I'm stereotyping now, but so incredibly often Lithuanian waitresses can just be a bit incomprehensible. Generally it seems that all restaurants are filled with too much personnel, but that all these people just have one little task for which they are responsible. As soon as the border of their task is crossed, they seem to block. Instead of communicating with their colleagues or just by thinking along, replacing themselves in the minds of their happily smiling customers, they just stand there being serious. This whole thinking along doesn't seem to be part of their contract. Again, I'm generalizing now, but Sarah was astonished and so was I, still, after all that time. Thus, a lot of waiting and a no 'customer is King' service at all.

During our touristy weekend, just like when in France, we visited a lot of churches. Not to attend services, but just to observe the architecture of the buildings, their interiors and moreover the people and their customs. I guess we enjoyed the little Russian orthodox church in Kaunas and the big greenish Russian orthodox church in Vilnius the most. After having visited the one in Kaunas I'm not that eager anymore to eat these rolls of spreadable meat wrapped in plastic. Sarah and I were sitting down on a small bench and after two sweet Russian ladies shared a smile with us a small man walked into the church, taking a seat next to Sarah. In the corner of my eye I noticed that this man looked a bit filthy and homeless-like. He had greasy hair, his clothes were torn and a closer inspection showed his face was heavily damaged. His eyes were hardly visible as his eye lids and under eye skin were as thick as a finger. He carried a transparent plastic bag with him, containing some dry white bread which he fanatically started to eat. Later on he also grabbed a huge piece of in plastic covered meat. He unwrapped the plastic and stuffed half of the thing up into his mouth, slobbering, smacking and wheezing of enjoyment. Luckily the angelic sound of the small choir in the church distracted me just enough from retching out loud. No more rolls of meat in plastic for me anymore now these visions are projected on my retina. Poor fellow...

To conclude, this miraculous discovery in a little side street in Vilnius: a manhole cover from Pont-a-Mousson, the tiny French village where team Grand Britannia and both my dad and I stayed during the previous editions of Mondial Air Ballons.

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