Now that Bonnie have been here all of three days, we can give you our preliminary run-down on the experience – valuable, no doubt, since most people I know have yet to visit the fair shores of Lithuania.
The trip over was long and uneventful. Flying, however, isn’t what it used to be. In the good old days before hijackings and assorted other mayhem one merely walked up to the gate, showed your ticket (you did have to have a paper ticket, usually), and got on the plane. No muss, no fuss, no security (I once got on carrying a .45). Hardly the case any more. Oh, and now you’ve got to get to the gate 15 minutes before the flight leaves. More security, for some reason. (Flash – that’s now 30 minutes!)
It used to be (the favorite expression for old goats like me) that you knew which airlines you were flying on. If the ticket said American, or Pan Am, or Continental, that’s also what the tail on the plane said. Our last leg said Lufthansa on our itinerary. The departure board said United. The plane itself said Brussels airlines. The cabin said “sardines.” You’ve heard the expression “two pounds in a one pound sack.” This was one hundred passengers in a 75 passenger plane.
Matters weren’t much better on Lufthansa/United/Canadair flying over. “Would you like to trade up to economy plus?” “How much?” “$194 each.” “Well, Bonnie, what do you think – much wider seats, better service . . ” “No, sir, that would be Business class. Economy plus is five more inches of leg room.” Seven hour flight, five more inches – 35 “inchours”, or $5.54 per inchour. We passed. (On the plane, passengers were sternly cautioned about sneaking into any unoccupied “Economy Plus” seats.
Everything in Europe is small. Historically, our European ancestors were considerably smaller in stature. Coming to America, with lots of space and food, cured that. If they tried to put one hundred typical Americans in that cabin, the results wouldn’t have been pretty.
We were met on time by two friendly students from LCC who help ex-pats, of which LCC is loaded. Henrikas and Mendaugas, despite initially unpronounceable names, (no Chucks, Bobs, Petes, or Davids here) got us across a cold and dark four hour drive with dispatch and aplomb.
LCC is a small campus, and our apartment fits the genre. We have about 320 square feet, as near as I can figure, having no room in our luggage for a tape measure. This is divided into a bedroom, a bath, a Pullman kitchen, and a living/dining area, plus an airlock/mud room entrance. About twice the size of the cabin we had in the Caribbean two weeks ago. Cozy, but adequate.
Too soon to tell much about the food. Seems good, but a bit different to American tastes. I’ll have more to say on that later with more experience.
Grocery stores are fun. New language, new currency, new weights and measures.It reminds me of word problems in the fourth grade. “How much, in dollars, does a one pound piece of meat cost marked 30 Litas/kilogram?” Answer next time. The first reply with the correct answer gets a special Lithuanian treat when Bonnie and I return home.
Lithuanians are tall and thin. A Walmart would never succeed here. Women are very conscious of their looks, and dress up everywhere. All women under the age of forty seem to wear skin tight jeans, or some variation thereof. Men are a bit more casual.
Bonnie wants to add a few thoughts, as I have to walk a kilometer to the grocery store, It is no longer cold and snowy. It is cold and misty. The Bureau of Tourism here has its hands full.
Additions from Bonnie:
The 3 days here have been a whirlwind–I actually thought it was only two days until I read what Chuck had written above. I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed by trying to dust off my old brain and start learning again—how to figure out the money, the metric system, and the language all at once–even the temperature is different–Celcius, of course. Not only all that, but I am trying to figure out my surroundings–we’ve also gone from a very rural home to a city. It’s been a long while since I had to ride the bus. Rachel has been my teacher–she and I, along with Noah, took the bus down to the shopping center yesterday so now I know where to catch the bus, which buses to take, and how to validate my ticket. The bus driver was a bit grouchy but don’t know if he is typical.
The drive from the airport at Vilnius on Wednesday was 4 hours in a seemingly straight line through a very flat and gray and deserted landscape–basically a grassland with very few trees. There were a few houses here and there but not another town in all that distance. However, I did not have a map so it may be that the towns were off to the side. I think there are few of them and the country is sparsely populated and is losing population.
When we arrived, what a happy reception awaited us. John and Rachel had prepared our apartment with some necessities such as a Christmas tree decorated with small Lithuanian ornaments made of straw and artwork from the grandchildren already on the refrigerator. Rachel had prepared a wonderful meal for us and she and John gave us a welcome bag of handy things including an American/Lithuanian dictionary small enough to carry in my purse.
I’ve been very impressed with Rachel’s ability to communicate in Lithuanian as we have been out and about together. I sure hope I can learn it that fast. I kept saying “yes” to people instead of “thank you”.
We had the lovely snow-covered branches look when we first arrived and I meant to get a picture but now it is all gone. I’m sure I’ll get another opportunity before long.Surprisingly, underneath the snow the grass is as green as summer. I’m looking out the window here at the rather wealthy neighborhood across the street but just on the other side of the campus is a very large group of the old Soviet-era apartments–very ugly. Pictures will be coming of all of this.
I like our little apartment just fine–all clean and new. Cleaning is going to be easy. Cooking, on the other hand, will be more challenging. We could not find a standing rib roast which is our tradition for Christmas dinner. They have different cuts of meat here so we just had to pick out some chunk of beef that looked good.
Well, I have rambled on long enough. We sure hope to hear from you all from time to time.