Bonnie and I have now completed one whole week in Klaipeda. Adjustments and learning is like drinking from a firehose. Everything comes so thick and fast. So little sticks in the memory. I sometimes feel I am exasperating those who are helping me. :”Gee. I’ve already shown him this twice! Is he dense? Not paying attention?” At least I imagine some such dialogue going on in their heads.To add to the fun, given my admitted general incompetence with computers, when I went to my new office yesterday, having pestered John about how to do this, and that, and the other, I couldn’t even get the darned thing to turn on. NOW what have I forgotten how to do?? After a few minutes of futile struggle, I go seeking help yet once again.Turns out there had been a power failure, Not a result of my ineptness. That’s a relief of sorts, but then what I wished to accomplish had to wait a day before the system could be fixed. I’m sure glad I got here two plus weeks before classes start.
Class preparation is proceding apace, although I’m having much concern about striking the right balance for student expectations. No one is around who has actually taught any of my classes before, and the syllabi I’ve retrieved so far are all over the map. I don’t get a do-over for the semester, so feel intense pressure to get it right. Again, I’m so glad I didn’t wait until the normal arrival date for new faculty.
I hope to learn as much while I am here as I impart to others, and am thrilled that I’ve found a language/culture coach who will start with us on Friday. Very few people here speak English, so even a simple trip to the grocery store can be daunting without at least being able to read labels. I now know that one always removes one’s shoes when entering another’s house, (it rains half the time, so shoes are constantly in the wet and mud.) When invited to dinner, flowers, chocolates, or wine (costing between 20 and 40 litas – remember, a lita is about 38 cents at the moment) make suitable hostess gifts, but, if flowers, no white ones, and must be an odd number. Otherwise it is a funeral arrangement.
Now I have to go wrestle with my new office, so heeeeers Bonnie.
Like Chuck, I am feeling a bit overwhelmed with all there is to learn at once. I spent a lot of time going over and over the phrase –“I don’t understand Lithuanian.” but when it came time to use it, I couldn’t bring myself to actually utter it to a Lithuanian so just looked dumb.
I’ve even had my little problems on the home front. I can’t read the washer instructions but, hey, how hard can it be. Since Rachel had already shown me once, I didn’t want to bug her again so proceeded on my own. The clothes washed for roughly an hour and a half and then the door wouldn’t open so I could remove the laundry. I finally called Rachel and found that the washer will open when it gets good and ready–I was finally able to retrieve our undies which I dried the Lithuanian way–on a rack in our apartment. There is a dryer in the dorm I can use for free but I thought I’d try the local method to see how long it took.
And then there was the perplexity of baking–why does the oven dial only go to 250 degrees? Oh, yes–celcius. Rachel had made me a conversion chart which I taped inside the cupboard near the stove but I had forgotten.
It was a blessing being able to spend Christmas with some family for the first time in 8 years. Rachel cooked on Christmas Eve and then we trudged in the rain for a few blocks to attend “midnight mass” (at 9 p.m.) at the nearby Catholic church. When we arrived, we realized our information was in error–the service began at 10 p.m. So back home we trudged. After watching the children open their gifts the next morning–very cute, of course–John, Chuck, and I began the journey to the church they have been attending. This required a long hike to the bus stop, the ride itself, and a short hike to the church. It’s a rather new congregation -about 15 years – and meeting in the loft of an old resort hotel. The Lithuanian lady greeter asked as we came in, “May I hug you?” Of course! I suddenly felt right at home as though we’d been dropped back into an Evangelical church in the USA. I was moved by the first part of the service–all the people around us singing the familiar Christmas carols in Lithuanian and our singing them in English–Tyli naktis, sventa naktis! I was thinking of how our shared belief brought us together that morning and also thinking of all the services all over the world singing in their own words in celebration of the birth of our Savior. As the translation system did not work that morning, though, and we had to sit through a 45 minute sermon we didn’t understand, the second part of the service was not so inspiring
I’m attaching a few pictures of our neighborhood As I sit here at the desk, I look out often to see what’s going on–many people walking in and out of the neighborhood directly across the street. They are probably walking to the bus stop–about a quarter of a mile, or maybe up to the nearest store–about a half mile maybe. Some are returning with bags–probably groceries. As they have to carry it all for a long distance, they have to shop often. We are already experiencing that and will have to learn to be good planners. Because they have to walk so much I think, very few people are fat–I’ve seen two so far. So different from home. As we have already walked a good bit, I’m hoping we’ll come home lean and fit.