After nearly fourteen years, students again.  Lots of students – somewhere around a hundred, although all the dust is yet to settle.  So far, so good.  Last Monday, after the end of the day of my last post, I thought my legs would fall off.  When you’re not used to standing in front of a classroom hour after hour, about five in this case, and no longer a spring chicken, or a very long ago spring, in my case, it shows.  I had to take a couple of pain pills to sleep that night.  However, Wednesday and Friday went much better physically, so I’m quickly back up to speed.

I had heard a number of differing reactions to the students here, and was a touch apprehensive about what I’d be facing.  However, based on one whole week, the students seem just fine.  As warned, it is often very difficult to get them to respond.  Culturally, Central Europeans avoid familiarity.  On the street, an approaching pedestrian will take such pains not to make eye contact with me that they run the risk of walking into a pole their eyes are so averted.  My classes got a kick out of that observation, which I illustrated in class with the appropriate exxageration.  Lots of laughs, so things in the participation department are getting better quickly.

One of my four classes is called (International) Political Economy.  Friday, right off the bat, a student asked about 911.  Wasn’t this really a government conspiracy?  That got the ball rolling!  No trouble with participation then.  An hour flew by in what seemed like five minutes.  It was a fascinating tour de force on what my students think of America and its role in the world.  Mostly, they think we meddle much too much in other peoples’ affairs. This is going to be a fun class!  (Ron Paul, call your office.)

Conspiracy theories come naturally to these students, every one of whom comes from the former Soviet Union, or its satellites.  Governments lie, conceal, steal, harass and generally make life miserable.  Several students indicated that they had a grandparent who just disappeared into the camps, never to be seen again.That’s their heritage, and why should they think any government anywhere would be any different?  After all, such democracy as has emerged in the twenty years since the Soviet collapse involves, as they see it, merely electing a different set of crooks.

I’ve met several more faculty members this week, and they are an interesting and diverse lot.  The big problem here is that very few are long termers, and one, two or three semesters, and they’re gone.  You cannot build much of a program on that basis, or have meaningful relations with your students over the four years of their attendance.  It’s wonderful to have people willing to give up chunks of their lives for no pay (and work very hard in the bargain), but ultimately, in my humble opinion, it’s no way to run a railroad.

Next Monday, in my spare time during lunch between class two and three, I have a departmental meeting.  Oh rapturous joy!  Of those things which I do NOT miss, departmental meetings are right up there.  (Grading is the other one.)

For those of you keeping score on such matters, I have classes MWF, starting at 9:45, 11:00, 13:30 (they run on military time) and 14:45.  One hour long, with fifteen minute breaks.  Breaks aren’t breaks for me, since there is always a host of student needs requiring attention.  We’re seven hours ahead of SC, so while you all are snuggled comfy in your beds, I’m imparting wisdom.

In non-academic matters, Bonnie and I woke up to our first real snow since we’ve been here.  It’s now a little after nine, and at ten our Culture Coach will be here, and we’re headed downtown Klaipeda to learn some of the subtleties of shopping and dining  We’ve included pictures.

Egle, our Culture Coach

A view up the street toward the Catholic Church

Bonnie mentioned our day at the beach a few days ago, and our failure to find amber.  It seems there is more to finding amber than literally meets the eye.  I intend to go out with an experienced amber hunter before long, although snow on the beach won’t help.

It’s been nearly a month since we’ve been here, and we feel blessed.  We miss you back home, and again point out that coming here would make a wonderful trip, with local experts to guide you into the finer points of coastal Lithuania.  (Also, the beer is good and cheap, as is the food when dining out.)



  1. Glad you are back in the saddle! We are praying for your students’ conversions. Rubies are being added to your crowns as we speak. Our 1st Russian lesson is today; we look forward to visiting you in Lithuania. F&H

  2. Tell us more how your students think Sept. 11th was a conspiracy? I don’t understand. Are your students so young they don’t think it was real? Do you focus more on European or Eastern European Politics in your classes or do you have time to be more global?
    I’d love to hear more about what your cultural coach taught you.
    Best to you and Bonnie as you continue this journey!

    • Stay tuned to further blogs on some of what you’ve asked.

      I try to be very global in my approach to the class, but we’re just getting started. Students tend to be relativistic, and therefore regard truth as almost always contingent. Since they, and their ancestors, have experienced some very bad governmental actions and actors, they’re suspicious of the motives and behaviors of all of them, including the US. Therefore, when they see some in the US accusing our government of setting up 9/11 in order to further invasions of Iraq, Afghanistan, stationing troops all around the region, and so forth, they smell a conspiracy afoot.

      Stalin, Hitler, and others like them were very devious, and set many foul plots in action. The Kirov murder, to name one of the most notorious, or the Reichstag fire to name another. To them, this is very recent, and very living, history. If you mention either one of these to the average American, they won’t know what you’re talking about.

      There is much more than I’ll ever have time to write about, but when I get home I’ll make a full report to whomever is interested.

  3. Sounds as if you are getting as much of an education (just by being there) as you are imparting to your students, Chuck. With the snowfall, everything looks so pristine, and we bet that you two are actually enjoying the snow more so than the dreary rain!
    And how bout your “culture coach”! They certainly do grow them tall over there. We figured she has to be about 6’2″-6’4″.
    Just like in school here in the US, it’s quite an accomplishment to get through the first week and it sounds like you have done just that quite successfully.
    So, keep up the good work!

  4. Bonnie and Chuck:
    Is it pretty much flat there? Do the Lithuanians play any sports? Winter sports? Is your culture coach typical in height? Is she from there? It’s just curious to me with her having a job that seems to be so much a ‘service’ oriented job and the general attitude of careful reserve regarding others might be an odd mix.
    I really enjoy your posts and your take on things. Thanks for sending your insights. Looking forward to more.
    Barbara Gillum
    Riesel, TX

  5. With respect to our Culture Coach, Egle, she is indeed tall, but many Lithuanians of both genders are tall and slim. Also generally very handsome people.

    My intention is fully to learn as much as I impart – and so far, that is indeed the case. Although Bonnie and I have been in many countries, it makes a huge difference to settle at a place and get to know the people, not just the nifty buildings. And, speaking of buildings, Klaipeda is an interesting town, about which we’ll say more in subsequent posts.

    Once you get past the natural reserve, we’ve found Lithuanians to be very friendly. Egle (pronounced, sort of, EGG-le: it means `Evergreen”) is just a sweetheart. She is a full-time Senior. Her `Culture Coach” duties are strictly a few hours a week because I asked for someone to give Bonnie and me a little help getting to know our new home for five months. She is from a small town a hundred kilometers or so from Klaipeda.

    Finally, it is very flat around here, nonetheless we saw a few children pulling their sleds around in a vain hope to get some downhill momentum. I guess it’s just the thought of the thing. Basketball is the national sport, not surprisingly given their stature,and more than a few Lithuanians have played at the college and pro level in the US.

  6. Where can I get a cultural coach???!!! Tee hee. I have a Lithuanian in my A&P claa. Her name is Greta and is happy not to be in the frigid climes of the Baltic.
    All is well here. We are, as always, insanely busy with work, school and activities. Linda and I will be leading worship with the praise band at the North Ft. Myers campus and Sam will be at the Cape campus helping with a fundraiser for the youth Nicaragua Mission (yes, he is going) then attending the 10am service, leading worship at Grace Place (kids church) then Nicaragua team meeting and Youth group this evening. Cait is attending the 11:30 service and Lindsay and Sam went to church last evening at a great church in Ft. Myers that is very young adult oriented.
    Glad to hear all is going well. Say ‘hi’ to John and Rachel and the kids.

  7. Dear Chuck and Bonnie, I love the local color of your descriptions and your analysis of the culture. As Hope and I are learning some basic Russian in preparation for our trip there in late April, will they find it offensive if we try to speak to them in Russian instead of in Lithuanian? Should we always start with English? We will be going to the Ukraine as well, so I don’t think the Russian will be wasted, but let me know about their preference for Russian or English. Thanks, and God bless you both!

    • Russian does raise certain issues and memories, but I haven’t seen any hostility towards the Russians resident here. I hear Russian spoken quite frequently. Which language you should try would depend on circumstances, but I think English is the safer bet. I’ll dig a little deeper as to the percentage of locals who speak each language, and let you know.

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