THE UNFAIRNESS OF LIFE

Life isn’t fair.

I hope you’ve had a second or two to recover from that shocking insight, so that we may proceed to tonight’s post.  The second shock is that it’s Chuck here.  I simply haven’t had the time, or energy, to sit down, and I do not like to compose at night, but if I don’t now, it’ll be a long time before I have any free time, alas.  I never knew volunteering could be THIS demanding.  It isn’t fair.

What’s prompted this rather negative tone is an incident impacting dozens of LCC students from non-EU countries – Belarus, Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, for example. (Lithuanian students are not effected.) Year after year dozens of these students head out for summer jobs somewhere in Western Europe (what they call “Europe”), or the USA.  About a week or so ago, as the first batch went to the American embassy in Vilnius to pick up their visas, they got a rude awakening.  No visas!  The reason given – which most assuredly isn’t the real reason – is the students’ temporary residence permits in Lithuania expire on August 31, a few days before many of them are scheduled to return.  Thus, they won’t be still legal in Lithuania, thus they won’t have ties to Lithuania or LCC, and therefore, presumably, just might not go home.

Of course, I need hardly tell you, these permits have expired on August 31 for many years with no evident problems until now.  Because of the high wages in the US, and because many of them will work 60 hours or more per week, they bring back enough money to pay for their next year’s tuition – something not possible in Belarus, as an example.  So, no US job, no tuition money and, unless they can beg, borrow, or hit up Mom and Dad – often not good alternatives – no returning to school.  For many of these kids, LCC represents a real window to a new life in ways not seen in the US.

Compounding the problem, many of them, presuming on the future, have already paid $1,000 or so in agency fees for their jobs and visa applications.  The fine print on their contracts says no refunds, even if the turndown is not the fault of the student.  One had even gone so far as to lay out a couple grand for the airline tickets.  “Viscus”, as they say here.  “Finished.”  Over the years I’ve had my share of teared-up co-eds in my office, but never about summer jobs before.

Immigration policy in the US is a bit of a mess, I feel, and this is most unfortunate indeed.  Employers in the US get good summer help, often difficult to obtain.  It also gives Eastern Europeans a very good look at America.  My students this year are (if this gets straightened out), headed for St. Simon’s Island, Wisconsin Dells, Rattlesnake Island near Put-in-Bay. Cape Cod, and a bunch of other places.

The fear is, as happens often enough, that if a student ever sets foot inside the US, they won’t go home.  There are perhaps 13 million illegals in the US today, and more than a few of them are students overstaying their visas.  They then proceed to get good jobs, get married, have kids, and live the American dream.  These are NOT the types going on welfare

America remains the land of opportunity, freedom, and the good life for many of these kids.  Given their alternatives, what we take for granted seems wonderful indeed to them.  Our culture coach and her roommate said when they came back last year (from Cape Cod)  it took them more than a month to get over their depression, and they can’t go back this year because they are graduating.  Only a few hundred Lithuanians are admitted each year, and good luck drawing a winning number in that lottery!

So, life isn’t fair, and you shouldn’t assume that it is, or what has always happened in the past will happen in the future.  Lessons often learned the hard way.

Otherwise, Bonnie and I are enjoying our sojourn very much.  We are keenly aware that we’re on the downhill side of our stay.  We’ll be happy to get back, but we’ll remember this fondly.

Viso garo.

The Neighborhood Etc.

Yesterday was so lovely–sunshine and temperatures that pass for warm here.  I’m not sure what the temperature was given that some passerby relieved us of our window thermometer a couple of weeks ago.  We certainly did not want to waste the day being cooped up inside so Chuck actually took a little time off and we took a walk over through the neighborhood across the street to the Dane River just a short distance away.   It has been our intention to take some photos to record the rather different architecture and especially the interesting fencing of the homes near us and this look is typical of all the newer neighborhoods we’ve seen.  The  houses are close to one another and each is fenced in.  Many people have big dogs in their yards–German Shepherds seem to be a favorite breed. Most of the houses have three stories–some even four.  Many of the homes seem asymmetrical, often with a longer roof on one side that slants down over 2 floors, and, personally, I find few of them attractive at all–some but not many.  In fact, I think this suburb looks like a project of a lot of undergraduate architecture students trying to be original.  Unlike many new suburbs in the US, no two houses are alike and it seems everyone wants to be different from his neighbors.  This is reflected also in the fact that no two homes have the same fencing.  I think maybe the urge to be different might be because of the blocks and blocks of identical Soviet housing they had to endure for so many years–just a guess.  I understand the crime rate is rather low here so wonder about all the fencing and the guard dogs. I actually started taking some pictures a few weeks ago so, when you see snow, don’t think that it is still that wintry here.  All the snow finally melted last week and the pond ice is beginning to melt.  — Another comment on the neighborhood:  Cars often park on the sidewalk so one has to walk out in the street to get around them.

The side of this house is directly across the street. To me, it is just a mess

I like this one--notice the decorative green fencing which is repeated in the balcony railings. It has 4 stories, no windows on the sides and might be an apartment building but I never see anyone going in or out and it is right across the street.

Odd.

Definitely not my favorite!

Just grey concrete with what looks like steel girders along the edge of the roof and a wooden room stuck on the side.

This wins the award for strangest decorative touch. I hope this doesn't give you all any ideas for your carports.

Interesting--but too weird for me--no windows in the tower right out front and the little glassed in thing stuck on the front.

This one is not bad--but plain grey concrete.

When we got to the edge of the city and out into the field, the fencing was still decorative in places.

We arrive at the Dane'--about 4 longish blocks away--completely out of the city.

When we arrived back home from our walk, Chuck went off to school and then came back to tell  me to come quickly with my camera–Jonas and Lina, the swans, had returned!  A true promise of spring.  The pond is still frozen but the swans were eager to accept bread treats from passers-by.

Chuck and Chayah offer treats.

Noah and swan

A Lithuanian grandma with grandchild in tow, stopped and chatted with Rachel (yes, Rachel can chat a little in Lithuanian) which is unusual because usually, locals don't speak to strangers or even look in your direction. This lady seemed very excited about the swans.

The seagulls hovered nearby waiting to get in on the free food but they appeared to be afraid of the swans.

Final photo today is really funny to me.  Last Saturday we invited for lunch the four students who have helped us in various ways since we’ve been here.  In the USA, I usually feel pretty short but this is ridiculous, isn’t it?  Arida, the one student who could not come is as tall as the shorter boy.

Mindaugus, Henrikas, and Egle and Bonnie

SUDIE!  (Goodbye)