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.

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