Just returned from Lithunia late last night. Swedish Girl is still vacationing there until nearly Labor Day. I enjoyed my time there, but I am glad to be back in Boston. Before I left, my mother joked that I’d return with an accent. It sounded silly, but I was away from English speakers for so long, and I tried my hand at some Lithuanian phrases whenever I could, so a few times, I actually did find myself speaking in an off-kilter, quasi-Eastern European accent. I learned a great deal about this nation that will celebrate its 1,000th anniversary next year, and there were many more unexpected positives than negatives.
I had a great time and a highlight for sure was my nephew’s baptism where Swedish Girl and I became godparents. The ceremony was in two parts, the first of which was more of an introduction of what life in Lithuania was like in the 18th century. It was conducted in a village similar to Plimoth Plantation (for those of you who have headed down to Plymouth, Mass.) where actual ancient structures that had been painstakingly dismantled across the country were carefully reconstructed. After 2 godfatherly morning vodka shots, some cheese, sausage, and black bread, we walked over to an equally ancient church for the official baptism. It was a very cool experience, even though the only things I understood (aside from 1 out of every 13 Lithuanian words) were Swedish Girl’s once-in-a-while translations and then when the priest said, “congratulations” to me at the conclusion.
There are so many things I could say about the visit, but I’ll handle it in rapid-fire format for now (with a possible forthcoming sequel)…
* Lithuanian drivers are absolutely insane. The worst I’ve ever experienced. I thought Massachusetts drivers were pretty bad, but they are saintly compared to Lithuanians. They drive fast and recklessly, which is a truly frightening double-whammy.
* Lithuanian women are breathtaking. I know I’m married, but I’m also married to an example of a breathtaking Lithuanian. If you’re a single man with upcoming vacation time, I suggest you head over to Lithuania. Did I mention the ratio of women to men is 53.4% to 46.6%?
* Lithuanians are crazy about cold fish. They have it for breakfast, lunch, and sometimes dinner. Hot fish seemed somewhat rare.
* The people there are rude. I’m free and clear in saying this, because even Swedish Girl was taken aback by it. She’s been in the U.S. for so long now that she had forgotten just how rude her countrymen are. I held the door open a few times and they didn’t say a word. And no one holds the door open for you. At a museum, I was pushing my nephew’s empty stroller while he was walking with his mom. Granted, it was empty, but I was trying to get upstrairs and downstairs and people were astonishingly rude. It got to the point that I was seriously using the stroller as a tank, purposely hitting people. The country was starting to turn me rude.
* Lithuanian men are crazy about man purses. Over 90% of the men under the age of 55 were wearing man purses.
* The women seem to dress like they’re going to a nightclub all the time. It’s like they are in constant competition.
* This one is, I think, consistent with most of Europe – ice cubes are harder to find than Osama bin Laden and that beer you expected to be frosty cold is almost room temperature.
* Many apartment and office buildings were built by the Soviet Union back in USSR times and, therefore, have a very austere, cold, stern, Soviet feel to them. They’re just ugly, gray, concrete and granite blocks. My sister-in-law and brother-in-law’s apartment building was built in 1977; before they mentioned the year, I would have guessed 1950. Ugly exterior, but their newly remodeled condo was gorgeous.
I’ll leave you for now with this anecdote. My savior during the trip was a handy Lithuanian-English dictionary and phrasebook. In several places in that book, the author (a native Lithuanian) suggests that travellers wait to watch Lithuanians eat certain dishes in order to avoid possible embarrassment. I pointed that out to Swedish Girl and made cracks about how stupid that was. Well, one day, Swedish Girl’s sister put an oval platter on the table; it was filled with sunflower seeds. Even though my first thought was, “Wow! That is a ton of sunflower seeds! I never knew they were so wild about sunflower seeds here,” I dug in and helped myself.
Fast forward a few minutes and Swedish Girl sat down and asked my why I wasn’t eating any of the fish. Before I could defend myself that there was no fish anywhere, she cut into the platter, which had layer of cold fish, a layer of cream cheese, and then a healthy layer of sunflower seeds. I just hope that my in-laws can chalk up my gaffe to IFS (Innocent Foreigner Syndrome).