I have never been so ‘grounded’ for 12 years or so – although travel options briefly reopened in summer, going to see my family and friends in Lithuania became overly complicated, and going on a holiday abroad felt irresponsible. So since March the furthest I’ve been from this rock is a smaller nearby rock that is Gozo. This left me jealously watching my friends’ Instagram feeds, full of mushrooms, trees, camping, greenery, trees, hiking, and did I mention trees? I am exploring a fuller palette of feelings, by extension. Longing is not something I normally feel, but the intense longing to see trees enjoying themselves in a natural environment, with birds, bees and maybe even small mammals, resulted in a personal essay published in this lovely book. For the first time, I’m a published writer.
Yet it is other people’s writing rather than my own that kept me company throughout these dull and challenging months. And I am still trying to make a point to read literature from countries I couldn’t visit. Unexpectedly, I found myself looking for Lithuanian literature to replace a missing visit to familiar cities.
In Budapest, where we had a much-debated international festival, my Latvian friend once told me a funny story about his exchange semester in the US. When asked to make typical food for some kind of food day on a warm weekend, he didn′t hesitate to bring some meat skewers. To the shock of his Armenian colleagues, he made shashlik. “It is the most typical dish we eat in Latvia,” he later explained to those who contested it on the grounds of cultural appropriation. He did not read into the expectation of something ‘unique’ and ‘exotic’ in the request to cook typical food.
Answering questions about “typical food in your country” is a compulsory part of expat life, and it often happens in travels, too. I often have to explain that typical and traditional Lithuanian food are completely different, and both categories are entirely different from what I normally eat. Continue reading →
Since summer 2013 the website of Atgimimas weekly, where I worked from 2005 to 2011, is down. For this reason many of the links do not work. I will look for possibilities to retrieve my articles from the archives of the weekly. Continue reading →
More and more people are cycling in Vilnius, which prompts a need for better cycling lanes. The new ones are convenient, but many of the old cycling lanes cause many inconveniences for cyclists and pedestrians alike, causing unnecessary urban conflicts.
One of my favorite places to hang out in Vilnius is the green space around the White Bridge.
There is a lot of space, so people fly kites and various strange flying objects, and sometimes there are festivals and concerts (like on the 1st of May). A part of this area was redeveloped according to a controversial plan, which included building a beach volley court. Beach volley in Vilnius, which is notoriously far from the sea comparing to the other Baltic capitals, sounded ridiculous. And yet people really come there and play, so I guess it’s good. Another area is equipped with platforms for skating and showing tricks with bikes. Continue reading →
Many Lithuanians will tell you that it is not customary to celebrate the International Workers’ Day here, because it brings back bad memories to many. Several important holidays that celebrate emancipation were twisted in the USSR. Women were officially liberated, so the authorities decided that there is no point to demonstrate for women’s rights on the International Women’s Day, it is enough to congratulate women with their liberation (nevermind that they still suffered from gender pay gap, double burden and glass ceiling). Since workers were also officially liberated, the International Workers’ Day was a big compulsory parade. But during the past years people have increasingly started seeing themselves as less post-soviet and more European. The International Workers’ Day was reintroduced as a public holiday by the earlier Social Democratic government, as by a coincidence this was also the day when Lithuania joined the EU in 2004, so this day can also be celebrated as the day when we officially joined ‘the family’. So Lithuanian workers can now demonstrate for their rights back in Lithuania, or they can pack up and move to Sweden. The International Workers’ Day is important, because being a public holiday (there are seven religious and five secular days-off a year in Lithuania, of the secular ones, three are connected to the Lithuanian statehood) it gives people time to think about their situation and join a demonstration for making it better. Yet it is far from a spontaneous and bottom-up demonstration – during the past years it is mostly an opportunity for unions and the Social Democratic Party to gain some visibility. Anyway, we are getting there.
The Museum of Applied Art in Vilnius hosts Alexandre Vassiliev’s private collection of art nouveau fashion (1890-1914), plus a little bit from 1840s to 1920s. The guide said that due to Vassiliev’s love for Vilnius the museum didn’t even have to pay to host it. Tourists are probably not that interested in international fashion, so the museum is busy welcoming groups of Lithuanians, almost exclusively women, who are curious to see the works from the so-called belle epoque so close. It isn’t forbidden to take photos, so some people pose next to the fancy dresses. The exhibition will stay until November. Continue reading →