china: the good, the bad, and the totally crazy

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Being here in Lithuania has made me think a lot about my time in China last year while I was teaching English as well.  China brought up every emotion and situation from "this is the coolest place ever!" to "can I go back to the states yet?" to "what the hell did I just eat?"

Diapers are non existent in China.  Instead, there are strategically placed holes in children's pants so that they may just go as they need onto the street. We lovingly termed them "crapper pants".

You can buy these awesome (awesome or ....) collapsable paper hats.  Fancy.  And they have holes on both ends so you can where them upside down as well. AND they fold inside out.  So you're buying 4 hats for the price of one.  Those Chinese, man they're clever.  

I pulled out my journal and was reading back through my entries from my China days and I found one titled things I'll miss about China and things I won't.  All those old emotions came back and I was crying and laughing from missing all that is China.  That country should be on another planet. 

Things I'll Miss
Kyle's (one of my fav students) kisses
cheapest shopping ever
peanut butter and jelly for breakfast
3 men driving around on a scooter
strangers passing by saying, "hello baby" 
beautiful, green places
yummiest dinner ever for 10 yuan (about $1).  not sure what kind of meat it was but we called it sheep's meat.  i know that sounds appetizing. 
sweet and sour days in the cafeteria.  it sure beats chicken feet days. 
tucking the students in and saying goodnight
visiting the kindergarten on sundays after their naps
no traffic rules
the few times the squatters (toilets) were clean, those were good days
living with the funnest girls ever (the other teachers)
Kaden (one of the students) throwing up every day in class.  that should probably be on the things i wont miss category but i loved the excuse of taking him out of class and taking care of him one on one. he's the sweetest. 
people thinking i'm cool enough to do a choreographed dance for them. and then requesting that i do it again.  and then again.  
my super hot butt from living on the 5th floor and climbing those stairs several times a day

Things I Won't
people spitting 
knowing that the table i eat at was just mopped by the same mop that cleaned the floors and the window and my seat
a culture where nothing is planned.  like nothing. the only set plans are the ones that already happened.
a culture where you it is only acceptable to say yes or maybe.  no is not in the vocabulary.
men pulling their shirts up to their boobs to cool off from the extreme heat.  that's right, i do not miss seeing asian men stomachs
hooker atire on all the women
techno music
celebrity status and causing every person to suddenly become paparazzi as i pass by
hunger pains before sleep because i couldn't stomach the dinner.  or the lunch.  
only having hot water from 5-8pm. well....5 ish to 8 ish.  you just gotta hope you catch it at the right time
littering being the norm
clothes that still feel dirtier after washing than before
wearing 2 layers of spandex under my jeans to fight off the humid cold

White girls in Beijing. 

China is just beautiful for lack of a better word. 

Every day is China was totally nuts but I'll forever miss that place.  Even though I spent most days missing home, now that I'm home....I'd give anything to go back.  That place and those kiddos stole a huge piece of my heart.  


via here

green, green and more green

Saturday, August 25, 2012

We went for the day to eastern Lithuania with Dima's family and just drove around.  There's cool churches,  Aukstaitija National Park, and green fields and trees for days.  

This was a little memorial for those who were forced to leave to Siberia during communist days that never returned back to Lithuania. 

I love that they actually plant the flowers for the grave sites rather than just bringing some on certain days of the year. They're planted earlier in the year and are there until Oct. 31st.  There's just so much care put into burial spots. 

Then on November 1st, candles are lit there instead of flowers.....can't wait for that creepy goodness! 

A not so uplifting version of Jesus.  There's lots of those around.

Me and Sophia, Dima's daughter and one of the students.  

The National Park was incredibly green and thick with trees.  It felt a little bit like home so I was loving it.  We just drove through the roads, surrounded by trees, windows down and it couldn't have been better. 

Pretty Twilight-ish.

Dima, the school coordinator and his family.  They're so good to us.  Like really good.  He'll be getting some good karma for everything that he does for us.  Such a sweet family. 

The park is packed full of Mario big world sized mushrooms and berries and there were lots of people picking em. When we first got here Dima told me not to buy mushrooms from people who pick them in the forest and sell them because some of them could accidentally be poisonous and people have died so you just gotta be careful.  Good advice yeah?  No mushrooms for me.

Ok this looks disgusting but seriously....pastry sort of thing filled with Nutella and vanilla ice cream.  Food is gooooooood up in here.

So to sum it up...I live in a gorgeous place!  Dima was saying he's lived here for something like more than 10 years and he had never been to this National Park which is just an hour or 2 away. Its so easy to take for granted what is close to us and just want to explore when we're in a new place and traveling.  But chances are that there are amazing places close to you, you just gotta get out and find them.

a theif and a castle

Monday, August 20, 2012

at Trakai outside of Vilnius

The teachers from left to right: Holly, Stevie, Megan, Jaclyn

The girls and I went to church on Sunday and were greeted right away at the door. Everyone knew we were coming because we were replacing the past teachers that everyone loved. The people here keep a pretty serious straight face in public.  I keep getting confused looks when I smile at someone as I pass them by on the street. In the grocery store me and an old man had one of those awkward moments where we're trying to pass each other but we both go to the same side and then we both change to the other side and then back again. I started laughing at the awkwardness and of course he just stared me down without even a hint of a grin.  Which made me feel awesome I tell ya.  Anyways, church was completely the opposite and I realized something about the people here. That when they get to know you outside of being strangers, they are immediately so warm and loving without any shyness.  The ward is tiny (like maybe 50 people? and the 5 of us made up 50 percent of the Relief Society class) and at the door they said welcome to our family. Make my heart melt! They had us get up and introduce ourselves in Sacrament meeting and then they translated for us.  Afterwards people just came up and were speaking to me and I realized so many of the people spoke English so that'll come in handy.  In the last class of church they told us all to hold on to our purses and made a big deal about not leaving your bags anywhere.  Then about 15 minutes later a couple of police came into the building and arrested a creeper that had been coming and stealing things for the last month I guess.  He had tried to get one of the missionaries' wallets and then they called the police in.  I was talking to a younger girl at the time and she goes, "Yay! They caught the robber!"  

"My" new ride.  Dima, our coordinator, happened to have an extra car and is letting me drive it while we're here. He gave me a little lesson on the traffic signs and tested my driving a stick skills and I passed so....wish me luck.  Don't worry mom.  I'll be careful. 

Sophia, Dima's daughter. She speaks English so well and is one of those kids that is your BFF at hello.  We love each other. 

We went to Trakai castle with Dima and his family after church on Sunday.  It's just 30 minutes outside of our city.  The cool thing about it is that it was never taken so it's pretty perfectly in tact.  Go ahead and be jealous of me now.

 Oh yeah and we went sailing around the castle.  No big deal right?  Our captain was as captain-y as they come.  The weather was the perfect.  The scenery was heaven.  Pretty much a dream.

Standing in the moat.

I think I'm gonna like it here.

brought to you by jet lag

Saturday, August 18, 2012

5 am and apparently my body thinks its party time because sleep is the last thing I'll be achieving tonight. Enjoy my favorite songs as of late.


And so it begins.

So, I'm here in Vilnius, Lithuania! Its been so great, I love it already. 

This is our apartment building.  Me and the other 4 teachers are living together. 

My bedroom.  I have zebra sheets and cats on my wallpaper.  Its more ghetto cute that I ever dreamed it would be :)

That's right. You heard me. Cats on my wallpaper.  

One of the teachers, Stevie.  We clean up nice yeah?

Our cute little kitchen.

We have two doors and 3 locks. So take that robbers.  

The advertisement for our school. We're legit.  

This cool guy is Gediminas.  Legend has it that he had this dream about a wolf in armor and then was told he would would build a city strong as a wolf.  That statue symbolizes him showing like here is the place for the city Vilnius and there's a wolf below him.  This tiny, little, independent, baltic country strong as a wolf. Love it. 

You're supposed to stand on that and make a wish.  So I did. I can't wait for it to come true! 

I'm so excited to get to know this awesome country.  When I told people that I was going to Lithuania for four months the first question was always "where is that?  south america?" and the second question was always "why do you want to do that?"  The more places that I see in the world the more I addicted I am to finding out where else I can go.  There's so much to learn and see that has changed me completely as I've traveled and its so worth all of the awkward and uncomfortable moments of traveling, including the insane jet lag that I'm fighting.  As soon as I heard there was a new school in Lithuania opening up, I didn't know a single thing about the tiny country but I just knew I had to get there.  This is where I'm supposed to be and I love every minute of it.  Even my cat wall paper. And especially the amazing food (I definitely won't be anorexic here like I was in China).  Dima is the coordinator here running the school and he has been AMAZING! The best part is that he speaks fluent English.  Phew! He's been helping me with everything.  He taught me a couple Lithuanian words too and my favorite is saying thank you, aciu, because it sounds like a-choo like I'm sneezing.  Pretty easy to remember. Its a little awkward to start speaking a new language anyways and then funny man Dima kept saying "bless you" whenever I said it. Pretty sure I turned red every time. 

Lithuania here i come.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.  
Ralph Waldo Emerson

I'm about to fill up a few more pages of my passport (which is the best reason to travel right?).  I'm going for my third time to teach English to kids abroad with ILP. and I'll be living in Lithuania until mid December.   I went to Mexico to teach and loved it.  And then I went to China and really loved it.  So keep your fingers crossed that I keep that up with Europe too.  But I've been looking through my Lonely Planet book and I keep seeing words like castles and pastries and I think I'll be just fine. 

SOUTH JENNI. All rights reserved. © Maira Gall.