paying our respects

Friday, September 28, 2012

This week we took a short train ride to a memorial site in Paneriai out in the woods, just outside of our city, where there were mass killings during WWII.  

Here there's an estimated 100,000 people that were brought, lined up and shot, put into mass graves, and then later burned to hide the evidence. 
There were 4 or 5 large circles areas like this where people were shot and buried.
This was where they burned the bodies to hide the evidence towards the end of the war. They used this bridge to carry the body and dump into the middle of the fire. 
They had a little museum area with stories and pictures that were horrifying to see.  But its one of those things where your stomach churns and you're in disbelief but you can't look away.  I read of diary where someone wrote just about every day "4 or 5,000 brought in today.  Shots were heard in the woods for 8 hours straight"  "women and children" "sick and elderly", etc.  We also read an account or 4 or 5 men who were brought to the camp and were put on the job of burning the bodies.  They were to stay in a bunker at night and were highly guarded.  They talked about how, in an effort to escape, they start tunneling out each night.  They ran into lots of problems along the way like keeping the top from caving in and not having enough oxygen down there.  But all of them managed to escape after a few months of digging.  That was an amazing story to read.  

It was such a beautiful place in the woods with a peaceful feeling despite the terrible things that happened there.  The hardest part to imagine is that it didn't happen that long ago.  

We all know about the more famous places like Auschwitz, but there are camps like this all over Lithuania and other countries as well.  They're just not as well known.  We were at this memorial all by ourselves. It was even really hard to find, I tried to google the site to see how to get there and there just wasn't hardly any information about it.  I know there's probably so many people that live just 10 minutes from this place and for whatever reason, haven't visited.  We're going to Auschwitz in a couple of weeks and as heavy as that sounds, I'm so excited for that opportunity.

On a lighter note, we had awhile to kill waiting for the train to take us back to the city so I took a video to capture the moment.  

awkward and awesome

Friday, September 21, 2012

-the hair on those legs.  is it a man? is it a woman? what? at least they're being waxed.  that's the moral of the story Europe.
- walking innocently down the street and suddenly being quacked at by a grown man.  he thought it was hilarious when all three of us ducked for cover.  good one.
-my new found talent is pulling the handle off of every door that i try to open.  i guess we could blame that on the screws to the handle not being quite screwed in always happens to ME so that excuse is questionable.  and going to walk out of my bedroom in the middle of the night to pee and the handle coming off = a bad situation.  and being IN the bathroom (which is the size of a tiny coat closet) and being successful at taking that handle off as well consequently trapping myself.....well that's just an awkward story of its own.
-our shower curtain.  first of all it sticks to your body if you come within 4 inches of it.  my butt has been suction cupped to that thing more times than i'd like to confess to my roommates.  second of all, when water and steam build up in the bathroom (as would naturally happen during a shower) it loses all its strength to stay on the wall.  those showers where i'm standing there and it just drops to the floor, those are my favorite.  and then having to shower hugging the wall so that i don't get water all over the place, that's also my favorite.
-walking into a room and accidentally (but confidently) saying, "thank you!" instead of "hello".
-ignas, one of the students, stripping in class.  he just loves it.  yesterday i told him if he took his shirt off one more time he would get a strike (if they get three strikes during the day they don't get a prize at the end so its a big deal you know?).  well i felt like stripping was a strong enough offense to receive a strike.  so in the next class he's begging......"teacher pleeeeeease, i this? (motioning to take his shirt off), one more time??"
-noodles and carrots and hot dogs for breakfast.   99% of the time we get some kind of porridge or cream of wheat sort of mush for breakfast but on the days when they bring out noodles and cut up carrots and hot dogs i just think....really?


-how nicole's hip do not lie while she's leading the milk song in this video;

-when the students are actually understanding us.  it's hard for the new kids to come into a classroom where the teacher isn't speaking one word in your own language and neither are the other students.  but when they pick up on something, its glorious. armandas, one of the students is new.  he's been in class about a month.
so every day we go through the rules and the students have to repeat them. one day when teacher jaclyn was going through the rules she says "rule number 2, eyes on the teacher". he stops her and says, "what's your name?"  jaclyn responds with her name and then armandas repeats the rule back to her as, "eyes on the jaclyn!"  he gets it!  after one month! love it. 
-getting mail.  feels like christmas.
-i went running the other day, as i've been trying to keep up while i'm here.  it started raining while i was own a side road a little bit outside of the main streets area.  an old woman stopped her car and asked if i needed a ride.  i opted to keep running but she was very concerned. not sure if her concern was that i was running in the rain or just that i was running at all.....either way, she had my back.
-just about everyone that is able to has a garden and a green house.  one of the parents of our students brought us apples picked from his tree.
-figuring out how to watch the office online since netflix doesn't work here. that was a happy day for me. my nonstop office marathons shall continue.
-figuring out imovie. i'm currently working on both a video of my china trip and a video of the lithuania trip.  this is going to be good.
-riding bikes.  i forgot how much i love it.  so current wish list is a hair straightener and a bike please.

to estonia

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

We had a few days off of school so we made a trip up to explore Estonia.  We took a bus 7 hours to get to Parnu, a coastal city.  During the summer its supposed to be a beautiful place, but it turned out to be a bust for us.  The weather wasn't cooperating and it was pretty much deserted.  It rained while we were there so we were in our hostel most of the time, which was empty so we had the place to ourselves.  The hostel advertised having a sauna and since we were freezing from the rain we were pretty stoked for that. We asked the guy that we rented the room from for the keys to the sauna room so he gave them to us and left. The sauna room turned out to be a fireplace with stones on top of it and a wooden bucket with a wooden spoon filled with water.  Hmm.....a little bit outdated.  I got a fire going but all I had to work with was newspaper and a few shoe boxes.  Of course that wasn't keeping hot enough and with no wood we went for the next best thing.  I burned his phone book.  That's what you get  Mr. Hostel man for advertising a sauna and not mentioning I'd need 5 hours to get it warm.  Or that I'd need to bring my own wood. We poured water on the stones and were pretty excited to see a little bit of steam in the air.  But.....after maybe 30 minutes-1 hour of trying to make steam from our little fire, we weren't getting anywhere.  The next room over had a big shower so we all went in there, turned the shower on hot as it would go, closed the curtain and wooohooo....we had a steam room in about 30 seconds!  Love living in modern day.  So our make shift sauna/group bonding shower was probably the highlight of the trip.

Finding a 
Toblerone bar that was the size of my arm was the other highlight of the trip. 

The next morning the rain stopped long enough for us to go explore the beach a little bit.   It was full of tiny shells and windsurfers.  We had planned to spend the rest of the weekend out on an island, but since the weather was so bad we decided to drop that idea and head for Tallinn, the capitol of Estonia.
So, on a whim, we caught the next bus to Tallinn. We got there on a Saturday night, hadn't really done any research other than looking at a map to see the direction we needed to go to find some cheap backpackers hostels. What we thought would be about a 15 minute walk turned into an hour of wandering around the city.  I had a backpack but all the other girls had brought rolling suitcases so we were quite the scene rolling through downtown on the main streets on a Saturday night.  We were wanting to stay in Old Town which is where we'd be sight seeing.  But, its all cobblestone streets.  Have you ever rolled a suitcase through cobble stone streets? Everyone could hear those suitcases bouncing around for blocks.  We rolled/bounced/trampled past couples having their romantic outside dinners, just adding to the atmosphere.  So after asking 11 places if they had room for us, I found out that you cannot just show up to Tallinn and find somewhere to sleep.  You must book in advance.  Finally we found a nice hotel that had room for us and we said yes and tried to ignore how much we had to pay to stay there (5 times as much as a hostel). One of the rooms was a conference suite on the top floor of the 10 story hotel just because that was the last room they had available. But I had a warm bed, warm shower, complimentary breakfast and I was a happy backpacker.

Tallinn has an Old Town with a medieval theme.  Other than the McDonalds, it felt like really walking around during those times. Such a cool city. It was love at first sight.

For the second night in Tallinn we were finally able to get a cheaper hostel here.  It was a 3 story apartment that we got all to ourselves.  And it was cooler than any apartment I've ever lived in. And it had a legit sauna this time.  

We went to a torture museum.  Pretty interesting. Made my stomach churn.  I'll just tell you about a couple of the more PG ones.  This ones the Interrogation Seat.  The accused would have to sit there naked.  Yikes. 

For those that committed lesser crimes (where they get to live you know) they'd have to wear these masks around in public so that everyone knew they were found guilty of something.  Public humiliation. 

This one is so crazy.  This theory is that physically you should weigh more than Satan's apprentice.  What?  I know...that's what I said.  Suppose someone was accused of witchcraft, they would be stripped naked to make sure they weren't wearing any weights and then were weighed against another object.  If they weighed less, torturing would commence. Funny thing is that the object they were weighed against never was very fair.  If they wanted the person to be guilty, they would just place something that clearly would be heavier.  They used Bibles as the object to be weighed against the person at times when they wanted the person to be innocent.  You just better hope no one accuses you of being a witch because your chances of proving yourself innocent with this method aren't so good.

We went bike riding to the Baltic Sea again.  This is starting to be a tradition for us and I kinda love it.  I want a bike when I get home.  

Tallinn......I approve.  

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