Saturday, July 1, 2017

My Impression of Lithuania

Whenever I meet Lithuanians who discover I have lived in Vilnius for almost a year (wow, has it really been 11 months?!), inevitably they ask how I like living here. I always reply, "I LOVE it!" And they always react with a shocked, "Really?"

I get the sense that Lithuanians don't appreciate what they have accomplished since breaking away from the Soviet Union in 1991. They have a "younger sibling" syndrome with their Baltic neighbors, seemingly living in the shadow of Latvia and Estonia.

I wish Lithuanians could see their country the way I see it. Sure there are challenges, but Lithuania has so much going for it. Vilnius is a wonderful place to live. I love the charming blend of old and new that can be seen in every inch of Old Town. There is a creative energy here you can see in the number of art galleries around town and even in the graffiti. There is an abundance of talent in the arts, sciences, and, of course, sports.

I've heard people - including Lithuanians - describe the national personality as "reserved." I haven't really noticed that. My encounters with taxi drivers, waitresses, store cashiers have all been very pleasant. People are so forgiving when I speak their language badly and so happy that I tried. Looking at Lithuania as an outsider, I would describe the national personality as "content."

So, Lithuania, you have impressed me greatly, and I am not easily impressed. I have visited and lived in nearly 40 countries and in my mind, Vilnius ranks in the top as a wonderful city to live in. Yes, you are a small country, but that can be an advantage. You have a lot to be proud of.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Cowboys in Kybartai

Sometimes my job is awesome. This is me in my cowboy boots at the opening of an exhibit of cowboy and rodeo photographs by Lithuanian artist Zinas Kazenas. Zinas is a wonderful spokesman for America, so we've turned him loose in a number of small, out-of-the-way towns in Lithuania to show his work and talk about his love of America and the Wild West. This event was in Kybartai, right on the border with Kaliningrad.



To keep things in perspective, here is another picture of me doing my job. Sometimes my job is awesome, but COLD. This was welcoming a U.S. Navy ship to the port city of Klaipeda.


Saturday, April 8, 2017

It Meant Nothing to Me

Living in a place, it doesn't take long to see the character of the city and what crafts, arts, and food the city wants to share with you. What Lithuania is proud of, among other things, is its amber, ceramics, and linen. You can't walk a block in Old Town without seeing a store that carries these items. I've bought some lovely ceramic pieces, a nice amber brooch, and a unique linen scarf. I will always think of Lithuania when I see these things.

Recently I was in another Baltic city, Tallinn. I explored the Old Town, which was similar in many ways to Vilnius. I found myself browsing the windows of shops that sold amber, ceramics, and linen. It felt so natural to stop and admire these things. At one shop, a woman came out and offered me a discount coupon. And suddenly I felt guilty. Why did the thought of buying amber jewelry in Tallinn feel like I was cheating on Vilnius? Can you betray a city by buying souvenirs?

I didn't buy amber, ceramics, or linen in Tallinn. I remained faithful to Vilnius. But I wonder if the temptation will strike again the next time I visit.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Dropping a Truth Bomb

Recently I was asked to write a guest post on a blog for people considering joining the Foreign Service. Specifically, a post about what this career and lifestyle are like when you do it solo. Here is the introduction to my guest post:

This week, Heather, from the blog Adventures Around the World, shares her perspective as a single “solo” Foreign Service Officer. Her story is one shared by many in the Service, but not one readily discussed because of its hard truths. A career in the Foreign Service has many perks: the profession, the chance to visit and live in new and beautiful places, the opportunity to meet cultures and people you normally would not be able to, and much more. However, there are many drawbacks, and it is critical that you be made aware of them, and understand them.

Read the full blog post at Path to Foreign Service.