Thursday, November 27, 2008

Travel back to Lithuania Part 2

The reality of what was before me sunk in fast. Sure we could take the free bus to the terminal we needed to go to, but the reatity was that we would still need two carts when we got to our destination. It cost 6 bucks already to get these carts and it wasn’t like I was rolling in the dough or anything. Plus, I would have to load 6 bags, 4 carry-ons and 2 children onto and off of the bus all by myself. I don’t think so.... The only real option was to walk. The woman said it was a 10 minute walk. Assuming it would be for any normal person so we would need at least half an hour. Who knows how many breaks a 4 year old with a split open chin might need and would the 6 year old be able to keep up the pushing.

We made our way out the door. I was determined to put out of my mind all the on lookers who were forming opinions about us and our vast baggage enterauge and the embarousing fact that we just spent the better part of an hour in the wrong line. This was not turning out to be our day, but for some odd reason I was in high spirits. I guess that was the adrenoline kicking in and the fact that I would do anything to keep a cry fest from happening. I wouldn’t be able to handle the emotional breakdown of two small children right now and I’ve had enough psychology to know that if mama’s okay the kids are good to go. So here we are on our adventure!

We push through the automatic doors and I see our first challenge. A downward sloping grade to the main sidewalk. If we don’t navigate this just right we will loose our carts to gravity. Deep breath, we begin. Hevenlee in front so I can see her and Sonshyne in back so I can catch her cart if I need to. As we just get started the top bag on Sonshyne’s cart falls to the ground........ok. How to secure my cart on the slope to not break free while I reorganize the bags on her cart to be more stable. Somehow, I get my cart in a good spot. I move the bags on the cart to support the top one and just as I lean down to lift the bag, some kind soul rushes over to help me lift the bag onto the top. As we lift I feel this ripping , burning pain in the tip of my right finger. I know immediatelly that my nail has just bent all the way back from grabbing the bag so quickly. Usually when that happens, it flipps back down after letting go of the bag, but with bag in place and a gracious thank you sent to the kind stranger i realize the pain is still there I look down and see that it has folded back well beyond the nail connecting point. Youch, I just fold it back to the way it is supposed to be and determine to attend to it later. There was no blood so it will keep for later.

We made it to the sidewalk with no further occurances. This should be the easy part right? I take a look down the long sidewalk before us. There are several obsticals in our path. Collumns, benches, people and their baggage. It won’t be easy but we can do this. I am just hoping the sidewalk is accessable the whole way through. I rattle off a few instructions to the girls. Hevenlee is to continue to lead or walk beside me pulling the computer bag. I will push my cart and pull Sonshyne’s cart and she is just to push until I say otherwise. We would form a train. Off we went, chugging along. So far so good. We soon pass the doors we entered upon arrival. Our 4th time past these doors today and last.

Boy were we a sight! I have never been more encouraging in all my life. I kept telling the girls how good they were doing and that I could see the number 4 terminal sign now. We were getting there and they were doing great. What troopers and wouldn’t daddy be so proud of them when we see him. A few ‘excuse me’s’ and ‘coming through’ and ‘would you mind moving your things’ and terminal 5 came into view. A bus load of business people began unloading from a bus onto the sidewalk before us. I shouted ahead if they would mind letting us through and they quickly and graciously complied. We wisked by them and I saw compassion on thier faces. That felt nice.

I was gettin hot in all the warm clothes I had on in order to free up space in our luggage and to be ready for the cold weather we would surely encounter upon our return to Lithuania. I could feel the heat under my shirt. I was wearing a poyester shirt and it was not breathing well. It would soon be drenched at this pace, but I was still enjoying the warm weather.

I announce that I could see terminal 6 in the distance. Just ahead was a place in the side walk that sloped down to the streets. We had to be very careful of these slopes not to catch a wheel on them or they would take our cart off the sidewalk and into the street. If we snugged to the right at these points there was just the right amount of room for our little train to make it through. There wasn’t much room for passing anyone here. Our momentum was good and it would not be easy to stop this train. I could see a woman coming with her luggage and I called ahead for her to please let us come through. We would emerge onto the sloping part of the sidewalk at the same time. She looked and I began to see she had no intention of stopping at all. I wasn’t going to stop at this point, we were commited. I was more than irritated with the woman for not noticing that pushing herself through at this point would be rude and could send us careaning into the street and I said so as we passed. It didn’t acure to me until later that the woman may not have understood English or known our customs. Maybe she didn’t know the polite thing to do would be to pause a moment after noticing our large load and let us pass through.

I have blown it culturally many times in Lithuania. Even just moments ago while writing this, the cleaning woman at the car repair shop where I am sitting stopped to give me a piece of her mind. I moved my legs off the couch assuming that is what was bothering her and told her that I didn’t understand Lithuanian. Sometimes it is nice not to be able to understand the goings on of someone elses verble vomit. She was not a happy woman. She went over to the reception woman around the corner to voice her complaint against me. She obviously needed someone to validate her state of mind.

As for myself. after giving the woman, that didn’t let us pass, a piece of my mind and seeing that she did not even give me the time of day I too looked around for someone to agree with me in this injustice. I found the face nearest us and imagined the look on it was in aggreement with me and I felt better. I am not much differant from the woman at the car repair shop.

A few minutes later turminal 7 came into view. We were almost there and I began to say so. The girls cheered and there was new life in our little train. We would soon have rest.

We came to our terminal and entered the automatic doors and began searching for the line we needed. Why can’t they make these lines more informative. Do i get in the e ticket line, self check or what? I don’t want to stand in the wrong line again but I don’t want to stand around trying to figure it out while people file past me. I just don’t travel enough to feel comfortable to pick a line. Besides it was only 2 hours ago that proved I wasn’t much of a picker and I was absolutely sure about that one! I couldn’t stand that I was already getting passed up by several travelors who seemed to be more sure of themselves than I, so I dragged us into the self check line. I sure hope this is the right one. Just as I was about to pull through the open space that would move us up an entire length of line an airline attendent closed the space and forced me to take all our luggage the long way around this miserable Disneyland line. He was rewarded with a “Hey, thanks!” from me. My cheerful demeaner and tolerance was quickly fading. A few people pushing past me and surveying our baggage mentioned under their breath that the airline was being a stickler on weight and luggage limits. That didn’t help.

As we pushed forward in the line I began to settle. The girls were still in good spirits. The middle aged business man behind me would soon regret giving me the information I asked for because since the silence was broken between us I felt compelled to give him the specifics of all we had just endure in the last 2 hours. He kindly listened. What else was he to do, he was stuck in line behind a crazy woman with too much luggage and 2 little girls and he was a gentlman after all.

I got to the self check screen and began the crazy process of doing the airlines work for them and not feeling jipped in any sense. After a few miss attempts i was able to get the hang of it and got us all checked in. We then waited for the man to come to our station and check our bags. This was the moment I was waiting for. Would all my maticulous weighing and rearanging of our bags the night before pay off now? I lined them up and one by one lifted them to the weighing station. 50 lbs, 50 lbs, 50 lbs, 50 lbs, 49.5 lbs, 50 lbs. “Alright!” I squeeled with delight. I tried not to think of how i could have sqeezed .5 more into one of the bags, but this success needed a high five and since my husband wasn’t around the baggage checker would have to do. He abliged me and gave me the high five I was looking be continued

Monday, October 27, 2008

Travel back to Lithuania

let's just say: Chapter 1 in the works........

On Tuesday we packed all 6 of our 50 pound bags and 4 carry ons into my friend Kim's suburban. I had weighed each bag maticulously the night before so I could get the maximum amount of all our treasures in them and not pay an overage fee. With Kim's 2 year old daughter and my girls in the car we headed off to the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). As we got closer to the airport Sonshyne reported that she was in fact already car sick. Being as she gets airsick quite easily I began to worry out loud about not having purchased Dramamine to keep her from throwing up on the plane and how expensive it was going to be at the airport so Kim suggested that we jump off the freeway and seek out a pharmacy. A great idea, but neither of us knew the area and it was in the heart of Los Angeles. Not a great place to go exploring, but go we did.

As we excited the freeway I suggested we check with a gas station, cause "those are always a good place to get directions". We pulled into the first gas station we saw, but as we began to look around we noticed that not even the gas station attendant was willing to open his doors to the people who were lined up teller window style to pay for thier gas. The guy holding a car bumper and talking to someone in another car was the second indicator that maybe it would be unwise to stop here. As we drove though the station and back onto the street the vagrants sitting on the side of the building and the trash heap in the middle of the dead end road confirmed that we had in fact made the right decision.

As we got back onto the road I noticed city housing was just across the street. My mind raced with the fact that these people are hurting and would I be willing to live in this area some day if we ever came back to these parts. These people need hope too. And instead of seeing them as unfit or unsafe for my presence I had a deep sense that God really loves them as much as he loves me. A good reminder as we drove down the street.

Somehow we managed to find a shopping mall just down the road and under the freeway that had a Rite Aide, which was funny because we had just been lamenting that I had forgotten to eat any of the Chocolate Malted Crunch that I had gone to such lengths to purchase a pint of the day before and was still sitting in Kim's freezer. We could get the Dramamine and right that wrong all at the same time!

As we got out of the car something seemed different but I couldn't put my finger on just what it was. We walked through the store and I was hardly fazed by the stares we received upon entering the building because we get that all the time in Lithuania so it felt normal really. I walked back to ask the Pharmacist where the Dramamine was and then began to notice the workers were black. A bit unusual it seemed since from my experience the Pharmacists and workers tend to be Asian. "Well, that's cool" I thought. I am a little more aware of skin color these days since I am surrounded day in and day out by white faces in Lithuania. When I see one black person in Lithuania I want to run up and hug them because to me they represent the diversity that is lacking in this country and what we loved so much about living in the LA area.

I found my Dramamine and went to purchase it and a black woman rung me up. I notice 2 black men were manning the photo shop area and when we went over to the ice cream counter there was a Hispanic woman who took our order. As we were waiting in line an elegant black woman in a stunning yellow haulter top came up in line with her baby in a stroller and I looked at her as you do when someone walks up behind you and immediately realized that the look on my face had seriously crossed a cultural barrier for she was one of the most beautiful women I had ever seen and her bright yellow haulter was the perfect dazzling contrast to her rich deep dark perfect skin and I knew my face had a look on it that had to be explained because she was looking back at me a bit puzzled herself. The kind of puzzled that says a fight might be on the way. I blurted out," Oh my gosh, you are sooooo beautiful!.........uhhhhhh (as I'm gaining my sanity).....and that color looks so good on you!" She kind of stood there for a moment not sure what to make of me or how she should respond. As we both kind of froze in time trying to decide what the next thing to say was, Kim turned around and informed her that,"she's not from this country!" Yes, wierd as that was it did the trick and seemed to aliviate any fear in the woman that maybe I was hitting on her. I was just a foreigner who did not know the customs of this culture and so she thanked me. The girls and I then ooohed and awed over her baby and retreated to the outdoors to eat our yummy ice cream. Kim joined us shortly and as the woman came out she spoke a few kind words as she walked past. I think she appreciated the complement.

The girls sat on the kitty rides to eat their cones and that gave me time to cruise the parking lot with my eyes. It was only then that it dawned on me that we were the ONLY white people in the whole area. Kim had noticed it right away evidentaly and it was her undoing when the vagabond who was hitting on all the ladies coming out of the store and then asking them for money leaned on the coin box of the kitty rides to have his smoke near where our kids were eating as if to say "these belong to me". Three girls in the car eating ice cream per Kim's suggested suddenly seemed like a fine idea to me, and we loaded up and got back on the road. I think she said something about us being in Compton. Interesting.......

It wasn't much farther down the freeway and we arrived at LAX. I had printed out my itenerary online so I knew exactly which airline to be dropped off at. It was the biggest print on the paper, "Lufthansa". It was at terminal 3. We pulled into drop off only and I payed for 2 carts to hold all our luggage. Three on each plus one carry on. I assured Kim she did not need to stay and help. Sonshyne and I could each push a cart and Hevenlee could pull the remaining carry on. Plus, I knew time was of the essence for her if she were going to get on the road and beat traffic back home. She finally gave in, we hugged and cried, took one last picture and then she left. I wanted to linger with the thought of just how much I would miss my 'sister' as she drove away, but my mind quickly turned to the task at hand. I was now alone and curbside with two small children and ton of luggage that needed to get to its destination.

It was time to start the routine of getting checked in and all the stares that goes with the maximum amount of luggage and 2 small kids. Sonshyne and I pushed the carts while Hevenlee pulled her carry on. I was busy keeping my eyes on Sonshyne. She was doing a superb job for a 6 year old who couldn't see over the top of the luggage she was pushing. I coached her verbally and she kept right on pushing without one complaint. I was quite impressed with her.

We pushed up a small grade to get through the automatic doors. I was afraid the weight of the luggage would over take Sonshyne and she would begin loose ground, but she kept coming forward. Now inside the building we pushed past a woman sitting on a stool staring at our plight. I wondered how I could get a job at the airport sitting on a stool watching people suffer. It was slow going but eventually we got down the hall and were about to round the corner. I looked up to see a humongous line and that is when it happened. Yes, of course something happened or I wouldn't be going to such lengths to retell this story. I was keeping such a close watch on Sonshyne that I had failed to see just how close to the line poles Hevenlee was getting with her tote. As she rounded the final corner with her pull bag in tow, a wheel got caught on the base of the pole and refused to budge causing an unexperienced 4 year old to hold on tighter and not put her hands out to catch herself as she fell chin first onto the hard, tile floor. She immediately popped up onto her feet and the crying began. The kind of crying that lets a mom know that all is not well. All eyes from the enormous check in line on us, I raced to her side having no idea what had just happened only to find that blood was gushing from her chin and down her fesh white shirt. I immediately covered her chin with my very 'sanitary' hand. I stood there thinking,"What do I do?" Think, think, think , think think , think, think. I began wispering into Hevenlee's ear to calm her down a bit while I tried to figure out our next move. Here I am in the middle of the airport with an obsene amount of luggage and 2 little girls, one of whom is screaming and bleeding. I remembered I had a bandage in my purse. Which was completely random because I don't usually keep one in there and just that morning decided throw it in.

Sonshyne followed my instructions maticulously on where to find my purse in one of the carry ons. As we were working together, some kind woman appeared and produced several tissues to aide in gettting the bleeding to stop which was much appreciated and put to use immediately. Hevenlee's cries did not stop but the bleeding eventually did enough for me to have a look under her chin. I always wondered if i would know if my child needed stiches or not. Would it be obvious or would I have to take her to the doctor to find out. Well, as I looked at her chin I would find my answer. She most definitely needed stiches. At least 3 I was sure of it. I put the bandage on her chin that Sonshyne had found. It was a temperary solution while I tried to figure out what to do next.

Thoughts of assessment raced through my mind: Kim is gone, I have no transportaion or cell phone, my daughter needs stiches, we have entirely too much stuff, we need to check in, do these airports have doctors in them?, if they find out she needs stiches will they let us travel today or will I have to postpone our trip home to get Hevenlee the medical treatment she needs?, how much is that gonna cost?, how horrible that you would think about money at such a time!, think think think think think think think! Ahhhh, somebody help me!!!!!!! Okay pull it together, one thing at a time..........

I decided to get us in line so at least we could check our bags and get rid of some of our stuff. A simple solution to one of our problems which helped to alleviate the tension that was building on my shoulders. There is nothing worse than watching a line you need to be in walk by you and know you are not part of it and yet you are standing and waiting alongside of it. So I figured we might as well be standing in it while I thought of what to do next. We were there plenty early and I figured after we checked our bags we would have time to seek out the first aid department if they had one. Still not thinking straight we pushed all of our stuff in line.

I asked the woman waiting behind us if she had a cell phone I could use. She did and I called Kim immediately to see how far away she had gotten. She offered to come back, but I didn't see any need for that just now. I asked her if she knew anyone who worked in the LA area who could come and do stiches. She did not. I filled her in on the details and told her I would call her back if i needed anything and said goodbye. I saw an airport worker and asked him if he could help us. I explained the situation and he disapeared. I was hoping this kid was somewhat responsible and didn't just go off to do another job. Hevenlee began to feel better and quiet down a bit. I told her that if she wanted to cry out loud that she was more than welcome to keep it coming. Maybe the annoying noise would get people to notice and we would get helped quicker. Going with "the squeeky wheel gets the oil' here. So she piped right up and stopped surpressing it. Go sister! I knew she was hurting and was just trying to be brave. Oddy enough the bleeding had stopped which seemed unusual for a open face wound. It was then that i noticed my hands had blood all over them from holding her chin minutes earlier. Oh well, that was the least of my worries right now. Maybe the blood on my hands would alert people to the seriousness of the situation and they would be more concerned and less anoid by the crying child at my knees. Sonshyne stood a silent vigle near the baggage cart in her charge, moving it up as the line moved forward. What a trooper.

The young man reimerged and wanted to escort us to the first aide department just down the way. He did his best to try to get the woman in charge to let us cut in line and check our bags so we wouldn't have to cart them off and loose our place in the eternal line. She said no dice, so he helped us get out of line and push our stuff back.... down.... the......same...... way...... we......had just come not more than 20 minutes ago. If there isn't something I hate more, it's loosing ground and we were loosing ground fast. I go to incredible lengths to get where I am going and not go back to where I just was. There's the woman that stared at us on the way in.......there's the door we entered and now we're passing it by......sigh.....

We entered a door that was much too small for all our junk to fit through. The airport guy was patient as he managed to get each cart through it. There was an obvious remodel going on in this part of the airport and it looked as if we were going through a narrow abandoned coridor of some sort. The surroundings were dirty and worn and in much need of the face lift it seemed it was in the process of getting. We stopped in front of an old door that had a placard posted to the side of it that said "First Aide." Ah, finally we will get the help we need. I still wondered though if they knew we needed stiches that they wouldn't let us get on the plane. After 6 weeks in the States I was really ready to go home today.

Our guy knocked on the door and another young man emerged from what looked like a room about the size of a small walk in closet. Consequently, we were not asked to come inside so my concern about leaving our luggage unattended in the corridor quickly vaproized. I asked it they had a they did not. Can anyone here do they can not. Well, do you at least have a few bandages, scissor and some aticeptic.......bandages but no sterile scissors and no anticeptic. Wow, my hopes of help here simply melted to the floor. So much for "First Aide", I was on my own. I knew I needed to get the wound under Hevenlees chin disinfected and closed and it did not look like i was going to get any help here. I had enough friends in the medical field to know that I could butterfly it with medical tape at the very least. How to improvise that? I also knew that in one of the 6 gargantuan bags I had a pair of hair cutting scissors in my make up bag. That would be more sanitary than the desk scissors the man had in that dinky office. I knew that the chances of finding those scissors without looking through every last bag was slim but it was the only way. I quickly went to the first bag unzipped it at the top and low and behold the make-up bag was right there scissors inside. That was a miracle of God to me. I never find what I am looking for in the first bag! Not ever. In fact it is almost a gaurantee that it is in the last bag I look in. This believe it or not calmed me to the core. God was in fact fully present even though I had not sent up one single prayer during this whole episode. His peace in fact surrounded me and gave me the courage to press on and keep the air positive for the girls. We were on a "big adventure". They seemed to be fine with that. As long as mommy was okay, everything was ok! And I was in fact "ok". We can do this!
The useless first aide boy produced a few large fabric bandages and had been able to find a two small packets of antibiotic ointment. After I had found and began using my scissors he was also able to find a pair. Fancy that. I used mine anyway.
I cut the sticky strip off the bandage to use as the tape. It was just the right size. After removing Hevenlees temprorary bandage and applying ointment I pinched the wound together and taped it shut. The other bandage the young man gave me, I put over the whole thing. Poor kid, the bandage practically covered her whole chin. But she was happy and didn't seem to be in any pain. I asked for several more bandages and cut the ends of them off for future use, thinking I'd probably have to change the dressing a few times in the next twenty four hours. I stowed the scissors back into the luggage and we set off to get back in line.

As we began heading back the way we came we passed again by the door we had originally entered only 40 minutes earlier and the woman who stared at us and was staring at us again for the third time and to our line that had grown even longer. The place in line were we were before we left was at the break in the line to keep the thouroughfare clear and being monitored by an airline attendant. How I longed to resume our position. The line had grown even longer than before and I eyed it all the way to the end. As I resigned to having to start the line waiting all over again a women from the info desk came out and demanded that we take up our original positions. This put me in a most awkward position. I really really wanted to do what she demaned but knew most people would see this as cutting and might get quite upset. I did the one thing I knew to do.......I made an announcement and asked permission from the whole line in my booming cheerleading voice. All eyes on us again, no one seemed to respond other than to think I was weird and so I asked the women I was in front of and they were more than gracious enough to say yes. I was blown away. I took a deep breath. Now all we have to do is travers this crazy Disneyland like line to check these bags and we'd have smooth sailing!

We waited in line for at least 20 to 30 minutes before we were at the front of another monitored break in the line which gave me the opportunity to ask the attendant if we would make the 5:30 flight. The line seemed to be moving awefully slow. She gasped. She informed me that this flight was being checked in for her 4:20 flight and we most certainly were in the wrong line and in fact, to my horror, we were at the wrong terminal all together! I assured her that we did want Lufthansa, it said it right here on my iteneray. She pointed out that it said in very small letter underneith Lufthansa that the carrier for Lufthansa was United and United was at terminal 7 and terminal 7 was at least a 10 minute walk from here..... All the blood drained from my face as I realized the magnitude of all this new information. How in the world was I going to get half a mile away on foot with 2 small girls and all our CRAP. I numbly pushed our stuff out of line and began gearing up for the task at hand. It was still early because I am obsessed with getting to the airport with too much time to spare. We had 3 hours and it looked like we would probably need all of it too. If it took a normal person with a minimal amount of luggage ten minutes to walk to terminal 7 then it would probably take us 10 times as long.

More to come..........cause i am just gettting started!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Another Forum

So sorry I have not posted in a while but have been spending my time getting our Spiritual Life Community Center sight up and running for the City Church here in Lithuania.

I have posted several blogs on this sight and would love for you to visit it, check it out and let me know what is missing or what you like.......

Click on "Another Forum" above to go straight to the sight:)

or type (lt as in Lithuania)

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Transitions 6

Going to the movies is one way we can find entertainment. Just recently (about 2 years ago) a theater was built inside the large mall called,"Akropolis". The theater is called "Cinnamon". It has 6 screens but they are pretty small theatres compared to the large ones we have come to expect from our megaplexes in California. Movies come out here a few weeks to a few months after they are released in the States. All English made movies are viewed in English with Lithuanian subtitles (unless they are animated). It is a good way to watch and read Lithuanian at the same time to see how they are translating the phrases we often hear. Half the time we feel like we need to take in a pen and notebook paper to take notes while watching:)

The seating is assigned, so you get your ticket and look for your seat assignment, like "G6" or something, then begin hunting. One thing we have noticed about this is that no matter how little the theater is filled you will see all the people clumped into the middle of the theater without an open seat between them. It is rather outside of our comfort zone to be smashed in like sardines when it is not necessary, so we often will move to another row and stretch out. I need a seat for my bag you know:) Lithuanians don't seem to crave the same amount of personal space that we have become accustom to and practically demand and feel we deserve:)

Because the theater is located inside a mall they are not as hyper about you bringing in bags with you and we have not noticed any bans on outside food. But the menu items they have to offer are not entirely unreasonably priced. The fun items you find at the snack bar (and the same place where you purchase your theater ticket) are nachos with cheese sauce(as close as you get to Mexican food in this country), traditional movie theater popcorn, candy bars, soda and of course beer. Yep, you read right, beer! What would a movie be without a beer to enjoy it with:)

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Transitions 5

Going out to eat is a challenge in and of itself. Lithuania has not embraced the American Motto," The customer is always right", but more like,,"If you don't like it....tough." Most menus, we have observed, are translated into English, but what that may mean is still a mystery. Our favorite wrong translations are "Shrimps" and "Fruits". You can really find some good entertainment reading the menus. "Almonds" on the menu are almost always peanuts when you get them and nothing seems to arrive looking the way you imagined it would look. Anytime I see something that sounds familiar I never order it because it never comes the way I think it should. We usually find stuff we like and stick with it forever! Though you will never get the same thing twice, even if you order it day after day. Somehow they always make it different:) It keeps you from getting into a rut or depending on filling a food addition craving. Well, you can just forget it, you will be disappointed every time:) You learn to just appreciate what you get and if it is exceptionally good, well then you just enjoying it:)

Nothing feels like home in the restaruants here. The glasses are small, the drinks are warm, you have to pay for water and it is never enough to quench your thirst so you must buy your refill. The place settings are given for the amount of food dishes ordered so we are always having to ask for more forks and spoons. There is no salt on the table and ketchup cost 50 centu. The food comes out spuratically and you may get your appetizer at the end of the meal. The check does not come unless you ask for it and the waitresses rarely smile. Regardless of all these things it is still quite a privelege to go out to eat because for a Lithuanian it is very expensive. We take the family out to eat, maybe once a month.

Some of the nice things about going out the eat are: The atmosphere is wonderful. Most places are layed out for you to stay for a while. The check doesn't come until you request it because the waitress doesn't expect you to eat and run. Many of the nicer restaurants have couches and low tables, though it isn't convenient to eat at, when the meal is over it is quite comfortable to lounge around and visit.

Lithuania has a flare for laying out a dish too. Even at an average restaurant it is no surprise to get a plate that is garnished beautifully. A gourmet look at a reasonable price. The food here is good too. Potatoes come in every way shape and form and are fresh and delicious. Mayonaise is used in just about everything, especially in the salads. Salads here do not consist of lettuce at all. In fact, a lot of time, the lettuce is the garnish that holds the salad often made of shredded carrots, cabbage and raw garlic. Oh and of course mayo:) Along with cut up tomatoes, cucumbers and pickles (made fresh usually) on the side.

There are only a few fast food restaurants here. McDonald's of course and another new burger place called "Hessburger". And a couple of places that serve "Kabobas" , which is meat in a pita. We haven't eaten there yet. It is very expensive to eat at these places so we generally don't eat out with the whole family. There is no Mexican food to speak of around here and we miss that more than anything:) So we have taco night at our house every few weeks. We pretty much eat at home these days. I am really loving to cook too so that is good eh?

Sunday, March 23, 2008


Oh, he has risen indeed! Today at church we greeted each other with this traditional phrase and it drove it home all the more that this is the day to be celebrated. Without this day that Christ rose from the dead all that we do in life would be worthless and mean nothing. He has risen! I can't think of a time when this day meant more to me then this Easter Sunday. I don't know what the difference was. Maybe it started early in the week as our family gathered together to decorat our eggs in traditional Lithuanian style. With live plants and boiling them in water with red onion skins as dye. They turned out looking pretty incredible for our first try.

Or perhaps it started by attending the prayer time Thursday night. I entered a very small banquet room lit only by the open mouth fireplace and the candles that were generously placed on the tables which were thoughtfully laid out in the shape of a large cross with only a small plate at each chair, enough to seat about 30. Just the amount of people that showed up.

We entered the room in meditative silence. After we all hung our coats and greeted each other warmly we sat ourselves around the cross shaped tables and prayed silently continuing to embrace the quiet atmosphere. I kneeled at my chair and sobbed. A much needed release and connection with our heavenly father. It was a safe place to meet the Lord and unload my burdens into his care. We sat in prayer for a very long time. It was fantastic.

The Pastor sat at the head of the cross, his wife at his left and I sat next to her so that she could translate to me all that would be said. I so appreciated that they would accommodate me being that I was the only one there who didn't speak the language and her talking would add a bit of noisiness to the quiet, reverent atmosphere and keep her from absorbing the evening herself.

The Pastor began by sharing about the Israelites passover meal before they fled Egypt. He also shared that we would partake in the traditional passover (Sadar) meal. We passed the lamb and passed it again until it was gone and not a morsel was left. No utensils were used. It was interesting to look around and see that a few of the Lithuanians in the room had obviously never eaten lamb before and by the looks on their faces they didn't seem so crazy about it's strong flavor, but they ate it anyway. I had no problem taking up the slack here when the serving plate arrived to me the third time and still had a little meat on it. I almost felt like I was doing them a favor by eating what was left and not passing it on again:) You could feel the sigh of relief by some that they would not be asked to take anymore.

In between the elements of the supper, we heard scripture from various areas of the room and the pastor's wife and I lead acapella singing. It was a wonderful time of remembering our heritage in quiet reflective thought and wrapping up by sharing communion together, then greeting each other with,"Peace to you" at the close. The quiet reverence and low voices continued as we cleaned up the place, distinguished the fire and candle lights, locked the doors and headed home for the night.

On Saturday the church set up an elaborate prayer walk that took up half the University Gymnasium. It was the journey of the cross with 9 stations. It was simply amazing and most impressive. I have never seen anything quit like it. Several stations led in a half circle then up some steps and up some more steps to the foot of the cross at the center of the room and several meters high. I couldn't help but sob when I reached the foot of the cross as I considered how my sin had taken our beloved Lord and placed him there. It took time to pray and consider if I could let go of the burden of sin I carry with me so diligently and nail it to the wooden cross before me with the hammer, nails and paper provided. As I wept and wept I eventually conceded my burden to the foot of the cross. The trouble to nail it on echoed throughout the gym. And as each person did this it was a reminder to everyone there that God is big enough to carry all of our burdens. At the end of the journey I felt so overjoyed that our savior was not bound by death and I rejoiced in his resurrection from the grave! A new joy filled my soul as I left the room and headed home in the chilly night air.

Easter morning greeted both Garrett and I with delightful squeals from kids who found their Easter baskets and new church outfits (thanks Grandparents). Everyone dressed in their best and of course group photos were a must. All the way to church we talked about why we celebrate Easter and what that means. We were pleased to hear that the kids knew all about it and were more than willing to share their knowledge with us.

Once at church there seemed to be a spirit of pure joy in the air. People had come today with eager anticipation of our gathering. Our service opened with a young trio. Two of the students go to the Rainbow School where our kids go and I had asked them to share a song with us. They did a fantastic job and were received with enthusiastic clapping and cheers from the congregation when they were done. I can't wait to have then back again.

Worship on stage wasn't any different then usual except of course the song selection was focused on Christ's death and resurrection. Garrett and I were reflecting later that worship seemed more amazing because the attitude of the congregation had come ready to participate and it really was a whole experience and we could hear so many more people singing then we normally can. That is what made it great.

Saul preached a heartfelt sermon and we closed the service with a duet. I sang with a missionary's daughter who was out for a visit and has a magnificent voice! "My Redeemer Lives" by Mullens (?). We sang in English while the words were translated on the overhead. Elise and my voice mingled as if they were one. It was a good vocal match with power behind it. The congregation seemed to absorb the message and I could see so many swiping at their eyes. When we were done the congregation was stunned into silence and then erupted into applause in a way I have never heard from them before. It was so unexpected I didn't know what to do and we bobbled uncomfortably on stage for a few minutes waiting for what was supposed to happen next. Saul finally came back on stage, said a few words and then asked us to sing the song again (at least I think that's what he said:). So as people were invited to leave we sang the song one more time. More than half the congregation stayed for the reprise.

After church several young missionaries/staff at the University and a few study abroad students piled into our car and came to our house for a big burrito meal and fellowship in our living room. I can't think of a better way to have spent the afternoon after a fantastic week of celebrating Christ's death and resurrection.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Transitions 4

The traffic lights here are interesting. At first I felt like they were ,"duh lights" (you know, duh, do we need this much information) and this is why:

When you approach an intersection and the light is green you of course travel through, but as soon as the green light begins to turn into what we call a "stale green" light (one that has been green for some time) the yellow light comes on and the green and yellow light blink 3 times before changing to red as a warning that the green light will soon change to red, so prepare to stop. Many people stop when the light begins blinking and don't try to hurry through as most of us would (and I sometimes do myself). For those who are waiting at the red light, there is also the yellow light that appears with red and flashes 3 times to let the waiters know that soon it will turn green so they should prepare to go. We have observed many people driving through the intersection as soon as the blinking of red and yellow begin, but have found out it is not legal to do so. When I first observed this way of the traffic light, I scoffed at how "caudling" it was," Do we really need to know just when the light is going to change, my goodness." But now that I have been driving here for some time, I have really come to appreciate that the lights prepare you well for when they will change and there is no guess work at all involved in the process. At first I thought,"They would do well to adopt the American way of doing it!", but now I am thinking quite the opposite. It seems like the way Lithuanians do it is sensible and wish America would check it out:)

The rules and regulations of the road have also been very interesting and fun to learn. There are not many speed signs posted so I am often at the mercy of other drivers for what the correct speed limit is. Which is scary because they are all going different speeds. So it is not a very good beromitor for me.

I have found out many new and interesting things as I have driven with Lithuanian drivers. I always use driving people around as a time to ask questions about driving laws. I have found that anytime you are on a road driving through a village (town) the speed limit is always 50 kilometers (like 30 mph, ugh). There are no consitent posted speed limits, this is just something you 'know'. When you leave a village there will be a sign with the village name on it and a slash mark through it indicating you are leaving this village and if you are not entering another one right away then you can go 90 to 100 Kilometers. Which sounds fast, but is still only around 50 mph. You just have to relax and know you will get there eventually.

One of the funniest and most rediculous things I have encountered while driving as far as speed limits go is on our way back home from Kliapeda. There is a small stretch, not even a kilometer (which is half a mile) where you can go from 60 to 80 and the right back to 60 again. I laugh every time we pass it, but I make sure to speed up to get my 80 in:)

Another interesting difference here is the permenate metal green arrow attached to stop lights indicating that you can turn right at all times. I really like this one! Plus , we have found that the hazard lights here don't mean there is a broken down car, but that the car in question isn't parked and planning to stay for long so don't get inpatient with where they are parked (which half the time is in the middle of the road blocking traffic), and that brings us to the next topic of driving......

Cars stopped in the middle of the road to drop off a passenger or pick one up is a really irritating habit we see quite frequently here. This seems to be a convenience of the driver with no consideration to anyone else. When someone wants to be dropped off, you just pull over randomly to drop them off and make everyone else wait. It is really a road hazard and often causes some big traffic jams, but again we have to take a deep breath and not get too upset about it since it is happening all the time, all over town and is quite common.

And finally our favorite! You pretty much can park anywhere and every which way. We spend so much time in California lining our cars up just so and keeping them off the curbs. Back and forth, back and forth to get it into the parking spot nice and straight. Here, you just line your car up however the person before you has parked. If the lines are straight and you are the first one there and you choose to park diagnal, then that is the way the parking will go. If your car is too big and the street is narrow, you just pop a set of your wheels up on the curbside. We always get a big laugh out of the parking lots outside the malls around here. It just looks like sheer K-oss!

One of the things we have learned since being here is that the common tragedy that kills more missionaries all over the world is car accidents. So of course we buckle up when we drive and are always driving defensively. Most people in this country still do not see the importance of seat belts, so we are a bit strange to a lot of people around here:)

We could go on and on about the strange driving habits of this country, but we will let it rest with: Don't ever assume that the oncoming car that is passing another is going to get over in time to miss hitting you....

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Transitions 3

The weather is another big hurdle to get past! Many times when people find out we are from Southern California, the next big question is,"Why did you come here?" They just can't seem to get an understanding why anyone would leave the warmth of their country to come to this miserable place that they plan to leave as soon as they can.

The weather is almost always 20 degrees colder than what we are used to in Sunny Southern California. While we lived in California we never once complained about the heat. We loved it, more than anything, that for the last 15 years we have been able to wear our tank tops, shorts and flip flops on Christmas Day! Ah, what a dream!

A funny thing that is different too is that in California when the sun comes out you can feel it's warmth and you know it will warm up to be a great day. So when we see the sun out here we expect something from it. However, here in Lithuania, the sun will be out and it will appear to be a beautiful day. Then you head outside to experience the bitter cold of the day and feel like the sun is boasting lies! Lies we say! There is not a single shred of warmth that you can feel from it's presence! It continues to full us on a regular bases.

Here in Lithuania the weather begins to cool significantly by August/September. As we move into October we are wearing light jackets, but the kind of Jackets we would wear for winter in California. By November it is as cold as it will get in a Southern California winter and is in the high 30's and low 40's, but my no means has winter even gotten started here.

This November we saw our first big snow fall of the season and it stayed for several days, so it was at least 32 degrees outside. Snow doesn't last long here though. The Baltic Sea is only a few miles away and always brings in a warm wind and rain to melt the snow.

December and January brought us some cold temperatures in the 20's and 30's. We were really preparing for the coldest weather in January and February, but it kind of putzed out and now in February we are enjoying weather in the 40's and LOVING it!

It is funny how in Southern California we would be complaining by now about the 40 degree weather and here we are so thankful for how warm it is. It is all relative isn't it!?

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Transitions 2

Hot water and Taking a bath!
Well, you would never think that this would be a transition to be made, but it is rather a big one. When we first moved into the house we are in now, it only had a shower. The Landlords generously offered to install a bathtub to the kids delight and mine as well. I love a hot bath on those sick days when my body aches all over.

The bathtub was installed months ago and a long while after that the wall was created to enclose it on one side. 2 sides had walls and one side went off into our (empty) indoor pool. It was terrifiying to give my 3 year old a bath thinking she could easily go out the back of the tub to an 8 foot drop to ceramic tile. Of course she was never left alone to bath during that time:)

The wall was finally built a few months ago, but never finished so it is just drywall and thus we are still all sitting to take a bath with no shower curtain for privacy. And me continually stressing that we will ruin the drywall before they get around to finishing it. Garrett most certainly felt this one more than the rest of us! He is the only one that prefers showers to baths:)

The other "fun" transition is the hot water. We have a water heater that is half the size of the one in the States. If I fill the tub with hot water, that is it. It takes a little more than an hour for the hot water to reheat. This heater is for laundry, dishes and bathing. It is really fun when we have several people over to spend the night:) If I am feeling yucky and want to take a bath, I really have to consider all the things that are happening in the near future to see if I can afford to be so indulgent:)

The switch to the heater looks just like a light-switch and is located inside the bathroom so several times it has accidentally been switched off when Garrett cleans the bathrooms or one of our guests is trying to figure out which switch turns on the light in the bathroom:) This usually leaves us with very cold water when we finally realize what has happened and no hope for it to heat up for hours:) Several times we have heated water on the stove to make a bath. This really make us feel like missionaries............and of course the kids start saying things about little house on the prairie.

Part of transitioning to a new culture is just realizing that some people struggle with this same stuff in our country as well. It is not unique. Another thing we try to do often is just laugh and move on, otherwise it can really make you crazy with anger. Anger just makes life difficult!

Monday, February 4, 2008

Outside the "Christian" Circle

What do you do when you struggle with feelings that lay outside the "Christian" circle? You know, there are the "acceptable" struggles that Christians will allow and you can talk about these things openly, such as addictions to food, caffeine, TV, busy-ness, and shopping. For some reason these are more acceptable than smoking, drinking, bar hopping, porn, and sex outside of marriage. Did you feel the shift? What is really the difference here? They ALL keep us in bondage. ALL addictions keep us from experiencing the FULLNESS of God. ALL addictions are gods we serve and thus break one of the 10 commandments. Why is it we okay some and not others? Why do we choose to live with any? Don't get me wrong, I struggle here too.

What about "feelings" outside of God's will that are acceptable and not acceptable. Here again, we tend to accept being dissatisfied with what we have and wanting better and nicer things. We work hard to get better and nicer things when the "old" things are fine, we simply get "tired" of them. Have you ever remodeled your kitchen just because it was outdated? We justify our consumerism by saying,"I work hard, I deserve it." Our friends say,"Wow, it looks great, it was about time."

Let's take that to the family, especially the marriage relationship. What happens when you get "tired" of them? This principle no longer applies does it? Of course not, but what happens when it becomes a feeling you begin to really struggle with? When your feelings become "taboo" and you no longer feel you can share them with your friends because they are SO wrong. This is exactly when satan jumps at his opportunity to isolate us and attack like crazy. When we choose to struggle alone, satan gets his foothold and we will have an intense struggle that only escalates and gets stronger. It is amazing how he can get our mind to work against us.

The problem here is not the struggle with thoughts, feelings, and desires that are outside of God's will. The problem is not recognizing it for what it is: temptation! It comes in all forms and can last quite a while. It sneaks into our lives before we are even aware it is there. It often comes upon us as we sit back totally unaware it is happening because we are so tightly wrapped up in it emotionally. Plus ,the guilt can be overwhelming.

I was surprised with a tactic Satan used in my life quite recently to try and lure me away from contentment with my family.........

As a woman and someone who loves the Lord and wants to draw closer to him, I am not really allured by sexy looking men. Men are men and they seem to all want one thing and one thing But a Godly man, now that is a different thing entirely. There is just something about a man who has a passion for Christ. A man with single mindedness in obedience to him. You just can't help but be drawn into someone who is so Christ-like. Christ is alluring and seeing Christ in someone is alluring as well. I met someone like that here in Lithuania. Watching him speak and seeing his passion for God and for his family and his devotion to his wife made me admire him so much!

It wasn't long though before that admiration turned sour and it became jealousy of his wife and discontentment with my family...I even began to wonder if I had some crazy feelings for him. Wanting to be around him must mean something intimate right? Well, no! It doesn't, but Satan can twist anything like friendship into something aweful and outside of God's will and then try to lure you into it. I wrestled with these feeling alone becuase I could not recon with them. What was going on? The rational side of my brain reasoned and made sense, but the fantasy side seemed to be winning me over. I began to allow thoughts to taunt me. Things like, "If only I had that kind of husband....wouldn't everything be better." Reason told me that I had the very best husband and things were fine right now, but even then the fight inside continued.

I am educated enough to know about the "grass being green on the other side". It was just so nice to believe there was a perfect man out there somewhere. Someone who loved their wife and never looked at another woman or was unfaithful in anyway........ Part of it was fun to get lost in non-reality. Moving to another country and becoming missionaries had quite possibly been a strain too much to handle and getting lost in the fantasy world was a great escape, but was quickly becoming a dangerous one. I was really aware where these kind of thoughts could lead and I was not about to be another statistic of a marriage that collapses. It was time to fight this like the battle that it was and stop letting the "feel good" emotions rule my mind. Which was a very alluring thing to do, by the way. Take EVERY thought captive and turn it to God, force it into submission before the Lord. I had to remind myself daily that my ultimate goal is to please him! And I knew discontentment was not going to do it.

Now, when I began to think, "Why can't my husband be more like....." I would remind myself about all the good things my husband was doing currently. There were plenty of things to think about too. I also began to change my thinking when I saw my friend. He was more like a little brother that I was so proud of. When you think this way it is hard to go in the wrong direction from there.......

Even though my thinking never went into the direction of having an affair, my thoughts were still used in attempt to destroy me and my family. Discontentment was key for me and getting my eyes off of what I have and coveting what I didn't have was my struggle. It was the most bizarre experience to really really want to stay in that fantasy world even when I knew it was doing so much harm to me and, in turn, to the way I felt about and treated my family. I couldn't believe how strong the pull was to continue down that path. I never longed to stop the trot down the path to certain death. I even knew what laid at the end and it didn't seem to matter. I finally made the decision to choose to follow the truths that I had read in the Bible and had seen played out in so many lives before me. I have seen the outcome of following the emotional self and it has never been a good one. Why would it be any different for me now? It wouldn't. It was going to be a battle now of determination. Part of that was to reveal myself to another sister in Christ. Which is exactly where I started. It was amazing how that one act of confessing to my best girlfriend took the power out of Satan's grasp in my thought life.......he no longer had the "secret" power to toy with my thoughts. It was out in the open and I had some accountability. Ultimately, that was all I needed to get things going back in the right direction.

I feel so ridiculous for having had a battle like this, but hey, I suppose there is nothing new under the sun is there? I am happy to say that I am back on track and remembering to love my family, especially my husband, for who they are. I am remembering how special they are and how God selected them especially for me and me for them.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Transitions 1

Of course language has been the biggest transition. It is funny how little I noticed that I read every little sign that was posted in the States. Billboards, Street signs, bumper stickers and those little cardboard tents restaurants set on the tables. You just don't notice these things until you have all of them to see and none of them in your language. At first it was frustrating not to know what all the advertising was about, but of course I got over that quickly.

It is funny too in the grocery store how much I have relied on the pictures on products to help me decide if I should buy the product or not. Sometimes I just can't figure out what the product is by the picture that is portrayed. It is amazing just how much the language barrier can make you feel so helpless. I am planning on having a Lithuanian friend take me through the grocery store and give me a real good tour:)

I am learning to read body language a whole lot better too, though I've been wrong a lot. To me it sounds like this culture seems to have a bent towards "angry" tones when they are not angry at all. When listening to a friend talk with another friend in Lithuanian, I would ask,"Are you guys mad?" and the answer was always,"No." Could have fooled me. It sounded like a heated debate, but that is just the way they talk around here. They seem surprised when I ask. It is funny to watch another culture interact through my own cultural filter.

I have really learned how to be with people and not always understand everything that is said. I am also learning how to be quiet in a group. That is a feat in an of itself. It has made me a better listener and when I meet someone who speaks English I am so ready to listen because I am eager to hear my native tongue. Something I have struggled with for years. Listening and REALLY being interested in what is being said.

What is also interesting is speaking with people who's 3rd or 4th language is English. I often have to translate what they "might" be meaning by what they have said. Nothing is inferred. Something as simple as directions: "It's on the other side of the store" may not mean that it is next to the store at all, but quite possibly that it is across the street. I always have to clarify what I have heard to make sure I have heard it accurately. There are many misunderstandings that go on and that is just part of life:) We all learn to roll with it.

As a challenge to you, if you meet someone who is new to the country. Please invite them to take a trip to the grocery store with you. One afternoon. It is simple things like this that make all the difference in the world. It makes the transition to a new country that much easier! To them you represent the whole country.........

Monday, January 7, 2008

Our kids are funny.....

A man at church from the states was introducing the next handbell piece that would be played. He spoke English. After introducing a few more songs Sonshyne leans over to me and states clearly,"I don't think he knows Lithuanian. He speaks California."