Bus 15

In retrospect, I was already trying to find a coffee shop I couldn’t remember the name of on a street sorta near one I was pretty sure I knew; maybe adding a bus that that mix wasn’t the most solid idea. But the one-lita tickets were already in my wallet and Sheldon (my laptop) was getting heavy, so I figured riding a stop or five down into old town Kalipeda couldn’t hurt. I was already on the street I needed; it would save me time, and I needed all the time I could get to write this draft for Biblical Interpretation due in two-point-five hours. It wasn’t going to write itself. That’s what the previous two nights indicated, anyway.

Which buses go into old town again? Six, eight, fourteen for sure. Three comes back this way, I’m assuming then it goes out too. What other numbers have I seen coming back. Two, maybe? And fifteen? Five’s a bad bet, I’ve seen fives but five doesn’t feel right.

I check the times: six, eight and fourteen just left. Two has ten more minutes; fifteen about three. Unless it just left too? The buses are notoriously on time here; maybe it’s more so than I am.

A bus rolls up: five. I’ve seen fives heading up and down the streets I frequent, but nothing solid enough to make me take it. Five rolls off.

Another pulls up. Fifteen. I’ve seen fifteens coming out of town before. Maybe they go in too?

The people shuffling forward and the heaviness of my book bag on my shoulder convince me. Fifteen is a good bet.

Fifteen boards up and closes its doors and pulls away from the shoulder. And doesn’t squeeze into the left lanes. Normally not a problem, except the right lane just turned into an offramp with signs reading things like “Palanaga” and “Kaunus.” I just need the coffee shop downtown…to the south…somewhere…

Instead, I sit and watch my street disappear under me as fifteen loops up and around, onto the offramp and over a bridge, heading due east.

Oops.

Okay, what do I know about how buses work? The come and they go on the same routes. So that’s okay, I’ll find another shop and cross the street when I’m done with my work.

Two, three stops. I spot a café. Not bad, but three stops isn’t worth it. No use wasting a perfectly good wrong bus ride. I ride out some more.

Four, five stops. A park stretches to my right, bordering—is that a river? How come no one on campus has ever mentioned it? No comfortably distanced bus stops on the other side, though. Plus a park won’t have anything to eat. Hmm. I’ll spot something else.

Six, seven, eight stops. The city’s becoming increasingly industrial. Shops and cafés have all but disappeared; auto body shops and office buildings take their place. Maybe there are no coffee shops to be found on this side of town. Maybe I can ride until fifteen takes me back into town.

Nine, stops—or is it ten now? We’re still heading east? This road just sprouted a divider—how am I going to cross? When does this bus turn around?

Eleven stops. Uh oh.

Twelve stops and finally—I spot a Pica Express on the other side. Not a coffee shop, but pizza and a place to sit can do. Also it looks like—a thrift store? And letters on the building listing it as some a shopping center, I think. Is my Lithuanian right? It looks like old apartments, but the number of people coming in and out of the buildings suggest otherwise.

I look across the street: a returning bus stop and a crosswalk to get to it.

Sold.

I got off fifteen, and got much more than just a place to sit and grab some food. The old apartment buildings have been turned into its own little hodgepodge shopping center, with various fast food-ish restaurants, tons of thrift stores and a tiny street market lining the main area into the place. Walk through and there’s a little sunny square full of very old people and very young people, walking and talking and enjoying their sunny Tuesday afternoon.

I browsed the thrift shops and stuck my head into all the restaurants, delis and bakeries I could find. I checked out the fruit and homebrewed honey at the street market—might have to return for some of that. I wandered up stairs, trying to find the weird old apartment entrances to the stores I could see through the windows.

I abandoned studying and Pica Express for a kebabas stand and a Coke. I ate it in the square, in the sun, eavesdropping on two old women. (They spoke Lithuanian, but whomever they were talking about was clearly quite interesting.) I never did break out Sheldon: my lessons for that afternoon would be in navigation, apparently.

I got the wrong bus, the wrong lunch, the wrong things accomplished. Now I have a coffee shop and a kebabas stand to revisit. Plus perhaps a park, a street market and a plethora of thrift shops. And they’re accessible by bus stop…so long as that bus stop includes bus fifteen.

Not bad for a failed afternoon.

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Privyet

(This is weird. I don’t usually write poetry and I sure as heck don’t usually share poetry but I came up with this when I was supposed to be studying for my trip to Moscow(!) next week and I donno, when you’re all lovesick-crazy you get ideas like Hey Putting This On My Blog Would Be Good so that’s what I’m doing. If you like it, great, and if you don’t, well, it’s not written for you anyway.)

***
Privyet, spaciba, pazhalista

Ya ne ponimayo why I got here without you.

Study the Russian, they say,

Quiz on Monday

You get in what you put out

So put out and learn the Russian

Fail to fail this cultural experience

But how can I study Russian

When all the phrases in my head

are spoken

by

you

And all the synapses I try to make

are reset

towards

you

And why fill spots

with something like vocab

When they could be filled

with your voice

and hands

and name and face and future

This world is full of important things

And right now

Russian isn’t one of them.

Mopey Posts

Considering what blogging habits were before coming here, I guess 15 days between posts isn’t that bad. But considering how bad I am at posting pictures of my time abroad and how Thinking and Talking About Things often feels like the only way I can process or share this experience, I’m frustrated at myself. Both for not posting and for the reasons I didn’t post.

I haven’t felt very present in Lithuania these last two weeks. I graduate next semester and have a lot to do and some very big changes to look forward to once that happens, and those changes have been on my mind a lot since October started. As such, I’ve been going through my routine here with one (or both) eyes always focused on home.

Knowing this experience is temporary, that my next steps (and many of the significant players in it) lie somewhere else, makes me want to simultaneously squeeze all I can out of this semester and avoid (or maybe just not bother) getting too attached. I’m not sure how to best handle my time abroad—am I a student? A tourist? A part of this community, however temporary?—and in my confusion, I often feel like I’m squandering it. (Another study abroad, Buddy Hocutt, wrote a much more eloquent post about this the second week we were here. I don’t know if he’s still as confused as I am, but he explains the question on how to interact here well.)

Yet at the same time, I feel extremely blessed to have something to return to. I’m not having a hard time here because I don’t like it here; I’m having a hard time here because my identity isn’t here. If I were staying in Klaipeda, I’d throw myself into it the way I threw myself into Fox. It’s tough, because adjusting to a new environment is always tough, but it’s not miserable. LCC’s classes, company and city are all pretty good. But my friends, my family, my future are (currently) in the United States…and honestly, I’m eager to get back to them.

I’m glad I came, but I’m equally glad I didn’t know how it would feel before I got here. I don’t know if I’d have mustered the guts to do it then. But then, that in and of itself has taught me a little more about who I am and what I care about and how I might best handle the rest of my living in this crazy world.

If only I can figure out what how to best handle these next two-point-five months.

Tourist Lessons

This weekend gave the Study Abroad students at LCC a reprieve from being students and a chance to be tourists again for three days. And it felt pretty dang good. All 29 of us got on a bus and spent two days in Tallinn, Estonia and Riga, Latvia; I also managed to ride the coattails of master planner and fellow study abroad Abby Korthals to squeeze in a day trip to Helsinki, Finland on the side.

It was exhausting, it was fleeting, it was fun, and like every other event this semester, it taught me a lot. Unlike daily life at the LCC, however, this trip had less to do with the serious, relationship- and culture-driven aspects of travel and more to do with the whiz-bang tourist level of travel. Some of those tourist lessons are jotted here.

1)    Your study abroad advisor may suggest an amount of money to bring. If you just need to stay alive, that amount is fine. If you want to do anything besides that (like shop, visit a museum or eat a real lunch), you might want to bring a little more.

2)    Some hostels are for resting. Some are for partying. If you can figure out which one yours is beforehand, do so and plan accordingly. There’s sure as heck nothing wrong with a hostel that sits right above a salsa club, enticing you to party all night. It’s just nice to know it’s coming, if only so you can get some sleep beforehand and go party all night.

3)    Passport stamps aren’t really a thing anymore. Sorry. Dry your eyes and move on.

4)    Unless you want dozens (or hundreds) of strangers with passports and cameras crashing your wedding, don’t get married at a public landmark. Cathedrals are beautiful, but they’re also on all the tourists’ maps.

5)    Speaking of cathedrals, if you’re going to take pictures, do it discreetly. For the love of God. Or at least for the love of the other people around you. Because God may love you no matter what, but some of his all-too-human worshipers think you’re freaking. annoying.

6)    The only creatures castle walls attract more than tourists are pigeons. Move slowly, lest there be a lot of mutual panicking going on.

7)    Read the travel guides you’re given, especially if you’re in Eastern Europe. They’re hilarious. And they’ll tell you about every night club in the city, in case you’re interested in making that your scene.

8)    Yes, you will look like a maniac if you bolt off the ferry the second it reaches port. But if it helps you snag the first taxi out of the port at 18:30 to catch your international bus at 19:00, swallow your pride and run like mad.

9)    Pancakes are the cheapest food.

10) Go to the top of every tower. Their views are the best reminders of why you just endured hours and hours of travel and trekking to see this part of the world.