Orientation – Alicia from IWU

WEDNESDAY: So much happened the first day in Vilnius (the capitol). We met up with the whole group and took a walking tour around Vilnius. There were so many things to see! In the town square there is a…I guess you would call it a brick….that you spin around on 3-7 times and then it comes true. Naturally my frolicking self loved that experience. It was the place where Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania held hands and sang to declare independence. Kumbaya anyone? 😀 We also saw Old Town, Vilnius University, the president’s house [who by the way is a woman…and no one gives a hoot about it], and many other things. Most striking, however, was the KGB museum. This city is absolutely incredible! 

Vilnius. Photo by Jenica

THURSDAY: we went to the Trakai Island Castle. It was ABSOLUTELY beautiful. It is in the town that was formally the capital of Lithuania and there was so much history! There were little cafes all over the place that sold a special Lithuanian dish that consists of meat or mushrooms wrapped in bread. It was very yummy. We then finished the 4 hour drive to Klaipeda (feasting on bread and Salmon with cheese) and arrived to LCC in the late afternoon.

Trakai Castle

FRIDAY: It was our first opportunity to really soak in the fact that this is where we are going to be living for the next four months. Most of the day consisted of meetings and information that we had to know in order to survive but there was also a Lithuanian lesson and our teacher is superb. I am so excited to learn how to speak with the locals and communicate with people in their heart language. That night, we learned what it is like to grocery shop in Klaipeda and we went to the mall. The malls here are HUGE. I thought that we had nice shopping in Chicago, but this is something else. The architecture of the food court is designed to make you feel as if you are in a windmill or little town. Fast food is also a sit-down style with a waitress and the whole 9 yards. Plus in the middle of the dining area, there is a huge ice rink where people were practicing for hockey. We also learned how to take the bus, travel around town, and got our pictures taken for our Russian visas.

LCC Campus. Photo by Jenica.

SATURDAY: We were able to experience a very cultural thing: the sauna. The saunas of the Baltic Sea are preserved by the UN and there are apparently people from all around the world who come there for natural healing…but mostly it is just kick-butt older ladies and locals who do the sauna every week. We took about a 40 minute walk from campus to the edge of town and took a ferry to the spit (it’s a small chunk of land between a canal and the Baltic Sea). We then walked through the forest to saunas. We all got into our swimming suits and piled into the boiling little room. Man was it hot. The process is to stay in the sauna for 5-10 minutes and then go to the freezing cold showers and repeat for 2-3 times. After our third time in the sauna we ran out onto the shore and into the Baltic Sea….in JANUARY! It was so cold but definitely worth it, the feeling was similar to a runner’s high but without any exercise.

Baltic Sea. Photo by Kelli

SUNDAY: The day began with a drive out to a little town north of Klaipeda to attend mass. We went to a Franciscan church and worshiped in Lithuanian. All of the churches are so magnificent here. Lithuania has the most Baroque architecture in Europe (which basically means high ceilings, columns, and lots of gold…so gorgeous). The altar at the front of the church was ornately carved completely out of pine and evergreen trees and depicted Christ, a lamb and Old Testament prophets. That night we all sat together and made stirfry and played cards until bed. When I came home I met one of my roommates from Ukraine [she is so nice!] and Skyped my family until bed.

Alicia. Photo by Jenica 

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