Think about the last time you went over to someone’s house for a meal. If it was someone you had just met for the first time, you probably drove up to their house (maybe past it a couple times if you’re like me), observing their house from the exterior, and then walking tentatively up to the front door, really hoping that it’s the right house. The initial greeting might have been a little awkward, the house is unfamiliar and new, and you have no idea where the bathroom is. The house may be beautiful, but you have only a one-sided view of the people who inhabit it.
How different it is when you go over to someone’s house whom you know well! They welcome you in through the back door with a hug, letting you walk past all of their mess that they didn’t get around to cleaning up that day. You sit down at the table casually, talking or cooking or laughing together. You know the quirky, unusual things about this person and this house—something most people would never guess from judging by the exterior. It feels a little like your home away from home, a place where you feel safe and where you can experience the true essence of its owner.
It can be surprising similar when visiting or living in another country. When you first arrive, everything is new and beautiful. As a tourist with a pair of rosy-colored lenses, you see the best the country or city has to offer, all the historical sights, beautiful architecture, and great food. The “meal” is laid out nicely for you, but it only shows one picture, only one side of a multifaceted nation.
As you begin to settle in and start experiencing everyday life, however, something changes. You chuck the rosy-colored lenses, take off your shoes, and enter in through the back door. You begin to experience the quirks and unique things that no one ever prints in the tourist guides; you befriend people who are way different from you, and it slowly begins to feel like a home away from home, a place you know and a place you grow to love. This is the space where real growth and life happens. I picked the theme for this semester’s blog to be “Lithuania through the Back Door” because I want to capture a glimpse of not just the touristy things you can find on a website somewhere, but the actual day-in, day-out life that happens here—the unexpected, sometimes hidden, surprises about Lithuania that give you a fuller, more robust view of the culture and people who inhabit it. So, here is my invitation: kick off your shoes, step inside the back door, and maybe together we can learn a thing or two about the secrets of this beautiful nation.
~Christine, the new social media intern (and blogger for this semester!)