Lithuania

Lithuania was a fascinating part of my research journey. Not often visited for tourism, I found my time there to be authentic and enriching. Getting to Lithuania from Peru, however, was a bit hectic. I had seven connecting flights all together, and spent two full days and nights in the airport/on a plane.

Things I have discovered during this traveling extravaganza:

  • Airports in Finland play bird sounds in the bathroom. From owl hoots to small chirps, they have them all.
  • The London Heathrow airport has very inexpensive pods you can rent to sleep in or shower (I didn’t find this out until too late, but it’s a great idea). They have them in a few other airports, too. I believe the price for one person in London was around 35 euros. Check here for more information: http://www.yotel.com/en/

I landed in Vilnius, Lithuania and stayed in the city to adjust to the new time zone. What I did not expect, however, was some of the most intense food poisoning I have ever experienced. I ended up having to stay an extra day in Vilnius that was not planned because I could not leave bed. I am not sure if this was caused by the two full days and nights of travel, something I ate, etc. Regardless, I had my first case of travel illness on my journey. I do not believe any time can truly go wasted, however!  I put on a podcast related to trade policy and got some rest. To anyone who has not discovered the wonders of podcasts, I would encourage you to listen to some when you have a chance. They are usually less demanding than an audio book and great for those times during travel when you are a bit too exhausted to strain your eyes to read. I am very diverse in my listening, and do not choose podcasts that always align with my own beliefs. My suggestions come from objectivity and interest in all ideas related to my research. This being said, my most visited for this trip have been:

London School of Economics: Public Lectures and Events

Guadalajara Geopolitics Institute

PBS Women, War, and Peace

International Food Policy Research Institute

When I was feeling better, I traveled by train to Šiauliai – the fourth largest city in Lithuania. This city is most famous for its “Hill of Crosses”, featuring thousands of crosses large and small that visitors have placed there. It was important for me to get an understanding of the culture of the area, so I arranged a homestay with a family that owned a small farm. During my time in the homestay, I learned much about the history of the USSR in Lithuania and the transition of agriculture after independence. Some of this intense experience of communism and Soviet occupation in Lithuania can be traced through a history of land reforms. Nationalization of land and large farms occurred, and much land was redistributed to small farmers. Some of the communes and small farming communities are still operating in a similar fashion today, the one I stayed at being 52 years old. I was able to help on the farm and discuss the current state of affairs for small farmers in Lithuania as well as learn more about its political and economic history.

Lithuanian has a culture full of color and life. The Summer Solstice Festivals are a good example of this. Large feasts occur, people build fires, and everyone dances and sings.  I celebrated summer by making a traditional flower crown while walking through the garden (which the grandmothers loved)!

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Traditional Lithuanian Folk Costumes found: By Lee Fenner from Kaunas, Lithuania – Lithuanian traditional dress, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3923119

 

I was also able to experience Lithuanian agriculture through incredible food- one of my favorite dishes prepared being a soup called borscht. Borscht is a beet soup with tomato, carrots, cabbage, and potatoes (sometimes beans or meat). I enjoyed it so much I forgot to take a picture, but have found one on the internet:

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Photo taken from http://natashaskitchen.com/2010/09/26/classic-russian-borscht-recipe/ (which also has a recipe if you’d like it!)

I think what struck me so deeply at first was the bright red color (and then afterwards the comforting warmth and taste, of course). We had this soup for breakfast with fresh wheat bread and sour cream. I am looking forward to making this when I return home to Florida – I love soups. Let me know if you would like to join me! I find that “reverse culture shock” happens after returning home from a long journey, and it is always a good idea to have great foods that remind us of our travels. I learned this terminology from our International Services office. We had a “reverse culture shock” lunch with many of the students that recently studied abroad last year, and it was great to hear other experiences coming back to school in the US.

The farm itself was entirely organic and had a large hoop house/green house. Many different kinds of tomatoes were growing inside. In addition, there were many fruit trees (apples and pears, mostly). Although none on the tree had ripened yet, it was a pleasure to see the small fruits growing. Traveling from Peru, it was interesting to see the transitions to colder climate agriculture. Much of my work growing up and working on farms in Florida deals with tropical environments. I had much to learn in Eastern Europe.

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A pear tree and its small fruits
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Tomato vines and other assorted plants in the greenhouse

There were also many strawberries to pick after dinner (some of the sweetest I’ve had) while I spent quality time with the farm dog Garry.

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My time in Lithuania was quite short (6 days), some of that time being incredibly ill, but I still learned great amounts. It was a pleasure to be truly integrated into a rural lifestyle, and I will remember this time for years to come. I am looking forward to bringing you along to my next stop: Rome and Assisi Italy!

In addition, if you or anyone you know is willing to donate to my research experience, please see my go fund me page linked below. Travel based research is costly, and any help is greatly appreciated.

https://www.gofundme.com/maryssas-researchtrip

 

 

 

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