Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Another Jam Packed Day!

The photo above are the apartments around where we live while we are in Kaunus.

After nearly two weeks here it is still difficult to get used the crazy days we have. Intended or not – they are often jam packed with a wide variety of things to do. From visiting relatives to sorting through clothes and gifts to give, to the site-seeing that we try to squeeze in; add to that the constant eating and drinking every where we go and our days are exhausting. Everyone feels obligated to throw us a big spread even if we do not want it. Remember, it is not cheap to provide us with the type of meals they throw on the table. It is like two solid weeks of Thanksgiving – that should give you an idea of the amount of food that is shoveled into our collective directions. Most of it tends to be fruits, vegetables, breads and sweets – but it is something that takes away from them when we are gone. We are very aware of this and try our hardest to dissuade all the grandeur of the meals – opting instead for the simplicity of potato pancakes or going out for a bite. Suffice to say it does not work and we are lavished everywhere we go anyway.

I imagine it must be hard. Here we are the big Americans come to visit the old country cousins. Their vision of us is based on MTV, E! and other media outlets. They see the lavish lifestyles we tend to live and they are trying their hardest to build a similar life. We bring them gifts, some new but most are gently used and I would imagine that the shear volume of what we bring to hand out (remember six bags, seventy pounds each) must compel them to try and show their appreciation by the dinners they provide. We can understand this so we accept their very gracious offer of food we know that is difficult to afford and enjoy the company.

These are special people – mere words cannot convey my feelings on this. Mere words cannot convey how they have touched my heart and impacted my life. Mere words cannot convey the love that I feel for them – these people of whom I have no relationship beside that of an in-law who have taken me in and called me their family. sigh…..

It’s already August 18th at this point and the trip for Lisa and me, at least, is nearly over. Her father will be here in Lithuania for another two weeks visiting more family and possibly discovering family members he has never meant before. We have yet to pick up gifts for the kids and for our neighbors who have so graciously lugged the kids around to their various activities while we are gone. By now we’ve toured some of the major stores and market places in both Vilnius and Kaunas and yet we have not found anything that either fits right form a size perspective or a style perspective. So we turn to the one person who can find what we need…Vile!

By now – most of the bags that we bought with are nearly empty – except for one and that is the bag that we have ear-marked for Vile and her sister Milda. The sizes are al within their range, the quality and newness is better than everything else – in other words we have saved the cream of the crop for them and we offer them the luxury of going through the bag to pick out what ever they want. It is a fun process – a bit like Christmas – for both parties. We get to watch them have fun picking out the stuff they want and they get to have fun doing the picking!

Vile, Edmundas & Milda arrive around 10:00 AM to sort through the bags. The plan we have devised involves the ladies sorting through the bags, picking out what they please while Edmundas throws out quips. Then, Lisa and I will go with Edmundas and Vile shopping while Milda and Alberti head back to her place for a visit. Once our shopping is complete we will all meet back up at Vile’s for a potato pancake lunch! YUM!

So a large black luggage back is dragged out to the living room floor filled to capacity with clothes for the ladies. Lisa’s father begins to dig in handing out pieces he has ear-marked for either Vile or Milda and they run off to the bedroom to try it on. I am sitting on the couch working on my Blog – shielded from the open hallway by the 3/4 open door (thankfully) - as the first item does not fit Milda and she comes to show us – laughing, undergarments exposed. Did I mention that this is not a shy society here?

With the clothes rummaged through and fit to perfection – we are finally packed up and on our way out the door for an afternoon of gift hunting. Spending time with Vile, Edmundas and Milda is fun – they are a fun, happy family filled with joy and laughter. The conversation is always light and they love to give a gentle ribbing here or there for a good laugh. They are also very helpful and do not mind scouring the city for just the right item. Luckily we have Vile on our side as she knows just where to go in each case. On the other side of the equation, we have big, burley Edmundas on our side to negotiate the deal – which he does with relish! Saving us more than a few dollars!

The markets today are much more crowded than earlier in the week. Colorful vendors line the indoor market that Vile and Edmundas take us to. There are more than a dozen rows filed with vendors on one side alone! Everything from dresses, suits, shoes, jewelry, electronic goods, CDs, games, fruits and vegetables is found in this market. The air is filled with energetic conversation, sweat and excitement. Everyone here is searching for THE DEAL! Nikki and Adam are the easiest to shop for – we find an orange Nike pull-over for Adam and a neon green sport pull over for Nikki. Steven is a little more difficult. Back in Vilnius we spotted a black t-shirt with bold red letters: CCCP and the image of the Russian hammer & sickle. The vendor at that market wanted $40 LTs – much more than we wanted to spend – but now, as we wander up our 10th aisle – we think it was a bargain! It is then a young man wearing the practice jersey of the Lithuanian basketball team walks by. I grab Vile and point – that is the perfect gift for Steven! She knows exactly where to get it and not ten minutes later we are on our way back to their place for Potato Pancakes, the feeling of a job well done sitting softly in our hearts!!

We arrive back at Vile’s with Milda and Lisa’s father still out. Vile immediately begins to cut potatoes while Lisa and I take advantage of the high speed internet connection. Soon Edmundas is headed out the door to go pick up Milda and Alberti. Tomorrow is the wedding and I have forgotten to bring my beard trimmer, luckily I am able to borrow one from Edmundas so I disappear into the bathroom while Lisa takes a brief nap. All in all it is a lazy afternoon, for us at least. For Vile, she is busily peeling, grating and cooking potato pancakes, refusing our offers of help with a big smile on her face. She is a care-giver; this is what she does best – that and teaching English at the local school.
The potato pancakes are excellent as she piles one after the other on our plates. We barely finish what is there before she piles on more. Edmundas draws a bottle of Vodka from the freezer – it steams in the warm kitchen air and under sharp protests he places four shot glasses on the table and proceeds to fill them. We take a shot each and then immediately turn the glasses upside down refusing any more! I feel pickled at this point of the trip and we still have dinner at Uncle Bill’s tonight!!

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