Monday, August 08, 2005

A (Brief) History

I thought I would start this out by chronicling my trip with my wife, Lisa and her father to Lithuania. As I write this we are already there - 8 hours ahead of home - so, while it is 7:19 PM on the 8th of August at home - it is 3:19 AM on the 9th of August in Kaunas, Lithuania. Unable to sleep as our bodies adjust, I decided now was a good time to start this off. SO, best to start from the beginning I think....

Lithuania is located in Europe - a stones throw west of Russia - near the Baltic Sea. Lisa's father was born there and immigrated to the United States with his brother and mother to escape the onslaught of Hitler. For the last dozen years or so Lisa's father has been returning to the country of his birth to visit family and get to know his roots.

A couple points of reference here. Currently the Lita, the Lithuanian dollar, is worth roughly three to one American dollars. While the free market has taken a hold there, the ability for the people to earn the same amount of money has not. So, inflation in this new, free market economy has run a bit rampant - something I've read: that is natural in a newer free economy. That being said - to buy a pound of meat means giving up a larger portion of a monthly salary. Perhaps this will help. Lisa has a cousin who make roughly $900 lt (Litas) per month. Translate that to US dollars and she is making $300 dollars per month! Consider that the food in the stores, while plentiful, is priced considerably the same as the food in American stores. So - a 2 liter bottle of Coke in the US will run roughly .99 cents (on sale). In Lithuania that same bottle of 2 liter Coke will run $3.00 lts. When you do the math you can see how many people are still struggling today.

Back to Lisa's father - he comes to Lithuania and brings suitcases filled with gifts to give to his relatives - mostly clothes that we no longer need - aspirin, lotions, coffee and what ever else he feels they could use in the daily lives. He proceeds to visit as many people as he can while handing out these gifts (and money) to help them get by. On two other occasions he bought Lisa with, so this is her third trip to Lithuania. During her second trip I was privileged to go - it was life changing - naturally when the opportunity came to go again, I jumped at it.

Now, having left on Saturday, we are back in Lithuania - staying in an apartment that is barely bigger than most of our living rooms - trying to sleep on a pull-out couch that is about 3/4" of mattress and loving every minute of it.

No comments: