Living in Lithuania: 6 Pros and Cons
Real talk: there seems to be a deep-seated inferiority complex in the minds of many Lithuanians, including some of my friends who have lived abroad. Some went to university elsewhere and came back to uplift and support their country, and others are very well-traveled locals. But they all have one initial question for The Scientist and me: why Lithuania? Why the heck did two Americans decide to pick up and move to their small country? There's usually some version of shock and awe - and then, I think, pride.
And to give you an idea of how often this happens: when my husband and I performed last weekend, we met some random Lithuanians who had watched our show. (I had to meet the two guys who were mouthing along with Amy Winehouse! That's my people!) And guess what? Same question. To be fair, I'd probably be just as curious in their shoes. It's a bold, unique move to do what we did, especially since I'd never been here before leaving my home country.
But after my husband's science retreat this weekend in the tiny village of Puvočiai, I'm realizing how many people in the last few days have asked me what I think of Lithuania - if I like it. (Trust me - they already know my husband's opinions because he ain't no wallflower!) It's a rainy day and I've got some time, so let's get into it!
Lush Forests and Carpets of Moss. I mean, my blog is titled Into the Forests I Go, y'all. And I mean it when I say that this is my number one favorite thing about Lithuania so far. While I'm not a huge fan of the rain these days (eh, it's manageable), it makes the forests so happy, and dammit, I've got the perspective to see that. I trusted my gut that this was a good move for my soul, and the forests were a huge lead in that intuitive pull into the unknown. Add in the seasonal changes, vibrant greens, singing birds, croaking frogs, a few lakes, blueberries and mushrooms to pick, and ancient pagan rituals, and you've got yourself a happy Eva. In general, the nature here is beautiful.
Wooden Sculptures. I've never seen so many wooden carvings in my life, and they have such a strong aesthetic here. One of my favorites is at Glėbo hidrografinis draustinis, a nature preserve that I keep driving by on my road trips. It features the most beautiful snake wearing a crown, and definitely has some strong Eglė, Queen of the Serpents vibes. (Click that link to read the Lithuanian folk story in English!) And every time I see it, I remember how sacred snakes are to Lithuanians - so different from the United States where guns are sacred. And just yesterday, we were passing through Varėna, another Lithuanian town, on the way back to Vilnius. We walked through a park with wooden sculptures featuring even more Lithuanian folk stories. This one beautiful ragana, or witch, had a slithering snake on her necklace. They're everywhere - snake motifs and wooden carvings, including an incredibly meaningful Holocaust-related wooden carving for the Jews of Trakai. A feast for an artist's eyes.
International Friends and Opportunities. The further I get away from Amazon, the more grateful I am to have other options, to slow the eff down, to enjoy the company I've surrounded myself with. Convenience isn't the top priority here: it's quality time. And Vilnius is an international city, but it hasn't outgrown itself like Austin. Also an international opportunity: affordable healthcare. As a freelancing American, I'm grateful to pay a small monthly amount to Sodra to have access to the same healthcare as everyone else. ... Plane tickets to see your favorite musicians? So cheap, something I'll experience soon. It's the little things like this that improve my quality of life. Alright, I could keep going (MAGICAL HOT AIR BALLOONS!?), but let's get into some of the cons, starting with...
So much green.
Mayonnaise In and On Everything. Why!? Just why? Even the french fries usually come with mayonnaise instead of ketchup, or that weird ketchup/mayo combo. The Scientist and I have learned to ask for our sauces on the side, because restaurants here just do not know when to quit, ha. On the other hand, sour cream and potatoes are my jam, šaltibarščiai is refreshing, and Turkish kebabs are absolutely everywhere. So, that's my main piece of advice: get your sauces on the side, otherwise you may be swimming in a river of mayo.
Different Weather Patterns. I've decided I have to treat Lithuania like the Pacific Northwest, because that's what their summers are turning out to be. I can't help but feel royally bummed by it, because I was expecting a few more sunny days as the summer rolled in. It was gorgeous when we got here in July! Do I have to wait until then!? I'm from the southern part of the United States, so I'm used to summer heat. And here's a laughable truth: I feel most comfortable here in saunas and steam rooms. It's what my body knows. It does not know or understand this, so I have to work in overtime to spin it as "not bad, just different." (My mantra!) Still... I miss the sunny beach. I miss consistently warm days. But, I guess that's what the cheap plane tickets are for. Until then, I'll keep doing my best to move through it... Sigh.
No One-Stop Shopping. I'm not saying the grocery stores here suck because I actually really like them. (Even the specialty stores - hey, Meze!) But I'm used to Target, Walmart, and HEB, where I can buy NyQuil along with my hot sauce. (Because: Texas.) Grocery stores here almost always have an attached pharmacy, so I don't have much to complain about, but my American brain craves that convenience. The truth is: I've gotten into this European rhythm. Almost a year later, though, I'm still laughing at my American need for speed. Some things take longer to smooth out, I guess.
I could keep going here, too (I miss mountains! Where are the musicians?!), but the fact is that my quality of life is just better here. It may have to do with living so close to nature, truly immersed in nature, making friends that feel more and more like family - but something led me to say yes to this place without having stepped foot on the continent.
And I'm so glad I did. Thank you all for joining me on this journey!
Until next time, viso gero! Be kind to each other and enjoy every moment you can.