Next Level Expat Living: Loving Thy Neighbor
It all started with taking my greyhound for a walk.
She's the laziest animal I've ever met - with the exception of food, car rides, and walks. Most of the time, she won't even move a limb as she eats a treat - like a sloth.
Another thing you should know about this sleepy dog? She loves vegetables - carrots, cucumbers, zucchini, celery, you name it. And with all the snow around Lithuania, she's become attuned to neighboring snowmen and their carrot noses.
So, we're walking down to the outside world and find two young girls shoveling snow near the perimeter of our door - both a display of help and clear preparation for a snowman. Audrey, of course, eyes the carrots immediately.
I asked the girls if Audrey could have one of the carrots, and they nodded shyly. I didn't think too much of it when I said thank you and heard them calling out to their mother. Audrey had a walk to go on, after all.
When I returned, their mother was standing with them, supervising their snow patrol. And to my surprise, she started talking to me! Had I seen her before? Yes, but only in passing.
Our conversation began like this:
Her: "Hello! How are you?"
Me (amazed she was talking to me): "Cold! I mean, šalta!"
Her: "Yes, these Lithuanian winters..."
I was stunned. I'd never really heard her speak English - her husband, yes, but not her. Between my broken Lithuanian and her (much better) English, she asked me if I wanted to get coffee or tea sometime.
We exchanged numbers, and I literally skipped up the stairs back to my home on Cloud 9. THIS. WAS. HUGE. I couldn't wipe the huge smile off my face! Apartment living, in and of itself, doesn't necessarily lend to friendly interactions - just polite ones. Add an Eastern European country to that, and you've got yourself one quiet hallway.
I couldn't help considering her bravery and courage to even talk with me! As I mentioned in my 'Are Lithuanians Rude?' blog post, they don't typically go out of their way to initiate a conversation... although I've discovered dogs and motorcycles help. ;) But she did this of her own accord, and when I asked her about it later, she said something along the lines of, "Well, sometimes if you want something in life, you have to act on it!"
I was so excited that I called The Scientist at work just to share the good news, and I'm confident I sounded like I'd won the lottery. Making friends with neighbors is a big deal for two friendly Americans - we already have some amazing neighbors. (Y'all know who you are!) But her going out of her way felt like I'd reached the next level of a (very cold) video game.
Cut to me in her home a few days later.
So different from mine, but still so warm. A Kandinsky painting on the wall, the lit-up globe I could see from my walks, children's toys, her homemade apple varškė pie with scoops of ice cream and rooibos tea. In fact, I learned she's an arbatos žmogus, not a kavos žmogus - a tea person, not a coffee person. (Great news for someone with a cabinet full of share-worthy tea and herbs!)
And come to find out: she's not even Lithuanian! She's Polish, and she's been teaching herself English for five years once the sun goes down. (Impressive!) So, you see, we're perfect for each other. She practices her English, and I practice my Lithuanian. We can grow together!
I had her over to my own place a couple of days ago, sharing stories, American-style peanuts, and songs. This feels like a quantum leap in my expat living, and I'm wondering if other expats feel the same once they break that sound barrier.
It feels great, and I hope there's more of it to come in this beautiful, tropical climate... (I kid!) Knowing my history, it'll probably involve Audrey and a few carrots.
As per usual, feel free to subscribe at the bottom of this page to receive a bi-weekly email from me on whatever's on my heart that day! And as always, I'll see you next time here at Into the Forests I Go - iki pasimatymo - see you soon!