I'm warning you now - this is going to be an obscenely long blog post :)
So, Tuesday night was my last home – I spent the day finishing ILP online training, playing with the kids, and packing till super late. Mom and I got up at 4:15am so I could get to the airport by 6am, and Jaylee came with! It was fun to see her, and super sweet for her to come. Though it was hard to leave, I ended up getting on the plane at 6am and flying out to Denver for a layover before getting to Salt Lake. I got to SLC around 11am and met up with my ILP group at 12 to start checking in for our flights. Those of the ILP teachers that were flying out of SLC together – Bailey, Elise and I - all met up and headed through security together. Our first flight was from SLC to Atlanta, GA, then we boarded for our long overnight flight from Atlanta to Dubin, Ireland. Really long flight, but the flight attendants were super kind and took good care of us. We finally landed in Dublin around 9:30am, and had a chance to explore the city! We had a layover for about 8 hours, and decided to store our luggage in a locker somewhere, rent a taxi (I’m such an adult!) and head to Dublin city! We ended up exploring Dublin castle, which is beautiful! The architecture is beautiful, and I loved hearing about the history, exploring the gardens, and looking like a total tourist while I took pictures of anything that moved or was remotely historic looking.
|Courtyard of Dublin Castle, Ireland|
|Two lovely things in this picture - the castle garden entrance, and my fellow ILP teacher Elise (she's the one taking the picture - not the grumpy Russian lady :)|
|This one's for Carissa and my bros - these are what the directional signs look like in Ireland, and remind me of Portal every time I see it!|
|Doorway in Dublin Castle Gardens|
|More Dublin Castle Gardens|
|Ivy is EVERYWHERE here!|
|Outside of Dublin Castle - it was so big|
|A Catholic cathedral in Ireland|
Bailey, Elise and I were freezing after wandering around Dublin city long enough, and ended up taking refuge in a tiny fish n’ chips local restaurant to try some of the Irish novelty. I’ll admit – I was pretty skeptical of the whole “fish” part, and never connected that “chips” is what they call French fries! Who knew, right? J Overall though, it was surprisingly yummy! That could just be attributed to the fact that I was starving, exhausted and freezing, but we’ll give it the benefit of the doubt.
After window shopping a little longer (during which, I found a Stewart Scottish flag keychain and postcard to send to Mason - him and his crazy Scottish obsession will be thrilled :) we hailed a cab, struggled to understand our sweet Irish taxi cab drivers accent (I swear – he may have been speaking English, but he was not speaking English), and got back to the airport to head through security again. At this point, Bailey, Elise and I were all in a walking comatose state and couldn’t even manage conversation while going through security – we just all trudged through the line, shoving our luggage in front of us, and probably looking rather scary to all the nice Irish people behind us. Actually, now that I think about it, I think I feel asleep while talking to our taxi driver on the way back to the airport. Hm. Nice Irish man, wherever you are, sorry about that.
**Fun Fact about Ireland - In cars, the wheel is one the right hand side!I was seriously bewildered when our taxi driver opened the left front door for me; I had a momentary panic attack when I thought he was trying to make me drive! Turns out, he was just being a gentlemen, which is way better :)**
I honestly don’t remember much of the Dublin to Lithuania flight either – I finally fell asleep on this flight (I couldn’t fall asleep on any of our other flights, which explains the comatose state) and didn’t even budge until we had landed. We came into Lithuania around 11pm on Thursday night, and Dima picked us up at the airport.
Okay! That’s the catch up of everything that happened on the flight over. Now I get to talk about the good stuff – Lithuania!! As I mentioned before, Dima picked us up at the airport. Now, Dima is our local representative for ILP, and actually the one who suggested and fought for an ILP school in Lithuania. Apparently, he lived in Russia before, and knew the ILP teachers from the branch down there. He became really good friends with some of them, enrolled his kids in the ILP program, and loved the company. So, when he moved to Lithuania, he got in contact with the school, and suggested starting a center here!! He pretty much did everything – he promoted all the advertisements, arranged all the housing, got everything cleared, contacted the schools… basically, the man is a Russian superhero. And to top it off, he’s probably one of the nicest men I’ve ever met. More or less, he’s our Russian Dad while we’re here. He even agreed to killing our spiders. What a gem.
Anyway, Dima picked us up late last night, so we couldn’t really see much of the city that night. We ended up getting to our apartment – which is AWESOME, by the way – and meeting up with Areil, our head teacher, and Janese, the 4th teacher. Turns out, the teachers from last semester are actually still here, and not leaving until Monday afternoon. They seem like super nice girls, but keep mostly to themselves. So, for the moment, all four of us teachers are lining up in the same room, and just squishing together on 2 mattresses – it’s actually pretty great. Last night around 2am, Janese bolted up in bed, scaring the heebie-jeebies out of Elise, who was sleeping next to her. When Elise asked what was wrong, Janese just stared at her and said “I talked.. and now I have to pee!” and bolted out of the room, leaving Elise and I giggling in her wake. Still not entirely convinced that she was awake at that point, but ah well.
Basically, the other teachers are SUPER great, and I really feel like we’re going to get along well. As for the holy-smokes-I’m-in-Europe part of things… man. It’s still pretty surreal. Every once in a while, I’ll sit in our comfy apartment kitchen eating, and just forget that in Europe. Then I look in the fridge and remember I have no idea what I’m eating since I can’t read any of the labels:). Though I’m 10 time zones away from home, can’t understand a word any of the natives say, and have no idea what I’m buying, there is so much of human life that is the same. People here are still parents who love their children, they’re still afraid of things they don’t understand, and simply look for the joy in life. The more I see of Lithuania and it’s natives, the more I understand the phrase “If ye love me, feed my sheep”. It’s no different in a normal family; if someone claimed to love my parents, then scorned their children, it’s hardly proof of affection. Truly, if we love the Lord, we will love His children – such a simple concept, and yet one that my mortal weaknesses often overlook. How grateful I am for the everyday reminders the Lord sends me to bring me back to His track of mind :)
The people are quiet and usually more reserved, which I attribute to the differences in language. People here either speak Lithuania or Russian, and occasionally speak both. People like me get the lucky result, which is struggling through figuring out phrases in both languages! That’s okay! The other teachers and I are starting Russian language classes with Dima next week, and I’m super excited! I really want to learn Russian, and am excited to have such a good teacher and class:)
So far, I haven’t seen much of the country, but am amazed by what I have seen. I’m really aching to find the country, but am enjoying the city environment as well. While it’s not as safe as America necessarily, we live in a very safe area, just across the street from the ILP school. I’m aching for a chance to see some green grass, and will probably try to find a park on my run later.
The only downside so far? The internet broke the day before we got here. Normally, this really wouldn’t be that big of a deal, except for the fact that I promised my Mom I would email her as soon as I got to Lithuania. So, apologies for not getting ahold of anyone until now - the Internet should be pretty stable in our apartment for the rest of the time we're here. It seems like one of the cables got ripped out of the wall on accident when we were bringing in the 2 tons of luggage in our wake :)
Couple fun facts about Lithuania I’ve learned so far:
· The money system here is a “litas” – one US dollar is equal to about 2.4 litas, which is awesome!
· Meat. Holy smokes, meat. They seem to eat a lot of pork and beef, all of which is cut and processed differently than in the States. We got some Salami from Maxxima (which is the grocery store right by our apartment) and it's surprisingly delicious!
· The biggest and most popular treat here is a flavored cheesecake bar, covered in chocolate – not sure what it’s called yet, but I’ll figure it out and report back later :) I got a cranberry flavored one today (which also had a dancing squirrel on the wrapper, which, you know, was great) that was SCRUMPTIOUS!! Best flavor I’ve found so far, and I really like it!
· Mineral water – I’ve no idea what’s the deal with the stuff, but I had to comb the store to even find some normal bottled water! Apparently, people seem to like mineral water better, which just sounds gross to me
· I won’t necessarily say that all European women are tall, but the ones that are? Man, they don’t go halfway! Those women are tall. I saw a beautiful lady at the grocery store today who was probably 6’4” and carried herself like a beauty queen – I love it.
· Everything here seems miniature – coming from someone who’s used to Costco produce, the food here is teensy! Also, the produce isn’t immaculately primed before you get it. The potatoes especially are probably ½ the size of American ones, and same with almost every other produce I’ve seen. Still yummy though.
· Toilets and showers are kept separately – shower/sink in one room, the toilet in another. Plus, they never use the word “bathroom” or “restroom” here. Everything is “toilets”.
· European woman always look immaculate whenever they go anywhere! Also, heels is always an option. No matter the weather, temperature, or clothing you are wearing, put some heels on.
That’s it for now!! We’ve had a pretty full day today – meetings, rules, job charts, all that jazz. That combined with jet lag makes for a pretty tired Hillary. On the plus side, I finally showered tonight, which was awesome!! Oh, and another fun thing – here, the showers and sinks are connected. So, there is a lever on the wall between the two, and depending on which way you direct the lever, it will send water to either the shower or sink. Plus, our washing machine drains into the shower, which could prove tricky.
Love you all!! I keep you updated!