I’ve been meaning to start a blog since… well, since I found out that I was about to take this grand adventure almost a year ago! So, procrastination at its finest, you actually get the blog after I’ve been here for a month! Whoops!
So, I decided to break my first month here in Lithuania into two posts, because SO much has happened that it simply can’t fit into just one!
First off, Lithuania is amazing! I can’t believe I get to live here! The country literally could have been plucked out of a classic novel! It is beyond amazing! I am living in Kaunas, which is the former capital of Lithuania. This city is awesome. We have a castle! And the people here are so friendly! I was so nervous for what the people were going to be like, because everyone characterizes Eastern Europeans as hard and unfriendly. Even past volunteers had warned me about the people here! But my experience could not be more different than what I expected! People here are very kind, and try their best to help you out despite the language barrier! Heck, the grocery store clerk is literally the coolest lady ever, I want her as my best friend! But really, I have never felt unwelcome here.
So, I am volunteering as part of an organization called International Language Programs (or ILP) based down in Provo, UT. And if you are looking for a way to volunteer abroad, this is definitely the program to do it through! The trip is relatively inexpensive, the program is very organized and has been doing this for a long time, and there are so many measures taken by ILP to ensure that their volunteers are safe and have the best experience ever! It is really nice, because every group that goes has one person (the Head Teacher) that has gone before and can show the other volunteers the ropes for teaching and other things. And the Head Teacher has calls with the program directors every week to check in and make sure that everything is good with their volunteers. But, the best part is the Native Coordinators. Every school has its own director that is in charge of the volunteers while they are in the country. Here, we have 2, Dima and Rasa. Dima is the head director over both schools in Lithuania. He started the program in Vilnius and it has since expanded here to Kaunas. But since Dima lives in Vilnius, he has Rasa coordinate the school and volunteers in Kaunas. I. Love. Rasa. She is the funniest person you will probably ever meet. She honestly has me and the other volunteers ROLLING in laughter all the time. And she told us right from the beginning “I’m not your mom, but I’m like your mom.” And she really is. Mama Rasa is the best. She makes sure that everything is good for us and helps us find our way around and learn the language (which is really difficult FYI). It is awesome! So really, if you are looking for a way to volunteer abroad, check out ILP! And, I HIGHLY recommend going to Kaunas, Lithuania! You won’t regret it!
Okay, so we have tons of hilarious stories already! I mean, put four girls in an apartment in an unfamiliar city and you’re bound to have some great ones! So I will just share a quick one right now! So, our apartment building is very old and was built by the Soviet’s when they occupied Lithuania. It has an elevator that is literally our favorite thing ever, it is so sketchy, but that it what makes it great! So, we had been here for less than a week and we were all in the elevator leaving to go get dinner, and for some reason we all decided that it would be a good idea to jump. I mean, in the US it’s pretty fun! But this elevator is easily 50 years old… I don’t actually know what we were thinking! But we jumped. And proceeded to to get the elevator stuck!!! So we frantically push what button we think may alert someone to this fact, and after a minute this woman comes over the intercom speaking rapid Lithuanian, which we definitely cannot understand. So we ask “do you speak English” because we have no idea what else to do, and there is like a minute long pause and then we get a very firm “no.” And she just keeps speaking Lithuanian to us. So we just sit in this teeny elevator and hope that someone is coming to rescue us! After about 20 minutes, a very kind repair man came to our aid… So Rule #1 of Lithuania: don’t jump in elevators (except, it is really a great bonding experience, so I don’t know, it could be good)!
So yeah, this post is kind of boring, but the next one will detail ALL of our crazy adventures!!!