island on the horizon

island on the horizon
Originally uploaded by The Enforcer.
Saturday morning, I escaped the chaos of school and went to Liepaja, Latvia to stay at Agata's home for the weekend. She met me at the bus station and skipping with joy, she lead me to her house. After an incredible breakfast, we left her flat and she showed me her city.
I think what I loved best was being back at the ocean (well technically sea, but same idea) again. And being with a family...I had some of the best conversations with her mom about the challenges of being a Christian in Eastern Europe-where religion often refers to ritual. We spent the weekend relaxing and walking on the beach. Sunday evening before Agata and I had to leave, we took a walk with her mother and brother along the beach. As we gazed out at the water, Karolis remarked that the way the sun shone through the clouds it looked like there was an island on the horizon. We decided it must be Heaven--so close you want to swim to it, but it could never be reached on your own.
After the walk, we watched part of a football game through the holes in the outside fence--that was hilarious, just us and a couple of old men that didnt' want to pay! Finally, Agata and I loaded the bus...back to Lithuania for finals.


"Need a little wind here..."

So I don't ever know who reads my blog because no one ever comments, thus I do not really post that often. So please if you do read it, drop a comment once in awhile...anything really so I know people read it and maybe even like it.

Acui labai. Jenny.


Snap out of reality

perfect viewpoint
Originally uploaded by The Enforcer.
Thursday morning, after getting a tour of Old Klaipeda in our Lithuanian class, Peggy and I decided to ditch our last class and go to the beach. We grabbed Polly and Jess and took the closest ferry across the spit. 40 minutes later, we got off the bus and walked through the little city of Nida.

It was so misty (almost foggy, but different) we couldn't see where anything was. We found a little pier and walked out. Then I saw one of the most beautiful pictures ever: swans swimming out of this mist. It was incredible. Peggy made friends with them, we got some quality pictures (check out my flickr site for them) and then we went to a little restaurant for lunch. We sat on the second floor, all alone. The huge wine glasses and 3 forks at each setting told us this was a nice place. It was so cool.

By the time we were done, the mist had cleared up and it was sunny and beautiful outside. How sunny?! Well, for the first time this semester, I wore a tanktop outside and bare feet in the sand and I was hot! That's just not Lithuania, but it was awesome. We ran down some dunes, looked out the horizon and layed in the sun. I felt like I had taken a step out reality and was in a daydream...well, it was my perfect daydream.


The DPRK (The Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea)

Woah, talk about an eye-opening, mind-blowing experience. Today, one of our professors, Reuben, shared about his experience in North Korea, as a “Canadian ambassador” during Spring Break. The way this country operates is so different from anything, anything I have ever imagined.

So I will share about what he said. I don’t know how informed people are on this topic, but I know I knew very little about it. (for background on North Korea, check out BBC: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/country_profiles/1131421.stm) Since the end of the Korean War, North Korea has been a closed country, run by Communist rule. The capital is Pyongyang, the main city that Reuben visited. From his experience, Reuben said that the Korean people have this mentality that they are self-reliable, able to survive by themselves—which is proving not to be true. Their economy is beginning to weaken, and they are very dependent on China for imports, yet they would never admit this.

Yet they would never admit this and everywhere he went, especially the orphanages he visited, when the ambassadors offered to help, the Korean people always responded that they didn’t need help, but that they were fine. Only after much persistence would they begin to ask for medicine and food. And when given a tour, Reuben and the other ambassadors were only shown one or two classrooms, with healthy, well-dressed happy children. At one orphanage, he stole off saying he had to “go the bathroom” and was able to peek through locked doors at other rooms. In one room, he say a group of toddlers just sitting in the room, with no toys, no adults, no one. And they weren’t even playing together: just sitting. Another room, he saw a little girl through the crack in the door and waved. She smiled back and waved, then giggled. The adult in the room heard her and realized what happened and completely slapped the girl in the face.

More details on the daily life of the people: the government controls everything the people do. They say who is allowed to live in Pyongyang and who is not (only the socially elite are allowed). The people are broken into working groups, usually around 5 families. They are then sent to the fields and work, in return they do not receive money, but are given food and supplies from the government. North Korea does have a currency, but it is not commonly used and open markets are very rare. Everything is provided by the government. The people are also not exposed to T.V. very much. Thus their perception of the outside world is almost non-existent. In the city of Pyongyang with a population around 1 million, there are only 150 international residents, and all of these residents live in the same area. They are not allowed to go to certain parts of the city. In fact, almost 2/3 of North Korea is off-limits. No one is allowed to go there; the only thing we know about them is the little bits that spy satellites are able to offer. Thus it is a mystery what the government is really doing in these areas. Part of why the government does not allow foreigners is that they do not want their people exposed to the outside world, and even by seeing foreigners, the people are reminded of other ways of living which is extremely negative.

One of Reuben’s experiences was walking down the street. As soon as some one saw him, they would turn and walk the other way. When he saw a child, he/she would run away. Sometimes the children are taught that foreigners are the “white devil.” Thus, they have a very negative connotation of foreigners. Oh and their newspapers and media are very negative about he U.S. I was able to read through one paper (in English). It is interesting how strongly they portray patriotism and praise of their eternal leader, Kim Il-sung. Although he is now dead, this ruler lives on almost like their god. Religion is outlawed in Korean culture and very negatively looked down upon. yet, the way the people praise this leader is what many Western people would consider worship. Everything is always so positive about North Korea. They refer to south Korea as the “lost brother” whom the U.S. is occupying. One article referred to Bush’s first four years of rule as being one of “war and massacre.” Very strong language against the U.S. and they blame the U.S. for many, many problems.

After an hour of this presentation, I could not believe this different way of life I was being presented with. It seemed like the people of this land were so hopeless, with absolutely no freedom, no idea of anything except for what they are told to do. In the main cities, the people are not anorexic or sick, but slightly malnourished. But in the villages, where people are not allowed to go there is report of the people being highly malnourished, impoverished and struck with disease. And the government lies about it all. There is so much pride in their country. Even when the government distributes out rice which the U.S. sent as humanitarian aide, they tell the general population that the government demanded the supplies from the U.s. How is there hope in such a situation? Somehow there always is. Gain, (http://www.globalaid.net/index.html) is a humanitarian aide company run by a Christian man that has a base in Pyongyang, running an English and graphic design school. Basically the way it works is that the Korean government feels like they are using this organization to get what they want from it, but Gain on the other hand views it as an opportunity to offer humanitarian aid through offering food and supply services and also helping at the orphanages.

Reuben had the chance to meet the owner of Gain and was able to talk to him about how he and why he wanted to establish a company in North Korea. The owner replied that although he does not advertise that his company is Christian (or else they would be kicked out of the country) he personally felt like he wanted to do something for all of the children in the orphanages. How could he not help? He asked himself, when so many of the children are babies of Christian missionaries that have been sent to the guinjabe (sp?)—Korean prison camps. He knew he had to do something, and he says the way his companies succeed is by taking risks. Whatever the country’s government needs, they say they will supply it and find a way to. There is reportedly up to as many as 200,000 Christian missionaries in prison camps in North Korea. They have simply disappeared from the world. What an incredible story of despair and a great need of hope. Pray for the people of North Korea.


Aggressive Lithuanian men....

not going to miss them at all.

So it is getting near the end of school, only 2 1/2 weeks left until I leave Lithuania. Am I sad? Well, it is of course bittersweet (as seems to be so many things in life!). There are certain things I will miss: the many different recipes for potatoes--the Lithuanians are very creative with this vegetable: potatoe pancakes, boiled potatoes, cepilini (meat with potoates and dough wrapped around), potatoe salad and more. Other things I'll miss: public transportation and walking. I average at least an hour and a half of walking a day. Oh haha, and of course I'll miss the babushkas. But mostly, it is the people I will miss: from my babies in the orphanage, who I am starting to get very attached to, to my dear, sweet roommates. I have formed some close friendships, and it's a very strange thing to be with friends, who you don't know the next time in your life that you will ever be with each other. Somehow I know I will get to see a couple of them again, but when and how I cannot say.

But I realized today there are certain things I won't miss. And the biggest of these is the effect of alcohol in this culture. SO many people here drink, and many are alcholics. And men here are different: in general they are very closed, very "tough" in appearance. They will not talk to you at all if they do not know you, unless they've had alcohol and then they are what Peggy always refers to as "very aggressive." Together, she and I have had so many weird encounters. From walking down the street and having guys yell at us in Lithuanian, things which should not be repeated (ever!) to a boy riding by on his bicycle and screaming as loud as he could right in my ear. That happened today, oh and I was so mad at him, seriously! Oh there was also the time when we were walking by a group of guys at night and one guy launched at me, supposedly as a joke I guess. Somehow I didn't think it was that funny, but his friends sure did. And Monday night, a couple of us girls went to the sea to watch the sun set and while waiting at the bus stop, a group of drunk guys walked up. Luckily we had a Lithuanian girl with us, but we still wound up with one guy bending down and asking to hold my foot, why I do not know and introducing himself. Then they were splashing "pop" which I am sure was spiked with vodka around at each other. That lasted about 10 min. Never have I been more happy to see the bus come.

I have experienced drunk people back home, but never have I had such aggressive occurences. Actually, Klaipeda has a lot of muggings. Several people in the dorm have been mugged. I have been protected many times when I am out. And it is always a matter of trust that something bad won't happen. Talk about learning to trust God. Every night. Sometimes, when I step out of this setting, I look at my life and wonder how I ever wound up in Lithuania?! Of all places and of all my experiences...and yet I wouldn't not trade any of it ever. What I have experienced here, is different from anything else I could experience anywhere else. This is not a glamourous place, there is nothing extremely attractive about Lithuania, and Eastern Europe has little to attract people over Western Europe... and yet it is the place that I am attracted to the most. Somehow my heart has been drawn here, and when I leave a part of it will remain.


on top of the world...

on top of the world...
Originally uploaded by The Enforcer.
Saturday a.m. Peggy, Polly and I joined 30 other students from LCC on a bus to see some interesting sites outside of Klaipeda. Our first stop was the old Soviet bomb shelter. I didn't know what to expect, but talk about such a weird feeling.

First we had to drive up into an empty forest to get close and then walk for a little ways, until we passed through a barbed wire fence that in Soviet times I guess was electrified pretty strongly. The Soviets paid off the Lithuanian people that had homes near this site. It was a pretty top secret base. And you can tell. Aside from 2 big mounds--like the one Peggy and I are standing on in the picture--there's not much indication of anything there.

Then we stepped into the bomb shelter--it was huge. Aside from being extremely cold and dark, the most interesting place was when we climbed up into the room where the Soviets launched their nuclear bombs. Apparently this "bomb launcher" as it was translated by our guide could do more damage than Hiroshima. Scary. I can't describe the feeling of standing there, looking down into the depths of that hole--it was 60 meters deep--and realizing how @ one point in this exact spot, bombs were set for all major cities in Western Europe. All it took was pressing one button and bah bam...what the heck?!

Well from the extremes of War times, we traveled to the winter gardens in Kretinga. It is a small palace that has been converted into a museum. Attached to one big room is a huge greenhouse--basically they created a rainforest. It was absouletely beautiful, I don't think I've ever been so excited to see plants everywhere in my life--mostly due to only having seen snow for the past two months. Yeah, I went crazy! I smelled everything, touched everything, and just sat and was so happy. The really cool thing is they have a small restaurant right around the "rainforest" as I like to call it, so Peggy and I decided we'd grab a bunch of girls, get dressed up fun, and go back there next weekend for dinner.

Speaking of dinner, that night we went to a traditional Lithuanian restaurant, Veskmingas. It was in the country, with a beautiful lake behind. After riding the zipline and playing with the random farm animals--including a yak, a yak! haha--Peggy, Polly, and I had some great banana crepes. After dinner, we were standing outside on the road looking at the lake and this man pulls up in his car. We were like, "great another drunk guy that is gonna talk to us." Oh but we were wrong. Instead he pulls up, makes sure he has our attention, and then peels out as he races off. Awesome, way to impress the ladies! Now we get to stand there smelling burnt rubber, which is one of my top 3 favorite smells in the world--not! Man, Lithuanian guys.

Today was a day of extreme contrasts.