As most of you know, Tuesday was my birthday, and it was an incredible day. I went back to the doctor and gained about 85% of my hearing back. That was an amazing birthday present! My ear still has a little ways to go before I can hear like normal again, but I think this will come with time. Then, my roommates surprised me with a Napoleon cake (a type of Lithuanian pasty/cake). It is nothing like what we usually think of when we hear “cake”. It has layers of flaky pastry crust alternated between layers of cream and fruit spread, topped with mildly sweet icing. They also made a “Happy B-Day” sign, which they hung in the window in the kitchen. We had a really nice little birthday celebration with cake, ice cream, and our adventure of making braided Nutella bread. Then, we went to the LCC campus movie night to watch Evan Almighty. At the end of the night, I had the pleasure of Skyping with my parents and finding out how my mom’s birthday was going. It felt a bit strange being so far away (and seven hours ahead) on our birthday, so it was good to hear and see my “birthday buddy.” I also got to see several other people from my community who came by while we were Skyping. It was like receiving a slice of home.
Though I couldn’t have asked for a better birthday, the rest of the week has been tough. For the majority of yesterday and today, I have felt overwhelmed and, honestly, defeated. I think that this is mainly due to the fact that I am physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted. This week has been packed with school deadlines and next week is even worse. I spent 10.5 hours at the orphanage this week – a blessing and a challenge. And, I have not been able to get adequate amounts of sleep. This has made it much more difficult to handle all the other little things that pop up throughout each day. One thing that has been especially hard for me is knowing how to let God take care of the future but still make sure I am doing my part. I know that God will provide, but I also know He does not control our lives like a puppet show. This area of my faith has definitely grown since coming to Lithuania. I am living here and trying to make sure I am completely immersed in my experiences, but I also cannot forget that I have a life back home. I have been trying to figure out what I will do for a summer job when I get home. At this point, I have no idea what I am going to do. I have also been researching Child Life certification requirements so I know what I need to be doing to be on track for taking the exam after I graduate. In the process, I have discovered that completing my 480 hours of internship is going to be much more difficult than I anticipated. Also, I discovered that I will be short on my practicum hours at the orphanage due to the time I missed while ill. But this is where God showed me that He is still providing… As I mentioned earlier, I worked an extra 1.5 hours this week. The Baby House has been chaotic recently. I stayed late yesterday and today because the two nurses seemed frazzled and overwhelmed with the unending screaming and crying. They have needed me to stay and help feed the babies their dinner. When I walked to the bus stop after working yesterday, I thanked God for providing a need for me to stay longer. I told Him that it was exhausting, but I loved it and I would appreciate it if He did that again. Isn’t it interesting that the same situation occurred today? It makes me smile…
That’s the other thing. The orphanage is where I feel important. I have felt inadequate here at school the past couple days. I am having a really hard time learning the Russian language right now. We are working on it in my Cross-Cultural Seminar in preparation for our trip at the beginning of March. In my other classes, I have struggled to stay focused during lecture and get my homework finished in the evenings. Also, my headaches have returned this week, complicating classes even more. The cool part is this: God is still getting me through all of my classes and helping me complete assignments in short periods of time, my headaches go away at the orphanage (even with tons of screaming and crying), I am able to assist the nurses a great deal, and I continue to learn more about myself and my Father through it all. I love spending time with those little ones, even though I leave each day covered in scratch marks, snot, slobber, and soggy bread. I am able to forget about all my other responsibilities and put every ounce of energy into showing them love. Seeing God at work in this area is a reminder that He is also at work in all other areas. He will provide a summer job, and it will be in the exact place where He wants me. He will also take care of my Child Life certification process, if that is in fact where He wants me to go with my future career. He shows me each day the steps I need to take, and I must remember that today is the only day I need to think about. Just as He guides me through today, He will continue to lead me tomorrow, whether I am in Lithuania or Bryan or any other spot on the globe. It brings me back to remembering what I know about the character of my God….He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. So, I know that I am, in fact, not defeated. Some days may be harder than others, and I may feel overwhelmed, but God is bigger than me. My tough stuff is His piece of Napoleon cake. :)
Today is the 51st day since I left home. That boggles my mind. The time has gone by so quickly, and I remember thinking that it would never end. So many things have happened that I never expected, and God never ceases to amaze me with each day.
This seems to happen to me with every journal I write, so I am sure this is no surprise to any of you: I have many things I would like to write in this update, but I don’t have several hours to spend writing and I am sure you don’t have several hours to spend reading. So, I will make this journal more of a fun one about some things that I have done and seen recently.
Two quick updates for some of you who I know are wondering:
1. No, I still do not have hearing in my right ear.
2. I return to the Baby House tomorrow to continue working with the Little Snails! Other than my hearing, all of my other symptoms are finally gone!
Today was a beautiful day! It felt like the incoming of spring. I went for a run this morning with Julia, another study abroad student. It was wonderful! And we didn’t mind that people looked at us funny as we jogged past them. This afternoon, we walked into Old Town to spend a few hours working on homework at a coffee shop called Vero Café. This has become my new favorite homework spot. It is located right next to the river on the edge of Old Town and has large windows that offer a great view of the river and park. They also have delicious mango chai tea. As I sat by the window there this afternoon, I thought about how the city had come alive today. There were several people fishing in the river, a guy kayaking, many people riding bikes on the park paths, and tons of people out walking. This former-Soviet country that, at first, felt cold and aloof became entirely friendly and outgoing with the change in the weather. During the cold days, there were always lots of people walking in town, but no one ever smiled or laughed as they walked. Today, I actually got a smile from someone that I passed on the street! And I saw so many people smiling and laughing with those they were with. It was a beautiful sight!
Something else I observed today: dogs! More specifically, German Shepherds! If you know me, you probably know that German Shepherds are my absolute favorite dog breed. My roommates here say that I have a German Shepherd radar because it seems like I see them a mile away. I noticed today how many Shepherds there are in the neighborhood behind campus… apparently they are a very common dog in Lithuania. And, on a funny dog note, the other common things here are doggy sweaters. But not even just sweaters…doggy snowsuits! Almost every dog, big and small, gets bundled up as much as the children walking down the street. Today, almost every dog I saw was free of its winter clothing!
I attended a different church today: International Christian Fellowship (ICF). This was my second Sunday going to this church. I still love City Church, the Lithuanian church I go to some weeks, but ICF is wonderful, too. Services here are entirely in English, which is actually one of the drawbacks in my opinion. I really enjoy the Lithuanian aspects of City Church. So, I have decided that I will continue to go between the two churches, as I enjoy both and learn a lot at each one. Today was ICF’s student-led service. This was one of the reasons why I chose to go there this week. It was really neat to watch a combination of European and American students come together to create the Sunday service. A Russian girl who lives down the hall from me, Liza, led the service. She did the opening announcements and prayer, and I was amazed by the fervor in her prayers. The passion of her faith poured out of her without restrictions. She expressed her love for God and, in a language that isn’t even her own, used the most beautiful language when communicating with our Heavenly Father. Then, a Ukrainian girl, Dasha, who also lives on my hall, gave the message. She spoke of the six months she spent on a mission in South Africa. The depth of faith and trust in God that she spoke about was incredible. She knew that God called her to go, but had no idea how it was going to be possible from a financial standpoint. But God provided, and she went. I loved learning from each student who participated in today’s service. It was a blessing to me, and a challenge to make sure I express my faith with as much joy and passion as they do.
Now, for today’s edition of “Learning Lithuanian with Katie”…
Šeimos = family
Mano tėvo vardas Davidas. Jis yra tamsus ir stiprus ir laimingas. = My dad’s name is David. He is dark haired and strong and happy.
Mano motinos verdas Melissa. Yi yra tamsi ir graži ir linksma. = My mom’s name is Melissa. She is dark haired and pretty and joyful.
Perspective: that has been the theme of my life for the last three days. God has been teaching me multiple lessons that all revolve around that word… perspective. At first, I was struggling to know what to write about in today’s post because I have so many thoughts in my head right now. I couldn’t come up with an update that was worth reading. Then I realized the connection between everything I have been thinking about. So, to recap the middle of this week, I will try to give you some new perspective to think about.
I have really started to struggle with my ear. If you read the post that I wrote about a week ago, you know that I was quite sick for a while and lost the hearing in my right ear. Well, all of my antibiotics are gone, and the ear infection seems to be gone as well. However, I still only have between 5-10% of my hearing in this ear. Also, though the continuous pain and pressure disappeared with the infection, several times a day I get periodic burst of sharp pain deep down in my ear. I should be returning to the doctor early next week to have her flush my ear, but I can’t help but wonder if this might not actually bring my hearing back. Two weeks of only having half my hearing has really started to get me. I am struggling to follow lectures in my classes, I have missed two weeks of time at the orphanage, I constantly have to ask people to repeat themselves in conversations, I must smile and nod as if I understand in group conversations because those are impossible, it has become even more difficult to learn Lithuanian, and I’m tired of spastically jerking my hand up to grasp my ear every time it feels like it has just burst. As I reached the point of tears today thinking about all of this, I came to realize something: the affect that this has on my life all depends on the perspective I decide to take on it. I was talking with one of my new study abroad friends named Natalie and, after verbalizing all my emotions, realized how negatively I had started to think. Natalie helped me clear up my feelings so I could gain the correct perspective on my current situation. Sure, I cannot bring my hearing back, but I can choose how I deal with not having it. It all goes back to my last post about keeping a consistent view of Who God is. God still keeps His promises. He is still all-sufficient. He is still all-knowing, all-powerful, loving, and the same God He has always been. This means that He is still big enough to take care of my ear, whether I ever get my hearing back or not. Maybe there has been permanent damage and the doctor will not be able to restore my hearing, but even if that proves to be the case, God is God and I can still choose to make the most of every day in Him. How silly it is for me to be afraid of losing my hearing when I have a God who is always looking out for me. I have so much to be thankful for, even if I never hear in my right ear again! It all depends on how I look at it.
In Social Psychology today, we discussed stereotypes and prejudices. At the end of class, I realized that being here in Lithuania is the first time I have ever been in the out-group of the general population. Being a white, middle-class, educated female in America means that I have always been in the in-group of Midwest American population. I’ve never really known what it feels like to be discriminated against or negatively stereotyped on a large scale. Now I am in the out-group and there are plenty of negative stereotypes flying around about Americans. For the most part, I have not received any negative treatment as a result, but it has nonetheless given me a new perspective…and I am beyond thankful for it. This has been a wonderful reminder that skin color, hair color, education level, nationality, personality type, economic standing, athletic ability, native language, and the natural volume of your voice does not define any of us. Our identity, every single person on this planet, is in the fact that we are all children of God. Even beyond that, we are all made in HIS image. Not only does this make us each incredibly and equally beautiful, but it speaks to the nature of God…it shows how big He is. This gives me another new perspective on people, God, and myself.
Well, those are the two biggest updates I have tonight. I have more that I would like to write, but I am trying to keep from making every single post into a novel! So, I am going to call this one good. Thank you again for reading and taking an interest in what I am doing and learning over here in Easter Europe. I hope you were able to learn a little bit about perspectives with me today.
And… because I haven’t been updating your Lithuanian vocabulary in the last few posts, here’s some new words for you: karštas (hot), šokoladas (chocolate)....put them together and BOOM.... a delicious warm beverage. At least, if you are in the US it should be delicious. Actual karštas šokoladas here (in my opinion) isn’t very good. That’s why I asked my mom to bring me some packets when she came to Dublin. I made one today. :)
The last two days have been incredible learning days. I have been challenging myself by digging into the ways in which I view God. Yesterday, I started thinking about how God is completely constant, all the time…He never ever changes. And yet, I don’t always think of Him the same way. Even though I know that He always remains the same, my view of him varies. I suppose this is due in part to my human nature and the fact that I am prone to change, but I know how necessary it is that I think of God for Who He really is. I need to have a consistent view of my Creator. After all, how can I adequately serve, love, and worship a God that I don’t truly know? I have spent every day of my life to this point thinking that I know God, but now I realize that I have actually done a poor job of getting acquainted with my Heavenly Father.
So, I spent most of yesterday and a few hours today reading and writing about Who God is. One thing I realize is that God is beyond my understanding. I will never, no matter how hard I try, come to a complete comprehension of Him. But if we were honest, why would we want a Creator that is on a level we understand? He is so much bigger than me, and I am incredibly thankful for that! Anyway, I set out on this mission to discover God knowing that I would never come out the other side with a finished image of who He is. But, I also know that there are certain things about Himself that He has made known to us. So, I made a list of the things that I know to be true of God’s character. Now, I have a list of truths to make sure I always view God in consistent light. As I continue to learn more about Him, I can add to my list, and I think this will help me grow closer to my Lord just as I grow closer to friends when I learn more about them. Here is the list I created:
So, how does learning all of this tie into my time over here in Lithuania? Well, as I have been saying, I believed that part of the reason God called me to this semester abroad is because He knew there were some things He needed to teach me, but I would only learn them if I was removed from all things (and people) familiar and comfortable. Learning about Who God really is has been one of those lessons. During the 45 days since I left home, I have been moved to my feet, my knees, tears, laughter, ear-to-ear smiles, and so many other expressions of awe by my amazing God revealing Himself to me. I have been trying for 3.5 years now to learn what it means to run after Him, and I am finally figuring it out. It means taking myself out of “my” world in order to see God for Who He is. Whether this means shutting myself in my bedroom at home in complete silence, taking time away from homework, going for a run in the woods without music in my ears, or flying to the other side of the globe where I know nothing and no one, I have to bring myself back to God every day. He never changes or moves away from me, but I am a creature of change and movement. If God seems different to me from one day to the next, it’s because I have changed. Being here in Lithuania, where everything is new and my life is full of changes, I have been able to see how God has remained constant. He is in me just like He was in me in Bryan, Ohio and Marion, Indiana. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. I am so excited to continue getting to know Him every day of the rest of my life.
I had quite the experience yesterday going to a Lithuanian doctor. It was a lot less formal than doctors’ offices in the United States. I did not wait in a waiting room or fill out any forms with my information on it. The doctor I went to see is actually my friend Džiugas’ mom. Džiugas is a Lithuanian student here at LCC and works as one of the interns for the Study Abroad department. So, he and Viktorija (one of the Study Abroad Coordinators) went with me to help interpret anything that couldn’t be understood between the doctor and me. She determined that my flu was more than just flu. I had gained a sinus infection and an ear infection. I thought that my ear simply wasn’t equalizing after my last flight, but as the pain increased and my hearing decreased, I started to grow concerned. Also, the entire right side of my head has become so pressurized that it feels swollen and my teeth hurt. Well, it’s a good thing Viktorija decided to take me to see a doctor because I would not have gotten better on my own. My left ear could have become infected, too, but she was able to take care of it before that happened. However, she cannot fix my right ear until the infection heals because there was a risk of serious damage with the condition it’s currently in. So, she gave me prescriptions for some medications I have to take to help get rid of both infections. Then, I will have to go back in about a week to have my right ear flushed to restore my hearing. I only have about 5% of my hearing in my right ear, and that has become very difficult to deal with. It’s amazing how much more complicated it is to speak in a foreign language when you can only hear about half as well as you normally can.
It is quite likely that I got all of these germs from my kids at the orphanage. Unfortunately, the problem with being in a different country is that I am encountering germs that my body has never been exposed to before, so I am at a high risk of getting sick from them more than just this once. Prayers for good health over the rest of the semester would be highly appreciated! As a result of this current illness, I have missed this entire week of working with my Little Snails, and will miss most or all of next week, too. I cannot return until all of my symptoms are completely gone.
However, this has not just been a period of setbacks. I have learned a few things from this illness. First, I have gained a major appreciation for all hearing-impaired people. I can now see how frustrating it is to lose your hearing. Not only does it make communication more difficult, but it also complicates your balance and sense of equilibrium, causes confusion, and makes interactions with others stressful and exhausting. I think I have gained a new patience and grace for hearing-impaired people. Second, medical care is so important and God blessed us with doctors and nurses. I know from working in hospitals over the summers that there are people in our area that do not speak English and struggle to receive proper healthcare as a result. Now I know what it feels like to go to a doctor that doesn’t speak the same language as me. Thankfully, I was blessed with people to interpret for me. But it is still a scary and confusing experience. I am so glad that she was patient with me and the need for translation.
So, I am still suffering from all my illnesses, but at least have medicine to get me on the road to recovery. And, today was Palanga Stinta (aka, the Smelt Festival in Palanga). Despite my coughing, decreased hearing, running nose, and sinus pain struggles, I hopped on the bus with tons of other Lithuanians (study abroads, LCC students, and Lithuanian residents) to experience this fish-filled festival. Palanga is the resort town of Lithuania located on the coast of the Baltic about 25 minutes from Klaipėda. There is a street in Palanga that leads up to the pier out into the Sea. Today, this street was filled with booths and tents of vendors selling fish and authentic Lithuanian items. And the street was PACKED with people! I joked on the bus that we were packed in like sardines headed to the Smelt Festival, but then it was just as packed at the festival! Even though I don’t like crowds, this was still a really cool experience, and I am so glad I went! No, I did not eat fish heads like several of the other brave study abroads, but I did try Lithuanian hot chocolate (basically, hot liquid chocolate). I actually thought it was gross. I’m not really sure how to describe the flavor, but it was bitter, and nothing like Swiss Miss. I also tried a dark chocolate dipped waffle on a stick… that one was good. There were vendors selling jewelry with genuine amethyst, amber, pearls, and many other stones. There were also many vendors with handmade wool socks, scarves, hats, and sweaters. And of course, there was fish stand after fish stand where they were frying, smoking, and boiling whole smelt right there on the sidewalk. I only stayed for a few hours because I didn’t think I should be out in the cold too long, but I am so glad I experienced this piece of Lithuanian culture.
Fun Lithuanian Fact: Lithuanians have almost zero personal space. If you are in line somewhere, like at the grocery store or bus stop, and don’t stand directly behind the person in front of you, other people will go in front of you. If you aren’t practically touching other people, they assume you aren’t in line. … This has been a challenge for me…
Yup, that pretty much sums up the last six days. But I’ll elaborate a little more than that…
I left for Ireland at 2:15 in the morning on Friday. I had to take a taxi to the trolley pickup at Akropolis, and then the trolley took me to the airport in Kaunas, about a three-hour drive. After that, it was another three hours in the air to Dublin. The way back was almost the same, minus the taxi. I arrived back in Klaipėda around 1:45 or 2:00 Tuesday morning. The buses don’t run at this time of night and I didn’t have access to a phone to call a taxi, so I made use of my feet and walked the 3-3.5 miles back to LCC.
Now that I have concerned many of you by telling you that I walked through town by myself in the middle of the night, let me tell you about the very strange ways in which I saw God working during my traveling to and from Dublin…
When the taxi driver pulled up to the trolley stop on Friday morning, it was only 2:26am. He commented (in mixed Lithuanian and English) on the fact that the trolley was not there yet, and asked me what time it was set to arrive for pickup. I said, “3:00am.” His response was, “Šalta!” (“It’s cold!”) I said, “I know. And I know I am early, but I will be okay.” He insisted that I could not wait outside and told me there was a bar on the second level of Akropolis that would be open. I could wait there and “drink coffee.” Needless to say, I had no desire to wait there… and, honestly, the thought of doing so scared me. But, my driver was not going to let me stand outside. So, I told him, “Okay,” and he drove me over to the stairs that led up to the bar. My plan was simple: I would walk far enough up the stairs that he would assume I was going inside and drive away. Then, I would walk back down and go wait at the trolley stop until 3:00. I started my ascent, got about 1/3 of the way up the steps, heard his car drive away, and thought I had succeeded. Then, I looked up and saw two (slightly sketchy-looking) young men holding the door open and waiting for me at the top of the steps. My thoughts: “Hmm… not what I was expecting. This is going to be awkward.” Then panicked and thought, “Oh my gosh… What if I am walking myself into being kidnapped and sold into sex trafficking?! My taxi driver asked me all those questions about myself and where I’m from and set this up with these guys because he knew I couldn’t understand enough Lithuanian to know what was happening!” I knew that this was very unlikely, but I had not slept and it was easy to grow paranoid seeing as how it was 2:30am. (And this is where we stop and say that God definitely has a sense of humor.) They greeted me and I returned it, “Labas.” Then, they said something else in Lithuanian that I did not understand, so I gave the trusty “Nesuprantu Lietuviškai.” (“I don’t understand Lithuanian.”) The taller one with glasses said, “Ispaniškai?” Me: “Ne. Anlgiškai.” Him: “Oh good! We speak English, too!” And so, in the hallway between the door and the entrance to the bar, our conversation continued for over 20 minutes. I stood there clutching my backpack, feeling very uneasy, while the Lord did His work. The shorter man did not stay the whole time, but the taller one, Edmundus, was very interested in talking with me. He asked me about where I was from and why I came to Lithuania to study. He then asked me if I ever went to any of the parties at the bars in town. I told him, “No,” and he asked why. My response: “I’m not the partying type.” He again asked, “Why?” I said, “It’s just not something I’ve ever wanted to do.” (At this point, I had already learned that he and the other man are the managers of the bar, and that he had already been drinking that night.) He said that he could see how I didn’t look like the type of girl that liked to party and asked if I had ever even had alcohol before. Again, I responded, “No.” He said, “Wow, I’m impressed with you. You are what…17? No, you’re in university, so 19?” I said, “21.” (Even though I’m two weeks off.) He said, “And you’ve never had alcohol in the States, either!?” Me: “Nope!” Him: “I’m even more impressed!” He then proceeded to tell me about a friend of his that told him that, once you have alcohol, you never remember how to enjoy life as much without it, like you did as a kid. He said it changes something in you and you forget how to make your own real fun. I said that I agreed with his friend. Being a psych major, I know what alcohol does to a person’s brain. He said I was good because I would always think clearly… he started drinking when he was a child. This made me sad for him, but I hoped that our conversation was making a difference in his life. I told him that my bus would be loading soon so I had to go. He thanked me for talking with him and wished me safe travels. I walked down the steps (admittedly, with a sense of relief to be leaving) thinking that there is a whole other world that is completely unfamiliar to me. This man and his friend find joy in working their way up the ladder of business managing bars and coffee shops. I prayed that they could see the Source of my joy. I hoped that they saw God’s face in all the differences they pointed out in me.
Okay, now for the way back to LCC. This is a shorter story… On my way from Kaunas to Klaipėda, I prayed that God would provide a safe way for me to get from Akroplis to LCC. Some of the Lithuanian kids in my classes had told me that it is not safe to walk by myself at night because there are drunks and homeless men who jump people in the street to steal their stuff. They said it doesn’t happen very often anymore, but they still didn’t recommend walking by myself. However, I knew I did not have any way to call a taxi. I prayed that, if God knew I needed a taxi to get back safely, He would provide one waiting at the bus stop. When we arrived, there was no taxi, so I started walking. I just kept praying, “I’m trusting You, God. I’m trusting You to get me to my room safely. I’m trusting You.” It was very foggy that night, and the streets are not lit well as is, so I couldn’t see very far in front of me at any point in time. Also, my sense of hearing was compromised because I can’t hear hardly anything in my right ear due to my illness preventing the equalization of pressure when the airplane landed (more about this in the following paragraphs). So, I was walking with limitted sight and hearing, forced to truly rely on God for safety and security. As you can already tell, I made it to my room without any problems. Looking back, the night was beautiful. I wish I had taken a picture because it would have made a neat photograph, but I was too focused on getting back to campus as quickly as possible to pull out my camera. No, I will not be going on more mid-night walks by myself, but I can honestly say that this experience grew my faith and trust in our all-knowing God.
So, the time between these adventures… Ireland! What a marvelous weekend!! I met my mom and Aunt Mary at the airport in Dublin with huge hugs and tears of joy. Then, we were off on an adventure to find a piece of our history. First, we had to learn to conquer the left-sided roads and roundabout intersections. Between the three of us, we managed to maneuver our right-sided, manual shift, European rental car pretty well. I wish I had taken a video of this because it was rather entertaining. We drove up to Donegal through the beautiful green, rolling Irish hills, all dotted with tons of sheep. Even in February, Ireland is gorgeous! We checked in at The Gap Lodge B&B where we met our incredible hostess, Shelia. She was the most amazing hostess we could have ever asked for… so helpful, kind, and friendly. Also, her breakfasts were amazing! If you ever find yourself in Donegal, Ireland, I highly recommend you stay at The Gap Lodge. Anyway, we then drove up to Doe Castle. This is the castle of which my great (x4) grandparents were caretakers. It was so cool to see a tangible piece of my roots. Even though it was raining and windy, we set the camera up and took our group photo to add to the family history books. Mission accomplished! The rest of our time in Ireland was spent doing and seeing whatever we could. We explored more of the northern area and coastline, going through Letterkenny, Killybegs, and several other small towns. Killybegs was a neat little harbor town on the Atlantic Ocean with hundreds of hug fishing ships tied to the pier right by the road where we drove into town. It was dark outside and raining, but still so cool to see!
After a couple days in Donegal, we headed back to Dublin. It didn’t take long to figure out that we liked rural Ireland much better than the city. However, we still had a good time. We walked through the streets of Dublin, saw some old cathedrals, and experienced some incredible Irish street talent. I took a video of a group of five young men playing instruments and singing covers of come current pop songs. They were impressive! It felt really neat to be a part of their street audience. I’ve never experienced that before. Then, a little ways down the street, there were four guys breakdancing. This was also incredible to watch. I felt privileged to witness their talents. The lead singer of the first group mentioned that Dublin City Council recently changed their regulations on street performances so they wouldn’t be able to perform there much longer. I felt like I got to witness something that might not go on much longer.
Overall, Ireland was a wonderful experience. I loved sharing it with my mom and aunt. We had a lot of fun, tried many new things, and made memories that I will cherish my whole life. I am feeling very blessed.
And, the not-so-fun part…I appear to have picked up the flu from my Little Snails at the Baby House. I started feeling sick with a soar throat and mild cough in Ireland on Friday. That progressed into a fever and all the other flu symptoms throughout the weekend and beginning of this week. As I mentioned earlier, my congestion prevented my ears from equalizing internal and external pressure during my flight on Monday, so I still can’t hear in my right ear. It is very painful, and I am a bit concerned for my eardrum. I went to my first class yesterday, but my professor sent me home after I took my test. She told me not to worry about coming to my afternoon class, either (also taught by her), but to just stay home and feel better. This was much appreciated! My first class today was cancelled because my prof is also ill, so I was able to get some extra rest today. Then, one of my study abroad friends, Julia, asked if she could make me dinner tonight. This was very sweet of her! I haven’t been eating much because I simply don’t feel like cooking, and I don’t want to spread my germs. Her generosity was such a relief to me! I have definitely been seeing God provide for me these last two days! Now, I ask for your prayers for recovering. Not only is it no fun being sick when I am so far away from home, but I am unable to go to the orphanage now. We cannot go if we have any kind of symptoms of illness. Of course, this is understandable, but I don’t want to miss too many days.
Well, if you read all that, thank you so much for sticking with me through a very long entry! Thank you for reading and praying!
Wow… that’s what I have to say after two days of working in the orphanage. It’s one thing when you read and learn about psychological conditions such as Failure to Thrive and attachment disorders. It’s a whole other thing to see these conditions manifest themselves in tiny children that you hold in your arms. To be honest, I was so overwhelmed by what I saw on the first day, that I wanted to run away and scream or cry or something. I did not even know what to do. There I was, sitting in the middle of a small room with ten babies/toddlers all around me who all have the same empty look in their eyes. Only one of those ten would return a smile. Remember, all of these children are between 1 and 3 years of age. None of them speak real words. Most of them don’t make any sound at all. They are all much too small for their ages and are clearly behind in interaction and socialization skills.
The worst part is what I call the “giving up” effect. There are a few of them that do this, but one boy in particular stands out to me. Because of their delayed development, I cannot give a very good estimate of his age, but I would guess he is around 15-20 months old. In many regards, I might say he seems to be doing well. He is the one that will return a smile when I make faces with him, giggles when I tickle him, and knows that I will respond if he reaches out to touch me. He will often run across the room to me and grab my legs, looking up as if to say, “Here I am! Play with me! Hold me! Love me!” In all these aspects, he is miles ahead of nearly every other child in my Little Snails group. However, he consistently demonstrates the “giving up” effect. When I am holding or playing with him, he will periodically tip his head back, go stiff, and stare blankly at the ceiling with his mouth gaping open. He cannot even lift his head back up when this happens. I always have to be careful when I notice that one of these moments is about to happen so I can put my hand on the back of his head and support him, or protect him from smacking his head on the hard floor. If he is already standing or sitting on the floor when this happens, he falls all the way back and lies flat, looking at the ceiling. Sometimes, he even falls forward on his face. I am trying to figure out the pattern for what causes these moments. It seems to happen every time he does not know how to interpret an interaction. For example, if I am holding him but have to set him down to help another child, he will “give up” as soon as I set him down. It is nothing like a temper tantrum, or even an attention getting technique. It really seems involuntary. I truly hope that we can overcome this by the end of the semester! He is such a bright little boy and I have so much hope for him!
I already love each one of these Little Snails. After the first day with them, their faces were already imprinted on my heart and mind. Though I know I will never be able to make up for the lack of the mother-to-child attachment and the damage that has been done in its absence, I pray that we can make major improvements between now and May. God has blessed me with a very big and draining job, and I am up for the challenge.
And so, I title this entry “Aš Tave Myliu.” This is Lithuanian for “I love you.” Now, to give the true cultural lesson behind this phrase, I should tell you that Lithuanians ONLY say this as an intimate expression of love, like between spouses. So, it is not really even said from mother to child. But, I have talked to a couple Lithuanian students who tell me that their moms say this to them. So, I am using it for this entry. My Little Snails have never had a mom to tell them, “I love you.” My prayer is that, though they are so young, they would hear God telling them “Aš tave myliu,” every time I interact with them.
PS: Just a heads up… I am off to Ireland this weekend! So, there will not be another entry between now and Tuesday. But, I look forward to being able to write to you all about my Irish adventures!
Sraigiukai… when literally translated, this means “when snails”, “while snails”, or “as snails”. In this case though, it serves to say “Little Snails.” This is the name of my class at the Baby House orphanage. I had the privilege of meeting them yesterday afternoon and will be officially working with them starting tomorrow. The Baby House is an orphanage for children from infants to six years of age. They are divided into groups by age. Sraigiukai is group 2, the one to three year old. Though I was hoping to work with infants, it only took one look for me to fall in love with my Little Snails. When I was arranging my volunteer hours with one of the administrators at the Baby House, we discovered that my class schedule does not correlate with the napping/waking schedule of the infant group. Though I could have worked with infants on weekends and group 2 on weekdays, they prefer each volunteer only work with one group of children. The kids have very few people to whom they can form attachments, so they need consistency. So, I agreed to work with group 2 for three hours three days a week, but I was feeling a little bit disappointed inside. I have learned in some of my classes how critical it is for infants to have loving interactions and attachments in order to develop and survive into toddlerhood. I was sure that this was where I needed to be, so I could help them grow. Then I walked into the group 2 room…. And God showed me that He knew where I was needed. I took one step through the door and a little red-haired boy, about 12-18 months old, rose to his feet, lifted his hands, and wobbled back and forth in excitement, his face bearing an open-mouthed grin. He was more than willing to receive any love I could offer. Needless to say, I am beyond excited to spend a few hours with this little guy and the others tomorrow evening!
I don’t have much more than this to write about tonight. I mean, there are a few other things, but they seem so minute in comparison to the beginning of volunteering at the orphanage. One thing that I would like to mention is a request: I would like to ask for prayers that I would continue to keep my eyes open for each opportunity God places in my path every day. As I add nine hours of work at the orphanage to my schedule, I am a bit concerned that the busy and stressed instincts will return. So, I ask that you all would join me in praying that God will help me remain at peace, making the most of every moment and using time wisely.
Thank you for keeping up with me and the work that God is doing in my life and those around me over here in Lithuania! May each of you reading this have a blessed week! And, I leave you with another Lithuanian word to add to your vocabulary: Į sveikata! (“God bless you!” … literally translated it means “to your health”, and it is usually said when someone sneezes. But it works for my purpose, too.)
Labas vakaras! (Good evening!)
Well, it’s February 1st. I have been away from home for a month, and one fourth of my study abroad is already over. The time is flying! I continue to be amazed by God’s faithfulness every day. The opportunities for learning new lessons are never-ending. It feels like my heart grows a little bigger every day and my joy increases proportionately. I have come to love the girls I live with as if we have been roommates for years. It did not take long for us to understand each other’s personalities, awkwardness, humor, and patterns. God definitely had His hands in the roommate selection process. Also, I continue to get to know more people outside my room. I am excited for all of this to continue over the next three months.
I would like to share some of the cultural lessons I have learned in this first month:
Another Lithuanian Language Lesson:
PS: For everyone who has been waiting to see pictures of where I am living, I am really hoping to have a good photography day tomorrow. I have been saying that they are coming soon, but I missed my opportunity for good weather days. Tomorrow is hopefull.
Hi, I'm Katie... just a girl, living this adventure for the glory of God. Thanks for reading!