Even after coming home, time continues to fly by. It has already been a week since I excitedly greeted my parents in Chicago’s O’Hare Airport. A lot has happened in that week, and I have many thoughts on how the process of reentry is going for me. It has been hard in many ways. But there are also some things that I have enjoyed coming back to.
Languages – I really miss the Lithuanian language. I may not have been able to speak it fluently, but I enjoyed hearing it and learning new words every day. By the time I left, I could understand quite a bit, and it was fun to practice using it as much as I could. I also enjoyed hearing many other languages all around me every day. It has been hard readjusting to hearing and using only English. Also, this has been somewhat overwhelming…I can actually understand every conversation going on around me in public settings. This has led to feelings of sensory overload. I became so used to not understanding background conversations that now I find myself struggling to focus on one conversation at a time.
Greetings – One thing I love about being home is how nearly everyone greets me in public. I love going on my morning runs and bicycle workouts and having everyone give me a big smile, wave, and “Good morning!” as I pass. I got adjusted to the shy public atmosphere in Lithuania, but I did miss the outgoingness of home.
Church – It is so good to be back in my home churches, but I miss my Lithuanian church families as well. I miss singing praises in the beautiful Lithuanian language and listening to the sermon in two languages at the same time. It was a bit weird for me this Sunday when I only knew two of the songs we sang at church.
The Location Lesson – I believe that God teaches us lessons in one place, then takes us to a new place or puts us under new circumstances so we can build on those same lessons. Now that I am home, I feel a bit out of place. I learned so much in Lithuania and my life took on a whole new look. I matured and became confident in the purpose God gave me there. Now, I have to apply the things I learned there to my life here. Before leaving Europe, I had a fear that I would get home and go right back to the same routine I always had, but I am so happy to say this has not been the case. I am working to maintain all the improvements I made and continue building on everything I learned. However, I notice that I occasionally feel out of place. There are some social settings that make me uncomfortable now, and I no longer instinctively know how to act in the American cultural context. It’s actually a very strange feeling.
New Goals – For anyone who is on Facebook or has spoken with me recently, some of this will be a repeat of what you already know. I am having a bit of trouble knowing what to do with my time now. Next week, I will be starting my summer job at the hospital again, but I still wasn’t sure what else I should do this summer to make good use of my time. So, I came up with a few new goals. First, I am starting to train for a sprint triathlon. I am going to choose a race in the end of August or beginning of September and register for it to give me more motivation to stick to my training. But, so far, I am loving it anyway! Second, I have begun working on two books that I hope to have written by the end of the summer. I am writing one children’s book and one short novel. I will probably only have the rough drafts finished by the fall, but I hope to send them to a publisher at some point. My third goal is to make five new friends this summer (and visit many old ones). I want to continue practicing the lessons of choosing people and being intentional within relationships that I learned during my semester abroad. Finally, I want to accomplish all these goals while still living one day at a time.
These are the main things so far. But, I think I should also take this opportunity to answer the most frequently asked question. A lot of people have been asking if I am jet lagged at all… For anyone who hasn’t already asked this in person, I will answer it for you now. Honestly, no. The only aspect of jet lag that I have noticed is my appetite. I still am not very hungry most of the time and fill up very quickly when I do eat. Other than this, I haven’t had many problems. My sleep schedule adjusted to the time zone immediately. So, this has helped my transition go a bit smoother.
*I actually wrote this in the Warsaw airport, but couldn’t get an internet connection to post it… And still haven’t had internet until today. So, it was written before I landed in the US.
I was hoping to get this posted before now, but Wi-Fi in Paris turned out to be rather difficult to find. So, here I sit, enjoying my layover in the Warsaw airport, looking back on what has been an incredible four months. My brain still has trouble believing that it is already May and I will be seeing my parents in less than 13 hours. While this becomes reality, I have an even harder time believing that I may never again see all the beautiful people in Lithuania who became like family to me. But, this sad ending is just proof that the semester has been more than I could ever have expected. Also, every ending serves as a new beginning, so I am excited to see what other adventures await me.
Here is an update on my most recent adventures, as well as a few lessons from Paris:
Airports…I can’t wait to be done with them for a while! As many of you know from reading my Facebook post, I had some trouble in the Vilnius airport on Sunday. It actually started a month or two ago when AirBaltic canceled my flight that I originally booked back in November. I had a bit of a hassle trying to call them from Lithuania to choose a new flight. But, I thought it was all well and done after that phone call. When I got to the airport, I discovered that they changed the class on my ticket as well as their policy on luggage. No one had informed me of any of this before hand (or the fact that I was supposed to check in for my flight online and print my boarding pass). So, I had no boarding passes, no free checked bags, no carry-on allowed, and only 1.5 hours until my flight was set to depart. At this point, I had no idea how I was going to get my bags and myself through security and on the plane before takeoff. So, I sat down, pulled out my laptop, which was almost dead (and I couldn’t find an outlet anywhere), and began fixing this airport disaster. I was able to check in online and have my boarding passes emailed to my phone. Then, I bought two checked bags on the AirBaltic website, to the pain of my bank account. Finally, I repacked my bags in hopes that nothing fragile would be broken, and went back to the check in counter. Even though my boarding passes and baggage receipt were supposed to be printed, they let me by with showing them on my phone. After getting through security, I had to hide my purse under my sweater and backpack since I was only supposed to have one personal item onboard the plane. But, I successfully smuggled my own belongings onboard and made it with just a few minutes to spare. Looking back, I realize that this was not the worst thing that could have happened, and I did make it to Paris safely. Also, I probably should have stood up for myself and the fact that when I first booked a flight with AirBaltic, I was supposed to get a checked bag, a carry on bag, and a personal item (purse) for free because I booked an economy class ticket, not basic class. Needless to say, I survived, the lesson has been learned, and I will not be flying with AirBaltic ever again.
Paris! First, let me give an over-simplified description: Paris is beautiful! I had been warned about how many people expect so much from Paris and then are disappointed when they get there, but I did not have this experience. Sure, it probably helped that it is springtime and the entire city is in bloom, but I think I would have loved it even if it were covered in snow and ice. Also, let me say that I have no idea where the whole “Parisians are rude” stereotype comes from. I found almost every person I encountered to be pleasant and helpful. At one point, we were a bit lost and a random French woman walked up and asked if she could help us find our way. This is just one example of the warm welcome we received.
Expect the unexpected. Yes, this is true. Thankfully, I planned extra time for getting to the airport this morning. I got ready and was all packed early this morning so I could eat breakfast at the hotel and be on the way to the train station by 8:00am in order to get to the airport plenty early. At 7:55, Audrey (who also studied at LCC) and I finished our breakfast and went up to the room to get our luggage. I slipped the key card in the door, saw the green light, and pushed…but the door would not budge. We tried several more times to no avail. Then, we went down to reception and got the hotel manager to come help. He could not get our door open with either the master key card or the actual metal key. After politely asking us to wait, he and another man on staff climbed through the third-story window to unjam our door. Who would have ever thought that our door would become jammed on the morning we need to leave? Even though it set us back about 25 minutes, I made it to the airport with plenty of time to spare. I was so thankful I planned to leave extra early!
A farewell from Europe. Well, I almost made it out of Europe without being kissed by any random men on the street…almost. I spent these last four days in Paris with three other American girls who were at LCC: Audrey, Emma A., and Emma C. Yesterday, Emma A. and I went to one of the bridges on the Seine, just in front of Notre Dame, to watch the sunset over Paris. The other two girls were supposed to meet us there. While we were waiting, a random guy (who was actually completely sober) pushed his way in between us, put an arm around each of us, and proceeded to comment on how beautiful the view was. Emma and I were totally caught off guard and less than impressed. He continued to talk to us for a few minutes as we did our best to stop the one-sided conversation and set ourselves free. Finally, Emma said, “Well, we really need to go find our friends.” I agreed and we started to walk away. However, we didn’t walk quite fast enough because he still managed to snag us both and deliver a kiss to each cheek. It was everything we could do to not run down that bridge in shock and embarrassment. A few minutes later, I told Emma (who is also majoring in psychology and criminal justice), “Those are the moments when we need to say, ‘Yeah, we are studying criminal justice and could take you down in a flash, so leave us alone.’” I don’t know why I didn’t think of saying this sooner!
Alright, my boarding time is coming up. In a little more than ten hours, I will be back on US soil. So, I want to use this last journal from Europe to express my thankfulness to everyone who has kept up with my journey. One thing I learned this semester is the most important phrase to know when visiting countries with foreign languages: Thank you. So, here are all the “thank you”s I have learned…
Ačiū – Lithuanian (pronounced “ah-choo”)
Спасибо – Russian (pronounced “spa-see-bah”)
Merci – French
Paldies – Latvian
Grazie – Italian
Go raibh maith agat – Irish
Aitäh – Estonian
It will take me a little while to get caught up on pictures and videos, but I will continue to post them on here in the coming days and weeks. Also, I will continue to journal about what I am learning in the process of reentry, should I have anything interesting to write. Thank you all for your prayers, support, interest, and love as I have been abroad!
It took me a lot longer than I expected to get this posted, but here is the update on the donation to the Baby House! The conversion from US dollars to Litai ended up equaling 1,460 litų. In Lithuania, this is A LOT of money! When Viktoria and I talked with the orphanage to ask them what was the best use for these funds, the director asked if we would be willing it put it in their beneficiary account instead of buying things with it. She said they have been needing to update all of their educational material and this money would be an incredible help in accomplishing that. Also, she thinks they will even be able to buy some educational toys for my Little Snails. This is great because they currently do not have any. She was so grateful for this donation and couldn’t say “thank you” enough.
When I took it to the bank yesterday (with the help of Viktoria), the woman who assisted us was intrigued about why an American girl would want to donate 1,460 litų to a Lithuanian orphanage. When Viktoria explained why we were doing it and that a whole group of people from my home were behind it, the woman thought it was really cool. The service charge was 8.00 Litai, so the amount donated was 1,452 litai. Also, we were able to specify that it was for educational material. When we left the bank, Viktoria put her arm around me and said, “Well, that’s a great way to end a semester.”
I also made a card that I sent to the director of the orphanage. On the outside, I wrote, “May God bless the children of Klaipėda Baby House” in Lithuanian. On the inside, I wrote, “With love for Christ and His children around the world, the following people contributed to a donation of 1,452 litai. With love from Ohio and Illinois.” (Also in Lithuanian) At the end, I signed the names of everyone who contributed. Thank you all for your help! Not only is this donation going to help around 90 orphans get an education, but it impacted multiple people along the way. I think that the most important thing is that this donation made people ask, “Why?” By asking why we would want to love these children by giving our resources, they are able to see Christ through us…to see that we do “different” things out of love for Him and His children. Even though I was hoping to be able to give tons of diapers and vitamins, and I promised everyone pictures of all of them, I believe this donation process may have impacted more people along the way, and may have a longer-lasting impact.
This is my last post from Lithuania. In less than six hours, I will be getting on a bus to make the four-hour trip to the Vilnius airport. And just like that, my time in Lithuania will be over. In some ways, it still doesn’t feel real. But, at the same time, I am excited to go home and test the lessons I’ve learned here, as well as see what new things God has for me. While this adventure may be coming to an end, I know there are many more right around the corner. For now, it is off to Paris for a few days, then homeward bound. Stay tuned for a few more updates in the coming days/weeks.
Hi, I'm Katie... just a girl, living this adventure for the glory of God. Thanks for reading!