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!