We are in Riga, Latvia awaiting our Bulgarian visa, but after zone conference on Monday we hopped on a bus and traveled with our dear friends, Elder and Sister Flake, (and about 20 young missionaries) to Lithuania. As we traveled we were impressed with the beautiful countryside. The capital city of Vilnius was our destination and is a lovely city.
On Tuesday the Flakes gave us a tour of the city from Old Town and around new town. We must have walked several miles before we returned home. The following day, after chatting all morning, we visited a local mall named Acropolis! It was enormous and included many stores, movies theaters, a bowling alley, an ice rink, and a huge grocery store. While we ate dinner we watched hockey practice. It was very entertaining!
While we were in Lithuania we took a long bus ride to Trakai to see the sites and visit the castles. They have done an excellent job restoring the island castle and we enjoyed the peninsula castle’s art and relic displays. We ate lunch at a local restaurant and had the best lunch we have had since we left the US. Banana & chocolate crepes, pizza and the kibinais were delish!!
On the bus ride, to the Trakai bus, we met a man who wanted to chat. He spotted our name tags and I guess he wanted to know what we were all about. Unfortunately, there was a bit of a language barrier. He was speaking Lithuanian. He noticed that my name tag was in Russian and tried to get the girl beside him to speak Russian to us, but she was too shy. Aside from that, my Russian tag is a bit of false advertising since I speak very little Russian and can never remember what I know when I need it. He did seem to understand my, “Я говорю чуть-чуть русский.” (I speak only a tiny bit of Russian). But that did not dissuade him. One after another he enlisted the aid of each of the people sitting nearby. One gentleman spoke German – but that did not help. Another lady spoke a little English, but she looked hesitant to be dragged into the conversation. However, on occasion she would tell us what he was trying to say to us. He never stopped chatting, whether we understood or not!
At one point Sister Flake took a bottle of water from her bag and had a sip. He became very excited! Probably thinking it was vodka he may have been hoping she would pass it around. We were all horrified for him to think that. In my best broken Russian I said,’ это вода. (it is water!). We all did our best to explain “no alcohol, no cigarettes!” Charades go a long way in communication. We wished we could have better explained to him why we are here. It was frustrating for us that we cannot communicate better. It is seldom that you find a soul so friendly out in public. Although he seemed to understand that church had something to do with us, in the end I am afraid he thought we were merely American tourists. The upside is, maybe someday when he sees missionaries on the bus, the young ones who have a better command of the language, he will talk to them too. After he left I changed to my Bulgarian name tag. I figured it was less likely that anyone here would speak that.
Before leaving Lithuania we took a trip to Klaipeda. This involved another long bus ride. But it passed quickly for me since I slept most of the way. Kliapeda is a beautiful city on the Baltic Sea. There is a harbor and a coastline with sandy beaches and resorts. A nautical theme is prevalent all around the city.
Our hotel was located about a ten minute stroll from the harbor through a park. To reach the beach area on the spit there is a ferry ride across the water. We were not in town long enough to see all there was to see. Someday we hope to return for a more leisurely visit.
It was a fun and fascinating week of travel, sightseeing, meeting new people and seeing new sights. We enjoyed spending time with the Flakes, who we will not likely see again until we are all back in the US. We were not merely vacationing all week since we participated in a lesson with the missionaries and a young girl that they are teaching. She is a very sweet girl that we enjoyed meeting. We also assisted in a Strengthening Marriage lesson. The week was fun and tiring! It is great to be back in our temporary living quarters in Riga.
But stay tuned. we just got news that our Bulgarian visas are in and we are traveling back to Bulgaria this week. more to come later.
Elder and Sister Segeberg