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The Clarion

The Student News Site of Bethel University

The Clarion

The Student News Site of Bethel University

The Clarion

Dear Lithuanian Diary

I lived abroad for five months. Here’s what I wrote about as I conquered Lithuanian public transportation and stood on the shores of the frigid Baltic Sea, before the rosy veil of nostalgia fell over my experience.

January 5

January is a gray month in Lithuania, but that is not always a bad thing. Why would I want to tour a castle in the sunlight? Castles are for inky black windows lit with small candles and musty libraries and suits of armor and other rather dark things. They’re not for sunlight. As I climbed through the levels of Trakai Castle, it felt like I’d stepped into an episode of “Game of Thrones.” Which I now watch with a plus VPN that I purchased using my Paysera card grocery stipend. As queen of Trakai I could have worn beautiful dresses and had good posture and looked out the highest window waiting for my husband to return from war. I would have done a lot of waiting because — spoiler alert — he never returns. However, most likely I would have been a peasant. I would have sat on the banks of Lake Galv, imagining what it must be like to look out of the inky black windows and read in the musty libraries and try on the suits of armor that line the rooms of the castle. Then I would have been snapped out of my daydream by a backbreaking job and a marriage proposal at 15. So all in all, I’m glad I don’t live in the 15th century. I would have been too bored or have died in childbirth at age 16. Either way, I would not have had access to a plus VPN so that I could finish “Game of Thrones.”

January 18

I went on a good long walk through a foggy forest today, which was much needed. I listened to Ollabelle on Spotify and chatted with God for a while. I’ve realized just how much time I spend alone right now, and I’m learning to be okay with it. As I dodged branches and continued over pine-covered earth, I was suddenly transported to a memory tinged with warmth. I was in my family friends Bill and Marshall Clarke’s living room. There’s no specific date because this memory used to be recurring, every church winter retreat. In this memory I have just draped my snowpants on the banister in the front room. My cheeks are still pink from sledding, but the room is warm. The entire church managed to squeeze into the sunny living room. The winner of the rock-paper-scissors tournament is jokingly honored before the singing. I lost in the first round like I do every year. Soon the singing starts. Song after song. Uncle Steve looks at me and says, Shall we do it? I can’t hide my grin. O.K., turn to “Sing the Story” 124, “My Soul Cries Out.” People look at me and smile. Soraya’s favorite. I know that Uncle Steve will sing it right, not too fast, not too slow. And all four verses. He’ll even bring out the drum. When was the last time I felt so known? Then all of a sudden I’m back in the woods. 4,468 miles from that farm, where Bill and Marshall have since moved away.

February 10

“You Can Call Me Al” by Paul Simon was playing in the Klaipėda police station as the immigration lady stamped my Visa into my passport today. On the bus back from the police station I saw this cute boy get on and sit down. He was tall and very nicely dressed. Gray sweater, black dress shoes, classy simple gold watch. I imagined him as my Henry Golding. He had a North Face backpack and big headphones. I tried to picture what he was listening to. Maybe Paul Simon? We got off at the same stop, and I subsequently forgot about him. Later that day in my European Economic Problems class he was standing at the front of the class, ready to present on the European Labor Market. I pride myself on spatial awareness, but this was a new low for me. I didn’t even know he was in my class.

March 8

After wandering the cold, closed streets of Warsaw’s Old Town, a coffee shop finally opened at 9 a.m. I overheard a stranger ordering the same exact thing as me. The Italian Job sandwich and hot chocolate with whipped cream. “Jackie and Wilson” by Hozier just came on through the speakers. Strangers are cool, and I approve of Poland’s taste in music. The audio guide at the Marie Curie Museum said that her husband Pierre fell in love with her at first sight, and I physically cringed. That doesn’t exist. Saying so is lazy and cliché, and the person is probably lying. Love at first sight is something I do not approve of. I also think that low battery mode is a placebo effect, but it still works on me.

April 1

I’m on the bus from Tallinn, Estonia to Riga, Latvia. The sun has been slightly in my eyes the whole time, but I can’t complain because it’s the sun! I haven’t had this much direct sunlight in months. Listening to my April playlist a little bit ago I was reminded about how much I like layers. In particular, the song “She Calls Me Back” by Noah Kahan. I’ve loved that song since it came out, but over the past few weeks I can’t get enough of its bass line. I didn’t even notice it before. I think I like layers in general. In music, in clothes, in people. I like to crack people like eggs. Not in the conquest of a raw egg about to be fried, but in the tap and satisfying peel of a hard-boiled egg. Maybe I like layers because I want others to like them too. They need to peel back my bouncy, banter-y exterior to really know me. I’m not pretty enough to be loved from afar. They have to get to know me. And they have to get through layers.

April 12

Dad and my little brother are visiting me, and we quickly fall into old rhythms. Two days in and we’re bickering in the car, and I’m being a backseat driver and fake-punching Micah.

April 22

We got our letters to our future selves back that we wrote in January, and it is great to see how everything has turned out. At the end of mine I said: I hope April is glorious. And it has been. It really has. I feel like I haven’t been able to capture all of the little things I will miss about Lithuania. Maybe it’s like when you try to take a picture of the moon or the stars and it never turns out. Some things aren’t meant to be captured. They’re just supposed to be for that moment.

April 27

I’m feeling sad about leaving. I think I’ve gotten all caught up in the planning for May and dealing with finals that I’ve not really processed the fact that this chapter of my life is ending. May is but an epilogue. The main plot is coming to an end.

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About the Contributor
Soraya Keiser, Managing Editor
Soraya Keiser, 21, is a senior journalism and international relations major. When she has free time, Soraya enjoys hiking through old-growth forests, blasting “Nice For What” and destroying her friends in the Goodreads reading challenge. If you’re looking for a good time, hire her as your Milwaukee tour guide.  [email protected] | 262.909.3915
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