During the many months, even years, I’ve been spending in the Baltic States, I was never really able to spot a bunch of balloons in Estonia or Latvia. In fact, it only occurred three times I actually saw some action going on in the air, only in Lithuania. Of course the biggest event I joined there was the Junior Worlds 2012. Some enthusiastic pilots from Latvia came up with a fantastic plan: flying over Riga in order to celebrate the Restoration of Independence of the Republic of Latvia (May 4). What a delight, my cherished hobby in combination with my all time favorite city, Riga. I am so excited about this initiative! I warmly welcome you to find out more about ‘Riga Vision 2013’ by clicking here. To be continued!
Amazing, how fast time went by. The first two semesters of my Master degree are over already. All exams are handed in nicely before the deadlines. Even though exam sessions are never the most comfortable time of the year, I’m pleasantly surprised how relaxed I felt during the last weeks here in Lithuania. Till now my two exam periods haven’t been as stressful as in Maastricht (during my Bachelor) or in Emmen (during high school). Soon it’s time to say goodbye to Kaunas, but not for good. In exactly one year I have to defend my thesis at Vytautas Magnus University. But, let’s not think about that yet! A happy Dutch summer is about to begin. It won’t be a lazy one though. I’ll fulfill an internship in my home town Emmen which is part of the curriculum for the upcoming autumn semster and furthermore I’ll visit France for yet another edition of Mondial Air Ballons. My winter survival kit is on its way to Estonia already :).
While spending so much time with my Asian friends here in Kaunas I came accross that in many ways we have a very similar view on life. However, there are a bunch of small things which are completely the opposite.
The previous few days it has been around 28 degrees. I’m not such a big fan of wearing shorts since my legs are just whiter than white. Every year again I hesitate about maybe using some tanning lotion for my legs, even though that would look a bit unnatural on me. While I ‘worry’ about being so white my friends rather avoid getting tanned. Instead of tanning lotion they have whitening creams!
During a visit of Jun’s friend from Hong Kong we made some pictures all together as memory of the pleasant day. While watching the result Yi said ‘Oh, I look so fat, I gained so much weight!’. Saki from Japan also joined us in the kitchen while eating some traditional Lithuanian cake. When the fatness topic showed up once again Yi said without any shame ‘Oh Saki, you also gained a lot of weight, it’s so obvious’. She was bloody serious and Saki didn’t seem uncomfortable hearing that about herself. Interesting, for my Asian friends the Netherlands seems to be the country where you can say everything you wish because of its liberal atmosphere, but telling someone you don’t even know that well about his or her extra pounds? Hm, if you want to piss off your Dutch friend you should definitely say that.
I guess the yes and no answers to denying sentences are more practically carried out by Asians. When I ask Jun ‘So, you’re not going to the Cultural Night tonight?’ he says ‘yes, yes’ when he’s indeed not going and ‘no’ when he’s actually going. When I would be asked that question and I would not go there I would say ‘no’, even though that actually doesn’t make sence. Do you get me?
When I tell a Lithuanian I’m a full time student in Kaunas their first question always is ‘Why on earth do you study here and not in the wonderful Netherlands?’. Well, that’s how my whole Baltic project turned out. However, I must admit I also absolutely love the way of teaching here. Vytautas Magnus University is a university of liberal arts. On forehand I didn’t really know what to expect with that term, but I guess I do now. I feel so much freedom, so much creativity. A little side note is at its place here. I’m still not completely used to the Lithuanian procrastinating kind of mentality. I had no idea that they would resemble so much like Spanish in their attitude towards deadlines. Maybe that’s the reason why there are so many happy Spanish exchange students in Kaunas.
Nevertheless, to come back to my experiences at the university, I must say I’m very pleased with the variety and creativity within the classes. The professors actually never force us to write about a certain topic. We are free to find topics within our own field of interest. This way of teaching works very well for me. I never knew I could have so much pleasure writing about identity matters on social media, (sexual) objectification, gender expectations and issues like homosexuality looked upon from a Dutch as well as contrary Russian perspective. Quite some feministic topics now I read them back once again… A while ago I attended two poster workshops in which vague ideas for articles are structured by creating a poster containing all kind of ideas, drawings, statistics and side notes. I always feel a bit like a 5-year-old when drawing around on such a big sheet of paper, however, this way of idea structuring actually works. I really value that professors undertake these kind of creative assignments with us. A few months ago I joined a seminar concerning marketing in which we had to clarify and develop our idea through some bricks of Lego. Amazing how your imagination is triggered during these kind of tasks.
Even though there is a fair amount of assignments to fulfill during the semesters in Lithuania, attending classes is very relaxing. I remember my high school years in constant discomfort knowing ‘the teacher can ask me any minute about this topic and at the moment I just don’t have anything useful to add’. Especially not when this was concerning mathematics. At Vytautas Magnus University I have never felt this stress. If I want to add something to what the professor asked I do that, as well during the cases I have a remark on a comment of my classmate. Interaction is encouraged and more than welcome even though I notice it are mainly the foreigners and just a handful of Lithuanians actually doing this. It seems like it’s not something Lithuanians are brought up with. This whole discussion culture which slowly makes its up rise feels nicely ‘Dutch’ to me. Yeah, I’m still very pleased I conquered my hesitation and decided to move to Lithuania to fulfill my master degree.
Just a while ago I wrote about the documentary I was planning to make together with my class mate Junhyup. Well, we finished our project! Nicely before the deadline, that’s how I like it. It gives an insight on the dreams Lithuanians have for their motherland and themselves. We had a lot of pleasure working together with all kind of fantastic people and we cherish this clip as a valuable souvenir of our memorable time in Lithuania. Feel free to take a look by clicking this link. Have fun!
Ever since I moved to the Baltic States I’ve been fantasizing how it would be to see this fantastic city from above. Not from a plane, but with a balloon of course. It rarely happens that balloons can be spotted over Latvia’s capital, and therefore I was extra excited to get to know about ‘Riga Vision 2013’. No matter what, I had to go there. Around 20 balloons were participating in this event held during the first weekend of May. The weather was good, the people were fantastic and I had the chance to make my dream come true (twice!). I’m very thankful for the two marvelous flights I managed to make right over Riga’s city center together with the enthusiastic team of Estonian balloon pilot Kalev Tikk. I met so many warm hearted ballooning people, I made so many nice pictures and I collected so incredibly many valuable memories. Thanks to all who made this possible! A longer story on this unique event will follow soon. For now you can already check out the pictures which can be found under the ‘Ballooning’ tab.
Gunars Dukste with his beautiful balloon and a gigantic Latvian flag