October 4, 2009, LL 21
Winter in Lithuania
Distant thunder, cloudy skies, Baltic Sea wind, rainbows, Sun and rain--winter has arrived in Klaipėda, Lithuania! No one was ready, everyone dreaded it, and now, it's here. At first, it feels like a reason to hibernate, stay home, stay warm and dry. After several days I realize I simply cannot live this way! There's a real sense of unreality in hours and hours of solitude, no human contact. I and the voices in my head become a chorus of negativity and doom. Enough!
Drama in the English Department
Dr. Rebecca Briley, a wonderfully experienced professor of literature and drama, is directing Miller's The Crucible. From what I've seen rehearsals are going quite well. Some folks are already off book and her production team is strong and resourceful. They have to be resourceful and creative with our limited budget. Is it any surprise to anyone that I've been asked to do the role of Tituba, the Barbadian slave? I will probably the first white Barbadian slave anyone's seen around here. I know there were "white" slaves in Jamaica with the vagaries of recessive genes, the genetic roulette that creates multi-coloured families in Jamaica to this day! Of course, I'm using Jamaican dialect and accent. For the life of me, I cannot remember the specifics of the Barbadian version and no one around here will know the difference. It sounds authentic...something! Because I'm only in 2 scenes this is not a difficult or time-consuming role to take on and this semester is an easier one, overall than the past 2 last year or even the coming Spring semester promises to be. I am learning my lines but with only 58 total lines and only 2 speeches of any length, even this is not taking time. Becky and I made a recording I can listen to on my IPod and computer.
Since I've arrived the English department has managed to have professors who'll take this on in addition to their teaching loads. Dr. Ervin Beck directed The Tempest and Wilder's Pulitzer Prize-winning The Skin of Our Teeth last fall. In between, I did a reader's theater version of The Importance of Being Earnest. We have been very fortunate because students really enjoy these opportunities, both to perform and to attend. The house is packed and this year will run for 3 performances to accommodate the high interest these productions generate.
On August 23rd there was another major celebration around here, the 20th anniversary of the Hands Across the Baltic when the longest human chain was created across the Baltic States, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, to show solidarity for independence from the Soviet Union. The commemorative events were very moving and a good reminder to those of us who were not here what that meant to folks my age who were here. Approximately 2 million people joined hands from Talinn, Estonia through Riga, Latvia to Vilnius, Lithuania and stood in silence for 15 minutes at 7 pm. That event is credited with the beginning of movement toward independence in the Baltics.
It was specifically planned to mark a painful date in Baltic history. On the same day in 1939, the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact was signed between Stalin's Soviet Union and Hitler's Germany, essentially agreeing to divide Eastern Europe into spheres of influence and clearing the way for the Soviet Union to annex the Baltic states in 1940. That memory adds yet another bittersweet tinge as the Baltic states organize numerous events - including exhibits, conferences and meetings of government officials - to mark the 20th anniversary of the Baltic Way. http://www.earthtimes.org/articles/show/282253,the-day-the-balts-stood-still-20-years-of-the.html
One of my Lithuanian friends, Radvyda, told me this Post-Independence story: An information officer ran into the President's office yelling, "The Russians are coming! Help! Help!" The president replied, "Send the tanks to the border, immediately!.... Both of them!" :-)
Notes from my kitchen--yes, just notes.
This section is for my gourmet cooking friends, especially Toni, CharlAnn, Anita, and now Joy: I finally found cilantro, kalendra, and started growing it my kitchen. It has done well but in my efforts not to waste any of it, everything I cook or make tastes of cilantro--scrambled eggs, pizza, spaghetti, bruschetta, and every salad. I like it and fortunately it is not more than once a week that anyone else eats my cooking so, for everyone else, it's fairly exotic. I wonder if it makes my breath smell like cilantro? I guess there are worse things but I also use a lot of garlic. If old wives tales have any truth, I simply will not fall prey to the 'flu' like everyone else around me. Besides, my chicken soup is believed to have healing properties (yes Anita, your mom must have been right on this one) and also be some of the best soup these folks have ever tasted. So, I've been cooking it by the gallon. Oh my!
That reminds me, I organized a ladies' night out and 13 of us went to see Julie and Julia. What fun! Not only were the tickets 1/2 price that night but it was the premerija which means that each theatre seat had little gifts and samples. Before the movie began, an emcee called up every woman who had participated in the bake-off. They all came on stage wearing aprons and carrying pyragas, or cakes. 3 were awarded a top prize of some sort and every woman was given a lovely bag of cosmetics. All the cakes were displayed on a table so that as we left we could try them. The fact that the stories of Julie and Julia were true stories made the movie that much more charming.
I am a fan of Streep's in any case so the story didn't matter so much but, as you see, I've resurrected my ancient blog because I was reminded, while watching, how much easier this is than attaching a word document to each email. Furthermore, my plan is to make it more personal by posting notes more often. Every so often I will collect them and send them to all those who don't follow blogs or prefer to print them and read them over coffee.
LCC International University, The English Department
This week I was made aware of the need for nailing down our course offerings for Spring. That was depressing. We will lose Dr. Briley and be operating with a skeleton crew for Spring...again. We will only be offering core curriculum courses, the necessary courses the English department supplies to the university core curriculum and all students but for the English majors? Hardly anything at all. Thank goodness for the cross-listed courses available in the other departments. Furthermore, even to accomplish this much, I will have to teach another overload and an all-freshmen load again. I must say, I've enjoyed this semester very much, so far.
I've been teaching and creating "Children's and Adolescent Literature" to juniors and seniors. What a pleasure that has been! Our discussions about archetypal images, gendered stereotypes, the history of stories, the need for legends, and so on has been an education for me. My experience from last year's all-freshmen-all-the-time, brought home the fact that freshmen require a great deal of energy, especially this first semester. One class of them, "Rhetoric and Communication" is plenty. It is difficult for them to get in the groove and some never do. Concerned relatives have already been calling the registrar for information and, of course, operating on North American standards, we cannot release student information when they've requested that it not be released. The registrar doesn't even understand this and keeps telling me that we have to say something to the people who are paying the bills. Yes, well, one would think, when you put it that way.
Of course, we're still looking for a linguistics professor and so, I gather, are 50% of the other universities of the world. Some very necessary courses are not being offered and I want to run and hide--or remain in hibernation 'til someone else figures it out.
I will post again, soon.
Best to all of you! Thanks so much for your support, notes, prayers, all of it. By the way--see the easy way you can drop me a comment here? Hearing from you would be wonderful!
Hugs and Love!