Saturday, October 10, 2009

Wedding Bridge

LL 22

Wedding Bridge

There is definitely a chill in the air and when I crossed the bridge over the Danė river on Tiltu gatvė, I was reminded of all the summer Saturdays when crossing the bridge on any afternoon meant trying to sneak through several wedding parties, brides, grooms, bridesmaids, groomsmen having their pictures taken on the bridge.  It is nearly impossible to be inconspicuous on a bridge.  You're either on the bridge or in the river.  I looked around and no one else was "sneaking."  Everyone else was "strolling" as if it was the most natural thing in the world to walk through the middle of someone's wedding pictures--someone you didn't even know!  By this time of year there is hardly one iron post or section of grill work without a wedding lock, part of the wedding tradition here.  Another tradition is that a groom must carry his bride over the bridge and together, they place a padlock, inscribed with their names and the date, on the bridge.  No one's ever told me what good this does.  Does it ensure good luck?  Long-lasting unions?  Happiness?  Long life? Lots of children?  Wealth?  or all of it?  At the end of the year all the padlocks disappear,  taken down by the couples or by the city.

What I found really odd at first about the way they are attired was that bridesmaids choose whatever they want to wear.  Some of the outfits are really outlandish, bright colors--red's a favorite, for example.  And the styles are often very revealing or, at best, unflattering but outlandish styles, crazy colors and unflattering styles describe lots of bridesmaid's dresses in my experience.  As wild as some of the wedding fashions seem to be, it makes sense that if they're paying for their own dresses they could choose something they might wear again...maybe.

Financial Status of Moms, Elderly (and Professors, some of whom are also elderly!)

Up until now and until June, when the government may change their minds about this, Lithuania's had very generous maternity leaves.  The first year the mother is on the salary she made the final 6 mos of her employment and the second year she is given 80% of that.  The result is that we have to keep positions open for the moms, filling them with temporary people in the meantime.  The mom's receive their salaries from the government so employers can afford to hire the temporary help but in the English department, we've had moms who've married Americans, received their green cards, and taken all or part of their maternity leaves in the States.  The chance that they'll return is slim, to none, but no one can legally be hired full-time to replace them.  The whole idea was that Lithuania was experiencing a declining birthrate and this would help.  From all the prams, pregnant moms, and young children I see and from all the missing moms in our university it must be helping.  The new regulations, if they are changed, will come about because of the dreadful downturn.  Now Lithuania is ranked among the bottom in financial health in the EU.

What has already happened is terrible!  Pensioners, retirees have taken a huge cut in their government retirement checks.  I really don't know how they will live.  No one could pay rent, utilities and buy food on what they were given before the cuts.  What now?  It doesn't bear thinking about, it's so sad.  Of course, the drop in the dollar is squeezing expats too.  It's like taking a huge cut in pay/stipend or whatever you call our allowance here.  I can always tell dollar strength by the amount I'm allowed to withdraw from the ATMs to pay my bills.  I hit the daily limit with fewer and fewer litas.  Ouch!

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