Saturday, November 07, 2009

Hemispheric Travel

Travel Troubles

I know many people write about the miseries of travel these days but really, my cross-Atlantic travel this time had some particularly ugly elements and I can't help blaming Baltic Air for most of it.  I must admit, however, that living here in KlaipÄ—da, the coastal and inaccessible, by air, city of Lithuania does not help.  Palanga, a smaller resort community 20 km up the coast from KlaipÄ—da boasts a small, and expensive airport.  Otherwise, it is a 4-hour bus trip to Riga, Latvia or Vilnius, Lithuania.  That is the route most of us use to save money but it does require some very extended travel time as available buses will drop you at the Riga airport some 5 hours before your flight leaves.  On my way home, that meant packing and leaving without sleep the night/early morning of my 12:30 pm flight the next day.  Then, I discovered that Baltic Air has no agreements with any of the larger carriers so I would have to claim my luggage in Amsterdam, re-check it there, clear security and run to my gate and all within the hour and half allowed.  What a colossal hassle,  and I consider it nothing short of a miracle that I made my flight and got a boarding pass when the plane was seriously overbooked.  Of course, by the time I made it to my seat there was no carry-on space left for me and the airline staff were particularly out of patience with me, which didn't help. 

On the return trip, and again, because of Baltic Air, I picked up my luggage a full 8 hours before my flight and sat in the ticketing hall with it for hours, too exhausted for quite awhile to go in search of luggage storage.  Finally, after laying all over the luggage cart for a few hours, dozing in and out of consciousness, I was able to look for the luggage storage and paid the 8 € for the 2 hours it would buy so I could get something to eat knowing that Baltic Air's menu is both limited and expensive including charges for even a drink of water.  I am sure you must wonder why I didn't just check my luggage and go toward my gate on my arrival.  Baltic Air does not open it's ticket desk until 2 hours before the flight.

Arriving in Riga with a bit of time to spare, I had time to get to the airport pharmacy for some antacids for the dreadful heartburn I'd experienced since somewhere over the Atlantic.  As I stood in the doorway of the airport awaiting  the time the bus would arrive one of the English faculty dashed by, said, "Hi Geri, sorry I need to catch the bus."  I thought, "So do I" and headed across the parking lot with my luggage cart.  The bus was already waiting across the street so, abandoning my cart I attempted to grab everything for the crosswalk.  I was returning with so much more than I had taken!  Toni and CharlAnn had sent me back with lots of great reading material and I was and am grateful but I really wondered how I was going to make it to the bus when the wife of another English faculty member offered to help me across the street.  As it turned out, half the department was on the bus, returning from Rome and Paris, where they'd spent their fall breaks.  I offered to hold a departmental meeting but collapsed in a quiet heap in the corner shortly after that.

It has taken me days to feel better.  I am not sure if I caught a bug of some sort or just do not have the elasticity I used to for these quick overseas trips.

Now, I am in the final week before The Crucible performance so the schedule is very busy now, balancing meetings, classes, final rehearsals, and upcoming performances.  Marking, of course, will ever be with me.

Love and hugs,


Wednesday, November 04, 2009

There and back in Lithuania

A Quick Visit with Many People and a Funeral

I have had so many wonderful visits with so many friends and family this time home.  It is hard to believe that it's time to return to Lithuania already.   For one thing, a funeral provides an opportunity to reconnect with all the family in a short space of time.  However, the intensity of the occasion makes for interactions that are sometimes bumpy and communications fraught with misunderstanding by people who are under stress and exhausted.  Our family was no exception.  It did not help, of course, that I arrived, after 3 days of non-stop planning, packing, and travel with  final decisions on the music still to be made.  But Jeanette, a close family friend sang "The Lord's Prayer" and "The Holy City" so powerfully and expressively, not to mention musically, that there was the sound of applause as she finished.  My sisters and their husbands exhibited all grace and willingness to let me have a voice in what was going to happen despite their own exhaustion and the pre-planning they had already done.  I have an amazing family in so many ways.

When I arrived, we had one main goal--getting the visitation and the service properly organized.  It seemed that the biggest job would be the ordering and selection of pictures for a slide show.  Thank goodness the family had decided ahead of time not to deal with the thousands of slides Papa had taken over the course of his life and work.  I cannot decide whether it was a love of photography or a desire for documentation and historical record.  Still, there were plenty of pictures and my brother-in-law and his daughter Shannon made a slide show after we had spent two separate times selecting pictures for scanning.  It seemed to me to be a good combination of serious, funny, and personal combined with the background of a song called "Thank You." 

The funeral was well-attended despite the fact that Mum and Papa had moved a number of years ago from their family homes in Oregon and Washington state where they had returned before moving to Nebraska to be with their daughters and grandchildren.  The flowers were beautiful.  Mother, my sisters, Shannon and I had gone to the florist's shop to order the flowers for the casket, a basket from the great-grandchildren, and a corsage for Mum.  I think it turned out fairly well, in fall colors, despite the fact that the wheat cross we had included was not clearly evident.  My nephew, Kelly, read scripture and the obituary.  My sisters and I each told of a few memories and the eldest grandchildren from both sisters' families included stories of their own. There was also a video sent by the head of Jamaican churches.  The last speaker was Greg, my minister-brother-in-law.  To say that Papa was a complex character is probably some kind of understatement.  Greg's words were filled with grace, integrity and honor.  When you have a complicated man, a man with so many sides to his personality and character, the challenge of putting a service together that will meet the expectations of all present is a big one.  As much as it is possible to do, this funeral tried to do that, with contributions from people who knew him personally and in very specific ways.

We returned from the graveside for the traditional dinner at the church with family and friends.  As is usually the case at these events, the food was delicious and plentiful.  Then we all moved to my sister and brother-in-law's house, Kathleen and Greg's, where we continued to visit until it was time to leave.  A cousin I had not seen in a very long time, the only Henderson family representative, took me to  dinner in Grand Island on his way back to the Omaha airport.  We had a wonderful visit as we'd attended the same university in our undergraduate days.  It was a great close to a good day.