Wednesday, July 14, 2010
It's the tourist season here and the indefatigable travelers are everywhere! Huge cruise ships dock in the harbor, dumping their charges onto the quay and long-suffering tour-guides trot them all over the area, especially in Old Town, where I live. As a matter of fact, one of the most visited monuments is right outside my door. The chair of our Lithuanian Studies Department is one such guide. Multi-lingual, she is called on for tours in Spanish, English, and, of course Lithuanian. Her stories about what happens on such tours can be very funny such as the story she told recently about the two older mujeres from Spain who sat behind her on the bus, arguing with everything she said, as if they would know!
In Jamaica, it was tourist season most of the time and we tried hard not to appear to be tourists--in dress or speech. Speech? That was easy! As some of you know, patois and the music, both calypso and reggae, are never far from my ears and mouth. Looks? Not so easy when your skin betrays your Jamaican heart. On school days, in uniform, it was easy to make myself believe I could blend in with everyone else. I have a friend who has researched and written about TCKs--Third Culture Kids--children of expats who straddle cultures growing up, and I guess they have trouble really fitting in...anywhere. On the other hand, some of us feel as though we fit in everywhere. Now, in Klaipėda, my tell-tale backpack gives me away. Only tourists and expats use them. Every good European carries a shoulder bag or briefcase. Of course, I am obvious too because I do not have the svelte shape of most of the Lithuanian women who, most agree, are very beautiful.
The weather too has been very Jamaican and so have the living conditions--sweltering heat and humidity without air conditioning. But my Lithuanian friends think my attachment to my ubiquitous fans is not healthy. Besides, they say, why waste money on fans when the Lithuanian summer is only 2 weeks long? Actually, I find the need for fans to be much longer than 2 weeks. I like the sound of them and I do not believe the in Eastern European lore of The Draft, the Thing that will Carry Me Off. Come to think of it, The Draft was much feared in Jamaica too. My office is nearly unbearable when it gets hot because there is no way to create a breeze. Besides, I find myself climbing up onto my desk and into the window sill to be able to reach the top of the window to pull the handle to open the window, as if it will do any good at all. Good luck to the new chair on that exercise!
As for any other comparisons? The open market comes to mind with it's summer abundance of colors, flowers, vegetables, fruits, and hanging carcasses of various animals. The scents from the aisles of flowers cannot overcome the odorous rows of meat, poultry, and fish in the same building. The outdoor area is now packed with berries of all kinds and that is something one would not find in the tropical market. On the other hand, one does not find fresh lengths of sugar cane, mangoes, ortanique oranges, and fresh bananas here.
I continue to pack, sort, communicate with the new chair, work on the LCC Liberal Arts Studies Journal with my co-editor, Eglė Zalatoriutė, write the paper that is supposed to be published in the journal, meet with fall teachers, and try to enjoy some of the great things about summer here. For one thing, the days are very long, getting light at around 4 now and staying light until sunset a bit after 10. Of course, we've already passed the longest of the days, the Summer Solstice being celebrated here as a Christian/Pagan holiday called St. John's, an all-night festival. Jamaica's sunsets only varied a bit in time, situated as it is within the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn, the sun, suddenly disappearing behind the horizon as if yanked below the sea by the Almighty on purpose to create the dark that would catch all naughty, procrastinating children by surprise.
I said this was brief...so it is, sort of.
Love and hugs to all,