I've promised to write an entry in English and here it is – don't worry, the next ones will be in German again.
In my project everything is going great. We are getting new kids almost every week and now I think there are more new than old ones. Thanks to this there are about twice as many kids in the center every day as before. But in the beginning of June the Lithuanian summer holidays are starting, so I think that there will be less kids again. Also we will start our summer „camp“ in June - for me it's not really a camp, because the kids will still be going home every night. There is a lot to plan and organize and we have had some preparation meetings. Also we're finally spending some time outside with the kids, making games, going down to the lake, even though the water is still too cold for swimming and there are thousands of mosqitoes, and having sport competitions.
For me it is weird to think that more than half of my time here is already over, especially because I won't be home a lot in the next two weeks and in summer there are so many things I would like to do - like using my new bike to explore Lithuania!
We have made our first trip by bike two weeks ago to Europos Parkas. This park is about three kilometres from the geographical centre of Europe (yes it's in Lithuania!) and there are over seventy sculptures by artists from different European country. The way from Vilnius to Europos Parkas goes over some of the few hills in Lithuania, but it's worth going by bike just to see the Lithuanian countryside. The sculptures in the park are all very modern, so I guess it's not everyone's cup of tea, but I thought there were some very nice and interesting ideas.
After our trip to Europos Parkas went so well, we thought it would be really nice to go on our next bike trip to Trakai, the second capital of Lithuania, after Kernave and before Vilnius (Sorry, if I wrote something else before! Lithaunia has had four different capitals in total.) Anyway we left for Trakai on Saturday afternoon, because there was supposed to be a medieval festival in the castle that night. But just as we left the house, it started to rain and after ten minutes on our bikes we were totally wet and still in the middle of Vilnius. So we went back home, changed clothes, left our bikes and took the bus to Trakai like every other boring tourist.
We had a really good dinner, watched the sunset and went rowing on the lake. The medieval festival started at ten: there was appropriate food, a knightly fight, music, dancing, games and the castle as the perfect setting. The only downside was that the last bus back to Vilnius was at half past nine in the evening, so before the festival even started. We had actually brought a tent (together with one sleeping bag), but in the end we decided not to use it and instead to make our lives more exciting by walking the twenty-five kilometres from Trakai to Vilnius. It was the longest night-walk I've ever taken, and kind of exhausting because of the tiredness and the fact that our feet started to hurt after the first ten kilometres (Irene actually walked her shoes to pieces). But it was also really nice to be outside the whole night and to watch the sun rise (dusk and dawn last for almost two hours now). Also we were walking along a really nice country road for most of the way with lots of nature and just some small villages around. Still we were happy when we finally reached Vilnius around six in the morning and could go home to sleep.
Last Thursday I was on a trip to Druskininkai, an old resort in the south of Lithuania. First we went to Gruto Parkas, which is a park with old Soviet monuments from all over Lithuania. There are also some museums and information. For some Lithuanians this park is a very bad idea, because they have had enough of all these things during Soviet times, they don't want to see any more of it. But for me it was interesting to try to imagine what it was like only twenty years ago. Thanks to a lot of rain we spent half of our time in the park sheltering somewhere and left pretty fast.
After this we went to Druskininkai where we got our bikes out of the minibus and went first to have lunch and then to the spa. First it was Turkish sauna and some kind of healthy mineral water. It was nice, but I guess I was expecting a bit more out of it, after having been to really great thermae in Germany. After this we tried the mud bath which was a really interesting experience. Incredibly relaxing! Our bike tour ended up being very short because of more rain (how else could it be). It wasn't too bad because we had a really good dinner before driving back to Elektrenai. From there Ritis, the driver of my project, took us and our bikes to Vilnius, from where we had our mid-term seminary until Friday morning.
Because there was a festival of traditional Lithuanian dances, we went out even though we knew we had to get up early. The official part of the festival in a courtyard of the university was almost over when we arrived, but afterwards we went with a lot of people to dance in the park. It was great to be dancing to life music in the park at night and we ended up staying until the end, which was around two o’ clock. So we didn't really get a lot of sleep before our seminary.
Luckily the seminary was in Latvia so that we could sleep on the bus. Until the border, where we realized the difference between the new EU-members and the Schengen-states: Irene had forgotten her ID and the people at the border were absolutely merciless – they made her get off the bus and then she had to wait at the border and wasn't even allowed to go back into Lithuania without her documents. So we others had to continue our journey in a bad mood, knowing that Irene was stuck at the border waiting for her documents from Vilnius. In the end she arrived at the seminary after a real odyssey around eleven p.m.
The mid-term was in an incredibly beautiful place in the middle of nowhere, about one hour's drive from Riga. There were volunteers from Latvia and Estonia, but most of us were from Lithuania. Also about half of us were German, which increased my language-confusion even more, because in Lithuania I'm speaking a lot more English and Lithuanian and it has become almost normal to me not to speak German.
Anyway the mid-term was a lot of fun with great people, really tasty food and the perfect place! I also got to reflect on the first half of my European Volunteer Service (okay, I guess that's the function of mid-term) and won new motivation and ideas for the next weeks and months! For me it was also funny to see how similar Latvians and Lithuanians are in some aspects and that I can actually understand some things without ever having been in the country. Not a lot though.