Far far away....
but coming home imminently.
(Just realized I never sent this out - just posted it — correcting immediately. Large hug to the three people who read it online! You are my new heroes!)
Point to Lithuania from where you are right this minute.
Did you point down? Because Lithuania is somewhere below you, most likely, on the other side of the world. We forget we live in 3D on a spinning globe. We forget that the world is so much bigger than the news makes it out to be. The media would like us to be in an ant farm, so they can shake us up and watch us scramble to make our lives calm again. I can see this by reading US headlines from all the way on the other side of this globe—nearly every headline is forecasting, not reporting. The news is bad enough without the worry of how it might get worse.wouldn’t it be nice if every news item would end with three things you can do right away to help?
While the US Judicial Branch goes commando and gun owners cower in bunkers with their precious weapons, I have been visiting dozens of cafes and restaurants across Latvia and Lithuania. If you follow my Facebook author page you’ll have been witness to hundreds of photographs of various foods (as well as cool architecture, gorgeous nature, and whimsical art—all my passions) but what I haven’t really said too much about is how the Ukraine war is hanging over every step.
For example: I went to two cafes—one was in Latvia alongside a road so small it wasn’t paved, on the way to a Covid testing site at a tiny airport (the things we do to jump through the bureaucratic hoops of summer camps!), and the other in Lithuania at a seaside restaurant that was only accessible after a ride on a ferry—and both cafes had Ukraine servers.
Understand the geography here - Ukraine is 446 miles from vilnius and more than 600 from Riga! But I wasn’t in either of those major cities—these were Ukraine refugees that had been given jobs in tiny little towns and byways, hundreds of miles from any city
Every single one of the places Where we ate, bought things, or otherwise patronized of while on this trip had posted signs some offered free admission for Ukraine nationals, but most merely urged customers to be kind to the servers from Ukraine who had not yet learned the local language. My dinner waitress (at a fancy seaside resort) was also from Ukraine and she could fairly fluently speak English and Russian—but not Lithuanian. I discovered that even my own relatives have taken in a Ukraine family of three—into their own home—and they are already a family of five. Not just religious people or wealthy people or activists are involved with helping out: everyone who has any extra room in Lithuania is sheltering the women and children of Ukraine. It is overwhelming. Over 50,000 people are sheltering in this country of only two and a half million.
For example; my breakfast waitress was Ukrainian and knew enough Lithuanian to get by with breakfast orders.
When you consider this young woman was violently uprooted from her regular life and moved to a country the size of Ohio and is now conversant in a language she had never intended to learn, it is quite staggering.
My daughter observed that in these two countries (Latvia and Lithuania), all effort is made to welcome foreign tourists: even in the small towns, you are able to get English or Russian menus, and order from a server who speaks either or both of these languages—it was actually shocking how little Lithuanian I used whilE traveling.
This is why I always, always help NYC tourists, particularly if I see they are struggling with English. They are here to discover what there is to love about this country. Why not be nice?
Of course the Writing Forum I attended in Lithuania is getting a lot of press. I had an extraordinarily unattractive photo appear in a Lithuanian Daily (all press is good press? I am not so sure), as well as a momentary glimpse of me on Lithuanian National TV (my mom’s cousin saw me and sent me a DM on FB) — and I just completed an interview for an Italian Lithuanian newspaper. While I toured around Latvia and Lithuania, my cohort was busy writing articles and getting them into print!
Meanwhile, I was rejected by many literary magazines this week. The trouble with mailing out a lot of stories is that the rejections all come at once. Well, you can’t win them all.
But you can get close!
I’m so excited to be one of the 35 finalist for the Courage to Write Grant offered by the de Groot Foundation. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I got the email. Congratulations to the other 34, whoever you are!
I returned home to find this waiting for me:
A Fire to Light Our Tongues is a collection of fiction and poetry—it includes my short story Baptism and you can get it for 20% off with the discount code TCU20 on this link: https://www.tamupress.com/book/9780875658056/a-fire-to-light-our-tongues/
I am happy that starting Monday, I’ll be able to get back to my laptop. I have had so many great ideas and I hope that leaving this environment doesn’t evaporate them — reading the US news (and Japanese news, and UK news…) from a distance, has been very odd. Though in a way, it is much easier from over here to keep things in perspective.
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