Day 26: Baltic Beauty-Vilnius, Lithuania

Sometimes explosive diarrhea can have a silver lining.

Living and traveling abroad for 17 years has given us stomach microbes that you wouldn’t believe. In every place we’ve called home, we’ve had an intricate map of public bathrooms around the moo ban (Chiang Mai), district (Saigon) and dong (Seoul) that we could depend on at a moments notice if we ever felt an intestinal emergency coming. Sometimes it came with no warning, and sometimes right after we went out.

Uh, daddy, I need to tell you something.

Now? We just left! Why didn’t you go back home?

I didn’t have to go then.

But sometimes, like today, it can have a silver lining. While buying a gelato outside a chocolate shop so I could use its facilities, we strolled inside ‘Sokolades‘ to see the most amazing spread of chocolates we’ve ever seen in our life. They had an entire room made of chocolate (pictured below) like something out of ‘Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory’. Before long we had espressos, hot chocolates and tasters.

This might be the best chocolate I’ve ever had in my life.” Lisa said, and it was true. They mixed tastes like no other chocolatier has. Ganache and chili in chocolate moons. Blue cheese and walnut with chocolate. Every taste more interesting and delicious than the previous with caffeine and hot chocolate washing down every sweet bite. Soon after the waitresses were showing Ava around giving her testers. Heaven on earth for a 9 year old.

Vilnius: Capital Delights

The capital of Lithuania is an old city that’s trying not to ‘be’ an old city. Whereas many old towns of eastern Europe are often compartmentalized inside the city gates that have lingered since medieval times, Vilnius’ old town stretches like a hand down arterial roadways from north to south with short fingers to the east and west. People actually ‘live’ in the old town and its residents haven’t been displaced by the tourist industry. People go on about their business and everyone looks like an instagram model.

Gediminas tower looms and watches over everyone here. Currently being refurbished, this 15th century battlement (seen above) has lasted for centuries and one lone turret invites patrons up for a view. After an ascent to the top, we visited the National History Museum to see Lithuania through the ages.

Getting onboard with Ride Sharing

Since I got ‘Google Fi‘ for worldwide cell coverage and roaming, I’ve been installing apps all over the Baltic countries for scooter riding with which Ava has fallen in love. It started with ‘Uber’ to avoid price gouging by taxi drivers but our friends in Helsinki showed us that electric scooters can be an affordable, cheap thrill and fun way of seeing the sights. So far, in nearly every city we’ve been in, we’ve spent a morning or afternoon zipping around the park happy as clams, dodging tourists and runners while we take turns at playing ‘follow the leader’.

Our ride sharing wallet

The Narrative Writing Project Slows

Since Ava has learned about the Holocaust while we were in Riga, her narrative writing piece has been taking shape. She’s writing a story from the perspective of a 9 year old Jewish girl who is displaced from her family during the Nazi rule. The ‘conflict’ that she is having as a writer is that she knows the impending fate that awaits this little girl, whereas the little girl would not quite understand what was happening to her at the time and would most likely confide in, and follow the advice of the adults around her. The little girl in her story is dead set on ‘escaping‘ and our feedback in her drafting process was that the little girl wouldn’t know about the extermination camps yet, so she might not feel so determined to get away….yet.

Although we meant well, this micromanaging has created a ‘snag’ for Ava as she tries to formulate her experiences and infuse them with her conscience to save her character from the horrors around her. Although the topic of our first unit is ‘survival’, narrative writing needs to be realistic in its fiction- decisions, transitions and reactions from its characters believable and true. We’ve since left her alone to write, and I’m anxious to see how her first draft plays out. The reoccurring simple lesson of ‘adults can’t always be trusted‘ is a keystone lesson of adolescence she’ll revisit time and time again through books like ‘Holes‘, ‘The House of the Scorpion‘ and ‘Never Let Me Go‘.

I hope she learns that lesson in a positive way. I hope she grows to respect her elders while forgiving any fallibility on their part. I hope she doesn’t fall victim to teenage angst, brooding over the mistakes of generations that came before her, fueling defiant apathy. As a parent you always want what’s best for your kid and always know better and ultimately what’s best for them.

Until, one day, they do.

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