(Welcome to a special series on GrowingUpAustin.com, A Lithuanian Story – All the Way From Texas. I am traveling to Lithuania this summer to teach storytelling at A.P.P.L.E., an education conference that I first taught at almost twenty years ago. The new conference is fully of mystery and adventure. The first conference gave me stories I have been telling ever since. So, I decided to write about the trips here. If you have just joined, here is a summary of the posts. I’ll return to writing about hiking, live music and art for Austin kids when I get back in July. Information is always available at AustinKidsHike.com (hiking), AustinKidsDance.com (live music) and AustinKidsDraw.com (art).)
Carol in Lithuania, 65 days and counting.
I could have used a shot of tequila to help give me the courage to press the CONFIRM button for my flight to Lithuania. I will be away from my little girls for 16 days. They will be with Grandparents and with Blue Eyes and at summer camps during the day, but 16 days? REALLY? I don’t have a single concrete and absolute reason I must go and I’m not in my twenties anymore! What is going on around here!?!?!?!
But my gut told me I need to go. I clicked on SUBMIT.
Thanks, everyone, for the questions last week. Here is my first answer…
Question: Why Lithuania?
I’m going to an education conference in Lithuania now because I taught at this same conference almost twenty years ago and I’ve always wanted to go back.
But, why Lithuania the first time?
1. I was pretty poor.
I had just finished my Computer Science degree at the University of Texas and my net worth was -$7,000. I wanted to travel during the summer before starting work without creating a heap of credit card debt. So, I backpacked Western Europe for five weeks, then spent two weeks teaching at the conference, where my room and board were paid.
2. I didn’t want to be only a tourist.
I was also pretty poor the first time I graduated college, in a year I won’t mention, so instead of studying abroad or backpacking, I found a job in England for the summer. I got to really know people and learn how we were the same and how we were different. I got to visit their homes and eat their regular dinners and hear what they talked about over regular dinners. I got to drink beer in the neighborhood pub with real neighbors. I enjoyed the people I met at the job just as much, and sometimes more, than seeing the tourist sites.
3. This was before the Internet.
I found a CLASSIFIED AD in a NEWSPAPER asking for proposals to teach at a summer conference in Lithuania. Now, an Internet search could lead to dozens or hundreds of summer job opportunities overseas, but then, it wasn’t easy to find. I applied for this one job and, lucky for me, I got it.
Looking back, I don’t think I knew anything about Lithuania then. Without the Internet or a Smart Phone or my own personal World Atlas, I don’t even think I knew where it was. I might have known that it recently gained independence from the Soviet Union. Maybe. (UT does have a library or two, but I don’t remember looking anything up about Lithuania. Strange, huh?)
Also, I didn’t know what the conference was really about. I didn’t have a recommendation or reference of any kind. I didn’t know the teaching format. I knew that the dress was business casual, because I asked about that. That is just about all I knew.
I just showed up.
And then I immediately got lost, with no money and no place to stay. But that is another story.
My time in Lithuania was the most interesting, educational, awe-inspiring and challenging time of my life, up till then.
I don’t expect to be impacted the same way this time. Lithuania is different and I’m different than we were then.
I’m just going to show up…
Try not to get lost…
And see what happens.
Thank you for being part of this story! If you have questions about the trip, leave them in the comments! If you like this series, I would appreciate a Facebook Share or a Tweet. Thanks!