I spend therefore I live. A few thoughts on consumerism

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Whenever I encounter a foreigner who has visited Lithuania more or less recently I ask them how was it. Don't want to sound full of myself, but majority seem to like it there. Even my Polish friend's friends who had visited Wilno (that's how Polish call the capital Vilnius - it belonged to Poland for a while anyway) said that they liked it. When they have Krakow it is hard for us to compete... Anyhow.

A lovely elderly couple walked into the shop today and they mentioned that they had been in Vilnius in 2000. After saying that I will be going there shortly, they remarked that the place must be quite different now.

"There must be more prosperity now, possibly like in Ireland," they commented and chuckled.

"I hope not too much of prosperity," was my reply and they smiled.

That is my honest hope and prayer.

I've been living in Ireland for over two years now and I have seen so many people who were born into money (is that the way the saying goes?) that it nearly gets scary. My sister came back from Paris last spring and she said that just by judging the amount of new cars in the streets Paris looks like a shabby place compared to Dublin. Yet she came back from Lithuania a month ago and said that she was amazed by the quantity of luxury cars on the roads there...

Now I have nothing against new cars or new houses. I am just dumbfounded at the speed at which Ireland is turning to a classic consumerist society. Somehow I get even more conscious about it when I return from countries who have been rich for a long time, i.e. Denmark. As we were walking the streets of Copenhagen in July with a friend of mine, both of us remarked that it looks like in Dublin people live just for the sake of SHOPPING and DRINKING.

Of course, they do shop and drink in Copenhagen or Strasbourg, yet in Dublin quite often you get the feeling that people stay alive just by talking about prices, selling or buying. The amount of places selling coffee 2 go is booming - what about funky little cafes where you can sit and relax inside or outside and just have a good coffee without the need of purchasing a sandwich? Not those chain cafes - Insomnias or Starbucks... Alas - everybody is rushing to sell or buy, thus there's no time for un café...

When in the shop, now and again we chat with customers about the future of Ireland. Just like the newspapers we keep wondering how long this economic boom will last. Quite a few people (mostly those who are older and who have travelled a bit) mention that the growth of economy was so rapid you can hardly believe it would last for long. It's like a genetically modified chicken - so young yet so big, but somehow missing the real flavor.

I find Ireland getting more and more similar to the clichéd image of the USA - McDonald's, drive-ins, drive-throughs, to-goes, buy-2-get-1-frees. I spend therefore I live - the infectious slogan of new economies. That's what I mean by saying I hope Lithuania doesn't get too prosperous.

I know I am not making too much sense, therefore I suggest to read the last two issues of my favorite magazine "Monocle" - the previous one is about the cities that offer the best quality of life and the current issue is about building a country.

I hope somebody in charge of Lithuania's future reads them too...

 

A maybe on a wrap-up party

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Over two hours of chatting about everything and nothing - Ireland, Lithuania, girls, blokes, jobs, drinks, etc. - and he asked me if I would like to go to see a movie with him someday.

"Maybe", I said and he pointed out he doesn't like maybes.

Before that he asked me if I was engaged. I said I am married happily with two kids. And despite the fact I keep bugging my best friend in Ireland about her inability to lie, after a few seconds I admitted it was a joke - no kids and no marriage. No boyfriend either. Honesty is my merit and my shortcoming.

I took his phone number (he said he'd prefer me to have his). I deleted it after I got on the Dart.

It was Dun Laoghaire Festival of World Cultures wrap-up party. It looks like participants of all parties aim for the same... or perhaps I am getting old... Next time I'll try to be more pretentious. I'm happily married with two kids. A boy and girl. My husband is named Brian. He's 30. And we're deeply in love. It all looks very easy when on the screen...

 

Things Lithuanians could learn from Irish: volunteering

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My two favorite posts in Jussi's blog Everything is Mossible are here and here. Outsider stories I call them.

Outsiders are apt to compare new homes to their previous ones. Comparison is inevitable. They look for drawbacks and assets. They scrutinize people, quality of life, prices, food, cultural scene, weather, etc.

When I started writing the blog I thought I would do more of it, yet I came to realize that constant comparison can start look like whining. I have to admit that complaining is possibly one of the side-effects of Post-Soviet Eastern European behavior. Yet I pledge I am trying my best to fight this bug (quite often without any success whatsoever). However this time I would like to mention something I would miss if I was to leave Dublin tomorrow.

As I have revealed before, this weekend I volunteered in the Festival of World Cultures in Dun Laoghaire. We were sitting in Kingston Hotel on Sunday night with Grace and I found out that she came from Galway to volunteer. Aside from giving up her time to whatever might be in need of doing during the festival she was staying in a hotel and paying 85 Euro for every night. Bless her! Grace explained she's doing a course in hospitality and she thought this experience might be useful.

I don't think I've heard about anybody else like Grace, but there were about 300 volunteers of all ages and nationalities in total. Naturally the organizers did save quite a bit of cash. It is easy to make a basic calculation. Let's say every volunteer is working for about 4 hours on average (altough some worked for 10, i.e. I worked for about 8). If they were paid (let's say the minimum wage), it would turn out to be

300 x 4 x 8.65 = 10 380 Euro

Although we did get T-shirts, goodie bags, drink tokens and very generous free lunch (of which actually quite a few volunteers were not aware), organizers obviously have saved quite a bit. But despite this fact I was stunned by the amount of people who offer their spare time for carrying chairs, disassembling tables, hoovering carpets, etc. People of my and my granny's age. Girls and guys too. We're having a wrap up party on Wednesday and more free treats. What could be better?!

Volunteering is still uncommon in my country and this is one of the things we could learn from Irish. I promise to mention more! The sky is the limit.

 

I'm back! It was BRILLIANT!

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I know, you're probably thinking that Lina got wasted somewhere underneath a chestnut tree. Sorry for staying off line for a while - came back from V on Monday, was scrubbing the dirt of the tent on Tuesday and was working in between. Heading to Dun Laoghaire for the Festival of World Cultures over the weekend (both to volunteer and to watch), therefore I've been working more.



Anyway. It was BRILLIANT! Although BBC thinks that the festival doesn't have as much charm as Glastonbury... I've always been dreaming of going to a big music festival. It was one of those "Things to do before you die". Like skydiving, riding a horse, climbing a mountain, kissing in the rain, making love on a forest floor, etc. Other possible suggestions you can find here. Or come up with yours. I'm just not sure about the forest floor... Doesn't sound too comfortable. Although as Laura Esquivel put it in "Like Water for Chocolate", necessity is the mother of all invention and of every position...

Back to V. Coming from a country were TV shows fight for the audience showing this (the girls are a band called "Yva", revealing their cleavages more than any musical talent and the guy is one of the best theater actors in the country who unfortunately has to do some TV work for the living) I felt like Alice in Wonderland. The mud, the crowd (75 000 in Staffs alone), the amount of tents, the booze, the weed (it was everywhere, yet only 70 arrests!), the scale of the main stage, the quality of sound and video projections and everybody performing LIVE! Everybody could find their own wonders - for some it was pot, for me - maybe once in a lifetime chance to see such acts as "Foo Fighters" (I am no music connoisseur, therefore I saw them first and then found out who they were...), "Casabian", "The Killers" (my favorite), "The Editors" (the runners-up), "Snow Patrol" (slightly too blue) and the Hoosiers (the best discovery, just watch the website! I want their CD).

Of course the Wonderland didn't avoid the usual trouble - blokes were pissing in the drinking water point or right in the middle of the audience (barely 2 feet away from me), somebody tripped over our tent at around 1 am (the same tent for 40 euro - it's fabulous!) and blah blah blah. Well since the picture tells a thousand words - here are some shots taken by my friend Liuda who took off to this wonderful trip with me all equipped with wellies, a raincoat and plenty of socks.


My 40 Euro tent - probably the best investment



All around is full of wellies as the song goes...


Sometimes focus is irrelevent


Sleepless in Birmingham International

PS came back loaded with condoms - anybody needs a spare one? :)

All photos © Liuda&Lina

 

Bloggers unite: Sept 27th blog against abuse

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Bloggers against abuse

 

Observations from behind the counter. Part I

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Working in a wine shop sometimes turns out to become a rather intimate experience. Simply by observing the amount or the kind of booze Mr X or Mrs Y are purchasing I can tell if they are having rough time. Or if they wear sunglasses on a muggy afternoon. Or if they are in a terrible rush and tuck a naggin of "Smirnoff" in a pocket asap.

For instance.

Ann Marie is not doing great. As a matter of fact, she is perpetually grumpy, even on a sunny day. On Thursday she is going to a hospital to have an eye surgery. I keep trying to cheer her up, yet she is already superstitious and wary of doctors.

Naggin of "Powers" man is better now. On most days he is our first customer. "Keeps the old heart going", says he and gives a smile. Almost on a daily basis. The heart is old indeed - about 70.

There is also a woman living next door to a shop. Her boyfriend pays her regular visits (although I haven't seen him for a good while) and whenever around he pops in to our shop. Anyway, the woman always seemed to be smarter than the guy (I know I sound like a bitch). A few weeks ago she was cooking something in a sherry sauce. For him, I suppose. She came looking for a bottle of sherry - that's how I found it out. It was peculiar when he entered the shop asking if I could suggest a nice bottle for him. "You'll have something in a sherry sauce", I muttered and added "damn you Lina" inaudibly to myself since I realized it is not an appropriate thing to say.

Oh, and obviously there is a Hot guy. Whom I don't consider hot anymore... Although after he dropped by all sweaty after playing tennis I started thinking of changing my mind.

And then the curly "Super Bock" fella who had shifted to "Tyskie" for a while. He is one of those customers I really like. Needless to say, mainly because he likes the music I play. Unlike that ancient self-loving fossil who sarcastically exclaimed "Is this radio? Do you like THIS? Who's this?" to Joanna Newsom.

It's Joanna Newsom.

Where are you from?

Lithuania.

Is she also from Lithuania?!

She's American, you moron.


I obviously omitted the last words. Next time I will play U2, sorry. Hope this makes you happier. Customer friendly music, you know.

Observations from behind a counter are doomed to be continued since they are innumerable and they make the time go by quicker.

 

Cheap thrills before going to V

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I feel like singing this to the tune "Ain't got no/I got life".

I got my tickets (as provided by "Bacardi" - look the previous post)
I got my wellies (20 Euro - "Dunnes Stores")
I got my raincoat (20 Euro - "Great Outdoors", I have a feeling I got kiddies' size, but that must be a really huge kid, because it fits me perfect)
I got my tent (39.99 Euro only - 12 month guarantee provided and it better be waterproof, because I AM returning it if it's not)
I got my socks ("Penny's", you know they're cheap, but their socks, pyjamas & bras are the best)

Baby wipes and sunscreen left and we're ready to rock at V!

 

Twink gets Lithuanian beer on air!

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Since it looks like Sean Moncrieff (I still find his voice very unradio) is on holidays, the air belongs to Adele King aka Twink aka a woman behind this. Well, you Irish should know this story well enough, I only learned about the "you fat, bald middle aged dickhead" phonecall yesterday.

Despite all the feelings we might have for the woman, on a Friday afternoon, as I was buying a baguette, a tomato and "Magnum" ice cream in the "Spar" next door, I happened to overhear that they are talking about Lithuanian beer in "MOVIES AND BOOZE SLOT". As a matter of fact, even two of them - "Švyturys" [pronounce a la Shveatoorease] and "Utenos" [pronounced rather like Ootenos than Youtenos].

I have no idea how they pick the booze to be reviewed. Needless to say, I was delighted... For those who are not familiar - the beers above are similar to a good German lager. Proper beer as I say :) Let's say Pilsner vs Miller or Heineken vs Coors. You get the idea...

As far as I know, "O'Briens" stocks some of these, otherwise you can find it in "Whealans' Off Licence" and obviously in Lithuanian or Polish shops in town. The only drawback in the latter shops - the sales people there don't seem to be very friendly... On the other hand, when you have so many nationalities coming to a shop like this it is puzzling to pick a greeting or a farewell in a right language...

PS
It is time for Twink to look up at the map of Europe - "Staropramen" is not a Czechoslovakian beer. This country does not exist as of 1st January 1993. "Staropramen" is Czech.

 

Cyberspace junkies

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I promised myself to stay away from my laptop after 11pm. Or 12.

The bottom line is to try to spend less time in cyberspace, otherwise I sink into it without any awareness of time and I turn into chronic insomniac. True, sometimes it helps to keep my mind occupied while the neighbors next door huff and puff their way through another rainy "summer" evening. Some say bad weather invigorates baby making business. If we encounter a baby boom as of next March in Ireland, these speculations might turn out to be true after all.

Anyway. I failed tonight. Once again. But thanks to Primal Sneeze I have discovered Annie's blonk. A wonderful blog - dynamic, vibrant, funny and personal without getting boring. How come I don't meet those fascinating blogging people in real life? Are we stuck in cyberspace?

 

Going to V!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Wawaweeva! A sincere confession of deepest affection to my bosses and "Bacardi". Apparently my shop has won an incentive and myself with a good friend of mine Liuda are taking off to V Festival!

We are going to see this and this. And this. Oh and this! Did I mention this? I just hope after a two-day-long beer and music session nobody tries to send me to a rehab. :)

Off I go to hunt for wellies and a raincoat. Our Father which art in heaven, please, let it rain less than in Glastonbury...

 

Amidst exotic fusion

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Congolese
Japanese
Malaysian
Argentinean
Filipino
Ghanian
Indian
Peruvian
Lebanese
Venezuelan
Lithuanian


Take a guess what's common among these? And how come Lithuania made it to the list of such exotic countries? The answer - during Dun Laoghaire Festival of World Cultures cooking workshops will take place in Cooks Academy. 15 Euro each.

Give it up for those who perform! Boo to those who should be promoting our culture but scratch their crotches instead.

A few trustworthy Lithuanian historians whom I admire keep emphasizing that our cuisine is a concoction of all cultures who happened to cross our soil (Slavic, German), hence none of the dishes could be called Lithuanian. Nonetheless some, like saltibarsciai, pictured bellow, strike tourists dumb (Americans only dare to photograph them). Something in between gazpacho and borsch. Very refreshing during summertime. Well, it wouldn't be popular in Ireland, would it? :)



Bon Appétit!

 

Please meet Giorgita

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Usually we would read Decanter or Wine & Spirits. One can only guess how a glossy magazine with hot girls wearing nothing but tight-fitting hosiery, lace bras, an extensive amount of makeup and sporting hard nipples found its way to a wine shop. Ah well... Must be a customer...

I wouldn't be able to reveal you the origin of the magazine, yet it seems it has something to do with Playboy. A supplement perhaps.

However, as I was flipping through it, my sixth sense was whispering to me I should encounter a Lithuanian girl in these pages. And voilà. Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce Giorgita.



So what, you might say? Nada. For further details please look at my previous posts here and here.

Somehow I am always taken by surprise when I encounter Lithuanians in the Economist, Newsweek or The New York Times. Actually it doesn't happen often... Unlike in the publications mentioned above... On the other hand, they are the greatest PR campaign for our tourism industry.

 

A few ponderings about Dublin, future and contentment

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It's a tranquil afternoon in Dun Laoghaire. The sea is about two hundred yards away and the tide never seems to be present here. Delightful. In front of me - a slightly too watery latte (made by a Polish guy who seems to be new in the cafe, ah well, I'll just give him time). It looks like something went terribly wrong with the air conditioning - judging by the reaction at the table next to me I am not the only one thinking the smell is somewhat reminiscent of pooh.

I have to admit Primal Sneeze is right. I am suffocating in frustration. Especially for the past couple of months. I guess the fact that I got a chance to travel this year more than ever (thus the balance in my credit card is zero) had influenced my feelings as well. I know, it is not Cambodia or Argentina (yet), just Krakow, Seville, Italy (Interrailing from Valle d'Aosta to Palermo and back up North) and Denmark (Odense & Copenhagen). Hope you have enjoyed the pictures.

In other words I have been busy exploring the continent and whenever I come back to Éire I have to face the bitter fact that Dublin is a part of an island. Not only just geographically. Despite the fact Dublin makes it to majority of various polls in Europe estimating the possibilities for job seekers and the quantity of happy people living here (and most of the time it's in the top 10 at least) there are still many things to be improved.

As I was reading the list of 20 most liveable cities in the world announced in the last issue of Monocle at work (during those lazy afternoon hours), many customers expectantly were asking if Dublin had made it to the list. I had to disappoint them. The criteria for selecting the cities(sustainability, medical care, public transport, local media, access to international media, environmental initiatives among others) were exactly the ones where Dublin needs a huge push forward.

Bellow are the cities in declining order that, according to Monocle, are the most liveable in the world:

Munich
Copenhagen
Zurich
Tokyo
Vienna
Helsinki
Sydney
Stockholm
Honolulu
Madrid
Melbourne
Montreal
Barcelona
Kyoto
Vancouver
Auckland
Singapore
Hamburg
Paris
Geneva


Despite the fact that almost all of them belong to countries that have high GDP per capita and wages far greater than the ones in Lithuania, it looks like economic factors were not the most essential ones for Monocle. And I take my hat off for that.

By the way, does anybody remember the 178-nation "Happy Planet Index" which reveals the the south Pacific island of Vanuatu with a population of 209 000 is the happiest nation on the planet, while the UK is ranked 108th? The index is based on consumption levels, life expectancy and happiness, rather than national economic wealth measurements such as GDP.

However let's come back to Dublin. I believe everybody could sketch a must-do list which could improve living here. On the other hand a temporary infatuation with a country were you've spent a mere week and living in it most of the time turn out to be two totally different stories. Conclusion - Dublin is great yet it has the potential to become greater and on a vast scale it all will depend on the generation to come. I hope this generation stops scratching the balls (a sight seen on the streets of Dublin more often than in any other city I have been to) and starts using the hands to build a better country. Their parents gave them the Celtic Tiger. What are they going to give to their own children apart passion for Guinness and GAA?

Now don't get me wrong. I deliberately posted this beforehand. Yet I have to assert that constant state of happiness for me is unfamiliar. Therefore (some might say driven by frustration) recently I did the following:

* A couple of weeks ago I applied for a Photography and Digital Imaging course in the National College of Art and Design. As always is the case in Dublin the 24-week-long course should cost what each year of full-time BA studies in photography costs in the Netherlands. One doesn't have to be Susan Sontag to distinguish the level of photography over there and here, in the Emerald Island. The course, after researching the works of the graduates of the college, seems to be one of the best in Dublin and without the promises to teach you to make pretty shots. Fingers crossed...

* Applied for volunteering in Dun Laoghaire Festival of World Cultures. Last year I was over the moon as I watched buskers banging congos, a violinist Oleg Ponomarev in leather trousers, who brought the house down playing Russian//Gyspy music and Congolese guitar wizard Niwel Tsumbu. Many visitors of the festival said they did not expect such a cultural fiesta in an island. This year should be just as good, although what a shame, Lithuanians do not participate again on a larger scale and I don't know whom to blame anymore - our embassy or the lack of initiative in our Ministry of culture or artists themselves... As for me I am getting an M size T-shirt and a badge "Volunteer". Hopefully the boss will be happy enough to give me a weekend off...

There are a few more things but I will keep them undisclosed for a while.

So I guess frustration is THE driving force for me.

Blessed are those who are busy from 8 am till 5 pm and drunk afterwards, for they shall have no time to ask wrong questions.

Blessed are those who fall asleep without wondering what they might dream about for they shall fall asleep immediately.

Blessed are those who fall in love with those who are imperfect and don't attempt to change them for they shall have less grey hair to pluck.

Blessed are those who are not frustrated for they shall live in contentment.

PS
I promise - no more mentioning of frustration :)

 

Bits of appreciation

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"And thanks to Mac, I have begun reading Lina Žigelytė’s new blog, Emigration etc. Lina is a Lithuanian journalist living in Dublin. Her blog is the subjective rantings from a journalist stuck in a wine shop. The frustration of not working in her own profession shows clearly. For me, it’s a crying shame - this lady can write. She gets this week’s spot in Mo Rogha." - posted Primal Sneeze recently. Thanks for appreciation :)

I'll try to keep up the good job and express less frustration...