Canada, here we come!

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Canadian immigration authorities announced that as of the 1st of March citizens of Lithuania no longer need a temporary resident visa to visit Canada. I discovered the news on the website of the largest daily in Lithuania. It was published in the section "Emigrants", as if to suggest that Canada might become the next target country for possible Lithuanian emigrants. On the other hand, Lithuania boasts the highest rate of emigration per capita in the European Union, so the suggestion could be farsighted. Although we are allowed roam the vast expanses of Canada for up to 180 days, if we intend to work or study there, visa restrictions still apply. Yet, as one jolly commentator observed, it shouldn't be too complicated to find a job in six months...

Myself and a few friends of mine have been looking forward for the decision. One of them, a keen traveller, suggested to worm our way discreetly to the States across the Canadian border. If Barack Obama becomes the next president of the USA, we might as well. Yet our anticipation was not caused by intentions to move the country again.

"All animals are equal but some are more equal than others", wrote George Orwell half a century ago. In a similar way I am tempted to say that all Europeans are equal, but some are more equal than others.

Until 2004 Canada and the European Union had a reciprocal visa-free status for visitors, yet before Lithuania along with other nine countries joined the EU, we had to drop down visa requirements for Canadians. In return Canada was expected to do likewise, yet it was hesitant, since their politicians were afraid of a possible influx of illegal workers or refugee claimants. The only two remaining EU countries, which citizens will still have to queue in front of Canadian embassies, are Romania and Bulgaria.

I have to confess, it feels good to be acknowledged as a member of the club rather than a potential threat. Let them keep the restrictions for entering the a labour market, but at least it will be easier to see the Niagara Falls or Montreal. Of course, a few of us, while sightseeing, could and will look for work opportunities. After all, Vancouver and Montreal are constantly voted in various polls as some of the best places to live in the world. Even if just for 180 days. I guess, in a way the Canadian government could have been right in procrastinating the decision. Yet when the EU labour market is within two or three hours of flight for 50 Euros, a massive influx of illegal Lithuanian immigrants could hardly become a reality. Therefore it would be great if more countries stopped demonising us as cheap illegal migrants. Consequently, maybe more of us could realise that flying to other destinations than Lithuania costs almost the same, yet instead those trips offer new experiences rather than nostalgia, in which we seem to be stuck too often.

Recently I came across the fact that Estonians are the only ones from the Baltic countries who can apply for working holiday visas in Australia and New Zealand. I am amazed how they manage to avoid the segregation that continues to haunt Lithuanians. Although they are further from the geographical European centre, which Lithuania was boasting to possess before Romania and Bulgaria joined the EU, all the Estonians I have met seem to be a zillion times more European than Lithuanians. No wonder they are welcome even to such remote corners of the world. Or perhaps, as I have always suspected, their politicians exceed Lithuanian - ours are too busy with unsuccessfully trying keep the people in the country or win them back from the construction sites in the UK, mushroom factories in Ireland and orange plantations in Spain. The more they try to cage us in between Lithuanian borders, the more we seem tempted to leave.

In the meantime, the antiemigration campaign in Lithuania continues. A few weeks ago elite troops of Lithuanian businessmen, joined by a group of barristers and journalists, met with a handful of Lithuanians studying in the United Kingdom and were encouraging them to consider returning to Lithuania. Although everybody agreed that Lithuanian companies can't offer as competitive salaries as London City firms, among other supposedly attractive factors one barrister mentioned the possibility to meet Lithuanian prime minister and celebrities in person, while this might not be as easy to achieve in the UK. I'd rather watch the Niagara Falls. Or wander the streets of Vancouver. Even if just for 180 days.

Written for "Metro Eireann"


Dolce Easter

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Vatican©Lina Zigelyte

Easter is the most important religious feast in the Christian liturgical year, says Wikipedia. Forgive me, Father, for I've sinned. And since it is none of the cardinal sins, perhaps I might be forgiven? It's the sin of doubt I have to confess. I find it puzzling to believe surfing my way through the supermarket shelves stuffed with "Cadbury" eggs. Firstly, I'm disappointed it is almost exclusively "Cadbury" (have a look at the chocolate counter next time you go to your local newsagent's). Well, there's "Nestle" also, but you have to consider that 80 percent of the world chocolate market is accounted for by six transnational companies anyway and they do not produce the best of chocolate. Two years ago an average of €1.6 million worth of confectionery sales were passing through Irish retailers’ tills every single day. The other day I spotted an Easter basket in the local Spar for 60 Euro. I can bet it will be gone by tomorrow. I've mentioned before the fact that Irish spend more during Christmas season than anybody else.

Farther, it is hard for me to believe when I see that as the seasons change the only thing that sets them apart is our shopping trends - turkey and port for Christmas, chocolate and lamb for Easter. I thought you were saying we should contemplate on some higher matters. Farther, have you got your Easter egg? Is it "Cadbury"? Or perhaps, Father, I'm taking life too seriously? Again...


Toefl results - discovered accidentally

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Toefl are a bunch of loosers. I hadn't received the posted scores so far (although they are supposed to arrive in 15 days after taking the exam, which I did on the 1st of March) and was beginning to seriously worry about my performance. Besides, I had terrible chest coughs, which sometimes lasted for a few hours at the time I was taking the exam - this would have been of little help during the speaking part. Thankfully, my coughing stopped, although after reading biology texts in the reading part, I started to feel like a completely illiterate idiot. I never liked or understood biology much - even in my language.

Yet my spontaneous decision to log on to my Toefl profile tonight and to see if the scores are available, was one of the best things to have happened recently.

114 points out of 120. I'm quite proud of myself. My nan said she was praying for my application for MA during the mass. The tutor from NCAD, who at first said I did not express enough critical thinking that is necessary for MA studies, wished me luck a few days ago in an email. Now, whether that will be enough for the university to consider me, remains a conundrum. Time flew by in February, when I was preparing my application papers and getting ready for the exam. It seems to have stopped. Till April...


20 seconds on O'Connell Bridge

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Fuji Astia. Cross Processed

Another magic with my Holga. Still learning to get the exposure right and debating on the way I should be using the slide... Working on the final project for NCAD.


In search of time lost: a tribute to film, Holga, 120 and real photography

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I think I have a fetish for vintage gadgets. The other day, as I was passing "Oxfam" in Dundrum on the way to the bank, I couldn't believe when I saw it on the window display. On the very bottom shelf, besides jewellery. Looking so classy and almost new. All azure, with black keyboard. Not quite as vintage as the one in "Naked Lunch", but still - a typewriter. You don't come across them often nowadays. I needed one as a prop for a photoshoot. Well, the photoshoot became an excuse later on, at first I was just admiring the fact of it in the window and for only 20 Euro, even though I'm trying not to surround myself with too many things. And it was before Tom Hanks confessed his passion for them to Jonathan Ross.

Every time I was walking to the bank I was admiring the view of it on that Oxfam window. And then it was gone. That's when I realised I could use it as a prop, but farewell... it was no more. I went to a few other charity shops afterwards feeling like an dinosaur or an alien. Do you ever get typewriters? I was searching for time lost or remembering time lost. Like the other time, when I was doing a social documentary project for NCAD Course and photographing closed cinemas of Dublin. I think, I've calculated about 9, there are probably more.

Carlton on O'Connell Street. Rephotographed black and white handprint.

Stella in Rathmines. Rephotographed black and white handprint

Classic on Harold's Cross. Rephotographed black and white handprint

Last week I embarked on another mission, looking for 120 color slide film for my new Holga. The fact that I bought it for 35 Euro on ebay (shipping included), while the last time I saw them in "Urban Outfitters" they cost about 90 Euro is another story. The fact that apart from this funky shop nobody else seems to be selling them in Dublin, is another, yet even sadder story. Anyway. As some of you might know, a few years ago Agfa discontinued production of all their 120 films, thus the only way some manage to make shots like these is if they were stockpiling them in the attic previously. Therefore if you are looking for colour slide in Dublin, you are left with either Fuji or Kodak. After going to John Gunn, Camera Exchange and a few more decent camera shops in Dublin which seem to be resisting the evolution of photography into point-and-shoot-everybody-is-a-photographer-can-I-see-the-picture digitalisation, I had to sadly face the fact that getting such hazy bluish colours might not be possible while I am in Dublin. In John Gunn (by far the best film photography shop in Dublin with the most-knowledgeable staff) I was told Kodak slides are a bit OTT, while when I popped into a camera shop on Grafton street stupidly hoping that perhaps they might have a few slides secretly concealed on some God-forgotten shelf, I couldn't see anything film there - just memory sticks, basic point and shoot digital cameras and batteries. The fridge with slides was hidden in the staff room. Well, good things mostly are not sold on the high streets, aren't they? Film cameras are not in fashion anymore any way. Or are they?

You don't have to look too far. Go to flickr and enter 'film' or 'plastic camera' or go to my recent discovery Film is not dead, it just smells funny, or the largest pinhole gallery or Lomography... You get the idea. Many of the best film photography works are not even scanable, like these ones by my first (and best so far) photography teacher Jurgita Remeikyte. Some of photography works are not even recordable, like this one on BBC's Genius of Photography - watch minutes 4-6.

Of course, digital photography is cheaper, more accessible, easier and more 'sharable'. You just have to upload it to flickr and voila! Everybody is a photographer. You manipulate the pictures till they become sickly plastic and you hear 'wow'.

12 years ago Julian Stallabrass in his remarkable book "Gargantua. Manufactured Mass Culture" said that around 60 billion photographs are taken every year and with the arrival of domestic computer manipulation 'every sunset will be perfect'. There was much truth in his words, wasn't there? And that was before digital cameras cost a few hundred euros and almost all mobile phones had one integrated. Digital made photography a kind of a quickie. Point. Shoot. Upload. Print. In fact how many photographs are not even uploaded, just looked at on the back screen of our better or worse digital cameras.

At present, between three and five million photographs are uploaded to every day. And then there is stock photography, blogs, etc... Recent cover story in "Monocle" convinced me that I'm not some nostalgic freak. Did you know that in Japan - the pioneer of digital photography - mainstream media oftentimes still uses film? And that one of the best photographers ever and one of my favourite ones - Hiroshi Sugimoto - it is being said, stockpiles rolls of film in a freezer. After some research and doubt I discovered that it is possible.

Of course, film per se doesn't attribute a photograph as a work of art. Just like digital does not make it less. It's just sad to see film disappearing so quickly. The first digital cameras for mass consumer were introduced less than 15 years ago and now almost everybody has one. We all have become photographers. When I took a picture of my 6-year-old nephew with my N65, he instantly said 'let me see the picture'. Now he knows his auntie is a bit of a freak, fiddling with plastic cameras and searching for what is no more in Dublin camera shops. Well, I got a slide film finally. Fujifilm Astia, Velvia and Provia are still quite widely available. Yet when cross-processed they can be a bit too indigo or too ruby. At least so far. Yet this is what I love about film, slide and cross-processing. No matter, what is the level of your control, it always comes a bit as a surprise. Although I still have digital (for quickies....) it is this bit of organic magic that makes me stick to film. And pay tributes to time lost. In the meantime - say cheese.

My first slide roll of Holga. Raheny. Dublin

All photos©Lina Zigelyte


Experiencing facelift

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I have a feeling that the reason for the backache I've been suffering for over the past few weeks is my laptop. My table is too high, the bed is too soft, while the floor is uneven and the night stand is too low. So most of the time I'm curving and bending in front of my window on the world. Anyway. Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you to my new template, for which I've been surfing today for about 10 hours. After falling in love with the way Bloggeruniversity is using the space I decided I want more columns and different colours, which Blogger should update on their templates more often. So the result, after looking through one of the long lists is this one, which I've found on Jackbook. In the middle of copying the template I forgot to save my blogroll, so I'm scraping together the bookmarks I've saved and what others have posted, and apart from a few minor/major misunderstandings with html I seem to be enjoying this facelift, buttox enhancement and the rest of the procedures. I just need to continue posting a bit more often, I guess.


Puppets and flood in the Docklands

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As promised, Plasticiens Volants performance today in St. Patrick’s Festival was indeed spectacular.

Photo©Lina Zigelyte

In fact, not only awe-inspiring, but fire alarm-setting, since the fireworks set off the fire alarm in the shopping centre nearby and after watching Plasticiens Volants another performance took place, as the water was pouring down the glass walls of the centre and flooding the pavement. Miscalculation, I suppose?..

Photo©Lina Zigelyte


Different Nation Different Station

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Newstalk 106 to108. Kitokia tauta - kitoks radijas.

The immigrants, including myself, are taking over the radio! Reacting to the fact that Ireland is becoming more intercultural than ever, Newstalk embarked on a mission to record their slogan "Different Nation - Different Station" in the languages of the largest immigrant groups of Ireland. Which makes Lithuanian one of them with (officially) over 25 000 of us here. So if you hear a sexy voice on one of those incomprehensible jingles, that could possibly be me talking to you. Thanks to my executive editor Chinedu Onyejelem I got a chance to represent Lithuanian version. Although it was tempting to babble some random stuff and to see how long it would take to discover that for Newstalk, I behaved and enjoyed my 5 seconds of fame. A look through the newsrooms made me wonder once again what on earth am I doing in a wine shop. Yet hey - I've got my window on the world here. And I got my 5 seconds of fame.


Google's been messing about

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Is it just me of something's been going wrong with Google for the past two days? It took an hour to open blogger and the email hasn't been working properly. It looks like I'm quite dependant on them...


Long live us - bloggers!

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This post is ridiculously behind time, but I wanted to say thank you to the organisers of the Irish Blog Awards. The post is late due to the fact that I've been ill recently, nonetheless I managed to hobble my way through to Alexander hotel and in case you heard somebody coughing in the very back of the hall for about two hours, that was me and I wasn't protesting.

Of course, I didn't win anything, not when some real journalists from The Irish Times are rivalling me. Congratulations to all who won, congratulations to all who participated and to all who make the blogosphere alive and thriving in Ireland. I have to admit I didn't know half of the blogs that were talked about and it's a shame - that's what happens when there's no internet access at work. Information void.

On the other hand, it was odd to get out of cyberia into reality. If Lithuanian blog awards tend to focus on the analysis and improvement of the blogosphere, Irish Blog Awards seemed like a good party and a celebration of blogging. So Irish, when you think... I wasn't in my Sunday best because I felt like shit on that evening - struggling with the cold and awful backache - but the blokes were drop-dead-gorgeous, they looked nothing like stereotypical IT geeks (or maybe my fever should be blamed) and the girls were just as dazzling. Whoever is combing Dublin pubs and bars for hotties should go blogging.

Unfortunately it wasn't my night and I didn't even get drunk. So here I am on my own in cyberia again, desperately waiting for the second chance. Do you guys ever do some kind of meets?


A few remarks on fatal stabbings of Pawel Kalite and Mariusz Szwajkos

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"We should not be shy in talking honestly to the media about its responsibility to create a more reflective view of our presence in Ireland, i.e. more attention must be given to fighting against stereotypes and prejudices which if left unchallenged result in ignorance."

This is a quote from a statement inviting to a roundtable discussion spurred after a recent fatal stabbing of two Polish nationals Pawel Kalite and Mariusz Szwajkos in Drimnagh on February 23rd. The discussion is organised by Polish Information and Culture Centre in Dublin and aims to identify the underlying causes of  increasing tension between Irish nationals and foreign nationals in  Ireland (another quote from the same website).

The media coverage of the stabbings has been extensive. President Mary McAlees attended the remembrance service in memory of the two young men along with Minister for Justice Brian Lenihan and Minister of State Conor Lenihan. After talking tonight with a Polish friend of mine on the tragedy and on public reaction to it, we were wondering if the same reaction would have surged if two Irish nationals had been killed. Or French. Or... To suggest that the underlying reason behind these horrible crimes is racism or xenophobia would mean to find an easy explanation. Moreover, escalation of this tragedy as a basis for the previously mentioned discussion will not reduce any tensions. The bottom line is that such examples of random brutal violence become more and more frequent on the streets of Dublin.

Racism in this case would be an easy explanation, and an easy one. Yet the main point is that you and me can be attacked by kids armed with screwdrivers for reasons as simple as refusal to buy alcohol for them.

Some people in cases like these tend to say "oh, it's north Dublin" or "oh, it's dysfunctional families". A while ago one Irishman told me that in his opinion Dublin is not divided into North or South. It is East and West, he said. Either way the point is that this expanding city is becoming more and more fractured. I couldn't define a Dubliner after almost three years of living here. I observe numerous Dublins on a daily basis and one of them is where kids walk in grey, pink or white bottom tracksuits sporting spiky hair, short fringes, frightening attitudes and hands in their pants as if to check if they haven't lost their bits somewhere along the way. My friend bumped into a few of them some time ago and was asked if she 'wanted some of this'. Another friend of mine was mugged by a bunch of teenagers as he was walking somewhere besides Parnell Street. A regular customer of ours returned from shopping in town after not being there, in her words, for about 10 years and observed that she was upset by the number of security guards in the city centre.

It seems that as the economy was thriving, some problems where overlooked in Ireland and tragedies like the one in Drimnagh on the 23rd of February serve as an alert. Although some suspect racist reasons, I think the main concern should be the fact, that the education of children in this country oftentimes is neglected and instead is substituted with immense freedom, which results in yob culture (Martina Devlin made a very strong statement on this a while ago).

We should ask ourselves if we would be as disturbed by a tragedy like this if somebody else had been killed. Or shall we start regarding violence it as part of Dublin culture? This would be yet another tragedy. I think discussions about such issues would be more beneficial.