June 27, 2006

The Lightness of Being


This Juhannus (the longest day/shortest night) we spent at Taku's mokki (summer cottage). Midsummer is a very special day for most Finnish people. First of all, of course, its the longest day in a year. In Finland it means that the sun barely goes down under the horizon and it stays light throughout the night.


Most of the people go to their summer cottages with their families or friends, so if you don't have your own cottage and are not invited to someone else's place, most likely you'll feel depressed - the cities look really deserted. Depending on the company, you'll either feast on lots and lots of food...


...or lots and lots of beer...


Or both. The weekend continues 3 days and, I guess, its a given that you won't sleep much during that time. You'll be busy preparing food, grilling, boating, fishing, going to sauna, swimming, etc.


And, of course, you'll be busy "just being". This is what many Finns say they do in their summer cottages. I don't remember anyone putting it so nicely anywhere else before coming to Finland. People don't rest, have a good time, travel, do sports when they're on holiday, not even watch time passing. They "just are". We're just about to go to our mokki to "just be" for a week or so... When was the last time you "just were"? :)

Posted by gkligyte at 02:32 AM | Comments (2)

June 24, 2006

Normal enough?


Would you believe that this is happening in the main street of Vilnius? Yeah, I got this picture 50m away from my mother's house! I was extremely happy to encounter this Krishna worshipers' procession: happy people in colourful (so familiar) clothes, singing and dancing on a sunny day. What better evidence you would need to prove that Lithuania is a civilized place where world cultures/religions/races live happily together? An older lady approached me as I was taking the picture asking: "who are these people?", "Krishna worshipers, I think", I said. "Not normal people..." followed the reply. This needs explaining, - in Lithuanian, the antonym of "normal" is something comparable to "freaks". She could have used "strange" instead that would have signified that she's slightly fascinated by these people, but she chose to use "not normal", the most judgemental word of all. I never pondered on this before - how being "not normal" can be so extremely dreadful in Lithuania. "Normal" on the other hand is a very pleasant compliment... :)


I spent my last few days in Vilnius just like the week before, hanging out with my family...




... and more friends. In fact I liked it so much this time in Lithuania (and advertised it so well to Kaj), that we're already thinking of going there again in couple of weeks, this time together... Yeah... More Svyturio Extra... :)

Posted by gkligyte at 02:27 AM | Comments (0)

June 19, 2006

LT the Place to Be


Summer has really kicked in in Lithuania. It hasn't rained a single time since I came here. Apparently it hasn't been like that for a long time, so everyone is very eager to do the summery stuff and absorb the maximum of sunlight. One good thing that happens almost every time I come to Vilnius (in summer) is going to the garden house and grilling marinated meat "shashlyk" (an aspiring vegetarian can have some salad leaves from the greenhouse :)


Its nice to spend the day just lazing in the shadow of the huge pear tree and chatting this and that. Btw, if you haven't met them, this is my sister Norvyda and her daughter Julija and the lady in red dress is my mother. Hello! :) There's always a bunch of half naked children running around the place (somehow not captured in the photos) and you may end up watching them catching fish with bare hands or feeding little ducklings or... you know, doing the kid stuff...


Summer continues in Trakai (some 30km away from Vilnius), a place with a castle a lot of history and many lakes. It becomes very apparent that the population of Lithuania is relatively large for the land area, as there are throngs of people and traffic jams everywhere. Egle and Ruta point out that it would be so much worse, if people wouldn't have left to Britain after joining the EU. From what I hear, it seems that tons of young people are earning money somewhere else. In any case, the human traffic is nothing compared with weekends in Orchard rd. We have a moment of solitude in the Karaim cemetary from the 15th century (I never really understood, who exactly the Karaims are, but they are some sort of Jewish related people that were brought by the Grand Duke Vytautas from somewhere in Middle East sometime in the 14th century, yes yes, thats from the times when Lithuania had conquered half of Russia and extended from Baltic sea to the Black sea!)


We drive a bit further and finally see a lake that has only 10 cars (not 50-60) parked on the road. So we go for a swim!!! It feels that everything is somewhat mild in Lithuania: the weather not too hot, not too cold; the light not too harsh, not too dim; the hills not too high, not too low; the water is soft; the air is mellow, etc. You don't experience anything extreme or dramatic in this place (except the ah beng driving style, of course!). In general, you just get this dreamy foggy vague feeling about everything. Life goes on...

Posted by gkligyte at 09:41 PM | Comments (0)

June 16, 2006

Vilnius not bad leh


This time things really look very good in Vilnius. I remember coming back from Helsinki every 3 months or so and seeing tons of new skyscrapers popping up in the background of the low city skyline each time. It seems that in the last 2 years, not much of the horrible new stuff has been built. Good!


A lot of stuff has changed, of course, but a lot of good things appeared too. As I was going through the photos, I noticed that I've been taking pictures in a very selective way. For some reason I don't feel like taking out my camera and taking any of the tidied up and sterilized "points of interest" photos this time. Believe me, there are plenty of renovated good looking tidy places here! :)


The new thing in town is graffiti, at least its something I don't remember seeing that much earlier.


It seems that a lot of times people are making a statement with their art and in many cases there's a continuous dialog about important issues, such as nationhood, war, race, religion, values, etc. People leave their mark and someone else then comments on it. I'm impressed! At the moment these pieces are still not very intrusive and merge nicely with the architecture.


There's quite a few run down places still left around and often they're just next to the most sleek areas of town, which adds a nice romantic touch to the general feeling of the place..


I'm happy to say that Vilnius seems to have a very strong spirit and that a person can feel good there. Well done!


I'm having plenty of time and not much to do here, so most of the time I'm just sitting around and enjoying summer (apparently I brought good weather here! :) with the girls (when they're not busy working or are not engaged in their multiple hobbies: tennis, horse riding, Italian language, theater, swimming, etc). Everyone seems to be quite happy in Vilnius and expect even better things to come in the future. Nice!


The obvious change in life is once again indicated by children - I was shocked to see my sisters kids Martynas and Julija again, as they're so big and very self-sustained these days (can do dishes, can cook breakfast for themselves, can talk and can make sense :)!


Julija and Martynas can even take pictures with the camera and here's some pics selected by me, not bad, isn't it?


The new babies, such as Upe (who was a very wonderfull baby, btw), make you even more aware that time flows fast...


Although you'd think that time has stopped when you go and see some of the old Art School friends Masters thesis presentation - the same lecturers, the same discussions, the same concepts, but, of course, a completely new level of finish and design sensitivity from Darius.. :) Well done! Congratulations, our new Master of Arts!

Posted by gkligyte at 11:47 PM | Comments (1)

June 14, 2006

The Land of Plenty


I'm way too late with updating my blog, but I should be forgiven. I've traveled half way around the world since last week. Besides different time zones, jetlag, important things to do, one always encounters other unexpected obstacles while traveling. In my case it was lack of standards when it comes to electricity plugs and, yes yes... the Finnish prices.. Maybe I'm spoiled by the vibrant Leijonakaupunki economy, but I couldn't imagine paying 39 euros (!!!) for a simple adaptor!!!


Yes yes, prices of everything was the first thing that almost knocked my off my feet. 3.6 euro coffees and 3.6 euro city bus tickets.. Hmmm.. My savings will melt in weeks time.. :( Should spend more time in the mokki and start some self-substinence project, such as planting potatoes, collecting berries, etc.


I was also surprised by the lack of people in the streets, everything felt just too empty, even at the most crowded moments. I remember the times when Saturday afternoons in Stockman department store seemed to be a complete madness, now it feels slightly more "lively". Well, considering that in Leijonakaupunki we used to have 6500 people/sq km, the Finnish 15 people/sq km is an interesting and refreshing concept.


Maybe everything felt empty last weekend, because the whole city was in Senatintori, watching the event representing Karjala region?


There were people dancing and singing, and of course there was food, this salmon cooked at the open fire was NAM!


Ice cream is another national feature of the Finnish summer. We've been frying our arses in tropics for 2 years, but I have to say that I never really had that much of ice cream there (unless as a desert at home). So you can't say that people eat it because of the heat. In Finland you just have to have ice cream from a kioski, as soon as the first signs of spring/summer appear. Its an ultimate summer food (unthinkable in winter though..). If its sunny, you eat it every day. I ended up having tons of ice cream.


In general, it didn't feel at all that I've been absent for 2 years. Nothing has changed, really. Except that children have grown. Its crazy, last time I saw Luna, she was a tiny bundle and now she walks and talks and has her own opinion. I think I also changed, because of Luca and other children around in Leijonakaupunki, I don't freak out anymore when I'm handed one.. :)


I spent a lot of time (actually all the time in Helsinki) hanging out with people, visiting places (such as Media Lab, wow, it was full of great people that I haven't seen for the longest time! :) going for walks, sauna, lunches, bbq, dinners and coffees. So its been really good. But I'm getting suspicious that if I'd hang around for longer time, my novelty would wear off and I'd have much harder time convincing people to sit (or walk) with me for hours, talking nonsense and having liters of tea/coffee. But I'll try... :)


Leijonakaupunki seems ages, lightyears away. It was extremely nice to go there again and meet all the friends, I wish I could have spent a bit longer time. Once you're just visiting and not living/working there, Leijonakaupunki becomes a very pleasant place to be without all the nonsense and pressure related to work/politics/long term lifestyle. I'm happy to recognize places, people, language, food, understand some social norms and somewhat I think I really love the place, especially because of the people that I met and that still live there.


I bought couple of Leijonakaupunki movies and I have to confess that I've been watching bits and pieces of them while in Helsinki. Being here is very easy to forget that there are other places in the world with their own realities. I somehow don't want that to slip away.


And here are some of the last pics from Leijonakaupunki vs NZ, guess which sign comes from which country?.. :)

Right now its my first morning in Lithuania after 2 years away. Stay tuned and we'll see what I find here.. :)

Posted by gkligyte at 07:28 PM | Comments (1)

June 11, 2006

"Mother country"

Its been 3 days since I'm in Finland (Kaj happily surfing in Bali...) and I still wonder about things, the way everything looks and the way people behave. Everything seems much more plain, worn out and smaller from what I remember. Everything is extremely quiet everywhere, people talk in hushed voices and try not to cause trouble to anyone. I don't know yet what to think about this.. :)

I can't charge by computer, because of the different plug style here (the adaptor would cost 39 euros!!!), so sorry no pictures for now..

Posted by gkligyte at 04:12 AM | Comments (0)

June 04, 2006

The Endless Summer 2


Bye bye NZ seagull, we're taking off tomorrow, hopefully see you soon! Our trip is almost over and, I think, its the longest travel holiday that we ever had, almost 8 weeks! The bank is broken, the muscles are sore, I am some 5kg heavier, tons of pictures taken, a lot of new stuff learnt and seen and we're ready for.. more holiday in Europe! :)


One of the last things we saw here was kauri forest (forest, so they call it, to me it looks more like one tree here another overthere..). These huge trees are about 2000 years old. Couple of centuries back North of NZ was more or less covered in kauri forests. Enter the British... and 200 years later, the trees are almost extinct! First they log them, then they realize that "oh, they actually grow very slowly!" You can still see a fair bit of the Wild West mentality here. The history of NZ is so recent, that the scars that colonizers left in the environment are still very visible.


Another interesting feature of NZ that pops up in unexpected places is its attempts to preserve the unique species of flora and fauna (your shoes will be checked at the airport and they better be washed well or you won't be let into the country!). NZ split from other continents such a long time ago, that the animals and plants evolved whichever way they liked. There's a huge population of non-flying birds that you can't see anywhere else, such as kiwi itself (furry bird, never saw.. :( and weka, because there is no large predator mamals in NZ (yes yes, no bears, wolfs, lions, native cats, nothing!). So the only enemies the birds had, were flying in the air (no other way to access the islands, lah!) One of the most famous birds that recently went extinct were moa (up to 3m tall!), as far as I remember, moa were hunted out by maori. There's also no snakes in NZ!!!


However, some of the innocent animals imported from elsewhere may cause major ecological disasters (I'm sure everybody heard about rabits in Australia), here in NZ they have possums. These little furry creatures were brought from Australia at some point. In Australia they're known as little cute creatures, but here they grow to enourmous proportions, because they have so much food and so little enemies. They're apparently very harmfull for the forest and there's a lot of (very visible) attempts to cut their population. You wouldn't believe how much of poison is scattered everywhere around the island in the forest. There are traps and multiple other ways to deal with them. Possums make up the major part of the roadkill that you can see everywhere (I'd say 1 possum per 1 kilometer!). I find it quite strange that some of the species are so lovingly cared for while others are heartlessly destroyed. At what point you decide that "these are native trees and animals" and at what point you start killing everything else? Obviously there are too many possums here... But could there be a less traumatising way to deal with them?


Otherwise, looking back, I'd say (and you probably can also see from my previous posts) that there were high and low points in this trip. Last weekend was definitely HIGH! We went to Raglan, a small town and NZ surfer mecca.


We are absolute beginners... and we're absolutely happy...

Yes, yes, we managed to surf there, even I managed to stand on the board for up to 10s! See what kind of pro Kaj is?!?! :) The conditions were perfect for us - small even waves, perfect for carrying wobbly creatures on massive boards (Kaj won't be happy about this "wobbly" :).


I could imagine us doing that more often. Its great fun and there are new challenges all the time - no 2 waves are the same! There's almost always perfect surfing conditions in Raglan and it is only 2h drive South from Auckland!


So now there's 2 long flights ahead (with a couple of days stopover in Leijonakaupunki, thank goodness we're going back to the tropics!!! :) and hopefully the summer is picking up fast in Finland and Lithuania, as some recent weather reports were not that pretty...

Posted by gkligyte at 05:51 PM | Comments (0)

June 02, 2006

The Endless Summer


This is not ripped from National Geographic, this is taken by Kaj on a quiet evening in Ahipara, Northland, when the tide was out. Ahipara was as stunning and unforgetable as it looks in the picture.


Northland brought happy times to our lives again.


Ever since leaving Auckland we felt very tired of traveling, packing, unpacking, driving, checking out places, wondering (its been 7 weeks of that!).. At some point our senses got quite saturated with "yet another amazing panorama"s and we actually started waiting for this trip to be over..


Northland was different. Amazing, oh yes, but also very relaxed and warm. We didn't do any 8 hour walks, which was nice for a change.


Just this 5 hour walk to the Duke's Nose rock.. :) Crossing the rivers and climbing steep rocks and nearly puking at the unusual sightings of dead possums hanging on the trees (will write more about possums).


The overwhelming change, I guess was that we got back to the Tshirt weather. It never gets really cold in Northland. There's plenty of orange and mandarin gardens, and I'd imagine that the climate is somewhat similar to California, except that its surrounded by water, so it never gets hotter than +28C in summer.


For some reason we quite often end up walking other people's dogs. Whenever we go for a walk, there's always some doggy looking for a company that tags along. NZ dogs are very cool and intelligent, I guess mostly because they run free and don't live locked up in highrise buildings and don't need a psychoanalyst. We have very beautiful interactions with them. Actually these dogs are not supposed to run freely, because they may scare birds or eat their eggs, but quite a lot of them do.


Its funny that since we came here we became less impressed with the ecological situation here. Its clean and green, yes, but only because there's a lot of land and people have been around for only a few centuries. A lot of times you see old cars just dumped somewhere and we've read statistics that people generate much more garbage here than in other developed countries. Another very strange thing here is that they still heat their houses with wood and that they don't insulate houses properly, so all the heat just goes out the same way. Also the amount of cars (and the kind of cars - 4WD, of course) that kiwis drive is quite impressive (should I say depressive?). There are attempts to be more ecological and, I guess, thats the image that NZ tries to project as a tourist destination, but I think they should do much more work to really live up to that reputation...


Driving (oh yes, driving is great!) on the 90 mile beach (to drive on the beach you need a 4WD, of course) is a great attraction. The sand is supposed to be very firm during the low tide, but we didn't dare to go in our humble rental car...


Ahipara town itself is a starting point of the 90 Mile Beach and aparently is a great spot for surfing (yet another one of great NZ surfing spots :)


We have dashed into waves for a swim in one of the beaches before and the water didn't feel deadly (some +16-17C degrees). So this time we decided to try out something more serious and went for a surfing class! It was great fun and Kaj managed to stand on the board by the end of 2.5h lesson. I'm still fighting my instincts, as I didn't manage to go beyond kneeling on the board (that is wrong, you should jump straight onto your feet). In 2.5h swimming, paddling and gliding we were completely exhausted and cold. And in the evening we had to listen to the other surfers telling us that they may surf 5-6 hours at a time and they don't get cold or tired.. yeah, right... I go home now and do my pushups...


Anyway, we probably will attempt to surf some more here, so hopefully I'll manage to be reckless enough to jump on the board.. These beginners boards are anyway so huge, that once you catch a wave, it feels like you're on a bus, rattling, shaking, relatively slow, but going steadily.. :)


While in Northland we also went to Cape Renga, the Northern-most point of the North Island.


At this point 2 oceans (Tasmanian sea and the Pacific Ocean) meet and we were supposed to see some huge clashing waves.


For some reason the waves were big just from one side and the cape itself was full of tourist buses. Winter is approaching and most of the tourists have left already, so it was surprising to see so many people there. We already forgot how it was to be on the tourist trail...



Going down the huge Te Papa sand dunes on the way back was cool and it helped us to believe that finally we've discovered the place of the endless summer and fun.


Another discovery was toilets designed by Hundertwasser in Kawakawa town. I bet you didn't know that he lived his last 27 years in NZ! If you didn't even know who he is, he's a famous Austrian architect and artist that has designed quite a few very colourful and famous buildings in Vienna.


They say these are one of the most photographed toilets in the world! And I can see why! Isn't it amazing how he used these colourful wine bottles?!? And I wonder where the insipration for this decoration came from...


Our holiday here is about to end (or rather is about to continue on the other side of the globe :). In a week I'll already be in Finland (coming down on the 8th of June)! And to Lithuania after Midsummer. I'm very thrilled about meeting everyone. Except the good people that came down to visit us in leijonakaupunki, I haven't seen anyone for 2 years. Surely the biggest shock is going to be everybody's children.. Walking, talking and doing things, although they were helpless babies last time I saw them...

Posted by gkligyte at 08:01 AM | Comments (2)