The first time I went to Lithuania was ten years ago. I bought my Dad a ticket for Christmas, and we made the trip in early spring.
My Dad greeted me at the airport in Vilnius, drunk, with a Colonel from the Lithuanian army who was somehow commandeered into becoming my Dad’s chauffeur.
I should back up and clarify a few things:
1) My Dad went a few days early, since I had to work and was limited to a one-week vacation. So, it was after several days of family reunion parties that he was meeting me at the airport.
2) The fact that my Dad was inebriated when he met me wasn’t a big surprise. First, see point 1 above. Second, anyone who has met my Dad would smile and chuckle when I say that, even if there weren’t several days of family reunion parties involved.
3) The fact that my Dad had somehow managed to get an official of the Lithuanian army to serve as his driver wasn’t shocking, either. It’s not that my Dad has a crazy amount of clout. He has a crazy amount of chutzpa, and a fair amount of luck.
The Colonel drove us to my Dads’ wifes’ cousin’s farm outside of Kaunas, where I was greeted with a warmth and enthusiasm that was touching. And overwhelming. The only English speaker was the eight-year-old, and she was also the only shy person in the whole family. So, things were a little chaotic for my jet-lagged brain to process. And even more so once the bottle of vodka was opened, the Euro-techno music started playing, and the dancing began.
I woke up the next morning not being able to see (my glasses were missing), with a broken ankle, severely hung over, with a camera full of great photos (mostly taken from the floor, I presume, after I had broken my ankle), and with no clue as to where my Dad was.
When my Dad returned from the store (The Colonel had taken him to get more beer), I asked to go to a doctor for my ankle. This was the first of a series of repeated requests over the next few days, all of which were met with sympathy, and an alternative suggestion (we wrapped it in a bandage, rubbed it with ointment, went in search of a psychic healer – twice – and kept me pumped full of anti-inflammatories and pain killers).
After a hike to see the carp farm, the Colonel took my Dad and I to our new home: army barracks.
I should back up and clarify a few more things:
1) Visiting a carp farm when one is hung over should be avoided at all costs.
2) Walking through the muddy, uneven fields of a carp farm when one has a broken ankle should be avoided at all costs.
3) Sleeping in the army barracks when one is a single, foreign woman should be avoided at all costs.
But hey, the best experiences are the ones that involve a little discomfort and misfortune..