Monday, June 13, 2016

Ever Been to Lithuania?

When our son was in 7th grade (he's almost 24 now), the students had to do a 'country of the month' project.  They formed teams and had to do projects for their chosen country.  For example, they had to do a 3-D project of a landmark, do a report on things to see in that country, research the native foods, etc.

Since our son has Asperger's Syndrome, he was extremely antisocial.  Thus, he refused to be in a team with anyone.  I became his teammate.  For you parents out there, you'll more than understand this.  If the parent doesn't help the kid with projects, they will fail the class, since the competition is great.  We learned this when our son was in 5th grade, and did a project on his own.  He couldn't compete with the kids who had their parents do their projects for them, buying artifacts for their civil war project.  Thus, my son got an F on that project.  He complained to the teacher, saying he did his by himself, but the teacher pointed to the other projects and said, 'how can I give you an A when their projects are clearly better.'  Yeah.  They'd cheated.

So by 7th grade, the all-important project competition was in full-swing.  None of our kids were allowed to turn in a project unless it had the 'parental approval' to guarantee the stupid competition game between parents would give our kids good grades.

Then came the country-of-the-month project.  Each month, our son would have to do part of this project.  He tried to choose a country that would give him easy projects, but by the time he'd decided on a country, it was gone.  The popular ones went first.  He was stuck with the country of Lithuania.

However, in hindsight, this choice was a great idea.  Lithuania is a Baltic country that has a rich history.  The tiny country became part of the Soviet Bloc in 1940.  They'd then been occupied by German troops in WWII from 1941-1944. After that, the Soviets annexed it again.   Residents fought back, but in a peaceful manner, beginning in 1988.  In 1989, they all formed hands and joined in on the 'Baltic Way', which extended from Vilnius in Lithuania, Riga in Latvia, and Talinn in Estonia.  It was a peaceful political demonstration.  By 1990, Lithuania became the first of the Soviet republics to declare independence from the Soviet Union.  The rebellion was interesting, because the locals did things like tear down a statue of Lenin and put up a statue of Frank Zappa.  It marked the end of communism.

To show a sign of solidarity against oppression, Lithuanians would put a small candle house (as seen here) in their window.  It also showed food was available at that home.

It's one of the few places I know of that heats their roads in the wintertime, so the ice and snow don't interfere with traffic.  They use hot water used in homes through pipes under the streets, instead of a hot water heater in their homes.

There's an outdoor museum called 'Europos Parkas' (or The Park of Europe) including 3,000 old television sets, considered modern art.

Of course there are castles (we created a replica of Trakai Castle out of wood and clay).  Also, the president of Lithuania at the time had lived in Chicago (Valdas Adamkus).  One of my friends knew him and told us to write to the guy.  My son did, but he never replied.

Overall, I have to thank our son's 7th grade teacher for having the kids research a country.  At the end of the school year, the kids made the local food for that country and had a food festival for parents and students to taste the local fare.  Our son made bookmarks with translated Lithuanian phrases on it, including 'our hovercraft is full of eels' (Monty Python reference).

Now I want to see Lithuania.

Have a great day!
SweetTale Books

More information:
19 Interesting Facts about Lithuania
The day holding hands changed the world
Candle Houses
The Park of Europe
Castles and Fortresses in Lithuania
Trakai Town and Castle
They tore down Lenin's statue and raised one to Frank Zappa
The President of the Republic of Lithuania

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