One of my best friends from the States just left the other day. A reminder of the good stuff back home. We packed it in, he got the full taste then went to Spain. Fulbright is ending, been a damn nice ride. Tomorrow I get up early and fly to Africa. Who would have ever thought. Jake was my neighbor to the North during Peace Corps here. He’s got balls, in the Peace Corps again, now way out there in Malawi near the Zambian border. No running water, no electricity, I guess the food shop is a long way away. I got a yellow fever and a typhoid shot. Money is tight cause the guys behind the Skapiskis cemetery project are lagging on reimbursements for my expenses. Should squeak through, but shouldn’t have to, hint hint people.
I noticed that I’ve been getting restless. The next transition is showing on the horizon and will pull up soon enough. In the past I got white knuckled about now, so I’m try’n not to sweat it so hard. Stress dreams started kicking up dust last week. Claustrophobic flights through the night.
Had my last interview for a while. Last week I met a woman named Aldona in Kupiskis. She filled in some important gaps. There are stories I’ve known about for a long time, but didn’t have on camera, in particular, the old myths about the Jews. They were kind of like ghost stories, Lithuanian adults would tell the kids a Jew would get them if they went out at night, or that Jews needed blood from a Catholic baby to make bread for Passover. I asked her about it, and with a little reluctance she told them. She also knew a kids song in Hebrew and could write her name in Yiddish.
Couple days before that I interviewed a couple, both of them had been deported to Siberia in the fifties. They met there and he found her years later back here in Lithuania where they married. She was heavily involved in the independence movement in the late 80s and was shot at as a consequence. She told me an amazing story about Siberia. Her tonsils were infected so she had to ride a ferry down the river 500km for the surgery. She got there, had the surgery, then that night started walking back to the camp. She said that if she hadn’t left immediately she could have been reported as missing. So this teenage girl walked for almost two weeks alone on the dirt roads through E.Siberia with unhealed tonsils and almost nothing to eat.
I fly from here to London to Amsterdam to Nairobi then finally, Malawi. This is sure to be the trip of a lifetime. I went up to Birzai and got some gifts from Jake’s old friends there, and other wise will only be carrying a few articles of clothing and my camera. The culture shock is gonna be severe, not to mention my lily winter complexion. I will be THE whitest man in Africa at least for a day or two. After that I’ll be the reddest,