I spent 9 months in Lithuania in 2009 and left Vilnius on September 15. Now I am back — 50 weeks later. During the (almost) year that I was in Seattle, my life in Vilnius seemed far removed from my life in the US. It felt like I was returning after a long time. But now that I am in Vilnius again, it doesn’t seem so long. It’s only my second day here and I already feel like I am picking up my Lithuanian life right where I left off.
I am quickly reconnecting with friends and acquaintances. This morning I went to the International Women’s Association’s monthly coffee. I was concerned that some of my favorite cafes and restaurants might not have survived the economic crisis, but they are all still open. I can even mostly find my way around the center of the city without a map, although I did get a bit lost this morning trying to find a friend’s new apartment.
There is one striking change since I was last here. Last year, I explained that public transportation operates on the honor system. That is still partially true, but now passengers have to enter by the front door of the bus and either punch a one-time use ticket in the machine by the driver or show the driver a pass. Of course, the passes are electronic so the driver has no idea if it is current, which means that controllers still periodically get on the trolleybuses and buses to check passes and make sure someone hasn’t snuck on through rear door and is riding without a punched ticket. Fortunately I observed this process while waiting for a trolleybus yesterday so that when my trolley arrived, I knew what to do and properly boarded through the front door!