Week three of the summer language course and I’m both encouraged and discouraged by my language skills after one year in Lithuania. It has been a great boost to my confidence that I can understand almost everything we read and the teacher says. Oral and reading comprehension — definitely in the greatly improved category.
However, I’ve been discouraged at how difficult it is for me to speak grammatically and with how small my vocabulary is. I am speaking better, but the truth is that — other than using Lithuanian on a daily basis — I haven’t really invested much time in memorizing words or practicing grammar. I thought I’d pick up a lot more vocabulary simply by osmosis instead of taking the time to really learn the new words I encountered every day. Of course, that doesn’t work so well in the long run. It is easy to be lazy when I can make myself understood and when people consistently compliment me on my Lithuanian language no matter how poorly I know I speak.
But, then again, maybe I’m just being too much of a perfectionist. It’s been really useful to re-focus on grammar and identify what I know well and what I need to work on. And I’m motivated to maintain my Lithuanian language ability when I am back in Seattle. After all, I expect I’ll be back in Lithuania in the future so I’ll have more opportunities to continue learning and maybe one day I’ll actually be fluent.
…or how you can’t escape your dissertation topic.
As I was thinking about the July 4th holiday, I started reminiscing about spending the holiday, and summer days in general, at our family lake house in central Florida. The mental soundtrack of my childhood is what would now be called “classic rock” — when it was just “rock” in the 1970s and later when it became “classic” in the 1980s. I started browsing for classic rock songs on the theme of summer and came across the Seals and Croft ballad Summer Breeze. I loved this song as a child and I was surprised to discover that the song was released in 1972. As my faithful readers know, 1972 is the year in which the events I am studying occurred.
So I give you Summer Breeze and a look back at 1972. I wish my American readers a Happy Independence Day and all of us a relaxing summer.
I was in Sweden this past week for the Baltic Studies in Europe conference. In honor of my trip to Scandinavia, here is a video from Ewert and the Two Dragons, an Estonian band (which is sort of Scandinavian). Stay tuned for photos and stories.
On Friday evening, I celebrated a friend’s graduation. She just defended her master’s thesis on Thursday and received a 10, the highest mark possible in the Lithuanian grading system. It was a beautiful, warm summer evening. We took a stroll through Old Town and through the park along the Vilnelė river, had a glass of wine and went to the free Polish Tango concert in the Vilnius Picture Gallery courtyard. You are probably thinking what I was thinking — “Polish tango?” These guys may come from northern Europe but they have Argentinean musical souls. Ladies and gentlemen….the Tangata Quintet.
The second concert featured Petras Vyšniauskas, saxaphonist, at Vytautas Church. Unfortunately my photos of the interior are too dark. I’ll go another time to take photos inside because it is a lovely little Gothic church (my favorite kind). Here is a concert video of Vyšniauskas, most of the most famous jazz musicians in Lithuania.
I attended two free concerts as part of the Kaunas Jazz Festival on Sunday afternoon. The first featured guitarist Esteban Colucci from Argentina, who performed at the Kaunas Synagogue.
Watching from the balcony
Esteban Colucci in the Kaunas Synagogue
The Kaunas Jazz Festival is this weekend. There are a number of concerts over the weekend — some ticketed and some free. I spent Friday evening enjoying the beautiful weather and checking out the activities in Vienybės Square.
- A marching band parade along Laisves Alėja
- Sidewalk painting for the kids
- Jazz standards performed on the carillon at the War Museum
- A free concert by two good Lithuanian jazz bands — SharpFive and Jing’a’ling.
The stage at Vienybes Square
Rasabasa performed at the “Lithuanian Rock Music” presentation at the Vilnius Book Fair — and I discovered yet another local Lithuanian band that I like. This time it’s electronica jazz and a lead singer with a lovely voice. I’m looking forward to hearing the band live, perhaps at Tamsta where this video was recorded. Rasa sings in English so you’ll even be able to understand the words of this song.
Alina Orlova is a Lithuanian singer/songwriter with a unique voice. I often listen to her CDs when I want to relax and listen to beautiful music. Even if you can’t understand the words, I hope you enjoy listening to her sing and play the piano in this performance filmed in France.
Last Friday night a friend and I saw Mūza Rubackytė in concert at the Kaunas Philharmonic. Rubackytė is an internationally-known Lithuanian pianist who now lives in France. My friend told me that she goes to hear Rubackytė play every time she gives a concert in Kaunas. The concert was billed as “Charismatic Piano Virtuoso” and Rubackytė lived up to that description. She not only plays with great skill, but also with great emotion. It was a beautiful concert.
There are several videos on youtube, but most of them are with the Lithuanian Philharmonic Orchestra. I picked this video because it is Rubackytė performing solo as I saw in concert.