After Sarkhozy’s recent decision to deport Roma people from France, it seemed particularly appropriate to go to a talk this evening by Seattle/Vilnius photographer Andrew Miksys at the Contemporary Arts Center in Vilnius. Photographs from Andrew’s series on Roma in Lithuania are included in a new exhibit Lithuanian Art 2000–2010: Ten Years. Andrew spoke to 15 members of the International Women’s Association of Vilnius about his work and this particular project.
Andrew is an amazing photographer — and I’m not just saying this because I know his parents. He has received two Fulbrights and a Guggenheim, among other awards and recognitions. His work in shown internationally and is in the collections of a number of museums, including the Seattle Art Museum.
You can see some of the photographs from the BAXT series on Roma in Lithuania on his website.
I expected Saturday night to be fun, but little did I know just how eventful it would be. I was invited to a party celebrating a friend from Seattle’s the 29th birthday. I know him and his wife from the University of Washington — she was my Lithuanian language instructor. He has a two-year post-doctoral fellowship to work in Lithuania and we all arrived in Vilnius about the same time in September.
It was a typical birthday party — tasty appetizers, sparkling wine, cake, and lots of laughter and good conversation. About 10:30, we started talking about going out somewhere. One couple at the party had tickets to the Vilnius Fashion Week event party, which started at 11 pm, and they suggested that we all come with them. So we piled into two cars and headed off to Loftas — a renovated warehouse where the party was held.
Let me just say that I never imagined that I would be dancing until 2:00 am with big-haired models, guys wearing glitter face paint and uber-edgy fashionistas. It was a blast! Skamp, a very popular Lithuanian rap group, was the dj for the party and also performed.
If I had known that I was going to a Fashion Weekend party, I would have worn a different outfit. However, as we were driving over, I figured that I wouldn’t look too out of place in my black skinny pants and trendy black heeled booties. When we walked inside, I quickly realized that I had nothing in my wardrobe that would have made me fit in with this crowd. And just to show how untrendy I am, I didn’t recognize from the outfits that it was a Lady Ga-Ga themed event. I discovered that fact this morning when I read about the event on-line.
Part 1: In which I am foiled by my own procrastination
At the end of September, I am going to Italy to participate in a conference at the Institute for Central-Eastern Europe and the Balkans (University of Bologna). I’ve known about the conference for months and could have made plans well before this week. But I didn’t receive confirmation of the arrival and departure dates for participants until the end of August and I was focused on getting myself to Lithuania not to Italy. And I was hoping to plan my trip with Giedre, a doctoral student at my host university here in Lithuania, so that we could travel together.
All this to say that I didn’t start looking for flights from Vilnius to Bologna until Monday – a mere three weeks before I wanted to travel. Giedre and I first checked various Lithuanian travel websites and found only really expensive tickets. Then we went to a travel agency; then to another travel agency. Then we had the bright idea to fly into Milan, which is cheaper, since we wanted to travel for a couple of days anyway. Then we decided to hold the tickets and sleep on it because we’d spent most of the day going back and forth between different scenarios and needed to clear our heads.
On Tuesday, we went to the Humanities Faculty office and spoke to the director of international programs who had purchased her ticket well in advance and found a great flight schedule at a good price. Much to our surprise, she checked the travel websites and found the same flight at a much better price than anything we’d found the day before. Giedre and I walked back to her office to go online and purchase the tickets — only to discover than in the 20 minutes it took us to get there, the deal was gone.
Part 2: In which I am foiled by technology in Lithuania
At this point, we decided to keep the travel agency tickets on hold until Wednesday and to check the online sites a few more times just in case. On Tuesday evening, I found a slightly better flight schedule and a slightly better price online and put a hold on the tickets. Since I still don’t have secure internet in my apartment, I didn’t want to pay online from home and risk having my credit card number information stolen. Wednesday morning I went to the American Center to use their computers to purchase the tickets. Except the Lithuanian online website refused my credit cards – both of them. My friend at the center called the contact number for the website and was told that I could go pay at a local travel agency. So I went there, only to find out that they have ONE American Express credit card machine and it was at another branch today. The helpful travel agent did, however, confirm the tickets and asked me to return at 4:00 when the American Express machine would be back at his branch. Fortunately it wasn’t too far from home so a second trip was only a slight hassle.
After three days of trying to do something that I thought would take an hour, I am happy to say that Giedre and I have tickets, the price wasn’t too horrible and we will be in Italy in a few weeks!