This entry is brought to you by the Jonowa Police.
F'reals. Word to the wise - cops are awesome.
Y-Y-Y-Jonowa, and industrial city a few kilometers northeast of Kaunus, ain't no tourist hotspot. The "Tourizmo Informacija" office, while marked on the map, actually looked like a bomb went off in it. While I doubt it was a bomb, this town didn't seem like it needed one. But it was on our itinerary for two reasons - one, it was possibly one of the sites an ancestor came from, and two, we were there to meet the family of a friend of mine, the wonderful Marija, who were going to show us a small taste of home, so I expected.
I got there earlier, sans camera, and proceeded to explore. After getting situated and managing to get a map from the bookstore, I ate a wonderful 6 litai (2 dollar) meal of pork dumplings in goulasch, mashed potatoes, bread, peas, and corn at a seemingly friendly tavern. I found out where a Jewish cemetary was with the help of Andrus, a local young dude, and go on my three mile walk to the outskirts and promptly found my tired feet at a wholly Christian cemetary. A little disappointed, I ask a nearby old lady where the Jewish cemetary was - most people had no idea, but she pointed me to another spot where I found this, right smack dab in the middle of town.
Ta da! Dead Jews, what will soon become a major motif of our trip once we hit Poland. These pics are from the following morning. I couldn't find the name I was looking for (Stein) because most of the stones were worn out, and in Hebrew. I couldn't find the set of Hebrew letters I was looking for, so I set back to the tavern for a cup of coffee.
Andrus is still there, and he introduces me to his friends, who promptly talked about how their country had the most beautiful women in the world, and who used the word "nigger" a lot. In other words, they were exactly like all the other people we've met in Eastern Europe. But they are a little rough around the edges - loud, a little brutish. They buy me beer (I sip) and tell me they want to go clubbing. It is 6:00. I meet Mike at 7:30. They get up and hand me my stuff.
Meanwhile, I look around the bar and, no exagerration, every single person is making this gesture. 1. Point at the guys. 2. Pound their fist into palm. 3. Point at me. Although the thugs were being friendly to me in English, they were talking loudly in Lithuanian about beating the fuck out me. Andrus, the friendliest of the bunch, is just a face. Some old ladies walk up to me and take my stuff and motion for me to join them. Andrus does too, and he makes the ladies uncomfortable.
It's 6:30. Andrus's friends are staring at me from outside, Andrus is trying to convince me to leave with him with phrases like "I am trust man. I am good man. You are friend, yes?" and the old ladies stare at him like Devil-shit. I have an hour to meet Mike, and made the mistake earlier of telling Andrus I was meeting my brother at the bus station.
Around 7, the old ladies tell me to go outside. I see the thugs, and the old ladies who see them as well say, "No, is OK." I trust them, knowing no other instinct. We go outside and sit on the bar's facade. Some older men approach us. The thugs are standing about 50 meters down the road, listening. The older men, unlike anyone else besides Andrus, speak near perfect English and are friendly. We chat about basketball and Jonowa. I asked them where they learned English, and they say "Come on, all cops know English" and they take off their jackets to reveal police uniforms. The thugs get into their car, drive away. We drink a beer, the old ladies walk with me to bus station, we meet Mike, and get a cab to the Viganauskaite clan, where we get a lot more than home treatment.
Strange. I go immediately from fearing for my safety in a strange country, to being sat down in front of a table setting with smiling people waiting to be hosts. Like, seriously, some !poof! magic trick.
Vincas, the patriarch:
Vincas, performing one of the night's motifs:
Elena, the matriarch, serving up some mean cepelinai. They really don't do hospitality like this in America. I mean, damn. It was all smiles there. Awesome people who didn't even need to speak proper English to show us that they ruled in so many ways. They showed us photo albums (Yo Marija and Jonas I've totally seen your wedding video), fed us to our necks and Vincas got us drunk to, let's say, our ankles.
Word. If any Viganaskaite ever comes to America, besides Marija who's already there obviously, be sure to hook them up. A traveller's always happy to see any home, nevermind one filled with people who rule this much, and are so hospitable, and awesome, and wonderful, and...yeah. The point is communicated, no doubt.
But we needed to move. And move we did, to Kaunas, where the only thugs are Jewish boys with bachelor's degrees in the humanities.
You is totally scurred. Yo God, whatchu have to say about this?
"I maketh thee buildings, and decree thee be awesome, and take abstract pictures in front of the homes of Fluxus artists."
And onto the third medical museum of our trip (fourth if you count Peter the Great's Hall of Fetus), where we see trepidated skulls. They don't do freakshow like this in the States. We got the WB for that.
Mike's doing a mean impersonation of a trepidated dude. But yo, for serious, I got a trepidate tonight with some alkeehall and der Vilnius nightlife. It's name doth drill, non? Hail Lietuvos Republikas!