Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Lithuanian Beer and Bread--in San Francisco!

This week, we have asked Morgan Kulla, a retired Foreign Service Officer who served in Vilnius in 2010 and now lives in San Francisco, to share with us the inside scoop on Lithuanian food and beer in California. It's not a coincidence that we want to talk about beer: Don Russell aka Joe Sixpack, an award-winning beer writer, will be traveling Lithuania and advancing beer diplomacy this week -- but that, of course, is a completely separate story. 
Morgan Kulla:
I first came to Lithuania in 2010 for a short assignment in the Public Affairs Section at the Embassy.  In addition to everything else, I loved the bread and the beer.  When I went home to San Francisco, missing all things Lithuanian, imagine my surprise to find a selection of Lithuanian breads and several types of Lithuanian beer – all within blocks of my house! I have introduced many friends to my favorite Lithuanian bread sold here: Vilnius Amber Rye.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Baltic Pride and Prejudice

This last Saturday, July 27th, was the Baltic Pride Parade here in Vilnius organized by the Lithuanian Gay League (LGL). The parade was to bring together people from all three of the Baltic countries - Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia - to celebrate the LGBT community and to stand for equal rights for all. 

I was very excited to march in this parade, as someone who fully supports the LGBT movement and as an American who believes in human rights for all people. I have had much experience with Pride Parades, however this one I knew would be different. The sentiments are not as progressive as in my own country, and I knew that the threat of some sort of public disorder was quite real. Regardless, I prepared myself all week, meeting the LGBT community here and getting to know them personally. I attended Stuart Milk's roundtable and placard making session, and assisted the all-girl pop-rock band, BETTY, since Wednesday. I felt empowered, ready, hopeful! And if I could say one thing, its that despite the hatred seen on Saturday, I still felt that way all day and long after it. 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

BETTY tours Lithuania!

I am very excited to share with Lithuania that the band BETTY is in Lithuania to play two concerts and to do a workshop on empowering girls and women. BETTY, an all-girl pop-rock band, is coming on July 24-29, and yes, they'll be here for Baltic Pride week.

On the 25th, BETTY will offer the workshop titled "Everybody is Somebody!" This is an inspirational workshop on empowering women and girls. Enjoy great music followed by a talk on the subject and an open discussion with the band. You can participate and join in this workshop this day at Vilnius Chamber Theater located at Konstitucijos pr.23, Korp. B. 

On the 26th you can catch BETTY performing at SOHO nightclub. The doors to this show will open at 21:00, the show will begin at 22:00, and will end until 23:00. Please feel free to stay after the concert to meet with BETTY, get an autograph, and take a picture with the band!

Finally BETTY will arrive in Palanga on July 28th. They will play at Club Ramybe The show will start at 18:00 and continue until 19:30. 

This American band defends the rights of women and spreads the message of tolerance in different social circles. They have also participated in hundreds of charitable events for the fight against poverty. The group has won two Emmys and two BMI awards. 

We are so excited to bring BETTY to Lithuania to spread the message of tolerance to all! We hope to see you at the shows and workshops to commemorate the week of Baltic Pride!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Fulbright Alumna Laima Vince: Why I Wrote The Interpreter (Vertejas)

The Post today is by guest-blogger, Laima Vince, author of the play The Interpreter (Vertejas) that will be performed in Vilnius, during the Baltic Pride Week on July 27th and 28th. 
Laima Vince is a writer, poet, and literary translator. Twenty years after the independence movement began, Laima Vince returned to Vilnius as a Fulbright lecturer to document life in Lithuania's fledgling democracy. Over the past four years Laima has traveled around Lithuania's provinces and cities collecting oral histories. She has spoken with postwar partisan fighters; liaison women; Holocaust survivors; exiles to Siberia; German women exiled to Tajikistan; village verbal charmers and healers; young women who have been victims of human trafficking and the social workers who work towards their recovery in underground shelters; Chechen war refugees; gypsies; and gays and lesbians who are fighting for recognition and legal rights in Lithuanian society. 

When people see or read The Interpreter many assume I am gay or bisexual. Why else would a woman write a play with two gay men in relationship as the main characters? And then, I’ve been attacked by gay friends who are outraged that I—a heterosexual woman and the mother of three children, and living a conventional lifestyle—could presume to know what it feels like to be in a homosexual relationship or to suffer prejudice or experience a hate crime because of my sexual orientation. My reply is that there are two human qualities that enable us to imagine ourselves in the lives of others: empathy and the power of the imagination.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

A Young Lithuanian Leader attends the XIV World Lithuanian Youth Congress

This week's guest blogger, Aiste Zalepuga, attended the World Lithuanian Youth Congress which took place on July 1-14. Below is her assessment of the Congress meeting and short interviews given by prominent leaders who were also in attendance. 

Lithuanian youth from around the world gathered in the United Kingdom for the XIV World Lithuanian Youth Congress. Delegates from across the globe – including 11 representatives from the USA – came together to elect a new World Lithuanian Youth Association(PLJS) governing board that will execute projects proposed during the congress meetings.   

PLJS was founded in 1972 and held its first World Lithuanian Youth Congress that year. Members focused on the organization’s approach to resisting the Soviet occupation and unifying Lithuanians across the world.

Since then PLJS has grown to include 40 chapters.The World Lithuanian Youth Association attracts Lithuanians ages 16-35 and addresses issues relating to culture and education. PLJS maintains relations with governmental institutions and youth organizations. 

Friday, July 12, 2013

A Cultural Celebration! The Opening of the World Transparency International Summer School.

On July 8th, 2013, I had the opportunity to accompany our Assistant Public Affairs Officer to the British Embassy. We travelled for APAO Nina Murray to make remarks at the opening of the World Transparency International Summer School. This school is a week-long program for young people to make them aware of the causes and manifestations of corruption. There were 140 participants from over 60 countries!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

A Weekend in Klaipėda

Due to the 4th of July holiday; the Embassy was closed last Thursday. The roommates and I decided to take advantage of the long weekend so that we may make a trip to the much-talked-about Klaipėda. Since we arrived, everyone has been telling us to visit this city and we were finally going to do it! We rented a flat on Tiltu Street, the main strip in Old Town. Wednesday evening we packed all our things and got on the bus to Klaipėda! 

Friday, July 5, 2013

Virtual Student Foreign Service: Helping The US Embassy from Abroad!

I would like to take a moment to share with you our Virtual Student Foreign ServiceVSFS is the U.S. Department of State’s virtual eInternship program for U.S. citizen college students to contribute to the work carried out by the State Department, U.S. Agency for International Development, Broadcasting Board of Governors, and the Departments of Commerce and Agriculture.  By committing ten hours per week from September through April, selected eInterns will play an important role in advancing the federal government’s reach in diplomacy, development, journalism, trade, and agriculture initiatives, and without the need for a security clearance. 

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

July 4th Reception and Celebration!

On the 26th of June, the US Embassy hosted the annual July 4th Reception and Celebration at the Ambassador's home. The preparations for the event took weeks and the team that organized it did an incredible job. It began with the set-up and was followed by the receiving of guests. 

As the guests began to trickle in, they were invited to grab food or a drink before going into the Ambassador's house to be greeted by her. Not only was the Ambassador there to welcome guests, but so too was our Deputy Chief of Mission and our Defense Attaché.

Many important people came through to welcome the Ambassador and her team. As part of my job, I was lucky enough to stand behind the Ambassador to relieve her hands of any gifts that she might receive so that she may continue shaking hands. Being in this position, I was able to see each guest as they came through and give them each a smile.

After the guests were all welcomed, the Ambassador gave a speech to welcome the Lithuanian guests and their family and friends to the reception. We watched at our Marines presented the American colors before listening to the Lithuanian anthem and then the American Star Spangled Banner.

As the party continued, we were able to mingle with guests and I was incredibly grateful to meet former President Adamkus. We talked about his life in America, the Foreign Service career, and some defense topics. It was a great honor for me to meet President Adamkus during this event, who is very nice and open to meeting all Embassy staff and hearing their stories. Not only is he admirable, but he is very friendly as well!

After the party was completed, all Embassy staff pitched in to clean up the Ambassador's home before enjoying burgers and chips for a very...very late lunch. It was great to be able to spend an hour with my coworkers enjoying the warm Lithuanian day and American style burgers. It was a great starter to celebrating the actual 4th of July and the birth of our great country!