Monday, February 24, 2014

Culinary Culture Tour with Michael Laiskonis

Clay Moore here, the current American intern with the Public Affairs Section of the U.S. Embassy Vilnius.

Last week I got to experience not one different culture, but two!  Lithuanian-American pastry Chef +Michael Laiskonis was here on a media tour and it was my responsibility to escort him around the nation and take lots and lots of pictures.  As a man ashamed to admit that I can’t cook very well, I was thoroughly impressed by the skill and talent that Michael showcased for his relatives (he still has family in Lithuania) and other residents of his ancestral land.

Michael Laiskonis (left), His Uncle (right)

Michael was joined by his uncle who lives in Kaunas, an eccentric but delightful older gentleman.  The only language that Michael had in common with his uncle was French, as his uncle did not speak any English.  Even further, the only language I had  in common with the uncle was Russian!  I am so happy to use my Russian here, even more so if its use is related to work.  As I enjoyed kibinai and beer on the shore of Lake Trakai, I listened to Michael’s uncle tell me about the history of the partisans who hid in the hills around the lake and fought foreign invaders.  (They are referred to as “Forest Brothers”, look forward to a post on their history soon).

Michael visited Kaunas Kollegia (College) where he gave a presentation about his own path to success to up-and-coming culinary students.  They reacted with interest, asking many questions and more or less hanging onto Michael's every word.  After his presentation to over 300 people, he met students and sampled their creations in a meeting with faculty and staff.

Michael inspects the spread

Following Kaunas, we went to a Sodziaus Meistrai, a small school in the village, Rudiskes.  The students watched with excitement while Michael was crafting culinary delights and teaching them techniques that many had not heard of in their lives yet.

It was a long day full of traveling around beautiful Lithuania.  The weather was a snowy, wet mix, however the countryside looked great!  I am so happy that I have work-related opportunities like this to travel and see not only Vilnius, but the entire country!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

New Fulbright Grant for Art Historians

Today, we're pleased to report that Terra Foundation for American Art has just subsidized a new Fulbright grant for U.S. scholars interested in teaching American Art history in EU countries.

The Fulbright-Terra Foundation Award in the History of American Art offers two grants per year at any university in a European Union country (except France, Germany, and the UK, where the Foundation already has established teaching fellowships).  The grants are for undergraduate and/or graduate teaching in history of American art prior to 1980 and for research.  Scholars will be expected to aid host institutions in developing, modeling and adapting American art history curriculum.  They can also give seminars, workshops, and public lecturers, as well as advise graduate students on theses.  The award is for early career scholars up to the Associate Professor level, for one semester grants starting fall 2015.  A letter of invitation from a prospective host institution is required with the application.

Picturesque city of Telsiai
The grant amounts for stipend, housing, living costs and international transportation will correspond to your country benefit levels. Funds for books and for guest lecturing at other institutions in the host country will be included, as these are important to the foundation. Dependent allowances, including tuition reimbursement, will be available, if applicable.  Details can be seen here

We most certainly hope you can help us spread the word for this new program and encourage art historians you know to apply for a grant to Lithuania.  Vilnius Academy of Art and its campus in Telšiai offer great opportunities for art historians. 

Vilnius Cathedral Square

Wilson Center Grants available for Study of Eastern Europe

+Wilson Center's Global Europe Program offers residential short-term research scholar grants to scholars working on policy relevant projects on the following countries: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Kosovo, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, and Slovenia. Projects should focus on fields in the social sciences and humanities including, but not limited to: Anthropology, History, Political Science, Slavic Languages and Literatures, and Sociology. Find out more here.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Labas, Readers! - New Public Affairs Intern Hits the Ground Running

Labas readers!  My name is Clay Moore and I am the spring 2014 intern for the public affairs section of the U.S. embassy here in Vilnius!  I am very happy to be here and am looking forward to the opportunities and challenges that await me here over the next few months.

My international background has been entirely in Russia, Moscow specifically.  I have never been to Western Europe (aside from a layover in Frankfurt), so it seems I am slowly making my way east to west, and, accordingly, learning about European cultures from a decidedly different angle than most Americans. 

I was very fortunate to be able to use my Russian language skills for a very worthy cause last week.  When the embassy staff learned that I spoke Russian, they asked me if I could accompany them to a soup kitchen to deliver foodstuffs, clothes, toys, and other needed items.  As the soup kitchen is primarily run by older women (who lived during Soviet times and learned Russian as children), it would be useful to have a Russian speaker be able to communicate and ask what else the kitchen needed and how we could help.

Almost the entire embassy showed up to help make lunch bags to deliver to the soup kitchen so that they may pass on the lunches to those who are unable to physically get to the kitchen.  We quickly got the bags ready, assembly-line style, and then we were ready to head out.

As you can see, we had quite the haul!

Embassy work is varied and oftentimes requires heavy lifting!

It was a great opportunity to dust off my Russian to use in a practical situation.  However, we did learn some unfortunate news.  The food bank at the kitchen was going to run out on February 1st.  Luckily, the embassy collected donations through a bake sale in order to purchase the needed rice, chicken and vegetables to last for a bit longer!

It was a very interesting end to my first week here!


Saturday, February 8, 2014

American Embassy Raises Funds to Stock Food Bank

On February 5th, the Embassy community organized a bake sale to raise funds for a local food bank. We're thrilled to report we were able to raise enough money for  220 pounds of rice, 200 pounds of barley, 80 pounds of chicken, 110 pounds of potatoes, 50 pounds of carrots and 50 pounds of onions!  The food went straight to the kitchen because there was a very large group waiting to eat and all they had to serve was
some cold cuts and bread. 

Thursday, February 6, 2014

American Officer Excited to be Detailed to the Ministry of National Defense

Lieutenant Colonel Judah Whitney, Bilateral Affairs Officer at the US Embassy in Vilnius, admires his new office at the Lithuanian Joint Headquarters. After spending 18 months in Lithuania, Whitney is pleased to be the first US officer with office space at the Lithuanian Joint HQ. And with his new office assignment Colonel Whitney emphasized the potential for even closer cooperation as he and his Lithuanian counterparts will meet daily.