I haven't seen that much of it, but I am amazed by what I find, and at times, amused by my amazement.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Another Year-End Letter: 2015 Edition

2015 is on its way out, 2016 ready to burst onto the scene. How’d it get so late so soon? This time of year we like to take a look back at the year that was.

January 2015 – a visit to Trakai Castle – a half hour drive out of Vilnius.

Joann and I are celebrating our second Christmas in this apartment in Vilnius, Lithuania. That in itself is a bit unusual. It hasn’t been very often that we’ve been living in the same country two years in a row.

Vilnius has been great place to spend some time. Centrally located in northern Europe (the geographic center of Europe is actually in Lithuania, just 16 miles north of Vilnius), this Baltic country feels like it could be somewhere in the Pacific Northwest. The climate is similar to western Washington/British Columbia. We really haven’t needed much air-conditioning.

Having just spent two years in China and Vietnam before moving here, being back in Europe was a refreshing change for us. And bonus, we can walk down the street here and be mistaken for locals, something that never happened in Southeast Asia.
June 16 - Launching from the park by
the Neris River. The launch site depended
upon which way the wind was blowing

The Queen on her throne in the Sculpture Park
We spent the first part of the year together here in Vilnius. While John was mostly working , Joann was staying busy with Lithuanian language classes, puppy training classes, art projects and IWAV (International Womens Association of Vilnius). We managed to fit in a few local excursions together, as well: A January visit to the historic Trakai Castle, built on an island in a lake half hour drive outside of Vilnius; a May trip to the Baltic Sea coast along the Curonian Spit, a 98 km long sand dune spit where Huy set his personal land-speed record, and is home to the Juodkrante Sculpture Park; a June hot air balloon flight over the city.

Over the dunes and down to the beach

Catching Huy on the fly between supersonic laps on the Curonian Spit.
Exploring the parks, the old city, and the many different restaurants helped round out our introduction to this corner of the world.

Joann returned home in July to what turned out to be a horrible fire season in Northeast Washington. I watched events unfolding from Vilnius while Joann dealt with the smoke and approaching fire danger at home. Our log cabin, snuggled into the trees would never survive if the forest fire reached it.

What to take? What was important? In the end it was decided that very little was so important. Photos, artwork, computerized records, vehicles – all were easy to move. Everything else could be replaced. It was just stuff.  The hardest part turned out to be the smoke that filled the air for weeks at a time. The only cure for that was to leave.
Bloody Mary Breakfast with Captain Jack

We are fortunate to have good friends who extended an invitation to Joann and another neighbor to join them at their house on the Washington coast for a few days. In spite of the difficult circumstances the ladies managed to make the best of it.

With Doug and Lezli on their patio in Petruro Irpino. We would love to spend more time there!

In August Joann flew to Italy. I flew in from Vilnius at the same time and we met up in Naples for a visit with my brother Doug and his wife, Lezli at their home in Petruro Irpino. What a nice place and a great few days together. We experienced rural life in their small Italian town, toured a winery (of course!) and drove the Amalfi coast. Joann returned to Republic and I flew back to Vilnius.

In October I was able to fly home for almost three weeks of vacation time. It was another meeting up with Joann on the fly. She flew in from visiting her mother in Illinois. We met in Spokane and drove home together. We wouldn’t be there for Thanksgiving or Christmas. Halloween was our holiday event and we made the most of it.
The Queen and her Consort
Pile o' beams

I managed to get some logs cut into beams for the new front porch, and we got the cabin ready for winter. In the midst of all this activity we also found time to spend valuable time with our kids and friends. By the start of November it was time to close up the cabin, so Joann and I could fly back together to Vilnius. After being apart all summer, it was good to know we would both be together again.

Sawing beams for the new porch with a portable saw mill, thanks to neighbors for the logs.
Lithuanians don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, but the Americans working on the project here gathered at the Marine House and hosted the usual turkey dinner with all the fixings and good company.

The RME Crew, our family here
In some countries it is difficult to find turkeys, but not here. There were plenty of turkeys, stuffed, smoked and baked - and all the sides, as well.
In December we finally made it to Prague, Czech Republic for a four day weekend. It lived up to all our expectations - and then some.
Up in the clock tower

The Christmas Market below in Old Town Square

Huy, the Best Elf Ever (he says) waits for Santa

Right before Thanksgiving we bought an artificial Christmas tree, lights and ornaments. It sits in our front window overlooking the entrance to our apartment building. It’s a pretty tree and, who knows, we might get a chance to use it again next year if they keep adding more work to this project!

Happy New Year 2016!