I am always naively expecting that somehow things would get easier. Maybe I was reading too many fairy tales that promised a ‘happily ever after’ or something. Whatever it was, it made me permanently hopeful (read: damaged) for some things to get easier when you get older, when you move to another, of course a better country, when you get a new job, when… well, whatever the next thing is. And things look promising for a while, you learn, you discover new colours, new people, new tastes. But things.. well, things they never do get easier.
I guess we just need to know that we will be permanently surprised by new things/people/events/situations. I am not one of those people who say: Nothing surprises me anymore! I guess there are many weird things out there and I have become accustomed to some pretty weird sh** by now, numb to other, but mostly it still throws me off track when I am put in different life situations.
Today, for example, I finally went to my general practitioner to ask her to recommend me a specialist for a condition I have on my foot. Not to get into too much details, I knew what I had to do. Come to the clinic, meet my doctor, she would write a piece of paper with a consultation for a specialist and I would pay a little. That was clear. Now I wanted her to recommend me an English speaking specialist, if she knew one in particular. In the end our conversation looked like this:
Me: Thanks for the document. Could I ask you to also recommend me an English speaking specialist (traumatologist-orthopedist)?
Doctor: In Lithuania if you want to speak English, you need to bring somebody with you to translate to Lituanian. I just speak English, because it is my thing.
Me: I understand that, it is normal. But do you know of anybody who speaks English anyway?
Doctor: Why do you insist on an English doctor, I already told you how it works! You can go to a private clinic and they can speak English there.
Me (already annoyed): Ok, then could you just recommend a specialist. Please forget about English.
Doctor: Our specialists are in the older age category and they don’t speak English.
Me: So do you know any by name? It would really help me, because I don’t know who to choose.
Her: Ok, I can write that down.
So she scribbles something on a post-it, tells me to go to a certain hospital. I take that piece of paper and ask her what she wrote, because it was illegible. If that was the name of the doctor, I ask. No, that is the name of the street.
So, everything she did was write the name of the hospital and street. She also said I can choose any other hospital. OMG, and we were back to square one. I left angry for even bothering to come there. Let me be completely clear, I never expected that doctors should speak English here, I am well aware of what is the meaning of official language in any country. I just wanted somebody who would not only look at me, but also give me a consultation I would understand and could take appropriate steps to cure my pain. When that was out of question, at least I hoped for a recommendation of a specialist, but that didn’t happen either. Ahh, I hope that next time I am sick, at least she can write me a sick leave notice. That should not be too hard, and it is also in Lithuanian, so no extra brain cells should be used.
I cannot help to think that many people here believe that they are so lucky to get rid of the oppression of the Soviet Union and now they do not need to speak Russian anymore. While that might be true and some pretty horrible things happened during that regime, which nobody wants repeated, I think any lingua franca is not just a sign of oppression, but a possibility for communication. If you cannot communicate with somebody, you miss a whole new world, new connections, new possibilities and if you want, new money. Yes, if you know how to speak a language, you can make more money. Whether that be Russian, English… or for me Lithuanian. But people here think that now they do not need to speak English, well, the older generation does, because they do not want foreigners or English language to ‘invade’ their country. That foreigners should just learn to communicate in their language and not ask for a translation. Ahh, we all know how this story goes. I cannot help to feel that this is Lithuanian’s way of showing that now they are sovereign and independent and nobody will tell them what to do or speak…
As I ponder these angry and somewhat utopic thoughts on the way back home, I arrive to the market and I realize I need some vegetables. What catches my eyes are apples wrapped individually in plastic in one box and apples with a sun-printed (or rather sticker on apple that prevented the sun to make the apples red on some places) sign that says ‘I love you’. While the second might be a cute marketing idea, even though I would not buy those silly apples, because I am not sure how the prints were actually made, I would just love to get in an argument over the unneccessary plastic over apples. But I never do, because my Lithuanian skills are too poor to have an argument. Note to self: next Lithuanian lesson has to be about arguing on the street or writing a complaint. Why? I do think this world could do better without plastic apples or apples, which love me.
As I continue home, I realize things just never get easier, one just needs to learn to constantly fight. Negativity will be all around us and we just need to make a shield that would not hurt when it is not necessary. As for plastic, I have no good answer.
What would you do?