When you can't live without bananas

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Saturday, February 14, 2009

SMS I got: "The taxi driver said he came from geylang and it was more crowded than orchard"

Followup: "he actually said a lot were couples thronging the cheap hotels

although he said there didn't seem to be any slackening in the number of single guys hitting the lorongs either"
"I suppose that writers should, in a way, feel flattered by the censorship laws. They show a primitive fear and dread at the fearful magic of print." - John Mortimer


Baltics trip
Day 15 - 30th May - Vilnius, Lithuania; Schiphol Airport
(Part 3)

Buses and trains (at least the one train we took) in the Baltics are very punctual. They put Italy (supposedly more developed) to shame.

In the Baltics they don't like soft drink cans. As far as I could recall, I saw Coke/Sprite/Fanta cans maybe once - on the ferry to Saaremaa. Instead, eating places in the Baltics all have 250ml glass soft drink bottles, probably because it is too little, so people have to order 2 bottles. Then they have beer on tap, but no soda fountain. GAH.

Mothers Day is a public holiday in Lithuania but not Fathers Day. There is also a gap in life expectancy of 12 years, and there's 7% more women than men in the country (probably a function of alcohol and tobacco). Then again the gender gap in Russia is even more extreme, which explains why all these Russian women are emailing me to ask me to date them.

I didn't see Malaysian Mannikins in the Baltics! Even other Third World countries have better taste than Malaysia.

I don't know why I took this. Maybe it's the black woman.

Pancake with sweet-sour chicken and mushroom sauce. Their idea of sweet-sour chicken is to put in pineapple. Gah.

I don't know why I took this.

I then checked out some of the things I'd missed the last time I was in Vilnius.

First was the Church of All Saints:



All-seeing eye



In an alcove (probably one of the prophets)

Another alcove. This one is holding seaweed which comes from a rock (?)

I'm not sure what this guy did to warrant inclusion. This is the first time I've seen a modern person's portrait in a church.


In 2 hours walking around the city, I saw at least 8 guys with tieable hair (but none outside Vilnius that day, though)

I liked his hair. Though obviously it wasn't as nice as mine.

"Erotic cafe. Kavine. Happy Hour 17-18. Entrance for free"
It's in English because they know their market; I think it was closed when I went, so I couldn't peek inside!

I didn't get this appearance of the All-Seeing Eye

We got on a cramped minivan to go to the airport:

Me beside budding mafia boss

Nice and cosy at the back

After I took this one of the passengers advised we stop taking pictures because the other menacing-looking passengers might not be happy.

Strange security precautions. Maybe someone can hijack a plane with a fishing rod, skateboard and umbrella.

If you are denied boarding or if your flight is cancelled or delayed for at least two hours, ask at the check-in counter or boarding gate for the text stating your rights, particularly with regard to compensation and assistance"
I've seen this at most airports around the world, but not in Singapore, because we are business-friendly

At one of the shops, we found Fisherman's Friend - in old skool metal boxes (too bad inside them was just normal packets shoved in). I bought one for HWMNBN (he only wanted the box). I didn't realise they came in liquorice flavour but then this was Europe. Actually, I didn't even realise they were that flavour, since the box had no markings on it.

I gave YC and wt one Fisherman's Friend lozenge each before entering the gate. Each spat his lozenge out immediately. On my part, though it was the worst Fisherman's Friend I'd tasted, it was the least vile liquorice product I'd had.

The in-flight magazine on flyLAL (our airline for the trip back to Amsterdam, which filed for bankruptcy last month), called "Lithuania in the World", was very interesting:

How to turn any woman into a prostitute:

"Striptease joints
'One German psychiatrist said it takes one month to turn any woman into a prostitute,' Puidokiene states. 'I find this to be true. The pimps are good psychologists. They figure out where girls are vulnerable.

Like at the striptease joints. That’s where it all starts. A girl is asked to come and just dance. They pay her well. She dances. Then they ask her to take her top off while she dances. Well, it’s just a top, she thinks, and she does it. Soon they
offer work as a prostitute. She does it because everyone else around her is doing it, and it seems normal.'...

In total they’ve rescued six girls from the club scene. It all started one night when they were driving through Klaipéda and saw a few girls practically in the nude standing on the street outside a club smoking. They decided to do something about it. They bought flowers. They went to the club."

Plastic surgery ad:

"There comes a time when the desire to use your knowledge even more deeply overwhelms you and you devote yourself to work that is not interrupted by daily routine.
My aim is to concentrate rather than to gloss vainly over the surtce, to delve into the sphere I know best, the realm of beauty. A surgeon, just like anybody else needs positive feelings that aid self-fulfilment. And only if your heart is at ease can you realise the value of beauty and perceive your work as a process in the creation of beauty, which is inseparable from art and has a 5,000-year history.
To me, a 'beauty' clinic has always been associated with a homely place. Beauty does not go hand in hand with pressure and rushing about. Here, in the privacy of my guests, closely in touch with nature, I can feel peaceful comfort sithout distraction, and become absorbed in inner freedom; here I can create beauty.
Professor Kęstutis Vitkus"

Another article boasted about their struggle for independence from Russia - and then condemned Georgian separatists. Hurr hurr. But then they are consistent, as both have one theme in common: "Russia is Evil".

The 'problems' of modernity:

"Social work as practised in the West had not been developed, because, according to Soviet propaganda, social problems did not exist in the Soviet Union, where “a chicken boils in every pot.”...

No country in the industrialised world can escape the social problems that come with modernity: drug addiction, alcoholism, abuse against women and children, prostitution, pornography and human trafficking."
You'd be hard-pressed to find any country - developed or otherwise - without these problems. And it's not hard to find developing countries with more of these problems than developed ones. Maybe they have Soviet Values

More 'problems' of modernity:

“In Eastern Europe we women are programmed to see ourselves as sexual objects, as objects of beauty. So now that we are a free democratic and capitalist nation, we look at ads and see sexualised women and they are dressed well or standing next to expensive cars. So we think, if I sexualise myself, I can have a car like that or a good life. This is one of the problems with our newly acquired freedom.”

There was also something on their horses:

"Lithuanians are proud of their horses, as is attested to by the name of the Žemaitukai breed (right). The breed is one of Europe’s oldest, and has been known since the sixth or seventh century. Horses of this breed distinguished themselves in the 13th and 14th centuries in the battles against the Teutonic Order.

All the troops of the grand duchy rode them."
Okay, we have these horses to thank for Lithuania being Christian today

There was also economic nationalism:

"The farm, like all other enterprises which protect stock animals, is subsidised by EU and local funds, but sheep breeding requires a lot of money. It may seem that sheep breeders get money for meat, wool and skins. However, the situation has changed greatly recently.

“We have stocks of wool from our sheep going back over three years. Nobody wants it, as it is cheaper for producers to buy wool from Australia or New Zealand. Nobody wants skins either. It doesn’t pay to cure them and make garments. Imported sheepskin coats of very high quality cost almost half the price. So only real patriots of this business, or very obstinate people, can do it.”"

And also tragicomedy:

"Ten litas note
Steponas Darius and Stasys Girėnas

The first Lithuanian pilots to make a transatlantic flight, in 1933. Both died when their plane crashed near Soldin, Germany (present-day Poland)."

We then landed at Schiphol which, I observed, was ridiculously expensive even for an airport (more so than I remembered; maybe there was severe inflation in the Netherlands in the 2 years since I was there). Maybe their business model is to charge airlines low fees but passengers high ones (I know Heathrow does the latter) to make up for it.

We were amused by the announcements at Schiphol. Perhaps it was the English as a Second Language factor causing the strange delivery:

"You are delaying the flight. Immediate boarding please at Gate C33. We will proceed to offload your luggage"

"You are delaying the flight. Immediate boarding please at Gate C39. We will proceed to offload your luggage"

On the flight back, I got assigned the same seat as someone else. Was it KLM's fault? flyLAL's (probably, since they went bankrupt)? Who knows.

In-flight service was horrible on the way back (it was horrible on the way there too) - when the cabin lights were turned off during "dark time", I activated the "call stewardess" light. After 5 minutes it turned off automatically. I immediately reactivated it, but after 10 minutes more had passed I gave up. Other airlines attend to you very quickly, in contrast.

I then went to the back of the plane. The self-service snacks/beverages cart was empty. I looked in the galley and 2 stewardesses were reading (though they weren't tiao kar-ing). I asked for Coke and was given a pre-poured cup - of Diet Coke. GAH.

South American cuisine from KLM

Sun on the Wing

How I sometimes sleep on airplanes


[To flight check-in girl] Your eyes are very beautiful. The girls in my country would kill for eyes like yours.

[On Lithuania] They have like 11 days dedicated to kao beh-ing

The Baltics travelogue is finally finished!
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