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4 posts categorized "Virginijus Sinkevicius"

04/17/2014

Spring!

 

When I arrived in Washington and bought a scooter everyone claimed that it is a great idea. They said winters in DC are usually short and without snow. All I can say, it’s false. We had a quite interesting winter. Weather was changing every week, sometimes during the weekend temperature will rise up to 16 degrees and sunny, but then Monday it’s snowing for 24 hours non-stop. Government in DC does not work on snow days and we had a lot of them. It was three weeks in a row when on Mondays we had snow days, however by the end of the week it would all melt.

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But let’s forget winter its now behind us and spring has arrived to Washington.

Spring is wonderful here - many people complain that during summer the temperature gets too high and due to high humidity summer are not easy. Even so, I never complain about hot weather. Spring is wonderful even for those people. It’s sunny every day, the temperature increased dramatically and every day we are having 24 – 28 degrees. During this season the streets are full of tourist and city becomes alive. I would like to share with you two wonderful things I explored in DC early this spring.

Baseball

Baseball season just started and as I am big sports fan, but have no clue about American sports so I had to visit a baseball game. I went to a Washington Nationals game against Atlanta, only the second game of the season. It was still a bit chilly to sit in the stadium that evening, however, the feeling was wonderful and the stadium grass was so green. The players did a great job hitting a few home runs and and a Submarine dive horn has blared after every Nationals home run and win—a nod to the park's location in Navy Yard. But the biggest impression left on me was from the stadium. I have to admit that Americans know how to build and place facilities like stadiums. Nationals stadium “Nationals Park” is huge, able to host up to 42 thousand fans and the park has a massive screen 31 meter long and 14 meter high where every player is introduced by his own song. I walked around the stadium to see how it’s to watch a game from different angles and from everywhere the view was fantastic. National’s stadium is also placed on the waterfront and if view of Marina, bridges and if the Anascostia river is not enough for you on the other sides you can enjoy great view at the Washington monument, Capitol Hill, or even Sakura trees. Just in case you don’t know why Washington is famous city, mascots of Presidents run during the break will refresh your memory and put a smile on your face.

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Cherry Blossoms

The Washington DC waterfront, not far from the national mall and Jefferson memorial, is surrounded by Sakura cherry trees which were gifted to DC by Japan. The trees not only establish a spectacular view, but also offer an amazing story.  The plantings of cherry trees originated in 1912 as a gift of friendship to the People of the United States from the People of Japan. In Japan, the flowering cherry tree, "Sakura," is an exalted flowering plant. The beauty of the cherry blossom is a potent symbol equated with the evanescence of human life and epitomizes the transformation of Japanese culture throughout the ages. Japan gifted 3,020 cherry trees to the US which took 7 years (1913-1920) to plant along the Potomac river. On December 11, 1941 four cherry trees were cut down in suspected retaliation for the Japanese attack against the U.S. Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The exact reason for the vandalism was never was substantiated. In hopes of preventing future damage during the Second World War, the trees were referred to as the "Oriental" flowering cherry trees. However, in 1965 the Japanese Government made another generous gift of 3,800 Yoshino trees to another first lady, Lady Bird Johnson, wife of President Lyndon Baines Johnson, who was devoted to the beautification of Washington. American-grown this time, many of these are planted on the grounds of the Washington Monument. Lady Bird Johnson and Mrs. Ryuji Takeuchi, wife of Japan's Ambassador, re-enacted the planting ceremony of 1912.

Cherry Blossom Festival Washington DC 2014

Cherry-Blossoms

Cherry blossoms are really wonderful it’s even hard to describe their beauty. If you live close to Washington DC I strongly advise you to book a trip for the cherry blossom season, it’s something you cannot miss.

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02/18/2014

Something you can really experience only in the US

 

Dear All,

I have not made a BAFF BLOG for a few months. Hard to say why, as plenty of fascinating things happened. I went on the BAFF enrichment trip in Los Angeles and I cannot imagine better location. However, I am not going to talk about the enrichment trip much. It was an amazing experience, perfectly organized and most significantly we had the chance to meet other colleagues and exchange our experiences.  Summarizing, everyone is extremely happy and grateful about the opportunity but time is flying too fast.

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In this BLOG post I will talk about the experiences which are waiting for you in the US. I am sure you are familiar with Halloween and perhaps not so much with the Thanksgiving Day. Nevertheless, both can only be truly experienced in the US. Finally in the end I will tell you about my sports experiences visiting NBA games and watching players which I grew up admiring, as well as with an American religion which is not as big in Europe – NFL (American football).  

Let’s begin with Halloween. This is a holiday all kids are in love with. Nevertheless, grown-ups can have as much fun.

Pumpkin carving

Preparation for Halloween in our house started earl. The first step was pumpkin carving - I have never done anything similar before and therefore it was so much fun. I was provided with all required instruments (even the pumpkin) all I needed to do is to employ my creativity and hands. To be honest I am not the most artistic person and maybe that was the reason the the  girl’s pumpkins looked way better than mine. However, it was a great fun to spend an evening playing with pumpkins.  

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Forget about Madam Tussauds Museum, Welcome to Halloween parade!!!

Halloween is a very colorful holiday. Fun awaits you on the streets of the city. Besides the Halloween bike ride in downtown Washington, people go out to have fun all dressed up, some of them coming dressed up already to work. It’s ok in the morning to ride the metro with Batman & Robin, Hulk or even Barack Obama. Halloween is proof that people’s imagination is limitless. On the streets of Washington you could meet Queen Elizabeth or Prince William and Kate Middleton (with the baby), Alan from Hangover, Mike Tyson or Mohamed Ali. Not to mention, masses of robots, mummies, zombies and vampires. 

Thanksgiving, lovely time which reminds of Christmas

If Halloween getting bigger in our region, Thanksgiving remains a holiday which you might be less familiar with.  Thanksgiving Day is a national holiday celebrated primarily in the United States and Canada as a day of giving thanks for the blessing of the harvest and of the preceding year. It is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November in the United States. Thanksgiving has its historical roots in religious and cultural traditions, and has long been celebrated in a secular manner as well. An unusual annual Day of Thanksgiving began in 1606 following the failure of the Gunpowder Plot in 1605 and developed into Guy Fawkes Day. (For the last part, thank you - Wikipedia).

While Wikipedia helped me explain the significance of Thanksgiving, I will also try to illustrate what I’ve seen and experienced. First of all, it reminded me a lot of Christmas. Whole families gather together at one of the relatives place. Tons of food, with the main dish of stuffed turkey served with a cranberry sauce. Family members gather together by the table and pray before eating. Dinner is usually followed by sharing the latest news and watching American football. This is truly a lovely tradition and I strongly recommend you to experience it during your stay in the US.

By the way this thanksgiving was special because it falls on the same day as Chanukah. The next time the two will coincide would be when Thanksgiving falls on Chanukah eve in the year 2070. This will repeat in 2165.

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NBA Games

I am Lithuanian and it’s no doubt that I love basketball. One of the things on my “to do list” was, of course, to see a NBA game. I did it! And not just once. The first game I went to was Wizards against Timberwolves , a great game with a lot talented athletes. I also visited the Wizards against Clippers game to see the Chris Paul and Blake Griffin duo, in which Chris Paul pulled out an amazing performance scoring over 30 points and shutting  down any Wizards chances. I did not miss the opportunity to watch our big man Jonas Valanciunas, when he visited Verizon Center. Valanciunas was not playing very well, but the Raptors took an easy win. During the week I stayed in NYC I  had to visit the newest arena in the NBA, Barclay’s center, home of the Brooklyn Nets,. It was wonderful to watch Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Deron Williams and other players you grow up admiring. Finally, the last game which I could not miss is of course was Miami Heat at DC. This was the most spectacular game I ever watched, not only because LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and other played, but also because Wizards played their best game of the season with the Wizards scoring 42 points in the first quarter. The arena was full, of course, a lot fans supported James and Miami, however, I supported the underdog Washington Wizards, who played an amazing game that night, taking the W. NBA games are really fun especially when great teams are playing, tickets prices are higher, but it’s worth every penny.

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Superbowl

I happened to accidentally be in the center of action during the Super Bowl XLVIII event as I lived in New York City for the week during which NYC hosted the Super Bowl.  This is another day for Americans to go crazy about their favorite sports. Tickets to watch the Super Bowl in the stadium cost from $2000 USD up to $22, 000 USD and the stadium is always packed. Fans gather to the hosting city from all over the United States. In this years NFL finals the Denver Broncos played against the Seattle Seahawks. You might already know, but there was no intrigue in this game at all, the Seahawks crushed Denver becoming NFL champions XLVIII. I don’t know much about American football and cannot comment much about the reasons why this happened. All I heard at the bar where I was watching the game was the Broncos are a “one-man team” and that Manning did not deliver that night. Once they found out I don’t know much about football was extremely, the Americans at the bar where extremely helpful explaining every rule of the game. Even so, my knowledge of American football is very limited, I know that one of the greatest NFL players is Johnny Unitas who was of Lithuanian descent and that was surprising for my American fellows. The evening was great - I did not care much about who won, all I cared about was the fun and I got maximum amount of it.

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Sincerly Yours,

Virginijus Sinkevičius

09/12/2013

Summarizing Summer

Time is flying fast, honestly, too fast. It’s already been two months since I arrived in the United States and I only ten months left. After my first post here I received many questions about the program. I am happy to reply to all of you guys and will do so. Only one thing, do not ask me if it’s worth applying. I can confirm you once and for all that this is the best experience you can get, a unique chance not only to live and experience the American way of life for 12 months, but also work in a great environment, learning and utilizing your skills. After every event your connections list will expand faster than lightning. It is only up to you how much you will take from this experience - BAFF provides you with all the basics you need, help and assistance anytime.

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It’s already September outside, however, here in DC you cannot feel that, temperature remains 23 – 27 degrees. Therefore, it’s time to summarize this summer. I was driving from New York City to Washington DC (3-4 hours drive) when I realized that this is the greatest summer in my life. Thanks to Baltic American Freedom Foundation Fund.

BAFF BBQ

Let’s begin with BAFF students get together. My amazing landlord Jerry (he is worth being mentioned in every blog) invited all members of the BAFF family to his house. I just asked if we can host a small party and he replied – I will take care of it, just let me know the count! Jerry really knows how to cook, especially on the grill which was covered with different types of meat; guests could try African chicken, American burgers or pork steaks. It was a great evening meeting with other BAFF participants from Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania. Everyone looked happy and we made a deal to set up a similar party soon.

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4 States in 5 days

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My girlfriend finally arrived to the United States and we decided to take a small holiday. August is very quite in DC, especially for think thanks so I did not have any problems asking for a week off. We decided to rent a car and visit the East coast beaches. In five days we travelled around four states. We visited Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Norfolk, VA, Outer Banks, NC, Rehoboth Beach, DE and Ocean city, MD. It was a really interesting experience as every beach was different - from a quiet and similar setting to the Baltic Sea Front full dunes in the Outer Banks to overcrowded, full of bars, loud music and different kind of people in Ocean city. Weather was not that great for sunbathing, but I did not miss the opportunity to swim in the ocean. Restaurants offered a variety of great food and I consider the mini-holiday as a great success.

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Tian – Tian

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I always admired Giant Panda’s they are really cute animals, watching them live is even more fun. If you are by chance in a city which zoo has this cute animal – go and visit him. Washington DC National Zoo has the honor to host two Panda’s. Female Panda Mei Xiang just gave a birth to a baby panda cub whom remains isolated from visitor’s noise. However, male Panda Tian –Tian is available for us to admire. I will be honest; it is not easy to spot him. Panda’s do not like heat. DC weather is way too hot for them. Tian –Tian is usually out just for a short period of time and only if there is a treat for him. It took me four visits to finally see him, I had to get up at 6:50am and be at the ZOO at 7-20am to see that adorable creature. He is really funny. You will quickly forget the time you had to get up.

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Baltic Summit 2013

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The biggest highlight of this summer was my visit to the White House. That summer day was special, not only for me, but all three Baltic States: Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. President of Lithuania Dalia Grybauskaitė together with Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves and Latvian President Andris Bērziņš visited Washington D.C. and met with the President of United States, Barack Obama. It was the first such visit during Obama's term with the last visit such being 5 years ago. The presidents discussed many issues significant to Baltic States. I had a chance to be present at the White House. With the assistance from Lithuanian embassy, I received accreditation to the Baltic Summit. It was wonderful, as I was just across the table to see the three Baltic States Presidents, President of the United States, Barack Obama and Vice-President Joe Biden.

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I wrote a bunch of articles about this visit. I had a chance to talk with Lithuanian and U.S Presidential Advisors, and Ambassador of Lithuania to the United States Žygimatnas Pavilionis. Feel free to check the articles:

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http://lithuaniatribune.com/48895/baltic-presidents-go-to-the-us-to-deepen-transatlantic-co-operation-201348895/

http://lithuaniatribune.com/48911/zickus-lithuania-expects-to-intensify-transatlantic-ties-with-the-us-and-to-highlight-its-energy-insecurity-201348911/

http://lithuaniatribune.com/49132/historic-baltic-summit-started-at-naval-observatory-washington-dc-201349132/

http://lithuaniatribune.com/49143/president-grybauskaite-meets-with-u-s-president-barack-obama-201349143/

http://lithuaniatribune.com/49240/grybauskaite-us-baltic-goals-achieved-still-plenty-of-challenges-to-tackle-together-201349240/

http://lithuaniatribune.com/49588/lithuania-us-relations-from-applicants-to-equal-partners-201349588/

It was unique opportunity to take part in such a historic event for my motherland. Also, as fascinating to see what is going on behind the scenes and experience the journalist role.

My summer ended with the last great news for me – I passed my Master’s thesis and soon will receive a Masters Diploma from Maastricht University. Career wise, I can’t imagine a better summer than this. I am looking forward to a great autumn and promise to keep you posted. Just in case you still have doubts if it’s worth applying for this program.

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I am taking a lot of pictures at the places I am going. For this blog I created a flickr account to share pictures with you all, feel free to check them:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/100505162@N08/sets/

Please, also follow me on twitter, where I will try to keep you up to date about the events I participate in @Vsinkevicius

If you have any questions about the program feel free to contact me via Facebook or email virginijus.sinkevicius@balticamericanfreedomfoundation.org

Sincerely Yours,

Virginijus Sinkevičius

07/24/2013

Greetings from the Nation’s Capital

To:  Everyone

CC: BAFF Family

Subject: Greetings from the Nation’s Capital

Hello everyone,

I arrived in Washington D.C on July 4th, just couple weeks ago. Everyone knows that July 4this a significant date to American’s. As a European this date does not mean a lot. However, this July 4th was the start of the life changing experience for me.

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This is my first letter to you guys, so I will be brief this time, but I promise to keep you up-date about my experience in Washington D.C.

The first thing I did when landed in the United States was to explore the neighborhood where I am now living. I avoided painful searching for the place to live. Before I left for the United States I contacted other interns in the DC area and they suggested I live in their house after they left. They said that landlord is extremely nice, the neighborhood is safe, and I would enjoy living there. This sounded convincing enough to me so I got in touch with the landlord. From the first email I realized that he is a really nice, open minded guy that has a lot of experience on his shoulders and I was absolutely right. Jerry is an extremely nice host, whose doors are open anytime. He will help you with advice or will give you a lift, just knock.

On July 20th we celebrated Jerry’s birthday with a small but cozy BBQ outside the house. We had a bucket of Belgian beer and a lot grilled food. The evening was amazing but the grand finale was our present (me and three other people who rent rooms in the house). We decided to give Jerry Hookah. It was the girls’ idea and I was extremely skeptical about, because it was his 67th birthday and I cannot imagine anyone would enjoy hookah for their 67th birthday. However, I trusted girls and chipped in for the present. I have to take my hat off to them, I was absolutely wrong - Jerry and his friends who were also at the party absolutely loved the present. His friends even said that they have to get one. I was very happy to see everyone’s reaction to our present.

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As I mentioned before, shortly after my arrival to DC, I discovered the expensive public transportation. However, I found the solution - please, meet my new friend and loyal ally Aprilia Scarbeo.

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After counting all the pros and cons I came to the conclusion that having a scooter in DC is cheap, practical and most importantly, gives you freedom to move around the city easily.

The last thing I would like to talk about is my experience with the Lithuanian Embassy in Washington DC. After my arrival I contacted the embassy and they set up a meeting with me. That was already a good sign, as I know how busy people are in embassies. The diplomats were aware that I am coming as the Lithuanian embassy cooperates with the company I am working for. I have to tell you guys, I was shocked how nice people I met during the visit were. Deputy Chief Simonas Šatūnas was very busy, but he managed to show me around the embassy building, which is the oldest Lithuanian embassy and the second oldest embassy building in DC. The building is basically unchanged since the mid 20th century. I was introduced to ambassador and other embassy staff. The meeting was a really nice and symbolized the warm welcome I have had so far in DC.

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Now that I am actively involved in embassy’s organized events, I will be writing brief covers on them, which you can find on the “Lithuania Tribune” website. 

Please do not hesitate to contact me, if you have questions. You can also, find me on Facebook or Twitter @Vsinkevicius. (Everyone is tweeting here in the US).

Have a great rest of the summer! Warm and humid Greeting for the Nation’s Capital!

Sincerely Yours,

Virginijus Sinkevičius