Kaip tau sekasi? How’s it going? WOW. It’s been a lovely few days here in Vilnius. And, it seems, the universe is on our side. We’ve met really lovely and friendly people, recovered two lost bags, and we’ve been graced by warm and wonderful hospitality. I’m proud to say that my little Youtube language tutorials have paid off as I can now order my morning coffee in broken Lithuanian and greet people, in their language, with a bit of confidence. I always find it fun to at least try to speak the local tongue and the locals have been all too happy to guide me through the nuances and tricky pronunciations. My curiosity about the Lithuanian Burners and sense that their creative spark was something special have led me to just the right place at the right time. Things are really happening here and it’s fun to participate.
Upon our arrival, we were greeted by Goku, our Regional Contact and local ambassador. We were swooped up from the airport, whisked off to one of Vilnius many vibrant outdoor cafes, and, as I’d imagined, filled in on all things Degantis Jonas and CORE. We were glad to hear that plans for this weekend’s campout have been shaping up and that there will be three, yes THREE burns scheduled for the weekend! There will also be a beautiful Dream Catcher installation, a performance stage and, judging from the humor and silliness of this group, plenty of shenanigans.
After a great catch-up with Goku, we headed to our temporary home here in downtown Vilnius at Salius’ grand apartment. Salius will be coming to Burning Man for the first time this year and Playground and I have had a ball showing him photos of the event calendar and getting him prepped for his big adventure.
When Misa, our Czech Regional Contact, arrived on Tuesday, it was the first time she and Goku had ever met in person. They’ve been working together for months on the Blukis CORE Project, a joint effort between LT and Czech Burners, and have been speaking at least once a day over Skype about all things CORE. It’s nothing short of a Herculean effort to plan a project for the playa, let alone across oceans and languages. I’m looking forward to seeing them make this effigy happen and I think they’re well on their way. It seems that they’re also in the right place at the right time as offers of help have been coming out of the woodwork from across the world. They’re getting their IndieGoGo launched this week and are hoping that this weekend’s Degantis Jonas will inspire broader participation here in Eastern Europe in their efforts.
Yesterday, we traveled outside of the city to Donatius Jankauska’s art studio. Donatius led the team last year in the building of the Blukis, a giant tree stump sculpture on wheels that the Lithuanians dragged ceremoniously around the playa. I was looking forward to meeting him because he submitted an art grant proposal for a giant ape-like Tony Soprano sculpture. I mean, c’mon. I knew he had to have a sense of humor and, at the very least, we share an affection for that loveable and dispicable Jersey Mafioso of TV fame.
The journey outside of Vilnius city walls was an experience. I had to pinch myself when I saw highway signs with “Minska” and “Talin” on them. My surroundings looked just like the rolling hills in the Midwest but clearly I was not in Kansas anymore. When we turned off the highway, Donatius’ studio was unmistakable. A giant black ape-hand, each finger the size of a person, was reaching out at us from a hill along his driveway! A colossal monkey skeleton framed the entryway. With a giant permagrin on his face, Donatius was all too happy to lead us through his workshop and attic full of wonders. He’s a lightning bolt of wacky creative energy and from the small bits of language I could understand, utterly hilarious. He had giant masks of horses, hedgehogs, and monkeys! He had gargantuan puppets of Lithuanian politicians, and freaky art pieces of all other shapes and sizes! He makes his living making more subdued sculptures for his patrons but clearly his passion lies in bringing these strange characters of his imagination to life. He came to the playa last year and had a great time. Regardless of whether or not he comes back, the spirit of the desert and sense of infinite possibilities has a home at his crazy workshop up in the hills. Goku tells us there are other amazing eccentrics in their community here and I’m excited to meet more of them. Donatius, however, is one of a kind.
In just an hour or so we’re heading off to Degantis Jonas at last. I can’t wait! More soon!