Crisis week. That’s what Jurgita, our language teacher, says they call the third week of the four-week course. Mid-terms need to be taken and graded, presentations need to be made, lessons become more intense because it’s the last full teaching week, and everyone is getting overloaded, tired and frustrated.
Our mid-term was Monday of week three. I managed a 95 by some miracle, which made me feel good. Because our teacher assigns a point scale to our tests and assignments, that meant I got a 10 along with Fabio and Vašek. The others received 7s, 8s and 9s. Jurgita also posted our extra-credit chart, based on things like class participation and how far above the minimum we would go with homework assignments. Fabio topped the chart with an 8, Vašek and I were at 7, and the others ranged from 3 to 6.
Then things started to go downhill.
We did our presentations on Tuesday afternoon. We could do anything — talk, sing, dance, make something — as long as we did it all in Lithuanian. I demonstrated, live, how to make šaltibarščiai, a cold beet soup that’s a summer staple here. I don’t think I reverted to English at many points, as a few others did, but I didn’t feel I engaged the audience enough. I was trying (unsuccessfully) not to make a mess while opening packaging, pouring, mixing, chopping and referring to the iPad for my Lithuanian notes. The iPad got a bit of a bath, happily without ill effect. At least I had the sense to wear a top that was the same deep pink color as the soup, which I told the class was a requirement.
This week we started on prepositions, but not prepositions in the sense we know them in English. These are prepositions that are prefixed to verbs and change the meaning subtly to something very specific. However, they don’t always mean the same thing in front of every verb. You knew there would be a catch, didn’t you?
Take the verb “eiti,” to go. There are several different ways to go, and the preposition prefix tells you. The preposition also indicates a definite action, that the going resulted in something, rather than not knowing if you actually arrived. Sometimes another traditional preposition coupled with the now-more-specific verb tells you how or where you are going even more precisely. For example:
Apeiti: to go around
Ateiti į: to come to something
Ateiti pas: to come to someone
Įeiti: to go in
Išeiti: to go out
Nueiti į: to walk away to somewhere
Nueiti pas: to walk away to someone
Paeiti: to walk a little bit
Pareiti: to come back
Pereiti: to go through, to cross, or sometimes to transfer, like between schools or teams
Praeiti: to go/pass by
Prieti: to go near, to approach
Sueiti: to go together (more than two people, a group)
Užeiti: to go behind, or to come around another time
To confuse things further, even though these are all the same root verb, some take accusative case while others take genitive. My brain is just about at capacity, and I can’t seem to cram anything else in. I flubbed the daily review test because I confused the pa-, par-, per-, pra- and pri- prefixes. Arrrgh!
My next breakdown was over time. Not running out of time, but how to tell time in Lithuanian. There are about four different ways to express any time of day, and how you do it will dictate whether you use nominative, genitive or accusative case. If you’re expressing concepts like five minutes to or five minutes after, the word order is different. There are specific words for noon and midnight, but you can’t use them for anything other than those exact times of day. And because everyone in class was choosing different ways to express the time when doing the exercises, it was difficult to know if my answers were correct or not when we went around the room from question to question.
Every time I thought I had it, I didn’t quite. I finally asked Jurgita during our lunch break if she would sit with me and walk me through it. I was so frustrated that I couldn’t get what I thought was so simple a concept that I was just about in tears. Jurgita is terrific and extremely patient. She assured me that I wasn’t stupid, that it was difficult grammar for everyone. She suggested I take a five- minute walk to clear my head. After I got back, we went over the grammar one-on-one, and I was able to ask all of my, “but why…” questions until the lightbulb went on. I took some extra homework to practice on.
This weekend is a three-day break because Monday’s Feast of the Assumption, Žolinės, is a national holiday. I may just take Jurgita’s suggestion that I give myself a break from the books for at least one full day and do something just for me. Now, what time does the museum open?