A young teenager spends his days busking on the main tourist street in Vilnius. He is dedicated and persistent. He is also awful. For the three days I was in Vilnius I only ever heard him play one song, very badly. Auld Lang Syne dribbled out of his recorder at various tempos, none at which it was ever meant to be played. The old adage that practice makes perfect was definitely not on display here.
On my first day in Vilnius I wandered through the Basilian gates and was quickly intercepted by a man. Before he even spoke I new instantly that he wanted money, which is something I’ve never been instantly good at giving. He cycled through a few languages before it became clear that english was the only one that worked. Dabbing his dry eyes with a tissue he pleaded with me to pay for his hospital bills. Confused and defensive I instantly refused. He then lifted up his pants and revealed his right leg. It was very swollen and completely bandaged from knee to ankle. Next he started pulling the bandages off. Underneath was a rotting and grotesque piece of human flesh. It was pitted with open seeping wounds. Shocked and completely uncomfotable I again refused and quickly walked away. As I turned my back he told me to go and fuck myself. I had only been in Vilnius a few hours.
Back at my hostel I asked about this unsettling encounter. In my mind and through my experience I couldn’t believe that the injury was real. Lithuania was not a third world country with an inadequte health care system. But if the injury turned out to be genuine and he was unable to get it treated then I was honestly thinking about taking him to the hospital and paying the cost. A cost which if he was to be believed was less than $100. As it turns out the injury was real, but his motive for money was false. The hostel employee rolled her eyes as soon as I mentioned the man. He has lived in the town for many years and has had the injury for a long time. All the locals know him. But instead of getting his injury fixed he uses it to fleece tourists of money. The hostel lady alleged that this money is then used for drugs. I was also informed that not only is begging illegal but giving money to a beggar is also illegal and would result in a fine if I was caught. His con was very well practiced, if only he’d spent his time using a recorder instead.
My sympathy and empathy levels are pretty low at the moment. Completely non-existent for people who exploit their injuries as this guy did. It was shortly after this encounter that I named the two newly independent bodies floating around in my knees. I’ve had a few weeks to get to know them now. Ninja HI! lives in my left knee and attacks with speed and precision. Ninja HI! attacks me when I least expect it and leaves me stumbling and panting for breath. Ploddy lives in my right knee and politely always gives me a moments notice before he wedges himself between my joints. Ploddy is stubborn and will stay in my joint for long periods of time. I have gotten used to the uncomfortable pressure he exerts when plodding through my joint. If Ploddy causes too much pain I am able to shake him out. But Ploddy being Ploddy he always finds his way back pretty soon. Combined, Ninja HI! and Ploddy are making traveling for a month more difficult than I would have hoped. Planes, trains, buses, lack of sleep, to much partying and not enough rehabilitate exercise has also meant that my damaged nerve is playing up badly. I am a picture of health.
Today I’m heading off to a two day music festival. I will be camping and it’s pretty wet. Due to my health problems I almost didn’t go. But like Ploddy I’m a stubborn bastard.
Riga is having a summer music festival in the city at the moment. When I get back here in a few days I intend to buy a recorder and try my luck.