23 October 2022

Hafiz Adewuyi

How to tell which municipality/district a place in Vilnius is in

This is a question that I have asked myself a lot of times but always had to approximate an answer to by looking at Google maps. See the picture below, for example. Can you tell for sure whether "Kauno gatvė (street), 1" is in the Naujamiestis (Vilnius New Town) municipality or the Senamiestis (Vilnius Old Town) one?

Is Kauno gatvė (street) 1 in Vilnius Old town or New town? 🤔

Fed up with my inability to answer this question with precision, I recently asked a question in the Foreigners in Vilnius group and lo and behold, within a few hours, a Lithuanian (I assume from the name) gentleman called Mykolas came through with a great answer.

From Mykolas' answer, I now am able to answer this question about the municipality of a place in Vilnius by following a few short steps:

  1. Open the Vilnius maps website municipalities page
  2. In the search box on the top right corner (web, not mobile web), enter the specific address whose municipality/district you want to figure out (make sure to add the building number)
  3. Choose the right option from the auto-complete options that will appear under the search box. A pop-up "Search result" will appear with the address and the municipality/district right after the address.

How to tell which municipality/district a place in Vilnius is in

Now, I know that Kauno gatvė (street) is in Vilnius old town (Senamiestis), not in Naujamiestis. Sweet!
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27 July 2020

Hafiz Adewuyi

Get to know the heart of Lithuania (Lietuva)

Settling down in a new country is hard in so many ways that living in just one city for most of your life just cannot prepare you for. Without the unfiltered actions of love which I received from the people in this article, I don't think I would now be in the process of extending my stay in Lithuania.


Edvinas, laying the stage for an early summer barbecue in Kaunas

He's a man, but after all that he's done for me, I now think of him as my Lithuanian mummy. WTF? Well, before I was 16 (high school completion age), everywhere I went to, my mum drove me in her car. Market, school, Mr Biggs, amusement park... you name it.

Likewise, since I came to Lithuania, I can't count the number of times when I have reached out to Edvinas about needing to buy something and he would:
  1. offer to come to pick me up and take me to the market/mall
  2. drive 15 minutes over to my place, pick me up and take me to whatever in his opinion is the best place to buy that something
  3. serve as my shopping guide and adviser for as long as I need to tick off my shopping list
  4. insist on paying if we decide to grab a post-shopping meal together
  5. drive me back home
All without knowing me from Adam. And at the end, he never asked for or even accepted reimbursement for a single dime when I offered. Not for fuel, not for his assistance and not for the post-shopping meal. This sort of kindness used to make me apprehensive and still does to some extent. Why not? When for so long, I had a mindset that every gift comes with an expectation, even when not explicitly stated. 

Perhaps, one day, if I continue to receive Edvinas' flavour of kindness, that inherent apprehension I feel when I receive unmerited love will be all but gone.


Laura's free kettle

Several days before my arrival in Lithuania, Laura announced via the Digital Explorers buddies group that she has a few electric kettles to gift out to whoever needed one on arrival. A couple of days after I arrived, I took her up on her offer.

She told me she was somewhere in the city centre, close to my office. Some 30 minutes later, I was having a chat with her on the ground floor of the Zalgiris Arena, which holds my office. After she handed me my free kettle (which has served me till date), we chatted about her living in Portugal and deciding to come back to Lithuania for the career.


Hafiz and Mindaugas at a company event

My colleague at TransUnion Lithuania, he opted to be my office buddy before I landed in Lithuania. The office buddy is your first port of call for all problems as a new joiner settles into the company. Mindaugas' first token of love was to make a lot of recommendations for everything:
  • Where to eat
  • Where to see in the city
  • What to cook
  • What to do on the weekends
  • Where to go for walks

After following up with me a few times and I told him that I've not followed a lot of his sightseeing suggestions, Mindaugas inquired to know why. "Bad knee. I wish I had a bicycle", I told him. Walking more than a few hundreds of metres at a time is not my forte these days. After a few iterations of this conversation, he remembered having his teenage bicycle in his basement and decided he would give that to me. A few days later, he delivered the bike to me from the boot of his car at the office parking lot.

The bicycle was gifted to Mindaugas when he was only 16 by a family friend/member, and even then, it was not new. "No one will steal this bicycle, you don't have to keep it inside your apartment", Mindaugas reassured me.

One fun fact thing about Mindaugas is that I live on a street named after him


On Saturday, one day after I arrived Lithuania, I received a message from Monika. Monika is one of the Digital Explorers local buddies (a group of big-hearted Lithuanians living in Lithuania), just like Edvinas. She offered to take me grocery shopping the next day: Sunday.

After a lone shopping experience in the morning, which was excruciating (because I had google translate the labels), I met up with Monika at Kaunas Akropolis (shopping mall) on Sunday evening. Our shopping trip lasted for almost two hours because I made a super long list. She had offered to help with grocery shopping, but yours-sincerely made a list of everything I needed; including clothes!

We didn't end up buying clothes, though. All our shopping was done at the Maxima superstore in Akropolis, situated only 1km away from my house. Monika was extremely patient and helpful, freely offering advice when I wasn't sure what I wanted. One other thing about Monika which stuck with me is her passion for the environment. Thanks to her, I bought:
  • a bio-degradable garbage bag instead of a cheaper generic one
  • a wooden spoon, instead of a metallic one that would destroy my pots and pans prematurely

Wooden spoon and eco-friendly waste bag

Afriko: Egle

For the first few weeks in, I called her my mummy in Lithuania. Egle, a member of Afriko, was (and is still) always there to help the Digital Explorers with anything and everything. Having her there and easy to reach was super helpful in helping me settle into the country. Here are some memorable ways that Egle helped me settle into Kaunas:
  • She accompanied me to my flat in Kaunas after a full day of training in Vilnius and helped me settle in
  • She offered advice from how to lay my bed to how to ensure water from the tap in the morning is clean for drinking
  • She brought me my transport card at the office which was my key to bus transport in Kaunas
  • Biggest of all, she let me know that she was always a call/IM away if I ever needed help with anything
Most notably, when I was having trouble taking the initiative at work a few months in, I discussed with Egle on a trip from Vilnius to Kaunas. At the end of an hour-long talk, she left me with one quote: "Just Do It"! There is no saying, how much courage that this talk with Egle imbued me with, in the ensuing months. Thank you, Egle!

Afriko: Eugenija and Mante

Without the passion of these two (the co-founders of Afriko - the company that organised the Digital Explorers programme), I would never have made it to Lithuania in the first place. First, I was satisfied with my then job at Carbon. Also, it was not feasible for me based on my job schedule to fully participate in the five-full-day selection stage of the Digital Explorers program. However, with a lot of reassurance, kindness and encouragement from this duo, I was able to muster the will to participate, and here we are.

On Friday morning when I arrived Lithuania, Mante came alone to welcome me at the Vilnius airport with a pretty Digital Explorer flag. She seemed so delighted, almost as delighted as me whose long-term dream of living and working abroad had just been realised. It was a nice 4ºC in Vilnius, so she had brought me a scarf - I had mentioned not having one before leaving Nigeria on Thursday evening.

When last did I smile so widely? Maybe time to pursue the next dream?

The rest of my first day in Lithuania was filled with different activities which left me feeling completely at home at the end of the day. Without a doubt, I can say that this was not a coincidence. No. It was that way because of how conscientious Eugenija and Mante, the leaders of the Digital Explorers programme are. Bless their souls!

The HR women of TransUnion: Marija and Sandra

My two-hour talk with Marija over a video call after I received an offer letter from TransUnion helped seal the deal. First, I thought it really cool that she agreed to talk with me out-of-office hours. During the call, she was super patient and her passion for the company and her work shined through. She answered all my questions to the best detail and with examples where possible. Also, she reiterated all the perks of working at TransUnion, which the hiring manager had run through at interview stage.

Hafiz and Marija at the TransUnion 2019 end-of-year party

On my first day in Lithuania, I received a welcome email from TransUnion that also contained the most jaw-dropping news: Marija would be driving me from my house to the office on the first day! And so did it happen that at 8:30 on Monday, I received a call from Marija, HR manager at TransUnion. She was waiting for me downstairs.

As we drove the 1.2km between my house and the office, we had chit-chat. During the ride, I learned a few things like the immensity of the office and how there were scooters to facilitate moving around the office. Once at the office, she handed me over to her colleague, Sandra, who I spent the rest of the day with (induction).

The first thing that Sandra gets my admiration for is her extreme care that I was following during the induction session. She regularly stopped to reassure me that it was okay to stop her at any time to ask questions or indicate a lack of comprehension on my part. Besides this, it was her very first time of administering the induction session in English. Despite that, her communication was clear and sharp.

Another loving thing about Sandra is the positive aura that she always radiates as she goes around the office. She is always in a cheery mood and spreads that joy through her smile and demeanour. Whenever I am in the office and not at my best emotionally, I stroll over to the HR office. She always greets me warmly and offers chit-chat readily, complemented by the assorted treats on the stool by her desk. Fortunately, I'm a sweet tooth, and I always leave these visits to Sandra re-energized and ready to face anything the day has got to throw at me.
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6 July 2020

Hafiz Adewuyi

Unsatisfying internet conversations: Episode 1

EXHIBIT: A WhatsApp status-inspired conversation on July 7, 2020

I hate the fact that this conversation left me feeling like a weirdo. That WhatsApp status was a f**king bid for connection!!! I posted it in the hopes that someone else who feels the same way about dull weather would reach out and let me know. 

To digress, I have a personal issue with the branding of sunny summer days as "time to be happy" and "time to have fun". And with the correlated bashing of any summer day which is not bright and warm as a bad weather day. I take it personally when people describe storms as lousy weather because I enjoy going out for walks in the middle of the night. I feel a strong urge to go out and let the raindrops in a storm assault my skin relentlessly. I feel alive when the rain soaks my clothes and causes my torso to respond with shivers and skin with goosebumps. I savour the smell of the damp dust in the air; the smell of rain. "How dare you call it a bad day when the very nature of it makes me feel so good"?.

My point is that I wouldn't be here ranting about a WhatsApp conversation if my friend had actually responded with something more than an emoji. How about:
  • "Oh. That's weird. I can't relate to that. How on earth can someone be happy in the dark?" or
  • "I know what you mean. I also can't say that I'm always in a great mood in 'good weather'"
On the other hand, I know you can say that nothing stops me also from asking my friend if dull weather is always associated with bad moods for him. And you won't be wrong. But I didn't, because I just don't care enough since he didn't take the initiative. Which of course absolves my friend of his lack of satisfactory engagement with my bid for connection.

Am I taking life too seriously? I hate it when people say I am, so if you love your knee, you'd better not respond in the positive.
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Hafiz Adewuyi

Person at pub: Do you smoke?

Me: No
Person at pub: Ok. I'm going outside now to smoke. See you around
Me: *Oh, no!!! Not another tragic end to a great conversation 💔*

This exchange has happened to me too many times since I came to Lithuania for me to ignore. Since no person in real life will satisfactorily respond to my frustrations with this experience, I decided that the close alternative of ranting to no one on the internet would do.

About me and smoking, let's just say I suck at it. And that is something which I am secretly excited about. Otherwise, who's to say that these random moments of peer pressure would not have transformed me into a daily smoker by now. Good conversation is actually so rare in my everyday life that if I didn't suck at smoking, I would go with the person at the pub for a smoking break each time they offer. Notwithstanding that I love my health and want to live long and healthy like most other people.

Gosh! What if the reality is that being with me drained them so much that they needed to go smoke to restore their sanity? Am I an energy drain in conversations? Maybe I was the only one enjoying these conversations after all.
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Hafiz Adewuyi

Far from the Madding crowd

My first encounter with that phrase was through Deezer (music streaming app). The classical music track named "Far from the Madding crowd" was automatically recommended to me based on my listening history. I loved it so much, I saved it to my favourites. This encounter eventually led me to become a fan of Angele Dubeau, the composer.

A few months down the line, I encountered the term a second time after reading a feminism-related article on Medium. My curiosity about this uncommon term: "Far from the Madding crowd" was effectively stoked. My eventual Google search of the phrase taught me that my beloved Deezer track is actually a movie soundtrack.

Spoiler alert: This movie poster actually gives away the culmination of the love story

"Far from the Madding crowd: The movie" is a tale of love and conflict amongst the four people in the poster above. Like the soundtrack which I first discovered, the 2-hour long movie also found an instant home in my heart. Read the little snippet from the movie's Wikipedia article below to see if it might be your cup of tea. It definitely was mine, so much so that I have watched it twice already this year. 

The film is set in about 1870 in Britain. While Bathsheba Everdene (Carey Mulligan) is working on her aunt's farm in Dorset, she meets a neighbouring farmer, Gabriel Oak (Matthias Schoenaerts). As they get to know one another, he proposes, but the headstrong Bathsheba declines, saying she is too independent. One night a new sheepdog chases Gabriel's entire flock off a cliff. After settling his debts, he is penniless, and leaves in search of work. In contrast, Bathsheba inherits a farm from her uncle and leaves to take charge of it.

And finally, the book. It had been sitting in my Amazon shopping cart for months until a month ago (June 2020). I finally ordered it along with several other items. For the first time, I will enjoy the privilege of reading a book after having watched the movie. Maybe when I finish the book, I'll be inspired to rewatch the film, then write a movie vs book article. Or perhaps not - sounds difficult.
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18 March 2020

Hafiz Adewuyi

Kennedy's bicycle was stolen from his yard in the Šančiai district of Kaunas

As part of my ramping up to get out of bed routine every morning, I check WhatsApp. A bad habit I know. But I think it helps to keep me from snoozing my alarm for another cycle. This morning, one of the first messages I saw was from a group that I and Kennedy, a fellow Digital Explorer are in. My heart might have skipped a beat the moment I absorbed his message.

This is where my own bicycle sleeps in Kaunas; by the entrance to my apartment building
Instantly, the picture that you see above appeared in my mind. That's my bicycle, and every day, I park it outside, close to the entrance of the apartment block where I live, close to the city centre of Kaunas. It is secured only with the bike-lock which came along with the bicycle when it was handed as a gift to me by my colleague and buddy, Mindaugas in late 2019.

L - R, then background: Mindaugas, Hafiz; their colleagues

I was overwhelmed by a sudden but fleeting fear that a band of bicycle thieves had swept through town last night and that like Kennedy's, my bike must have also fallen victim. I felt the urge to quickly go check that my bicycle was still in place in front of the apartment but my laziness made sure that instead of doing that, I opted for the option to ask Kennedy if his bicycle had been chained down when he had it stolen. It surely wasn't worth the 0.5 calories it would cost me to go down one flight of stairs from my flat to go check that I still had a bicycle before I confirmed whether or not Kennedy's fate had been due to his lack of basic care in making sure his bicycle is not easy picking.

I felt some relief a couple of hours later when I read a WhatsApp reply from Kennedy that indeed, his bicycle was not chained up when he left it outside last night. Indeed, his bicycle was easy picking and that is the primary reason why it was stolen. "Yay, I have no new thing to worry about", my subconscious declared with the victory of knowing that no new vaccination needed to be invented today!

I am fundraising to get Kennedy a new bike as summer is on the way and he will surely need it for all the exploring that is ahead of him. Click here to support this brotherly cause

The story of the theft of Kennedy's bicycle is one that is particularly important for me because, for me, it's an important source of information to update my belief about my environment. "I feel really safe"; that was one of the first things I said when asked about my first impressions of Kaunas two months after my arrival in the city, in an interview with the media arm of the Kaunas city municipality. Even though I'm not the one whose bicycle was stolen this time, for me, this single incidence will make it less likely that I'll repeat that statement again if asked how I feel about living in Kaunas.

Of course, I still feel safe. Just a tad bit less safe than I felt that four months ago when I granted an interview to KaunasIN. My apartment is in a building right by one of the larger and busier streets in Kaunas, yet it's got nothing of the semblance of a fence. To enter the building (of which once you're in, all you need to get into my safe space is give a nice sturdy flying-kick to my wooden door), all you need do is open a transparent glass door with metal frames. There's an electronic keypad lock by the door which is meant to keep the door locked, but it stopped working several months ago and entrance to the building is now free for all. I guess the main reason that I haven't complained about this security vulnerability is the same thing, I still feel safe (partly due to the fact that I actually desperately want to feel safe here).

I feel safe. But I think that this would be less surprising to you after I tell you that since I came to Kaunas, I've not seen a burglary proof on any window in a residential or business building. Yes. In case that electronic lock starts working, don't fret much - if you've got your eyes on my goods. All you'd need-do is scale the "pseudo-balcony" behind my bedroom windows and again, give what?... You guessed it, ... a sturdy flying-kick to those metal-framed glass windows and in you are, into my bedroom. My goods are yours for the taking.

Because I'm opportunistic about sharing details from my life, I think that now is a perfect time to talk about the fact that I actually have an experiment that has been running since shortly after I got my own bicycle from Mindaugas. This experiment is designed to help calibrate my safety-meter for Kaunas. Here's how it goes:


The lights look just like this. (Source: Amazon.com)
I bought a pair of flashing bicycle lights for my bicycle: a white one that goes in-front and a red one placed at the back, along the rod holding up the seat. Each of these lights is peculiar in that it is attached to the bicycle by a clip-on which is designed into the body of the light. This means that it's very easy for any passerby to detach any of these lights and walk away with it.

The pair of lights cost me around 5 or 6 Euros but I thought that a small enough token to sacrifice for the sake of true knowledge. I really value true knowledge because growing up has taught me that everyone sees things through different lenses and that taking advice from people at face value about any subject matter at all without any allowance for yourself to test the claims safely can be quite, limiting.

So, apart from the first couple of days after I bought these lights and affixed them to my bicycle, I never detach them from the bicycle when I park it in-front-of my apartment building. Even when I ride the bicycle out and have to park it in a public place that has much more human traffic than the front of my apartment, I only detach the lights in the rare situation that I feel like the parking area has a heavy footfall and increases the chances that I will lose my bicycle lights.

Again, this experiment is so important for me because every morning that I come out of the apartment exit and find that the bicycle lights survived the perilous night is a morning that my preferred (and naive) belief that my environment in Kaunas is safe, loses some of its fictitiousness.
The results of my detachable bicycle-light experiment (so far) are astonishing! (at least for me). After over four months of leaving my bicycle in several public places in Kaunas (chained-down, of course), with two flashy detachable lights, actually, one of the lights has been stolen: the red one in the rear of the bicycle. If my memory and observation serve me right, this theft was performed right at the spot where I park my bicycle at home: under the porch that holds the door which I use to access my apartment building entrance.

I still feel safe though, as I've been waiting ever since then for the other half of the light pair to be stolen as well, so I can just get another pair and once again, become a fully-compliant night bicycle rider in the Republic of Lithuania. When I do that, you can be sure that I'll be apt to detach these lights every time I'm leaving my bicycle outside for an extended period of time.

Back to Kennedy's bicycle, I feel really sorry for him. If I were in his shoes, I know how much new suffering it would mean for me to start doing small errands on my feet again; and I don't say that lightly. As far as I know, he might consider reporting the theft to the local police and is seeking some advice from some locals on how to approach the situation. Can't wait to see how that unfolds and I really hope that somehow, he gets the bicycle back. Cos' I know how important of a possession it was to him. Kennedy is in love with the outdoors.
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19 January 2020

Hafiz Adewuyi

Travelling by bus in Kaunas, Lithuania - a Nigerian's perspective

Troleibusas Kaune snieguotą dieną (Trolleybus in Kaunas on a snowy day)
I have found it to be super convenient to travel around Kaunas by bus since I arrived Lithuania in October 2019. My office is a 10-minute walk away from my house, so I don't have to use any vehicle for my daily commute. However, whenever I am travelling farther from home than my office or the nearby Kaunas Akropolis mall, I usually opt to take a bus.

One working day in my second week in Kaunas, a member of Afriko came over to my office to hand me my Kaunas bus card which was preloaded with 5 Euros. The bus card has a wallet which can be loaded with money for buying bus tickets. Also, each bus card is tied to an individual passenger account which can be accessed through through the Kaunas public transport website. Via the website, the card wallet can be loaded, period-based subscription tickets can be purchased, the wallet balance and travel history can be checked among other things.

Kaunas public transport account online dashboard

The night I dumped my Kaunas bus card for a Žiogas eBus-ticket profile

Not long after I got my Kaunas bus card, I took my first bus trip in Kaunas to only God remembers where. One evening, when I had almost used up the initial 5 € on my bus card, I recharged the card at the Narvesen retail shop in the Kaunas bus station. The cashier took my bus card from me and in three seconds, the transaction was done. I was a bit worried though when she gave me a slip of paper and referred to it as a ticket. I feared that I might have bought a 5 € paper ticket instead of having my card wallet loaded with that amount. However, when I took a moment to sit and login to my online account, I discovered that contrary to my fears, I now had 5 € more in my Kaunas bus wallet.

Another evening in early November 2019, I was about to get on my way back from an appointment in another part of Kaunas where I had traveled to by bus. I checked my online bus account and saw that I had only 70 cents left - just enough money for a one-off bus trip. However, I had noticed from my previous bus trips that sometimes, it takes a few minutes for the balance of the bus card to synchronize to the online account. So I feared that I might actually not have enough money to take a bus trip back home.

Fortunately, there was an IKI retail shop close to my location. I walked into the store and asked a uniformed staffer who was busy with some shelf arrangement to confirm if I could reload my Kaunas bus card in that store. "Unfortunately, you cannot do that here", she said. Disappointed, I walked back out of the store onto a sidewalk inside the same 'prematurely' dark Tuesday evening where I had stood earlier while checking my online bus account.

Žiogas: Kaunas bus tickets mobile app

After taking a few moments to contemplate my next steps, I remembered that Eglė, my main contact at Afriko had mentioned on the Digital Explorers Lithuanian culture training day that we could use a mobile app: Žiogas to buy bus tickets. I went on to download the Žiogas app from the Play store to my Tecno Android phone and loaded it with 3.5 € - enough money for 5 trips. Ever since that evening, I have abandoned the Kaunas bus card in my wardrobe on a shelf on my home wardrobe, as the convenience of funding the Žiogas app outstrips that of the bus card. 

Thinking about it, I can actually also fund my bus card wallet online. But ever since I tried to do that and abandoned the payment, the button for online funding of my bus card has disappeared from my profile on the website. Apparently I need to complete that payment which I have no easy way of finding my way to ever again.

One thing I quickly noticed about the Žiogas app which I liked was that it actually adds up the amounts of your one-off bus tickets in a calendar month until it's up to the price of a monthly bus pass, after which all your subsequent trips will be free. I like this because it actually removes the incentive to buy a monthly pass upfront at no extra cost. Sweet deal!

I don't take a lot of bus trips in Kaunas so I've never spent up to 28 € for one-off tickets in a month

Cross section of your typical bus trip in Kaunas

1. Planning your Kaunastic bus trip

A bus trip in Kaunas always starts in the mind and then proceeds to your phone or computer. If you have never been to a place in Kaunas, days ahead, you would consult Google maps and apply some considerations to the different routes that are applicable for the intended arrival date+time:
  • How long does it take to walk to the target bus-stop?
  • How long is the trip for?
  • How long is the walk from the target bus-stop to my final destination?
  • What side of the road is the bus-station on; will you have to cross the road on your way to/from the source/destination bus-stop?
  • Is the destination close enough and the roads level enough for you to cycle in sub-10 degrees Celsius weather?
Based on a combination those considerations, you would then make a mental note of your preferred route and if the search was done on a PC, send the route as a push notification or text message to your phone.

2. Waiting for your Kaunastic bus

The next step is to remember to get yourself out of the house or office early enough to reach the bus-station at least, 5 minutes before the scheduled departure time. Yes. Even though the buses are more often than not, either right on time or at most, 1 or 2 minutes late, it has happened a few times when you reached the bus stop just a few seconds short of catching the bus, even though you were 1.50 minutes early according to the schedule on the maps.

Enough of you for a minute. My most frequent bus stations to leave from in Kaunas are:
  • S. Daukanto gatve - the closest stop to work at TransUnion, Zalgiris arena; howbeit a long 7-minute walk away
  • Kaunakiemio gatve - a paltry 2-minute walk away from home; the closest stop to home
  • Geležinkelio tiltas: This is a 5-minute walk away from home; the second closest stop to home
Except for once in a blue moon, you often have to walk between 3 and 10 minutes from your departure point to the nearest bus stop. Once there, you step under the bus stop shelter in the hopes that they do something to reduce the effect on the cold wind on your real temperature feel while you await the bus. You would consider sitting on the chair in the shade but a look at them suggests that it's been a while since anyone bothered to clean it. 

So you stand in wait, hoping that the data in Google maps is accurate and that your wait this evening is not in vain. Sometimes, your paranoia would drive you to open Trafi (another bus mobile app which also has local bus routes) and confirm that the suggested route matches that on Google maps - the one that told you to come to this stop in the first place.

Your first impression of waiting for a bus in Kaunas is cold hands. Those few seconds of bringing out your phone to cross-reference your bus route on Trafi often cost some precious body heat from your poorly circulated hands.

3. Getting on board your Kaunastic bus

With up to a 2-minute error rate, your bus will arrive at the bus stop right on time. It always fills you with relief; seeing the bus approach from the distance. Even after 4 months, you have not been able to do away with your fear that the schedule might change because for example, the bus broke down at the previous stop.

As the bus slows down to let alighting and boarding passengers do their thing, you divert your attention to the Žiogas sticker close to the front door on the right side of the bus. While waiting, you had taken a moment to open the Žiogas app. The Žiogas sticker displays a 3-digit code and a QR code, either of which can be entered or scanned respectively into the Žiogas app on your phone. 

As it takes some time to scan a QR code and people typically hurry into the bus, you memorize the bus code at a glance of the sticker and enter it into Žiogas at the same time as you step onto the bus. By the time you're passing by the driver's cabin, your one-off ticket is ready for inspection. You turn your phone screen around and show it briefly to the driver through his tall cabin window - if they are paying any attention and not just staring straight ahead.

Most times, the Kaunastic driver seems not to care about your in-app e-ticket. You never used to display your ticket to the driver until that one time when you had the driver request to see your ticket after you'd breezed through him to a seat right behind him. During that trip, you read the instructions poster in the bus and learned from it your obligation as a passenger to display your ticket to the driver while boarding.

[Picture of Žiogas bus sticker with QR code]

The boarding process is a little different if you're using a Kaunas bus card. In that case, there is no ticket to show to the driver. Instead, you would simply have to tap your bus card against one of the yellow NFC scanners on the bus: right by the driver's cabin or near the back of the bus. This was the case for me in my first several weeks in Kaunas before I ditched my card for Žiogas.

[Picture of Kaunas bus NFC card reader]

After ensuring that you are not a freeloader on the current bus, the next priority is to find yourself a good spot for the rest of the trip. As it appears that the people of Lithuania generally love their personal space, your ideal seat is a vacant two-seater and that is what you try to spot initially. If that is not available, the next option is to find a seat next to a person who based on mental heuristics, is least likely to be flustered by having you seat beside them.

If I could guess, I would say that a friendly face/welcoming aura is the most important factor in this calculation. Which in your opinion is not so easy to come by. Your understanding of a friendly face is... far fetched from what generally obtains in this new home of yours. Or maybe you're just paranoid; still have not recovered from the culture shock.

4. Riding on a Kaunas city bus

The seats are pretty comfortable; wide enough for an average person to sit comfortably. Also, while not all the seats have a lot of leg room for vertically gifted folks like yourself, it's easy to find that kind of seat on any bus that is not much more than half full - which is often the case in Kaunas judging by your bus trips so far. 

The most crowded bus that I myself have boarded since my arrival in Lithuania last October was in Vilnius last Friday on my way back from a Digital explorers Deep Learning training at the Vilnius Tech Park. The bus travelling towards the Vilnius Stotis stop was so full that it felt like I was in an Oshodi Molue all over again. However, after 4 or 5 stops, the crowding reduced and I was able to find myself a seat.

Most of the bus trips that you take are 30 minutes long - or more or less. Anywhere that is not that far away by bus is likely better reached on foot or by bicycle. During these short bus trips, you would spend your time doing one of three things:
  • Taking in the faces of the people around you, hoping not to catch anyone's eye because someone might find that creepy?
  • If the bus trip is up to 30 minutes long, you might pop out a physical book to occupy your mind and make you look smart to absolutely no one
  • Sometimes you also enjoy looking out the window to get a better sense of your new city
Knowing that all of these are activities that you quite enjoy, I dare to say that many an intra-city bus trip in Kaunas passes too quickly for you.

5. Alighting from a Kaunas city bus

But as an adult, you've got to do what you've got to do. You noticed from your first couple of bus trips that passengers would move from their seat to a standing position close to one of the two exit doors of the regular sized Kaunas bus/trolleybus. At first, you thought, "Why the rush? Why not just wait till the bus arrives at your target stop, then walk briskly from your seat to the exit?". However you stopped asking this question and just learned to follow suit after that time when the driver opened the door at your target stop and closed it almost immediately before you reached the exit door. Just before opening the doors, he must have seen from his camera and/or convex mirror view that no one was standing at the door to alight.

As you always have Google maps navigation on during your Kaunas city bus trips, the voice would prompt you one or two stops before your final stop to prepare to alight which is really useful as there is the thin chance that you get carried away reading a book and also not hear the stop announcement since you always have your ears blocked with headphones.

Ears covered with headphones on a Kaunas city bus

That one time I encountered passenger control in Kaunas

In the "getting on board" section of this article, you might have noticed that there is easy opportunity to be a freeloader on a bus trip in Kaunas. 

First, if you're using a bus card, you have total justification to enter through the back door after which you have the choice to tap (or not) your card against the reader as there is no official on the bus to get you to do that. Even if you are using the Žiogas app, the driver more often than not looks like they don’t care to see your e-ticket or if they do, do not scrutinize it. Hence, even if you are going through the front door, you can choose to just walk past the driver's cabin if you notice that the driver is not intent on the queue of passengers streaming through the front door.

The white passenger-control bus has "Keleivių kontrolė" written in blue just above the window. The red bus (taking off) has just been checked for freeloaders
The Kaunas city bus transport company's response to the ever-present risk of freeloaders is a system known as Passenger control - Keleivių kontrolė. This is a group of uniformed officials who drive in a labelled minibus between bus stations, conducting random checks on the passengers of buses/trolleybuses that stop at whatever bus station they happen to be at. 

To be found on a bus without a valid ticket or e-ticket is to be liable to pay a fine of up to 30 Euros. Despite this control measure, it is pretty clear to see that the Kaunas bus transport operation is relying mostly on the propensity of the commuter to do what is right. I have been in Kaunas for 16 weeks now and in all that time - after at least 20 bus trips - I've had only one encounter with passenger control officials. 

If someone is really intent on freeloading, it is pretty easy because they could simply keep watch from the window and buy an e-ticket as soon as they spot a passenger control bus at the next stop which is rarely. Every other time - most of the time, they actually get the chance to travel for free. But I guess that's not how Kaunas people do, so this trust based system works just fine. In Kaunas, I have encountered several instances of public systems that betray an assumption of trust on the public, but my impression of this unfamiliar reality deserves an article of its own.

My cold-room experience on an old Kaunastic Trolleybus

An old Kaunas trolley bus - KaunasIn
Two weeks ago, on the way back from an appointment in another part of Kaunas, I took bus 14 from the Pakraščio g. stop to the S. Daukanto g. stop where I had parked my bicycle when leaving home base a couple of hours earlier. From the street art on the trolley bus, I could tell that it was an old bus, perhaps one of those that had been in an exhibition in Kaunas in late 2019.

After settling into the bus, I removed my gloves and unzipped my jacket as I am wont to do when I step into a newer model Kaunas bus/trolleybus - whose internal temperature is always conducive for that. However, after sitting for a few minutes in this case, I realized that instead of getting warmer, I was actually feeling colder! Well, the moment I realized this, I promptly jumped back into my warm clothing (winter jacket and woolen gloves).

Inside an old Kaunas bus with a cold interior temperature

My Vilnius bus trips compared to Kaunas bus trips

Two Saturdays ago, I traveled from Kaunas to Vilnius by train for a Digital Explorers machine learning training. From the Stotis bus stop (right outside the Vilnius train station), I had boarded a bus to Sauletekis Valley Science and Technology park - training center. A few things about this bus trip were different from the typical one in Kaunas.

For one, the mobile app for buying tickets in Vilnius is Trafi (versus Žiogas in Kaunas) - I had first learned of this difference from Emmanuel (a fellow Digital explorer who lives and works in Vilnius) during one of our training sessions in Kaunas. The Trafi wallet operates quite differently from the Žiogas one in that while you have to buy one or multiple one-off tickets (or other types of longer-period tickets) in Trafi while paying, Žiogas allows you to fund your wallet with any amount and buy tickets only when you're checking in to a bus. Hence, while you can have a one-off ticket that is not attached to any bus in Trafi, all one-off Žiogas tickets are attached to a single bus number.

Another major difference between the Vilnius and Kaunas mobile bus e-tickets is that while for Kaunas, a one-off ticket is valid for a single trip irrespective of how long it is, the Vilnius one is only valid for either 30 minutes or 60 minutes. This means that as a passenger, one needs to do the added trouble of mapping the expected length of their trip to a ticket that covers for that period; if they are not a dishonest freeloader that is.
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9 December 2019

Hafiz Adewuyi

By hook or by crook, you will achieve this goal on your own

Just a minute ago, while folding the clothes from my weekend laundry, I found myself thinking about an upcoming Christmas party being organized by a couple of fellow Digital Explorers who live together in a big Kaunas city center flat, just five minutes drive away from mine.

I received communication from the organizers this evening that each of the 11 (or 12 😪) Digital Explorers currently in Lithuania will be contributing 15 Euros to fund the party. It's not a lot of money, but also I would not call it a pittance. In fact, we had one or two explorers protesting that the price tag for the party was a little steep.

Anyway, my idle mind lapsed into gear F (frugal) mode and its first quest was to justify my parting with 15 Euros for a plate of Jollof rice and fried meat. Not much to my surprise, my mind's answer at the end of that quest was that a secondary reward for me would be to have a granular view into how the funds for the party will be spent. 

Not because I suspect that the funds (which as a whole, cannot solve any significant financial problem for any Digital explorer) will be misappropriated, but because standing in one corner of my living room tonight, my mind had already created a beautiful picture of an article through which I open-source Christmas house-party planning information. I dreamed of how majestic the article would be if I could make it just as juicy (detailed) as this beautiful creation from the stables of Paystack where they shared their journey of setting up billboards in Lagos, Nigeria for the first time.

The next thing I thought was, "yes, before I send my contribution for that party, I will demand that the organizers ensure that they keep all the receipts and take out the time to share all line items with the rest of us once the budget is closed". After a few seconds though, I spotted the folly of this idea. It isn't hard for me to imagine how approaching my goal this way can easily lead to conflict when one or two of the organizers feels disrespected by concluding that the reason for my request is that I suspect that funds might be misappropriated. 

This one time, I feel lucky to be an over-thinker (I was last reminded of this part of my nature last Thursday by my date at the Ten Walls and the Lithuanian State Symphony Orchestra concert in Zalgiris arena, Kaunas). Apart from feeling insulted, I understand that it can be difficult to remain meticulous when you have a lot to handle, which would definitely be the case for the party's organizers the moment they start to shop for the party. I was not optimistic that any of the organizers would be stoked to take on the 'pointless' responsibility of storing up receipts and extracting line items from each of them. After all, we are all contributing the same amount of money.

Again, without prompting me, my mind switched to gear H (humane) and quickly revealed to me that there is a natural and guaranteed conflict-free way for me to achieve my goal of having bird's eye view of the financial planning of this party. 

"Easy, just let them know you would like to assist with the planning of the party. That way, you can have access to the receipts without ruffling any feathers. Win-win. Also, new experience as you have never planned a party in your life and you definitely need to take more social initiatives in this dreary life of yours".



Finally, my mind went to gear N (nostalgia), taking me back to one hot Lagos afternoon in 2015. At the time, I was a software developer at Fidelity Bank head office and I was having a chat with Nnanna (my manager) in his office. It was about some work milestone which I was struggling to reach because I was having trouble enlisting the necessary help of another team in the bank (probably the really difficult to work with systems administration team).

I was there to have him intervene on the matter as an oga-at-the-top, as I had faced a bit of resistance in trying to get the team to grant me my wish. However, he insisted that the responsibility of getting the systems admin. team to grant me my request falls solely on me this time.

The phrase which stays with me from that interaction with Nnanna and often replays in my head when I ponder how I handle many a difficult situation in my life these days is: 

"Whether it is that you will go and fight with them or whether you want to make friends with them to achieve this goal, it is entirely up to you. All I know is that you must get this done and I will not step in to help you".

For that particular difficult situation at my work, even though I can't remember the specific details or even how the issue was finally resolved, I know instinctively that I chose to take the friendly, rather than aggressive approach in getting the systems admin. team to help me out. Most likely because I was sure that even if by some sheer stroke of luck (I had zero authority over anyone in systems admin. and also did not consider myself capable of intimidating anyone), I had managed to achieve my goal in a violent way, it was not a sustainable way to work. It would poison me as well as the victims (or perhaps, just me the perpetrator) without commensurate reward.

Looking back, I realize how a lot of my philosophy today is built strongly on that foundation of seeking first to solve problems amicably. Of being willing to risk having my plug take advantage of my appearing to be at their mercy, instead of demanding my well-deserved way to a desired goal. Of not coming to the table floating on a cloud of entitlement, even if as a matter of fact, I am entitled to receive a certain favor from a person.
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21 November 2019

Hafiz Adewuyi

My favorite feature on Revolut: Request payment

Two Saturdays ago, I and three other fellow Digital Explorers took a Bolt cab together to a 'friend''s birthday party. I was the one who requested the ride, so at the end of the ride, a payment of €6.8 was deducted from my Revolut virtual card (which I now use for all online/in-app payments since I arrived in Lithuania). As we made our way towards the party house, I vocally broadcasted the total ride cost to the other explorers, as well as the per-head cost: €1.7.

Now, refunding me was pretty straightforward for everyone. Upon arrival in Lithuania, we had each opened a Revolut account. This was one of the few viable options for us, as we had found out (shortly before arrival) that to open an account with a Lithuanian bank with our class of visa, we would have to pay upwards of €100 to the bank (as account opening fee, not as account opening balance). On the other hand, it is completely free to open a fully-fledged European bank account with Revolut. Besides, Revolut lets you send money in a few simple steps to any other Revolut user anywhere in the world, as long as you have their phone number or there are somewhere nearby.

Because I really like money, know how easy it is for someone to forget a debt so insignificant and also, how wary I am of reaching out in person to remind someone to repay a debt (especially peanuts like €1.7), I became uneasy when 10 minutes into the event, not one of the explorers had sent me a refund.

By this time, every one else had settled either into playing the PES 2019 soccer game, being an enthusiastic spectator, doing jackshit on their phone or enjoying some of the treats at the birthday party. It was surely a bad time now to remind my micro-debtors to send my money (lest they forget all about it by the end of the day). At some point, I remembered the "Request payment" feature of Revolut which I had noticed many times before while using the "Send payment" feature.

Without further ado, I opened my Revolut app and sent e-invoices of €1.7 to each one of my three debtors, using a simple three-step process (Select contact => Enter amount => Request payment). There are two optional steps also (see picture below): you can add a description (narration) and a GIF!!!

Fancy how my mind won't let go of Bolt's old name: Taxify

The fact that you can add a GIF to a transaction is what I consider the icing on the cake of Revolut's peer-to-peer payment suite. In the case of requesting payment, for me, being able to add a GIF to a repayment request presents an unmatchable opportunity to introduce some humor, which mitigates the tension that can often surround financial exchanges such as the topic one.

While at it, I also requested payment from Abib* who had requested me to help buy him Aboniki balm and a tub of Vaseline petroleum jelly, shortly before leaving Lagos for Kaunas (he left Lagos for Kaunas a week before me). It was at least, 6 hours already since I had delivered the package to Abib and sent him the payment details (my Nigerian bank account) on WhatsApp, yet a quick check at the party revealed that the payment (however insignificant: ₦1100) was yet to be made. I kindly converted the payment to Euros at 400:1 and sent Abib a payment request on Revolut.

By the end of the day, I had received my 4 payments (3 from fellow Bolters, one from Abib), all without saying a single word to any of my debtors. Soft life 💯! There is no parallel universe but I would put a stake on the chance that at least, one of these 4 people would have needed me to remind them about their debt at least once within the next few days to not totally forget about it. I hope you see now, why I am stoked enough by this feature to spend 2 irredeemable hours of my mediocre life writing about it?

Interestingly, after the "Request payment" transactions had been finalized, Revolut automatically reminded me (through an in-app popup) of the "Split bill" feature - which would have significantly shortened the process of requesting refunds from my 3 co-Bolters. The Revolut "Split bill" feature allows me to select a single transaction from my Revolut debit history and split the amount between myself and any number of Revolut users in my address book.

Split a bill with other Revolut users

In recent days, I cannot help but think back home to Nigeria and how this kind of feature is long overdue, at least for the mobile banking app of many of the country's commercial banks. While I am not ignorant of the challenges to adoption that having 23 commercial banks with mobile apps which are for all practical purposes, isolated from one another, a "Request payment" feature would still be really handy for small groups which are by formulation, a cluster of a single bank's customers. Think a group of Access bank staff turned fine-dining/drinking buddies or a nuclear family that is loyal to GTBank.

Writing this story also reminds me of my not-so-long-ago days at Carbon when similar peer-to-peer payments were an almost daily occurrence between me and my colleagues. One of us would make a payment for some product or service on behalf of several others and we would simply have to settle him/her with a refund to his/her Carbon wallet.

Every so often, when I made a payment on behalf of Titi*, I usually would have to remind him in person at least, once and at the worst, up to two times, before I received a refund. In the period in-between two consecutive reminders, I would severally waive the instinct to remind Titi of his debt, telling myself: "Come on! You earn so much more than ₦700 - and probably Titi -, so you can easily waive this change. Abeg, let it go". Unarguably, my life would have been much easier back then if the Carbon app (which is a great app actually) had allowed me to request payment and/or split a bill, just like I can with Revolut. In addition, it would have spared me having to watch Titi vocally beat up himself for being so forgetful, whenever I reminded him of a debt, like 3 weeks after the fact.

* Name was changed for anonymity as I did not inform any of these persons before mentioning them in my story. IOW, be intentional in how you treat a writer, as you never know when you will end up as the subject of a story that the whole world can read. And they needn't be as discreet as I am being here 🦊.
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17 November 2019

Hafiz Adewuyi

Kaunas city municipality waste sorting guide - English

Two days ago (Friday), one day to the end of my sixth week in Kaunas, I observed with mild irritation the cluttered nature of my kitchen counter. The feeling was enough to drive me to do something about it this time. I started to pick up the items on the counter, one after the other, putting each one in its designated place. A few of the items on the counter were waste: paper towels, empty milk cartons and the likes.

In the process of deciding what to do with the empty milk cartons, my mind wandered back to my first major grocery shopping trip in Lithuania. A day after I arrived in Lithuania's capital city - Vilnius - Monika (a Lithuanian buddy) had graciously reached out to me and offered to be my grocery shopping guide. The grocery trip happened on my third evening in Kaunas, and the destination was the Maxima XXX store in the Kaunas Akropolis.

During that trip, when it was time to buy waste bags, I got to know that Monika - my human shopping guide - shared my affection for the environment and its conservation. The moment I reached for the default black bag that I am used to, she asked if we had waste recycling bins back at my apartment. As far as I had seen, the biggest trash can in my flat had only one compartment. Besides, it was only my second day in the apartment, so I had yet to walk around my apartment block to know where the garbage bins stood.

Seeing that I was struggling to answer her question, she quickly excused herself, saying it was fine if I got the regular bag for now and came back for the recycling color-coded bags when I was well-settled in. "As a makeshift, you can get the green, bio-degradable plastic bags for now, which are way better for the environment than the black ones", she advised. I agreed.

A roll of green eco-friendly (tautology?) garbage bags

This Friday, while decluttering my kitchen counter, I decided that it's about time I started doing my bit on this recycling thing. A few weeks ago during a walk round the block, I had spotted the regular garbage bins as well as the three large and brightly-colored bins in the area behind my apartment block. "No more obstacles now, apart from getting the color-coded garbage bags".

Kaunas municipality waste recycling bins on Kaunakiemio street, Centras, Kaunas
L-R: Green - Glass, Yellow - Plastics and metals, Blue: Papers and cardboards
Right away, a wrote a new to-do item into my small notepad to get waste recycling bags on my next visit to the grocery store. The next day though, before I could do that, I figured that I could simply use some of the plastic and paper bags which I have accumulated from different shopping trips. Each time any of the bags for the recyclables was full, I would simply transfer its contents into the appropriate municipality recycling bin, and re-use the same bag for as long as it holds.

The next and final step was to be sure I was sorting my waste correctly. The stickers on each of the recycling bins display some textual instructions for what was items are allowed and prohibited. Unfortunately, the text is in Lithuanian and I'm still at the beginning of my journey in learning the basics of the language.

Logically, I went online to find Kaunas waste sorting instructions. My search led me, first, to a webpage belonging to - what I assume is - the biggest waste-management company in Kaunas (Kauno Švara). There, I found 4 nice infographic flyers, with image and text instructions on what does and what doesn't fall into each of the four categories of waste: Glass (Stiklas), Plastics and Metals (Plastmase), Paper and cardboard (Popierius/Kartonas) and General household waste (Mišrios Komunalinės Atliekos).

While the images on the Kauno Švara infographics were useful in helping me realize my culpability for gross-misconduct in my recent waste-sorting activities at the office which has indoor recycling bins (I had been putting used paper towels into the Paper and cardboard section of the bin), the infographic text, again, was not of much use to me as it was also in Lithuanian.

Hence, I continued my search for waste sorting guides in Kaunas which did not take long to lead me to a PDF file containing the same sorting instructions on the Kaunas municipality recycling bins and on the Kauno Švara infographics, again in Lithuanian 😁. This was a huge step forward though, as it is not much of a hassle to copy text from a PDF into Google translate. I decided that after translating the Kaunas waste sorting PDF guide for myself, it would be useful to make the English version public as well. Ergo, here we are!

Here's the link to the English version of the Kaunas city municipality waste sorting guide, which I translated from Lithuanian to English with immense help from Google Translate. Hopefully, in the near future, one or two fellow tree-hugging, English-speaking foreigners in Kaunas find this useful.
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