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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