James "Chip" Adomanis, resource teacher for the county schools' social studies and gifted and talented programs, traveled to Europe this summer in search of his roots.
Mr. Adomanis is of Lithuanian descent, but does not speak the language and had never visited the old country, from which his grandfather emigrated in 1888.
And after a two-week visit this summer, his conclusion? It's great to be an American.
"I told everyone that this was an experience that all Americans should go through so that when they come home to the United States, they'll kiss the ground," Mr. Adomanis said.
"Nothing works," he said. "Water that you can't drink. I can do a whole series on toilets in Lithuania, because nothing's been cleaned for years. You have to experience the toilets to know what I'm talking about, because most houses don't have indoor plumbing. Most of the toilets haven't been cleaned since they've been installed, so it's pitch black inside."
Visitors to Lithuania should not expect the amenities we've become accustomed to in this country, he said.
"Although we stayed in the so-called four-star hotels, there was no hot water in Lithuania, because the Russians cut off the gas," he said. The last Russian combat units left Lithuania at the end of August.
"The Russians . . . basically took anything that was valuable. And if they couldn't carry it, they broke it," Mr. Adomanis said. "They took knobs off sinks and all kinds of crazy stuff."
Mr. Adomanis, who lives in Arnold, made the trip with his father and 18 of his cousins, many of whom were landowners who left the country prior to World War II. Some of them returned to their former homes, and found they had been taken over by collective farms during the Soviet occupation.
The present occupants "were very concerned that they were going to be thrown off the land when they found out who we were," Mr. Adomanis said.
And they were able to locate plenty of relatives, mostly in Siauliai, in the central part of the country.
"Most of the people who went on the trip had direct descendants who they were able to keep in contact with for over 50 years," he said.
Mr. Adomanis, who gives workshops to county school teachers, has put together a kit containing 400 slides he took depicting street life, modern life, architecture and archaeology.
He also bought as many artifacts as he could: traditional Lithuanian clothing, handicrafts, artwork and jewelry.
Plus he brought back things "that would be run of the mill to us every day, but with a Lithuanian slant to it," including a book of Walt Disney cartoons in which the characters speak Lithuanian.
He uses his materials in presentations he gives to teachers and students.
Mr. Adomanis notes that the lessons fit in nicely with the seventh-grade cultural geography curriculum.
And the trip sparked a bit of self-discovery.
For one thing, he found that his last name is spelled incorrectly, probably due to a transcription error when his grandfather immigrated to America: it should be Adomunas.
"I never really knew much about the Lithuanian side of my family," he said. "But this really kind of sparked my interest, and I'm probably going to go back this summer."
His new awareness has also sparked new connections here in Anne Arundel County.
"I've run into people I've known for years who are Lithuanian," he said. "I never knew it."