Saturday, October 23, 2010

Life in October

Greetings all!
Well, another almost two weeks have passed and I have continued to enjoy my life here thoroughly. The past several weeks have been very chill which I have enjoyed immensely. Teaching continues to be a challenge daily, finding how to reach out to my surly, slightly too-cool-for school students, keeping things at least interesting for my students whose mother language is English (while showing them that their written work needs a lot of help!). Whewww, always interesting. It is also funny that some of the students who are famed to be the worst ARE indeed a big challenge but other times, students who are supposed to be a big challenge end up being rather easy-going and not too rough. impossible to predict is what I am starting to learn Also, I am getting a lot of practice trying to figure out when to stick it to the kids and get them in trouble so that they learn a lesson and when to cut deals with them to try to coax better behavior out of them. So far, I seem to have had more success than failure but... who really knows! hmmm, otherwise during the week, my two choirs are going excellently, I continue to enjoy my tutoring, and that pretty much makes up my week. Oh, of course, I also enjoy long convos with with Shelly on Tuesdays and/or Fridays and whatever other conversations I get to have with friends far away!
Last weekend was a nice chill weekend, I had planned to go hiking but honestly was just super tired so I slept! I relaxed in the apartment, chilled out, got grading done, and did laundry. Oh, of course, Fridays I have practice from somewhere around 10 or 10:30-depends when the team before leaves till about midnight. I am having a great time at practice, just to get back out onto a field with guys who love the sport and want to play. Overall, I don't feel out of place except with my language skills! I think I've mentioned this but one guy, Dany, has really taken me under his wing and just been super friendly. Before practice our habit is to grab a quick cafe solo (aka an espresso shot) and then afterwards grab a beer-you wouldn't want to actually LOSE calories through the whole practice saga! haha. Some of the people are actually really cool, one kid was even scouted by sevilla when he was younger but unfortunately got into some trouble and therefore never got to play at a higher level for them. Some of the guys, like Dany, are a bit older and therefore can't play in 1st division anymore and some of the people just like playing! I am playing with the second division squad which I have been really enjoying, we always have a good time. I will get to sign a contract in December and then, if I cut it, move up to first division but they said since I'll be officially starting in the middle of the year, it's doubtful I'll play for first division unless I stayed next year. Whatever though, it's cool and it sounds like I will get to play in the country's cup competition which, if you win, lands you a place in the Uefa cup, which is pretty sweet! :-) If you ever care to follow along the league, you can check out the website here:
This weekend will be some work-I began recording my kids' voices and now I need to start going through them analyzing them all... ugh, it will take forever but I think it'll be useful to both them and to me as I try to help them learn to improve their english. This weekend is also Andorra la Vella's "fira" which is a big fair-I htink mostly commerical and food but it should be a fairly good time. I am going to go this evening to volunteer with a group that is selling raffle tickets to raise money for non-profits here. It should be interesting trying to sell raffle tickets to people in Catala since I don't speak it very well.... oh well! I am also going to stop by my students' booth-as children everywhere, my 4th years are raising money for their big trip to Italy at the end of the year and they are selling something or other at the fair so I'll stop by and support them I spose. I think this afternoon I am also going to grab coffee with Antoine-a cool, new, French teacher at my school before all the fair stuff. Then, there is talk of going out dancing tonight although I got my toe cleated pretty badly last night-little blood, nasty bruise and I'm a bit worried about the actual toenail so after having walked around the fair for a bunch of hours I might be just about done in. hmmmm, oh that reminds me, I got new cleats for the first time in 5 or so years I believe and it was awesome! :-) I got a pair of umbros which were on sale for 50 euros and am very pleased with them, my feet were a bit sore since it was the first wearing of them but they feel real good and the motion really did seem nicer in them.
Just so everyone knows, I am one of the luckiest people ever and at the end of this week I am going to get to go to Edinburgh Scotland for 2 or so days before going to Aberdeen with my dear friend Megan Mchaney from high school!!!! how cool is that? I will be in Scotland from Oct. 28th to November 3rd at which point my blessed life continues with me going to London to visit Allison. I look forward to being one of the few of Megan's high school classmates to discover her world and then getting to repay the wonderful visit I got from Allison and Dave two weeks ago. how cool is my life? Obviously this means that I will probably not blog post again for a while as I will be on the road for those two weeks and then I will get in late Sunday so although I won't rule out the possibility of a post, don't count on it! Thanks, as always, for following along on my journey and I treasure the knowledge that my friends and family world-wide can follow along with my life since I can't talk to each and everyone of you individually! I enjoy your posts here on my blog, my email or facebook so! thanks for reading.
 Peace and Love from the Principality,
Mark Titus

Monday, October 11, 2010

Estonians, people hailing from London, a bloody irishman, and american mutts....

Well, life in the Principality continues to pop along quite nicely and excitingly. Changing trees, low-lying clouds, ridiculous children, wonderful visits, and a visitor-induced run! :-) That is the sparknotes but if you only read that you would probably fail my quizzes. My experience so far as a teacher is that students fail quizzes even when they are open note and are about #s when they are in the 3rd or 4th year of English... anyway, that's another story.

 Allison, Dave and I at the llac.

Last Monday, with my little hellions, went a lot better than expected and were actually pretty darn good. They were in way better behavior mode than the week before and so we got through it. We learned music and theatre vocab, listened to music and botched a bit of critical reading. So, unfortunately for my 4th year C class-about 10th grade, they are my first class, Monday morning. A) Monday mornings inevitably suck and weekend hangover is rough. B) they are my first guinea pigs for my new lesson. Let me remind you that this is my first year teaching so... things don't always happen like I imagine them going to. Anyway, so, that poor kids kinda get a rough deal but luckily for me they are overall great kids who mostly want to learn English so that makes my life easier. Tuesday through Friday happened. Really, not all that much to report here but... it was aight.... Wednesday afternoon the school informed me that I had to be there for an hour I didn't expect. In the end, I actually didn't really have to be there and really it was mostly a waste of time and a stress inducer because I was supposed to meet two girls for tutoring at 5 pm before another kid at 6:30. In the end, I was late to just about everything meaning I refused to charge the one lady my full price cause I was 45 minutes late... beh, any it was mostly just frustrating cause it was unexpected. Oh, Tuesday I was told that I needed to be ready for a new class on Wednesday with the english students. Luckily I knew about this already but just had no idea when it started. We only had 1 kid come last week because most didn't know it was happening yet but... whatever, it worked out great. The kid who did come is a great kid so that worked out well. After the bewildering late feeling day, I then had to go back to encamp (it's about 1 hour from where I tutor to where I teach in Encamp...) for parent-teacher conference. Thank God that as a student, I was convinced (and may have been right there) that my teachers knew me personally so well. I'm just going to say that with 130+ students, I only know both english and catalan plus last names for a few and they are either the best-behaved or the very worst behaved! haha... so, anyway, it went overall fairly well. Thursday night was excellent fun because I went to a new choir which I think I mentioned I was joining. It felt really good to be in an adult choir with people who really know what they are doing again... refreshing.
Okay, Friday was good because, it's Friday... what could possibly be bad??? 4 realz though... it was a solid day, did a bunch of shopping stuff, did not eat at school because it was rice with seafood stuff and I decided that a baguette would do just fine by me.... I managed to tick off a bunch of errands overall last week including finally becoming a legal resident (thank you uncle Dave for all that funkiness), and then pursuing to start a little savings account here so that I can try to make sure I don't just spend money considering however slim the salary here is, it is significantly larger than anything I have ever had on a long-term basis! Friday night was a potluck dinner at a teacher's house with all the other fulbrighters too. After about 1/2 an hour of trying to be my normal outgoing self, I retreated after much failure. Luckily, once more alcohol flowed and food occured, people were friendlier and we all had a great time. This is for you Matt Steen and co.-the man who "can sell a ketchup Popsicle to an old lady" failed totally and completely with the teacher get-together....
Saturday Allison and her friend (and now my new friend! :-) came at around 2:30. I slept late and even got to talk to my dear sister before they got here! :-). What a true blessing to have my 2nd round of visitors here.... how super cool is that?! We had lunch together at the apt. before heading out for a walk through the town, crowned by coffee (stressful, I know). then we went hiking up to llac (no, that is really how lake is spelled-french people should recognize that) Engolasters which is part of a UNESCO world heritage site here in Andorra. It wasn't a long hike but I won't lie, I was huffing and puffing pretty darn good! We hitchhiked our way back to town (the dude dropped us almost right at our door!) and then got Portuguese chicken. If I haven't told you already about Portuguese chicken, I apologize. This is probably-wait, no, definitely-the best chicken I have ever had in my entire life and probably just about the cheapest food you can get in andorra. An entire chicken costs 9 euors. In fact though, no matter what when I have left there, I have paid 8 euros with a beer, fries and rice included with that cost and full! me... full!?!?!?!?! it's awesome! :-) So, we had deliciousness then went out dancing at the one club that we have ventured to in Andorra-latin club so lots of salsa and other cool dances that I just fake to have fun.
Sunday was another excellent day albeit a short night's sleep beforehand. Allison kindly accompanied me to church that happens once a month and it was FANTASTIC. Allison made all sorts of random coincidence connections with this one family there which is awesome cause it shows you how small this world is. The rest of the day revolved around eating-leftovers with Robert, a neighbor from across the street and actually an ex-fulbrighter-and his boyfriend. Then, we went to a cafe to plot dinner-an extravaganza that was delicious beyond all means. Then we went to the store to get all the foods, things necessary for our dinner. We had breakfast for dinner. :-) For 12 or so people! :-) We had hashbrowns-yes, detail is needed-with green pepper, red pepper, onions and enough butter to fill my arteries until I'm 50. then we had scrambled eggs with many of the same ingredients that were fabulous. That's it... JUST KIDDING!, we also had pancakes... what kind of pancakes do you ask? oh, pancake choices with apples, mulberries, strawberries, whipped cream, chocolate chip pancakes, banana-filled pancakes, simple maple syrup with butter or I guess, you could of just ahd them plain! It was a scrumptious feast. This is where the Estonians come in. Our friend Will-the bloody Irishman as I normally call him-is a proud member of couchsurfing and had 4 estonians staying with him this weekend so they came along. so there were the 4 of us who live here, ALlison and dave, the 4 estonians, Robert, and the bloody irishman which I believe makes 12. Unfortunately the 5th current fulbrighter couldn't make it due to previous dinner engagement. It was overall a pretty nuts time filled with food, tea, estonians drinking absynth like it was coke, and a lot of laughs. They proved to be wonderful guests and although cleaning up all the dishes and general kitchen mess sucked it was TOTALLY worth it. At one point in the dinner, I looked around and thought how cool it was that a dear friend from college of mine, one of her best friends, 3 new fulbright friends, 4 random estonians, a kid from Arkansas, and a bloody irishman were all able to connect so well over food, and fellowship. pretty darn cool, eh? Pretty lucky lives we get to leave!
Today, the show started again, but Monday and Tuesday are half days because half of Spain invades to shop because it's a holiday over there-thank you Spain.
This week is theoretically going to be "normal" and with a "normal" weekend. Also, I was proud of myself, I managed to resist getting involved with a 3rd choir! :-) I was so proud of myself....
Peace and Love from the Principality
PS-for those who believe understandably that I never exercise unless it's a sport. I ran-because my visitors wnated to and therefore I had reason to go (to talk) and we ran for 30 minutes. Thank goodness I got that over with for the next couple months... I proved my legs can still move for that long so now it's time to vegetate until I have to prove myself again. One day I will fail this test... then I have no idea how I'll react!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Another update

Hello. Well, Andorra continues to be Andorra, all sorts of randomness that goes on here. Life is settling itself out. So, I will try to give you a glimpse of what my life is like now, what I'm doing etc.
My classes continue to go fairly well. Some fun factoids: many of my kids cannot complete sentences, even very basic phrases, one of my students mooned my class, I have one girl who spends the entire class quizzically looking at me, a few who speak neither spanish, french, Catalan, or english, and a few who are just flat-out crazy behavior-wise. To be fair, the vast majority of my students are fairly good kids, who aren't necessarily great at english, or even all that driven but they are overall good kids who don't give me too much trouble. I have a few students who are just fantastic, fun kids who are trying hard and are honestly interested in learning English. It is always very rewarding to teach these guys/girls. I find myself enormously entertained on a daily basis by 14-16 year olds. what a fun/hilarious/kinda ridiculous age. I also continue to enjoy the teachers around me who are driven to help these kids succeed despite the challenges and despite the fact that some of the kids don't seem to be interested in learning. My english department is really fun and strong, and I continue to form a particularly strong relationship with another new professor named Cesar who taught in Texas for 3 years before 1 year in Barcelona and now he's here. His desire for students to get a good education is so apparent and he has been very helpful to me. We got to have coffee last week one morning and he gave me a ride back from Barcelona the weekend Shelly and I went there. Hopefully in the next couple weeks I will get the opportunity to meet some other teachers outside of class but time is definitely stretched.
Now I tutor 3 or 4 students (waiting on confirmation on the 4th) 1 time each a week so that takes about 6 hours total with commute included. I now also sing in 2 different choirs, and when my ankle is fully recovered I will be practicing with a soccer team twice a week. Luckily on Wednesday mornings and Friday mornings I can chill a bit because I only have class in the afternoon. Still, though when you get home at 10:30 at night having left at 7:15 it definiely wears you out. My classes on Monday are my most challenging but that is good cause it means the week gets better as time goes on. haha
Last weekend I got to have a wonderful time with the Wichtermanns who first introduced me to Andorra in 2004! I got to spend some time at their lovely house with their kids (it was their twins' 18th birthdays) so it was very pleasant to be with a family and have lovely home-made food. It was a quick trip as I left Friday night and came back Sunday night but it was definitely fun. This past week breezed by with incredible speed. And yesterday, the 2nd of October, I went hiking with Amanda (one of my roomates), Frieda (another fulbrighter) and we climed Mt. Coma Pedrosa which is the highest peak in Andorra at 2,946 meters. I didn't expect the hike to be as hard as it actually was but it was UNBELIEVABLY gorgeous. I may not get a chance right now to attach photos but I will at some point and some and more will be coming are already on facebook. It has been a nice weekend after a week which definitely tired me out. I had some serious blond moments this weekend. Which reminds me-in, I do believe it's Bulgaria or another central european nation-there is a blonde movement with national holidays and companies that only employ blondes in an effort to fight the stereotype of blondes being silly. For example, they are making a resort island where EVERYONE who works there and on the planes that bring you there are blond.... weird, eh? Anyway, I was definitely scatterbrained. Okay, that is about all the time I have for now, I have spent my sunday washing clothes, getting food, making lunch, and now I'm going to go watch Arsenal play. Next Sunday I can finally make it to church at the Anglican church which shoot be good. :-) Thank you guys for your thoughts, your prayers, and for your friendship. I hope that my blog isn't too boring and check back later for photos. :-)
Peace and Love from the Principality.