Saturday, November 27, 2010

Whattup all

November 27th. Can you believe it?
I certainly find it hard to believe that I have been here nearly 3 months! Somedays it feels like I have been here for years and other days I feel like I just got here... strange, right? The last two weeks have been blissfully quiet, and low-key, and relatively cheap! :-) Right after I blogged last time, I went with Antonio to a Barcelona versus Villareal game at the Nou Camp and it was AMAZING. Seeing as I don't really follow la liga, I can't personally vouch for this but we were told it was one of the best games, and certainly I thought it was action-packed. For all those who don't like football because lack of goals (Mark Henjum-i'm looking at you.... :-) the score was 3-1 for Barcelona with Messi getting a brace. Great time. We just went down for the day, leaving at 1:15 from here for the game at 22 hours and then spent the night at a hostel before returning to the Great Principality the next evening.
I spent good chunks of time that weekend and the following working on grades which was... uninspiring to say the least but, it had to be done! In my 3rd years, I have 16 kids failing, and 16 kids who are squeaking by with 50s, but there are only a few who are also failing participation so that's good. My fourth years are doing well though, for the most part, I think it's because their quiz was a lot easier. I know this may sound cruel but I got a lot of satisfaction from giving my troublemaker kids because it sobered them up a lot. A number of them, I think, thought my joke was a complete joke, they didn't think it would really count and therefore were just screwing around but now they realize it means something, they were fairly good last week. Oh, also since my last post I had my first/second outbreak as a teacher. One of my classes is particularly whiny and they were complaining about everything including my class, teachers etc. so I just laid out on them and told them the truth: that they are SUPER lucky cause their school conditions are baller, and I didn't let them talk at all while I was talking. That also seemed to sober them up. Lector Marco getting worked up wasn't something they had really seen and I don't think they were big fans, haha. The last two weeks in general have seemed to be going well. I have a few kids who have told me that they are enjoying class, a few who have been pretty bad seem to be MAYBE starting to turn the corner and be less irritating, and a few who probably will always be thorns for whatever reason but I think slowly but surely I am getting better and dealing with those situations. I am confident that I have a ton more mistakes to make and will continue to have issues but it feels good to have a few good times. Last Monday, our school went to a domestic violence awareness theatre thing and let me just tell you, field trips with jr./sr. high kids SOUND a lot more relaxing than they actually are... whewww... but, we only had one kid manage to escape and he ended up being fine, he just went home. Let's just say that 50 teenagers on a bus is a dangerous for the general public.... Good thing about it though, didn't have to teach my two toughest kids AND got out 1/2 early. Suhweet! :-)
Last weekend I was also lucky enough to get some free skis, poles, and boots from a lady at the protestant church that is held once a month. Her name is Clare and she has been very friendly and helpful since the first time I met her. Still waiting to hear about her and her husbands' drive from Singapore to London... Epic sounding, right? Or, her journey across Ireland with the family in a horse-drawn wagon... yah, that's right. Anyway, it was super generous, cause it turns out that my feet are the exact same size so they fit, are nice and old and beaten up minimizing the damage I'll do to them... Also, Antonio, kinda Thongdam, and I all watched Get him to the Greek which is really quite a funny movie and we also went to Pas de la Casa, just to do it. random fact, you have to go through France to get to Pas de la Casa... funny, eh? Oh, one other thing, learned via Antonio, how to save youtube songs onto my computer. nice! :-)
This weekend so far has been nice and chill. Football practice was really excellent yesterday despite it being -3/-4, I finally felt like I played well, probably only the 2nd time that I've actually played well. I found out that one of the centerbacks on our team was on the Porto kids team when he was young before leaving Portugal. Sweet, eh? which explains why he is probs. the best player on our team. anyway, I was happy. Also, after practice I went with Dani, Piedro, and the younger guy whose name I always forget... oops! and went to the normal portuguese "perv" bar-yah, that's what they're called and met up with Dani's wife, the younger guy's gf/wife, and another dude and played cards. I learned a game they call subir y bajar or rise and fall. it is really strange, and has funky rules but actually really fun too. I got home round 2ish-the other dudes work at 7 am, crazy, right? and then talked to Jez on g-phone for 45 minutes or so which was excellent. Oh yah, yesterday afternoon I did the vitally important task of selecting my best sunset/sunrise photos from the past (since I got a digital camera and a couple that I scanned) and making a folder for them. I've been meaning to update that since 2007, but just have never done it. Next on that list, I want to make one for my pictures of crosses.... stay tuned! haha.

Today, was a relaxing day with the main day-time activity being going to English mass in Ordino which was nice. Me and 80+ year olds plus a random American 40-50 year old I'd guess but didn't get a chance to talk to her. Quote of the day, "the Democratic State of Congo, I remember when I motored through it in... oh, let me see, 1949". yes, awesomeness for old British people who have done AMAZING things. I hope I have half as many cool things to talk about when I'm their age! coolio. Then, came back home, watched Arsenal pull out a nervy win over a spirited Aston Villa. Then, at 4 pm, Antonio and I headed out to Canillo to watch the Chinese Imperial Circus perform-on ice. It was pretty sweet, and albeit expensive, it was probably worth it. My highlight. four dudes doing synchronized worms over a giant jump rope held by two other dudes. yah, awesome. another highlight: in one "scene" there were these huge hula hoop kinda things being swung by two dudes and four girls were getting swung by their necks... crazy, right? simultaneous to the hula hoop thingies were three dudes in a giant hamster ball looking dealio. I realize that these descriptions mean nothing to you but... believe me when I say it was cool. Unfortunately, I did not bring my camera so no proof.
Tomorrow, I should go back out to Ordino to help the English community that is helping/putting on a fair and they need volunteers. I think I'll try to go out around 10:30 for a couple hours until 1:00 or so cause Clare told me that's when they need the most people. Then, I am going to try to get lesson planning done both for tutoring but also for the week of December 5th or so because next week on Wednesday we are hosting 3 fulbrighters from Madrid which will be awesome but since they'll be here for a week, I know more than to expect myself to get much work done. Those are my main goals, and yes, I do have a simple life... I know! My aim is also to shake whatever has been dogging me the last couple days, I am not sick I don't really think but I am not completely well either, I don't know what it is but something is keeping me from feeling fully healthy.
Thanksgiving-only really a big holiday in the US and Canada although I have discovered a few other places do celebrate it a bit. Ergo, I had to work Thanksgiving along with everyone else in europe. I did get chocolates for the teachers though in order to celebrate it in some way and when you throw After 10 mints, everyone loves American-only holidays! haha. To celebrate we had Pizza Hut pizza, fancy, right? haha Monday though, is our actual, big party and it should be good. We are having cocktails, dinner, some speeches and drinks etc. The US ambassador from Spain is coming and along with various government people here, it should be a good time. Unfortunately it runs into the "El Classico" game which is Barcelona vs. Madrid so that is kind of unfortunate but... it is one of the costs.
Okay, I think that's all I really have to report from the Principality. I am currently trapped here because my passport is in Spain theoretically getting itself an Indian visa for X-mas so I'm just waiting for that to come back but I don't expect to really go anywhere big before X-mas although I MAY go to Barcelona next to see my cousins who are coming into Barcelona for just over 24 hours on a cruise. it'll probs. depend on whether I get my passport back in time, I'm supposed to but... you can never be totally sure. Oh, before I forget, another thing I did yesterday is load any videos that could possibly be of any interest to anyone, and plenty that won't be to anyone... haha, to my youtube channel I started two years ago and never have done anything with. my channel address is: . or you can type google congokidandorra youtube. Anyway, there really isn't much that is interesting there but, I will try to get better at updating it with videos of places I go but probs. will keep people limited just for privacy sake. I hope everyone is doing splendidly and if any of you find yourselves 'motoring' through Andorra, please stop by... hehe.
Peace and Love from the Principality!
Mark Titus

Thursday, November 11, 2010

UK Travels

Ola Ya'll!
Wow! So much awesomeness in the last two weeks! Sorry it's been so long since an update, that'll make this one longer. It is hard to even imagine where to start letting you know about it, life continues to roll along and good and bad events, I am thankful for cause I'm getting to live a pretty cool life! So, I'm just going to give you some highlights.
I left the 28th of October at 5 am from downtown Andorra. This process involved me going to bed at 3 and then waking up at 4! Guess who passed out completely on the 3 hour bus ride?!?! My bus went to Girona which is on the Costa Brava coast of Spain, north of Barcelona and the famous home of Ryan Air-where flying is so cheap you are afraid! I was lucky because the sunrise that morning was unbelievably fantastic. Unfortunately, I did not get a good photo of it but just know, it was truly a recognition of God. wonderful.... I had the whole day in Girona, which, for those of you who have been there, is just about perfect. I went to the Old City which has a bunch of museums and a cool wall that surrounds it. My stops there were primarily the Jewish Museum of Girona-fascinating and the Cathedral-2nd widest in europe after the Vatican. And yes, for those who were wondering, I did wander around the cathedral with one of those touristy headsets on.... hehe. The Jewish museum was also fascinating as Girona was one of the latter places to feel the bite of the inquisition and it was also a large center of Jewish study.  There were some lovely outside cafes and I indulged in some wonderful coffees while people watching and reading a newspaper in catalan (which made me feel like an official retired Catalan man!).
I flew out that evening for the metropolis of Edinburgh and arrived after dark (not hard to do). Thankfully, my expectations of Scotland were not destroyed and it was raining when I got off the plane and walked into the terminal. YES! Stereotype #1 confirmed although I must say teh rest of my time in the UK was pretty fabulous weather-wise. My friend Megan McHaney from Aberdeen was kind enough to come all the way down to meet me in Edinburgh and stay in the city with me. I chilled in the airport for about 30 minutes till she got there and then we headed off to the city center. On our bus (of course it's a double-decker) we got to meet a new friend, Kaytlin who is studying in London and was also visiting. Yay for new travel buddies. Ended up we were staying literally 50m away from each other so we hung out the whole weekend. First thing first, I was about ready to actually eat the Ryan Airplane I came on-which I'm sure I could have done for some fee that they would charge me.... so we all grabbed some Kebabs which were, of course, fantastic! Then we got a drink at a cool bar near the university and just chatted. The next day I began being a tourist in earnest, taking pictures while walking with my face pointed up the majority of the time. You know the type. It was excellent. First thing of the day to attend to was breakfast and we found an awesome little dive and I enjoyed a delightful mocha and ate albeit enjoy is too strong, 3 pancakes that looked better than they tasted. Stereotype #2: Brits don't cook too well. I'm going to have to say I was not disproved, excellent Indian and various other foods but did not eat a lot of British food, only time I ate only with Brits we ate pasta so... I'm not letting this one go. NEW FACT!: They make good coffee AND tea? I had no idea...
We did pay the small fortune required to enter the Edinburgh castle (sorry retirement fund) and I'm not going to lie, it was pretty cool, albeit smaller than I had always imagined. Saw the Crown Jewels of Scotland, shiny and expensive looking hats and scarves if you ask me, but neat anyway. Went through a great museum on various elements of the Scottish army which was fascinating for me-saw a captured flag from Napoleonic wars, cool eh? Coolest part, got to watch the 1 o'clock guns get fired, which was SuhWeet! Did I jump when it was fired? Yes. The next highlight was lunch/tea at this delightful little place on one of the main squares with a clear view of the castle. Cool pots of tea which, all my Wakie friends know, would make me excited considering my minor addiction to tea. Then walked through a lovely park which made me happy as I love nice city parks.That night we went ot an interesting little pub with live music and slept, I was still tired.
Crieff, Aberdeen, and Petersburg shall be lumped together for the sake of your reading. Crieff is where Megan grew up and we stayed with an awesome family friend of hers. They were so hospitable and let me sleep on the bunkbed where their son sleeps-very kind. It was fun to get to see her school, grocery story, and the big Hydro hotel that attracts tons of tourists. It is a sleepy little town and it was a really neat place to get to see. I was also SUPER lucky because I hit the town on the peak of Autumn which was REALLY gorgeous because there are lots of woods around that is awesome to see. Also, Megan and I watched Frost Nixon which I had heard about but never watched which was really interesting and helped my American history.
Aberdeen: Granite... granite.... granite. So, Aberdeen is totally made from the exact same stone and there is very little color in the make-up of the buildings. Highlights: getting to meet Vijay and some others at her church potluck Halloween night, getting to see where Megan works and went to school which is a beautiful university where you feel smart walking around, meeting two American girls who were studying abroad and were with Alban Howorth from RVA, making fajitas which was tasty, eating Indian, countless coffees, a trip to Dunnotar Castle outside of Stonehaven which was gorgeous, great convos and hang-out time with Megan, a trip to Petersburg which is a small little fishing village 30 miles north of Aberdeen. This is where I had my first personal experience with Doric which is officially a dialect but, I can tell you that I understood almost nothing of it... actually, nothing! although, to be fair, some of the Scottish speaking english I didn't understand! That evening, Megan came with me to the airport, I checked in, ate 2 sandwiches in the terminal. One of the tiniest airports I have ever seen in the western... crazy small, only one place to eat food and MAYBE two stores. This flight was EasyJet, which, just so you all know is VASTLY superior to Ryan Air for reasons that aren't terribly tangible but true. So, this is an unfairly short summary of my time is Scotland.

England: Ahhhh.... London! I arrived in "London Luton", which don't be tricked, is not anywhere near London but it is cheap! :-) The journey was part of the joy of my time there. I'll keep it short for ya'll's sake but after a one hour bus ride from the airport to town, a bus ride to where I thought I needed to go, and then the discovery that there was a tube strike meaning I had to then find where else to go without a map of London and being clueless at 11 am!, a very nice dude helped me out, pointed me in the right direction only to find out that the train I was supposed to take from the station was also cancelled. Two more wonderful souls who saw my clearly lost touristy look helped me figure out what bus station I should go to in order to PROBABLY get the right bus. While waiting to get on board that bus, I met a cool New Zealander guy who just got to London and wants to work for a while before moving on-hopefully will visit us in Andorra in the spring. Then, on the bus, I had two more angels appear, while talking to one guy about how lost I was, a woman who was sitting across let me know I could get off earlier and catch the bus at another stop! How awesome was that? just out of nowhere! Anyway, then I finally caught the bus that went near where Dave lives in London-with whom I stayed. Unfortunately, for me when I got there I must have read my directions wrong or something cause I ended up walking around for about 45 minutes before walking to 86 Lewisham way which was theoretically where I needed to go. By this time it is after 1 am. I ring this door to no avail.... oops, so I go to a nearby gas station and call (cause I couldn't use my phone) Dave and find out that I was at the wrong street. 20 minutes or so later I finally get to the ride address.... haha. Wow! I had such wonderful people come across my way and Dave so such a sport staying up late when he had to get up early the next day. Also, he had prepared my room for me and all complete with a small bottle of Baileys, which is something I normally drink with my vanilla black tea (for all you haters, don't knock it till you try it!). Awwwhhh, so lucky to have a network of wonderful friends. I slept a wonderfully hard night and then set off at 10 am to meet Allison at Trafalgar square. Megan Huber, I checked out the Malaysia embassy and at least dreamt about how cool it'd be to get a guided tour there! ;-)
London highlights. A) getting to see Allison's world. I have heard SOOOOO much about it so getting to see everything in person was awesome, the bar Steele's, the fantastic french crepe place with people from Marseille, her church (from the outside), the Hillsong church, her neighborhood, the parks she runs in etc. She once again managed to convince me to run which makes me a bit sick still to think about but... this time I had to walk a portion of it. I think while I was walking she easily could have kept running and probably sung too but... haha, I had to let my ego down for this one! B) Primrose park is right near the Worrell House and it is super cool, especially at night when you can see the whole city. C) the bridge that connects St. Paul and the Tate museum of Modern Art. SOOOOOO cool, D) getting to go to the Arsenal Emirates stadium... that had to come sometime!, E) eating delicious Indian food with Kara and Allison, F) watching of the changing of the guards and feeling like the biggest tourist EVA! got to talk to a dude nearby who used to be in the military and did it once! G) a great evening with Dave's roommates who are South African and awesome-there were 5 white africans all together with only 3 America-born Americans, pretty funny, eh?!, H) Allison and I made a great quick phone call with Larry Jones, I) lunch at an outdoor market. In general, I was very impressed with my visit to London. I'll be honest, I didn't come in with super high expectations of the city itself and I left very much enjoying my experience and even excited to look into opportunities to return. Kara goes to London School of Economics (LSE) which has a highly regarded school for Political Sciences and if I could get into it, it's a place I would definitely consider. Overall, London was a wonderful experience.

I left on Sunday morning and had almost EXACTLY enough money to pay for the 4 pound tube ride and a postcard. I ended up having 10 cents left. Got to Girona safely and spent about 4 hours wandering aimlessly getting lunch and coffee and reading. It was fine but not exactly a dream come true, haha.
Got back to Andorra around 11 pm, walked home, crashed, started work the next morning at 8:30. Got home eventually at midnight Monday. This is where another blessing came in. I somehow contrived to drop my wallet on the biggest road of Andorra and was nervous it might be gone for good. I went to sleep Monday night thinking I was going to have to go and try to find it the next day somewhere along the road or in my Catalan class. Turns out at 6 am, I get a call from the police telling me that they found my wallet and I could come pick it up. I did so later that day and not a thing was missing.... how awesome is that??? crazy, right? Anyway, I can't have been more thankful and lucky. The rest of this week has gone by quite normally, tutoring is still going quite well, due to the fact that some government dude didn't sign the right papers last week, we don't get paid until next week which kinda sucks but... oh well. Oh, this weekend, on Saturday night, I am going to go watch Barcelona play Villareal at 22:00 with one of my apartment mates, Antonio. Obviously, I am stoked about that being the football geek that I am. Friday night I may begin tutoring from 6-7 pm. then I have football practice till 12 and then I am going to try to go to a concert in La Massana in Andorra because of my fellow teachers is in a punk-rock cover band and they are playing there. So, Antoine (french teacher) and I are going to go, and perhaps one or more of my apartment mates will join us! should be a good time anyway, but likely going to be a rough morning wake-up to go to Barcelona! haha, we plan on leaving at 12 but... it's flexible.
All right, as always, love hearing from you guys and I do hope that everyone finds themselves in good spirits, good health and in the knowledge that I appreciate what you guys mean to me!
Peace and Love from the Principality!
Mark Titus