Friday, December 17, 2010

December, December, December

GOOD morning/afternoon/evening to all of you,
It is December. hmmm, things to update you on. Well, first off, helping out the English Community fair was pretty fun. I manned the used toy section of the fair, it was actually a really big fair which kind of surprised me. It raised a bunch of money which goes to help different small non-profits here in Andorra. Pretty cool, worked with a Singaporean woman who is living here and is one of Christians who goes to the English church service. I also picked up a couple books when I was at there including 1984 and Life of Pi which are two books I have been meaning to get for ages. It's cool, I have yet to start them, of course, but it will happen. I did finally finish White Man's Burden, written by William Easterly (who I heard at Wake) and I can definitely recommend this. Thank you Megan McHaney for letting me abscond with it. I am done with CS Lewis Great Divorce (thanks Shelly) which is also an excellent read. I am so proud... 2 1/2 books in three months, an excellent record.
What else... I have, of course, watched a great deal of football including a heartbreaker 1-0 loss of Arsenal to Manchester United. My Andorran team, Lusitanos, is rocking along. Our first team and my 2nd league team are both in first place. In fact, our 2nd division team is ROCKING! I continue to really enjoy their company. Last week was my last practice, so afterward we went out and I had a great time with the three guys who are closest to me as well as a few other younger Portuguese who joined us at the dive bar where we always go. Dany really is a fantastic dude whom I feel privileged to get to know. Unfortunately, one of the other guys who goes with us is going through a separation right now and it's super complicated so that's too bad but he's awesome, and a really good football player. You can definitely tell that they have worked for a long time cause I feel like most of them look older than they are. and if you look at Dany's hands for instance, they are all cut up, blistered and craziness like that. As an electrician here, he works in the cold in -10 degree weather for 10 hour shifts! ugh... and cause of the kind of work he does he really can't wear gloves which means they get super beat up. He normally works from 7:30 to 7 pm everyday 6 days a week but a couple weeks ago he was working till 10 pm and one day till 1:30 am... Nuts, right? I always feel seriously lucky and so sheltered cause I've never done anything like that. And on top of it, he plays football-plus he doesn't smoke which is unusual. Just a very cool guy. Oh, they taught me a portuguese card game that was called "up and down"-subir i baixar which was super weird and confusing at first but actually a lot of fun. It was a special deck though, but hopefully we'll play again. Another thing I learned was that in Portugal, at least in the northern rural areas where they are from, it's kinda taboo if a woman smokes!! It came up cause Dany was saying that his wife does and people sometimes give him crap about it back home because she's a woman and all. Anyway, side-note but it was a really interesting conversation.
Choir has also been fun, we had our first concert last week. We sang 4 mini-concerts all at nursing homes which was really neat because it was fun to see how excited and happy 40 teenagers can make elderly. We had two on Friday of last week, and although our singing quality was, at times, a bit shaky, everyone was happy and that was what was important anyway. After each session, we had snacks and got to talk to a few people, although mostly we just milled around and talked to ourselves. Antoine (the French teacher) and I are the two male teachers and two of four basses so we spend a lot of time together. Overall choir=success.
Tutoring continues to move along well, I really enjoy working with each kid and last week, one of the mothers was gushing as she told me she was so excited because she heard her son talk in english for an extended period of time for the first time. Her face and his face made me so happy and definitely energized me. With the exception of one of my students, they all give me a lot of energy and make the work of getting to their houses, getting home at 8:30/9 pm etc. all worth it. Plus, of course, the pay is good too! One of the families also gave me a very nice sweatshirt as a Christmas present, how nice is that? That is really a neat family, and her son is going to England this summer to live with a family which will be great for his english. He is about 14 and just a great kid. One of those kids who is definitely going places.
Christmas in Andorra, a bit weird since we haven't really done any decorating or any of that jazz but the city is nice, with decorations and all, huge Snowman on our big square. Last week was really warm (10 degrees) so that made it not feel like Christmas but definitely the stores and school make it feel like Christmas everywhere. We have had one good solid run of snow-unlike the rest of Europe we've actually had a spell of warm weather and not that much snow which is worrying for the skiing. Talking about skiing, I went for the first time last week which was actually a lot of fun. I went with Frieda-one of the other fulbrighters-because she and one of the teachers from her school were taking a lesson which I definitely wanted to be on. It was expensive, 25 euros for 2 hours but it was nice to have someone focusing just on you and I feel like now I can go on my own for a while till I feel really comfortably on blues. Of course I fell a ton, which is normal, and my hips hurt a TON afterwards-stupid duck feet.... but I had a lot of fun. I went Wednesday and Thursday for 4 hours or so not enough to get too tired but enough to be energized. Clare, the Englishwoman from church was super kind and was able to give me her husband's skis which fit me almost perfect. They are super old-school so that means they are heavier than new ones, and have chips and all that jazz but hell, they are perfect for a beginner like me. This HUGE gift along with a ski pass through school for ALL the country's resorts meant that my total investment for skiing including pants from their version of Salvation army, goggles etc. and pass was only 200 euros which, albeit a lot of money, is AWESOME for a whole year of skiing. I feel very blessed. HOpefully I will get to go again this weekend although because of the warm weather, and now a deep freeze which has hit us in the last couple days, the snow is pretty bad but, better than nothing.
Other things in mind include continuing to look at various things for next year and keeping an open mind-and for those of you who know me I tend to be pretty random until I find something I want and then go after it 100%! haha, also, planning a trip to Germany in March to go to the annual Fulbright conference which takes place there. I will also hopefully get to see an old friend, Sara and maybe Stefan too depending on timing. I'm looking to fly to Berlin for the conference, then to Stuttgart for the following weekend and then back to Barcelona on the Sunday at the end of March. It looks to be a bit pricey by totally worth it if it means that I'll get to see some good, old friends.
Last week, I got to see my cousins cause they were on a Mediterranean cruise and had a day so we got to see eachother for the afternoon on Sunday. It was about time since it has been 5 and 7 years respectively since I had seen them! haha 
Hmmmm, oh, last thing. Christmas is in a week, crazy, right? It's already the latter half of December, hard to believe. Anyway, what am I going to do. Well, seeing that mon soeur lives in Mumbai India, I am going to go fly there and spend it with her and my parents who are coming all the way from Congo! How cool is that? The only bummer is that Jeremy and Lindz cannot come but I can hardly complain. I am very stoked to get to see where Jane lives, meet important people to her, and see her city. Plus touristy things all of which I'm not 100% sure what they will be... haha, I know we are going to Rajastan, New Delhi and I don't really know what all else. But I'm sure it'll be super exciting and EVERYTHING will be interesting. It will be my first foray into Asia so, that'll be fun.
Okay, that's all folks. As always, thanks for following along my blog, I hope you find-at least some of-it interesting and thank you guys for checking. Japan, Chile, Brazil, Lichtenstein, Argentina, Slovenia, Russia, Belgium, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, USA, DR Congo, Kenya, United Kingdom, India, Ghana, France, Spain, Andorra are, I think, all of the places people have accessed my blog from. It's super cool to know that people all over the world are curious-although, I really don't have any idea who checked my account from the first 7 countries... Lichtenstein? Anyway, give me a shout-out whoever that is and let me know who it is. Thank you guys all for caring and I appreciate your thoughts, prayers even when it has been a while since we have directly talked. As I look forward into this next year, I look back happily on many good memories with you all, am enjoying the memories I am making here with new friends, and looking forward to creating more memories with old and new friends! Thanks for helping make 2010 a great year and although it seems hard to believe possible, I'm hoping that 2011 will be even better! Merry Christmas, Happy New Year ya'll!
Peace and Love from the Principality!
Mark Titus

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