Tuesday, March 8, 2011


Dear all folks whom I love plus any of the randos who seem to check out my blog from places I don't know....

Okay, well I'm in Andorra for the day before going off on my next adventure so I wanted to write a quick update. First, February ended up being a fantastic month, chilling in Andorra, skiing every weekend plus an occasional Wednesday and Friday. One weekend I got to go to Barcelona and meet up with my dear friends Tom and Liz Ryder from Congo days who were passing through on a cruise (I think the exact same one as my cousins did earlier!) This was the first time I did not end up going to Parc Guell! but I got to do the double decker tourist bus with them which was really fun. You really get to see a lot of a city through those buses. It was really nice to be able to catch up with them since my last visit to them was in the summer of 2009 so my life looked TOTALLY different. It was fun to hear about their plans, where all they have traveled, I could definitely handle being like them when I grow up.

Here in the homeland of Andorra, the biggest highlight of my month was ski week with my school. To get a really cheap ski pass is a fantastic perk of my job, to get PAID to ski is an entirely amazing, and spoiling opportunity. Everyday I weould go to work at 8 am, Tamara-my ski teacher partner-and I would gather our students, make sure everyone had their equipment and hand out their passes for the day. Then, at 9 am, we headed out to the slopes usually getting there around 9:45 and then everyone eats their breakfast. I was never able to discover why everyone eats breakfast WHEN they get to the slopes instead of on their way, but Andorrans/Spanish are religious about their mid-morning esmorzar and it must be taken in their sweet time. As an African/American, this mid-morning meal was not something I was about so I was usually gunning to get started on those beautiful, white, fluffy slopes! :-) We then skied with the kids for two hours, I was assigned blue ski so Tamara and I led them on blues for the morning just to give them practice before the afternoon when they went with an instructor. Luckily, I can ski on blues without any worry but having 8 or so students gunning behind you can be a bit nerve-racking at times. One of the instructors got nailed by one of her students and ended up having to get stitches... eeek. The concern in the back of my mind was always... I better not get injured cause I'm NOT part of the State insurance system and don't have extra (don't tell my mom.... ;-) love you mom) Luckily all went well, then in the afternoon while the students skied with instructors I just went skiing for fun, super, super fun. :-) I tagged along with professors most days almost inevitably being one of the weaker skiers but they were always super cool and pushed me and gave me pointers. On Friday, I passed my set goal of 50 hours of skiing this year! :-) This was a goal cause 50 is a good number, and it brings the cost of Euro/hour to 4 euros an hour! :-) which is about the price of a coffee and croissant. :-) :-) Very pleased, but most importantly I have had a ton of fun. The last two days I did nothing lower than a red with them and jumped on Friday! Talk about a super scary feeling... but super cool too. I continue to fall, I have never been skiing without falling, but it's an AMAZING feeling you get in your heart when you are zooming down a slope, dodging/jumping the little pesky bump things they put in. And at 3, we gather up the kids and take them back to school and then, all but one day, I got to go home at 4 pm. :-) A country where the national pasttime is skiing... priceless.

Okay, so skiing in Andorra, HIGHLIGHT of February. But, the end of February was also pretty cool because we got Carnaval holiday. This is a holiday which is just not a big deal in the US but is MASSIVE in France/Andorra/Spain so tons of people were on holiday, including us. For holiday I got to go to Paris, France. I know what you're thinking of, I thought about Paris, Texas but at the last minute went with friends and the Eiffel tower instead of... whatever the hell is in Paris, Texas! I seemingly have a plethora of friends living in Paris and didn't even get to see one of them, sorry Jimena! But I got to stay with my old boss from the Embassy in Senegal who is now stationed in Paris. He treated me so well that I felt like I was staying in a luxurious 5 star hotel centered 10 minutes from the Arc de Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower! He made me so comfortable, just like in Dakar, provided me with a wealth of maps and books about Paris-most of which I did not use but it was nice to have them. I took the train from Hospitalet (nearest train station from Andorra) to Paris arriving at 7 in the morning. This was just in time to get breakfast with Wallace before he had to go off and work (he was not impressed by my intense work week! haha). In the afternoon, I met up with Matt Secrest from WFU/CO and we walked all over Paris just catching up and hanging out with various coffee stops. It was nice to be able to visit Paris without the pressure of what to visit when but rather just be able to stroll. Visited the national archives and rue Bercy, Palais de Tokyo (where we some some funky art, not all of which I appreciated). It was pleasant and ended with Wallace and I catching bar food around the corner. Sunday was another relaxing day with a reasonable wake-up and then we got (and by we I mean I fetched stuff) Wallace's car up and running, only to take the metro.... haha, but we went to the Pompidou center and visited the free exhibits they had going. In the evening we joined another cool officer, his wife, and their super cute little girl to watch Arsenal play Birmingham in the Carling Cup final. Let's not talk about the result.

Monday... I woke up leisurely, visited Wallace at work, ate with the interns who are currently serving there. Let me tell you, a SUPER different experience than mine cause Paris Embassy is massive and there are seemingly a million people. Wallace says he doesn't even know many of the people outside of his section. It was crazy, plus seeing that Paris is so big and there is a large foreigner community, it's not so bonding. Can't imagine being an unpaid intern living in Paris... ugh. But they were very nice ladies both from smaller schools. The State Department is good about getting people from all sorts of schools. The afternoon I rocked out the Louvre. Proved the existence of Venus de Milo (not that cool), spent the late afternoon with AManda Bowers, Brad Keck and his girlfriend Flannery at a MOroccon Hookah bar by Montmartre (fascinating area), and then catching dinner alone at a Senegalese restaurant where I talked a bunch with a guy from the Ivory Coast who just walked up to me (love africans!). Finally, then met up with Matt to go to an acquaintance's birthday bash at a local bar. The night was fun, and ended ridiculously. I ended up being alone on a subway platform with this girl waiting for what we thought was the last metro. The line ended up being broken down. Anyway, she ends up being a famous french actress!

Nah, just joking, but I bet at least one person believed it! haha, so I made quick convo with her, knelt down to pick up my book which had dropped and when I looked up she was literally falling over! Obviously I jumped up and helped her over to the bench to sit her down. She is super white in the face and is saying it's "my heart it's my heart" while rubbing her chest slowly and not really communicating well with me. Luckily about the same time the security came through to kick us out so I wasn't totally alone. Turns out she has a birth defect with a valve and sometimes it acts up and she gets like this... I was like, metros may not be your thing..... Anyway, after about 10 or so minutes she was okay to get up so I walked her to her house (which was only about 20 minutes from Wallace's). Ended up being from Martinique and an architecture student who wants to study in the US! Really nice girl, whose name I never asked, but what a random, weird experience. Nothing like walking around Paris at 1:30 walking a heart-defect French girl from Martinique and reminiscing about ridiculous questions we get! haha, just a standard Paris tour. Tuesday I hung out with Matt, ate a very nice dinner with Wallace and then meeting Matt, Courtney from WFU, and another ETA and his girlfriend

Okay, part two of my break was at the Taize ecumenical Monastery-not necessarily only Catholic monks but definitely an overall Catholic, old-church experience, where I was very excited to go to get an opportunity to kick back, relax, and use some time to connect with God again. Andorra is many wonderful things, but definitely miss a Christian community. I didn't "do" much but rather I "was" a lot. I spent 4 days in silence which was a really cool (and at first challenging) experience. I lived in a room alone sharing a common hallway shower and eating together with other guys who were doing 4-7 days in silence. The oddest part for me was definitely eating all together yet not speaking. It was really a very cool experience which I will treasure but not particularly interesting for you to hear about. Short of it was, I didn't hear God speaking to me in any crazy out-of-body experience but was given a lot of peace and was able to delve into God's word a bunch and enjoy worship at Taize. Taize has a particular style of worship with chants and repetition which was very beautiful. I am sad that I missed out on getting to meet a lot of cool people-a little shout-out to the cool folk I met the last afternoon before I left from Baylor, would have been fun to get to talk more. Also, I understand why a "garden" is the scene of the perfect creation, such a tranquil beautiful place with just the wind, trees, and birds to accompany your soul.

I returned bright and early this morning on an all-night train, this time unfortunately I did NOT sleep. Got into Andorra, unpacked, dug into the multitude of emails that I missed, uploaded photos to F-book, and now I'm about to go off to work for an hour tutoring before watching Arsenal play Barcelona. Hopefully, that goes better than I'm afraid it will... it promises to be a depressing result for me.... but we'll see. I will attach a few photos so you can see a few of the things....

Peace and Love from the Principality
Mark Titus

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