Oops. (I did it again.)

Let over a month go by without an update. It’s not that I don’t do anything cool or worth writing about, it’s just that life in between vacations is a bit routine. Which isn’t to say it’s boring. I have a blast.

So how have things been? Well, the big news of course is that I GOT A JOB. For next year. In ANDORRA. That’s right, I’m staying! Andorra can’t get rid of me. I’ll be working at one of Andorra’s private language academies, teaching mostly teens and adults. I’m pretty excited about it – the school seems really cool, with great resources and a really interesting program. I’ve heard nothing but good things about it from students and teachers alike, so I think it’ll be a great experience. I have to go through getting a residence permit from immigration all over again, but at least this time I know what I’m doing (sort of).

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I’ll start work in August, which means my trip home this summer is a bit short – probably just about 5 weeks. I’m excited to get back to the US and see everyone, but I’m also really excited for a second year here… I’m living the dream! No but really, since I was about 16 the dream has been to live abroad long-term, and I’m making it happen! Dreams really do come true, guys. So you could say I’m very happy these days.

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We recently (2 weeks ago) had a week long break – our last! I spent the weekend hanging out in Andorra and relaxing (Isa and I donned bikinis and hung out on her terrace in 59 degree weather because it has been a long winter!). Monday through Wednesday, I spent in Vic rock climbing… I’m not very good at it, but I had a lot of fun! And I didn’t sustain any injuries, so I take that as a win.

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That Wednesday night, my BFF Kelsey and her sister Andie arrived! We hiked up to Engolasters on Thursday (it’s the easiest/shortest hey-look-how-pretty-Andorra-is hike) and spent Friday in Ordino (Andorra’s cutest little parish, I think) before heading to Barcelona for the weekend. Sadly, Kelsey left on Sunday and I headed back to Andorra.

School last week was nothing too exciting. Wrapping up the year consists of a lot of practice and review, which is nice because I get to see how much my students have learned! And then Jess, my best friend since middle school, arrived on Friday!

Friday night we went out for tapas, and then Saturday we did a hike in Sant Julia, followed by spending the evening watching the Champions League final at a sports bar (Madrid won! YAY!). Being in Europe for the Champions League final was a BLAST – people were very into it, and after the win, they were driving through the streets honking in celebration. Obviously, Andorra is pretty Catalan so the majority of people are Barcelona fans here, but there were some Real Madrid fans out and about. It reminded me a bit of Baltimore after the Ravens won the Superbowl a few years ago.

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Sunday, we hiked up to Engolasters. The end of the hike, it started to rain, and we ended up spending some time in the cafe at the top waiting for it to stop. It didn’t, really, so we eventually headed back down in the rain. We had a relaxing night in, and then spent Monday morning souvenir shopping. I had meeting Monday afternoon, and after we went out for dinner and then watched Game of Thrones at a bar that shows it in English before getting drinks with some friends. Jess left this morning, which is sad. I miss her already!

I only have about 4 more weeks of work, and 5 weeks from today I’ll be back in the US. Time flies! Crazy, huh? I’m just relieved to be staying – I wouldn’t be ready to say goodbye to Andorra for good yet!

(Also, Andorrans are surprised when I say I’m staying because I love Andorra, and well, let’s just say… If I had a boyfriend for every time I’d been asked if I’m staying because of some Andorran boy, I’d be dating half the country!)

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Three months in?!

I know I say this every post but WHERE IS THE TIME GOING?! Today officially marks 3 months in Andorra, and I can’t handle that fact. I love it here, so much more than I ever expected to, and I never want to leave! I want to tell time to slow down… Winter is starting to settle in here – as in it has SNOWED. This is definitely not Hawaii, my friends. It’s so damn cold.

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DO YOU SEE THAT SNOW?

So… I kind of fell off the blogging train, didn’t I? Oops. My bad. I’ve been pretty busy, but honestly I have no complaints – life is good! We just had a belated Thanksgiving celebration with some of our friends here – it was delicious and now I’m fighting off a food coma. Confession: We didn’t actually have a turkey. We had chicken. Turkeys are a bit hard to come by here. (I asked one of the kids I tutor if he knew what we eat on Thanksgiving, and instead of saying “pavo” (turkey), he said “pavo real” (peacock), which I couldn’t help but laugh at.

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I made Mama’s sweet potato recipe 🙂

A lot of people here asked me about Thanksgiving, and what we do and why it’s so important to us and everything. Inevitably they’d ask if I was homesick or sad not to bad in the US for Thanksgiving, but honestly I wasn’t! I worked 12 hours on Thursday, so it really just felt like any other day and I forgot it was Thanksgiving until I went on Facebook and saw lots of photos of food. I also haven’t been home for Thanksgiving in YEARS actually – since my senior year of college, now that I think about it… Weird. Anyway.

Other than non-holidays (side note: weirdly enough, Andorra had Black Friday despite not having Thanksgiving), life has been busy but pretty normal the last few weeks. Work is going pretty well. I finally started my job at the University. I’m doing conversation classes there with some of the professors and so far it’s fun! I really like my classes at FP of course, and those are awesome, but a few of my tutoring sessions have been a little challenging (it’s always the same kids). My favorite 12-year-old is still awesome though, so that’s the highlight of my tutoring week. This week we played Monopoly in English. I’m stealing him at the end of the year.

Two weeks ago, Charlee and Josh came to visit, so that was a fun weekend! If you’ve known me for a long time, you might remember that I visited Charlee in England 5 years ago… and that’s the last time I saw her! So we were very excited to be reunited now that I’m back in Europe. They got in on Thursday evening and we went out for beers and tapas, and then on Friday we went up to Ordino cause it’s adorable! (#andorrable) I wanted to show them the Miniature Museum, but it was closed, so we just walked around for a bit. Saturday we went up to Pas de la Casa to do a short little hike into France and it was really pretty!

They had to leave very early Sunday, which was sad. But they had a good time (or at least they told me they did!) and hopefully they’ll be back again! Sunday afternoon we went on a drive/picnic with this lovely woman Clare, who is an English lady who moved here to Andorra a long time ago. She has a big van so she drove us all up to Cannolich and we had a nice picnic looking into Spain. Not a bad weekend, huh?

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Anyway, that was 2 weeks ago… Last weekend was nothing too exciting, but it was a really fun weekend. Friday afternoon I had a 2.5 hour lunch with the rest of the language department and it was really fun! I work with cool people. Then Lauren, Isa, and I went out Friday night and had a blast, and then Saturday we went up to La Massana to see Isa’s apartment and play with her dog, and Sunday we had brunch with some friends.

Last night we met up with some guys from the UK for drinks and then went to the inauguration of a women’s center that one of the other English teachers at my school is a part of. It was really cool, with live music and such, and it was fun to see my co-workers outside of school! They went for a drink with us after 🙂

And of course, my weeks are pretty full of teaching and not much time for anything else! Sorry for the lack of updates lately… it means life is good, right? (And Wi-Fi is bad.) I’ll try to get back into the habit… And of course, Devin is coming to visit soon!!! 🙂

Overdue update: I did the most beautiful hike.

I know, I know. It has been TOO LONG. There are a few reasons for this: things have been SO busy, my Wi-Fi is THE WORST, and of course, I don’t think you all want to read daily about my teaching. (Or maybe you do? Correct me if I’m wrong.) Anyway. It has been 11 whole days without an entry, which I’m sure my mother is not okay with. (Sorry!)

Things have been good! Teaching the last 2 weeks has gone pretty well. My students are all finished with their presentations, thank goodness. I was getting tired of dealing with technology issues (is there any school in the world where all the computers/projectors/cables work? I want to work there). Some did a better job than others, obviously, but I’m glad to be finished with them! We’re moving on to more relevant, content-focused things now. With the third-years, I’m working on CVs and cover letters and job searching, regardless of career track. With the second-years, I’m working on career-specific things: two groups are working on reports about multinational companies, one group is working on designing a hike itinerary, etc. The first years are more basic: introductions and other simple things, but related to their focus. (For some of them, that stuff is frustratingly easy. For others, it’s way too hard. Womp.) This past Monday was Dia de la Convivencia at my school, which is kind of like a field day where students from all the different tracks get mixed up together onto teams and compete in a series of games. It was a lot of fun! After the kids went home, the teachers had a potluck lunch (complete with wine because Europe) and that was really fun as well. I really like my school a lot; the staff is so nice!

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Kids doing kid stuff, I don’t know. Check out the view from our athletic field though?!

Tutoring is going well too. This week I’ve played lots of games with the kids – Pictionary, Scattergories, and yesterday one of my kids taught me chess in English. I think I’m starting to get into the groove, maybe, and figure out what works for each kid. One is only 9, and he’s silly and we have to play games the whole time or he complains and asks what time it is every 5 minutes – but this week, he was sad when the hour was over and asked to play again next week! Two are serious, and I have to have something more like a “real” lesson to feel like they enjoyed it. Two that I have together are 15 year old boys, and the most effective way to teach them is to make everything a competition. Anyway, on to the fun stuff, shall we?

Last weekend, we had more visitors from Fulbrighters in Madrid. Friday night we had a big fondue dinner (yum!), and then Saturday we split into 2 groups and did 2 different hikes. I went with Maria and her friend to Els Pessons, which is out in Encamp, close to Pas de la Casa (the parish next to France). The 40 minute bus ride had me about to vomit from the twists and turns, but it was SO worth it.

On the way to the start of the trail, we were delighted to see that traffic was stopped because a pack of free-range horses was meandering down the road. Later in the day, on the way back down, we saw (and heard) a herd of sheep jingling their way home from a day roaming the mountains, and then we saw traffic stopped AGAIN for a bunch of cows who were wholly unconcerned with reaching their destination quickly. SO ANDORRA. I LOVE IT.

The hike was a bit of a walk from the bus, and then the hike itself is a bit long, and the walk back to the bus again is even longer than the first one. All in all, we spent 9.5 hours walking/hiking, although we took a number of short breaks for snacks and pictures and such. Els Pessons has a bunch of (maybe 7?) little lakes, and it’s all SO beautiful. (After 2 years in Hawaii, I have high standards for a beautiful hike, and this definitely met them!) The water is super clear and reflects the mountains the sky perfectly. At the end, you can climb up a very steep peak, and from there you can see for miles in every direction. It’s absolutely breathtaking. (The climb up to the peak was breathtaking too, by which I mean I am terrified of heights and I was so scared I could hardly breathe – the path is a bunch of steep switchbacks with loose rocks and nothing to keep you from tumbling to your demise.) (Nothing, though, will ever be as scary or as hard as hiking Kalalau. I would have curled up on a cliff and waited for death if I hadn’t had Devin there.) The terrain is pretty rocky the whole time, so unfortunately you have to keep an eye on where you’re stepping, but when you get to look up, the views are incredible. Rather than talk about it more, I’ll just leave you with some pictures. (As usual, click to enlarge.)

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View from the top.

AMAZING, right? I want to go back, but I think next time I’ll a) stretch before! Goodness was I sore! and b) take more water – I ended up filling up my bottle in a little stream, but more water would have been good. We had to sprint a bit to make it back to the bus on time (which was then late, of course!), and let me tell you, running after 9 hours in the mountains isn’t fun. I also ended up with some minor blisters… womp. My feet were killing me by the end. There is a restaurant right on the first lake, which is pretty easily accessible, and if anyone wants to go on a date there, I’m down.

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I mean seriously LOOK AT THAT VIEW.

After the hike, we went to Caldea (Europe’s largest thermal spa, located right here in Escaldes!) for the nighttime light show. The light show, ultimately, was kind of a disappointment, but we had fun pretending to be fancy people! We had a coupon from our Youth Cards, so it was pretty cheap (11 Euros for 2 hours!), but we only had access to some parts of the spa.

 Sunday was a lazy day; Lauren and I went out Saturday night and were tired, and everyone had hiked so much the day before! I ran some errands and did chores while most of the others went and did another (much shorter) hike (I didn’t go because my hip was killing me… I’m an old lady!). In the evening, Johanna, Maria and I went to the basketball game of the Andorran national team against Bilbao. Andorra’s one and only team actually plays in the Spanish division (which, when one of my students mentioned that, made another student bitterly comment in Catalan “Yeah, but what the hell does Andorra have to do with Spain? We’re independent!”). Maria sings in the choir at her school, and they did the national anthem at the beginning, so we got free tickets. Unfortunately, Andorra lost.

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Sportsball!

This week has been pretty chill. I’ve come down with a bit of a cold, so I’m not feeling 100%. I’m losing my voice in a big way and I just feel exhausted. This weekend, some of us are going to La Seu, which is the Spanish town just over the border, for a once-per-year CHEESE market. I’m pretty pumped.

That’s about it for right now, I guess! This post took about 2 days to complete because my Internet sucks, and now I need to rush to get ready for work!

Ordino is #andorrable.

Well, after my terrible Wednesday, Thursday went a lot better! My classes were, in comparison to Wednesday, perfect little angels. My tutoring sessions were great… My little favorite (a 12 year old named Daniel) and I designed a custom BMW for me (in English, obviously!) and played the game with M&Ms. My other new student is a 17-year-old, so he was very chill and we just chatted about all the extreme sports he does. (He is way cooler/braver than I will ever be!)

Friday was sort of a mixed bag… I had no class, but I did have the tutoring session I’d rescheduled from Wednesday. Since it was down in Sant Julia, I figured I’d go to the post office and the phone store (my phone is still broken) down there. Got to the post office and… it had closed half an hour earlier. (They close at 1:30 here. WTF.) Got to the phone store and… the hours posted online were a lie! Turns out it only opens 2 days a week – and Friday isn’t one of them. Perfect. I sat in the plaza for an hour waiting for my tutoring session to start.

Tutoring was great. The woman I “tutor” is the mom of 2 of the boys I tutor, and she’s wonderful. She’s so sweet and I really like talking to her. We spent a long time chatting about Andorra, languages in general, Americans, gun control, and what it’s like to raise teenagers (not that I have experience there, obviously). We never really got around to any sort of lesson, but she got to practice a lot of speaking, so I call it a win.

After I left, I got an email that was a bit of a day-ruiner… I’ve had a WONDERFUL schedule so far, with late starts on Monday and Thursday and Fridays off. Well, that’s changing. Apparently they had to redo the schedule for one of the classes at school, and now my hour with them is on Friday. Smack in the middle of the day. Which is just SO INCONVENIENT. We’re talking in person Monday and I’m going to see if there’s ANY other hour of the entire week that works because… come on. I don’t want to lose my free Fridays for ONE HOUR. Any other day of the week and it would be fine but Friday?! Ugh.

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I actually said these words out loud upon reading the email.

Friday night was fun though! I went over to the other grantees’ house and we hung out and ate pizza and drank wine, and then Lauren, our friend Isa, and I went out (three blondes… we stick out). Once again, I saw several students out… A bit awkward, ha. I also saw a co-worker and the owner of a tapas place we really like. Oh, Andorra.

Saturday, I slept in, and then woke up to a text from Wade about going on a hike. We took the bus out to Ordino, which is supposed to be the cutest parish… and it didn’t disappoint. Oh. My. Goodness. It’s exactly what you think Andorra would look like. It’s so tiny it’s almost hilarious – the population is just over 3,000.

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LOOK AT IT. Screw Carlisle, I want to get married HERE. It’s a 12th century Romanesque church.

We walked around a little bit, ate a snack in this adorable little garden, and then went on a tour of the Areny-Plandolit House Museum. The Areny-Plandolit family were very rich because they were important people in the iron industry as well as merchants, so they had a very old, fancy house. The original part of the house is from the 12th century, but the more modern parts are as recent as the 20th century and were used as a summer house. The generations of Areny-Plandolits did lots of important things like medicine, law, and joining the clergy. The 19th century Baron, Don Guillem, had 17 kids, 11 of whom survived. His first wife was very beautiful and was murdered by a guy she had rejected because she was, well, married… (#maleentitlementwhat). Anyway his second wife was also his first cousin, but I guess their kids turned out okay. The coolest part of the house is probably the library, which has a book from the 7th century. What. Catalan didn’t even exist yet back then, so it’s obviously not in Catalan, but whoa!

Our tour guide was really cool – she’s actually from England but has lived here 33 years and her Catalan is AMAZING, obviously — the tour was in Catalan. The only other person on the tour was a guy we later discovered was from Lithuania and, as he put was, is in Andorra “escaping taxes.” He apparently has been on the tour like 20 times. (It’s cool, but it’s not that cool…) He’s definitely a money launderer or planning a heist or something.

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Andorra’s flag is pretty cute.

Post-tour, we did a little loop hike. (We got a little lost finding the trail in the beginning, but thank goodness I was with Wade, because he sorted us out.) It had #andorrable views of the valley Ordino sits in, and we had PERFECT weather. In a typical Andorra moment, we finished the hike, wandered into town to get some food, and bumped into people we knew – Dipu and Yasmin. We grabbed a snack with them, hitched a ride back to Andorra la Vella (thanks Dipu!) and made plans to meet up for Mexican later that night.

Last night we had dinner at La Adelita, which is Andorra’s Mexican restaurant, basically. We did the 21 Euro tasting menu, so we had 7 courses and unlimited beer/wine. It doesn’t really compared to the Mexican food scene in Baltimore (how could it? There are no Mexicans here) but it was pretty decent.

Today I have been SUPER lazy, partially because it’s rainy and cold outside, but I’ve planned a few lessons and I did leave the house to go grocery shopping with Lauren. (Going shopping at Pyrenees alone is my personal hell, but with Lauren it was fun.)

Tomorrow starts another week of adventures! Let’s hope for a better one than last, yeah?

First hike in Andorra!

Andorra has about a million hikes to do, and WINTER IS COMING, so we decided not to waste any time checking them out! We went for our first hike Sunday morning. We picked an easy one, according to the website, since we weren’t sure exactly what they’d consider “easy.” We also had to pick a hike we could easily access from public transportation, which limited our options. The hike we originally planned to do had a lake, but the lake has been drained for maintenance (?!), so we figured it wasn’t worth the journey. So we found Cami de Rocafort, which is very close to my school. Allegedly there is a cool church from the year 1048 on it but Spoiler Alert: We didn’t find the church. Kind of bummed about that. (It’s super close to my school though, so maybe once of these days I’ll try it again!) Nevertheless, it was a cool first hike in Andorra!

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Amics on the trail.

“Easy” was a pretty good description for it, although the first kilometer or so is just a million switchbacks up Rocafort, so that was a little exhausting. Actually, we were doing the hike backwards in order to start near the end that’s by a bus stop, so that whole uphill battle would have been downhill if we’d done the hike according to plan!

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Pretty solid view.

The mountains here are pretty sweet. I can’t get over them.

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The cutest little place we passed on the way back into Sant Julia.

At the end of the hike, we got to a little picnic table and broke out the picnic stuff we’d brought for lunch. We had another day of absolultely perfect weather, so it was really nice! After that, Wade decided to hike back the way we’d come to try another trail he’d seen, but the rest of us took a trail into Sant Julia about half an hour and caught the bus home. All in all, a successful first hike (except for the missing church…)!

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I mean, really. Check out that view.

Can’t wait to check out more trails here!