Friday, December 16, 2011

O Christmas Tree

After watching the Christmas devotional this year I got into the Christmas spirit a little bit more and wanted to set up a Christmas tree in my house. I emailed Kris to see if they had a fake Christmas tree in their house and she told that they did and that I could set it up. She did warn me, however, that they only have WSU ornaments. I don’t think I’ve mentioned this before, but Kris and her husband are huge WSU fans (not huge-fat, but huge-devoted).

I invited my new friend Kelli over last Saturday morning to help me set up the tree and decorate it. Before she came over I located the tree and Christmas ornaments in the garage and hauled them into the living room. I didn’t see the tree stand right away, but everything in the house is so well labeled that I didn’t think it’d be hard to find. Kelli showed up while I was looking for the stand and we had delicious Belgian waffles for breakfast. We then started to look for the stand, but couldn’t find it. I eventually called Kris and she explained where she thought it was in the garage, but I didn’t find it. As I said before, there are labels everywhere and the box the tree came in had a sticky note on it that said, “stand in downstairs closet ’01.” It seemed that the note was telling me that in 2001 the stand had been stored in the downstairs closet, but was it still there or was the note outdated? The other problem was that there are multiple closets downstairs.

Kelli and I started snooping through the closets and we found some pretty interesting stuff. My favorite item was an ET mask. I also found a box that was labeled “Sacks: cutesy & handles.” I opened up the box and it was filled with cutesy sacks with handles which was exactly what I had expected to find. Like I said, everything is labeled. Kris was sure that the stand was in the garage so Kelli and I searched in there for quite some time, but it was really cold that morning and we couldn’t find it. I don’t know Kelli super-well and I felt like a total dork for inviting her over and then not being able to find the stand. She was gracious about the whole tree stand catastrophe and eventually had to leave leaving me with a treeless living room. I had hoped to have a decorated tree by the time Kelli left, but this was all I had.

That night when I got home I was walking through the garage and thought popped into my head and I thought, the tree stand is behind the shop vac. I walked over to the shelf that had the shop vac on it, moved it aside and there was that bleepity bleep tree stand. It was a moment of pure triumph.

Kelli’s usually busy when I invite her to do things so I decided to just set up the tree by myself. However, I feel like my life is more and more becoming the male version of this song so yesterday I decided to invite my friend Colleen over to help me set up the tree. She agreed to come over and while we were making plans through texting I got a text from Kelli asking me if I’d set up the tree yet. I had texted Kelli on Saturday right after I found the stand and hadn’t heard from her since so I assumed that she had moved on from the whole let’s-set-up-a-Christmas-tree thing and was no longer interested. I texted her back saying that I was going to set it up that night. I then received a text saying, “I’m on my way. See you in 10 minutes.” Thinking that Kelli had taken my mention of setting up the tree as an invitation for her to join me I panicked slightly thinking that I had inadvertently invited two different girls to my house at the same time. Also, I now had the awkward task of explaining to Kelli that I had invited someone else to help me do what I had originally invited her to help me do. This was the kind of mess that people like me don’t usually get themselves into. I looked at the text a little more closely and saw that it was from Colleen and was instantly relieved. I then got a text from Kelli that said simply, “OK have fun.” Awkward moment averted.

Colleen and I had a blast decorating the Christmas tree with WSU ornaments. Even the tree skirt says WSU on it. It’s a bit much, but if you don’t look too closely the tree just looks red and you can’t tell that everything says WSU. We decided not to hang up the little WSU footballs. That was just too much. We also ate two Cinnabons.

This is what the tree finally looked like when we were done.

Notice all the WSU themed ornaments.

Even the ornaments that weren't originally WSU ornaments were painted to fit the theme. Like I said, they are huge fans.

Now every time I look at my Christmas tree I'm filled just a little bit more with the Christmas Spirit. I also feel like shouting, "Go COUGS!"

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A World of Pure Imagination

For FHE on Monday we toured the Seattle Chocolates factory. A girl from church’s dad is the president of the company and he took us on a little tour. Lots of people, myself included, made lots of Willy Wonka jokes. Yes, I know that making Willy Wonka jokes in a chocolate factory is a bit cliché, but it was hard to resist. I later saw Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory playing on a TV in the tasting room and felt a little less guilty about my Wonka jokes. The factory does not employ any oompa loompas (that we were told about), but they do employ a number of people of Mexican descent who, sadly, did not teach us any morality lessons through song and dance.

The area of the factory where they actually make the chocolate wasn’t super-interesting and could easily be mistaken for a box factory, but the tasting room was awesome. The decor was very modern with white plastic chairs that swivel around and a carpet made of leather strips. We were told that we could eat as much chocolate and we wanted and I ate a lot. Since we were all Mormon the guy passing out the samples told us that all the alcohol flavored chocolates had no alcohol, but all the coffee flavored chocolates did have coffee in them. Good information. My favorite chocolate was the mimosa filled one and I’m convinced that if I were a drinker I would enjoy a tasting mimosa every now and then. Well, as long as it’s covered in chocolate.

The best part of the tour happened rather unexpectedly. The guy giving the tour told us a story about how some famous chocolatier had come to the factory and taken a pitcher of liquid chocolate and poured it right down his throat. The tour guide then said, “It’s a great experience that I want you all to have.” So he grabbed a pitcher of chocolate heated up to 115 degrees and one by one he poured some into our mouths. It was a little messy, but absolutely delicious. We also got to make our own chocolate bars and we were each given a chocolate bar that they recently invented that hasn’t hit stores yet. It was filled with peanut butter and was absolutely delicious.

Interesting fact: chocolate does not have caffeine in it; it’s added in.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

All Aboard the Friend Ship

My best friend’s name is Tori. We became best friends about two weeks ago while playing games at her house with a group of friends. The conversation went something like this:
Tori: I don’t have a best friend.
Me: Me neither. It’s sad.
Tori: We should be best friends, Ben!
Me: I can think of three good reasons why we shouldn’t be best friends.
Tori: Like what?
Me: Well, you’re 18, you’re dating someone, and you live far away. Any one of those reasons would be a deal breaker, and there are three of them.
Tori: Did you just reject my best friend request?
Me: … yes …

To placate Tori I told her that we could give it a one week trial. Instead of being Tori’s bff, I was her bffow (best friend for one week). The week went well so we decided we can be bfuslfcij (best friends until she leaves for college in January).

On Saturday some friends and I made gingerbread houses out of real gingerbread at Tori’s house. I’d never used real gingerbread before and it had been years and years since I’d even decorated a graham cracker house. We had loads and loads of candy options for decorating. I’m not very creative when it comes to decorating and I was a little overwhelmed by all the options. Tori, our hostess, does this every year and designed a very intricate house. I designed a peppermint path for my house which I thought was cool, but that Tori described as “cliché.” Not wanting to be cliché anymore I covered my roof in “terracotta tiles” and gave my house a nice “brick” façade. I think it turned out nicely although some of the other houses were much more spectacular than mine. It’s nice to have fun friends to do things with.

In January I will be without a best friend again. If you live in the Seattle area, have graduated from college, and are single, let me know and I'll let you fill out a best friend application. The application is quite simple, you just have to be willing to make me soup and keep me company when I get sick.

Tori's gingerbread house featured a murder scene on the front path.

Thursday, November 17, 2011


School has its ups and downs, but despite the downs I no longer consider quitting. I really like my job and I love the kids I teach. Lately I’ve been realizing that my lessons can be a little boring so I tried some activities today that an awesome, seasoned teacher recommended (she’s seasoned because she’s been teaching for so long, not because she’s been sprinkled with herbs). Today we tried “La U” which is where the students stand in a u-shape around the classroom. I ask them questions in order and if they get it right they get to sit down, but if they get the question wrong they have to stay standing until the next round. They can’t sit down until they get a question right.

I should have seen this coming, but I didn’t. The first period I tried it with started making fun of the kids that were getting answers wrong. Some of them even called one kid a loser while holding their hand to their forehead in the shape of an L. I didn’t realize that people did that in real life. I have loads of self-esteem and a great sense of self-worth, but what they were saying would have even hurt my feelings. I stopped the game and enacted the most severe punishment I could come up with – I removed their candy privileges for the rest of the month.

Taking away candy is a big deal to 13 and 14 year olds. One day in September I gave out fun size Twix as part of a lesson. Every day after that the kids would ask if I would be giving out more candy. It got a little frustrating. One such exchange went like this:

Student: Are we getting candy today?
Me as turn my pockets inside out: I’m a part-time teacher. I can’t afford to buy you candy all the time.
Student: What if we brought it in?
Me, slightly confused by the direction of the conversation: Sure, if you bring in candy I’d be happy to pass it out to you.

I wasn’t quite sure why she needed me to give her the candy. I figured she could just cut out the middle man and keep the candy for herself. But then again candy tastes twice as sweet when it’s also a prize. Much to my surprise and the joy of the other students she did bring in candy and I happily passed it out to even happier students when they did something awesome. Unfortunately I really love my students and it was so fun to see how happy they were to be getting a small piece of candy. So the day after Halloween I went to the store and bought bags and bags of Halloween candy for a generous discount. I’m hoping the candy will last all year.

When the next period came in and I explained how La U worked I also told them that the other class had lost their candy privileges by being rude. One girl perked up and asked, “So if we’re good, do we get candy?” and I said, “If you’re good it’ll be like Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory in here!” I watched their eyes light up as they joyously contemplated this impossible dream. In this class, after each student answered a question all the other kids clapped ecstatically. They clapped and cheered even louder when someone got a question wrong. The classroom nearly exploded with goodwill and camaraderie. I know they were cheering because they wanted candy, but it made me so happy to see them encouraging and cheering for each other. They cheered and cheered and I couldn’t stop laughing. I wish every day could be like today. And every day can be like today -- if there’s candy.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Happy Lindsayween!

My sister Lindsay and I have a good brother-sister relationship. She had to drive down to my neck of the woods on Saturday so I told her to drive down on Friday night and we could have a sleepover. There was also a Halloween dance at church that I told her we should go to. Apparently when I told Lindsay about the dance I called it a “party” and so she thought that we would only be attending a party -- no dancing involved. I’m not big fan of dances and Lindsay can barely tolerate them so she was disappointed by my accidentally misleading her. But still, she was a good sport and went anyway.

Since we were going to a Halloween dance we had to dress up. I dressed up as a planeteer (if you don’t know what that is click here), but Lindsay didn’t have costume so we started brainstorming what she could be. I have a closet in my bedroom, but I’m only able to use half of it because the other half has Kris’s clothes in it. I said, “Hey, I’ve a whole closet full of women’s clothes! I’m sure we can find something in there.” Not quite sure what she’d be dressed up as, we found a sweet green suit jacket and a hip skirt.

However, despite the awesomeness of the outfit, Lindsay decided to opt out of wearing it. I was then struck with another flash of genius. “Hey,” I nearly shouted, “Kris has a whole box of funny glasses. You could pick a pair and wear them to the dance. The only problem is I don’t know where they are.” After 10 seconds of searching I shouted to Lindsay who was in a different room, “I found them! Oddly enough they’re in a box labeled ‘funny glasses.’”

She tried on a pair and decided to go to the dance as diva. Even though I looked awesome, I decided not to go as Jimmy Durante.

Both Lindsay and I don’t really like dances, but we had fun chatting with people. I did feel kind of crotchety when people would say to me in the hallway, “Why aren’t you in the dance?” and I’d reply, “I don’t like loud music.” We did manage to dance for a little while, though and I learned what it means to Bernie and how to do the Dougie. And I was able to snag loads of free candy. Ever time I passed the candy bowl I’d furtively stuff a piece or two into my pockets so as not to arouse suspicion. I came away with quite the stash (not to be confused with a “stache” which I did not come away with).

Lindsay and I ended the night watching the new episode of Community while lying on my bed. It was the best Lindsayween ever!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

That '70s House

I moved about a month ago and I love my “new” house. Morning Kris and her husband winter in Arizona and they offered to let me live at their house while they’re gone for a very affordable price. I was extremely hesitant about moving in at first for a number of reasons. The first being that I would be sharing the house with their nephew Jesse whom I’d never met before. The second being that they wouldn't be in Arizona for the entire school year meaning that we would be sharing the house for a number of weeks. Also, when I first walked into the house I was very surprised to see how outdated everything was. The house is tidy and well kept, but everything looks like it’s from the '70s. Let me show you what I mean. There is orange shag carpet everywhere, even on the stairs. Also, note the stone floor in the hallway. I think the Bradys had a similar feature in their house.

My bedroom is in the basement and that's where I spend most of my time. I haven't used it yet, but we have a sweet orange pool table.

I spend most of my time lying on this couch reading. As you can see, the furniture is quite old, too. It's still comfy, though. While the basement floor is tiled, they managed to cover it with an orange rug.

Our bathroom is super-rad. It has double sinks, jungle wallpaper, and a vanity that's so old I'm pretty sure it's back in style.

Here's our lovely kitchen. Once again, notice the orange counter tops.

I've never used the dining room, but it has orange shag carpet and really neat gold wallpaper.

My room recently had some water damage so it was completely redone with nice new carpet, new dry wall and a fresh coat of paint. However, the color they picked for the walls was orange. Also, I had a goal to make my bed everyday this year and I'm still going strong.

Despite the fact that my house looks like it belongs in the '70s I still love living here. It really feels like home. Morning Kris and her husband were here for the first two weeks that I lived here and instead of it being awkward it was a ton of fun. We'd sit down and chat together every night and talk about our days together. It really felt nice to be living with a family. My first day there morning Kris said, "Would you mind telling us when you leave and when you'll be coming back? I'm not trying to be intrusive, I'm just a mom and I know I'll worry about you." I always made sure they knew where I was and it felt nice to be cared about. I love my house.

Note: I also thought about naming this post "Orange You Glad You Get to See My House?" but I thought the current title was better.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Sometimes Life Just Hurts

The title of this post was meant to be overly dramatic. As I was preparing to leave Portugal this summer I made of list of the five things I wanted to accomplish when I got home. Getting a job and finding a place to live were numbers one and two and now that I had conquered those (in very unexpected ways), it was time to move on to number three: regularly exercising.

I worked out fairly regularly during college. I fell off the health band wagon frequently, but never for more than a month or two, but before last week I hadn’t worked out since April. Usually when I stop working out I go from thin back to my default body shape of scrawny. But slowing metabolism and two months of European pastries and inordinate amounts of cookie dough and brownie mix just made me go soft and it was time to fight back. I got permission to use the school gym once the kids left and went for the first time last Tuesday. I share a classroom with a lovely girl named Lindsey. We’ve spent many hours together preparing lessons after school and have become good friends. When I got back from working out Lindsey asked, “How did it go?” I responded by slightly elevating my sleeve, flexing my feeble arm and saying, “You tell me.” She wasn’t impressed.

When I had been on my mission for a little over a year I was assigned to work with an American companion. When I first saw him in the bus station I thought to myself, oh great, they sent me a jock. And he most definitely was. He had been captain of his high school football team and had played college football, too. He informed me that we’d be working out every night. I wasn’t opposed by the idea, but I wasn’t enthused by it either. Every night when we got home we’d work out for about 30 minutes. The first night we did tons of sit ups, push ups and curls. The next morning I was so sore that I literally could not sit up in bed. I had to roll over and then slide off the bed. I didn’t want to go through that again so I “went easy” this time. It still hurts, though. Even my neck muscles hurt which was very unexpected. I think the two things that are the most painful are laughing and getting dressed because they’re usually so effortless and pleasant. Still, I know the pain will subside soon and I’ll go from soft Ben to thin Ben again. I think scrawny Ben may be gone for good.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Success, Failure and Success

Friday was a rough day at work. I had planned what I thought was a fun and informative lesson for my morning classes, but I was incorrect. My first class is very verbal and it can be difficult to keep them focused at times. On Friday they were particularly loud and obnoxious. Some of the kids were loudly complaining that class was boring, that Spanish was hard and then homework was evil. A lot of them had the same teacher last year who few of them seemed to like. She seems like a great teacher to me, but they all complain about her. One of the kids said to her friend, “This class is worse than [insert teacher’s name]’s class.” For some reason that comment really hurt. Usually I’m rubber and the kids are glue and whatever they say bounces off of me and sticks to them. But this comment wasn’t said to me, it was said to another student and I just happened to hear it with my teacher ears. I was the glue.

My second class is incredibly well behaved and they just seemed bored out of their minds. I thought to myself, maybe I am boring. When that class ended I collapsed into my comfy teacher chair trying to figure out what had gone wrong and why my classes had sucked so much. I packed up my bag and headed off to my next school.

I’m very lucky in that I don’t have two bad lessons in one day. If I have a bad morning I inevitably have a great afternoon and vice versa. I headed off to school knowing that the afternoon was going to rock. And it did. We’ve been singing this really silly song called "Billy la bufanda" about a scarf named Billy. You can listen to it by clicking here

. In the song Billy the scarf has all kinds of adventures and then the singer says that Billy really didn’t do those things because he’s just a scarf. It’s a pretty silly song, but the kids love it and want to sing it every day.

On Wednesday I was having problems with a kid who I’ll call Jared. Jared is a good kid, but he just has too much energy and annoys everyone around him. I called his mom to talk to her about some issues I was having with Jared and she said, “This is really surprising because he’s never had any problems before. No teacher has ever complained about Jared. I would like to come in and talk to you.” I hadn’t expected that to happen and unwilling set up a time for the first parent teacher conference I’d ever had. I was really worried because I now had to deal with a parent who thought her imperfect child was indeed perfect. I followed the sage advice of my parents and told the vice principal that I’d be meeting with Jared’s mom just in case the meeting went poorly and the mom complained about me. I then emailed all of his other teachers to see if they were having similar issues and they were. I showed up to the meeting with both barrels loaded and ready to support my claims with what the other teachers had said. It ended up being the most pleasant conversation I could have imagined. Jared and his mom were both there and we discussed what Jared needed to do differently and then quickly changed the subject to talking about how much we love traveling through Spain. It was awesome and I feel like Jared and I have a better relationship and that his mom trusts me.

A bunch of the teachers from one of my schools went to happy hour at Azteca on Friday. I hadn’t planned on going because I don’t drink, but the promise of inexpensive chips and guacamole got the better of me. While I was there the teacher who has Jared the period after me came up to me and said, “I don’t know what you and Jared’s mom talked about, but he was angel today.” It was true, he was. Then the choir teacher approached me and said, “I’ve gotta tell you something, Ben. Every Friday I let the kids pick a song to sing and then we assign parts and a harmony and just have fun with it. I have a bunch of kids from your class and they all wanted to sing “Billy la bufanda” so we sang it for the whole period and the kids loved it.” I said, “Everyone sang in Spanish?” and she said, “Yes, and even the kids that don’t know any Spanish loved it.”

I didn’t have a margarita Azteca on Friday, but I did get slightly tipsy from a healthy sense of accomplishment. I had started the day feeling like a boring failure, but I ended it learning that I had helped a student focus in school and that my kids loved what we were doing in class so much that they shared it with their friends. I wish that all of my efforts and hard work and preparation resulted in educational joy, but they don’t. And that’s how life is, too. We try and try and sometimes we succeed and sometimes we fail. But not every failure is the result of lack of effort (although plenty are), but that doesn’t mean that we stop trying because we’re bound to end up at Azteca during happy hour only to learn that we changed the world in a very small way. I like my job, I like where I’m living and I like my new ward. I feel very happy and content. I’m so lucky to be where I am doing what I’m doing.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

I Sound Like a Grown-up

School is going really well, much better than I would have expected a few weeks ago. I had my first observation a week ago and both the principal and vice principal were in the room taking copious notes. That usually would have made me extremely nervous, but I’ve been observed and critiqued by the subs for so long that being observed has become second nature. The other Spanish teachers had warned me that they always have to tell you something to work on and that I shouldn’t get down on myself because of their suggestions. I met with the vice principal on Tuesday to debrief and talk about the evaluation and he was overwhelmingly positive and the things he told me to work on were pretty small things. I was relieved. He even hinted that they will likely offer me the job for next year as well. No decisions can be made for some time, though. I felt pretty good about that. Mostly because four weeks ago they picked someone else for the job.

Today I had to stop by the district offices and I ran into the district’s sub coordinator who I’d never met before. She came right up to me and introduced herself. She told me that since I had had no time to prepare for the year she sent me the three best subs that the district has. She had asked them all how I was doing and they had told her that I was doing phenomenal things, that I had a good report with the kids and that they were really impressed with me. She ended by saying, “They all think you’re doing a great job and had nothing but great things to say.” Not only did this warm my heart, but I also got the sweet feeling of revenge. You see, I was a little disappointed and even a little more vengeful when the district didn’t hire me the first time. I know I shouldn’t feel this way, but when someone makes a decision that hurts me my reaction is usually to make them want to regret that decision. I feel like the best way to make them regret not hiring me is to do an awesome job just to show them what they could have missed. So take that, school district, I’m doing a great job!

I moved into my new home on Monday and it’s great. Morning Kris and her husband spend their winters in Arizona so I’m going to housesit for them with their nephew Jesse. I’d never met Jesse before and I was a little worried about living with a stranger. Especially someone that Kris had described as “froo froo.” Before I even met Jesse I walked into the bathroom that we’d be sharing and saw his retainers soaking in a denture cleaning solution. I know this sounds weird, but I clean my retainers the same way and knowing that we have that one thing in common put me slightly at ease. Jesse is really easy going, tall and thin and we get along great so far. A grown man that still wears his retainers can’t be that bad. His teeth are straight and so is he. On Tuesday I told one of my classes that I was moving into town from Everett and they were all unusually happy for me. One girl in particular, who I will call Lola, was worried that I’d never met Jesse before. Trying to be funny she wrote a letter for me to give to Jesse. This is what it said:
Dear Jessie,
Please be kind to Señor Schilaty. I like him and if you hurt his feelings he will get sad. Also, do not murder him, that would be kinda bad. Finally, don’t take his clothes, he is very stylish! Thank you! Please write back.

The next day she asked me if Jesse had written back and I said, “I’m not a mailman and I’m not going to help a 13 year old communicate with a grown man.”

Later that day we were reading a story in class about a boy and his girlfriend. During the story Lola did what all middle school students love to do: exclaim that their class last year was different from the current class. Every day I hear things like, “Señor Schilaty, we didn’t do this last year. Why are we doing it now?” “Señor Schilaty, we had class outside last year. Why don’t we have class outside?” “Señor Schilaty, our other teacher didn’t teach us this. Why are you?” Lola exclaimed, “Why do we always talk about boyfriends and girlfriends in this class? We didn’t do that last year.” She was right though, we do talk about novios a lot. I think it’s probably a lingering habit from teaching at BYU. I looked straight at Lola and in the most serious voice I could muster while making a joke I said, “Lola, as you get older you’re going to start seeing boys in a way that you haven’t before.” At this point another kid yelled out, “You sound just like my dad,” which was exactly the point. The class burst into laughter and I pulled a Jimmy Fallon and laughed a lot more than I should have in front of a large group.

Later that day another student was complaining about the group he’d been assigned to work with. He wasn’t being serious and was just trying to be funny. I feel very strongly that a silly comment deserves a silly response. So I said, “What?! You don’t like your group? But you have the best group! Look at Pedro, he is such a good student. And Victoria is so helpful and kind. And you’ve got Nadia who’s so small and adorable.” Nadia is a 7th grader, but she really is tiny. She looks like and reminds me of the young version of the old lady from Up. Once she realized what I had said she said, “Hey! That’s harassment.” Then she paused and said in a very matter of fact way, “No, it’s true, I am very small… and adorable,” and she flashed everyone a big, adorable smile.

Teaching isn’t perfect and I’m working more than 10 hours a day on a part-time job, but I’m enjoying it.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Kris Cross Applesauce

The last two and a half weeks of teaching have been quite the whirlwind adventure. Since my teaching certificate is still being processed I have to have a sub with me in the room at all times. The subs just sit in the back and I do all the teaching. The kids seem to have forgotten that there is always an old lady sitting in the back of the room and have just accepted her presence as being normal. I have a morning sub at one school and an afternoon at the other school and they’re both named Kris. They’re both great, but very different. Morning Kris wears jeans, has pigtails and does crafts while she subs and afternoon Kris dresses up like a business woman, works part-time as a realtor and does work in the back of the room that the office people give her.

After class on the second day of school morning Kris came up to me and said, “Ben, as a veteran of 40 years of teaching I feel like I should tell you some things.” She quickly complimented me on the things I was doing well and then told me all of the things I was doing wrong and warned me that things would get bad really fast if I didn’t fix them in the beginning. When she was finished and left I collapsed into a chair and just felt like barfing. Not because I was mad or disgusted, but because she was right and I knew it. I felt overwhelmed with all that I had to do. I knew going into this that I wasn’t prepared and having morning Kris expose my fears was like a kick in the pants. I felt physically ill for most of the first week of school because I knew I was in over my head and I’d bitten off more than I could chew.

To her credit morning Kris kept giving me advice. Everyday she’d write up a page of notes about how I was teaching and discuss it with me at the end of the day. She could have just sat in the back of the room and done nothing, but she decided to help me. And luckily I was smart enough to listen and do what she said. My room went from being on the verge of out of control to being orderly and organized. She pointed out all kinds of things that I would have missed. Morning Kris saved me from a terrible year and gave my kids a good classroom and I’m so grateful for her.

Afternoon Kris is very different. Morning Kris is pleasant, but afternoon Kris is incredibly pleasant. Morning Kris spent years teaching high school math and afternoon Kris spent years teaching elementary school and their differing experiences are evident in their personalities. Afternoon Kris has a soft, soothing voice while morning Kris has a commanding, authoritative voice. I’d ask afternoon Kris for advice hoping that she would help me like morning Kris did, but typically she would just praise me for doing a great job. While I appreciated the boast of self-esteem, I didn’t need that so much as I needed honest feedback. My afternoon classes are going well, but not nearly as well as my morning classes because I haven’t had someone advising me on how to create a better classroom each day. So here’s what I’ve learned: even though it makes me want to vomit, I’d rather be told how to be better than just be told that I’m great.

I will now poke fun at my students. On the second day of class I had my students fill out some information cards so that I could get to know them a little bit better. Here’s what two of them wrote when I asked them to tell me a little about themselves:
“I’m Mexican. I have a dog. My dog is fat.”
“I am Chinese. I take gummybear vitamins.”

I asked my students why they wanted to study Spanish. Here’s what one kid said:
“Since my friends also take Spanish, I want a special way to communicate together without our parents being nosy and asking ‘who’s this? Whatcha’ talking about?’”

My students were supposed to write any fears or concerns they had about Spanish class, but they apparently didn’t read the part that said “Spanish class.” Here’s what a few of them said:
“biggest fear: creepy ppl, sharks.”
“highly terrified of spiders and slugs.”
“Sometimes I forget the forms of Spanish and like I’m bad at writing sentences so I always get docked off points on tests.”
“I’m allergic to peanuts, but not deathly allergic.”
“understandance of speech.”
“I hate being sick, so I try to stay away from sick people or ya know and yay.”

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Wright Decision

Please allow me to make a very long story condensed and readable because I know that no one wants to spend more than five minutes reading a blog post. In March my quickly approaching graduation started to weigh on my mind which prompted me to start looking for post graduation employment. I applied to a few universities and community colleges during my last semester at school, but it wasn’t until I got to Portugal and had loads of free time that I really started to get serious about finding a job. After hours of and hours of searching and filling out applications and dozens of emails with my résumé attached I still had no job. And then a high school teaching job in Washington became available. They seemed really excited to hire me and I was pumped to work with them. Unfortunately, just hours before my graduation from BYU they told that I didn’t get the job. It was a little upsetting, but mostly just surprising.

The night of graduation my mom and I immediately started looking for other job possibilities. My mom found a middle school position available in a city in the Seattle area. I called the district offices, told them that I was awesome, but wasn’t certified to teach and the kind lady on the other end told me that I had very little chance of being hired, but that she’d patch me through to someone else’s voicemail. The old “don’t call us, we’ll call you” routine. I expected never to her from that lady. Three weeks later I’m in Washington and I get a call from a number I don’t recognize. I answer and the lady on the other end said, “Hi, this is Jackie returning your call from a few weeks ago regarding the Spanish position we have available.” I was then expecting her to say, “Thank you for your interest in this position, but you’re not qualified for it so how dare you waste my time?!” What she really said was, “We’ve had trouble filling the position and were wondering if you would still like to apply.” I was shocked, stunned and nearly speechless. I told her I’d apply.

The position was to teach two periods of Spanish at two different middle schools. Later that day one of the vice principals called me in for an interview for the following day and I accepted. As I pulled in to the parking lot for the interview my phone rang and it was someone from the MTC calling me in for an interview for a job I’d applied for there. They wanted me to come in the next day, but I told them I was in Washington and they kindly agreed to let me come in the day after Labor Day. I was mostly stalling the MTC people because I wanted the teaching job in Washington more and was actually qualified for it. You see, the MTC job required being fluent in Portuguese. Am I fluent in Portuguese? Well… that depends on your definition of “fluent” and I wasn’t sure what the MTC’s was. So the MTC job became a backup plan if I didn’t get the teaching job in Washington.

The interview was the Wednesday before Labor Day and it went well. Later that day the school district started calling my references which is a VERY good sign so I was confident that I’d get the job. School started the next Tuesday so I was expecting to hear from the district really soon so that I could get to work preparing. Thursday passed in agony as I waited for a phone call that never came. On Friday I started to get really worried because if I didn’t get this job I’d have to go to Utah and I just wanted to know what their decision was. Friday afternoon around 2:00 pm I got a call from the vice principal informing me that there had been four applicants, I was one of the final two, but they picked the other guy because he was certified and I wasn’t. He went on say that blah blah blah I was awesome and that blah blah blah I should apply in the future and that blah blah blah they were impressed with me. I didn’t really want to hear it. I thanked him for his consideration and hung up. Once again I was stunned that I hadn’t gotten a job that I was sure I would get. However, my disappointment didn’t last long because I was thrilled to be going back to Utah.

I made plans to stay with my friends the Wrights when I got to Utah and I was pumped to see them. I was also pumped to see my grad student friends, friends from former wards and just to be in Utah again. I was sure that things would work out they way they were supposed to. So Labor Day morning I packed all of my belongings into my car yet again and started on the 14 hour drive to Provo. As I was ascending the Blue Mountains in eastern Oregon I got a phone call from Jackie the HR lady informing me that the guy they offered the teaching position to ended up not being certified either and they would like to offer the position to me instead. Once again I was stunned. I said, “Can I call you back?” and she said, “Of course.” I then entered the mountains and for 40 agonizing minutes I didn’t have cell phone service. I really had to talk this decision over with my parents and yet they were unreachable.

I really didn’t know what to do. I had wanted the Spanish teaching job, but I was already over it and had moved on. It’s like how you really want to eat chocolate after eating Mexico food, but if you wait for an hour the craving goes away. I didn’t really crave the job anymore and I was set on going to Utah. I finally entered a place with cell phone service and stopped at a McDonald’s in La Grande, Oregon to call people for advice. Everyone gave me the same advice: take the job, you dummy! I called Jackie back and accepted the position. I then got in my car and drove back to Washington.

This decision was tough to make because I knew it meant that I wouldn’t see my Utah friends for a long time. I was going to spend that night in Orem at the Wrights’ house and I was particularly bummed to not be able to see them. You see, when I left Utah for the pie party I was fully intending on returning to Utah. The Wrights were the last people I saw and I said something to them like, “Goodbye! I’ll see you in a few days.” Jackie had told me that I could continue driving to Utah and start work a few days late. That seemed really tempting. I was then faced with two decisions: the right decision and the Wright decision. On the one hand, it would have been great to see everyone in Utah, if only for a day. But I knew that they right thing to do was to head straight home so that I could be there for the first day of school the following day. It was the right thing to do.

After 30 minutes of internal conflict at a McDonald’s in La Grande, Oregon I got back in my car. I looked at the odometer and I had traveled exactly 360 miles from my home in Washington. It seemed like the perfect mileage to turn around. On Labor Day I drove about 720 miles to end up where I started, I gassed up twice at the same gas pump in Prosser, WA and I finally got a job. To all my Utah friends, I’m sorry that I didn’t make the Wright decision because I would have loved to see you, but I did make the right decision.

Oh, and thank you for indulging my love of puns. And that’s the story of how Ben got dental insurance.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Uncle Ben

On Monday night as I was driving home my brother Jessen called me and asked me if I could babysit his kids for four hours the following day. Jessen and Laura have three kids: Bowen, age six, Boyd, age five, and Ryan, age 14 months. I responded by saying, “I can watch babies, but I don’t know how to take care of babies.” I was hoping he’d say something like, “You’re right, you’re not qualified for this. I’ll ask someone else,” but he didn’t. When I told him that I’d never changed a diaper he told me that it was easy and I had to learn eventually anyway. I gave some other examples of things that I didn’t how to do and he said, “Just ask Bowen, he knows what to do.” Of course, direct all questions to the six year old.

When I got to the house on Tuesday morning Laura showed me some things that I’d have to do. For example, before putting Ryan down for a nap I should say something like, “Ryan, it’s night-night time,” and read him a book or two. I said, “Read him TWO books?!” and she said, “they’re baby books, they’re short.”

I had told Jessen that I don’t know how to entertain children for four hours and he said, “Just ask the boys what they want to do and do that.” I did just that. The boys wanted to play hide-and-seek, make things out of paper, jump on the trampoline and watch Kung Fu Panda so we did all of those things. I had never put a baby down for a nap before so Bowen offered to help. He read Ryan a story and then explained to me that I needed to give him his binky, lay him down and tuck him in. I did all this and Ryan started crying like crazy. Bowen said, “Don’t worry, he’ll stop in a minute.” Bowen and I left the room and closed the door and 60 seconds later Ryan had stopped crying. I’m now convinced that Bowen is a genius.

While watching Kung Fu Panda I texted a few people. I know, how neglectful of me, right? Every time I pulled out my phone Boyd would say, “Ben, this part is so funny. You’re missing it!” He really wanted to make sure that I didn’t miss anything. It was adorable. I was sitting with Ryan during the movie and at one point he decided to jump off the couch. Seeing this happen out of the corner of my eye I quickly stuck out my arm to block his jump. He had jumped with more force than I had expected and instead of stopping him, my arm made him do an artful flip towards the floor. He landed on his back on the carpet and gave me a startled look as he realized what he’d just done. Sensing that I had roughly one second before he started to cry I scooped him up and said, “Wow, Ryan, you’re pretty tough,” and he just smiled and forgot that he should have been crying.

Laura called me to tell me that she’d be home by two. Bowen asked me when his mom would be home and I said that she’d be home by two. He said in his cute six year old voice, “She’ll be home at 2:03 then.” I responded with, “Oh really?” and he said, “She’s always late.” Sure enough, Laura pulled in at exactly 2:03. That kid knows his stuff.

While I didn’t have to change a diaper, I still learned a lot from watching my nephews for five hours. And I didn’t even mind that it lasted for an extra hour. I kind of felt like Uncle Jesse and Uncle Joey the first time they watched baby Michelle by themselves. Click here for the clip. I don’t know much about caring for children, but I think I can learn. Especially when there’s a six year old who knows the ropes.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Thanks for the Pie

On Tuesday I got an email from my aunt that said, "See you at the pie party on Thursday!" I had told my aunt that I would be attending her wildly popular pie party before I found out that I didn’t get the job in Washington. I had neglected to tell her that I had decided to stay in Utah and wouldn’t be attending the party. My aunt makes really good pie and I really wanted some. When I got home to my unfurnished apartment on Tuesday night I reviewed my weekend plans in my head. Realizing that I didn’t have any I decided to surprise my family by driving up to Washington the next day.

I got on the freeway around 2:30 pm the next day and started on the 14 hour drive home. As I was driving away I regretted leaving so late in the day. The only reason I’d waited so long to leave was because I hadn’t decided if I was going until noon. The sun was setting as I was leaving Boise at 8:30 which created an unhappy problem because I was driving directly west. I've heard songs romanticizing driving west towards the setting sun, but let me tell you that there is nothing romantic about it. That life giving, burning ball of gas was right over the road blinding me for a long time. I don't own sunglasses so the only way to protect my eyes was to block the sun with my hand. For about twenty minutes I held my fist in front of my face in a pose that would make any passing cars think that I was saluting some imaginary dictator. The sun finally lowered behind the hills and I was glad.

The next seven hours were spent driving in the dark which isn't so bad if you have these essential items: two bottles of Coke, two small bags of Sun Chips, a box of Whoppers and an IPod. Unfortunately my IPod died at 1:30 am just when I needed it most. I was in the middle of the mountains and had no radio reception. In an effort to entertain myself I started singing out loud. For some reason I started singing a duet which sounded so awful that I quickly gave up on singing. I searched through my car for entertainment and found a few books on tape that I had listened to on previous road trips nestled up against some old fireworks. I wasn't interested in either item.

I came across a tape called "It's a Miracle" that I decided to listen to. It's an old LDS musical from the eighties that I listened to as a kid and I'm not quite sure how it got into my car. That’s not completely true because I obviously put it there, but I have no idea of when or why. The best part of the tape is a song about two missionaries that don't get along. My favorite line was, "You really needn't be so stinky every time I buy a tweenkie." LDS musical artists from the eighties really knew how to encapsulate the struggles of missionary life in song. When I got home, exited the car and stood up I felt rather dizzy. It may be because it was 3:30 in the morning, it may have been due to the Coke and candy, but I suspect that it was caused by all the blood suddenly rushing to my rear end.

I slept for quite a while and was glad to be home. My cat seemed happy, too. I had a blast surprising everyone at the pie party the next evening. My sister-in-law was so excited to see me that she hugged me multiple times. The pie was delicious and that coupled with seeing my family made the drive worth it.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Come What May and Love It

My mom and I arrived in Utah on Tuesday night and it’s good to be “home.” I had mentioned to her a few times how excited I was to go home always adding that I wasn’t quite sure where home was for me. While I was in Portugal I applied for a teaching job in Washington that I was confident I would get. On Thursday morning, just a few hours before graduation ceremonies, I got a phone call from the school district informing me that I didn’t get the job. They decided to hire someone that can teach French and Spanish. While I have lots of experience teaching, I can’t compete with someone that has more skills (although I’m pretty sure I have more skillz).

The timing of the news was not good. I was hoping to hear that I had gotten job so when everyone asked, “What are your plans now?” I could say, “I have dental benefits,” but instead I said, “I don’t know.” As my parents and I drove to commencement I lamented in disappointed frustration, “How did I let this happen?” You see, I’ve been applying for jobs for the last four months and was sure that I would have found something by the time I graduated. I just couldn’t believe that I’d become "one of those people” who get graduate degrees and then end up unemployed and living with their parents. It just wasn’t a good time to celebrate my graduation.

When I got to the Marriott Center and found the line for graduate students I ran into Erin Shaw who I had taught in the MTC years ago. She was graduating as well, had a great job lined up, and told me how excited she was to be able to go to the dentist again. I was happy for her and felt more like celebrating. I apologized to my parents for being such a grumpy bear and decided to just enjoy graduation. President Samuelson was the first speaker at commencement and he talked about how things will work out. They don’t always work out in the way or time that we expect, but things always work out. During his talk I reflected on my own life and felt the truthfulness of his words. I thought about my internship in Bolivia, living with a 71 year old lady in Mexico, my previous job teaching high school Spanish, deciding to go to grad school and my summer in Portugal. All of those things hadn’t been in my plans, had happened rather unexpectedly, and had been awesome. I decided that President Samuelson was right. My life has been so awesome and it’s only going to get better. I think Nephi was right we he said: “if it so be that the children of men keep the commandments of God he doth nourish them, and strengthen them, and provide means whereby they can accomplish the thing which he has commanded them…”

After feeling sorry for myself for the few hours before commencement I changed my attitude and decided that things will work out better than I could have imagined. I watched a video yesterday that helped me be even more optimistic about the future. It’s called Come What May and Love It. It’s only three and a half minutes long and you can watch it by clicking here. I don’t have a job, I don’t have dental coverage, I don’t have a bed, and all of my earthly possessions are currently in my car (please don’t steal my car right now), but I have hope for the future. Life is awesome and it's only going to get more awesome. Come what may, I’m gonna love it.

Leigh, unemployed man and Dr. Martinsen.
Quick funny story: I took Allison out for lunch at El Gallo Giro on Wednesday which I paid for. We then got ice cream cones at Macey’s that Allison bought. They were delicious and cost less than 50 cents apiece. Allison said, “Less than a buck! What a cheap date!” to which I responded, “I had to pay $12 for lunch. But I like this set up with the guy buying the meal and the girl buying dessert.” Hearing our conversation, the teenage boy working behind the counter said, “Girls should always give you dessert at the end of the date.” Since he’s a teenager from Utah the “dessert” he was referring to is probably a goodnight hug that last 6 to 8 seconds.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Don’t Gimme That Bull!

As a Spanish teacher I felt in my duty, nay, my obligation to attend a bullfight in Spain. Sevilla is the capital of bullfighting and while we were there I looked into attending a bullfight. Not only are they super-expensive to attend there, but there weren’t any fights during our time there. I wasn’t too disappointed and was easily consoled by the visiting the Museum of Bullfighting.

My mom and I are in Madrid now and we stopped by the bullfighting ring to see when the next fight was and there was one tonight. For €12.30 we got great seats in the shade. A nice Asian family from California sat next to us and after briefly discussing where we were from the dad looked at me and said, “So I take it you’re not a vegetarian?” I was grateful for the reinforcement of my funny Asian stereotype. As we were leaving the bullfight he said, “Headed out to get some stakes?” and I said, “You know it!” We got ice cream.

As part of the bullfight they have men come out on horses who stab the bulls with long sticks. Horses used to get gored all the time so now they wear a lot of protective padding. Each round the horses got pulverized by the bull which was especially sad because the horses were blindfolded (that way the horse won’t react to a bull running at it). One horse even got knocked over. This was my least favorite part of the show because I was so worried about the horse’s safety. During the show I realized how odd it was that I was worried about a horse when I didn’t really worry about the men fighting or the dying bull. The horses are just so darn loveable.

At the beginning of the show the men participating (I don’t know if they’re all considered matadors) did some warm ups with their capes which seemed similar to the drills sports teams do before games. They were all wearing brightly colored uniforms covered in fancy ornamentation with pants so tight you’d think they were the Jonas Brothers. The matador had a red cape, but all the other guys had pink ones. One of them was wearing a pink uniform and as I watched him holding his pink cape and twirling around on one foot with the other foot gracefully out to the side I couldn’t help but think that he looked a little gay. At that moment I remembered the comment that the Asian man had made and inspiration struck.

The idea I had was to write a story about a gay vegetarian matador. Of course he’s wildly famous and if it got out that he was a gay vegetarian he’d be ruined. I haven’t decided if it should be a drama or a comedy yet. If it ends up being a drama the plot will revolve around the importance of being yourself no matter what others think, sort of like High School Musical. I’d call it something like When the Steaks Are High. Jorge, the matador, is faced with a tough decision when a television show is going to tour his house. Does he show them his favorite part of his house, his organic vegetable garden, or does he hide from the truth like he’s done for so many years? The comedy would involve hilarious situations in which the matador would do a poor job of pretending to be someone he’s not, like The Parent Trap. I think When the Steaks Are High would be a good title for this one too. It would involve many hilarious situations. For example, Jorge is invited to an important state dinner and is served a steak. He must figure how to make everyone believe he ate the steak without actually eating it. Either way, it’s bound to be more popular than The Hunger Games. And the best part is the surprise ending when the reader learns why he’s a vegetarian.

I enjoyed the bullfight, but I don’t feel a need to go again and my mom will definitely not be going again. At the bullfight I also realized that I will probably reference this experience in every Spanish class that I ever teach so I’ll have to come up with some more exciting details.

Also, I thought of a joke as we rode the metro to the bullfight. What do you call someone who falls asleep during a bullfight? A bulldozer.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Mamma Mia!

My blog has kind of fallen by the wayside recently and I blame my mom. She flew into Lisbon a week ago and we had a blast together and I had so much fun showing her around. My mom is great and she’s fun to be around. Funny things happen when we’re together, too. For example, halfway through class each morning we have a 30 minute break which consists of everyone buying coffee and eating pastries. Since my mom didn’t have anything to do in the morning I brought her to school to meet my friends. During the break I bought her a piece of cake and brought her over to the table that all my friends were sitting at. I said, “This is my mom,” and my mom said, “Hi, I’m Ginny, “ at which point she accidently let the cake slide off of her plate and onto the ground. I quickly gathered it up and cut off the part of the cake that had touch the ground so we could eat the rest. Actually, after picking it up none of us remembered which part had touched the ground so we may have eaten the ground side.

My mom is pretty spry for being 62 and my classmates were shocked when they found out her age. Someone said, “But she looks so much younger,” and I said, “She uses a lot of facial cream.” That’s not true, but it seemed like a good explanation.

My mom and I flew to Barcelona on Friday and while we were waiting in the security line I said, “Oh shoot! Our water bottles are full!” We didn’t waste any time and I quickly chugged down all my water. My mom chugged down hers, too just as a college sophomore would chug a beer at a frat party. I’ve never been to a frat party or seen a college sophomore chug a beer, but I can imagine that it is very similar to what my mom was doing. Her bottle was bigger than mine and she didn’t quite get it all down in one breath. She had chugged valiantly, but there was still a little left so I said, “just dump it in the trash can,” and she throw the whole bottle in. I immediately said, “Not the bottle! The water!” She retrieved her bottle from the trash can and dumped the water in.

My mom doesn’t speak Spanish at all so she just talks to people in English even when she knows that they don’t speak English. She doesn’t seem to realize that she really needs to dumb down how she talks when she speaks to people who know very little English. For example, last night we ate at a delicious restaurant in Córdoba in a building that was four hundred years old. Our waiter didn’t speak much English, but he was kind enough to show us around the building and point out the historic features. My mom started to explain that she had a friend in Tucson who lived in an adobe house and she was going to talk about the benefits of living in an adobe house, but the waiter cut her off and started talking about something else. I’m sure my mom was talking too fast and when she mentioned exotic places like Tucson that our waiter had probably never heard of he decided he was better off changing the subject.

Traveling with my mom has been great and I’m so glad she’s here. She’s glad I’m here, too because I can talk to people.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Welcome to My Home

Since most of you won’t ever get to see my apartment in Lisbon I decided to give a brief tour. When you enter my apartment you walk into a horseshoe shaped hallway that leads to the living room, bathroom, kitchen, laundry area/turtle habitat, and a storage room. The hallway is a haven for unexplainably odd knickknacks. I will only show you a few. The hallway has no windows so it’s always a little dark and I apologize for the poor quality of some of the pictures.

I think the oddest thing in the hallway is a large painting that dominates one of the walls. I call it Snooze Button. As you can see, it’s a painting of a woman lying on the floor. I have deduced that the time of the painting is roughly 7:30 am on a Tuesday morning. The woman’s alarm went off at 6:30, but she repeatedly hit the snooze button on her alarm clock wanting to sleep for a few more minutes. She is now running an hour late and is struggling with the realization that she no longer has the time to do her hair in that cute way that she likes. She’s managed to roll out of bed onto the floor, but has yet to gather up enough strength to stand up and start the day. I can relate.

This is one of the many unexplained knickknacks. Obviously I expected to have ceramic animals in my apartment in Portugal, I just didn’t expect it to be an elephant. On a side note, furniture randomly appears in the apartment sometimes. One day a large chest filled with blankets appeared in the hallway and due to the darkness of the hallway I walked right into it. It was on the right side of the hallway so I turned the corner hugging the left wall assuming that I would miss any other items of furniture only to immediately stumble into a chair.

This mirror is in the hall right outside my bedroom. Every day I ask it who’s the fairest of them all. The only time it says that I am is on the days that I wear the clothes Ashlee and Ariel picked out for me.

This shelf is in the hallway and I think I'm the only person tall enough to notice how dusty it is.

After walking through the hallway you arrive at the living room which has no outside windows, but only one window that opens up to the laundry room. It’s always dim in the living room. When you turn on the light it is super-dim at first and takes about a minute to be fully luminescent. I didn’t even know light bulbs did that, but most of the lights in my house are that way. It must be a Portuguese thing.

Another oddity of my house is all the doors. Every area that could possibly have a door has a door. The only other time I’ve seen more doors in one place was on Monsters. Inc.

The living room has some random little tables and they all have drawers. One day when I was snooping around I decided to see what was inside. And they all had the same thing – keys. I couldn’t figure out why on earth there would be so many keys everywhere, but then I remembered the doors.

We have this weird table in our bathroom with gold and silver painted rocks inside of it. I understand the need for having a place to set things in the bathroom, but the painted rocks elude me.

As I mentioned in a previous post, the toilet tank is actually over the sink.

My kitchen is a pretty standard kitchen with a stove, plates, a sink, a message on the refrigerator written in permanent marker by the landlady reminding us to keep it clean, etc. However, for reasons that I have yet to understand we have a picture of a French girl flirtatiously eating a cracker. It must be an advertisement or something.

I have a chandelier in my room. Kind of tacky, but it serves its purpose (making me feel high class).

By far the weirdest thing in my house – the massage table. For more info on this weird room please refer to my previous post.

And that's my house. Feel free to stop by whenever you like.

Sunday, July 17, 2011


Having descended from Schilatys and Smiths I have very good genes. From my mom I inherited my wonderful height, but that came with a price – my feet. I’ve always thought that my feet were ugly, but I think that feet are generally that way. I was so self-conscious about my feet that when I was 14 I wore my socks into a hot tub not wanting my friends to see them. It was a pretty ridiculous thing to do, but that’s how much I was embarrassed by them. Luckily I’ve out grown that feeling and I’m mostly just glad that my feet keep me mobile. My dislike for my feet (toes in particular) led me to not like open toed shoes. I think I’ve only ever owned two pairs of flip-flops. The point of all this is that I caved in and bought some open toed shoes on Friday. It’s not very hot here yet, but I still get a little over heated walking around for hours with a backpack on. I often just want to sit down on a bench and kick my shoes and socks off so that my feet can cool down. My new shoes were bought for this functional purpose. I wore them all day on Saturday and they’re awesome and led to hours of comfort.

Speaking of Saturday, I went to Évora with three girls from my class: Aurora, Cecilia, and Angélica. It’s only 90 minutes outside of Lisbon so it makes a nice day trip. Évora was a lot smaller than we had expected. We picked up a map at the bus station and walked straight to the main plaza and were pretty surprised when we arrived there after only ten minutes of walking. We saw everything we had wanted to see in a few hours, but had hours to wait before our bus left so we decided to check out a park we hadn’t seen yet. I led the group through the winding streets and when we arrived there I pointed to a very unimpressive park and said, “Well, here’s the park. It’s not very exciting.” Cecilia pulled out her map and said, “Everything looks so much bigger on the map.” Évora is very small and even though they're pretty, all the streets look pretty much the same.

My main reason for wanting to go to Évora was to see its famous bone chapel. Apparently a few hundred years ago some monks thought that building a room out of human bones would help them to contemplate life and death. An obvious conclusion, right? The chapel is decorated with the bones of thousands of people that they dug up from the local cemetery. It’s kind of morbid, well, really morbid, but cool to look at for five to ten minutes. I think that when I get home I’m going to decorate my room with pictures of obese people to help me contemplate the importance of exercising regularly.

A bunch of people from my class went on another excursion today to Mafra. They invited me too, but I went to church instead. And honestly, the idea of going there always made me laugh. No one else seemed to think that the name of the town was funny, but every time someone said “Mafra” all I could think of was the Japanese monster Mothra. Now correct me if I’m wrong, but I think Mothra is a giant moth that attacks Tokyo when Godzilla is on vacation. Whatever Mothra is, giant moths were all I could think of as people talked about how excited they were to go to Mafra.

From left to right: Me, Aurora, Cecilia, and Angelica. Angelica does have a left arm, she just moved it as the picture was being taken and it disappeared.