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 C√≥rdoba 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.