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.