December, drums, and dancing

A real update for once!

We just had a great weekend, the best in the while, in FRANCE! First time crossing the border and we got to go with our very own personal tour guide. Paul, another teacher from my academy is from Bayonne, so we stayed there and also visited Biarritz and Anglet.

We only saw a little of Bayonne, but it seemed really quaint with a cozy old part of the city, so Europeanesque. We stopped in Anglet to check out the beaches there and since surfing’s really popular, basically every other place you see is a surf shop or school. Mmm another goal perhaps? It’s been a while, but why not? I miss that type of environment. Something about beaches and surf makes people friendly and chilled out. It also made me miss Fuel TV and the plethora of free swag… Maybe whenever I do return to the US, California will be an option once again. Most of Saturday, we were in Biarritz which is a pretty posh city.  You could tell it was a touristy place, full of restaurants, cafes, and shops, and very clean and well-kept. The best as always was walking along the coast and seeing some gorgeous views, and then we treated ourselves to what else – CREPES!

This was all in the Basque Country region of France, and I was told it wouldn’t be very different to here, but I actually thought it was quite different!! Maybe it was more similar to San Sebastian but compared to Vitoria… or maybe it’s just an initial impression. There were a few places with names in Euskera, but I still felt like everything was more French than Basque. After talking to people too, it seemed like as a language, Basque isn’t really common, in comparison to the trilingual movement here where everyone has to learn Basque and English in the public schools. Those we were with had a mixture of varying levels in French, Spanish and English, but I only heard a few speaking Basque, and they were from the Basque country of Spain. All that said, this is just from a weekend and a small group of people, but interesting anyways!

On the first night there we ended up in the most random place. We went to a bar in the old part and ran into people from different parts of Spain, England, Scotland, the US, and France. Everyone was really open to chatting and you could go from speaking Spanish to Basque to French to English and then some German even since we were with 2 German girls too. Super international, huh? There were some language assistants that are doing a one-year teaching program in France, similar to the program here in Spain and the one I did in Chile. And surprise – I didn’t meet one person that was criticizing me for being from the US! (Actually come to think of it, no one spoke to me in Chinese either! However, I did learn a few more phrases in Chinese though.) Out of everywhere, I suppose France is one of the countries that is supposed to hate us the most, but I didn’t have that feeling at all.  I guess that’s always an assumed part of talking about the economy, politics, and social systems, but I’m so happy that for once it wasn’t a fight, but an interesting discussion and comparison. And I’m gonna go out on a limb and say I liked the French too! So HA to all those stereotypes!

I also loved trying to remember my French vocabulary, and let’s just say it’s rather depressing that after 5 years of study, I can only remember random things like chien (dog) or gateau (cake) or chausettes (socks) haha but I occassionally could follow conversations and understand the gist, just not participate. Makes me want to start studying French again though! But I’m going to work on getting a solid Spanish level first still. Our friend invited his friends from school over for a dinner party on Saturday night and so again, we had a lot of practice communicating between French, English and Spanish. It was the first time in a while that I met such a solid group of people that you can get along so well and right away. Nothing but delicious home-cooked food, great conversations, and best of all, non-stop music making and dancing! I can’t wait to have a house of my own full of random objects from around the world, and INSTRUMENTS!! Piano, guitars, drums… no TV. And now after some spectacular jam sessions, my next investment is a drum. So fun. Anyways, hopefully they will be visiting us in Vitoria in the next few weeks, but otherwise unfortunately our link will be moving away to Nicaragua!!! And Paul’s friends also have plans to go travel together in Peru and Ecuador, and another is moving to Uruguay. So incredibly jealous… More and more hints that push me towards a move back to Latin America.

So from all this, I’m inspired once again to save up and get out. I want to visit other people I met from traveling before along with going to new places. I swear, you always have the best chats with complete strangers. Perhaps a big trip around Europe is in the works for the summertime. In the meantime, weekend trips here and there will definitely have to be planned. Nikki and I are trying to organize some kind of small excursion over the holidays in December and January too. I love the places, the food, and I loooove the people.

Oh also, it was Eleanor’s first birthday this weekend! She’s gorgeous as ever and I’m still sad to think of the day when I will be leaving, whenever I finally make that decision this year, but I plan to plant pictures around the house so she can’t forget my face.

A long-overdue update of pictures from this trip and others, and Eleanor of course, will be coming soon.

And let’s talk about how 2011 is almost over… what?

Can you coax your mind from its wandering 
and keep to the original oneness?
Can you let your body become
supple as a newborn child’s?
Can you cleanse your inner vision 
until you see nothing but the light?
Can you love people and lead them
without imposing your will?
Can you deal with the most vital matters
by letting events take their course? 
Can you step back from you own mind
and thus understand all things?

Giving birth and nourishing, 
having without possessing,
acting with no expectations,
leading and not trying to control:
this is the supreme virtue.

—Tao Te Ching


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