28 February 2008


It´s a rainy, cold day today in Laredo. The first one we´ve had in about a month. The rain suits the mood today as my Grandpa Johnson has been sick and struggling in the hospital. Today they will be removing the tubes and machinery that have been intertwined with his body the past month. It´s been a difficult time for the whole family, and the distance amplifies these difficulties; so, I will be heading home to be with my family for a while. Unfortunately, traveling from pueblo to pueblo doesn´t go as fast as I would like, but I will be arriving Friday evening to join my family. Please send your thoughts and prayers towards South Dakota where we will be gathering to mourn, remember, and enjoy the support and love of one another. Hopefully the rain stops soon.

26 February 2008

Election Time

And the world spins madly on...

As a political junkie, I love election times. Reading about the strategy, watching the way candidates try to sell themselves, and watching the real drama play out. This year has been especially great because of the historic battle in the US. But there is actually election action outside of the US..in Spain!

On March 9th, Spain will go to the polls in what is shaping up to be a very close and important election. The current socialist government and their leader Zapatero are slightly ahead in the polls, but it is anyone´s game as both the anti-immigrant, hard on terror right party PP and its leader Rajoy and the socialist, human rights touting party, PSOE are neck and neck. (Note bias.) Unlike the US however, political debates are not a common thing here in Spain. In fact, the last debate was 15 years ago! Thus, last night was a big night as a political debate between the two candidates was held. Over 50% of Spanish tv viewers were tuned in to the tense exchange. From what I understood, I thought PSOE did a better job, but it seems that people are mixed on the actual result. The big issues are the economy, terrorism especially with ETA the seperatist/terrorist group (depending on your viewpoint) from the Basque country in north Spain, and seperatism (a lot of regions in Spain want more independence). I´ve had a great time learning more about Spain and its interesting difference through the debates and the election, and have starting reading ¨The New Spaniards¨by John Hooper that gives a great, easy-to-read view of modern Spanish history. Highly recommended.

So, this fascinating country is facing a big decision. It´s politicians definitely aren´t as polished or practiced at public speaking or appearing on TV as in the US (to my surprise they try to hold up graphs proving points instead of just speaking with confidence), but they are getting a lot of attention as EL DEBATE, CARA a CARA is occupying the tv´s of spain...including mine. There is one more debate. We´ll see how it goes. I´m casting my sympathy vote for the guy who at least tries for peace with ETA, pulled troops out of Iraq, and who legalized same sex unions. Guess that shows where my vote will be come November.

22 February 2008

Sick Mac

I´m a big Mac fan and have had nothing but good luck for 3 years with my Powerbook G4. In the past weeks however it has developed a personality. When I move the screen or pick it up, it will randomly shut off, and similarly turn on randomly when I move it. So, I finally bit the bullet and visited my ´local´mac store, which is just a small computer store in Bibao, about an hour away. They were really helpful, and now my mac is having a little siesta for a few days in Pais Vasco (Basque Country). I have confidence that those Vascos will be able to restore my mac to it´s normal form...until then, internet connection will be a bit more sporadic...and maybe my life in Laredo a bit more quiet.

19 February 2008

The Faces of Tromsø

Have a look at my cool friends in Tromsø.

Bumps on the Neck

I made it home! After a crazy 24 hour trip with stops in Oslo, Frankfurt, Barcelona, and a last minute overnight stay with my gracious hosts Jon and Raquel, I arrived this morning to Laredo in time to shower and ride my bike to CP Los Puentes. I was greeted by the latest news at the preschool: meningitis is on the loose! I guess the rat fumigation didn’t kill EVERYTHING. Apparently, one of our students was diagnosed with bacterial meningitis and now everyone is freaking out looking for bumps on their neck and a temperature of 38º C, which must be bad. I guess when looking for fever, the usual C to F estimation isn’t the best method. So maybe an unexpected visit to the pharmacy to pick up some preventative medicine, even though i think my luther vaccine should protect me!

Now, I’m enjoying the fruits of my journey...smoked salmon direct from teh docks of Tromsø. Maybe the only product that is cheaper and better in Tromsø than in Spain! That and the crazy, random, great people that I love encountering in the Paris of the North. Skål Tromsø. You’re still my fav.

15 February 2008

Tromsø igjen

I'm back in Tromsø! It's great. I'm laying on the couch in my old house, seeing the mountain in the horizon and the snow blowing outside the window, and somehow I'm warmer inside this cozy house than I am at my house in Spain, despite -7 C temps here in Tromsø! I gave a lecture this morning at the university and this evening will have a chance to listen to the Peace Man himself, Johan Galtung. Always action in the Paris of the North I guess. The day has been full of random encounters and it feels good to be back, but of course being back makes me miss things at my other homes in Spain and the US. I don't know, maybe that's why I'm always moving around...because I like to miss things and have fond memories of different periods of my life. For the moment, I'm contnet to be here, but I know it will be nice to return to Spain and enjoy a few more months tackling Spanish, toddlers, and 20 degree weather. Not always the most difficult task.

but for now, here's to Tromsø. such a great place with great people. Skål!

12 February 2008


Carnival's over...but the fun has just begun.

08 February 2008

Stories from the Frontlines

I’ve been talking a lot about the preschool where I work lately, and I guess it’s fitting as some of the craziest stories come from my time there. Whether it’s finding a kind in the hallway with their pants half down just pointing and grimacing or having the whole class give a kiss to one girl because she was sad that her mom yelled out her, my job is always full of surprises.

This week proved no different so I thought I would add a few more stories in case my Grandpa or anyone at Sanford needs a story to tell. I arrived on Wednesday after a long weekend to find out that they had fumigated the school during the 5 day weekend. Apparently, there was a rat sighting. However, I guess the five days wasn’t long enough to air out the school because we came back to an awful smell. So, instead of having class on Wednesday, we spent most of the day outside! We started with a one hour group singing and movement time, kind of like camp. Tried class for about an hour and then realized it was better just to have recess the rest of the morning while the school aired out.

My favorite story from the preschool, however, is about the 2 year old students. They are my favorites because I walk into class with them and they all just look at me like I’m some sort of strange creature, which I think I am for them. But they are so amiable and they love to sing and dance and imitate me. It’s really amazing. However, sometimes this imitation doesn’t lead to learning. Every time I walk into the classroom with the two year olds I say “HELLO!” and give a big wave. After a few days of doing this, the kids started saying “Hello” to me during recess, and I thought to myself: “Oh! They’re learning! They’re so smart!” Then, I realized that they were saying “Adios Hello” when they left the school. I started wondering if they got mixed up that maybe hello meant goodbye. Then, the teacher broke the news to me: they thought my name was Hello. Everytime I would walk in they would say Hello because they were saying what they saw and on the playground they were just trying to get my attention.

So, I have been bequeathed Hello. I hope that does not cause they long term linguistical damage.

04 February 2008


Spain is currently in the midst of a week long (some places longer) party: Carnaval! It's like Mardi Gras except it's a week long and almost EVERYONE participates, dressing up in ridiculous and carefully constructed costumes. From the chicken and the egg to hordes of ladybugs and sumo wrestlers. It's quite a show.

The fun begins at school where there is there is traditionally a huge party and parade with the kids. At my preschool we studied firemen all month and of course concluded the month by dressing as firemen...picture about 80 little firemen and me trying to keep them out of the street as we walked to the main square to participate in the parade of the school kids (or if you can't, just look at the pictures) In addition to the little firemen, our 2 year olds dressed up like fruits (bananas, oranges, and pears). The fun ended in a big climax as REAL firemen came to our school and showed us their truck, hose and even gave some of the teachers (including me) a ride on their ladder! So I got to experience the glory of Cantabria 20 meters (10 stories) above the ground!

Of course, after the kids have had their fun, us adults have to enjoy the holiday as well...so stealing an idea from my friend Shantel, I dressed up like bull fighter! Elisa dressed up like a Mexican while our friends used our hats to dress something like farmers and mafia members. We had a great night out first in Laredo and then to big party in Santoña, a small town nearby that has a big carnaval tradition. There we met up with a fellow American, Will the Chef, who navigated us through 2 outdoor stages with dj's and music and the streets which were packed full of crazy creatures. A lot of people dressed up in masse with all their friends, like 20 sumo wrestlers, herds of cows (which of course I distracted with my pink bull fighting cape), and my favorite, the chicken and the egg. Which one did I see first though?

Things will settle down again on Wednesday when Carnaval ends and I go back to work, but until then, I'm enjoying some time off and my days as a bull fighter. ¡Olé!