Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Signs of Spring

Well, I thought it might never happen (can't winter be depressing in its will to freeze you down to your soul?), but it's here!  Spring has definitely sprung in Ronda, and I can't get enough!

+Flowering tress, everywhere!  And the lovely scents that come with them.  I particularly enjoy that here in southern Spain they go hand in hand with the palm trees (even in mountainous Ronda).
+Considerably fewer confused looks if I choose nude tights with shorts and no jacket
+Light & Day, Polyphonic style, even a little remains while watching the 9 o'clock news before dinner
+No more hoodies (or hat/scarf/gloves/three extra blankets) for sleeping
+More American Easter candy than I could possibly ever know what to do with, courtesy of the greatest mom in the world (and, I'm convinced, beyond).
+Remembering what it feels like to sweat a little (seriously, after freezing for 5 months straight, I guess I'd forgotten a little bit).
+The newly arrived presence of outdoor seating at all the little bars and cafes
+A somewhat stronger pull coming from the direction of the beautiful Mediterranean coast
+Toenail polish feels more necessary
+Windows open
+The return of a long-missed friend, allergies (I'm realizing I'm definitely not in a beach town like last year, but still nothing like the itchy, red-eyed, sneezy mess I normally turn into when seasons begin to change)
+Flip-flops instead of slippers for hanging around the house (oh how I miss carpet!)
+Laundry dries roughly 12 times faster

I must note, though, this post has been on my mind for a week or so now with the widely-approved arrival of this beautiful season, but as I walked home this evening I noticed the very trees pictured here are already losing their flowers and turning to big bursts of lovely greens... Spring seems to be getting shorter each year, and summer is already hinting at its plans for an early arrival...  How can it possibly be time?

For now, enjoying a couple more sunny Spain days before heading to Scotland with friends for part of Semana Santa with our very own Scottish tour guide.  Stories and photos to follow, I'm sure!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Life is good.

I think one of the main reasons I've slacked on the blogging this time around (other than pure laziness/forgetfulness) is that this school year got off to a somewhat rocky start.  That's probably not the correct word; I mean to say it's been a bit off balance.  A bit roller coastery.  Like any year in the life of a normal, complicated human being, there have been ups and downs.  Only this time the downs seemed more important or at least easier to dwell upon than usual.  Debbie Downer, turn that frown upside down; I know.  And so that's what I've done.  Because seriously, I've got it pretty great.  I'm living my dream of living in a foreign country, speaking Spanish on a daily basis, and meeting all sorts of new people.  So instead of constantly comparing everything that happens here in Ronda to what happened in Almería (this, I've come to realize, is the basis for much of the negativity, your typical "grass is (was) greener" stuff), I'm letting myself accept this is a completely different year with an almost wholly new and different situation.  I had a really great time in Almería, naturally; it was my first time living long-term outside the comfort of Missouri.  I had two American roommates who were consistently helpful in both providing doses of home and venturing out to try all things southern Spain.  My school was relatively new and small, so getting to know all my elementary kids on a personal level was a snap.  Tapas were cheap and came with a beverage, the beach was a twenty-minute walk from my house, and we had consistent WiFi in the apartment.  To bridge from that to a summer of four months back home to not knowing anyone all over again in (very quickly) COLD, tiny Ronda and living alone for the first time... it was a trying transition, to say the least.  There's also the fact I'm gone most weekends, so I didn't immediately build up any sort of comfortable life in this new city.

All that said, I think I've made the transition.  I've been here since late October, but I'm okay with the fact that I'm just now sensing some kind of normalcy in Round Two.  I love the traveling I get to do Thurs-Sun.  And to compensate being gone so much, I've exited my silly little comfort zone to find things to do and people to see weekdays after work.  I give private English classes to a few fellow teachers, I have a Bible study Tuesday evenings, and I generally see my American friends who are also here in Ronda at least once a week.  I've also embraced Ronda's size (really not that small, with around 35,000) because it means I see a handful of people I know every time I leave my house.  I like short conversations and friendly "Hellos" at the grocery store or local cafe.  I love hearing "Teacher! Hi!" while on my way to buy new shoes.  It's a good feeling, and with the recently arrived Spring weather, hopefully I'll be enjoying even more of it.

Spain's also been an up and down adventure in general, both years.  Lately, though, it's showing me I should just swallow my pride and accept that although slow and lacking in some areas, it has a lot to offer.  Small reminders of why I love this country - its food, its people, the Mediterranean and all that comes with it - are abundant.  Case in point: my contact lenses just aren't lasting as long as they should, and my "one year supply" certainly isn't going to get me back to the States without switching permanently to my glasses.  I've been on the prowl for all sorts of new and improved contact solution to try and keep my poor tired eyes from needing new lenses so often.  At this point, normally I'd call home, see what my optometrist could do, and wait for new lenses to arrive.  For whatever reason, I decided instead to try an optician's here.  I took a suggestion from a coworker (there are hundreds, it seems!) and found it after leaving work today (I got out an hour early because my fifth graders had a test, love my life).  This is basically how it went:

"Hi, I was wondering if I could get an appointment..."
"For an eye exam?" (Here there was some confusion as I quickly discovered I need to brush up on more technical vocabulary.)
"Oh, we're not too busy, so no appointment needed.  Just go upstairs and have a seat."
I proceeded upstairs and waited maybe 15 minutes for the doctor to finish with the two people in front of me.  While I waited, he brought out a basket of sweets in case I wanted one while waiting.  They were like strawberry taffy, and they were delicious.
The doctor called me into his office, and I explained my general situation.  He checked my eyes and adjusted my prescription (generally the same as any experience in the States except one of his machines, I swear, magically converted a huge gray blur into a lovely picture of an open road in the countryside).  Additionally, the "Read the lowest line you can clearly see" part went more like this:
"Can you see the top line?"
"The middle line?"
"And the last line, too?"
"Okay, great.  Other eye."
I guess the honor system applies with eye doctors, too.  Then we were finished.  It was at this point I realized I had forgotten to ask how much an eye exam even cost.  He looked at me a little funny when I asked.  It's free.  Naturally.  Then he explained my contact lens options and prices.  We agreed on monthly and he then sent me downstairs, 3-month contact supply and brand new B&L cleaning solution in hand, to pay for my items.
So to recap: eye exam, contacts, contact solution, glasses adjustment, 45-minute convenient/walk-in visit -- 42 Euros.

And thank you, Spain.  And as if that and the week's worth of sunshine weren't enough, I had notices in my mailbox when I got home telling me two very important packages had arrived and could be picked up tomorrow!  It never ceases to amaze me how big God is and how much He takes care of things, big and small, whatever country or continent I might be in at the time.  Life is good here in Ronda, Spain!

I'm back...

(Feb. 1, 2011) 

...And I've been this side of the ocean  for my second round a whole 3 months already.  I talk too much about time flying, so I'll just skip it for now.  This time I'm in Ronda, and in bus schedule terms that puts me about four and a half hours from where I was in Almeria last year.

It's been interesting, to say the least.

As part of my newly "normal" Spanish life, I sometimes see commercials here and have to wonder if they exist in an English version in the States.  The most recent is one that warms my heart every time I see it.  The first time I saw the kids sitting in some auditorium singing along with the acoustic guitarist about being free and seeing images comparing the number of bad things in the world to the good (think "for every war tank built, __ teddy bears are made" etc.), I couldn't help but wonder what caring organization put the spot together.  Naturally, it gets to the end and it's for Coca Cola.  But with the message "hay razones para creer en un mundo mejor," I can't get myself to care that it's from a huge, sugar-pushing, billion-dollar-making company; the message is too good and too important.  And true.  There ARE reasons to believe in a better world.  What would we possibly do if there weren't?

A little taste of Ronda...

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Oh Hey, May.

Today marked the first day of my last week teaching over here.  Well hello, May 25th, where did you come from and how did you arrive so dang quickly?

Time almost always flies.  I know!  And each year only passes faster.  I know this as well.  But seriously, this month is just so out-of-the-blue I don't know what to do with myself.  Where are all the blog posts from my nutso year in Spain?  I just don't know on that one.  My plan, though, is to do a kind of catch-up routine which will entail photos and stories from various trips and experiences while here, just quite a bit after the fact in some cases.  We'll see how that goes.

For now, I'm here, trying to wrap my mind around the fact that it was NOT a couple weeks ago that I was freaking out about what to pack, if I had all my papers, and where I stood with my Spanish level.  And it was NOT just yesterday that I adjusted to a seven-hour jump forward, tapas, and afternoon siestas.

So much has happened along the way.  And it's all pretty surreal.  At the same time, though, I find myself having to remember I'm living in Spain, and this I know is because although it's very surreal, it's also become very normal and very real-life.  I live here.  I wake up early (some days), catch buses, go to work (four days a week--I'm definitely with those who've suggested a permanent three-day weekend), cook dinner, go out with friends, grocery shop, paint my toenails, talk on the phone, and do who knows how many other perfectly normal things.  However, I also walk to the beach whenever I want, go on weekend trips to places like Granada or Portugal, and speak a whole lot of a second language... AND I don't drive a car, see more than two Americans on a daily basis, or wear anything close to sweats outside the house (it just doesn't fly here, and we've assimilated).  All these things work together to make a pretty good mix of my life.  I really can't imagine a better way to have spent my first year out of college.  I will take away so much from these nine months.

And that said, why not go for Round 2.  Right?  Yep.  I'll most likely be back in Spain for the coming school year.  I feel good about it, too.  It'll be tough to do another year away from everyone in the States, but I think I'm supposed to spend some more time over here before settling.  And that's okay.  I'm in no rush.

I must also say... June 16 is coming quickly.  I can't wait.  I don't want my life here to end, I'm not good at transitions, and although I love change, it often wears on my heart, especially in situations like this.  I'm completely torn.  I am sad to leave my fabulous roommates, friends, kiddos, and general life in Almería, but I am so ready to hug my parents, be within one or two time zones of old friends, watch baseball, eat janky Chinese/Mexican food, drive my car, and feel some general American love.  Coming soon!

In the meantime, ITALY with Martha! And then Kay comes.  YES.  :)

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Hump

It's true what they say about the "hump" effect and living abroad.  I really didn't experience all that much culture shock upon arrival here; everything was too new and overwhelming for that feeling.  The stress was about establishing myself more than about a culture difference.  Then I found an apartment, made some friends, and started work, and I got a little used to being here.  That's when my Spanish bell curve experience really began: I had to slowly move uphill while trying to get used to Andalucian accents and schedules and while finding a balance between too little and too much contact with those I miss dearly in the States.  In November I got sick when my mom was in town, and I was ready to flee the country as a stowaway in her luggage.  But then I went to the doctor and took antibiotics and some deep breaths.  Then around mid November I realized it: I was doing it; I really was living in another country.  Soon enough it was December and Christmas was everywhere.  I wanted to go home, but the break (and Germany and Portugal) came at just the right time.  I did some more deep breathing, some thinking and prioritizing, and a lot of dancing, and I came back more than refreshed and ready to go in January.  Four months in and I finally felt like I'd reached the top of the hill (I think my ascent may have been slower than others', but different strokes and all that...)  It felt really good because suddenly I found myself more comfortable than I thought I could be in another country: I was adding things to Recess Teacher Talk, giving directions to people on the streets, being recognized at a handful of cafes and clubs, and actually helping solve student problems (non-English related) at school.  And there it was: a new home.

Recently a friend told me she could see me growing up, that even over the last few months, she's noticed some changes.  I'm not sure she knew what she was talking about, and I'm definitely not a grown-up, but this whole progression of events has made me think.  It's reminded me of the great capacity humans have for experiencing life.  This is already sounding like flowery word vomit, but I'll keep going.  Five years ago I had one home.  I knew the house I'd been in for 18 years wasn't the home; I at least knew a home was bigger than a building, that it included people and experiences and feelings, but I didn't really understand the complete concept then.  And I'm not saying I do now, but my understanding of the idea of "home" has evolved.  I realize the human heart is capable of some pretty big and wonderful things.  I know my heart belongs to more than St. Louis, to more than my parents and childhood friends.  I've left pieces of my heart in lots of places, and somehow there's still a lot left to leave.  Home has become a crazy beautiful mix of the Lou, William Jewell, Florida (the Center of Good Living and the white-sanded Gulf), Mexico, North Carolina... and now Spain.  It's crazy because it doesn't really make sense that our lives can be so spread out without being spread too thin or being completely disconnected, and it's beautiful for the same reasons.  The way things connect, the general smallness of the world which is still somehow huge, it's all part of what home is.  Home is mobile.  Home is living.  And I'm taking it with me all the time.

Also, Spring has arrived.  The sun's been out about four days in a row now, and it amazes me what that does to almost everyone's spirits.  Feels good.

Currently looking forward to/planning:
*Semana Santa plans: Barcelona, Valencia, Sevilla -- Road Trip!
*ITALY trip for the first week of June (Rome, Florence, Venice with one of the roomies)
*Kay's visit (She's crossing the ocean to come see me for a week in June!)

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Germany for the Holidays

Disclaimer:  Due to the length of time and amount of things that have passed since my last post, this may appear to be a novel.  And it's only the part about Germany.  Take it in pieces, or do it all at once... lo que quieras.  Mostly it's so I remember how great we had it for a couple weeks touring a fabulous European country.

*Pre-departure Tasks:
-Combination birthday/Christmas party (success, but no photo documentation)
-Move to new piso
-Repay Quique with tapas, for his help with everything
-Prepare luggage for the big, wintery trip
-Print boarding passes at internet cafe
-Make it to bus station on time
All of these tasks were completed with relative ease and efficiency, until we came to the last item on the agenda.  Somehow amid moving, packing, teacher Christmas luncheons, repacking, and printing important documents, my roommate and I were left with fifteen minutes to make the (usual) 25-minute trek (luggage in tow) to meet our other friends at the bus station.  We made it in ten.  I don’t even know how it happened, but I do remember feeling like I might be in the filming of an episode of The Amazing Race.  It was exhilarating and exhausting, but we made it on time and thus the trip was off to a good start.
*From there, we spent the night in the Alicante (Spain) airport, caught a Ryanair flight to Memmingen (which is not the same as Munich), took a bus into Munich, and finished the first leg of the journey by train to Nuremberg.  Needless to say, the warm and spicy goodness of glühwein (and a couple of shared bratwursts) made for a lovely Welcome to Germany ensemble for our weary fivesome.  And then it was 8:30 PM and we went to bed.  The next morning we woke up to snow falling, which was a first for Martha, our token Californian.  Our cozy little hostel (which turned out to be more of a bed and breakfast feeling hotel) provided a fabulous and filling breakfast we thoroughly enjoyed while sipping coffee and tea and watching the flurries fall.  The whole city felt more like a little town, and covered in fluffy whiteness it was the perfect place to spend Christmas (if it couldn’t be at our respective American homes).  Our first day we headed out of the city to see the Nazi Party Rally site.  This was the beginning of my attempt to understand just how deep and rich and real history is over here.  I have always enjoyed studying history, and I have a great appreciation for American history, but it is just nuts being present at these sites.  I stood where Hitler stood.  We saw freshly burned books on the ground, reminding us of what was not so many years ago.  The coldness of the air (most of the sites were part of an outdoor walking tour) only added to the eeriness of it all.
On Christmas Eve we attended a Bach-themed service at a local Protestant church, and although it was the coldest church I can remember, the huge stone building filled with German carols and burning candles was beautiful.  They read from the gospel of Luke and even sang some songs I recognized and sang to myself in English.  We finished Christmas Eve in true German style by heading to two of the only places still open: a cheap Chinese restaurant and the local Irish pub.  My fortune was entirely too appropriate at the time, for myriad reasons: “The past belongs to the past, now the time is right for a new beginning.”  Christmas itself was for us a day to tour the city and see some of the quaint sights Nuremberg has to offer: the castle, plenty of churches, Hangman’s Bridge (yes), the Way of Peace...  We spent the rest of the afternoon back at the hotel, watching dubbed Christmas movies on TV and calling home to be passed around various family members gathered to celebrate the season.  Perhaps a bit embarrassingly, we ended the evening at the same two locations as the previous night, but with equal success and happiness shared by all five of us.  Fortune cookie round two: “You need to be more attentive in human relationships.”  This might be one of the best fortunes I can remember getting.  Ha, yikes.  The day after Christmas we packed our bags and headed on to...
*Munich.  We made our way to the Wombats Hostel which was fabulously located right next to the Hauptbanhoff (that’s right I learned some German).  Munich felt especially German with its Bavarian culture, including rousing beer halls, more sausages, spicy beer, lederhosen-sporting musical ensembles, and general friendly atmosphere.  In contrast, our first full day we again made our way out of the main city to see Dachau: the first concentration camp from the WWII era.  I’m not sure how to write about something like Dachau, and I’m not going to try and do justice to the experience except to say that it was breathtaking and mind-blowing, serene and eery, historical and raw.  We used personal audio guides that allowed each of us to go at our own pace, walking “the path of a prisoner,” entering the parts of the camp as those being punished without reason might have done half a century ago.  Added to translated prisoner testimonies was all the real footage provided by the Nazi Party from the time, and it was beyond incomprehensible that they wanted all they were doing recorded on film and in photos.  Taking my own photos of the site as it now remains felt so strange, and somehow wrong.  
Not sure how to aptly exit the situation, we quietly made our way back to the hostel.  That evening we enjoyed the hostel’s happy hour with some beers and a lot of card playing (a pretty common hobby we all picked up for the duration of our trip together, though Torry has yet to remember the rules to any one card game).  The next day we forged our own city tour and saw even more German churches (surprise!), parts of the Residenz, ducks, geese and ice at the Englischergarten, and a few government buildings here and there.  We also saw the sun for the first time in what felt like weeks.  It didn’t eliminate the cold, but it did warm our spirits.  That evening we ate in true Bavarian style at the Haufbrauhaus, famous for its live band, various German beers, and gigantic plates of German sausages and other traditional foods (I tried “pretzel dumplings” and added it to the list of great things you can do with pretzels).  Also popular: spatzle (eggy noodle dish) and sauerkraut (I tried it twice on our trip and wasn’t completely turned off by the taste).
What followed our traditional German evening was a somewhat nightmarish day of travel, but what trip based on inexpensive transportation and lodging is complete without at least one such day?  We woke up and were out of our hostel by 5:00 AM and then proceeded to re-enact Planes, Trains, and Automobiles for the next 12 or 15 hours (nix the automobile and add a bus in its place).  One terribly early bus, one delayed flight, and four confusing but reliable (it’s Germany) trains later, we arrived in...
*Berlin!  We arrived greasy and tired, and the hostel was a bit of a hidden and questionable place (a gem, really), but we were determined to make it out our first night in the big city.  So we headed to a local grungy bar and met up with one of Martha’s friends from college.  It wasn’t a late night, but it was a good one which we finished off with the best Turkish kebop I’ve ever had (if you’re ever in Berlin, find the little kiosk called Mustafa’s... it is beyond worth it).  Our first full day we split up to hit various sights of the city.  The boys and I did a lot of line standing to try and get into one of the museums of Museum Island, but it turned out to be a bust.  We did eventually make it to the Neuegalerie which boasted exhibits devoted to surrealism and abstract expressionism and included artists such as Picasso, Dalí, and others I wrote down somewhere in order not to forget them.  As a whole, the museum provided an interesting link between Europe and America, as well as what is Old and what is New.  To save money, we met back at the hostel for a pasta dinner made possible by REWE grocery, and it was a success except for the tears shared by all due to the strength of the onions.  Kaylin and I paired up later in the evening to find some fun night life around the hostel.  We ended up at a sports bar which showed American football (our first sighting since being here) and ended the night with a Johnny Depp type in the bar right next to our beloved Hostel Aloha.  The playlist for the evening (and really throughout the entire Germany trip) was random but incredible: Get Your Freak On, MJ’s classic Thriller, some Blues, and our German favorite Das Gehtab!
The next afternoon consisted of a mad dash around the city to get tickets to the big Silvester (New Year’s) party, at a place called Kulturbraurei.  There were to be something like 12 rooms, each devoted to different music and each with plenty of dance floor, as well as live music (and more dancing) outdoors in the snow.  We made it to the first ticket hot spot only to find the doors were closed and tickets gone.  We made our way to a second area and were quickly sent to another Information kiosk.  There we did it: three tickets became ours (the boys weren’t so interested).  After a relatively alright attempt at Spanish tortilla for dinner and some good conversation with fellow hostel stayers, we headed to Brandenburg Gate, where Party Mile had already commenced with the evening’s festivities.  Kaylin, Martha, and I got separated from the group early on and ended up wedging our way through two lines of security to get closer to the Gate and stage.  The evening was beautiful: live music, new German friends in straw hats, insanity at the WCs, snow, champagne from plastic water bottles, dancing, trying to speak Spanish with said new friends, and a little peck and fireworks at midnight!  And all of this took place with the famous Brandenburg Gate in sight, which was simply a fabulous experience.  We made a quick pit stop at the hostel and then went on to Kulturbraurei.  The overall atmosphere was a bit different than we’d expected with fewer eccentricities than we’d hoped, but we made our way through most of the clubs and danced with strangers in the snow, and I think it did a pretty decent job getting our year off to a good start.
Somehow we had made the switch to 2010.  It’s always so weird to me how that just happens and suddenly the old year is gone and the new one has begun.  Cliché?  Yes.  The girls and I spent the second half of the day finding “neat” buildings we’d circled on Kaylin’s map.  One of them ended up being Wilhelm Kaiser Kirsche, a beautiful church that was left standing as it was after being mostly destroyed.  In recent years, two other buildings have been added, one on either side, to mark the growth and change that has happened since that time.  We also enjoyed one last Christmas Market (theirs was still open) by browsing souvenirs while eating Asian noodles.  Our tour continued through beautiful, snow-covered Tiergarten and then saw a Soviet War Memorial and the Brandenburg Gate in the middle of its day-after cleanup process.  Then for Jason’s last night we shared pizza and pasta at an Italian place in Alexanderplatz.  We also shared some almost-falls on the ice-covered ground surrounding the plaza.  The next morning we were determined to get inside the Reichstag so we stood in line and froze our toes past numb and back to hurting for about two hours... but!  We made it in.  And then we waited some more.  Then we took a giant elevator to the top and saw the German version of Millennium Park’s “Bean.”  After the lovely Open Air Dome experience, Jason parted ways to head for Brussels, and Kaylin and I made our way to Checkpoint Charlie.  This was one of my favorite sights because of the path they’ve created which has photos and information about the area over the years.  It also hosts a “light box” which portrays a US soldier looking East and a Soviet soldier looking West.  A short (though in German terms, pretty long) walk from there we found a piece of the Wall left standing and a walk-through of the Topography of Terror, both of which further displayed the insanity of pieces of human history.
And then suddenly it was my last night in Germany.  We celebrated (wrong word, I didn’t want to leave) with some wine and chocolate cake with sprinkles.  The next morning Martha and I woke up at 5 and began the trek back to Almería.  And through it all, Ryanair didn’t do such a terrible job getting us between and throughout both countries.  I’m ready to go back... I’d love to see Alemania in the Spring :-)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

'Tis the season

And I'm homesick.  I figured the feeling would coincide with Christmastime, and I was right.  I miss a lot of people and things from home more than usual.  Christmas songs make me think of decorating the tree with my mom, and seeing the lights on the streets at night make me long for Lighting of the Quad and candlelit carols (but not glowsticks).  I want to be at home drinking hot chocolate and snuggling up under a blanket while Andy Williams sings and the fire glows (after begging my dad for the once-annual lighting, of course).  I know when Christmas Day comes I'll be thinking of "The Santa Clause," Great Aunt Charlotte's spunk, macaroni and cheese casserole, and "real" whipping cream.

And although a pang of jealousy hits when I hear of others in my program returning home for the holidays, I'm still pretty satisfied with the decision to stay abroad the whole year.  Spain definitely is not lacking when it comes to Christmas spirit.  There are lights strung from street lamps and awnings, a few dozen Christmasy market stalls and a huge Nativity scene along the walkway of our main street, and festive trees glowing from several windows.  They're also pretty great at playing up the Three Wisemen (los tres Reyes Magos) -- which makes sense because here they are the ones bearing gifts for all good little boys and girls.  (This helps explain Santa's knack for global delivery---with a team of four, eight capable reindeer, and a few sagely camels, it's definitely doable.)

Adding to the Christmas spirit abroad are:
*"Baby, It's Cold Outside" at least a dozen times so far
*Paper snowflakes
*Our own little Christmas tree, complete with twinkle lights and garland
*Mama's chocolate chip cookies (sent with love via Priority Mail)
*new Christmas socks
*Christmas card writing
*Reindeer antlers (I'll be Comet for our upcoming party.)
*Christmas cards from faraway family and friends
*My third graders rehearsing "The 12 Days of Christmas" for the celebration next week (complete with costumes and hand motions)
*A lovely little Christmas scene on my desktop
*Upcoming potluck lunch with the other teachers (I'll be making more green bean casserole.)

Soon enough I'll add to that list some of the wonderful things we see and experience in Germany.  Nuremberg for Christmas, Berlin for New Year's, and Munich in between the two.  And the holiday adventure begins next Monday!

But before then: three more work days, lots of laundry and packing, and one really great combo. Birthday/Christmas party.

Life is good and I am blessed :)