Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A social experiment

I have been on my own in London for the past few days. For those who know me you may be asking yourself, "How is Justin managing on his own for three days? He has never seemed like the type that would get on well all on his lonesome. He normally has to be with people doing something."
I would answer you that you are not alone in your thoughts. I myself had the same thoughts. But the time has been good for me. I've seen a lot of London, walked around A LOT, and generally had a lot of time to think thoughts.
One thought that occured to me two weeks ago when I was writing a letter (notice I actually wrote letters... on paper) to a friend. I was writing to her about my beliefs and one that I firmly hold to is that I think that there is a bit of God in each and every person. As I was writing to her I looked around at the people who were in the Cathedral and I teared up with the realization that I was not only in the presence of God in that I was in a Cathedral but I was surrounded by the presence of God in all of these people. It was a big realization to make.
Well as I packed my things into a borrowed satchel bag on Friday night I realized I'd be spending the next few days on my own and decided that as much as I possibly could during my time alone I would look at the people I pass on the street, the people I interact with in shops, and just everyone I encountered in any way and conciously (I never know if I spell that word correctly) think to myself, "There is a bit of God in you".
The results of this have been interesting. For one thing I've realized it is really really hard to keep in mind the decision to think that of everyone. Part of this is that I wouldn't be able to think anything else being that I'm constantly surrounded by people here. Another is the newness of this. I haven't ever tried to think anything like this all the time. I have several times a day caught myself not having thought about this for several hours at a time and will strive to be more dilligent in my thinking.
Aside from the difficulty of it it has been really really great. I quickly realized that I couldn't JUST think of God as being in each person. Once I thought that I then felt the need to wish God's blessings on the people I was passing. Then I thought about how each person has a story, a history and a future, that I will never know because they are faces on a sidewalk (which by the way sounds like the title of a poem. I should give that some thought). Mostly though I have spent my three days walking the streets of London smiling because my eyes are slightly more open to the amazingness of God. He is in all of us, irregardless of what we believe. He has taken the time to get to know us. We reflect his image. When I look at a man on the street do his ears curve just like God's? That woman, is her pinky finger an exact replica of the Almighties? It makes walking the streets much more interesting.
I have a few more days here but I doubt that I will ever be able to look at people the same way again...
Which I'm o.k. with.

God bless,

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Pictures of Life in Portugal

A birthday celebration for Nasreen and me. Great Greek food, good friends, definitely a night to remember!

Christina and Carla threw a wonderful birthday picnic for me at the BIG BLUE HOUSE ((I've decided that their house shall forever be all capsed)). We had an amazing cake, I recieved an infants book of Portuguese, which we decided was still a bit hard for me, and had a great time with my new friends.

Halloween fun at THE BIG BLUE HOUSE ((I've decided the THE in THE BIG BLUE HOUSE needs to be capitalized also)). Some fun decorations, interesting costumes, karaoke and Buzz!

Halloween night at Joy's place. Amanda, not shown below, definitely won the best dressed prize by showing up dressed as an oven with a picture of a loaf of bread on the oven door. She was expecting to give birth like two weeks later. The party stopped as everyone turned to behold her glorious costume. Good times.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Life is good

I can't help smiling as I recline at my very clean desk at how good life is right now.

My first Portuguese conversation resulted in a friend and I going to the theatre two weekends from now... I think... or maybe we are meeting for coffee tomorrow. I probably ought to call her to check on that.

My room is cleaner than it's been all year.

I feel very ready for my parent conferences tomorrow, which probably means I'm not ready at all but at least for the moment I feel good about them.

My kids were drawing pictures of me on the whiteboard after school today. Right now I am looking upon a green picture of a oval with sunglasses, a beard, an extra mustache, a very little bit of hair, and a sign that says, "Dom't irase Mr. Wallace". At least they spelled my name correctly. I'm sorely tempted to leave it on the board for conferences tomorrow. It'll give me something to smile about.

The housecleaner is at this moment taking the ruinous mass of my house and making it livable again. Actually it wasn't that bad off but she assures me she can make it sparkle so I'm looking forward to seeing what sort of magic she works.

I have dance class in just a few hours where I will have the opportunity to gaze off into nothingness, and reenact a pretty good facsimile of some of my students in class, while the dance instructor goes on in Portuguese. Then I get to dance. And it will be wonderful! I smile at the thought.

Last night I went to bed at nine something. Actually I fell asleep on the couch after eating reheated take out chinese. But it was about nine something that I drifted off. At about twelve I woke up and thought about school and friends for thirty minutes before I managed to fall back asleep.

I've caught up on a few e-mails today. If you weren't one of the lucky recepients I'm still working on it. Sorry! :)

Tomorrow after an exhaustive day of meetings I'm going to some friends house for a bar-b-cue before going out dancing with my dance instructor and some other friends in Lisbon.

Nothing planned on Saturday so may fulfill my one time dream of sleeping through an entire day. Then two football matches on Sunday.

Overall I'm feeling really good about things right now.


I am at this moment trying to have my first written Portuguese conversation on Facebook chat. There is lots of copying and pasting going on with the free online translator, frantic flipping through my copy of 501 Portuguese Verbs, and still lots of miscommunication going on. Good times! :)

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Class Photo


These are my awesome new kids! We took a few pictures for our pen pals and I thought I'd share one. They are very very cool and we are having a great start to the year!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Bitten by a Portuguese dog

I was bitten by a dog the other day. I was walking to St. Julians for training with my football club, the Lisbon Casuals, when out of nowhere I hear the pounding of paws on the ground and look up to see a giant Doberman kicking up dust in an all out sprint in my direction. A moment of fear gripped my rapidly beating heart... and then the dog tripped over a dirt pile. It got up, tongue lolling out of it's mouth, gave me a glance, and ran back to it's owner. That wasn't the dog that bit me.
That event happened a few minutes later when I was walking up to a small house to ask directions to the football pitch. Out of nowhere (maybe I need to be a bit more observant) a small ball of hair reached out and bit my ankle. It scared me more than anything, it didn't break the skin, and as I made to punt it (I wouldn't really kick a dog) it ran off barking.


The other day a lady said I have big boobs. I was at the outlet mall, which is crazy by the way, and was looking at shirts. One of the ladies at the shop was helping me to find my size and she consulted with the other lady at the shop about whether I was a size 2 or 3. The consulted lady indicated that the 3 would be too big for me. My helper looked at me, looked at the lady, then put her hands on her own puffed out chest and made motions that I took to mean big, then pointed at me again. I had to stifle a laugh and tried on the too big shirt. We found out that my boobs aren't as big as the lady thought and I am in fact a size 2.


As I rode the bus home the other night my mind flashed back to my years of dancing with the Berry College Dance Troupe. What would make me think back to those wonderful years? My new Contemporary Dance class that I've signed up for! I'm now dancing for two hours, twice a week and it's GREAT!!! I certainly didn't have any kind of outlet like this in Freetown and forgot how much I missed dancing. We're putting together a piece of choreography that my friends have informed me we will perform at some later unknown date. I really can't even explain how jazzed I am about this. One of the funniest bits is that I forgot to tell my friend who initially invited me that I've danced before and she got a bit flustered when I picked things up faster than she did after she's been going for a while. I think I may have gotten hit for that one. :)


I'm finding my way here in Portugal. My kids continue to be wonderful. I'm having a great start to the year and the people at school continue to seem like they appreciate what I'm doing. I'm working hard to stay balanced, trying to make sure I consider the importance of things before getting to worked up about anything, and makings sure I give thanks to God for the opportunities He's given me.

God bless,

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Life in Portugal

Hello all,

Four weeks ago(ish) I arrived in Portugal to wild fanfare and much rose throwing. The crowds greeted me with traditional dancing and the ladies swooned as I rode through the streets.


Four weeks ago(ish) I arrived in Portugal, met my school director, and traveled to my new home Estoril. I looked around for apartments that same day and within a few hours (and 48 euros worth of phone calls) found my new apartment. It's great! I live on the fifth floor of my building, basically have a rap around veranda that overlooks Estoril, Cascais, and the ocean, and have redecorated enough that I feel quite comfortable now. I have a good sized kitchen, especially considering the closets some of the other places called kitchens, three bedrooms, and two bathrooms. So anyone who would like to come visit...there is plenty of space waiting for you!

I get to school on the city bus each morning at a bit after seven. School starts at eight thirty so I get plenty of time in the mornings to make sure that I have things ready for the day. The school is well equipped with a laminator, book maker, and I'm even allowed to make my own copies which is SOOOOO great!!! I have 22 kids from all over the world. I think last time I checked we've got kids from China, Japan, Turkey, USA, Portugal, New Zealand, Australia, Brazil, Peru, and India. They are a really good group of kids, I've had a great start to the year. My overall hesitation about teaching older kids is being put to rest. It kinds of help that I've been spending 11 hours at school though so I can stay on top of things. I would like to think I've learned a lot from my past few years of teaching and am really working hard to keep on top of things. My room is full of classroom management stuff too so that the kids have a routine and know what is expected of them. It's made things work so much smoother.

I've been making friends with a lot of the teachers here at school. They've been showing me where to go out here, which is really nice. The other night after I had a dozen people over to mine for drinks and snacks a few of us went out and ended up at a bar/dance club that had a 250 euro entrance fee (which my friend helped us bypass because it was her birthday) which was the most ridiculous place I've ever been in my entire life...ever! Bad red plush booths, horrible music that was so bad that you had to dance to it, people trying to act awesome because they'd just payed a small fortune to get in, it was hilarious and we stayed till five something cutting a rug. It was one of those things were I would look around every now and then and laugh just for the absurdity of the situation (kind of like when I went dancing this past summer in Augusta; if you haven't read about that check out my blog at justinswallace.blogspot.com). Anyway, all that is to say that I am making some friends over here, the people I work with are really great, some of the most helpful people ever, and that I'm not sitting around every night twiddling my thumbs.

Last Sunday I woke up for church. There is a church of England not five minutes from my house. The crowd is a bit older than me... by a few decades, but it was good to go to a church where I felt very comfortable with the service. The Father used to be a vicor in England too so he has this wonderful accent! I really enjoyed it and will work harder to wake up on Sunday mornings from now on.

Tonight I'm going to go for a try with the Lisbon Casuals, which is a local football club/soccer team. It'll be great to get out and kick about again. I'm a bit out of shape though so will see what happens with that.

I did get a chance to go for a Hash run on Saturday. It was more family oriented than the group I used to run with in Freetown but the opportunity to see more of the country is wonderful. We ran through the Sintra hills which were beautiful.

I have had the opportunity to see some amazing cultural festivities in my few weeks here. There was an art fair just down from my house throughout the month of August which I managed to go to twice. There were lots of neat arts and crafts and the second time I went I watched a dance group perform traditional Portuguese dances. That was wonderful. I also had the opportunity to go see a big band call The Weasel perform in Cascais. I wasn't super into it but the square where they performed was packed with people from newborn to needing a cane to get around. The people were fun to watch. Every Friday and Saturday they shoot off fireworks over the ocean which are great to watch.

This past Sunday I went to a palace in Sintra and watched a play with nine new friends. The play happened in the gardens of the palace and we walked through them as the play progressed. It was really weird, maybe moreso because I didn't understand anything that was going on as it was all in Portuguese, but really good to see anyway. The gardens were beautiful, some of the comedy was visual so I got to laugh at that, and the play ended with a traditional wedding festival dance around the garden which was super fun because you don't need to speak Portuguese to dance.

Umm... other stuff... I'm eating a lot of pork and beef. I had octopus the other day in the spirit of trying new things and actually did o.k. until I got to the sucker bits. That part wasn't so great.

I will be voting in the upcoming election. People may or may not be talking about it much here. I don't understand most of what is said around me so... We talked the other day about McCain's choice of runningmate. That caused a bit of a stir.

My aquisition of the language is going painfully slowly although the Portuguese people I've been hanging out with have told me that I'll pick it up with no problem. I try not to scoff to hard at them for their niceness. I am looking to sign up for classes as soon as I figure out which nights football happens.

I miss Freetown... a lot. It's hard not being there, missing my kids, my friends, that way of life. It's true that things there were hard but it really was two of the best years of my life. God really blessed my time there. I wasn't sure about things here for the past couple weeks but am starting to feel that things here are going to work out. God has a purpose and all, we'll see what comes of it.

So yeah, that's all I can think of at the moment. I'm sure that I missed talking about something but it's twenty to six and I'm starting to think more of getting home than the things I've missed. Sorry. Please remind me about the things you've asked me that I've forgotten to mention.

Love you all,
God bless,
Justin Wallace

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A wand no longer needed for the Knight bus.

I am absolutely convinced, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that J.K. Rowling took a trip on one of the busses going from Estril to Sintra Portugal before writing about the Knight bus in her Harry Potter series. These busses careen around narrow corners, hurtle through tiny streets lined with parked cars, and somehow manage to miss just about everything on the road. It's really miraculous, or magical if you want to take Rowling's side.

Other than that realization which occured yesterday things are going well. I'm pretty happy with the way my classroom looks now. I've got plenty of things up on the walls to show parents who come tomorrow yet there is lots of space for student work. I've been meeting a lot of the new teachers and they all seem wonderfully helpful, which is really nice.

Saturday we're having people over to my apartment for food, drinks, and hanging out. It should be fun. I want lots of people to come but don't know how many my place can hold so it could be an interesting social experiment. If it isn't too windy (which I'm not betting on at all) then we could take the chairs and tables up to the rooftop terrace where there is plenty of room. However if things continue as they are if we tried such a manuever everything would blow off the top including the people, so we'll see.

I'm feeling much more prepared than normal at the beginning of the year. I think that I've spent a lot of time reflecting on past years and trying to figure out what worked and what didn't. It could just be blissfull ignorance and next week is going to hit me like a ton of bricks. Or I could be realizing that stressing out and running around doesn't really help matters, that ten minute breaks to update a blog actually helps to refocus the mind, and that things can only be so ready for Monday morning. After that it's all about flexibility and rolling with the punches. So we will see.

Random thoughts...
(There is no space in my mind right now for random thoughts, I'm pretty focussed on school right now...)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Toto, I don't think we're in Freetown anymore.

What's different? Everything.

Like the fact that the @, ?, and ' are all in the wrong spot on this keyboard so if you don't understand what I'm typing I apologize in advance.

I arrived in Portugal three days ago. It's been pretty crazy. Getting here was nuts to start with. It seems I was supposed to fly out last Thursday NOT last Friday when I showed up at the airport. Oops. I don't think this one was my fault though, everything I'd received told me that the 15th was my departure day. Anyway, I was able to spend some extra time with friends in Atlanta (Thanks Faye and Jeff) and made it onto the Saturday flight.

I made it to the airport in Lisbon with little complication. That was nice. Then my school director picked me up, showed me to the hotel, and informed me that even though I'd been up for the past umpteen hours and had flown over a giant body of water I ought to go apartment hunting that afternoon. So after a quick shower I was off.

It was actually a lot of fun looking at apartments. It is absolutely beautiful here. In a different way than Freetown though. I commented on how brown everything here is and was told some other teachers who have just taught in Kuwait for the past several years were marveling at how green everything is. Perspectives. Anyway, I found a place relatively quickly. It was packed with old grandma knick-knacks, which I was able to look beyond and see a great three bedroom (lots of room for visitors... hint hint) place with an exceptional view of the ocean. I spent a lot of yesterday throwing... I mean placing carefully, old grandma stuff in closets. I need to get some sticky stuff for the walls so I can redecorate a bit, but it's starting to feel a lot more like home already. (Home being a very non-concrete concept for me)

I've spent a lot of time walking up and down the boardwalk, which is actually made of tiles. I've resumed my morning Bible reading and working out schedule, which is nice. I hear there are places to take yoga here so I may start that up again depending on how things go once school starts. I've already started talking to a few people about getting a bike to ride to school and have had a few places recommended. Yesterday I bought a phone that was too expensive for me but is really nice, taking pictures, which is good since I don't have a camera, and playing music, which is nice cause I don't have an i-pod.

Other than that things are kind of just moving along. I met my co-teacher today. He is new to the school also and comes from the British system so I think there will be a bit of a blind leading the blind mentality for the first little while. It does give us the, "We didn't know that's how it was supposed to work", excuse for a while. I think our director is pretty cool though and will be very supportive.

So that's the news from here. I'll throw some pictures up here once I figure out how to get them off my phone.

Random thoughts: Dogs on cups with cups in their mouths begging for change make good companions to accordian players lying in the street, Portuguese women really are as beautiful as people keep saying they are, there is a castle five minutes from my house and people talk about it like it's no big deal, roundabouts shouldn't have stoplights.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The wrong place to look for a date

Tonight was AWESOME!  I went to the Christian Singles dance this evening in Augusta.  The website advertised that individuals from 18 and up attended, that the typical dances included swing, ballroom, and line dancing, which all sounded good to me.  So last minute I threw on some clothes, made sure I was looking hot and my breath was minty fresh and took off.

So, I show up at the dance and see pretty quickly that this is going to be an interesting evening. Out of the hundred people that were at the dance there might have been four that were about my age.  The rest... closer to 60.  At least.  Maybe one or two in there 40's, several in their 50's, a lot above social security age.  I took a few minutes to decide what to do.  Then I spent the next three hours dancing with people older than my parents.  It was HILARIOUS.  I had such a good time.  Maybe didn't help out my singleness very much, but I did get to dance and had a good time doing it.  There were times when I would look around and just laugh because I tried to picture what I looked like surrounded by blue hair and dentures.  Most of the time though I forgot where I was because I was having such a good time.  

Random thoughts:  "I kissed a girl and I liked it..." gets stuck in your head and never leaves, I had too much junk in my house before moving to Sierra Leone, I leave for Portugal on Friday and finally feel like I'm ready to go, Strawberry-Banana yogurt is my favorite.

Friday, July 18, 2008

My last weeks in Salone the photo edition

The last two weeks of my two years in Freetown, Sierra Leone were absolutely packed with things I never ever want to forget. I tried to capture some of the highlights and will share them with you below. Thanks to everyone who made my final moments a time that I will cherish forever.

Fourth of July: Including Indoor Masked Badminton, Crazy Charlie, and lots of drinks, food, and friends!

Hike to Charlotte Falls: Includes kids making crazy faces, beautiful scenery, my new singles.com photo, and swimming in the rain with umbrellas to keep dry


The International Worship Service: Includes the best picture of Sandra and me ever, me and the ladies, the Incredible Paul and Sara Choi


Farewell to Bjorn: Includes excellent and not at all silly group shots of the gang. Unfortunately omits groundnut stew dinner when everyone's bellies grew three sizes, funny and slightly offensive racial jokes (about our own races of course), and a surprisingly deep game of Angel cards.


Bible Study Party: Included dinner and chatting, friends, an incredible amount of support and love shown and appreciated


Sports Club FC: Includes team photo's, the magnificent pitch, defensive backs watch out for each other on and off the pitch

Going away bash at Alex's Sports Bar: Includes loads of dancing, plenty of friends, a slightly inebriated camera that had a hard time focusing

Last beach trip to River Number 2: Includes lazy Sunday lounging, beautiful beach babes, and paradise


Random Shots of Freetown: Includes the busiest street I've ever tried to bike down, young footballers in Victoria Park, my friend Elaja and the unbeatable Ms. Abigail, the national landmark of Sierra Leone; the cotton tree, and my friends down the street Mohammed and his family