Thursday, December 3, 2009

We both made it out with our wallet and only one of us was hit by a car...

Turkey was amazing! My friend Nick and I flew out of Portugl on Friday afternoon, had an uneventful flight and arrived in Istanbul Friday night at about midnight. Nick's friend, Chadis, I think that's how that is spelled, met us at the airport and we set out on our adventure.

After briefly getting lost on the highways of Istanbul we successfully drove through the ridiculously think fog to Chadis' mother's house in Edirne. Although we arrived after 2 in the morning his mother and sister were still up to greet us with large amounts of food and his friends even stopped by to see everyone and share in the food consumption. Everyone was really friendly even though there was little English spoken round the table. The highlight of the night was when one of Chadis' friends was leaving and after having spoken only a word or two of English throughout the whole evening/morning he poked his head around the doorway he'd just left through to say, "I must go now...because I'm married". Being that almost the only thing I'd understood for the previous hour was the nearly constant ribbing he'd been given over his being married and needing to be accountable for his hours it was really funny.

The next morning we woke up to a feast of a breakfast complete with Turkish tea. Being a non-tea drinker I was a bit apprehensive but drank through a glass with the help of two sugar cubes. It wasn't too bad, but I politely declined a second glass. After breakfast we all, mom, sister, Chadis, Nick and I piled into the small family car and drove to the grandparent's place. As we drove Nick and I learned about how to great the older generation with respect. So when we met the grandparents we both took their hand, kissed the back, touched our foreheads to their hand and then gave lose hugs with a kiss first on the right and then the left. After that we were treated like family. They were wonderful people and, while I once again didn't understand most of what was being said, we all got on very well. At one point during the visit each person was given a small cup of Turkish coffee. I have consumed even less coffee in my lifetime than tea and managed to take a few sips before realizing that I just couldn't get through it. There was no problem though, Gulce, the sister, (it's supposed to have two dots over the u but I don't know where that key is) nicely dumped my coffee but brought back the cup with the residue in it. We were told that mom could read our fortunes and that we ought to flip the cup onto the saucer. A few minutes later I learned that I will soon come into a large sum of money, that I will be taking a big trip in either four days or four weeks or four months, she wasn't sure about the specific time and that currently I am thinking of courting two young ladies and I would be better served to make a decision. The whole experience was done with a sense of seriousness that let me know that while it wasn't concrete it was still taken with some level of respect within the family.

After visiting the late father's grave, which was my first time in an Islamic graveyard, they have raised graves that are covered with soil so that families have planted flowers on the graves, we all went to the Eski Camii. The Eski Camii is an enormous mosque in Edirne. It was amazingly huge and absolutely spectacular. As with most old cathedrals that I've visited there was an overwhelming sense of awe of how many hours went into building such an amazing place for the sole purpose of honoring and worshipping something greater than the people who built it.

After the mosque the five of us walked around town for a bit before going to a local restaurant that is famous for it's local quisine. Our new friends didn't feel the need to tell us what we were eating until we'd already devoured half a plate of whatever was put in front of us. It turns out we were eating fried liver. And loving it. The drink was something that Nick and I didn't go back for seconds on, a sort of salty yogurt. I never imagined I would like liver more than yogurt, it even feels weird to say, but man that was a great meal.
After leaving the Chadis' mother and sister in Edirne with hugs, well-wishes and hopes to one day see each other again the three of us went back to Istanbul. We spent a few hours seeing the Hagia Sofia, an ancient cathedral turned mosque, the Blue Mosque and a basilica, which we all decided had something to do with holding water but we weren't really sure what we met up with another of Nick's friends for dinner. After dinner we drove to the Asian side of Istanbul, (I've now been to Asia!!!) to rest and get ready for a night out. As we were driving around I was struck with the immensity of this city, it is easily the largest and most confusing place I've ever been. Nick and I quickly realized how fortunate we were to be traversing the city with people who knew their way around.

That night we went out for drinks, before Chadis, Nick and I went to a rock bar. It was great fun. We were out dancing till just after five in the morning. The band was great and I even tried to sing along at one point. I'm not sure I sang any of the right words, being that they were Turkish, but we gave it a valiant effort. I then got to drive home, being the non-drinker of the group, which was cool, I've now driven on five continents, before we all crashed at Chadis' place.

The next day we went walking along the Marmara Sea. It was nice looking out over Istanbul, just relaxing a bit. Even though we'd woken up at two we all decided we could use a nap before going out that night. We later met up with Nick's other friend again for dinner and drinks and had a nice relaxed evening.
The next morning we woke up early, made sure our bags were packed and went back over to the European side to check out the Grand Bazaar. Nick and I agreed we were expecting more of an outdoor market but it wasn't that at all. It was kind of like an ancient mall with lots of small shops selling lots of very traditional Turkish type things. I managed to pick up a little magic genie lamp, which is now residing among my "trophie collection" of knick-knacks from around the world.
After the bazaar we walked around for a few more hours before heading off to the airport.
I really had an amazing time in Turkey. The people were all very friendly, the city was amazing to behold and it was a fun adventure. One I would certainly recommend to anyone looking for something very different from the norm.

Oh yeah, and the car thing...
We were walking down to the ferry port and weren't sure which way to go. For some reason, which I definitely don't remember now I stopped in the middle of the road to look at a sign, not that I could read any of the signs but I must have thought it a good idea. Anyway, the driving in Istanbul rivals that of Freetown for the craziest drivers I've ever encountered and stopping in the middle of the road is unadvisable. I heard the briefest of "heads ups" shouted by my friend before I found myself flat on my back and a car wheel rolling up on my foot. I was more surprised than anything else at the moment and popped up laughing like an idiot. I think it was my bodies way of dealing with the stress. I limped off the road, waved to the man who looked aghast at hitting me that I was o.k. and trudged off down the road. I was and am fine, my leg ached for a bit and my shoulder was sore, but I'm fine and can now say that I've been hit by a car in Asia.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

These are a few of my favorite things...

Last night was about as close to being perfect as it could be.

I went to Lisbon last night for the Salsa class that I'm taking now with an incredible instructor. He's really cool, does a good job teaching and just in general is a really great guy. Last night he brought his children, who were probably less than two and maybe four, and the kids were running about the class. Since I had shown up early for the beginner class I took it upon myself to entertain them for a while so others could focus on the steps they were being taught. We had a good time playing around in the hall, watching some guys playing basketball in the gym downstairs, "Uma bolla!!!", and in general just having a good time. Then it was the intermediate groups turn to dance and so after playing with kids for an hour I then got to dance for an hour. I'm not real sure what could be better than two hours with two of my favorite things. It was funny because a few times while I would be dancing with someone the little boy would come up with arms upstretched and wouldn't go away until I picked him up. I then was able to dance with him and my partner, who luckily thought it was fun rather than being annoyed by the disturbance. Anyway, all that is to say that I had a wonderful time last night in class.

This morning I recommited myself to getting in touch with God. I have once again become remiss in this and want to make myself more available to Him. So from now on, instead of reading random books on the bus on the way to school, I'll be reading His Word. This morning I read the first 7 chapters of Matthew. As I was reading the first chapter and reading the geneology of Christ I was struck with the fact that each of these men, and the few women mentioned too, are not just names in a book but at one point walked around on this earth. These people faced trials and tribulations, stubbed their toe, admired sunsets, loved their children, were frustrated by noisy neighbors, and all of the rest that goes into living a life. These people also lived their lives for God. There were three series of 14 generations which is like 30 something generations (or something like that, it's still early) and while I read their names in the span of a minute or two their lives spaned thousands of years. Thousands of years worth of stubbed toes is a lot of stubbed toes. Thousands of years worth of devoting their lives to God, stumbling, rededicating their lives, falling again, making good again, is a lot of years worth of what I am going through in my own life. It helps me to know that I am not alone in this. The things that I struggle with have been struggled with for years. The welcoming arms that God opens to me have been opened for years.

Pretty amazing...

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Catching up

So, there aren't any months in between July and mid-October, right?

Ok, so lets see, what's been going on?

I feel my biggest crime is that I went to the Açores and somehow didn't right about my time there. Unforgiveable! I had a blast! I went with several of my friends from here in Portugal and was able to meet one of my friend's family who live in San Miguel, which is one of the islands of the Açores. The most beautiful island if rumors are to be believed. We stayed for five days and traveled the island over. It was absolutely amazingly beautiful. There were black beaches, waterfalls every few miles, amazing vistas over green rolling hills, hot springs which we layed about in for hours, and lots of happy cows. The Açores are actually known for their happy cows. I often wondered what made them happy but when I saw the amount of lush green grass that they had available to them and the relative ease with which they lived their life then I kind of understood better. My friends family was wonderful. They welcomed us in and spoke very slowly for me, which helped a lot as their accent made Portuguese even harder to understand. We even went whale watching and saw two or three Sai whales and a pod of bottle nosed dolphins, which I was able to watch play at the front of the boat as I hung off the front by my toes, or so it seemed at times. That was fantastic!

Since returning to the mainland life has resumed in it's normal busy manner. School resumed and I, for the first time ever, am teaching the same grade for two years in a row. I have 16 students this year, which seems like half the number I had last year, even though it is only 6 less. I have 5 students who are in ESL1 or English for the first time and a student with MS, so there is a lot of planning lessons with differentiated aspects to do. My kids are pretty cool this year though. I'd forgotten how far my students from last year had progressed throughout the year and so was a bit surprised at the level of my new students at the beginning of this year, but we've figured things out pretty well in our first six weeks. I'm now the fourth and fifth grade basketball coach for the school, which has been a lot of fun. Trying at times, but overall very rewarding.

Outside of school things are going very well. I continue to dance with the Historic group that I started with last year. We have a performance in the Castele San George in Lisbon. It is great to be working with them again as they are a great group of people and we tend to have a lot of fun in our various adventures. They help me out with my Portuguese a lot to and are generally very patient with me.

In addition to this I have been going to a Lindy hop lesson that has just started in Lisbon. I am really excited about this since I have wanted to learn this style of dance for years. The woman teaching it is really cool and has become a fast friend. Actually I've gone up to Porto a few times to see all of my new friends up there and to work on learning Lindy as they have a group that's been established up there for about a year. The people up there are great and I love the city, if we could move our school I think I'd be game for living in Porto.

I've continued playing football/soccer with the group I played with last year and continue to love doing that. They are a lot of fun and have helped me to learn the kind of Portuguese I should not be learning from my students. :) I occasionally get to play on the offensive side of the field now, which has been fun as I've been a defender pretty much the whole time I've played. Still haven't scored a goal yet, but I had a "brilliant" cross for an assist in our first game of the season and that was pretty exciting.

I am still single, which, as I just told a friend I'm talking with on Facebook, is o.k. because it gives me the freedom to fill my hours with all sorts of things and make snap decisions about where I want to go and what I want to do without checking in like a lot of my friends have to do. Having said that I will admit to having joined a Christian online dating website and have talked to a few people. If nothing else it's fun talking to new people. I continue to want to be a father and have continued to do research into adopting at some time in the future, which I think will be absolutely amazing, when it happens.

So I'm thinking that, if everything works out, I'd like to stay on in Portugal for a while longer. I really like my work and have found several niches that I feel I fit in well with outside of school as well. Add to that the fact that I am now, finally, getting to the point where I can hold brief if not totally correct, conversations in Portuguese and it all adds up to making more sense to stay on here for a while longer. If I can straighten out the details I have nothing to complain about.

I'm looking forward to going to Turkey at Thanksgiving. I've heard a lot of amazing things about it and my friend and I have a lot that we already want to jam into the few days that we are there. I have some friends from college coming over at new years. They will be my first official, "International Visitors" but I'm hoping to get many more. My parents have said they are coming out in the spring and I am superpsyched to be having them, they are going to love it! I specifically rented a place that is too big for me so anyone else who wants to visit and have a free place to stay, this is a not so subtle hint that you're invited! :)

I'll write more soon (as in more soon than two and a half months later)!

Hope you are all well!
God bless,

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


I bought an old man hat the other night at the fair by my house. It's awesome. That's all. The end.

In the interim...


I loved the fields of sunflowers and am working on a creative way of describing the beauty of filds upon filds of the yellow flowers that lay at the feet of mountains.

I learned that these flowers are called girasol. When I proclaimed to one and all that they were missing the beauty around us they politely took note and then went back to their conversations. One friend though took it upon herself to make sure that a field wasn't passed that wasn't brought to my attention and so for the next three hours to our destination and the entire four hours on the way back to the airport a few days later anytime a sunflower was spotted a cry of "girasol" was announced from the depths of the bus.

Our dancing went well, we danced in an old castle along the banks of a river that seperated Bulgaria from Romania to an enthusiastic crowd. We were able to meet new friends from all corners of Europe and I witnessed forms of dancing that I was previously unaware existed.

I was able to lose all of the weight that I'd put on in the states during our five days in Bulgaria. The food was slightly less than wonderful, but the bread and butter were good.

I had a really great time with the group though and was able to get to know my fellow dancers a lot better. My Portuguese improved as that was pretty much all that was spoken. They did take mercy on me and when I had the truelly lost look in my eyes would make sure to catch me up on what was being talked about.

I was able to make a self observation during our trip. A few years ago I took an improv class wherein we talked about different levels of humour and comedy. While on our trip to Bulgaria I realized that at this point in my life, at least here in Portugal, I am at the most basic elementary level of humor. I am constantly using physical, almost slapstick type humor to make people laugh. I'd like to think I'm more sophisticated than this and that it's my limited language that is causing me to act this way but I can't say diffinitively. Just another thought with no point but which will give me something to think about in the future.

I'm back in Portugal now. And I'm really excited to be here. I've been coming into school for the past couple days, slowly getting things together for the next year and trying to brainstorm different ideas that will make me into a better teacher. It's been nice, quiet, and it's o.k. if I get sidetracked with things like facebook and infrequently updating my blog.

My house is clean. Like for real. Like I even did the windows. It smells all nice and clean like too. It's a habit I'd like to get into, this keeping a clean house. I feel a lot better when things are clean and now that it's clean I'm finding that it takes a lot less effort to keep it clean rather than when it got ridiculous and then took days to clean. So, this is my official announcement... Justin Wallace will now be keeping a clean house! For all the naysayers out there, you're probably right, but I'm going to make an effort, which is more than I've said for myself, well... ever.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

So I'm sitting outside of a Starbucks in Augusta, Georgia when a guy at the next table pulls out his sitar...

Monday, June 22, 2009

Speaking in broken tongues

Yesterday my sister said something to me that I didn't quite hear and I responded with, "O que?" As in the Portuguese for, "What?"

In the airport in France the other day a man was speaking with me in French, I think I responded in a strange Portuguese/English/Krio mix, just trying to find something that he would understand.

I am at this moment reading an article in Mens Health Portugal about the form of self-defense that James Bond or Jason Bourne uses. I'm understanding parts of it but feel like I'm in first grade again where you kind of word call until you get to something you understand and then see how that word might illuminate the parts of the sentence that were glazed over a moment before. If I was doing a running record for myself I would have so many "repeated phrases" marks that the score card would probably look like a game of shutes and ladders.

Today at the mall an Asian man asked me in hesitant English if I wanted a massage. I replied with, "Nao, obrigado" which translated from Portuguese means, "No, thanks". I'm pretty sure I didn't consciously think that a random Asian man in the Augusta mall would speak Portuguese, but that's what popped out.


This is an unexpected complication in my world tour. How many different bits of languages can my brain hold? It would be different if I was fluent in each, but I'm not. And I'm thinking that unless I decide to stay in each place for longer than two years I am probably not going to be reaching the fluency level in any of the places.
(3 days later)
Life is good.
I've been in the states for a bit over a week and am really relishing my time with friends and family. Despite the fact that this will be a shorter time in the states than previous visits I am squishing in together time with different people so as to make up for lost time. It's like a three week long round of speed dating (not that I've tried speed dating... I'm just saying it's what I think speed dating would be like...).
"Hey! How's it going?"
"Great, what have you been up too?"
"Not much, pretty much the same."
"Where are you going next year?"
"Staying in Portugal"
"Ummm, see ya next year."
None the less, broken conversations kind of match my broken language right now so it all works out.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Photo's of the latest

2-25-09 040 by you.
Leslie and João at Montemor-o-velho

2-25-09 042 by you.
Me at Montemor-o-velho
2-25-09 049 by you.
And again at Montemor-o-velhoolga cadaval palco (22) by you.
Dancing with Rita and Leslie at our espectaculo (show).Me and Justin by you.A baixa em Coimbra (downtown in Coimbra) by you.
One of the beautiful side streets in Coimbra
Fatima by you.
At Fatima, a religious pilgrim destination.
Lady Leslie by you.
Lady Leslie in her renaissance dress.
Sir Justin (ha ha ha ha ha ha) by you.
The much awaited photo. Me in full renaissance mode.
Portugal v. Sweden World Cup Qualifier by you.
Portugal vs. Sweden world cup qualifier.

(p.s. There are a lot more photos of the latest on my site Enjoy!)

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

What's up

Lots of things...

Today I have reached the status of grandma. (Yes that is in fact a sentence I never thought I'd say) This morning one of my students (8 years old) told me to go to youtube to see this music video. Then she says she knows another one that's really good but I shouldn't go to it because it has bad words. I can just remember saying the same thing to my grandmother not so long ago.

I am really enjoying my tango classes. I've been going to and three times a week and feel like I'm starting to catch on. It's a bit frustrating because some of my teachers are speaking a mixture of Portuguese and Spanish which means I don't understand at all. The teachers who speak only Portuguese are a lot easier to get. (Which I think means my Portuguese is getting a lot better)

Monday I went to do another voice reading in Lisbon. I am really enjoying this opportunity and I think that they are happy with my work. However, you know at the end of the movies when they show the bloopers? Looks like a lot of fun right? Well the first few times it is kind of funny. After about the sixth time it is no longer quite as humorous. I had one line that I just flubbed over, and over, and over... but we finally got it right. Anyway, they were talking about another job either right before I leave for holiday or when I get back in August so that's cool.

Third grade is studying space right now. I know that I'm a social studies teacher but we had to move some things around so that we could cover all the things that we are supposed to before the end of the year. So I get to teach space! Which I LOVE!!!

The weather has FINALLY turned for the better! As of last Thursday we are finally having the weather I dreamed of in Portugal. The days are hot, sunny and beautiful. Lots more playing outside, lots more beach time and at least this past weekend lots more sunburns. Doh!

I have a conundrum. I was just told yesterday that the historical dance group that I am a part of is going to Bulgaria (I just realized I've been mistakingly telling people Belgium) for 4 or 5 days in the middle of July for a performance festival and that the city of Sintra is paying all but 200 euros of each person's trip. This would be an incredible experience for me. The uncertainty lies in whether or not to go as I was planning on being home for all of the month of July. Being that I don't get home very often I am hesitant to cut the trip home short. I have looked at the calendar though and decided that if I leave the day after school gets out instead of the week after I would only be cutting of my trip by a week. Then I could possibly have time to travel around Europe a little bit before school starts back and see some friends who I haven't had the chance to see yet. So I don't know and I think I have to decide by this afternoon or tomorrow.

(Insert an hour pause here as I play around on the internet looking at flights)

O.k. so...
I think I'll probably go to the States from June 20th to the 15th of July then fly back to Lisbon. After that I'll go with the group on the 17th to Bulgaria. We'll stay there till the 22nd of July at which point they will fly home and I'll fly to Frankfurt (hopefully without my costume) where I hope to crash with friends for about a week (Julie if you're reading this I hope you're going to be around from the 22nd to the 29th of July). Then I'll fly from Frankfurt to Paris and stay with some friends there from the 29th to the 6th (Sofia if you're reading this I hope you'll be around from the 29th to the 6th). After Paris I'll fly to Amsterdam and spend a week there (Hanneke and Sandra if you're reading this I hope you'll be around from the 6th to the 13th of August) Then I'll fly back to Lisbon and have a few weeks to get my class ready before meetings and kids come back. All for the low low cost of 1,212 Euros. ($1,620)!!!
So that's the plan as of this minute! We'll see how that works out. There may well be some rearranging going on depending on availability but we'll see.

Oh, so this past weekend I went down to the Algarve with some friends. That's the southern most part of Portugal and it was BEAUTIFUL! We had a really good time, stayed in my friends apartment and spent a lot of time at the pool. Then Saturday, Leslie, a friend and fellow teacher, and I came back to Lisbon and went to a big dinner and dancing night with our historical dancing group. It was SO MUCH FUN! We danced swing, waltz, cha cha, foxtrot, tango, merengue, and probably some other stuff that I'm forgetting. It was amazing!

That's the news from over here. I hope everyone is well. I look forward to seeing you soon!!!

Randomness... Singing in the shower is one of my favorite pasttimes, it's impossible to dance too often, I still haven't taken the Christmas reigndeer down from the television in my classroom, the song "The Circle of Life" is really funny to sing on Singstar because one person says "Himinya way himinaminyawe (or something like that) for the whole time.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

someone loves you

  • That's what the note in my wallet says.
  • It's been there for at least five years.
  • On a small green post-it note.
  • It came from a friend who now lives far away.
  • And while our lives have changed drastically since the note was given.
  • I know that our love for each other,
  • while our lives may look different,
  • remains as strong as the day she wrote it.
  • The thing about the note is that,
  • while I look at it nearly everyday
  • and I think fondly on the friend who gave it to me,
  • it doesn't only remind me of the giver.
  • Rather, as I glance upon the note each day,
  • not really needing to read it anymore
  • because I know what it says
  • but mearly seeing it's presence in my wallet
  • reminds me of all the people who love me,
  • of the adventures we've had,
  • of the prayers they offer for me,
  • of the kisses and hugs, tears and laughs that we've shared.
  • And I know in these moments
  • that I am beyond fortunate.
  • That I am blessed beyond comprehension.
  • That whereever I am
  • Whatever I'm doing
  • No matter how old I am
  • or how long it's been since we've talked
  • someone loves me
  • and most fortunately for me
  • lots of someone's love me.

Monday, March 30, 2009

So much I could say right now...

I like this blogging thing. I've just spent the past half an hour reading over previous posts, smiling at pictures from Sierra Leone, reminiscing about where I was when I wrote the different things I've written. Lots of amazing times. Lots of hard times. Lots of experiences that I'm glad I have chronicled.

When I look back on this past weekend I look forward to the smiles it will bring. (Note to future self... "Hey")

So I knew going home on Friday that the weekend was going to be jam packed. I actually wasn't sure that everything was going to happen that needed to happen but I was looking forward to all that was planned. So rather than going out with some friends whose Friday tradition is to go to a local pub I instead went to the new cafe that has opened a stone's throw from my house with a heavily burdened bookbag and began marking papers. I was still there marking when, an hour later, a man came in who was either drunk or not carrying a full deck. He proceded to walk around the cafe with drink in hand and talked to himself. At one point he came over to my table and started picking up some of the pictures my students had drawn and mumbling something in Portuguese. I waved off the horrified cafe worker as, at that point, he wasn't really hurting anything. Eventually he moved off, my stacks of paper none-the-worse for the experience and I went back to grading. As he was finally ready to leave a man in the cafe who was trying to help him to leave realized he didn't have enough money and the GNR (police) were called. At this point I worried a bit just because I was hoping they wouldn't ask me anything. I've picked up a bit (stress a bit here) of Portuguese but certainly wasn't up to explaining the odd behaviour of my fellow cafe patron. Luckily they didn't ask me anything and the evening ended uneventfully.

The next day I woke up early and went to meet my teammates for our trip up to Porto. Our club was going to play a rival club in a football match that has been going on for nearly thirty years (note the game hasn't been going on that long as games don't actually last for thirty years, rather the rivalry has been going on at least that long). Our trip up was great, I was able to get to know some of my teammates a lot better. Then we played our game and won! Which is good because our club hasn't won in a few years from what I understand. We played really well, worked well together, and were really aggresive. It was a lot of fun!

After the match we hung out for a few minutes before going to a World Cup qualifier match between Portugal and Sweden. On the way I managed to pick up a 76 euro ticket for not swiping my metro card at the appropriate place. I've since talked to a lawyer friend of mine here who seems to think I should be able to get out of it (let's all collectively cross our fingers right... NOW!). When I finally did get to the game it was amazing. The stadium was incredible and the players were amazing. We were crazy close to the game and I saw Christiano Ronaldo do ridiculous things with a football. Unfortunately we came away with a draw which is REALLY bad for Portugal. Craziest part of the game though was the teenage girls behind us who swore like sailors at the top of their voices throughout the game. I felt fortunate at my lack of Portuguese understanding but still understood enough to know that it was not good at all.

After the game we went for dinner and then drove back from Porto at three on Sunday morning. It was an uneventful trip despite the fact that our driver was bent on breaking land speed records. It was actually the fastest I've ever been in a car, maxing out somewhere around 200 kph (125 mph).

Sunday was really cool too. I slept from six in the morning to twelve and then woke up to go to a dance performance. It was my first time dancing with the Historical Group that I've found myself a part of. I still laugh everytime I see myself in my costume in a mirror. In the below picture I'm the guy in blue in the center of the picture. Anyway, I managed to withhold the laughter for the most part, enjoyed dancing in an amazing garden setting with turrets surrounding us, and am now able to say that I've been part of a tourist attraction.

I ran out after the performance ended to catch a train, to catch a subway, to run a kilometer, to get to my Tango class. Unfortunately the class was ending as I got there so I wasn't able to get in on that and didn't really feel like going through the rigamarole (spelling?) of asking people to dance so I instead walked about Lisbon and talked to family back in the States, which was just as nice.

And so another weekend has passed. Five more school days till spring break. Good times.


Random thoughts: I haven't done random thoughts for a while, I should be doing report cards, I wonder if luck is real or not, I have had a blessed life.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009



Things have been going well.

School continues to be a place that I look forward to coming to. The kids come in each morning and without my needing to say anything other than a "Good morning" along with their handshake they know what to do and how they are expected to come in each morning. They are constantly doing or saying things that make me laugh and we seem to appreciate each other. I had parent conferences the other day and everyone seemed pleased with how the year is progressing.

I am dancing several times a week. Around four or five if I keep going with the new classes I've started. Tango on Sunday. Historical on Monday and the occasional Wednesday. Contemporary on Tuesday and Thursday. Clubbing on Friday or Saturday if anyone is going. It's a good life.

I get to play football (soccer) two to three times a week, which has been wonderful. Two weekends from now we are traveling to Porto, in northern Portugal, for a tournament. Then we are going to go and see a World cup qualifying match between Portugal and Sweden. It should be a really great weekend as I get to know the guys from my club better.

As I sit here trying to think about what else is going on I'm kind of hard pressed to think of anything. As I tend to do I have kind of filled up my days. Which is good. And I am continuing my lifelong pursuit of balance. Sunday morning I woke up early, went to a nearby cafe, ate my breakfast while listening to a sermon on cd and grading papers. It was a very nice morning followed by a football game and then some good beach time.

Speaking of beach time!... I have just recently found out that it is possible to rent a smart car for a euro a day! In case you don't know what these look like I've added a picture below.

Can't you just see me bebopping around town in one of these! Anyway, my new plan is to go rent one and drive it up and down the coast for a day. This way I can get to see more of Portugal without relying on when my friends decide they A)want to go somewhere and B)want me to go with them. Plus it will be a TOTAL BABE MAGNET!!! Ok maybe not so much be there's no harm in trying? I guess we'll see.
So that's my life at the moment. Hope you're well

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Singing Tree

Singing Tree

I never knew a palm could coo
a morning's greetings to me and you
But as I walk to school each day
a tree I pass greets me this way

I've gazed among it's branches green
the source of the coos I've never seen
And so with confidence I say now
that it must be the tree, though I know not how

What do I do with a tree that sings
What do I make of it's joyous feelings
As it calls to the sun and it shouts to the sky
The low setting moon gets a soft lullaby

To stop, to sit, to listen a spell
to all that my singing tree's trying to tell
In this way perchance I might happen to see
the things that before have escaped from me

If a tree can sing what else have I missed
rocks that have shouted or waves that have kissed
As here I am, there I am, all over bound
I wonder what treasures keep the earth turning round

My chance is upon me I hardly dare wait
while the years stretch before me it isn't too late
Now I must learn there's no reason to rush
I'd do better to slow down, I'd do better to hush

I walk now with a smile, my spirit set free
all due to the cooing of a tall green palm tree

Justin Wallace

Living the dream

Hokay so...

A few weeks ago I wrote 25 things about me. I really enjoyed the exercise as it gave me a lot of time to reflect and try to decide what 25 things I wanted to share. I could have put out an entirely different list of 25 things about me or I could have put out a list of 25 things I hope you don't know about me, but I feel good about what I shared.


The point of my bringing this up again is that a week after my list went out a friend of mine here at school, who hadn't read the list, forwarded me an e-mail. The e-mail was from a Portuguese company who needed a reader with an American accent to come down and read some things for a book they were contracted to record. I ignored my students for the minute it took me to immedietly respond to her e-mail saying that I would LOVE to do this and it is something I have always wanted to do. A few days later I was contacted by the company and details were worked out on our meeting and what would be asked of me. I was informed that I was to go to Lisbon where I would be picked up and then taken to the sound studio. There I would read a script for a book for Portuguese students learning English. For my efforts they would compensate me 150 Euro!

So, I made it to Lisbon, met the people at the studio, all of whom were really really great people, read a two page script about MTV, listened to myself, then re-read a few hiccuped spots (luckily I didn't actually get the hiccups, that would have been tragic!) and thirty minutes later I was done. Everyone seemed really pleased with my reading, which is comforting as it's something I've had lots of practice doing. The sound editor lady talked about how hard it is to find a reader with an American accent here in Portugal and expressed that she would like to work with me again in the future! As I was being taken back to the train station the guy who drove me said that he was impressed that the sound lady had taken to me so well as she is normally a hard person to please and reitterated that he hoped to get in contact with me in March or April to come back and do some more reading!

As I got back on the train to head off to my dance class I had a hard time fitting through the train door with my ginourmous smile!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The longest week...ever!!!

So this week the other third grade teacher has been absent. He hasn't been feeling well. Along with most of the pre-schoolers and a large number of other teachers. Since we don't really have a large substitute teacher pool to pull from I told the principal on Tuesday that I could take both classes for the day. The kids were great on Tuesday so dispite the 42 children I had sitting on the floor of my classroom the day would have to be considered a success. Wednesday morning dawned and I arrived at school to find out that my fellow third grade teacher still wasn't around. The principal had found a parent substitute for the day but as the morning bell was ringing asked if I could put together work for the class to do. Rather than running around trying to do this I just said that I'd take both classes again.
Unfortunately the novelty had worn off and while I am blessed with two classes full of relatively well behaved children, they are still two classes. I found myself being slightly less patient and slightly more harried by little concerns. I was thoroughly frustrated with some things that are outside of my control and it took a late night call last night to one of my teacher friends before I could put my mind to ease that I'm doing the best that I can do.
This morning I came in to find out that my fellow teacher is still ill and that I still had fourty some odd children. Again, they are generally well behaved but the juggling of the two classes who have different schedules and are at different points in what they are studying caused me to be a bit less patient than I normally strive for.
I have just heard that tomorrow will be a return to normal as my fellow teacher intends to come back.
Sweeter words could not have been uttered.

Friday, February 6, 2009

The difference is...

I wrote this entry after my first year in Sierra Leone upon visiting the States. I was rereading it and realized that even though it's only been a few months I've started to gloss over some of the details of my two year stay in Freetown.
Many people have already read this and I hope you will excuse me from posting an old note rather than something new. But I needed a more constant reminder of my former life than the occasional happening upon it in an e-mail folder that I hardly open anymore...

The difference is...

Everyone asks when you come back, "So, What is the difference?"

Five words...21 letters...

It doesn't seem fair. I have so much that I could say.

Does the person want an answer that corresponds in brevity to their own question?

If so, "Everything. It's all different"

And that still has too many letters.

Does the person have the necessary time for what would begin to approach an acceptable answer?

Is it rude for me to ask if they actually want to know or if they are asking because it is expected?

The most honest of answers would probably be something like...

"I'm not entirely sure yet. There are still things that I am rediscovering here that I'd forgotten. There are things that I think about back "at home" in, Sierra Leone as I have found myself referring to it since my return, that I am already missing."

But even if I were to respond to the very best of my abilities how can I explain the multitude of differences between my two homes. I am sure that I don't have the knowledge of language or the ability to paint a picture that would encompass these two worlds. I could just as soon explain to a blind man what color is, when there is no real way to describe color, as explain to my friends and family here, many of whom have never stepped out of the States, what it is like to go to the market on a Saturday morning, it is the equivalent to describing color. We just don't have the same language or memories to relate to in order to understand.

The difference is...



Where to start?...

The roads are dirt and all of your clothes turn a fun shade of orange, as soon as you step outdoors.

Think about going to a farm. Out in the country. And not one of the high tech. farms. Think of the mom and pop farms. The ones with the rocking chairs on the front porch and the sweet pale lemonade in an old glass pitcher waiting to break your thirst in two. Think about that kind of a farm. Think about what happens when it rains and the yard turns into a muddy patch of nothingness. Remember what it was like to run to your car, raindrops drenching your best Sunday dress. And when you sat down in your car, wiped the cold drops of water from your brow, and looked down. That is what Sierra Leone is like. When you look down and realize that your primping and your bathing, your curling and your polish, has been taken away in the five yards between your screened in porch and the old vinyl seat of your beat up pickup truck. That feeling of wonder and frustration, not knowing if you will ever be able to get out that old Georgia clay. That is what it is like.

The difference is...

The poor and beggars inhabit the street corners, the road home, the hill behind your house, the market that you shop at, the entrance to your work, the everywhere you look, all day, everyday.

Think about that time that you were getting off the highway and you saw that old dirty worthless man. "How does a person get to this point?” you ask yourself. "That would never happen to me. I wouldn't let it. I wouldn't get to the point where I have to rely on others to provide me with clothes, food, and shelter. That person must have no initiative. That person has given up. I would never be like that." And you looked the other way and stepped a little harder on the gas when the light turned green because that makes the problem go away and God forbid that the person approach you for help because like an infectious disease, like the plague or the pox, this person may spread whatever lackluster spirit-crushing sickness that has so infected them onto your person. Now multiply that one person. Raise that person to the n exponent. Surround yourself with that person and no green lights. Take away that person’s overnight shelter. Take away their food pantries. Take away their Red crosses and their ability to write a sign pleading for help. Take that away with that many people. That is what it is like.

The difference is...

The noise. The great cacophony of noise. Surrounding you. Creating a cocoon that never breaks. Strike up the orchestra of dogs, generators, horns beeping, helicopters passing overhead, late night stereo's blaring, children screaming, people calling, cars squealing, goats bleating,...

Think about the time your six year old was having a Disney princess sleepover with ten of her closest friends, while your droll teenager was out in the garage with his band buddies practicing their latest remake of an old Kiss album, and your crying baby takes up one arm while the phone rings and the pizza man is at the door. Don't forget about Rover who desperately needs to get out to make a deposit on the back sidewalk and won't stop barking until he gets his way and the airport that has just completed it's new runway and has been running test flights at regular thirty minute intervals to ensure the safety of all those landings that will soon be zooming over your head. Insert that into your cookie cutter neighborhoods, into your carefully patrolled burroughs. That is what it is like.

The difference is...

The greetings. The smiles. The children running to grab your hands. The wrinkled old vegetable women asking how your day was. The bare chested guard asking when your friends will be visiting next. The taxi man who tells you about his wife and children and driving a taxi for thirty-two years. The lorry driver who slows down enough that you can jump on and save some money on a bright and sunny day. The gimp old man in his white plastic chair who calls out a respectful greeting or the sun shaded young block maker who yells white man.

Think about going to visit your relatives when you were a child for Thanksgiving or Christmas. Think about the feeling of anticipation that you have when you woke up the morning of the trip. You could hardly sleep because you knew that you got to go see the grandma who makes frosted cookies and lets you eat the dough. The grandfather who lets you sit on his lap for a football game and teaches you which are the good guys and which are the bad guys. The uncles who take you out after a belly busting meal and teach you how to hit a baseball or work a half-nelson. The aunts who just can't believe how big you've gotten and want to know about the little cute red-headed girl at school. Remember what it was like to get in the car and never get there. To have that feeling of knowing you are going to a place where you will be greeted and fawned upon. Loved by all who inhabit your space. It is a feeling of being special. It is a feeling of acceptance. It is a feeling that each person that you interact with is glad to see you. It is a feeling that happens each time you open your door and walk onto the street. That is what it is like.

The difference is...

That people go from strangers to acquaintances to friends in lightning fast time because you never know how long this person you are meeting is going to be in the country. A week. A month. Six months. A year. The evolution of friendship gets put on warp drive because it has to or else who are you going to share your life with.

Think about someone who has been told they don’t have long to live. They realize that there is so much to do in life and there may not be time enough to get the things done that they wish to accomplish. Think about the desire they have to see new places, correspond with old friends, have adventures, cherish love, live every moment of everyday to it's fullest because their moments are numbered. In my home we are living something that mimics this proclamation. We don't know how long we have with a person. And we may not have time to stretch out an acquaintancship over weeks or months as we might here in the states. There you ask a person's name, what they do in Freetown, and how they managed to make it to such a place and the person is then well on their way to becoming a friend. If you hang out a second time then the relationship is established. After three times you are old pals and forever after that each meeting only adds to the bond that is now something you will remember for the rest of your life. Squeezing in so much into a short amount of time. That is what it is like.

The difference is...

That everyone and everything you have known and cherished is out of reach. Few e-mails and fewer phone calls don't mean that people have forgotten you but an incredible thing happens. While your adventure takes place...other people are still living their own lives. While it would be interesting to see what happens if everyone else's life gets put on hold when you are not around, this doesn't happen.

Think about when you went to summer camp for the first time. Can you remember how dark it was at night. Odd sounds and weird shadows. Your brain screaming at your prone body to jump right off your squeaky rusty bunk bed and sprint, not walk, not run, but sprint to the phone and dial in a blaze of fingers your home phone number which marches through your head, just to hear your mom or dad say, "Hello? Who is calling at 1 in the morning?" You are more than willing to risk the admonition from the counselors and the heckling from your fellow campers if you can just talk to your family for a moment, for that briefest of times that would allow you to know they haven't forgotten you and that, while they are still living their life, they do miss you and look forward to your return. That is what it is like.

The difference is...

Too vast to explain. And yet... both places are now home. I look forward to being in one place while I'm in the other. Last night I dreamt I was shopping at the market in Freetown. I spoke and heard Krio as I bartered with the local store owners. Months before I came back to the states I started having dreams about places I used to work here, people I used to hang out with, my church, my friends, my family. Everyday since I have been back I have converted most of the prices that I've seen into Leones. For ten months my brain acted like my own little bank and worked out how much I was paying in dollars with most purchases. Everyday since I've been back I've thought about the friends that are in Sierra Leone. Everyday that I was there I thought about the people that I had left and counted the months until I got to see them again.

The difference is...

My way of thinking. Because when I first stepped off the plane ten months ago I was speechless and couldn't have imagined that any place on earth could be more different from the home I had just left than the place I was going to inhabit for the next ten months of my life. And it is different. And while I have tried to relate some of those differences to things that would have made sense to me when I left, I have not done a sufficient job at painting my picture. I cannot relate how I felt that Freetown quickly became my new home because I was able to relate my experiences there with my life here. I cannot relate how each day I learned new things from new experience because it took those new experiences to learn those new things.

The difference is...

Guess I'm still stuck with my original quandary. I will continue to try to decipher what people really want to know. Quick and painless or listen to my voice drone on while I wonder if my audience has grown bored with my endless stories.

The difference is...

Something I am still figuring out.

God bless and my love,
Justin Wallace

Thursday, February 5, 2009

25 Things about me

25 Things about Me

I am a five foot ten, blue eyed, short haired, athletic, single white male who likes sports, reading and quiet conversations in hidden away café’s, looking for a … oh wait that’s for a different “Things about Me” list… sorry about that.

1. I love to write. I keep a blog and update it occasionally. I am a huge fan of haiku. I have had entire conversations with people in the form of haikus. One of my poems was published when I was in grad school. It was for a project we were supposed to spend the week working on. I forgot about it and wrote my story of myself during class. The professor liked it enough that she admitted it to a journal she worked with. (

2. I love photographs. I have a buried desire to become a better photographer someday. I would like to think that I occasionally have an eye for what would make a good picture. Mostly though I just like that with a small piece of inexplicable machinery I can soon have a piece of paper that has clearly captured a moment in time that I can then look back on for the rest of my life. That’s pretty amazing.

3. I shaved, like all the way with a razor, for the first time in years last night. Not that I’ve been growing a gigantor beard. I kept it generally neat and trim. But last night I decided I’d like to see what I look like without the accumulated hair. I must admit I cut a dashing figure.

4. I am absolutely horrible at carrying through with ideas that I have. I’m a pretty creative person and have been told that I have good ideas. But I’ve also discovered that I’m a good brainstormer, not such a good carrier outer.

5. I have an interesting relationship with God. I think we understand each other most of the time. My faith is definitely something that is important to me. It is also something that I have seen change more dramatically than any other aspect of my life in the past 28 years.

6. I am a quintessential renaissance man. I will try just about any new thing that I encounter (except food) and generally find that I can do a passable job at most things. I would not say that I am really amazing at any one thing and sometimes wonder what it would be like to dedicate myself to the pursuit of excellence in one area. Instead I continue living the life I have been given and do pretty well for myself jumping from one activity to another.

7. I once did a back flip off of a 30 foot high cliff into a river. My friend yelled up to me that I shouldn’t over-rotate. As I jumped back off the cliff and did my flip I realized that I was pretty much where I started only three feet from the ground I had just left. 30 feet gives you a lot of time to look around, flail about and think about the lack of wisdom involved in doing a back flip off a 30 foot tall cliff. The sound of my back hitting the water still causes me to cringe.

8. I have the unfortunate ability to remember the ending to books I’ve read even if it’s been years since I’ve read them. I still reread books more often than I read new ones. It’s more about the process than the conclusion, I’ve found.

9. I had a major life realization in December. I was writing to a friend about my faith and I realized that I firmly believe that there is a bit of God in all of us. And once I actually realized that I believed that then it TOTALLY changed the way I look at people. As I made that discovery, in a centuries old monastery, I looked at the people around me and my eyes welled up with tears at the sudden and overpowering realization that I could look at the people around me and see God. I was literally surrounded by Him. I’ve professed for years that God is everywhere but this was, to my recollection, the first time that I ever actually saw that God was all around me. It was an amazing moment and has caused me to look at people very differently.
10. My BIG BIG goal in life is to teach on every continent. I am currently up to three. I taught fourth grade for a year in Georgia (the state not the country) and learned an incredible amount about myself and about my chosen profession. I taught first kindergarten and then a combined k-1 class in Freetown, Sierra Leone and was reminded everyday, despite the countless frustrations, why I love being a teacher. I am teaching third grade in Linho, Portugal where I am learning how to put into practice the ideas I come up with and the importance of good classroom management schemes. While it’s a bit early to know I am starting to think that my next post will be in New Zealand as I’ve developed a strong contact with a school there.

11. I love romantic comedies. I have no problem with walking into the “chick-flick” section of the store and picking up a few good movies. I look forward to new Hugh Grant movies. I don’t know what it is but I like them.

12. I have been known to randomly burst into song without preamble. I really enjoy singing. I sing in my classroom all the time. I sing in the shower… loudly. I sing in cars. I sing walking to the bus stop in the morning. I sing in church. I am singing in between entries. I really love to sing.

13. Unfortunately, in consideration of number 12, I am horrible at remembering lyrics. It drove a certain friend of mine in college crazy. She was a wiz at lyrics. I never understood how she did it. I can sing along with music pretty well, but get me on my own and the most random phrases imaginable will come belting out of my mouth.

14. I have always said that if I won the lottery my dream would be to throw a gigantic masquerade ball. I would invite everyone I knew and each invitation would contain a ticket for dance classes, that way when the ball actually happened everyone could really dance. I would hire out cirque du soleil to come and do their craziness in and amongst the guests. It would be freakin amazing. And now that I live in Portugal and am literally surrounded by ancient castles I have plenty of venues for my dream to happen.

15. I find kids to be absolutely amazing. I couldn’t imagine working in a job that wasn’t surrounded by children. Their outlook on life, their zany humor, they just make life more fun.

16. Amongst the many things that I am, I would have to say that, apart from things dealing with children, the thing that makes me happiest in life is dancing. I started actually dancing in high school, before that I danced but it was probably more a flailing, white man overbite, impression of the guy from Hitched, than actual dancing. I began with swing and ballroom and these are still probably my favorites, but since then I’ve done modern, latin, jazz, blacklight and even a bit of ballet. My ballet career fell flat before it started though because of my inability to point my toes despite hours and hours of attempts.

17. I am a frustration to my parents. Well that’s half true. I am a frustration to my amazing mother. I am a reflection of my father so he can’t get too frustrated with me. Despite my life long pursuit to do everything, my parents have continued to support me whatever the newest craze is. For that I am eternally grateful.

18. The first thing I did in my new classroom was to put up a sign that reminds me that “Patience is a virtue!” This is a lesson that God has been trying to drill into my head for the past forever and I continually seem to need reminding. Having a visual reminder helps a lot though.

19. I work hard to live a life that will never allow me to look back on things and regret any decision I’ve made. That is not to say that I haven’t made my share of stupid choices. I’ve probably actually filled my life quota for stupid choices and I’m only 28. However, I make a concerted effort to use those stupid choices to make myself into a better me. It doesn’t always work like I mean for it to, but I try.

20. Someday, when I either don’t want to be a teacher anymore, which seems inconceivable at this point, or more likely when I just want a break, I want to become a librarian. For a school. That seems like an amazing job. Recommending and reading books to kids all day long. I could deal with that.

21. In relation to reading books. My other someday dream job is to be the guy that reads books onto tape, or cd as the case is these days. I think I could do a good job of that. If anybody has a hookup with someone who needs a reader for their book, give me a call!

22. If Facebook ever needs an advocate or spokesman I will gladly take up the role. I am so grateful for this “socializing device”. Especially since living overseas makes it difficult to stay in touch with people, Facebook has been the most amazing tool possible for staying in touch with friends and family. I get on everyday and get excited every time I’m told I have a new post, a new message, a new friend.

23. I cannot snorkel. I don’t know why. I’ve tried. And I always lower the water level of whatever body of water I’m in by drinking my body weight in water.

24. I always want to wake up first on Christmas. I want to be the first one to check out what’s in my stocking. This year I called my dad at seven in the morning England time, which is two in the morning Georgia time, just to make sure he could be privy to my early morning Christmas joy spreading. I can’t say that he was overjoyed by my call, but I think he got the point. Having said that, I don’t like to open my presents first. I like to sit back and watch everyone else open theirs first and then quietly open mine on the side.

25. I’m bad at keeping in touch with people but think about them far more than I let them know. Memories of friends and family keep me going when I go to new places and am surrounded by new people. In Timbuktu I spent the afternoon and evening thinking about what different people would say about the rather non-attractive camels we rode into the Sahara. In London I walked around for days on my own imagining what different people would want to see or what they would say about the rather interesting fancy dress New Years Eve party at a small village bar I went to. During the time I spent in Freetown I constantly thought about how different friends would react to the craziness that I encountered everyday. And now here in Portugal I wonder what different people are doing where, how their lives are changing and when I will get to see them again. Though I may be bad at writing to people I hope that they know that they are constantly in my thoughts and prayers.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Pictures from Portugal and vacationing in England

This is the local fort just by my house.

Leslie, João, and I went bowling at Colombo.

Some of the Christmas decorations in Sintra.

Some more decorations.

I helped make that. My first Yorkshire pudding.

An authentic thatch house just outside of Ely, Eng.

Percy, Joy, and I out for a walk on Christmas day.

Charlie and I at Cambridge.

Me in front of some Cathedral in Cambridge.

I liked this because it shows a Lisbon taxi.

One of the street performers on the South Bank, London.

Big Ben and me. And my nose hairs.

Ummm... yeah.

The entrance to the Natural History Museum in London.

Hard to see but it says Knightrider street! Ha!

A grainy picture of the London eye.

A blurry picture of one of the bridges crossing the Thames.

Christmas dinner complete with cracker hats!

Tom killing the leftovers.

Ely Cathedral

Maribeth and me. And the as yet unnamed reindeer.

Making Christmas cookies with my kids.

Lucas in a Santa mask with me and the reindeer.

Xiao Feng trying to eat the camera.

Yotaro and Erdem are my best artists.

My kids at their Christmas concert.

We're still working on the straight line bit.

The monastery at Belém.

An example of the beautiful sidewalks here.

Me at Belém Monastery.

Me at Belém monastery...again.

Belém monastery... without me.

The tribute to the Portuguese explorers.

Affectionately known as the Golden Gate bridge II

The statue of Christ overlookings Lisbon.

The view from my balcony.