Sunday, January 24, 2010

Burns Ball!

It's that time again! Tomorrow, in Scotland, people will be celebrating the birthday of their favorite poet, Robert Burns. We celebrated here in Tirana with the second annual Burns Ball. I was looking forward to the night with eager anticipation, but also I was concerned that the second annual Burns Ball wouldn't be as great as the first annual Burns Ball. It wasn't as great as the first ball.... it was better! A little piece of me (ok, a big piece of me) is glad that the job fair didn't work out. If I had gone, I would have missed out on the best night of the year! (In the big picture of things, it's not so great that I didn't go to the job fair, but I'm so thankful that I could go to the ball. Geeze, now I'm sounding like Cinderella).

Sarah and our good friend Claudia

My best friends

We had a wonderful table, filled with friends from school and two friends who work for the US government. Once again, everyone had to follow the rule and try the haggis. This year, I cleaned my plate. I still can't believe that I ate it all. The British Ambassador and the American Ambassador both had some speaking parts and of course there was poetry and Scotch. Funny how the two seem to go hand in hand. The dinner course was much better than last year, serving a tender steak. I have also realized that I'm a big fan on the deep fried egg. Sounds disgusting, but it is actually very tasty.

Our colleague, Wayne, and Tracey sampling the Scotch whiskey, while Entela looks on.

The dancing began before the dessert course. People who had been attending the Scottish dance classes lined up for the "Gay Gordon." After the demonstration round, Tracey and I went to dance. Luckily, our good friends, the Bergs, came to our rescue. Diane made me lead the first round (she said that leading was easier with this dance) while Tracey danced with Dan and then we switched and I got to dance with Dan. Of course, there was plenty of laughter. After dessert, they started another dance, "Strip the Willow." Amy and Travis joined in that dance. There were too many people and it ended up being rather chaotic.

The music was absolutely amazing. The fiddler, Lisa, was a 21 year old Scottish Lassie and the bagpiper was the son of the bagpiper from last year's ball. Connor, one of my students, and the youngest son of the organizers of the ball, had told me all about the fiddler and the dancing and how he wished he could go dance at the ball. (This child is beyond adorable.) He had built up my expectations, and I wasn't disappointed in the Scottish music.

Allan, the piper, with his wife and Lisa the fiddler

There was an Albanian band that played regular dance music, and they were a little disappointing. People began leaving. Sadly, those early departures missed the best part of the night. The rest of the evening was mostly Scottish dancing, with just a few breaks for the musicians. I really, really wanted to dance, but of course partners are few and far between (especially when some single young men leave early, but that's another story). Little John, Connor's eldest brother, was walking past me, when I grabbed his arm and begged him to dance with me. (John is volunteering at the school as Florian's assistant. He's in his gap year). I love dancing with authentic Scotsmen! I expected him to have one pity dance with his brother's teacher, but not six in a row. We were an awesome team! At the very end of the night, big John (Connor and little John's father) taught me how to spin without falling or getting sick. My first attempt nearly resulted in disaster. Then, Hilary (Connor's mother and big John's wife) demonstrated how to keep one foot still and focus on the face in front of you. Her demonstration made all the difference. It's as close to flying as you can get, with one foot on land.

John with the four single teachers... what a lucky boy.

I'm so infatuated with Scottish culture, that this morning, I officially applied to the International School of Aberdeen. The website said that they value teachers with a sense of humor, so I tried to make my email as entertaining as possible. That might just come back to bite me. Maybe next year, I'll be dancing in Scotland.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Living a Story

Donald Miller is one of my favorite living authors. Every singe one of his books has inspired me in some way. His latest, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, has helped me to think of myself as a character in a story. Don makes the point that we are all living a story, one that God is writing, but we characters have free will. The characters can live a rich, epic story or... sit on a coach watching movies. I was thinking back to my life before moving to Albania. Was I living a good story then? Am I living a good story now? If I return to the states, will I continue living the exciting, road-less-traveled, story?

These questions are coupled with my current focus: looking for a new job. Albania, though I've absolutely loved my experience here, is a closing chapter. It's time to move on. I have my sights set high on three good schools in three incredible locations: Barcelona, Prague, and Budapest. Unfortunately, these schools also tend to hire at job fairs, which I won't be attending. The chance for a position is very slim. My friends are encouraging me to look beyond Europe. What, or what, will this character do?

In the meantime, I want to make these last five months memorable and meaningful. Yesterday was a beautiful day. Four of us hiked up to an ancient wall and then around a mountain. You could see all of Tirana and the neighboring mountains, dusted with snow. We walked through an olive grove and Sarah related a story she had heard. In the old days, when an Albanian girl got married, the family planted ten olive trees.
After the hike, we celebrated Travis's birthday. Is this living a monumental story? Maybe the events are simple, but the relationships are what makes this story great. I think that is what I will remember the most about my time here: my friendships which have become some of the deepest of my life. Ok, next five months, let's be epic.