"Those are the first animals I've seen in Andorra. Let's go take a picture!" Little; blond Klara was in a good mood on this warm and sunny day.
Hitchhiking Andorra, we'd traveled over snowy Pyrenees globes and beneath mountain cliffs. And now, some burly little horses caught our attention. We went to feed them grass. Even though they'd spent all day eating grass, they still seemed thrilled to eat our grass.
A quaint Andorran mountain home rested by the horses. It was made up of slabs of stones that had been cut crudely. The little house and its adjoining farm buildings were square. Their stones seemed to have been burnt by age.
Klara discovered a tiny old man with a weathered face. He fit perfectly on a small bench, where he sat and sheared plants of tobacco. He'd picked the leafy four-armed plants from his garden. He was so cool. Klara tried asking him questions in Spanish for a brief while, but it was of no use. He was the first Andorran I've met who speaks only Catalonian. He waved us good-bye, and we walked up his driveway to the crowded Andorran highway that had passed him by.
The following day, I was hitchhiking that road again. I got my first Andorran history lesson from an interesting Spanish-born lady named Juliana. The principality of Andorra first made its money during the 1940's and 50's. Hitler invaded France; Franco was oppressing the Spanish and waging the Spanish Civil War; and people wanted to cross the Pyrenees. These people - many of them Jewish - paid money to the Andorrans to be led across. Then, the Andorrans often killed the people they led so that they could take everything from them. Black market trade would also help to build the country.
Today, the place is just as sleazy. Tourism conquers. Andorra sells tax-free cigarettes and tax-free alcohol. It builds ugly, boring hotels which bring in visitors but impress few.
The Andorran people own more cars per capita than nearly any other country. Wealthy Andorrans buy big sport-utility-vehicles, drive them for three months, and then sell them and buy new ones. A 21-year-old local named Romulo told me drugs are prevalent, and a friend of his died taking too much ecstasy.
Andorra isn't a place that makes you feel good about life. When I looked in the mirror there, I looked like I was working too much and drinking too much and not breathing clean air. It's a place about money.
But, alas, I'm sure I complain too much. I should be more like the horses. I should just keep eating grass and acting like I like it. No - really, I did smile A LOT while in Andorra.
I got to snowboard.
I laughed and played a ton with my roommate, Cyril, and other French co-workers. I laughed so much that my Andorran boss couldn't figure out what exactly my face kept doing, and he almost let me go early.
My French infiltration successes composed nearly half of my time. The final practice, FRENCH INFILTRATION STEP 10 - Dine at a French restaurant, was employed on my last night. In the delicious Kamikaze Surf Bar, Klara and black-haired Martina ordered turkey breasts bathed in a mushroom sauce. I ordered medium-cooked beef, which was a bit of a mistake. And Irish Brian ate a tender, brown-meat duck roast seasoned awesomely with garlic and lemon. Martina's boyfriend, Brian, taught me to "Always Keep it Real."
I'm really going to miss Klara. I hope she does okay her last two weeks in Andorra without me. She and Slovakian Martina bought me cologne as a going-away gift. Klara had her medium-length hair tied out from the sides of her head like the wrapping on a small candy. She kept cutely yelling, "Ciao!" and running back to hug me. Her little head a big smile. "Ciao!" She'd hug me good-bye, get to the door, turn around, and yell "Ciao!" and hug me again. "Ciao!" One last hug. "Ciao!" One time more. "Ciao!" I'm gonna miss her.
And - oh yes - money. God, how I hate money. But, even communists need it, or so it seems. I left Andorra with money - something I barely had when I arrived.
Now, on to two weeks hitchhiking the small roads of France!!! Woohoo, bring on the culture and the romantic love for life.
Thanks to Allen & Virot; Gesille; Juy; Olga; Linda; Juliana; and Christian & Lucianne for the rides!
Much thanks to Klara & Martina - again; and Scottish Ricky - again - for the places to crash!