"Europe 2004-05" story # 32

Pas de la Casa, Andorra           December 26, 2004

"See you guys in the emergency room," said Dave, a 33-year-old Englishman trying snowboarding with me for the first time.
     When I´d come to the soft-and-white-mountain-surrounded village of Pas de la Casa, I left most of my Argentinian and Chilean peers behind in the more Spanish-speaking areas of Andorra. When I got a job with "Mr. Manzano´s" British employers, I became a bit distanced from Pas de la Casa´s French community.
     And when I wore a Nike shirt that read "More World Resources for Americans - Just Do It!" (made in Taiwan), I pretty much pissed off everyone. ... Not really, though ... My British co-workers have been amazingly warm and friendly.
     Scottish Ricky has spiky hair and boyish looks. In his ocean-whistle-sounding, bunny-hopping accent, he calls me one of a handful of "gen-tUHl-muhn" (gentlemen) he´s met in his twenty-three years.
     In his red winter coat, Ricky (veteran of four outings on the slopes) generously gave Dave and me our first snowboarding lessons. We strapped our boots into the snowboards. Ricky told us to squat-stand on our "boar-r-r-rds" (boards). He told us to dig our heels into the snow to apply brakes. He told us to extend one arm toward our desired direction to steer, and to fold our other arm against our chest.
     At first, all we did was fall down on our butts. Hotshot seven-year-olds skiied past us, laughing at us in tickled festivity. But, shortly, Dave and I were able to very gradually zigzag our way down the hills with a piece of skill.
     Dave - to me - resembles a typical English punk. His round head is encased in a jet-black ball of shoulder-length hair, which in turn gets encased in a dark winter cap when he snowboards. He wears a yellow sweatshirt beneath a black winter vest.
     Seeing Dave weave his way down the ski slope is an amazing thing. He crouches on the board, presenting a look of mathematical determination. He alternates mechanically between left-arm-on-chest-right-arm-extended and right-arm-on-chest-left-arm-extended to smoothly change directions. He looks like a soldier on a George Michael video.
     I saw one snowboarding kid who wiggled his pelvis back-and-forth as he cautiously braked his way down the mountain. He was using what professional snowboarders call "The Dancing Spongebob Squarepants technique."
     Experienced snowboarder Ricky left us to go to work. Free from his warnings, Dave and I rode the chair-lift to the 8000-feet-high top of Pas de la Casa. We didn´t get on the chair-lift properly. We didn´t know to lower the safety bar. When we reached the top, we fell down off the chair-lift, got up, peeked down the sharp icy slope, and panicked.
     Our trip down the mountain was at times regretful. I was descending with a bit more control than Dave. I would look up to see him gaining confidence to go a bit faster down the slope. Then, I´d see Dave - the English punk - lose control and go plowing head-first, legs and snowboard in pursuit, and disappear into a sudden cloud of white.
     My best fall came when my snowboard refused to stop with me. It performed five twirly-whirls while bouncing and banging off the slope, and my strapped-in body was forced to mimic it. It was awesome. (But, Dave and I survived our first day.)
     Dave, actually, is not one of my co-workers; he was merely here for a week to visit one of my co-workers. He´s got a cool life for a 33-year-old. He seems to be still living in the ´80s. While performing his duties as the web designer for an antiques business, he just travels around and visits friends and parties and has fun. He says some hillarious things.
     We were riding in the chair-lift one day, when he said about the slope: "That sign back there said, `muy peligroso.´ What does that mean?" Scottish Ricky said, "Awck, I duhnno." I said, "Really? Did it really say that? You don´t know what that means?" Dave: "Yeah, it said that. It means, `very snowy,´ must be." I: "No, it means `very dangerous.´ Did it really say that?" Ricky and I looked worried. Dave laughed and told us he´d just been fooling.
     Then, we watched as a young girl came toward us riding on the chair-lift DOWN the mountain, the wrong way. She´d evidently taken the chair-lift up, gotten cold feet, and decided she didn´t want to ski down. As she passed, Dave heckled, "Boo!" at her. "Boooo!"
     Dave and I have hung out a lot lately, because neither of us work. I´m still waiting for my annoying paper-work to get sorted out. Luckily, "Mr. Manzano´s" alliance of hotels and restaurants has been taking good care of us. A ski-supply rental shop lets us take out snowboarding equipment every day. (The Argentinians and Chileans who operate the chair-lifts allow us to ride without lift passes.) One of Mr. Manzano´s restaurants treated my co-workers and me and Dave to a Christmas dinner. All of this is good for me, because I only have nineteen Euro´s left to my name.
     Ricky and Dave and I and others shared a British Christmas dinner. We opened "Christmas crackers" (tootsie-roll-shaped presents which two people pull on to see who the prize will go to). We enjoyed tomato soup, peas and carrots, cauliflower covered in a white sauce, potatoes, pork and roast beef with grape jelly on top, and tons of gravy.
     "Mmmerry Christmas from Andorra!!!"
     After our days of snowboarding and eating, we often go out dancing and drinking. It´s fun. (Although, my co-workers drink a bit too much for me.) We can mingle with the other nationalities.
     I´m still intent on getting to know the French culture here. So, the other day, I began executing FRENCH INFILTRATION STEP 1: Get active on the French romantic front.
     Charlene ("Char-len-uh") was walking her dog when I met her. She wore a glistening brown, cone-shaped ponytail of medium length. She had soft, brown eyes, a small cherry mouth, and proud, friendly posture. She regarded me and said "au revoir" with a soothing, understanding, beautiful look like a gentle forest river.
     One day, I went into the perfume store where she works and pretended like I was interested in buying some cologne. She must´ve been able to tell how out of place I was. The main cologne I´m familiar with is "Ocean," which Kramer had tried to produce on an episode of Seinfeld.
     The next day, I was determined to ask out Charlene. I didn´t know much about this Charlene girl, but I figured she was a women of smells. So, I went into another of her company´s perfume stores to splash myself with a sample bit of cologne which would help me entice her. So, there I stood, looking totally out-of-place again, searching in vain for the cologne Charlene had recommended to me the previous day.
     To my horror, Charlene walked in. She layed eyes on me, and she must´ve thought: "Je dis, ce homme est stupide!" (Man, that guy´s stupid.) She walked outside a moment later, and I rushed to follow her.
     Man, Charlene walked fast! "Excusa-moi," I called out. Charlene turned around just in time to see me slip on the icy street and crash into a parked car. It wasn´t exactly the type of move that sweeps a girl off her feet.
     "Tu a un minute?" (Do you have a minute?) I told her, "Je te confesse, hier, quand je sui allé a ta boutique ... je ne sais pas rien sur les colognes. Mais, je te dis, que tu est trellemont belle." (I must confess, yesterday when I was in your shop ... I know absolutely nothing about cologne. But, I must say, you´re incredibly beautiful.)
     Then, I asked if she had a "coupin" (boyfriend). She said yes. "Merde!" Oh well. It was fun to ask out a girl in French.
     Of course ... I´d be lying if I said I´m not still wanting a certain Italian-blooded ex-girlfriend from time to time. But, I read something in a Dalai Lama book which has been helpful. I´ll leave you with that:

"With the understanding of the impermanent nature of things comes the end of all suffering." - a loose quote from a Dalai Lama book

peace! - Modern O.

Thanks to Alfredo & Moncy for the ride!

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