"Europe 2004-05" story # 39

Pas de la Casa, Andorra           February 28, 2005

"La frontière du reél: entre l´ivresse et la realité," announced my stocky co-worker Cyril. (The frontier of the real: somewhere in-between drunkenness and reality.)
     Cyril then performed a dance, right in front of the bread-and-muffins section of our supermarket. It was not a normal dance. It was the type of dance that goes totally averse every music ever made, the type of dance that gives you the heebie-jeebies, some type of beautiful dance that hypnotizes and levatates you when you watch it. He balanced on one foot, wiggled each of his bones around in slow-motion reaching, and grinned, like an inviting psychedelic squid. The dance was ridiculously silly yet irresistably seductive. No one would´ve been proud to have done that dance in public.
     "Arrete, arrete!" said the Parisian, Arnaud. (Stop, stop!) It was him who Cyril was mimmicking. Arnaud always takes our jokes in good stride. He always responds with a jaws-wide smile that breaks apart like a sea the landmass that is his giant head.
     The hour of this unforgettable dance had been Saturday night. Arnaud was drunk. He was smiling at everyone and slouching his shoulders in a cool, James-Morrison-in-Paris way. In the La Perla Negra bar, he ordered his beers by throwing up one hand in a military fashion and saluting, "Heinken!" in the way they used to hail Hitler.
     Arnaud, Cyril, and I ventured to a nightclub. FRENCH INFILTRATION STEP 8 - Dance with the French. It was here where Arnaud mounted a central nightclub platform and dazzled all with a dance which neither Cyril nor no man could ever truly recapture. Seeing that dance has made my efforts to get to know French culture wonderfully worthwhile.
     But, alas, I´m not in culture-rich France. I´m in rich, culture-less Andorra. While Andorra doesn´t offer many nice surprises, it does offer a new list! And, it does offer the joyous opportunity of slaving for some stinking-rich Andorran for the shavings of his profits. Oh, no, I can see the way this list is heading ... MODERN ODDYSEUS´ TOP 5!!! (rah rah) takes on "The Country of the Pyrenees."
     The Top 5 Best Things About Andorra! start us off.

Many of the English, Dutch, Scottish, Czech, Spanish, and French bar-tenders always want you to come see them and never make you pay for a drink.
     Today in my supermarket, the sweet Welsh lady who works the cash register had very cold hands. A caring French girl saw this and instantly insisted my co-worker borrow her gloves.
     We say hi to each other around town. We´re like a big, too-busy-to-hardly-ever-hang-out family.

Black-haired, Slovakian Martina likes to laugh and always wants to go out and shoot pool. Blond Klara is fun to dance all night with.

I´ve met a lot of this friendly town while working in the supermarket, and we often chat when they come to shop.
     My chubby roommate, Cyril, can be hillarious to work with. Many people call him, "Le blond," (The blond) because he recently got a dyed hair-cut like the Backstreet Boys.
     But, his hair has already grown out, and it usually sticks way up like taffy as if to show he works too damned much.
     I returned to work yesterday after a day-and-a-half off. I told Cyril I´d check the dates on the refridgerated foods, because I was sure this job had been done poorly in my absence. I pointed to the pork slices, then the wrapped ham. "Ah ha! I boomed triumphantly, time after time. "Ah ha!" But, none of the foods turned out to be expired.
     Finally, Cyril found expired diced carrots. He cupped them like he was holding gold. "Ahww haah haawhh!!!" he hackled madly. His eyes popped out of his zombie-fatigued head, as he celebrated the expired food. "Awwwh haah hawwwh!!!" "Awwwuh hah huwh!" ... He made me laugh so hard I almost fell in with the frozen hamburgers.
     Arnaud is great, too. He and I played our second game of Scrabble one night. He played well. But, I spelled "NEZ" (nose) for twenty-two points, "JE/JETE" (I/throw away) for thirty-one points, and "CE/CHOUX" (this/cabbage) for forty-two points. (The word, "choux," was only one example of a French vocabulary built in a supermarket.) And I wholloped him, 291-168. The Parisian, Arnaud, may have a big head. But, the next day, the head of cabbage that was waiting for him in his locker was even bigger.

Snowboarding is beautiful and exciting, and it just feels better the better you get at it. But, the lift passes in Andorra are expensive.


     Coming down the other side of the mountain, we find The Top 5 Worst Things About Andorra!

Andorra finds itself on the "Old Continent," but its buildings are new and ugly and commerical enough to make you want to run away screaming. The mix of nationalities creates an environment with no historical identity you can learn from.


In a village which sits at more than 2000 meters altitude (6500 feet), you would think the tap-water would taste good. But, no. In a country wih only 50,000 inhabitants, you´d think the air would taste fresh. Not really. Andorrans and the tourists they invite love driving big, polluting vehicles. Peace-destroying music plays at every corner of Pas de la Casa, and you have to hear it if you climb up a surrounding mountain. I think the Andorrans are too money-oriented to be aware of what they´re doing to the nature.

The average Andorran possesses little or no likability. He´s white and far from poor. She´s boring - not boring in a colorful or quirky way like a nerd, but completely and totally dull. He loves money, and he has to drive fast and honk at everyone. She cares about how she looks, but she produces and uncreative image that fails to attract. He´s unfriendly and thiks he´s better than others.

In the mountains, small hand wounds take a very long time to heal. Our feet are often cold or wet. We workers aren´t given great living conditions. Food is expensive in Pas de la Casa, so we compromise the quality of what we eat. And we work too much.

HM adds: NO COLD-WATER SHOWERS (my all-coldwater-shower policy is an impossibility here due to the tough winter); CHEAP CIGARETTES; ONLY THREE THINGS TO DO (work, ski/snowboard, and drink); and THE CAPITALIST ALGERIAN.
     I despise that Algerian guy. He´s a common ski-lift worker, and he threatened me with a fine one day. Many of us workers ride the Pas de la Casa lifts without paying. A day-pass costs more than a day´s wages for us, and most of us only have a few hours free to ski/snowboard anyways. Most ski-lift employees take care of the local workers, but the Algerian isn´t one of us.
     In conclusion, I´d give the country of Andorra a "2" on a scale of one to a hundred. The nice suprises in Andorra come mostly from the non-Andorran things. Working in a touristy area is an adventure, and I´d recommend it to someone who wants an adventure that will reliably offer him a job. But, there are richer adventures out there if you ask me, and I hope I don´t end up in a touristy area again. They´re not very intellectual.

I told my Andorran boss that I only would be working two weeks more. He responded by telling me I´d work only one week more. The supermarket is going to be less busy.
     I´ll miss working with Alex. He´s a dark-haired French guy with sharp looks. He appears normal, but he communicates with me and other co-workers by making strange noises all day. "Brawk!" he´ll yell. "Gujjubee!" I´ll respond. "Borble-orble!" he´ll say and laugh. He does this even when the store is full of shoppers. He´s more normal when you talk to him. He recommended I read the Jules Verne novel, "Le Tour du Monde en Quatre-Vingt Jours." (Around the World in Eighty Days) So far, the book´s good through three chapters.
     And Marcello. Marcello, the mid-thirties, long-curly-haired, bitter Argentinian. He calls almost every single tourist who comes in an "imbecile" or "idiota" under his breath. On some slow days, we supermarket-shelve-stockers stand around debating what we should do but mostly just talking. Marcello acts as though he has a suggestion. And he still stands in place, but he begins to twiddle his thumbs. Cyril, Arnaud, Alex, and I join him.
     Geez, manual labor is tough.

bye bye, Modern Oddyseus

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