This weekend was seminal for the country of Andorra; not having been at war since the thirteenth century, the locals had never witnessed such destructive brutality as Gregor Cubie on a night out. Until last night.
But first my week. The time has come to fulfil the minimal academic requirements of the Erasmus programme, so I spent a large part of the week stressing about a history presentation on Thursday (about a disastrous wheat harvest in the early eighteenth century – probably not the premise for the next Michael Bay film but it was not the worst to work on). This limited my social interaction to a McDonalds with three of my classmates after rugby, at which I finally had to do the thing I have been dreading most about this year abroad and explain haggis to them. I would like to say that I made it sound suitably delicious but I think I ended up giving the impression that Scottish people actually seek out the most disgusting part of the sheep and then make it even more disgusting before eating it – foreigners just don’t get it.
On Thursday, buoyed by the news that I actually got a decent mark in my first important essay of the semester, I went into the history presentation with only a mild sense of impending doom. Our professor is one of those freaky genius types who dissects every presentation like Dr House or Sherlock Holmes, which meant that it was almost impossible that the half-hour presentation was going to go off without him pointing out that at least part of our work was total gibberish. I feel like it helped greatly that my fellow group members, Fran and Caitlin, had found some useful sources to help prepare the report (finding secondary reading material is not my strong point. I have never taken a book out of the university library and the only book I looked at in the library here was about rearing Guinea Pigs). This meant that I had some basic background knowledge in my pocket rather than just my usual technique of hoping blindly that what I say is in some way based on fact. As it turns out it is useful to beat up a couple of hobos before going into the ring with Manny Pacquiao and the interrogation was reasonably lenient. The presentation itself was a nervous series of pronunciation errors and trying not to look like I was reading my notes word for word but the professor intimated that we have at least not failed, which is good enough for me.
On Friday evening we set off on another Erasmus road trip hoping for a disaster-free weekend and came as close as humanly possible to succeeding. There was a slight hiccup when we realised that the first-come-first-served bus to Andorra was a minibus and we had to shove our way in. The British contingent of team Erasmus are physically incapable of shoving in a queue (it’s just not cricket) so it took some harsh words of inspiration from some more assertive nationalities for us to secure our seats.
Andorra is one of these geographical anomalies which make living on the planet Earth quite fun; blocky, modern architecture built high into the Pyrenees with Christmas lights covering the entire country – when we arrived late at night the snow and the lights made it look eerily futuristic; it struck me as (and I hope you’re ready for the pop-culture splurge I am about to dook all over the page) a mixture of Santa’s grotto and the city from ‘Blade Runner’ transposed into that snowy dreamscape from ‘Inception’.
Our hostel was on top of a mountain roughly the size of Kilimanjaro, which meant a half hour climb down into town in the morning. For the seasoned hill walkers from the North of Europe, this snowy descent did not pose a problem. The same cannot be said for Laura, the Bajan representative on the Erasmus panel, who has seen snow about twice and, after making the rookie error of trying to create a snow-angel in non waterproof clothes, proceeded effectively to sledge down the mountain without a sledge – which probably put paid to any lingering, child-like love for the snow.
After eating lunch at a restaurant which was half ‘KFC’ half ‘Pizza-hut’ (I have literally fantasised about such a place so its existence caused me unimaginable delight) we went shopping on Andorra La Vella’s high street which is a bit like a giant airport duty-free or even a theme park, the theme of which is shopping for perfume (there is about one perfume shop for every person that lives there). Not being Carrie Bradshaw or Gok Wan, the presence of shops alone was not enough to amuse me for the whole day, but an added bonus was that I got the opportunity to practise my Spanish. Any joint-honours linguist will have to deal with the fact that immersing oneself in one language sort of squeezes the other one out of the brain, so it was nice to blow away some cobwebs and get some Spanish practice in a context other than watching ‘como conoci a vuestra madre’.
With alcohol being especially cheap in Andorra it seemed only good and proper to get drunk on Saturday night. This is where things get rowdy. We purchased some hearty lager and a bottle of vodka for roughly tuppence ha’penny and absorbed its magic brain-numbing power before heading out to one of Andorra La Vella’s hottest night spots (or possibly the only club in the whole country). After this things once again become slightly hazy (LAD ALERT!) – the last thing I can recall is marking the side of the Andorran parliament as my territory (TAKE THAT CONSUMER CAPITALISM!), and there is talk of a disagreement between me and the club staff which led to them discontinuing my role as a patron of this particular establishment…with extreme prejudice. But as I said I cannot remember, so this version of events is pure speculation, which makes it all the more impressive that I found my way back up the mountain to the hostel on my own, albeit without a room key which gave me no choice but to have a bit of a kip in the corridor until a good-Samaritan dragged me to bed by my feet. Conclusion: Andorra, you could not handle me. You know nothing of the crunch.
This morning we went for what must have been my thousandth pizza of the weekend then squeezed in some more shopping before jumping on the mini-bus home.
Another proud milestone in my quest to integrate into European society. Next week shall be my penultimate Blog in France, so tissues at the ready (it’s just going to be that exciting).