viernes, 19 de marzo de 2010


So today was the Spanish version of Fathers Day. No school, shops are closed, everyone hits the plazas and cafes to do whatever they want. Waking up at 1 p.m. from a mighty nap I got AA batteries from a Chino store (God bless the Chinese and their work ethic) so I could actually take pictures. I realized that I haven't even posted photos from my Barcelona trip. I haven't even posted picture from my Calle del Muertos.

In my defense this site takes forever to load pictures and everyone knows that time passes 1 1/3 times faster in Europe than in America. So don't blame me! I can't even format these pages, you'll just have to enjoy that random beach pic of me. It was taken in Cadiz, Spain before Carnivale. (Oh jeeze, I still have to post those)
I'm just going to put up a 'best of sample taste package'. This is me in front of the house of the guy who wrote Don Quixote, the same person I am conversing with in this picture.

Me training to be a Nun. This is in the town of Alcala, a lil' bit outside of Madrid.

A memorial to the Spanish Civil War way out in the mountains. There are something like 40,000 soldiers buried here at Valle de los Caidos.

Me at the monument. The entire place was shut down for construction but they let our tour in so we had the whole plaza to ourselves.

Alright this is the Sagrada Familia, a cathedral in Barcelona that has been under construction for over 100 years. It's the craziest building I have ever seen and I don't have a picture that could give it justice. Definitely the highlight of our trip to Barcelona.

This is on a dock in Barcelona looking out at the Mediterranean. This was my first time seeing the Sea, so it was pretty cool. Barcelona was just an awesome city all around - notice the short sleeves in March?

Alright it looks like I'm not allowed to upload any more pictures. I really do have a ton of pictures and I am sure that at some point in your life I will make you sit through a slide show of them all. I'll try to post more up later to at least finish my Barcelona trip.

sábado, 6 de marzo de 2010

Well this blogging project really fell through the roof did it not?

So I will start with a story:

A few nights ago a couple of friends of mine and I decided to traverse a section of town that is usually frequented by local youth who wish to escape the deadlock of popular Madrid youth nightlife. A string of old bars and localy owned markets border unkempt cobblestone sidewalk and narrow streets with stone apartments. The scene indeed gives the aura, a window, into the 19th century. Now there are just more Coca Cola signs. Here is a place where a man can finish his half bottle of scotch in the public eye as he lays half conscious under the statue of some heroic poet long dead as feral neighborhood dogs run from bad street musician to an equally annoying pack of high school youth. Trash in the ancient gutters is not common nor is it rare, old grayed gentlemen walk each other to their favorite bar arm in arm. It is a place much as if Madrid took off the belt for the night and let Her gut hang out if only for a few hours.

My friends and I had finished our ceremonial circuit; a beer and a sandwich, a glass of wine at a slightly more up scale establishment, a haggled two pack from your friendly neighborhood Chinese street vendor. We had decided to make our way to a particularly busy plaza as the clock struck about 11 o' clock. It was a giant square of a plaza bordered by bars and apartments on all side, in the middle a circle with a victory arch and some standard historic statue and all around drunk youth conversing and playing guitar and breaking the public display of affection rules.

We nestled ourselves down and cracked open another cold one, content enough to survey the scene, allow light gossip, and to make fun of each other as requisite. After a solid twenty minutes immersed in a classic scene of Spanish night life I, as the furthest figure to the right, caught a strange sight in my periphery. To look over I saw a man not 70 and 5 years standing in front of me, staring. He had a long grey and white beard that met up with long grey and white hair which covered his wrinkled face like a peanut in an April storm. He stood simply enough, his body at a slight angle to my group but still his look was unquestionably upon me. I returned his gaze and at this silent contract he slowly crept up to me and revealed a newspaper that had been tucked in his sleeve. His other hand produced a pen.

"Te puedo ayudar?" I asked, seeing if there was something I could do for him to dispose of this sensitive situation. "Lo siento," I said "Pero no tengo dinero." Which is a very useful phrase when one needs to divert the constant barrage of attention from beggars and homeless.

The man looked at me solidly then raised the newspaper chest high as with the pen and began scribbling something in the space between two articles.

Are you concerned. He wrote.

At this point my new guest was observed by my friends who had ceased conversation to turn to me, showing what could be perhaps pity but also delight that I get the weird-o. My fascination was in that he refused to speak, did not write in Spanish, and stood politely for my response.

"Sobre que?" I asked, not prepared yet to abandon my Spanish. I peered as his aged hand floated to another part of the paper and scribbled something in my native language.

Because I am a stranger.

The situation came to grow stranger still. If he wanted to ask for money then he sure was doing it in a very elaborate way. I stammered, not having the vocabulary to meet this in Spanish and not knowing what the hell to say in English. I met him with a "No but...". Before I could finish my exchange he lifted the pen back to the newspaper.

Are you going to run away?

Uhhh. I looked at him and pointed to my friends to say that we are probably going to go to a restaurant or something, but they were gone. One was giddly retreating to the marble pillars outside of the plaza, the other slowly scooting away and planning his exodus. Bastardos. I met the gaze of this old man as he waited for my response, eternally patient. For whatever reason I met him with politeness and answered back "Uhhhhh I don't know. Maybe."

He then raised the pen one last time and with large looping letters he write simply.

You should.

Ok time to go. I grabbed my friends jacket and we quickly exited the plaza, all the while the old man stood in the same spot as he watched us go. We met up with our more intelligent friend and exchanged bewilderments. Holy cow. What the hell was that. Every part of me said that one more moment on the square and I would laying on the floor in my own blood as he snacked on my jugular vein. Maybe he was a prophet? Maybe a game show. Nope, he was just crazy.


jueves, 4 de febrero de 2010

Cuando en Espana...


So it has been a while since I have taken it upon myself to write in the blog. In short: you haven't missed much. After my general settling-in and adaption of a reliable schedule, things kind of mellowed down as far as adventures and the sort. To be honest, however, classes and a cold have taken up a good chunk of my time. Of course, I realize that's not a very interesting excuse. :D

Well to begin, I'd like to jot down (in bullet time) a list of events that I have had the privilege to experience since my last post:

- Went to a Middle Eastern themed Hookah Bar, watched a belly dancing show. Also went to an African Drum dance club, the type of joint where everyone is going primitive with dreads and sweat and people are just banging animal skins and screaming. Then there is me in the corner with a tie and ironed pants and a Sprite.

- Visited a modern museum, saw some original Picasso.

- Went to and toured the Spanish Senate, sat in a Senators chair in the classic semi-circle auditorium. Met the President of the Senate (their version of Harry Reid), he shook my hand.

- Took a tour of the Royal Palace (today), incredibly amazing. I had always imagined that level of wealth and excess to be reserved for fiction. But there it was. Next week I will have to go again and actually bring my camera.

- Toured the house of the writer of Don Quixote, visited the oldest university in Europe.

- Attended a Roman Catholic church session in a cathedral.

Again, unfortunately, I did not have the foresight to bring my camera with me to a lot of these events. So tomorrow expect a good chunk of picture uploads when I go back to every place and capture them!

I will be posting again tomorrow night, for we have a very special field trip tomorrow (something I am very excited about). But for now it is a surprise, mostly for the fact that I cannot find the sheet of paper that has the name of the site. Ciao!

lunes, 25 de enero de 2010

Un otro dia (another day)

Well this week has definitely had its share of events and experiences. For one: I had a few major breakthroughs concerning the Spanish language. To create pity (and to advance concern to my plight) allow me to demonstrate a few of the problems that the Spanish language presents to the average American learner:

-two tenses for the events in the past
-two different words for "for"
-two verbs for "to be"
-a plethora of verbs that are irregular

for example:

If I want to say something as simple as "to talk" in Spanish, these are the things I need to consider:

Present Tense:

Hablo (I talk)
Hablas (you talk)
Hablain (y'all talk)
Hablamo (we talk)
Hablaman (then talk)
Habla (he talks)

Past tense (1) situations that have happened

Hablo (I talked)
Hablaste (you talked)
Hablaies (y'all talked)
Hablamos (we talked)
Hablaron (they talked)
Hable (he talked)

Past tense (2) situations that occured in the past over time

Hablaba (I talked)
Hablabas ( you talked)
Hablabaies (y'all talked)
Hablabamos (we talked)
Hablaman (they talked)
Hablaba (he talked)

And there are also different verb forms for future tense, conditional tense, subjunctive tense. Hablar (to talk) is an example of a verb that is not irregular. I would like to consider 40% of verbs to have a completely different way of working than the described methods above. It is difficult :D.

However, when I am not attempting to "master' this language, I am attempting to simply have a good time. During the afternoons I enjoy Coca Cola (or beer) and a delicious "tapas" (a complimentary meal that comes with the drink: a sandwich, olives, fruit). I go to class, I hang out with Americans and Spaniards alike (this past weekend I journeyed with a group of Spaniards to a very ancient university), and I give myself necessary "meditation" time.

Tomorrow I will be meeting with the parents of two Spanish children that I will be (trying) teaching English to this semester. Also I have an "intercambio" (exchange) student. He is from Turkey; he wants to learn English and I want to learn Spanish. We basically learn from eachother in our own domestic languages.

Well, that is all for now. Thank you for reading! Have good day/night/afternoon and peace be with you!

miércoles, 20 de enero de 2010

A walk (continued)

Palacia Real, the Royal Palace. This isn't a very wholesome shot, in reality it goes forever in both directions, the top is crested with statues and various figures. Behind me is a gigantic statue and a fountain, on both sides are grass and statues.

A standard scene from the bowels of the Metro system.

Scenes from a street market. This one is only open on Sundays and takes up the entirety of 3-4 streets.

The Almudera, I believe that it was a mosque that was torn down and rebuilt in the 19th century as a Roman Catholic cathedral.

That's it for now!

martes, 19 de enero de 2010

Walkin' on a Sunday

Below are selected pictures that I took this last Sunday during a stroll that my host mother took me on.

This is a pretty common scene in a large part of central Madrid. Apartment buildings from the 20th century sit next to cornered buildings from the 18th and 19th centuries. In the
background is a cathedral.

Southern and Central Spain both have had a variety of influences from different cultures. This is an example of an Arabic archway, distinctly different from the more common and better-known Roman archways.

An entrance way to el Parque Retiro (Retiro Park). Spaniards usually congregate in cafes and in parks, it is uncommon to entertain in your house. Parque Retiro is completely amazing, enormous, and old. (third largest park in Madrid, I think?)

I'll submit more pictures later. I guess I can only put up three at a time.

Hola de Espana!

Bienvenidos!, (Welcome!)

To begin, I do apologize for have such a belated start concerning the documentation of this trip. It has been quite a hectic past week and even now I would hardly consider myself to be adjusted.

So far, all is well in Spain. I am enjoying the time spent with my host family: my "host mother", Purificaion and my "host sister" Elena. They have been very supportive of my language disability and are extremely hospitable, amiable people. I think that their attitudes reflect appropriately on what I have seen to be the personality of the Spanish people: blunt, honest, kind, helpful, and hilarious. This past weekend I went to a pub with Elena and a large group of her friends, rarely have I seen a group of people so fun loving and gregarious.

The university I go to is called the University Rey Juan Carlos (King Juan Carlos, the current monarch of Spain). It is a relatively small university; four buildings (one a library), two cafeterias, no dormitories, one basketball hoop. In the future I will put up some pictures of the campus, as it is actually very nice and has a warm, modernesque atmosphere. This semester I am taking a Spanish composition class, a European political institutions class, and a dance class (the last one is a long story. It wasn't my initial choice but I don't have to defend myself this is my blog!) which are all actually pretty fun. I have plans to sign up for an intercambio (speaking partner) and, possibly, to teach English to Spanish children. Other than that, though, my time has been filled with homework, pub crawling, exploring the city, meeting people, and practicing my language.

I will attempt to keep this updated weekly, posting pictures and stories. My aim is not to create an online journal but to instead illustrate my (mis)adventures and to share the cultural experience. So, if you made it this far, thank you for reading and stay tuned!