Tuesday, July 31, 2012

España 22

Here's where they sold stamps, the Tobacos.

This one is a bit random. I've blown it up so you can see the guy. He was the only street vendor I saw who wasn't black. And I didn't actually blow the picture up, I just put it at its regular size. All of the others are shrunk.

The lobby at the hotel. You can see how expensively everything is built. And there's the bar where they'll charge you way too much for food or drinks.

Here's the airport in Madrid. Last picture of Spain.

Visa for arriving, and leaving.

Our plane over the states at last, on the in flight entertainment system.

 Lines, lines, and more lines.

Some random notes on other stuff about Spain before I start talking about the day. People there that are my age (college age) dress like we do here. A generation older, people dress nicely, with a button shirt and slacks usually. But we blended in with no problem with our t-shirts and shorts or jeans, and I at least was quite happy that I'd packed comfortably.

Everyone was warning us about pick pocketing in Spain. As far as I know, nothing was stolen from any of the members of our group during our trip. I was, however, really paranoid. I kept a very close watch on my pockets at all times, and developed almost a sixth sense for who was around me and I could feel my phone and my wallet through my shorts with my legs as I was walking. It was interesting.

When they air commercials, they don't translate their slogans a lot of the time. So there'd be this big commercial for the new Samsung Galaxy S III. Designed for Humans. And they'd say it with a really Spanish accent. It stood out hilariously against the rest of the commercial in Spanish. And that wasn't the only commercial that did that, it was just the most common one.

So, last day in Spain and returning to the states. It was a bit of a sad day for all of us, but I also think we were all happy to be heading home, in a way. We got up, got on the bus, and went to the airport. After quite a bit of confusion involving almost switching flights to the next day and going to the wrong floor to look for our airplane, we made it through. The flight was actually really nice. There were inflight entertainment systems with games and movies. And the person in front of me didn't lean back! So I was only very uncomfortable, not in major pain for the entire trip.

Also, the flight attendants will look at you very oddly if you stand up and walk around and around just to get exercise, as is healthy on long flights. I solved this problem by using the bathroom at just the wrong time, and being "stuck" behind the beverage trolley for 15 minutes before they got past my seat.

The movies on the way back were actually good. I watched The Lorax, The Hunger Games, and Los Juegos Del Hambre. (Spanish for... The Hunger Games!) I realized as I was watching it in Spanish that they really don't talk a lot in the movie. Nevertheless, I was happy with how much of it I understood. Although it probably helped that I had just seen it in English, about an hour before. The flight back seemed to be a much shorter flight, and since I wasn't expected to sleep, I almost enjoyed it.

When we arrived in Spain, they waved us through and stamped our passports. When we were an hour or two out from the states, they started handing out immigration forms. For everyone, coming home and going to visit the states. We all filled them out, after much head scratching over how to classify and value things. We then got off the plane in Dallas and went to line #1. There, we got the forms signed, and they glanced at our passports. Then, for line #2, we got to wait to pick up our baggage! After that, we got in line #3, where we handed in our immigration forms and walked through. I'm certain that this line, where everyone had their baggage, was at least a mile long. That's what the videos are. Not exaggerating.

I swear that they didn't even look at my form for long enough to know that my name matched my passport.

After that, we rechecked our baggage, and I refilled my water bottle. Big mistake. Line #4 was security again, and they don't let you take liquids through security. So I had to drain a liter of water in about 30 seconds. After security, we finally got to wait for our next plane.

At the security here, they had me remove my shoes and put them in a separate bin, before putting me through a full body scanner. All of the full body scanners have issues with my pockets. I wear cargo shorts, and because the pockets are puffy and have air in them, the body scanners flag them every time, and they pat my pockets down. After they're sure I just want to get home and not blow something up, they let me through security. In Spain, I kept my shoes and belt on and wandered through a metal detector and picked up my stuff, all nice and cool.

Interesting note: None of the detectors seemed to have any issue with the metal plates in my head. But that's a story for another day or three.

The final game, Spain-Italy, happened while we were on the plane. The captain told us shortly before we landed that the score was 2-0 for Spain with about 15 minutes left and they were almost definitely winning this one. Imagine our surprise when we landed and the final score was 4-0. Spain really won that game. Half of the people on the flight were from Spain, so they went ballistic at the news. We were quite happy too. I, as well as some of my classmates, wore our Spain shirts for the flight home.

After a second flight from Dallas to Austin, we were finally home. I went out to dinner (at Cheddars!) just to stay awake, before coming home and crashing as early as I could. I was so happy to have a server who would talk to us, introduce himself, and check on us and refill our beverages occasionally. It was quite refreshing. In Spain, most of the servers take your order, and then you see them when they bring you food. I had one server who said two things to me the entire meal. Dígame and dígame. Literally, tell me. Like I said, it was really refreshing to have a server who was nice and polite.

It took several days before I was back on CST, and I was very glad that I had a week off between coming home and starting this government class that I'm suffering through right now. I feel very sorry for the people who had to go to work the next day.

So, that's my trip to Spain with ACC, summer of 2012. I don't know when I'll go back, but I really want to.

Monday, July 30, 2012

España 21

The full Don Quijote, in Spanish.

Some abanicos, fans that were very popular in Spain. Also, my feet.

A sideways sign. It's right side up in real life, and I'm not sure how to make the picture rotate.

So today, we basically got up, did a last little bit of shopping, got on a bus, spent 6 hours on a bus, and went to Madrid. We stayed in a hotel for one night. And it was an actual hotel, built exactly like the hotels here. No kitchen, nothing. And one of the expensive hotels too. There were sodas in the refrigerator. 3 euro for a can, if you drank one. All that annoying stuff. The internet was like 6 euro per hour, so I had no connection that night to communicate with anyone. The beds were also considerably less comfortable than the beds in the hostels, and our room was a two bedroom room with a third stuffed in and taking up all of the extra space and making the room really cramped. I shudder to think what was paid for that hotel, which was, in my opinion, the worst accommodations of the entire trip.

So, some of the other things I bought, and yes, I bought more than just cards. After seeing so many statues of, and hearing so much about, Miguel de Cervantes and his work Don Quijote, I went out and bought the complete thing at the Corte Inglés. It's hard reading, in Spanish, but I'm working on it.

But wait! Isn't the Corte Inglés the grocery store? No wait, it's where you sent letters. No, you bought books there. Gaah! Yeah, it's all that and more. The last picture there is a sign inside the Corte Inglés in Granada, that tells you what's on each floor. I tell you, they have everything.

Abanicos are a very traditional Spanish item, and very common. There were a lot of street vendors who sold them, as well as several shops. Probably 1/5 of the people I saw in Granada had them and used them quite a lot. The ones above are gifts for people here in the States. I've already given some of them away, and will be giving away the others when I can.

Tomorrow's the last day, and I'll talk about the trip back as well as other random reflections.

España 20

Here's our group at the restaurant for the farewell dinner.

So this is the post about Friday, again a day late. I'm sorry I'm so lazy.

We had our interviews this morning, the last thing for the class. Every single person in the class got an "A" on their interview. The teacher said that this was the first time this had happened to her, and was very happy with us. It also secured me as passing the class, so I was happy as well.

The interviews were really funny. We had to answer questions for about 3 minutes each. We went in in pairs, my partner was Ethan. So he answered questions, in Spanish, for about 3 minutes, and then I did as well. After that, we had a role playing scenario with objectives. Ethan was a flirty girlfriend and I was her jealous boyfriend. We ended up with a compromise: Ethan could still flirt with other guys, but not strangers, and especially not that creepy guy with tattoos. Roberto and Mariangela's turned out even funnier, but that's their story, not mine.

The farewell dinner was nice, much much better than the welcome dinner. We went to a nice restaurant, but one that actually served good food. We got the 3 course daily menus this time. I ended up with some soup (can't remember exactly...), a plate of chicken, and a chocolate cake. It was a good meal.

After the dinner, I went back to the apartment, and read for a while before sleeping. Some of the others stayed out all night, and didn't get any sleep. I didn't envy them the next day when we had to... But that's for the next post.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

España 19

L-R: Daniel, Roberto, Ethan. Spain-Portugal semifinals, Daniel and Ethan for Spain and Roberto for Portugal.

One of the local guitar shops in Spain.

Sorry this wasn't up yesterday. I'll try to be better about that in the future.

So today was the final exam, even though it wasn't the final day of class. We had interviews tomorrow. (I might have had a few odd tenses there. The interviews were the day after this post was talking about, which is Thursday, so they're in the future of the post, but the past of now.) I did decently well on the final exam, and was happy with my score.

So yeah. At this point, Italy had just beat Germany the day before to advance to the finals, and the winner of the Spain-Portugal game would play them for the championship title of the Eurocup. Roberto liked the Portugal team, and had a jersey for them, so he supported them for the game. Thankfully, he was smart enough to stay in the apartments; I think he would have been mugged if he'd gone out on the streets with that shirt. It was the best game of the entire cup in my opinion, with both teams playing very well. The game ended 0-0 after 2 hours, and the teams went into shootouts, which Spain won 4-2, and thus advanced. That meant they'd play Italy and the crazy mohawk shirt-ripper dude on Sunday, while we were flying back to the states. We were a bit disappointed that we were going to miss the game. (Note, I may actually have the game dates for Spain-Portugal and Italy-Germany backwards, but I'm too lazy to look them up.)

During the day, I went to a guitar shop. That's it in the second picture. Again, you can see the granadas-on-poles that lined all of the streets. This was a luthier's shop, meaning that he sold guitars that he made himself. He made all types, flamenco and classical, spruce and cedar. I'm partial to a cedar, myself, and spent most of the time trying out a nice cedar classical. I don't like it as much as I like the guitar I have at home, but I don't like much anything as much as I like the guitar I have at home. I love that guitar. However, the guitar was certainly a concert quality instrument, and cheaper than any other guitar that quality that you can find in the states. I didn't get to visit any more guitar shops, but I got the impression that the quality and pricing were typical in Granada, if not all of Spain.

I hadn't played for a good three weeks before going in, because I hadn't brought my guitar to Spain, and the days before were spent packing and studying like a madman. So, I didn't sound my best on the guitar, but it felt really really good to get to play it. During that afternoon, the entire crew except me and one other went to the beach, and when I went to take maybe an hour for my siesta, I ended up sleeping for a good 5-6 hours until the others returned, because it was actually quiet and peaceful in the apartment for once. Thus, it was a really really good day. Good final exam grade, fun playing a nice guitar, a long, uninterrupted nap, and Spain won a really good game of football.

Friday, July 27, 2012

España 18

The Cathedral of Granada. One of the pinnacles of architecture in the world, it's an amazing and beautiful building. Those are organs on either side of the pews, and the central area and dome in the middle.

A better view of one of the organs. I would absolutely love to hear one (or both) of these things played. The acoustics in this huge, vaulted, stone room were absolutely amazing.

A better view of the central area, adorned with many pieces of famous artwork.

Some old Latin texts/songs. I do believe that the lines in between are Gregorian Chant.

The outside of the Cathedral. That graffiti is several hundred years old. It used to be that the students of the University of Granada would come here upon graduating and scribble their names on the wall.

So, no tests at all today. We had a small quiz (I aced it), but it was a laid back and relaxing class, in the middle of all of the madness. We went to two quite interesting places in the afternoon; the Royal Chapel of Granada, and the Cathedral of Granada.

There were no pictures allowed of the Royal Chapel, sadly. It was amazing. It's a beautiful structure, and it also contains the graves of Isabel and Ferdinand, perhaps the most famous king and queen of Spain ever. It also contains the graves of their daughter Juana la Loca (remember her?), and her husband, King Phillip the first.

Then, we went to the Cathedral of Granada. As you can see from the pictures above, it's a massive and absolutely stunning building. Just wow... Those people know how to build. They really know how to build. If you go to see anything in Spain, it's the architecture. It's some of the best in the world.

Random side note: My new computer came in today, and I love it. Thank you, mom! :)

Thursday, July 26, 2012

España 17

Here's the 19 decks of cards I bought in Spain.

And 56 more unique decks.

Not much. There was a test, I did meh. I think there was a football game, can't remember. Anyways...

So yeah. When I travel, I collect decks of cards. I don't get postcards (though I sent a handful from Spain. I hope those arrived...) or other stuff. I get cards. I've been doing this for a few years, as you can see. It's quite fun, and it gives me a lot of choice when I want to play a card game... I'm tempted to challenge someone to a game of war with all of my decks...

In Spain, they have a different kind of card deck than we have here. It's called a Baraja Española. They call our decks Barajas de Poker or Barajas Bridge. They typically also include 3 jokers in our decks, though I'm not sure why. The bottom row of decks in the top picture is American decks from Spain, and the top row is Spanish decks. It's quite the fun hobby. If anyone reading wants to give me cards, I'd love to take them. :)

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

España 16

A lady in the Plaza Nueva doing some type of hand weaving.

A much more traditional flamenco show, in Granada.

Some random hill with a castle on top. That you can barely see, but it's still there and pretty cool.

So yeah. This day was our composition, a 3-5 page composition that was about our trip. It was fairly easy to write, because we had done so much on the trip and there was a lot to talk about. I did well, and passed it.

That night, we went to what was a much, much more traditional flamenco show than the one in Madrid. There were about 5-7 dancers, though only one at a time, as well as a singer and a guitarist. At least, we saw a guitarist. I couldn't hear him over the dancing, so I have no idea if he was actually any good or not.

Yeah, that bit of floor has a special plate on it that's replaced every now and then so that the dancers don't wear holes in the floor. From what I understood, this location has these shows as a daily thing.

I didn't terribly enjoy the show. It hurt my ear, and I couldn't hear anything else in the place, not even the person next to me. I didn't hear any music, mostly just rhythm. I like music. I'm a guitarist. I wanna hear the guitarist.

Ah well. A good grade on the essay made it a good day, overall. I am happy when I make good grades.  :)

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

España 15

This is still from Saturday, but Sunday was boring. :) Um, the Eurocup was played while we were in Spain, and football (we call it soccer) is bigger over there than american football is by several orders of magnitude. It's insane. So anyways, we watched most of the games from our hotel room TV, but this night we decided to go out. It was Spain Vs. France in the quarterfinals (8 teams, single elimination brackets). We were in Córdoba. We decided to go out to the local plaza and watch the game at a bar. Here I am, dressed in my Spain shirt, all ready (minus shoes.) We all got the shirts.

Many of us, including the teacher, had the Spanish flag painted on our faces. It's nice they have such an easy flag to draw.

And yeah. Spain won, 2-0. Quite a game. Here's people celebrating.

I'm tired and I'm up too late. Sorry for the late post and not saying much. I'll do more tomorrow. I promises.

Monday, July 23, 2012

España 14

This picture and the next are actually still from Friday, but The Alhambra was awesome enough that I left everything else until today. As we were walking down the hill, we saw these. Umbrella hats... I want one for when I'm biking and it's raining.

International Music Festival. A student orchestra from a local university was in the Plaza Nueva, and played classical music for a while. Well, too.

Next day, Saturday. We went to Córdoba, and spent the night, returning the next day. This was one of the main ways to get around the city. Horse drawn carriage. Pretty cool, if you ask me.

Roman ruins. These were scattered throughout the city.

An old Visigothic Church under the floor.

The inside of a mosque.

And a beautiful cathedral.

And the mosque, seen from the cathedral. Wha?

Yeah. Those last four pictures are from La Mesquita, a mosque/cathedral with identity issues in Córdoba. Wikipedia explains it better than I do.

I'm going to talk about the rest of Saturday tomorrow, mostly because nothing much happened on Sunday.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

España 13

We went to The Alhambra, and spent most of the day touring. As this was my biggest reason for going to Spain, I took a decent number of pictures. Here's a selection; the total is over 400 I think.

Very excited for the I love Alhambra sticker!

My ticket for getting in.

The Patio de los Leones was closed, which was a little disappointing. You can see the work they're doing.

Here's the view out one of the towers. It's a reverse of two of the pictures from a few days earlier. In the middle, those green things are the covers. Under them is where the dinner picture was taken. The street right there is where our hotel was. About three buildings up is where the picture from the door of the hostel was taken.

And then a bunch more random pictures. Of really cool stuff.

So yeah. That right there, #1 on the bucket list done. I need to make up the rest of the list now... And put going back on there somewhere.