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Monday, December 26, 2011

April-August

Yes, I haven’t posted since April of last year. I’m going to start posting again. This blog partially serves to chronicle my life for myself and others in the future, so I’m going to include what has happened between April 18th, and today.

After Barcelona, I went to Carlos’ house in Tenerife. I really should have written about this right after I got back, but time was of the essence. In Tenerife, we drove up Teide (the tallest mountain in Spain). I’d like to hike it some day. There is snow at the top, but you can’t ski down it at all.



Carlos’ grandfather has a banana plantation. Buying local and buying bananas are not necessarily mutually exclusive.
There were several dogs there, including a chihuahua puppy, and a chihuahua mix. Different from goldens, I suppose.




In Tenerife, Carlos and I spent a lot of good time with his friends (who are hilarious), at the pool, and at the beach. There is black volcanic sand on one side of the island in Tenerife.




Carlos’ Parents and his sister Cristina are great. They’re talking about sending her and her friend to Camp Nashoba North this summer.

After Tenerife, I returned to Colegio Mayor San Agustin. The Fiesta de Clausura (end of the year party) was pretty great. I wore the following, which was quite different from the Spaniards’ dress apparel. Apparently bright colors aren’t in yet, but whatever, right? A pink shirt with a green and blue striped tie is reasonably fresh if I do say so myself.



SO. On the plane back from London, I met a girl named Marina. We talked about stuff, and she asked me for my number. You probably know how much I like phones. Well, I gave it to her anyways, thinking, “alright, she’s cool.” I mentioned San Agustin during our conversation, and Milagros (who lives in SanAgus), knows Marina from class. Marina and I hung out for a while until I left for Boston. We still talk. In the summer she’s a camp counselor, and I found her to be considerably more real than some of the other Spanish girls. A few days before I left, we went out for her Birthday. Her friends were great too.



As you can see, halfway through my time in Madrid, I wasn’t to thrilled. People were superficial and there weren’t enough trees. Funny enough, it turns out that there are fun, interesting, down to earth people wherever you go. You just have to look. By being myself in Madrid, and not trying TOO hard to fit in, I ended up hanging out with good people. I never thought I’d miss the city, but Madrid was home to me for four months, and home stays with you.

I miss riding through the streets, dodging traffic, scaring people half-to-death as I found that perfect spot between them as they slowly walk forward just as you have to anticipate.

I miss the kryptonite chain around my neck and my mesh swim bag on my back as I coasted down Avda. Seneca into San Agustin on the bike that I spent oh so much time on.



video

I miss Irene, Virginia, Ana, Edu, Carlos, Garbiñe, Miguel, Alejandro, Marta, Maite, EVERYONE that made Madrid what it was. It’s a small world, so I know I’ll see someone from SanAgus again, but it might be a long time.


When I got back from Spain, the first thing I did was drive up to Vermont, and run into the woods with Gretchen. We hiked Camel’s Hump and Mt. Mansfield in the two days I was up there, made flounder in parchment paper that was dope with her mom, cousin, and cousins boyfriend, and ran in Lincoln woods.




Hiking Mt. Mansfield, I kept saying “Gretchen, do you hear that? Do you smell that? Can you feel the humidity?” The smell of the evergreens and fresh, clean air was…well…you get it. Nada puede sustituir al mundo natural.



Gretchen now likes to run in Lincoln Woods. Ask her about it. She’ll rave. I would have to agree with everything she says. I’m very fortunate to be able to run there whenever I want.

Before camp started, I drove out to the Zoar to pick up a Pyranha Fusion. I also ran the Dryway (Deerfield) in my NEW FULLFACE HELMET!



I like my teeth, thank you very much.

I (camp) bought that kayak specifically for teaching windsurfing (not paddling after kids in a playboat), and for going on expeditions.


On the way out to the Deerfield, I stopped on Rt. 2 for lunch #1 at a small, but good diner. The menu was good in that I would have gladly eaten anything on it, based on both the quality of the food and the taste. I sat at the counter, and talked to the girl working there about food. Food is good. Mr. Jones (Counting Crows) came on the station, and I heard her singing along. I commented on how good that kind of music is. 90’s rock is spot on. We talked about it for a little bit. On the way home, I stopped back at the same lunch place for more food, and after paying, gave her a CD with the Pete and Mike Band’s stuff on it. Good people deserve good things besides tips, and I figured it was appropriate.


Camp started soon enough, and working without Zack was mind numbing at times. Teaching windsurfing is great, but it can get old. As a result, I brought a new activity to camp: outdoor cooking.


One day, when it was cold and overcast (for once that summer), the kids didn’t want to go out on the lake. I asked, “Well, would you like to make a fire.” I was met with a resounding “YES!” We made a campfire. I brought over bananas, foil, and chocolate chips, filled the bananas with the chocolate, wrapped them in tin foil, and we made chocolate bananas. The kids went WILD over it. It became an activity. Innovation is wonderful. One girl the whole summer didn’t like chocolate bananas. Baffling. Her contemporaries ate it for her.


This summer, Zack and I didn’t get to go to the rapid river, but I figured it was obligatory. I decided to go on my own, but add a little spin to it. This deserves a post of its own.


The summer finished up quite nicely with Pentathlon and camp, but oh MAN was I ready to go back to school.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Barcelona

Barcelona is super different from Madrid.

1. Very touristy.

2. Everyone speaks English to me, even if their English is worse than my Spanish, because they think I don't speak Spanish.

3. Less bureaucracy.

Thursday evening, took the AVE (high speed train) from Madrid to Barcelona. Checked into HelloBCN Hostel, and stayed with five girls who were studying in Bath, England. One was from Lexington, another from St. Mikes, and a third was from Gettysburg and knew Katherine Kreek and David Tekle. Small world, no?

First of all, I LOVE going on trips by myself. Every time I travel alone, I can do whatever I want, whenever I want. If something is lacking, I always end up finding cool people in the hostel to talk to or walk around with. Not that I don't like traveling with friends, but weekend trips always need to consist of so much in so little time, and sometimes other people can be pretty heavy baggage (definitely not always though), and really mess up my plans. Plans definitely including training.

Friday morning, I got up early, found a pool and swam, lifted, and walked around Barcelona for a long, long while. Apparently in Barcelona, women swim laps topless. This made me also want to swim laps topless, but I was already topless...funny how that works.

For lunch on Friday, I went to the local food market, called the Boqueria. First thing I bought was a glass of coconut puree. Recovery me a river. Other things I bought and ate:

Half kilo of strawberries
Good amount of Calamari (SO good)
Kiwi puree
Coconut and Pineapple puree
Coconut and Banana puree

The seafood part of the market was unreal. I wish I had the appetite of a bear (or two bears), and a nice kitchen to cook all of the fish I saw. This guy especially:



Of course after the Boqueria, I had to see Gaudi's houses, and the Sagrada Familia. Even for someone who is pretty sick of cathedrals, this is one of the coolest buildings I've ever seen:



Saturday morning, I went riding in the hills of Cataluña with a guy named Pau. He had a super friendly dog named Chicho, and a bunch of Arabs. I rode a Spanish horse name Xiarello:
He was pretty strong, and liked the throw his head in the air, but that wasn't a big deal. He knew where he was going and didn't buck, so that was good. Really quick turnover, but didn't go that fast. Nothing like Shorty...kind of weird to not have to worry about being killed for just "letting a horse go."



We passed a 900 year old Roman church as well, which was pretty sweet:



Saturday afternoon, I took a two hour commuter train back to Barcelona, and then a 90 minute train to Girona to see Esperanza Spalding:



She won the grammy for best new artist...no surprise there. She's honestly one of the best musicians performing today. I had always been cool with big band, but about a year ago I got into jazz here and there. I heard about Ms. Spalding on NPR, and...bought all of her albums. I listen to a ridiculous variety of music, and I can listen to all of her songs without wanting to switch it up. That's pretty uncommon for me.

Sunday morning, I found a covered longcourse pool and got some great kick sets in. My kick is really what I need to work on, and it's actually coming along. Flew back sunday evening after buying an overly european shirt.

On the way to the airport, I saw a sign on the side of the highway that said "Tiempo es Money." Someone from Madrid wouldn't understand this. Barcelona has so much foreign investment because of tourism that the dysfunctional Spanish mentality is partially swept under the rug. People in Cataluña seem to have been able to take the bowie knife out of their pocket and cut themselves our of their red-tape cocoons.

Paris/Normandy/Versailles, and a good amount of life commentary.

France is a nice place. Things to note:

French kids seem to really like scooters. Three-wheeled scooters too.

The food in Paris is amazing, even though it's ridiculous expensive. I ate way too many crepes and chocolate croissants. Literally, anywhere you go to eat will have good food...I guess that's why French food has been declared world heritage. Even simple baguette sandwiches are unreal...why can't food in the United States be like this? I guess we value our dollar more than our health.

Beggars: I'm done getting duped. Occasionally I would give a euro to the guy with one leg, or the woman who was really good at playing the violin, but if I were to give a euro to everyone who deserved it, I wouldn't have any money left. I guess I can still give up what I have to make other people happy, but I had two experiences that really put me off.

1: Deaf girl walks up to me outside the eiffel tower, and makes me write my name on some petition sheet, and sign so that I'll give her money. Was she really deaf? No idea. When I gave her two euros, she shook her head no, pointed to some text that said "min 10 euros," and wrote 10E in the "how much will you donate box" next to my name. I informed her that I was not going to give her 10 euros, and walked away.

2. Man from Senegal walks up to me outside Montmartre. He was good. I'm so peeved that I fell for this: he shakes my hand, asks where I'm from. Holds onto my hand, and ties a shitty bracelet around it, and asks for money. I gave him a euro when he asked for ten, and told him to buzz off.

Gretchen Powers has informed me that I talk to much about fashion here in this blog...it's what's apparent sometimes...it's what jumps out.

France is very old-money. They seem to dress well because they think highly of themselves, not because they want other people to think well of them. They're proud to be French, and it shows. I think I'm okay with this. Opposite of Madrid. A lot fewer high-heels. Very interesting.

Normandy:

Took the train to Bayeux from Saint Lazare. Bayeux is a great little town. It's where the Bayeux tapestry is kept. The aforementioned "tapestry" is a 224 ft. cloth depicting the Norman conquest of England.

Took a tour of Pointe du Hoc, where the rangers scaled the cliffs. The bomb craters were incredible...small I guess for today's standards, but interesting nonetheless.

This is the Pointe du Hoc Monument:
It represents a dagger sticking out of a German bunker:



Omaha beach was incredible...so long and flat. It just goes on forever.

The American Cemetery was breathtaking. 9,387 graves. Found this grave which was rather heavy:
Reminds me that had I been born 65 years ago, my name could have been on one of these crosses:



Before leaving the cemetery, got to see the flag being lowered. Really powerful stuff. Cried a few times throughout the visit. As much as I'm against the current attitude of the U.S. military, I'm extremely patriotic, and I love my country. I have the utmost respect for the 18 year old men that gave their lives for a cause across an ocean, just to make our world a better, freer place. Even with the state of corruption in our government from 2001-2009, being in Europe really makes me appreciate all that we stand for. I wish everyone could see the difference between real patriotism and blindly supporting the republican party because they like fighting wars that don't make any sort of sense.

Here's the "Spirit of the American Youth Rising from the Waves:" Probably my favorite part of the cemetery:



Normandy has pretty significant tides. It's at 49N latitude, which is roughly equivalent to Newfoundland, but the Gulf Stream warms it up.




Saturday night in the hostel, which was a lot nicer than the thursday night hostel, I met a woman named Lucinda from Argentina, who was working in Spain, and a guy named Alfredo from Peru, who was studying for his MBA is The Netherlands. Together, we headed to Versailles, and spoke Spanish the whole day in France. Even though I can communicate in French, I much prefer Spanish, perhaps because I'm better at it, but all things considered it just makes a lot more sense in the random mess of pure-logic that is my mind.

Versailles was pretty cool...the gardens were my favorite. Lucinda's camera took panoramic photos, and she let me steal her memory card for 30 seconds, because the camera that I have with me right now is pretty bad.



After Versailles, on the walk back to the train station, I stumbled upon a car show. Lotuses, Aston Martins, old Mustangs...all of the cars I would buy if I had a good amount of excess money. In all honesty, if I ever feel the need to buy a nice car that isn't useful at all, it's going to be a Lotus. I'll be that guy who drives an ancient volvo station wagon, has long ratty hair and wears cut off jeans, but has a Lotus in his garage. It'll come after a paid-off mortgage, a nice boat, a few dozen windsurfing sails, and a nice horse though. Spending a lot of money on things I really don't need/depreciating assets isn't something I'm into. Shoes aren't expensive ITLR, and they last a really long time if you rotate them often enough. I think I'm into things that either have zero resale value, or really good resale value. Food, food, shoes, stocks, land etc. even though I don't have any land. Generally people who throw money at things aren't happy with their riches, because there's something else missing in their life. I want to always be able to enjoy one week per year kayaking in Canada as opposed to a nice car. Even though the two aren't nearly comparable in price, the former is infinitely better. Okay, this is a HUGE tangent, but I'm going to keep going with it, because this is what this blog really is... In 25 years, my kid should never point to something extravagant that I spent money on in my youth, and say, "but you wasted money on this," in response to me saying that I couldn't spend money on something else that would better him/her, such as fencing camp, a better horse, COLLEGE, etc. Saving for the future is a good thing. All of this is in my mind right now, because so many people in Madrid live by the phrase, "Bread today, hunger tomorrow," meaning that they spend all of their salaries on stupid things, and just make it to the next month. I swear they all want to bounce their last check as they fall into their graves. The Nouveau Riche concept, and not thinking about the future is part of the reason we're in this economic crapshoot...it's why I put it down so often.

It's been a while...general update. Granada first.

So since London, a lot has happened. Granada, Paris, lots of Madrid, Barcelona, some Tenerife, and commentary on Spain are to come.

Granada:

3/25-3/27, IES took a trip to Granada. I hate being that guy, but I was the last one on the bus. Woke up at 7:27 for a 7:30 bus, ran out to Angel who gave me five minutes, packed everything, and sat down to keep sleeping on the bus. Amazingly, I didn't forget anything except my memory card, but I bought a cheap 16 Gig one when we got there. In Granada, got some good handstand pics, found a pool to go swimming at, visited the Alhambra, went to the arab baths...good stuff. At the Arab baths, everyone got massages with olive oil, which was pretty legit, but I couldn't get the damn oil off of my skin. It's not really a bad thing to have on your skin, but it's really...oily.

Granada is a much chiller city than Madrid. It's quite a bit smaller, and the people are nicer. The guy who sold me the memory card told me I spoke with a good accent.

It's too bad I'm writing this so after the fact...when I update the blog right afterwards it's always a ton better.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The United Kingdom, and why I like it.

So I hopped off the plane at Gatwick, and immediately felt oddly at home. Even in the airport, there was a vibe of "this is where I'm meant to be." At home, my friends poke fun at me for liking the United Kingdom, most likely for the reason that they don't understand my reasoning behind it.

With the exception of public transportation, Spain is a logistical nightmare. England is the opposite. Everything make perfect sense, and everything just...works. I think very logically, and England is conducive to this.
Example: All of the signs have reasons on them, instead of simple "no not do this" messages.
Example: Instead of "do not climb," there was a sign that said "Warning: Anti-climb paint." The former would make me think about climbing such a fence, and the latter would make me think "okay, not worth it." It just makes sense.

In Boston, I feel like most everyone from the policemen, to the professors, to the postmen, to the high level office bros has a personality. It kind of comes off as that "No shit sonny, how ah ya?" vibe, and it's anything but bland. Even if these Boston guys don't do anything but work, watch sports, and drink beer, it seems like they're always passionate about something, even if that something is just being from Massachusetts, or just not giving a damn (which are not mutually inclusive).

In the UK, there was definitely a similar vibe. Absolutely everyone I talked to, from the Underground workers whom I asked for directions to the students at LSE, spoke clearly and articulately. There were very few "likes," "ums," and other fluid yet unnecessary conversational fillers. A lot of Americans speak terribly...it's as if there's an obstruction between our brains and our mouths that scrambles what we want to say. In my Lit class last spring, I tallied the daily number of "likes." One class, it came out to well of 200. One girl had more than 75. At one point she had a triple "like." On the train to Luton airport, I talked with a construction worker/student about England, and it was like talking to a book. I'll call it "efficient conversation." I then spoke for a while to a girl from the U.S., and it was back to the word vomit.

In Spain, house and techno music are common. I hate house and techno music. Right up there with country, it lacks personality. In the U.S., we like party music. Lil Wayne, Ke$ha & Co. rap about getting plastered and being the best, when in fact they're really not saying anything interesting. Friday night, with Laura's friends, we went to the student center/bar at ULU. I heard Eminem, The Killers, Blink, and the Chili Peppers, and yet the best part was that everyone danced and sang to it all, so much more so than when the DJ (who was the man) played house music.

In Madrid, people are very concerned with their appearance. I've talked about this ad nauseam, but here's another extension on it: because there is a "way to dress," people are afraid to go outside the Spanish fashion bubble, and hence, every looks the same. Everyone also acts the same, because fitting in is paramount. I don't know how people deal with it.

For many of the UK youth, sticking out a bit is fitting in. Everyone dresses normally to an extent, or just do so when they want to play it safe, but there's so often something special about which wavelength everyone's individual vibe is broadcasting. I saw a girl with bright purple hair, a guy in a ninja turtle suit, and another girl with one side of her head shaved. The most striking thing is not what these people are wearing, or what they look like, but it's rather than they're pulling it off, and no one seems to care. This is what we call individuality, and if you know anything about me, you know I'm all about that. As Dr. Seuss said, "
Those who mind don't matter, and those to matter don't mind."

Tying this all into the real world, and not just rambling on with my social commentary, I'd go as far as to say that English and American Individuality breeds innovation, and the desire to challenge the norms, particularly if they don't make sense. We live in an ever-changing world (deep, I know), and if we don't keep up, we fall behind. Spain is super far behind on the social, logistical, and political fronts, and their economy demonstrates that.

For choosing to study abroad in Spain, it must seem like I put it down a lot. This is true, I do frequently complain about Spain, but in all sincerity, I love it a lot more than I dislike it. If you read all of my posts, you'll definitely find that I'm having an amazing time, and soaking in the rich Spanish culture. Green energy is huge here, the food is unreal, transport is almost German, the people are good hearted.

British wit is also a great thing...it's outspoken, yet tactful social commentary. I feel like Mick Jagger or the like could tell you that you have three weeks to live, and make you laugh at the same time. Again if you've spent time with me, you know I'm big on wit. Sometimes it gets the better of me when I continuously fire out entertaining remarks, and forget that I'm having a serious conversation, but in the end I'm okay with it.

I bought Union Jack Chuck Taylors this past weekend. Very little consumer surplus in regard to price, but nonetheless I'm pleased. More to come on London.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

¿Feo, guapo, o humilde?

These are the pants I found at the Rastro (flea market). When I saw them, I couldn't control my excitement, bought them, and turned them into the ugliest pair of shorts I have ever owned. For this reason, they are amazing. The zebra belt and the dragon just make them so...bad.


So I was wearing them the other day with fivefingers (feel free to judge, it was awful). My friends Bea, Nisrin, and Genesis came over and asked me about my horrendous outfit. They proceed to tell me repeatedly that it was truly ugly, and that no girls would ever talk to me if I wore it out. I was going to the pool, so I didn't really mind. Most of the time, they see me in the dorms, in normal t shirts, and jeans, and even though they know me, they are Spanish, and had made ridiculous preconceptions about the way I view my image. Madrid is very nouveau riche, and dressing well is super important. Again, they repeated, "Harry, son feos. ¿por que los llevas?" "Harry, your outfit is ugly, what are you wearing?"

So when I went to dinner with the IES dean, I of course dressed appropriately. Nice polo blue button down, nice black jeans, leather belt, and sleek black dress shoes. I looked pretty dec.

When I got back to San Agustin, everyone was chilling in the lounge. Needless to say, they're not used to seeing me look more presentable than the average UVM student. I dressed up a little too much in high school, UVM isn't really conducive to polos and seersucker anyway, and all things considered, I'd much rather dress like a vagabond. I sat down to talk to Bea, Genesis, and Nisrin, without thinking anything of what I was wearing, and it turned out that they didn't know what to do about my attire. In stead of the repeated "feo" (ugly), it was "Harry, eres muy guapo." I told them that I'm not actually a scrub, and when dressing nicely is appropriate and necessary, it's a good thing. They understood. Nisrin told me that she had realized that I wasn't actually fashion-inept. She called me "humilde" (humble). What's up with that? I might be going too deep here, but it seems as though I helped them realize that anyone can dress well, but not anyone can be a nice guy.

I feel like I almost wear ugly clothing to force people to think "why the hell is he wearing that...why would anyone wear that...he can't be serious." Indeed, I am not serious. The world is too serious. Laughter is a great medicine (running is the best...sorry expresion), and a light heart is a great thing.

Dinner with IES Dean & Exams

Last night, about ten of us were invited to have dinner with Leeland, one of the IES deans, who was visiting from Chicago.

I skipped fencing for the night, which was difficult, but I figured it was a good opportunity to talk about the program. Leeland was generally interested in how every aspect of living in Madrid was, from the academics to the living situation. To be honest, I only had good things to say to him. My experience so far has been amazing, and last night I was told my the Spanish kids that I don't speak spanish with a clear American accent. From hanging out with Carlos, I've actually picked up a Canarian accent, which doesn't consist of pronouncing consonents. We'll see how that works out when I get back into classes in the U.S..

After either having the two options of either eating in the dining hall or paying for dinner, it was also nice to have to option of eating good food for free. I've taken a new liking for putting olive oil on my salads as opposed to salad dressing. It's good stuff, and is good for you.


Exams:
Last thursday I had my grammar exam. I feel like I´m really learning the finer points of the Spanish language, and my grades reflect that.

Yesterday was an Econ exam, which wasn't difficult at all, but only because I've read and reviewed everything he's given us. Same deal with my Latin American Literature exam today. Borges is a great guy.

Tomorrow is my Spanish Language usage for business exam, for which I'm 95% sure that I´m 100% prepared. Thursday is another Econ exam, for which I've read everything he's given us, and from speaking with everyone else in the class, I think I'll be fine.

So yes, to my wonderful parents, I am both getting good grades and getting a ton better at Spanish. The difference in spoken language competence between that of other IES students, who live in apartments, and my own, from living in the Colegio Mayor is all too apparent now. So even though I only have to get C's to get credit for the classes, I'm generally interested in everything I'm learning, so there's no plausible way it would come to that.

Street Performing

So when I was about five years old, my mother bought me a pair of devil sticks at L.L. Bean. Over 15 more years of occasionally picking them up and having some fun, I´ve gotten pretty good. In Puerta del Sol, an open pedestrian area about 2 miles from where I live, there are a good amount of street performers. Whenever I saw them, I would always think about how I could make a few dollars with the stupid things I know how to do. I decided to give it a whirl. I found a juggling shop, and bought a pair of sticks for 30€. These sticks aren´t just any pair of devil sticks...you can light the ends on fire with lighter fluid. So last saturday I went to the hardware store, bought some lighter fluid, and headed down to Sol. In 90 mins, I made 11€. The lighter fluid cost 7€, so I'm still at -26, but the sticks are a fixed cost, so I'm not too bummed. While I was juggling, and avoiding getting burned, up walks Carlos, and asks me what the hell I'm doing. To be honest, I didn't have a great answer, other than the fact that I was having a good amount of fun, and "making money" at the same time. I might give this another go on Church Street if I feel so inclined, but as of now, there are definitely much more important things in my life.

With the four euros, I went out to dinner at 100 Montaditos, which is a really great tapas bar. There, I met some English teachers from Indiana, and chatted it up with them for about an hour. Good times.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Fencing

Monday night, I had another lesson with Hugo...good stuff we worked on. Beat a bunch of people tonight that killed me in the past. To improve my point control, I hit a golfball on a string in my room for ~15 mins each morning. It helps. A lot.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Housing next fall

I'm applying to live in the Spanish House, the Wilderness House, and if they let me apply without an interview, Slade. I didn't sign a lease for next fall, because I have no idea what I'm doing next spring, it's more expensive that living on campus, subletting is a pain, and in general I'm cool with living on campus (except for the whole having to eat in the dining halls thing).

C.M. San Agustin Nonviolent Protest

A few weeks ago, someone from outside Colegio Mayor San Agustin climbed in through a second story open window, and stole a laptop. As a result, the administration has decided to put cameras in the hallways next year. The residents are highly opposed to such an idea. In a recent discussion in the auditorium, the residents absolutely shut down the four administrators. The director was literally babbling and talking in circles about how in the end, he thinks it's a good idea to put cameras in the hallways even though every single resident is opposed to it.

To send a message to the direction, several times per week, no one eats in the dining hall. Each meal, the company that supplies the food to the college counts how many people eat in the dining hall, and if there is a recurring theme that no one is eating, they will apparently have a discussion with the direction. To be honest, I don't think this is at all productive, but I'm going along with it. For it to be productive, we'd have to not eat at least one meal every day, as opposed to skipping dinner three times per week. If anything, it's showing the unity of the residents toward a situation that violates their rights of privacy.

Anyway... This past sunday, we all pitched in 2 euros to buy food for everyone, and we ate lunch in the park across the street. Bocadillos (subs) with Jamon Serrano (raw spanish ham...it's awesome) and cheese, tortilla (thick potato omelettes), and sangria made in a big tub that I of course avoided made up lunch. I brought the deer sausage that I bought in Toledo, and it gone pretty quickly. Great stuff. After lunch, we all played soccer and rugby in the park. In the end, our nonviolent, noneffective protest was a great bonding experience for the college...UVM reslife would be super jealous.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Toledo

Today, everyone from IES went to Toledo, which is a considerably old city just outside Madrid.

Pictures are worth between 861 and 1000 words, so I´ll let people check them out before I write a book. I didn´t take any (couldn´t find camera this morning), but I should be tagged in quite a few.

Even though I don´t love cathedrals and old paintings, the cathedral in Toledo was beyond impressive. It´s surrounded by other buildings, so you can´t really get a great picture of it, but:
http://www.google.es/images?um=1&hl=es&rlz=1C1DVCF_enES356ES356&biw=1442&bih=804&tbs=isch:1&sa=1&q=catedral+toledo&aq=f&aqi=&aql=&oq=

Most of the city is World Heritage. It´s been around since the broze age. The streets are all tiny, because they were built long before cars existed. Toledo is particularly interesting because of the historical coexistence of Christians, Jews, and Muslims that that chilled there for quite a while.

I haven´t been buying too many things in Spain (just plain tickets, food, and fencing lessons), so I decided to by a useful souvenir in form of a Magnum knife that says Toledo on it. We then went to a shop that sold marzipan (not a huge fan), meat, and cheese. After talking with the owner about Spanish Ham for a while, he gave us about six different samples of sausage to try. Unreal. I bought a large link of wild deer sausage, that I will cut and eat with my new knife. The deer are hunted in the Mountains of Toledo, and packaged by a local sausage man. Love it. Back to pigs for a second: Spanish pigs are fed acorns before they are slaughtered, which is why they taste like heaven. It´s very possible that I will bring back a leg to share with my family. I don´t know if it will go through customs, but it´s worth a try (or a google search).

Training Update

I haven´t run for a week...my right calf is angry at me. Swimming has been decent, and fencing is a ball.

I´m now officially not allowed to use my swim snorkel at the pool, for fear of bumping into other people with the hard object that is on my face (fins and paddles aren´t allowed either). It is a nice part of my warmup, useful when I´m doing balance drill things, and just working on technique in general, but I´ll get over it.

Whenever I´m debating whether I should swim or not, if I´m feeling dead etc., I´ve decided that the answer is always yes. Sometimes, when I´m just warming up, cooling down, or doing easy sets, I figure out really important things in regard to my stroke.

I´ve been trying for a while to consistently have really, really good turns involving good acceleration into the wall, super tight streamline off of it and aimed down a bit, and 4-5 good dolphin kicks followed by a good transition into my free kick. If instead of pushing off diagonally (in between on my back and on my side), I push of completely facing my left, it´s a lot easier to get those good DKs in and surface really fluidly. This is probably obvious to some, but since I don´t have a coach, I have to figure out everything by myself.

Also, for a while when my hands entered the water, I would let them drag a bit underwater on the way forward, apparently just so I could feel the water more.
My calf scolds me when I kick, so I pull. A lot. The whole debate between completely resting vs. trying to train through something is very difficult,.

Fencing is going really well. I´ve been taking lessons at Sala de Armas, and beating people who I wasn´t beating two weeks ago. I also can´t decide which blades like better. BF vs. Veniti (sp?).

On Sunday, I did Circuit 1. Circuit 1 is painful. If anyone can complete all of the stations without failure in the pushup category or form breaks in the abs, I will buy them a very nice dinner. It´s killer, and awesome for pain tolerance. This is what happens when I write circuits when I feel entirely too good:

All out, CCXC style:

Set 1

40 Pushups
1 min russian twists
43 seconds suitcases.
1 min chair dips.
43 seconds 2 inch crunches
20 bear pushups
1 min bicycles
43 seconds russian twists & suitcases simultaneously.
1 min plank with ab contractions
43 seconds diamond pushups
30 second side plank right with dips
30 second side plank left with dips
43 seconds sky crunches

1 min break


Set 2

30 sec right figure 4
30 sec left
43 second suitcases
20 diamonds, 10 wides
1 min sky crunches
14 spiderman pushups
43 seconds Bicycles
30 second side crunches
30 second other side.
43 seconds pushups
25 Dips
1 min russian twists
43 seconds 2 inch crunches


This summer I´m most likely leasing a horse, keeping him at camp, and taking lessons with Lauren again. This is a good thing. Things are coming together.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Thoughts while I'm here, involving comments on my generation in Spain:

I've decided that Spanish people don't have a lot of body heat. I'll be walking down the street in shorts and t-shirt, sweating, and everyone else will be wearing a winter coat. I mean...I'm also an abnormality in terms of temperature tolerance in the U.S., but still. I guess I also eat a lot, and move a lot, and thus release a great deal of heat, but the amount of clothing people wear is still astonishing.

Someone from outside C.M. San Agustin went through a second story open window and stole a laptop. In response, the administration has locked the door to the inside rooms, and is trying to put cameras in the hallways. Does this make sense? Not really? The residents have joined together to oppose the cameras being placed in the hallways. Last night, there was a House meeting about the situation, and the director was put to shame by the students. Even though I of course didn´t say anything because even though it´s a ridiculous violation of privacy and I´m not familiar with Spanish laws, I listened intently. After the director couldn´t give anyone a straight answer or good reason for the cameras, and just talked in circles about nothing, everyone got up and left. If the cameras are installed, the residents are going to stop eating in the cafeteria. I don´t know how productive that is, but it is something.

What I like is that the students aren´t just accepting this ridiculous bureaucratic decision, and are calling out the administration on something that needs to be addressed. Even though Spain is full of senseless procedures, kids my age GET IT. They understand that things don´t make sense here, and that there´s no reason for life not to make sense here. They ask "Why?" and "Why not?" Even though the Spanish Economy is suffering right now, partially as a result of Spanish Culture, things are changing for the better (see my "Spanish Culture" post for clarification on that, especially if that statement offended you). I´ve met a lot of great people here, and even though this statement is neither deep by any means, nor intended to be, the youth of Spain are the future.

Culture in Spain

This is a pretty important post if you read "Things I don't like about Madrid."

So a few days ago I wrote a post (rant) about things I didn't like about Madrid. The whole environmental issue is still valid, but I'd like to go back to the whole physical appearance is paramount concept.

There's a reason for everything, and if something is so culturally engrained in a society that everyone adheres to it even though it isn't a law, such a reason is probably valid.

In Madrid, people judge you based on what you wear, and how you physically present yourself. In New England, we call this "being shallow." At first, I was totally bullheadedly against it, but after thinking/asking/googling, I'm a bit more accepting.

Many Americans think of Europe as very first-world, well off, and prosperous, which by global standards, it is. Even so, within the first world exist poorer countries. Quite a few years ago in Spain, people were hard working, but not super well-off. The way you could tell if someone was well off was by his or her appearance. Think "How nice is your 'Sunday Best?'" Church was what was important in peoples' lives, and going to church involved looking (very) presentable.

Frequently, when people are financially less fortunate, they feel the need to show that they are well-off, and have made a name for themselves, even if they haven't. It's the whole Southern Californian (generalizing) "I'm going to spend all of my money on a HUGE house and a corvette, but not have any money saved in the bank" concept. To New-Englanders, it doesn't make sense. To people who feel that it's important to show that they have money, it makes perfect sense. In Spanish culture, people feel the need to show that they have money, and to do so, they dress nicely. If you dress poorly or differently, and don't really care about your appearance because you think that your personality is more important, this is looked down upon.

Looking nice in Spain is parallel to kids in Lowell wearing pristine white shirts and cold chains. These things look "fresh," and show that they are able to afford new clothing and jewelry.

This whole fashion thing is a cultural difference rather than a culturally induced failure. I'm cool with it now. However, I still don't really mind if people think I'm a vagabond.


Spanish cultural aspect number 2: Bureaucracy.

bureaucracy |byoŏˈräkrəsē|
noun ( pl. -cies)
a system of government in which most of the important decisions are made by state officials rather than by elected representatives.
• a state or organization governed or managed according to such a system.
• the officials in such a system, considered as a group or hierarchy.
• excessively complicated administrative procedure, seen as characteristic of such a system : the unnecessary bureaucracy in local government.

Under Franco (fascist dictator of Spain 1939-1975), employment was very hierarchical. Everyone had their position, they stuck to it, and the even thinking about change was frowned down upon. You did what you were told, and you did not ask questions.

Today in Spain:
-one's boss is the enemy, because he has absolute power over those of lower ranking. Suggestions are not welcome. Mid-level employees do not get stock in a company as they do not deserve it, and therefore care less about the success of the company. Like in China (though not as extreme, of course), there are fewer ties between hard work and success, because promotions are rare, and people work because people work. This lack of drive to get ahead is one of the reason's Spain's economy isn't so hot at the moment.

-In university classes, professors arrive 10-20 minutes late to class, and lecture about whatever they want. Students neither raise their hands to ask questions nor do they contribute to the class. The professor essentially pretends that they do not exist. There is no set schedule or syllabus, and students have no idea what will be asked on the exam. Success or failure in a class is decided by one or two exams, and because students do not know what to expect, 60-70% of the class will fail the course. That is not an exaggeration.

If you think logically, these two concepts are almost comical. It's what we would do if you wanted failure in school and the work place. In Spain, it is how it is, and no one thinks they can do anything to change it.

Out of 183 countires, Spain is:
#147 for ease of starting a Business
#19 for closing a Business
#49 for ease of doing business with
#54 for trading across borders
#93 for protecting investors

For a first world country, this isn't great.

source:
http://www.doingbusiness.org/data/exploreeconomies/spain
http://doingbusiness.org/rankings



So yes, I'm in a foreign country, and yes, things are different. Is this culture, or is it a stretch to claim that bureaucracy is "culture?"

Cultural differences between countries that are harmless, and just plain different:

1. In Spain, interrupting someone shows that you're interested in what they're talking about.
2. Popular tattoos locations differ depending on the country.
3. In UK, people drive on the left.
4. In the UK, using your fork as a "shovel" is extremely rude.
5. In India, women wear the bindi (forehead dot).
6. In Korea, you should never write names in red.
7. In England, black cats are lucky.

Can you seriously argue against any one of these things? Not really.

"Cultural differences" that are straight up bad:

1. Burkas
2. Blood letting/leeches
3. Chinese foot binding
4. Tanning excessively because having brown skin is attractive
5. Encouraging drinking to excess
6. Encouraging smoking cigarettes
7. Polygamy

Can you dismiss these things as "Oh, it's just what they do, let it be." Sure, but is that correct? Not in my opinion. I'm neither a fan of oppressing women nor cancer-causing activities.

What I'm trying to say is that there are cultural differences that deserve respect, and cultural differences that are ridiculous. Should it both you that Indian people wear different clothing? Of course not. Should we be okay with women having to wear burkas against their will? I'm not cool with it. This is an extreme example, but I think the concept stands for Spanish culture. If their are unambiguously negative consequences of tradition, people shouldn't just accept it.

In Spain, people feel the need to establish (frequently long-term) personal relationships with others before doing business with them. Even if someone has a brilliant business proposal, a Spaniard may not be inclined to listen to them if they do not first talk about their personal lives. Result in my mind: "Spanish people neglect the opportunity cost of time." In the business world, this is apparent. Again: http://doingbusiness.org/data/exploreeconomies/spain/ In addition, in Spain, competence and control are important elements of the work ethos and crucial for saving face. As a result, Spaniards will often insist that everything is in order, even if it isn't. Again, bad for financial decisions.

So is there a "cultural" difference here? Yes. Is it hurting Spain's Economy? Yes. Is unemployment a huge problem in Spain? Yes.

Are some cultural differences detrimental to the societies they reside in? I think so. The same goes for America. Unregulated capitalism gives us cheap food and a good deal of societal inequality, so no, I'm not a one-sided culturally ignorant person.

I apologize if my writing jumps around a lot, but I had to clarify my discontent with Bureaucracy. The fashion thing isn't a big deal. The food is amazing here. More to come.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Valencia

Thursday Night, I decided to head to Valencia for the weekend.

Arrived by high-speed train (the Ave) at 1:30, and checked into Home Youth Hostel. Pictures on the facebook.

Walked around Valencia Friday afternoon...down through the park, to the City of Arts and Sciences, through the marina, and up to the beach. Total of ~8 miles.

In the park, there were orange trees. They had the flavor of oranges, but the acidity of lemons.


There was also a large play structure in the form of Gulliver from Gulliver's Travels. There were slides down this hair, and the kids play on his face. If I were seven, it would have been pretty dope.


Farther down the park was the City of Arts and Sciences. Sweet architecture:


After taking a few photos at CAS, I pulled out my compass, and headed east toward the Med sea. Got to the marina, piers and the beach a while later. Pretty cool waterfront...check out the pictures on facebook.

Took the metro back to the Hostel that night, and started talking to some really interesting people including a Concord Carlisle Class of 2000 alum (small world) named Manuel, and a girl named Ellen from San Diego.

Manuel was a social worker, but was laid off, and is using his unemployment to backpack around Europe. He doesn't buy a lot of food, just beer and train tickets. Really nice guy. He's off to Granada, and then to Morocco.

Ellen majored in English and Spanish at Loyola Marymount, and has been living and teaching English in Malaga (Spain) for the past year and half. Super fun girl.

While talking with Manuel and Ellen, into the Hostel walked Becca (from IES Madrid).

There was also another girl, whose name I forget...she was a little off.

So that night, with Manuel, Ellen, off girl, and off girl's friends who were staying at another hostel, we went to a cheap dinner of Falafel wraps (which were good, but I should be eating Spanish food). Off girl had a friend who had found oranges in her Hostel Locker, and was twirling them around in socks. At first we said, okay, that's your thing, whatever, but after we talked to her for a bit, we realized that she was even more off than off girl.

Manuel had a train to catch, and/so Ellen and I walked back without the off girls.

The other guys staying in my hostel room were getting ready for their friend's wedding the following day. They went to bed at 4:30, and at 7:30, one of them started snoring like a foghorn, so I got up, walked over to his bed, picked it up and shook it enough that so he stopped, and went back to sleep.

The next night, there was only one other woman in my room, and I slept quite well, except for some loud french girls at about 3am. I couldn't remember how to say "please be quiet" in french (at least at that point I couldn't), so I walked out of my room, said "shhh, s'il vous plait," and went back to bed. That seemed to work. I guess hostel rooms are pretty hit or miss. The hostel was nice though...good people.

Saturday, with Ellen, Becca, and Becca's two friends, we went to the Aquarium, and Hemisferic (IMAX). The Aquarium was pretty hyped up, as it's the biggest in Europe, but to be honest, it was pretty lame. I really don't like animals in cages/pens. Whales don't belong in tanks, unless they're being rehabilitated etc. It was all "here are these animals for your viewing pleasure," which isn't cool. All of it made me regret paying to get in/supporting all of that crap. The IMAX movie was about the Hubble Space Telescope, which was super interesting...it was narrated by Leonardo DiCaprio, and at one point space travel was contrasted with rollerskating down Massachusetts Avenue during rush hour, which I appreciated. I may have been one of the few people in the theater to understand the reference.

Saturday for dinner, Ellen and I sat down at a pretty legit Spanish restaurant. It wasn't expensive, and the food was...great. We ate a dish of potatoes, eggs, and bacon, a few Montaditos (appetizers on bread (small half sandwiches)) consisting of different types of ham and bacon, and one with a quail egg on top, which were ridiculous, and a some sort of chicken sandwich on really great bread. The waiter was hilarious...he was our age, and spat a bunch of game, so we spat game back. Good times. American bacon has NOTHING on Spanish bacon.

After dinner, we got some pretty HQ ice cream. I mixed chocolate and raspberry (not mixed like blender-mixed, but you get what I mean), and Ellen got banana and mint. The banana was the best.

This morning, I checked out the Miguelete Tower and Catedral de Valencia. The tower gives you a pan view of Valencia, which was nice.

More about food:

Friday afternoon, on my way from the train station to the hostel, I stopped at a fruteria (fruit store), and bought three clementines, four strawberries, and an orange for 1.35 euro. Great lunch. Best fruit I've ever had.

After checking in to the Hostel, I got a 3 euro plate of paella, which was dec. Maybe I haven't had awesome paella yet, but it just seems like spices rice with different kinds of meat and vegetables in it.

Saturday morning, we went to the Mercat Central (Central Market), and I bought a carton of strawberries, pastries, and horchata. I love horchata. It's a Mexican almond/soymilk drink. It's so good. Check FB for pictures of everything. The strawberries were unreal...this whole "fresh organic fruit as the norm" deal is great. Food in Spain is definitely a plus. If City Market is Idylwilde on crack, this market was City Market on crack ("on crack" meaning the "I like this" factor is magnified).

Friday, February 25, 2011

I bought a compass, and I love it.

This is a longish post, but it’s mildly interesting.

Wednesday, I wasted a good amount of time trying to figure out what I wanted to do this weekend. I thought about going back to San Sebastian to try surfing (they don’t rent kayaks there…), but there was a great chance that even with a wetsuit, I would end up being mildly cold and not having fun after a short(er) amount of time. The water is about 50deg, which isn’t super cold, but it’s cold. The air is about 60. I’d also already been to San Sebastian, so I decided on Valencia. I tried booking a ticket for this morning, but RailEurope wouldn’t let me because it was too close to the departure date, and I couldn’t call them with my phone, so I biked down to the train station day of (today), and bought a ticket. I woke up at 7, to try and catch the 8:40 train, but it was full, so I’m on the 11:40. I’m currently sitting in a random hotel lobby (looking official), outside the train station. I have two more hours, but I have a good amount of reading to do, and there is a Movistar store (phone) right outside, which opens at 9.

Okay, so yesterday was a beautiful day. After class, I hopped on my bike, and rode down Calle Princesa, got my fauxhawk chopped off at the Spanish version of Supercuts (I don’t want to spend 30 euro on a haircut right now), ordered five textbooks for my Spanish Language Usage for Business class (I volunteered/was chosen to do so), bought a compass (continued after next two paragraphs)…


I bought a compass at Corte Ingles. It’s probably the second most useful thing I’ve bought so far, next to my bike. I literally have to look at a map once, find the general direction in which I want to go, and then go. I no longer have to ask for directions 4-8 times to find something…maybe once if I’m right next to my destination, and feeling blind. I literally just take the thing out of my pocket, and go west…or east…or north. I never go south, because that phrase has negative connotations. I heard somewhere that most males find their way based on orientation/general direction, while females find their way based on landmarks…totally applies to me. At UVM, if I don’t know where I am (I know my way around now, but in September of 2009 etc.), I just find look at the lake, which runs north to south, and head in the direction I want to go.
My compass is far more useful than my phone. I believe it’s been four weeks (at least) since I last successfully contacted someone with it. I don’t have any minutes left, and Movistar won’t let me put money on it via internet, or via phone. I haven’t gone to the phone store yet to try and do so…who knows why. I don’t use my phone that much anyway, even in the U.S. If you know me at home, you know how painfully true that is. Even so, I wouldn’t recommend Movistar if anyone wanted to finagle a phone in Europe. In fact, I would dis-recommend them. I would advise the whole world to avoid them. Go with Vodafone. I know nothing about Vodafone, save the fact that I like the name.

…and went to find a different pool. Corte Ingles is Spain’s only large business. It’s a department store/supermarket/hardware/furniture/bookstore/etc. that sells everything. It’s like Walmart, except it isn’t the destroyer of worlds as far as small business is concerned, because it isn’t any less expensive than the individual stores, and actually sells good stuff. The compass was in the camping section. Nearby were crampons, ice axes, sleeping bags, cams, webbing, fishing gear, and other sweet stuff you’d find at OGE (outdoor gear exchange (Burlington)) or EMS.

After stopping at Plaza del Sol (Corte Ingles), I pulled out my compass, and went west toward Casa de Campo. All over Madrid, there are municipal pool/sports centers, but only a few of them have indoor pools. The closest one is ~2 miles away, which is ~8 minutes by bike. It’s on the south side of Casa de Campo. I’m on the east side, so to get there from San Agustin, I ride through the park, which is pretty nice. Ten uses of the municipal pool cost 29.80, and ten uses of the university pool cost 37.50. I don’t know what the deal with doubling is (if I want to swim twice in one day); there’s probably a 49% chance I could convince them to let me in without paying twice. The people who work at the rec pool are about 4.6 times nicer than those at the Complu Pool, and I’m allowed to use fins. There’s also a gym at the pool, with a squat bar. Mostly positives…it was super crowded when I went though, and I’m inclined to think that it doesn’t let up too frequently. The Complutense pool is crowded too, but only when I study first, and then swim. If I swim in the middle of the day, I usually have my own lane.
There is a law in Madrid that says that outdoor pools can’t open until May 29th, which is probably one of the stupidest laws I’ve ever encountered. Gotta love bureaucracy. If you Google Earth Madrid, you can see ~20 longcourse pools, that aren’t open, even if it’s 80+ degrees.
The Casa de Campo pool is right next to an artificial lake with a HUGE fountain in the middle of it. I took some photos (they’re on the facebook), then biked back, and went to fencing.

Fencing was good…better Thursday night than Wednesday. After fencing, I went to EcoCentro for dinner (the vegetarian buffet). It was better last time, but it was still pretty decent. After buying more bread (spelt bread this time), I rode back to Moncloa, to find 752+ bikes riding down the street. It turns out that the last Thursday of every month, all of the cyclists get together, and mess up the flow of traffic by riding down the streets of the city, to make it very clear to city of Madrid that they want bike lanes. Needless to say, I joined in, rode for about a half hour, and then went back to San Agustin. Even in large cities full of uptight, high-maintenance and superficial people, good people exist. Very good people exist. I talked to a bunch of guys and gals about what they were doing and why, and told them about the Naked Bike Ride at UVM, which they liked. One guy was designing a high-speed train for Oregon/The West Coast. The last Thursday in March, the 31st I leave for Paris, but my flight is way before the bikeride. April looks good though…calendar is marked. I’ll bring a camera next time.

In Spanish, the word "owl" is separated into two different words for two different types of owl. Great horned owl type owls are "buhos," whereas barn owl type owls are "lechuzas." Snowy owls and are also lechuzas, even though they appear to be somewhere in between a lechuza and a buho.

Oh, and I finished Harry Potter a while ago...I have The Chamber of Secrets (second book) in Spanish, but right now I'm reading the Notebook (in Spanish of course), and a few other books for school.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Why tonight was better than last night.

Last night was okay at best. Carlos and his two friends and I went out to dinner at "hollywoord," which is kind of like TGI Fridays, only a lot better. I had a burger with brie, raisins, and raspberry jam on the side...I wanted to try something new, and it ended up being legit. We then took an illegal taxi (unregistered) to a house party which was really nice. Carlos´ friend Tomas threw down with a bunch of people from their university...met some cool guys and girls. After that party, we took the same illegal taxi to a nightclub called HIT, which was honestly awful. We each paid 22 euros to get in (Carlos convinced me it was worth it), but it was full of 17 and 18 year old children. Lots of annoying girls and stupid males trying to fight each other. Kapital is exceedingly better.

Tonight was awesome...I swam for a while, then decided that I was going to find EcoCentro again, except by way of the pool, in the dark, in the rain.

I biked around in the rain for a while, found a map, asked for directions a few times, but finally found it. I actually really loved getting there though (that whole rain concept again). EcoCentro, in addition to being a wonderful natural bread-grain-soap-insense-peanutbutter-book store, is also a vegetarian restaurant/buffet.

I´ve mentioned this before...normal food in Spain isn´t full of the chemicals and fake ingredients that we put in our food in the United States...it´s a step down from U.S. Organic food. Organic food in Spain (comida biologica) is RIDICULOUS. It´s like U.S. Organic food on crack...it´s like eating the stuff we grow in our garden, and the cows we raise in our back yard (even though we don´t raise cows in our back yard, and I haven´t eaten Spanish organic beef yet).

So about EcoCentro´s food. You grap a compostable paper bowl (whatup Vermont?), fill it with different types of salad, fruit, vegetables etc. (pasta salad, couscous salad etc. included), weight it, and then eat it. They also have guac sandwiches, which I took full advantage of (hadn´t had avocado since I got to Spain), and vegan chocolate mouse (we like things like this). Hey, so I spent 14€ on dinner, but it was definitely worth it. I´ll be going back at least once a week. It´s pretty close to fencing, and the people there don´t judge you by what you´re wearing on your feet.

Biked back to San Agustin, and talked to Irene and Virginia about the U.S. for a while. They´re awesome...real people.

Things that I don´t like about Madrid.

I my opinion, Madrid is very superficial. There are a lot of fake people here. People judge you hardcore on what you´re wearing both on your feet, and on the rest of your body. It´s honestly ridiculous...the nicer the shoe I´m wearing, the more likely people are to talk to me. Going barefoot is out of the question, even just around the residence hall. If I were to do so, literally every single person would stop me and either ask "why are you barefoot?" or tell me to put shoes on. At UVM, I don´t even get doubletakes...no one cares, and I love it. All of that being said, the people in San Agustin are very nice (at least when I´m wearing topsiders and a polo).

Laundry is done for us here, and they wash all of the clothes in hot water, which is super green. Everyone drops their clothes off in random plastic bags on friday, and gets them back in *different* *plastic* bags on monday. I drop my laundry off in my mesh bag, and bring it back to my room (room is 30 seconds from the laundry room) stacked in one hand, not in a plastic bag. Yesterday, three people stopped me and said "you should use a plastic bag." I told them that there was no plausible reason for me using a bag. I put my laundry back in my room, and returned to explain to them that plastic is made from oil, is horrible for the environment etc. FOREIGN concept to them...one girl didn´t even know where plastic came from. They tried to tell me that the laundry ladies recycle them, but that´s BS. They don´t recycle anything here in the dorms.

So in Madrid, people like to conserve water and electricity, and drive fuel-efficient cars, but only because it saves money...they don´t give a damn about the planet. The lack of recycling here is driving me nuts. I never buy plastic bottles anyway, but when I see people throw them into the trash can without an alternative, it´s not pleasing.

I LOVERMONT. Nuff said.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

PB, J, B, and G.

Peanut Butter, Jelly, Bread (good bread) and Granola are the items that I bought at Ecocentro today. Eco centro is a sweet "biovegetariano" supermarket that is also a restaurant. Basically it´s a little bit closer to city market than anything I´ve found so far, with the exception of the individual bread stores. I couldn´t keep eating white toast and chocolate croissants for breakfast every morning. Don´t get me wrong, chocolate croissants are dope, but I can´t keep up this high GI nonsense. Breakfast tomorrow is going to rock my socks off. The lady at the checkout informed me that a lot of chinese markets sell peanut butter. Why she informed me of such (wouldn´t you want to promote your own store?), I do not know. I´m definitely a fan of Ecocentro, so I´ll keep going back anyway.

So I biked back to C.M. Agustin from fencing with a mesh swim bag full of the items listen above, and didn´t come close to killing anyone save myself. Smooth tile + rain + mountain bike tires luckily didn´t result in me eating it. I´ve been sick since Bilbao, but when I sleep for long periods of time, I end up feeling better. Funny how that works.

I´ve been playing with my summer race/comp/training schedule. It´s looking really nice. If I can get everything in and stay healthy, good things will continue to happen. My fencing is really coming along too...it´s crazy what happens when you incessantly practice the drills you learn in practice in competition, and get good at them. People don´t beat a lot in Epee over here, but they do fleche a good amount. I´m getting a lot better at fleching, and making people look stupid when they fleche at me.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Bilbao and San Sebastian

This past weekend, everyone from IES went on a trip to the Basque country, which is in the north of Spain.

Friday morning, we drove from Madrid to Bilbao and took a tour of the city. Bilbao is much more chill than Madrid. Seeing so many more dreadlocks and people dressed not like they're going out in NYC made me feel at home. Bilbao is right on the ocean, and there's a brackish river that runs through the entire city. Friday night was legit...we found a discotheque, but didn't even go in...just hung out outside and talked. It's too bad that some people need alcohol to be able to open up even just a tad. I end up having great conversations with people that are usually pretty reserved, but are hilarious (in a good, not obnoxious way) when they're out having fun. It does go both ways though...some people just get obnoxious. I guess it could be kind of like one period of a sine or cosine graph. First instance: starting at zero, the more people drink (horizontal axis), the more fun they get, but after a point, they just start becoming obnoxious, and their coolness factor goes negative. Once they start sobering up, they get back to zero (normal, not necessarily uncool). Cosine would represent someone who is really cool sober, but gets annoying when they're drunk. When they stop drinking (horizontal axis at half way), they start becoming interesting again.

Sine:
http://www.wsd1.org/waec/math/pre-calculus%20advanced/Trigonometry/Graphing/images/sinxbasic.gif

Cosine:
http://www.biology.arizona.edu/biomath/tutorials/Trigonometric/graphics/trig_cosine.gif



Saturday in San Sebastian was dope. It was raining the whole day, and I loved it (see previous post). We took a tour of the city with Mario the tour guide (great guy). Favorite part by far was seeing the ocean, and the gorgeous waves (waves = kayak surfing). I'm considering going back for a weekend, since it's only $30 round trip on a bus. You can rent kayaks there too. Check Facebook for pictures. Lunch on Saturday was...yeah. Awesome. I love grass fed beef, nuff said.

Saturday night, back in Bilbao, we went out for pinchos (tapas (little appetizers at bars that cost about $1.50 each)). Soooo good. I had one (they're on toast/grilled french bread) with ham, cheese, a quail egg, peppers, and potato. Awesome. Ham in Spain is so much better than it is in the U.S.. I literally always thought that I didn't like ham until I started eating in here.

This morning we hit up Guggenheim Bilbao. It's a modern art museum, and it was super interesting. I like Andy Warhol's work the best. Lots of real social commentary...if a picture is worth one thousand words (I don't love that saying, but whatever), then a wall of really deep pictures just makes you think, and think, and think. Maybe I was just wiped for the Prado, but I think Guggenheim hit me better. I bought a Basque Cookbook there. I love Spanish food. If I can make it at home, this would be good.

Weather in Madrid

So my friend Kelsey and I have this sweet thing in common...we both really like rain. I don't understand why people let it bother them to such an extent. Sure being wet and cold isn't ideal, but 90% of the time, you get a little wet and then end up dry ~20 mins later.

In Madrid's winters and summers, it's very dry, and doesn't rain or snow very frequently. There are also neither wind nor clouds. It's also a large city. As a result of all of this, I sometimes feel like I'm living in a dream, i.e. no weather, very focused on one thing at a time, with a decent lack of the real natural world. In New England, or at least in Burlington, it rains a lot, and snows a lot, and the wind in the winter sucks the heat from your body. We always get sick of this, but now that it's gone, I kind of miss it. I enjoy feeling the rain on my face, and I find myself purposely wearing less clothing in the morning, just so I can feel the cold, and be affected by something other than the things that we humans have created. In essence, I like weather. Sure, beautiful summer days and bright blue skies are nice, but rain is good. Rain is real. This past weekend, on the ocean in San Sebastian, I had an amazing time. It was drizzling from the time we stepped off the bus, until the time we left.
Alright, haven't posted for a week.

I'll do three separate posts

Filling in on training:

Monday, went for a run in Casa de Campo in VFF. It felt awesome, but right at the end, my right calf (not soleus though) started complaining. I didn't think anything of it, and fenced on it afterward. Didn't feel good for most of this week, but I still swam with a pull buoy, and kept up with lifting.

Had a decent amount of work this week, so I guess it was beneficial to not be able to keep pushing. I'll fence tomorrow night to see how it feels.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Finished the swim workout (wasn't that bad actually...hit all of the intervals no problem (need to shorten them)), and went for a run right afterward.

When I'm going to double like that, I should probably take some time in between. At the beginning of my run, I felt like a ton of bricks. Once I warmed up a little bit, it was fine, but then my both of my soleuses (I think that's the plural) started hurting. The trails were super muddy, and I was wearing Newtons, which I've discovered are AWFUL (terrible) in the mud. They would get covered in mud, and just hold it, doubling their weight. Not a good time. I got halfway through my run, felt awful, and decided to walk a bit, kicking myself for not wearing my VFF or Evos. After a few minutes, took the Newtons and socks off, and ran back barefoot, through the mud. SO much better. The soleus pain went away completely, and even though holding shoes in your hands isn't always great, it is sometimes preferable to holding them on your feet.

I haven't decided if I'm going to go to the gym tonight, or tomorrow morning. It makes more sense to go tomorrow, but in my last post, I said that I was going to go today.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

So instead of going to Portugal this weekend, I stayed in Madrid and trained a good amount. My right foot doesn't feel like it's bruised anymore, which is good. I went for a run this morning after breakfast and some reading/studying, and it felt fine. I also bought more Nutella, jelly, clementines, and bread. Breakfast here consist of toast, chocolate croissants, and chocolate milk. Do I love all of those things? Yes. Are they pretty high GI? Yes. Would I love to find granola somewhere? Yes. Hopefully I can do so this coming week.

Friday night, I did two "days" worth of lift. Frontal area not including a lot of "push" (bench, incl bench, dips etc.) (Block 7, Day 1), and then Block 6, Day 4, which is a bunch of leg stuff:

2x40x
Side Crunches x4 ways
Suitcases
Bikes
Candlesticks
Medball X-Chop (20 each way)

Saxon Bends 3x20 w/20kg
Dumbell Pullover 3x10 w/23kg in each
Wood Chop High to Low 3x2x10 30 kg
Wood Chop Low to High 3x2x10 25 kg
DB Pushups 3x20
DB Fly 3x20 13 kg
Wide DB Pushups 3x20

Hang Clean 5, 4, 4, 4 w/132
Back Squat 12, 10, 8, 6 w/132
-In order to back squat, I have to pop it up into front squat position, and then pop it over my head again onto my traps. I don't love this, but I'll get over it. I just can't go heavy with this...not that I go too heavy with squats anyway. My knees don't complain about it, but they tell me that they're skeptical of that activity.
DB Reverse Lunge 3x10 w/30kg in each
Bar Step-up 3x10e w/132
Romanian Deadlift 2x14 w/132
Jane Fonda Hip Stability Stuff

Before that, I swam my usual 1000 WU, and then did 10x100m on 2:00. I'm really bad at making myself do a lot in the pool. The mentioned "workout" is pretty pitiful, considering what I've made myself do in the past. If I write it beforehand, I'll do it all, just because I wrote it, but I really need to get on that.

After my run this morning, I are lunch, read/studied more, and then went to the pool again.

Tonight I read more Harry Potter in Spanish, and then finished a song that I started writing 11/9/09 but left alone for a while. It's super random, but I like it.

I was going to go out tonight, but that's not conducive to training. Tomorrow morning I'll go ~5 miles easy on trails at ~8:00 pace, eat, study, eat again, and then go to the pool.

400 WU
4x200 on 3:40
3x100 on 2:00
4x200 on 4:00
6x100 on 2:00
4x4x75 focusing on technique, DK off all of the turns, try to keep the 6 beat kick.
1-4 25 Drill (Single arm R, L, Skulling R, L)
5-8 swim
9-12 25 Drill (fingertip drag, Catch up, Fists, Quick Catch) 50 swim
13-16 25 Drill (Slow arm, Drag focus x 3) 50 Swim
2x4x100 on 2:00
6x50 on 1:00

5200m in total, I believe.

See, I can do sets like this if I write them, but I way too frequently scrub out and simply "go to the pool, just to keep my technique." It's things like this that I NEED to do if I want to get where I want to go.

After the swim:

Side Crunches x4 ways
Circles
Figure 4 (20 each side)
Ejs (windshield wipers)
Medball Upright Twists
DB Upright Bends

3x:
Saxon Bends x20
Reverse Dumbell Pullover x10
DB Lateral Incline Shoulder Raise x12
Shoulder Shrugs x12
Wide Pullups x8
Wide Supine Row followed by Superman x16, x70
Reverse DB Fly x10

For the shape I'm in right now (25 mpw next week), tomorrow is ~hard. Come may, I want to look back on this and laugh. Peace out. Sleep is indeed conducive to running.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Fenced again last night...good stuff. I can't stand the warmup that everyone does though. We do static stretching together at the end as well, so I just fake it. Every time I do static stretching, I end up being considerably more sore than if I don't.

I bought my books today. 40€ in total. Pretty good compared to the books prices in the U.S. They are considerably smaller though.

Translated Powerthirst into Spanish tonight for the kids in my down. It went surprisingly well.

In the western hemisphere, we find eating insects strange, and unappetizing. In the east, it's a different story. I'm interested. How nutritious are they? Do they taste good enough?

I'm reading the first Harry Potter book in Spanish. It's something my generation grew up with, and that we all know to excess. I read the first book in third grade with my dad, and finished the seventh when I was 16, on a kayaking trip in Canada. I remember bringing the book down the rivers in my dry bag. It's quite enjoyable. I also don't really have to look words up, since I know the book so well.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Portugal -> London

Changed my flight from Lisbon this weekend to London on March 17th. Lisbon is cool, but I'd rather spend the money to go do England.

Itinerary, not in this order:

Parlament
Tower of London
London Bridge
Buckingham Palace
Windsor Castle
Imperial War Museum
Big Ben
British Museum
London Eye
Westminster Abbey
Say hello to British staff if they're around?

This morning, walking down the sidewalk, I bumped into Esteban Munera, a camper from ~2004 I believe. He's also studying in Madrid. Small world, or do I know too many people?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Last night a bunch of San Agustin kids and I went to an Irish Bar, played some pool etc. Great people. This morning I had class until 1:20: Contemporary Latin American Novel, the Spanish language course that everyone takes, and Spain and the International Economic Organization. All three of them were great. The Econ guy speaks really fast, but I've been hanging with the young people, so my comprehension has gotten a lot better. I dropped Contemporary Spanish Film, and added "Spanish Economy and the EU Facing the Latin American Challenge," which is another Econ class. Now, after taking Money and banking this summer, I'll have an Econ minor. All five of my classes should count for Spanish as well, so I'm knocking off a bunch of requirements while I'm here.

Class ends at 1:20 on T/Th. The bank I needed to go to closes at 2:15, so I biked there hastily, and on the way blew my tube (bike tire). I deposited money in the IES Account for the Granada trip, and found a bike shop. It closes every day at 1:30, and re-opens at 4:30. I wasn't happy about that. Took the metro back, had lunch, studied a bunch, then took the metro back to where I locked my bike (outside the bike store), and get a new tube and tire (the tread was completely worn down). The guy there was really nice, and it only cost me 20€ for the tube and tire. The bike store is right next to the fencing club, so from 8-9 I did my thing there. They're we're nice, and there are lots of good people to fence. It's in an elementary/middle school gym (their normal club location is being renovated). After fencing, with my new tire, I ducked and weaved down the sidewalk, almost got hit by a car, but made it back to Moncloa in less time than I should have. People driving have literally no regard to pedestrians, HOWEVER, I figured out that people DO move out of the middle of the sidewalk (they should at least move to one side) if you just ride straight at them and make eye contact.

It turns out that I have to be 21 to rent a car in Lisbon. Pissed? Yep. It let me rent it online with "20" in the age box, but apparently they won't let me pick it up, so no windsurfing this weekend.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Lisbon and things

So I found a few sweet things to do in Lisbon while I'm there. I thought it was going to be lame for a bit, but it's on the ocean, and it's really nice. Not just a few monuments and museums. On friday, our flight is at 7:40 am. Gets into Portugal at 8 (hour time difference). Rented a car from budget, and I'm going to drive ~50 mins to Lake Albufeira. They rent wetsuits etc. The lake is right next to the ocean...the sand breaks the waves, but not the wind, so you get dope wind without swells.

This is what I'm hoping for:
http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2382/2531332699_3c1e361a61.jpg
Windfinder says that it's going to be ~10 knots with ~20 knot gusts. This is good. Praying to the wind gods that it doesn't change.
http://www.windfinder.com/forecast/lagoa_de_albufeira

Everyone else is staying at the Alface Hostel. I'm either going to stay there, or at the Rossio (another nice hostel). On Saturday, we're (we being anyone else who also thinks it's a good idea and myself) going to take a train to Sintra, to a Moorish Castle:
http://www.google.com/images?q=castelo+de+mouros+sintra&um=1&ie=UTF-8&source=og&sa=N&hl=en&tab=wi&biw=1189&bih=729">http://www.google.com/images?q=castelo+de+mouros+sintra&um=1&ie=UTF-8&source=og&sa=N&hl=en&tab=wi&biw=1189&bih=729

I'm pumped for that. I much prefer castles to art museums. Other time will be spent around Belem, to see the monument of the discoveries,
http://www.google.com/images?um=1&hl=en&safe=off&biw=1189&bih=729&tbs=isch:1&&sa=X&ei=_L9FTcXzB42xhQfXrYi3AQ&ved=0CDMQvwUoAQ&q=monument+of+the+discoveries&spell=1
the Belem Tower, and other places in Portugal.

It would also be cool to see the Christo Rei Statue:
http://www.google.com/images?hl=en&safe=off&q=cristo+rei&um=1&ie=UTF-8&source=univ&ei=AsFFTZuiJ4mLhQfF8938AQ&sa=X&oi=image_result_group&ct=title&resnum=3&ved=0CDUQsAQwAg&biw=1189&bih=729

Yesterday, I ran on the treadmill, and did front and back squats, lunges, and calf raises, and nothing hurt significantly. Today I went 4 miles in a reasonably muddy Casa de Campo (trails). I was surprised at how well the Newtons did in mud (shoes). Right when I finished my run, it started hailing. It's hailed three times in the past week. After my run, I did my upper body row/back/pull lift...gotta get ready for friday. I'm really hoping that I don't spend all of this time, money, and effort for average windsurfing. If so, I'll make it up in Tenerife. Check Windfinder for Tenerife (Canary Islands): ~20 knots and the gusts are "n/a," which means it's consistently dope, and you don't have to spend the whole time looking over your shoulder, waiting for gusts to come.

Tonight there was some sort of scrod for dinner. I ate a ton of it. No one else wanted their fish. I became the garbage disposal as usual...INBD. There are guitar's in the auditorium that anyone can use. I never thought Wonderwall, the Fray, the INdigo Girls, and Old Crow Medicine Show would be so appreciated. Classes start tomorrow. Language class every day, and:

MW: Spanish Language Usage for Business
W: Contemporary Spanish Film
TTh: Contemporary Latin American Novel, Spain and the International Economic Organization

Every day, there are chocolate croissants, toast, cereal, and chocolate milk for breakfast. I'm not complaining. The bread is pretty high GI...wonderbread but not fake, just very white. I can't say how happy I am that they have chocolate milk. The fruit is very good here.

On friday night, Carlos and I went to a Japanese Buffet...15€ for all I could eat. I think I ate my money's worth. Met a girl named Marjorie from Michigan...walked around Madrid on saturday night.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Lisbon

Next weekend I'm headed to Lisbon. I've found two places to windsurf. I'm hoping they rent gear and neoprene in February. Lisbon is decently interesting otherwise, but I'm really hoping for: http://www.escolaruimeira.com/
3/25-3/27 Paris/Normandy/Versailles
I have ~3 days. Normandy is a definite. Louvre, Musée de l'Armée, Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Pantheon, Notre Dame, Versailles? (it would take ~a day). Substitutes/additions anyone? FB or Email me.

London, haven't decided when yet. I have to figure out when my midterms and finals are.
Parlament
Tower of London
London Bridge
Buckingham Palace
Windsor Castle
Platform 9 3/4?
Imperial War Museum
Stonehendge (definitely)
Big Ben
Beafeaters
London Eye
Westminster Abbey

I want to go hiking in Scotland too, but I don't want to freeze (I didn't bring great spring hiking gear with me: rainpants etc.)
Loch Ness might be cool. I'd have to swim in it though.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

It's 6:50 am. Left Kapital at ~5:20, and had homefries and a chicken bocadillo at a tapas bar that was still open. Waited until 6 for the Metro to open, instead of paying 12 Euros for a cab. Breakfast is at 7:15. I'll be there. Food is wonderful. After breakfast, I'll sleep until ~3, eat lunch, then probably swim. I'll give running another day. Lifting will occur tomorrow. I might get a haircut as well.
Ran for ~5 mins on the tredmill to see if my soleus is still being a jerk. I think it's getting over itself, but isn't quite back to normal, so I just hit up the pool today. I always get through my warmup, and half of my main sets fine, but there always seems to be an influx of old people that I have to swim around. It's like Beede, but ten times worse because 2/6 lanes are being used for lessons. Turns out I am allowed to use the swim snorkel though...I think I can get over the fins thing. Maybe If I'm the ONLY one in the pool, they'll let me use them.

I'm going fencing at Sala de Armas tonight. Lugging my 50lb bag to the metro should be fun. Hopefully they let me on with it.

Even if the food here is super cheap (quality), and even if you eat a lot of it, it doesn't make you feel sick like American food does. I'm essentially eating at the Spanish Grundle (UVM dining hall that I really don't like), and even if the food is decently fatty, it doesn't make you want to kill yourself. Probs because it doesn't have 10,000 ingredients in it. I could never be a vegetarian in Spain. They put meat in everything. Salads, Soups, Sauces...I don't mind too much though.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Spanish people are oblivious to bicycles.

When I'm biking on the sidewalk, I bike on one side of the sidewalk: the right. When someone is walking the other way, in the middle of the sidewalk, they DON'T MOVE. I have to stop, and stay in one place until they walk around me, and it's ridiculous. When I'm coming up behind them, and they're walking in triple file, it's incredibly frustrating. It's the same deal with cars. I'll be crossing the street (in the crosswalk), and when I look at the eyes of the drivers to see if they see me, they're not even looking.

Today I biked to the fencing club, and after about a half hour of looking in a 100m radius of where I was, I finally found it. It's in a school gym kind of thing. I was going to go tonight, but my soleus is yelling at me. At least I got a Swim/Run in. I don't have class Th/Fr, so I have a four day weekend. Normandy is really frigging cold, but it's something I have to see.

Places I'm going to go while I'm here as of now: Normandy, Tenerife (Canary Islands), Tarifa, Hiking in Andalusia, and to pretty much all of the sweet landscapes I can find/hear of.

Carlos and I took the metro to the Real Madrid stadium, and had dinner at a TGIF-like place called Hollywood. I thought it was going to suck, but it turns out that the American food in Spain is better than the American food in the United States. It's probably because we value a cheeseburger that's a dollar cheaper, but full of chemicals and preservatives that make it taste like mud.

My run yesterday was great. 5.3 miles in Casa de Campo on mostly little foot trails. Great scenery...I can't imagine what it's like in the spring if it's this nice in January. My run today wasn't great. At the very end of yesterday, my right inside soleus twinged a bit, but I didn't think anything of it. 15 minutes into my run today, it was a "you shouldn't run on this" pain, but I had to get back because it was getting dark, so I ran another 7. Walked the rest of the way back. Not a fan.

At the Complutense pool, you're not allowed to use fins, a swim snorkel, or paddles if there's someone else in your lane because "it bothers the other people." It's absolutely absurd. I've also noticed that head lifeguards, or the bosses of pools either have a huge chip on their shoulder, or just have a superiority complex. Basically a lot of them (not all, I know several head lifeguards that are wonderful) think that they're god's gift to the pool/club, and have the right to be extremely rude to whomever they please.

I've feel like I've eaten a ton of Nutella in the past week. It tastes wonderful, and isn't incredibly bad for you, but it's not incredibly good for you either. It's also tastes so good to an extent that you can continuously want/eat more of it, but healthy enough to not make you sick after a few sandwiches. It's not like eating straight chocolate.