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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.

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