Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Christmas Travels

It has been quite a while since I last blogged. Most of my topics were Christmas secrets which I couldn't put out here on the web until today.

Friday, December 23 began my long travel home. I got up at 11:30 Friday morning, caught a bus to Madrid at 10:15 Friday evening. I probably got 30 minutes of broken-up sleep on the ride to the airport. We arrived to Barajas at 6 a.m. and then I had to wait two hours for the ticket counter to open. The flight boarded an hour after its scheduled departure time. It didn't bother me too much as the airline automatically rescheduled my flight to Memphis from Atlanta which allowed me more time to make the connection.

On the flight over I didn't sleep. In the last three hours I began talking with the others in my row. One was from Mexico but had lived in Spain for several years. The other was an Auxiliar in Madrid. We ended up talking for the remainder of the flight, mostly in Spanish, and a little English. A guy in the next row kept staring at us.

I arrived to Arkansas around 11 p.m. We opened presents around 12:30 a.m. so that I could sleep a little longer the next morning before the big surprise.
I would say that it went well. On Tuesday I tried to surprise my dad for his birthday but he was suspicious and it didn't work out well.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Evolution of Language

If I ever write a serious research paper or book, I think it would most definately be about language. I find it interesting in how different accents and dialects can be. During my time in Spain, I am not only learning Spanish, but also learning more about my own language and it's history.

Most English tourism in Spain is probably from the United Kingdom. It is a whole lot cheaper to fly to Spain from there than the United States. Many of the auxiliares here in Huelva are also from the United Kingdom. Within the Kingdom there are several key accents, for example: British, Scottish and Irish. Some are easier to understand than others. However the accents from the UK are easier for Spanish people to understand than the american accent. Of course, we have at least three distinct accents ourselves with northern, southern and western.

In one of the classes yesterday the teacher began talking about some of the different Spanish dialects. That of course got the students onto slang from Latin America which was completely innocent in Spain. "Goma" literaly translates to rubber in English but in Spanish it can also mean eraser. Maybe in UK english as well. But if you go to the USA and ask for a rubber, you won't be getting an eraser. If you go to Australia or the UK and ask for chips you will be getting what we call French Fries.  And of course, these are only a few examples.

How do the meanings of words change over time? How do they change from country to country? How do accents change and/or develop? All of these questions would be very interesting to find an answer to.

In other news, I had my first solo class today. It was with 3rd ESO in English. I used the pamphlets about Little Rock which I prepared last week (and have updated some since then). (I mixed classes up and went to class unprepared last Friday.) The second half of the class I had them writing a letter about a city they have visited and a city they would visit. That was to use both past and future tenses. The class went well, much better than I expected. I was very nervous entering the class but the students really surprised me. Usually with a substitute they try to get away with more, but today, I am not sure what the "guardia" told them before I arrived but I think they were more well-behaved today with the teacher absent than when she is there.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Little Rock Tourism

Making a pamphlet for tourism in Little Rock proved to be a little bit difficult. At first I struggled finding places to mention. Then I found too many to list and include much information. Of course, I think one of the best things Arkansas has to offer are the Arkansas State Parks. If I were to make a brocure for the state, I think it would include some of the top State parks.

But this was just for Little Rock, and the surrounding area. Of course Pinnacle Mountain made it. Hopefully this will be a success in class on Friday after spending three to four hours working on it. The following is what I came up with. Keep in mind it will need to be printed on two sides and folded.

The right column is the front, the center is the back and the one on the left will be folded inside.

This will be the inside when it is fully opened.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Hotel Continental Barcelona

Barcelona has been great. I definately want to come back one day. I spent most of my time walking around just looking. But I also paid to see a few sights such as an IMAX film and La Sagrada Familia. I opted not to pay for one of the attractions such as the "Spanish Village." Why see that when I am living in one.

I managed to pay only about 50 dollars in food and drinks while being here. It really helped with the hotel I am staying at, Hotel Continental Barcelona on La Rambla, 138. It is a three-star hotel. I am not a hotel connoisseur who knows a lot about different hotels, but this one I have to recommend.

La Rambla is one of the post popular streets in the city and located in the city center. The hotel is just around the corner from three "Corte Ingles" stores and the Hard Rock Cafe. It is easily accessible from both the airport and the city center. The airport bus drops off about three blocks from the hotel. And the metro green line comes up about half a block from the hotel entrance. The red line is across the streets about three to four blocks away. It can also be accessed through the underground tunnels. 

The room is small. There are cracks in parts of the ceilings. The decorations are not very attractive. My room is almost completely pink and the lobby is decorated in floured wallpaper, including light fixtures, siding and the ceiling. But the size, decor and a little wear and tear shouldn't be of a concern. The room is comfortable, it provides a bed to sleep, heating and cooling, a refrigerator, microwave, shower/bath, and a safe. I have had no problems with the room.

Like all of the other European Hotels I have been in, this one has energy efficiency keys. There is a plastic card separated to the room key to insert to have electricity. The only complaint I have is that the "Do not Disturb," signs that are built into the door seem to be ignored. Maybe if the deadbolt were locked and the sign were up they would pay more attention. But my plan was to leave it up for the entire weekend so that they did not replace any of the towels with new ones, helping to save energy, water, and pollution. But this is a minor concern. Four tourists, sleeping late is a waste of precious sight-seeing time so it doesn't really matter.

To further add to the convenience of the hotel, there is free food and drinks 24/7. Drinks include water, tea, white wine, rose wine, orange juice, milk, soft drinks and coffee. There are two meals, breakfast and lunch/dinner. Breakfast was usually quiche, another egg custard, ham and bacon, boiled eggs and cereals. Lunch and dinner were usually a type of pasta, rice and potatoes. Foods such as bread, olives and fruits were available at all meals. There may not be a huge selection of food but it is available and it does taste good. And more than just the food and drink was free: the entire hotel has wirelss internet which allowed me to do necessary banking, contact friends and family, write these blogs, research tourist sites and listen to the Arkansas State Red Wolves football game online.
The hotel was cheap, at 78 euros per night. Everything is about equal in the USA when it comes to price (a coke that is one dollar usually equals one euro, etc.) and this hotel was also. Most hotels in the USA cost around 80 dollars for a cheap one and include a continental breakfast from 6 a.m. to 9 or 10 a.m. They usually include WiFi in the rooms. But they don't include 24/7 free food and drinks (especially alcohol).

And if you don't speak Spanish, you are sure to find someone anywhere you go in Barcelona that can speak English. I practiced speaking Spanish, but because I don't speak perfect Spanish and I look like a foreigner, most people just automatically spoke to me in English, even when I responded in Spanish.

Hopefully I can come back to Barcelona before I leave Spain. And when I do, I will definitely be looking to book a room here at Hotel Continental again.

Going to the movies

Movies can be found probably in almost any culture. Often times they are translated into two or more languages. Today, I saw my second movie on the big screen translated into Spanish. Although the story and words were a huge disappointment.

The first time I went to the theater was in Huelva and I saw "Golpe de Altura" or "Tower Heist." I wasn't sure what to expect, it could be in English with Spanish subtitles, or simply dubbed in Spanish. Option two was the case, which was completely fine with me. It helps me to practice understanding Spanish.

Tonight I went to the IMAX in Barcelona and saw a 3D film called "Castillo Encantado," or "Haunted Castle." Despite the title, based on all of the other films at this IMAX I expected a somewhat educational film. Most of them were about aquatic life or Egypt. I expected this one to talk about historic castles and "haunted" in the sense maybe they would have "ghosts" telling about the castles or actors playing out lives of people that lived there. But that was not the case. Not only was the storyline wierd, there really wasn't all that much speaking. The film only lasted 30 minutes. (Luckily when there was speaking, it was in Spanish. At this theater I didn't know whether to expect English (being a tourist destination), Catalan (being in Cataluña, or Spanish.)

On the other hand, the graphics were great. I love 3D films that really come off the screen. This one did. Most of the story was told in a point-of-view perspective. The audience becomes the character in most of the scenes. And almost the entire film was like I was sitting with the screen two feet in front of my face. I was in the middle row.

I actually started closer to the back but then I realized it was the Spanish theater system. In both theaters I have been to, there is no selecting a seat. Each ticket has a row and a seat number printed on it. The ticket counter never asks for a preference. I am not sure if it is random or not, but I really don't like the system. I think it should be first come first serve, as it is in the United States. If they sell me a ticket in the first couple of rows I think I would probably ask for a different ticket.

Paying Cash

I had a nice scare this morning which has lead to a change in plans, but at least this one was nothing compared to my experience in London.

Tomorrow I will go to Madrid to visit a friend. I am taking the train to get there. I was trying to buy my ticket online because it is between two busy cities and I expected it to fill up pretty fast. But three times it wouldn't allow me. So I wrote down all the information: the train number, time, departure, number, seat number, ID number, etc. Then I went to the Sants station to try and pay in person, thinking it was just the online bank verification failing.

After I finally found the ticket window, grabbed a number and waited ten minutes it was my turn. My card was declined twice more. The ticket counter didn't know why it was being declined. So I crossed my fingers and went to an ATM. My card worked in the ATM so I took out enough cash to pay for the ticket and once again crossed my fingers that they would accept cash. I was able to get my ticket.

By the time it was all taken care of (20 minutes of waiting, 20 minutes of trying to to figure out how to get there through all of the tunnels), I had already missed the start time of my next adventure which was at 2 p.m. So now I am going to get on the Metro and go to some random stops just to see where they take me and if there is anything interesting. Being a Sunday a lot of stuff may be closed. At 8 p.m. I will see a diferent film, "Castillos Encantados," or Enchanted Castles, in 3D at the Imax.

On the way back to the hotel I stopped for lunch. Once again I had paella (my third time having Paella in the last two months), and I ordered "Pan con tomate" which is literally bread with tomato but it said it was typical of this region, and it was the cheapest tapa.


Yesterday night, I ate out at the first real Spanish restaurant I've eaten at since being in Spain. Up until that point it had been cafe-bars, fast food joints, pizza shops, and foreign foods. I didn't go hungry.

I only knew a few of the things I was eating. The first time I came to Spain, in 2006, I said I would try any food once. (I pretty much stuck to that, except for the one time I got shrimp and squeezed the brain out all over my plate.) I even ate some shrimp, head and all.

I ordered the menu of the day, a Pepsi and a tapa. The first plate was the tapa and two pieces of bread with a tomato sauce (similar to a very bland Mexican salsa). Then came the first part of the main course, a plate of vegetables served with a Catalan sauce. I know there was tomato, asparagus, what looked like a giant green bean, along with some other unidentified objects.

Then came the final plate, "Dorada," which also came with half of a potato, a tomato and piece of asparagus. The fish was flat, fairly large and reminded me of a fish we had fished for in Ne,w Jersey. One side still had scales, both sides still had eyes which were cooked also. I did not eat the head. In fact, I had a hard time getting through half of the fish. I was stuffed when the last plate came.

After finishing the meal, the waiter asked if I wanted dessert or anything to drink. I couldn't eat another bite, or drink. It was a little awkward having someone standing there watching the entire time through. The total cost of the meal was less than 30 euros. I may skip on dining out today or I may just eat a small lunch out. I feel like I have probably gained a lot of the weight I had lost back this weekend.

Oh, and by the way, "Dorada," translates to "Gilthead bream," which is supposed to be a very good sea bream.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Do you speak English

Mucha gente aquí en Barcelona me han preguntado, "Do you Speak English?" Si. Hablo ingles pero estoy aprendiendo Español y quiero practicar. Es el razón que vine a España. Y la verdad, he podrido entender el español aquí en Barcelona mucho mejor que en Andalucia, pero tal vez es porque hablan Catalán y español y no pueden hablar tan rápido.

Hoy, fui a la Familia Sagrada, la basílica mas famosa aquí en Barcelona. Compre billetes, escucho las direcciones y leí los señales en español. Aunque por alguna gente, tenían que repetir en ingles. También he oído mucho ingles por las calles. En el hotel hablan casi todo en ingles, aunque a veces cambio a español. También pide a alguien a sacar mi foto. El no hablaba español pero nunca hablé en ingles.

Es el razón elige Huelva, porque pensaba nadie hablaría ingles allí y podría aprender español mucho mejor. Es verdad.

Many people here in Barcelona have asked me if I spoke English. Yes I speak English, but I am learning Spanish and I want to practice. That is the reason I came to Spain. And honestly, I have been able to understand the Spanish here in Barcelona a lot better than in Andalucia, but that could be because they speak Catalán and Spanish and they don't Speak as fast.

Today, I went to La Familia Sagrada, the most famous basilica here in Barcelona. I bought tickets, listened to dirrections and read signs in Spanish, although for some people they had to repeat them in English. I also asked someone to take my photo in Spanish and although they spoke English back to me I continued to Speak in Spanish, not realizing what had just happened and never said a word to them in English.

The reason I chose Huelva is because I thought no one would speak English and I could learn spanish a lot better there. Some do speak English but its not like here; I can definately learn Spanish better there.

Metro Music

I love traveling to the cities, even if I am more of a country person myself. I easily get lost in the cities; buildings block the sun and it is very easy to get turned around, especially when the streets are not numbers. I think I walked in three big circles today because one of the roads, properly named "Diagonal," goes diagonally through the area. Well, they may have been more like triangles than squares, but still.

I paid about 12 dollars in metro fares so far today getting around town. I bought the all-day card, but for some reason it malfunctioned at one of the smaller stations so I had to buy a single pass back to the hotel area where I was able to talk to an agent and, although I didn't get a refund, I was able to get a new day-pass.

The metro is much easier than the "tube" in London was. It is much more like the metro in Washington D.C. I still got lost at first. No matter what direction I think I am going, I am always wrong. But something else metro stations have in common, no matter what city you are in, seems to be musicians. Some people probably are annoyed by them. But I realy enjoy their presence. Yes, they have a cup and asking for money, but they are actually working for the money rather than simply begging. And the music is enjoyable.

I actually saw one person being different today. Rather than simply playing in the tunnels, he was actually on one of the metro trains playing. His cup was at least three-quarters full with a more enclosed audience, and it was nice entertainment.

Friday, December 2, 2011


Communicating can be difficult in whatever language. Sometimes, there is even miscommunication between two speakers of a language. I can definitely communicate much better in Spanish now than when I first arrived in Spain. I remember when I first got off the airplane and had to enter Spanish mode in Madrid. Trying to find where to buy a bus ticket was my first complication. I spent an hour in the Madrid airport trying to find my way to get to Huelva. Now I can laugh about the experience, and all of the misfortunes upon first arriving.

Two months later, sometimes I feel like my Spanish itself is getting worse, even if I can communicate better. Sometime I just cannot get my tongue to let go of the words. They aren’t hard words to pronounce. They just won’t come out. It has happened more than once. It will happen again. (O.K. sorry for the slight movie referencing line there.)

I still have some problems when it comes to important tasks, but general, everyday tasks such as going to a restaurant or a store are fairly simple. But it just seems a little odd I can communicate better when I feel my Spanish is getting worse. I don’t know, maybe I am just becoming more aware of my mistakes? Especially considering a lot of what I notice is my pronunciation of words.

With every adventure I grow to enjoy Spain even more. Now that I am able to talk to some of the locals during the week, be it at church or at the bar during language exchange, things have greatly improved. I am much happier in Spain. The weekends are still hard because I haven’t made any real close friends to do things with. And I probably won’t have what I am so used to from college—a group of five or six to spend time with. My Spanish isn’t quite that good—by that I mean when there are more than three people in a group speaking Spanish, my comprehension drops drastically.  

I don’t expect to improve my Spanish much in the next couple of days. Where I am traveling, I will hear much more Catalan than Castellano. Barcelona is in the autonomous region of Cataluña. But I will be speaking mostly if not only Spanish…Or at least my version of Spanish where I make up words hoping they are cognates (words that are very similar in English and Spanish, such as Aventura).