Friday, September 30, 2011

Adventura a Las Tres Carabelas

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"Beep, beep, beep, beep," the alarm clock began ringing at 8:30 a.m.

"Just 10 more minutes..." Then its 9:30. "I've got to get up. The bus leaves at 11!" A quick breakfast, some morning chores, facebook, and it was out the door. Fifteen minutes before the bus departs for Palos de la Frontera should be enough time to buy a ticket and get on the bus. After a long wait in line and 1.05 Euros the ticket says 11:30 for La Rabida and the rushing for terminal 18 begins.
The bus stop for La Rabida is at the University of Huelva campus.
La Rabida isn't much like the city center of Huelva. There are no tall buildinsgs nor a lot of people. There appears to be no sidewalk along the main road but there is what looks to be a park accross the road; it is probably safer. Dirt trail it is, and then theres a road but no sign. "Which way is it to the ships?" Right seems like a good option, there is the river on the left. An hour later a sign: Palos de la Frontera. Wrong way, the ships are much closer to la Rabida but a walk through the city to be sure wouldn't hurt. 
In the foreground is part of Palos de la Frontera; Huelva is accross the river in the background.
Its hot outside and the last drink was before leaving for the bus station. Unlike Huelva, there are not bars and restaraunts on every street corner. Finally the sidewalk runs out but a gas station is open accross the highway. After buying a drink and getting directions, which were not much help for a pedestrian, it was back to the start. The long hike back to La Rabida didn't seem as long as the hike to Palos, but it was long enough. The burn was setting in. "There is the school from earlier, and there is a sign. How could I have missed it earlier. If I had only taken a left in the first place!"
After a long walk on a hot day, these sprinklers were a huge temptation.
A long long walk later, there were the ships. Obviously they are replicas of the originals, La Niña, Pinta and Santa Maria. The museum only cost about five euros for an adult. It included some indoor exhibits about Christopher Columbus' life and journey along with the replica of the three ships as they were anchored in the new world. If it were a museum in the United States, visitors probably couldn't go in half of the places available here. The ladders/stairs were steep and sometimes almost straight up, but still open to the paying public. 
The first ship I visited was La Pinta.
Below deck was pretty dark and as a guess, probably lit by lantern or candle back in 1492. The floors were a little soft, the ceiling was low. The space was small. But these were the three ships that Christopher and his men first came to America on. It is interesting to think that this is the are where he sailed from so many years ago to "discover" my country. 
This was a view of the Santa Maria from the indigenous perspective.
 After a walk through of the ships and museum it was back to the bus stop from earlier in the morning. All in all it was about a seven mile walk, but it was something to do and there were no real problems with Spanish in those five hours of being out... Not a perfect understanding but even after walking half way to Moguer, I was able to get back to Huelva.
It was about 5 p.m. when I got back to the appartment. What an adventure.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A Greener Life

When I began my internship at Heifer International I didn't really know that part of the mission was to care for the Earth. Some of the things I have seen in Spain so far definately have me living up to that more than in the United States.

The first part is electricity in hotels. I was somewhat familiar with the concept from my previous trip to Spain. Here, at many hotels, in order to have any electricity you must insert your key (a plastic card) into a switch on the wall. This interupts a sensor and allows the power to flow. And then each light/socket is also on a switch. When you leave your room, you take your key with you and therefore there is no leaving the lights on (unless you insert something else heavy enough to interupt the sensor). I guess it was for this reason they don't even have clocks in the rooms.

Another thing is laundry. The washing machine doesn't fill up with soapy water. Instead the soap enters gradually and the machine cycles. It rotates to the right and adds a little water, then rotates to the left and adds a little water. The soap is gradually mixed. It stops in between directions for a few moments to let the clothes soak. So it seems there is a lot less water involved.

Then when you take the clothes out, there is no drier. The drier are lines strung between the walls of the building. So there comes more energy saving. Only problem for me is that when I put my dress shirts on the line and pulled to make space for another shirt, the first one wrinkled up. I will have to figure out how to overcome this obstacle because I don't iron... For now my solution is hangers in the closet seperated from the dry clothes-- its not like they are dripping wet.

There are still many things I am having to adjust to, even in some of the simplest every-day, common activities. I don't even know how to send a postcard or mail without going to el correo (post office), handing them the mail and paying whatever amount. I need to ask my roomate about some of these things I guess.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


I just wanted to take a moment to thank all of my friends, family, teachers and roomate who have encouraged me through this difficult transitioning time. It is really nice to read your facebook messages, emails, and instant messages.

As long as I don't have anything important to do like getting my VISA stuff taken care off I am generally OK now. The Visa still stresses me out but I will put it off until Monday when hopefully I can get some help. In the meantime I have decided that even if something goes wrong with the Visa, if I can afford to stay I will stay for the 90 days I can be here without a Visa. I will have to find new ways to use the language and be around it but hopefully whatever happens I will learn it.

Leche - Milk

It is amazing how some things can be so different. I went to the market today and bought some things which were pretty much the same as in the United States. But some things are very different. For instance, the milk.

In the U.S. you can by 2%, whole, buttermilk, and who knows what other kinds. Here there are three main choices which are the equivalent of whole milk, half, and zero. But that isn't the only difference. We want to get the milk to the refrigerator as fast as possible in the U.S.A. Here, it sits on the shelves next to the cola without refrigeration.

I ended up buying sheeps milk just so I would have something to put on my cereal. It will be something new to me. And I went ahead and put it in the refrigerator because I like my milk cold.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Culture Shock Continues

Hopefully no one read the blog I posted earlier. For me it was around 1 p.m. and I embarassed myself. I was litterally in tears after trying to get my NIE and other important documents. The police sent me in circles around the town trying to find the building. The information the consulate gave me is to go to the police. And they sent me to some other government office who in turn have just confused me more.

Before that I had breakfast and it almost made me sick. I won't lie, I am not a big fan of the breakfast here. It wasn't one of those things that doesn't set well, I just didn't like the taste. After the first quarter was gone I was able to eat most of the rest by force. I ordered COLD milk and was served hot milk. I don't think I will order milk out again--I want to stick to my non-whole milk. At least they brought me a water, which I did not ask for.

I don't particularly want to cook a whole lot. But I may not have a choice-- there aren't a lot of foods like we have in the United States. I am hoping I can at least find boxes of cereal if not pop-tarts for breakfast. But that is a little off subject.

I guess it must be God's will that I be here in Spain. I had bought a ticket home for tomorrow.. I would have been boarding a bus to Madrid in about three hours. But my debit card was rejected. So I am still in Spain, thanks to the encouragement of my roomate and some friends and family.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Unlikliest of Places

A bar/pub is one of the places you would least expect to learn. But that is where I spent time learning Spanish. I was in my room, bored, reading a book (in English) when my roomate invited me to go to the pub with he and his friends. I was a little hesitant at first-- I don't really care for alcohol and I am not a bar kind of guy. But I decided it was better than being stuck in the appartment all night.

Three of us walked somewhere; as I said I stay lost around here. We ended up at the house of the third person. He drove us to the pub and I recognized (or at least I think) where we were. I hadn't been there before but when I took the wrong turn going to Carrefour I walked on a road below it.

Anyway, there several other people met up. I had a rum and coke (Barcelo con cola) for my first drink. I didn't take much money with me (coin money anyway) and wanted something cheap and ended up buying a beer later on. I still don't care much for that taste. When someone spoke directly to me I generally understood, even if it took two or three times of repeating or rephrasing. Now, when a larger converation was happening, I was far out of the loop. I caught words here and there but didn't understand much. Not that I could hear much with the live music, a band from Australia, playing so close by (like 10 feet).

I had fun. I talked Spanish. And I got ot know the city a little more. The hill on which the bar is located gave a great view of the sunset, the city, the river and Corrales.

Culture Shock

It is day number... I've lost count... Day number four in Spain. Things are getting a little better but I am still dealing with culture shock. You can learn about the culture and know some of these things but it doesn't mean anything until you live in it.

Last night I didn't eat dinner. There is a bar on every corner and I wasn't really in the mood for bar food again. I wanted a restaurant, even if it wasn't typical Spanish food. So I went to the Chinese restaurant. When I went in I got the equivalent of an ugly, "What do you want?" Although the doors were open and it was within the posted hours, they evidently weren't open for business. So I went back to my hotel.

This morning I woke up at 9:30 and began moving at 10:15. About an hour later I arrived (It should only be a 10-15 minute walk but I get lost all the time.) at the flat. Then I went back for my backpack, laptop bag and to check out of the hotel. On the way I stoped by a "cafeteria" and asked for a menu. They looked at me funny so I said, "la comida?" Translation: Food? He then told me they didn't serve lunch until 1:30. So I continued on my way to the hotel and saw that most of the shops and cafes were closed.

I stayed in my hotel for a little longer and rested. When I left my room and went to the counter and not knowing exactly how to say I want to check out, I explained the situation-- I have found a flat and won't be returning. When she saw my check in record and that I was from the USA she spoke a little English. I continued to speak in Spanish; we had a short conversation.

Then when I walked back some shops were open. I bought some postcards and then just to have something to eat, mainly because I haven't eaten well since getting here, I got a cup of icecream. The icecream here is different than in the United States. The large here is the same size as in the United States but I guess it is more dense and felt more like an entire gallon. Or my stomache shrunk; which is quite possible too.

I am not sure what time lunch and dinner normally are. I can't seem to figure out when the stores are open and close.

But that said, things are getting better. I made it to the appartment in only 30-45 minutes this time, with some stops. Hopefully I can actually find my way around the town here soon.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Exito - Success

Por fin, he completado algo importante. Solo tome dos dias, pero ahora tengo un telefono. Muchas gracias a Sra. G. Varela-Sanchez quien me recomiendo una compania. Si he hizo corecto, solo pagare para las llamada que yo hace sino las llamada recibire.

Parece que las tardes son mejores que la manana! En un viaje no me gusta la ciudad, en un otro la me gusta. Antes de salir del hotel, pregunte a la trabajadora del hotel si hay un mapa de los autobuses. Parece que autobus son los que salen de la ciudad y no son locales. Hay un mapa en cada parada pero no lo entiendo porque norte no es a la cabeza del mapa.

Voy a comer comida chino a la cena. Debe estar manana que transfiero al piso.

Finally, I have succesfully completed something important. It only took two days, but now I have a pay as you go cell phone here in Spain. Many thanks to Sra. G. Varela-Sanchez who recommended a company to me. If I have done everything right I will only pay for the calls I make and not the calls I receive.

It seems like the evenings are much better than the mornings! In one trip I don't like the city, in another I like it. Before I left the hotel, I asked the desk attendant if there was a map of the bus routes. It seems that "autobus" is the bus that goes outside of the city, not the local bus. There are maps at the stops but North is in the east instead of the top of the map. I haven't been able to orient myself yet, nor do I know where to buy a bus trip card. (Buying a phone was an interesting experience in itself.)

I should be moving in to the piso tomorrow. Tonight I plan to take another walk and maybe walk a litle further than last night. I need to find some way to talk to people so I can practice more.

Circlos - Circles

Camine en busca de una compania se llamada carrefour para comprar un movil. Mire en el mapa y encontre una tienda un mile desde el hotel. Sali para la tienda y otra vez, camine en circlo. No me gusta aqui. No puedo encontrar nada. No puedo hacer nada. No conozco a nadie. No estoy feliz y tengo miedo que sola va a ser peor.

No me gusta quedar en el hotel todo el día pero cada vez salgo, odio a la ciudad mas. Tengo una semana y un dos días hasta el trabajo. Espero que es un poco mejor cuando empiezo el trabajo. Aunque debemos tener orientación no he oído nada. No se donde ni cuando esta.

I went walking in search of a company called Carrefour to buy a cell phone. I looked at google maps and found one about a mile from the hotel. I left for the store and once again I walked in a giant circle. I don't like it here. I can't find anything. I can't do anything. I don't know anyone. I'm not happy here and I am afraid that it will only get worse.

I don't like to stay in the hotel all day but every time I go out, I hate living here more. I have a week and two days before I start the job. I hope that things are a little better then. Although, we are supposed to have orientation/training and I have not heard anything. I don't know where or when it is.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Appartment and Dinner

To save time, I am writing this one in only English.

I met with the person who was searching for a roomate. Things are a little better after that. He wants an English speaking roomate so he can better learn the language. He is a native Spanish speaker. So hopefully we will be able to help each other out.

After seeing the appartment I went back to the mall. I bought an alarm clock this time so that I can get up in the morning. Ya... the hotel doesn't even have a clock in the room. They charge for all calls including local ones. I paid 15 dollars just for 24 hours of internet which inclues 20 MB of upload -- I haven't uploaded anything and I am already down to 8 MB left, huh? Hopefully it lasts me the rest of tonight and some of tomorrow morning.

After the mall I came back to my room and soon went to eat my first Spanish food. Not that I was hungry, which I still don't know why -- I hadn't eaten in more than 24 hours. I had Langostina envuelta en bacon. Is someone going to tell me that was not little lobster wrapped in bacon? On the side was sliced tomato in olive oil. I had a coke to drink. Cost: 12.20 E but they let me go for 12. People seem to be nice enough, but conversation is still very difficult. I may have some help next week setting up a bank account, getting a telephone and seeing the federal police for my residency documentation.

I should have better internet connectivity when I move in to the appartment on Sunday or Monday.

Extranjero - Foreigner


Bueno, estoy aquí en Huelva. No se como llegue porque no entiendo español!  Llegue al Madrid a las 6:40 por la manana. No pude comprar un boleto para el autobus en el aeropuerto. Entonces compre un boleto para el tren. Sube el metro para Atocha. Espere por 8 horas y sube el tren para Huelva. Cuando llegue en Huelva sube un taxi para mi hotel. Es una sorpresa que llegue!

Despues de cenar en el avion, pasta, no comi nada mas en el avión porque me enferma la comida. Comí unas galletas con queso en la estacion de Atocha Renfe y un CocaCola sin calorias. Hoy cuando camino a un apartamiento quiero aquilar compre un CocaCola. No he comido nada mas. Creo que tengo tanto miedo que no tengo hambre.

Cuando llegue al apartamiento encuentro que no hay una oficina. Entonces tienes que mandar un mensaje electrónico o llamar. No tengo teléfono. Solo tuve Internet para 30 minutos en el hotel. (Ahora he pagado para 24 horas de Internet-- hasta el 5 p.m. manana.) Después de regresar al hotel por 45 minutos, fui al Corte Ingles, como dos cuadros del hotel, para comprar un móvil. Lo encuentro y ella me dijo que para comprarlo tengo que tener un cuenta del banco aquí. No se donde están los bancos y son depues de la cinco por la tarde. Es viernes. Y no quiero tener una cuenta aquí si puedo evitarlo.

Puedo hablar el español tanto que puedo sobrevivir, el problema es que no lo entiendo. Cuando alguien me dice algo, no entiendo la mejor parte. Entiendo por mejor 10 por ciento. No se, pero creo que sera mejor si tenga un amigo. No se si voy a sobrevivir aquí hasta el trabajo! No trabajare hasta el 3 de octubre. Tengo una semana aquí en la ciudad con que no conozco. Es grande... mucho mas grande que entendía.

Well, I am here in Huelva. I don't know how I mannaged to arrive because I don't understand Spanish. I arrived at Madrid at 6:40 a.m.. I couldn't buy a bus ticket at the airport so I bought a ticket for the train to Huelva. I caught the metro to Atocha. I waited for eight hours and boarded the train for Huelva. When I arrived in Huelva I caught a taxi to the hotel. It is a surprised I made it!

I had dinner on the flight over-- pasta at about 5:30 central time (6:30 EST; 11:30 Spanish time). After that I couldn't eat anything else on the plane because it made me sick.I ate some cheese crackers at Atocha Renfe station and bought a diet coke. When I walked to an appartment I may rent, I stopped for at a bar and had a coke. I haven't eaten anything else since then. I think that I am so scared that I'm not hungry.

When I arrived at the appartment I found that there is not an office like there is in the United States. So you have to send an email or call. I don't have a telephone. I don't have the internet except for 30 minutes in the hotel. (Now I have paid for 24 hours of Internet until 5 p.m. tomorrow.) After returning to the hotel for about 45 minutes, I went to el Corte Ingles, about two blocks from the hotel to buy a phone. I found one and the worker told me to buy it I had to have a bank account here. I don't know where a bank is and it is after 5 p.m. on Friday. And I don't want an account here if I can avoid it.

I can speak spanish enough to survive; the problem is I don't understand it. When someone tells me something I don't understand most of it; I understand 10 percent at the best. I don't know but I think it would be a little better if I had a friend to share the pain with. I don't know if I am going to survive until the job starts on October 3. I have a week here in a city I am not familiar with. Its large...much larger than I expected.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Eight Hours

Wow! The time is finally here. Three emotions are about maxed out right now: fear, nervousness and excitement. I have flown or traveled to a destination alone before, but I have never gone there alone and not known anyone like I will be this time. I have a friend in Madrid. I know people from the destination but not who live there. So that is where the nervousness comes in, a new job and a new location. That can be scary too.

I am sure I will be blogging next week about several other topics such as phone shopping in a foreign language, looking for an apartment, looking for a roommate and possibly banking. I will have about nine days to figure things out before starting the assistantship.

The adventure begins in about eight hours. I fly from Little Rock at 7:25 a.m. to Charlotte, NC. I arrive there around 10:30 a.m. I fly from there to Madrid at 4:30 and arrive around 6:40 a.m. on Thursday morning. After a 17 hour layover in Madrid I will take an eight hour bus ride to Huelva to arrive about 7:30 a.m. on Friday morning. I am not sure what my internet connectivity will be during the coming weeks or even year.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Packing Begins

The only thing worse than packing is unpacking, shortly followed by folding laundry. The time for all of these tasks is upon me. I received all of my papers from Houston on Thursday. That night I promptly finished my airline research and found a ticket for about $650. And, if the airline hires its pilots all to the same standard, it should be a safe flight. I still remember when one of their pilots, Sullenberger, crash landed one of the U.S. Airways planes into the Hudson River in New York City. Everyone survived.

After I got home from work on Friday I began washing laundry so that I could begin packing. I did that today. Before packing a suitcase an idea of what should fit and how is in my mind. But why? It never works out that way. I still have a long way to go packing but hope to be able to get most of what I need packed. I will only carry one large suitcase, a small carry-on suitcase and a computer case. Hopefully that will minimize some of the stress once I arrive.

I have researched transportation when I get there. Wednesday morning my flight leaves Little Rock at 7:25 a.m. I arrive in Madrid at 6:40 a.m. on Thursday. There are only two busses from the airport to Huelva and they leave late in the evening. I decided I will probably spend the next 17 hours at the airport, catch the midnight bus and sleep on the eight-hour trip to Huelva. I didn’t want to arrive at 11 p.m. or 5:30 a.m. I am sure this will all change when I get there too.

But the latest update: The real adventure begins Wednesday.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

One Week to Go

It is hard to believe after all of the stress of going through the bureaucracies, Spain is only about a week away. I have been periodically checking the tracking number of an overnight envelope I left with the Consulate of Spain in Houston. Yesterday marked three weeks to the day that I left my papers there in order to get my Visa. They told me it would be three to four weeks; I expected it to be a little later than sooner because of the recent holiday.

My last day at my internship is Friday. That means packing begins this weekend. As soon as I see the visa and all my papers were returned to me tomorrow, I will finally be able to buy my airline ticket. It is down to days now until I pick up and leave everything and everyone (or almost anyway) I know for a year. It is mixed with excitement, nervousness and fear. My first day there will be mostly traveling; I have the option of an eight-hour bus ride from Madrid or paying an extra 150 dollars or so to fly to Sevilla and take a bus ride from there to Huelva. When I get there my first priority is finding a place to live and hopefully a roomate. Then theres the bank account and telephone followed by getting to know the city.

I am glad that things ended up working out and I am able to have a week before the internship begins to figure things out. Once I have internet there I will begin a new blog either here or on wordpress about my experiences there. I may have this for living abroad and another for traveling. I will determine that as I go.

But for now--Celebrate.