Wednesday, November 30, 2011

It's a small world / Es un mundo pequeno

The staff of Cafe Bar Aqua took this photo and posted it on Facebook a few weeks ago. That was my first week to attend the language "tandem" or exchange here in Huelva. I have attended each week since then. I think I have attended four now, and the past three I have talked to the same group.

This week I went early and ate beforehand. As soon as I walked up to the bar, one of the main employees knew exactly what I would order to drink. We also talked for the thirty minutes until it started getting busy. Later I joined the language table.

This is where I get to the title of the post. I have had more than one experience where I meet a person or group of people from the same part of the world as I am. One time I met someone who lived in the same city while in the Virgin Islands. On another trip we met a teacher from the school I would be attending the following year. These are a just a few that I can mention. The chances of these meetings are much higher than one that happened last night at the language exchange.

Last night, I met someone who I went to university with for four years, had the same major, and graduated at the same time. We had never met before. Our first time meeting was halfway across the world in Huelva, Spain-- not where it would have logically made since in Jonesboro, Arkansas.
El foto arriba es de un empleo en el cafe bar Aqua aqui en Huelva que puso en Facebook unas semanas pasadas. Fue mi primera vez asistir a Tertulia aquí. Desde entonces he asistido a Tertulia cada semana, cuatro semanas. Por las tres semanas pasadas, he hablado con el mismo grupo.

Esta semana fui al bar temprano para comer algo. Cuando llegué, el trabajador ya sabía que quería beber.  Tambien hablabamos por 30 minutos hasta estar ocupado. Luego reuní con los otros hablando ingles/español.

Aquí esta donde puedo hablar del titulo de esta mensaje. He conocido a gente in otros lugares de mi propio pueblo anterior: un amigo en los Virgin Islands; una profesora en mi escuela nueva en Hawaii. Pero después de graduarnos de la misma universidad, estudiar la misma tema (español) por cuatro años, conocí a alguien aquí en Huelva, casi el otro lado del mundo.

Es un mundo tan pequeño!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Another type of 'backpacking'

I remember my first backpacking trip. I was about ten or eleven years old and it was with my boyscout troup. I don't remember where we went or four how long; I just remember being in pain from a cheap backpack that was overloaded.

But now, it could be said I am backpacking in Europe, although I am not camping this time (not that I don't like the idea). Instead it has to do with luggage fees. As much as we complain in the United States about airline fees it seems to be a little worse here in Europe.

Most flights I have found only allow one carry on item, unlike the two allowed on airlines in the United States. And after they checked each passenger's bag before the last flight I made, I don't dare risk taking anything larger than a backpack. The flight I am taking this Friday charges 10 euros per kilogram for those checked bags not pre-checked online. The weight limit is around 23 kilograms.

I read an article today where a Senator from Louisiana has proposed a bill to either tax airlines who charge a fee for the first checked bag, or require them to allow one free checked bag. I like the second idea somewhat. The first however would off course be passed on to the consumer with higher costs, although I am not quite sure the latter wouldn't be made up with ticket costs either.

The flights are generally cheaper which is nice. I don't know what jet fuel prices are like but I know regular gas for cars is about double the price here in Huelva as it is in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Video Blog 2

So, here are two more video blogs. The first is in English, the second in Spanish. I'm not so great at this video thing... // Bueno, aqui estan dos videos mas. El primer video esta en ingles y el segundo en espanol. No estoy tan bien con video...

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Some things never change

Most of my blogs the past two months have been about cultural differences between the United States and Spain. There are a lot of things that are really different, but as I have settled in over the last two months I have also noticed some things that are the same.

The biggest example of this is children. By children I am referring to what the Spanish call "jovenes" or young people. That includes teenagers all the way up into the mid to late twenties. The ages I am really talking about are 14-18.

In the first month working, a couple of students asked if we had a lighter. Neither the other auxiliar nor I smoke, so of course neither one of us did. But they were also too young to be smoking.

Last night I was walking, just to get out of the apartment. Not too long after leaving I had some 'jovenes' ask me something which I never quite understood. They were asking if I had something. After two times I didn't understand and I gave up. I just answered, "No, sorry." I think they may have been asking about a lighter or something.

And finally, when I was returning I ended up going to the market instead of going to a cafeteria. I bought a few items, but not long after I got there, three or four kids came up to me and tried to get me to buy alcohol or them. They were probably 15 or 16 years old. The legal drinking age in Spain is 18. My first response was simply no. Then they asked why not. So I told them I was a foreigner and pretended not to understand. They tried in English and actually did a pretty good job. Then I told them that I didn't have my I.D. with me either and couldn't buy any. With that they finally got the point I wasn't going to aid in underage drinking and left me alone.

They stayed in the store staying close to the alcohol isle to try and get other shoppers to buy. I am thinking if something like this happens again what I might do. I can go with the simple answer of no and I don't need any other reason. Or, maybe I should say I am a cop just to see the looks on their faces. Maybe I will go try that one on April Fools Day--I'm not sure if they know what that is.

Thursday, November 24, 2011


Allow me to add a few more "thanks" to the previously posted list.

When I started cooking my Thanksgiving dinner, I had planned to have a little bit of tradition to the food. What I came out with had a little tradition mixed with creativity.

So I will start with the addition to the list: I am thankful I still have a place to live. I didn't catch anything on fire.

The meal was to consist of chicken breasts, sweet potatoes and a green been casserole. I had all of those ingredients plus some.

The casserole actually tasted pretty good. Last night I friend onions and made the cream of mushroom soup. This evening I mixed the soup and green beens and let them cook. While they slowly cooked, I prepared the chicken and sweet potato and left them to cook in the oven, along with some onions.

Because I was unable to find spices to make dressing/stuffing I decided to add pasta to the menu. I boiled it, drained it and added garlic and butter. After taking the chicken, onion and potato out of the oven I sliced the chicken and added it to the pasta. I added the onions to the green beans. I put the potato back in the oven for another 10 minutes as it was still hard.

I ended up adding spinach to the green beans to make it less soupy (and because I don't care for spinach and am trying to find ways to eat it without tasting it). I later added the fried onions. Everything was done cooking except the potato. When I took it out and it was still hard I was frustrated. I put it on the stove top and cooked it even more and it still stayed hard. I am convinced it wasn't a normal sweet potato or that Spain found some way to breed them with rocks.

I ate some of it. The green bean mess was actually good. The pasta and chicken mix was alright but not my favorite. The potato was horrible. That being said, if I am not sick tomorrow, I will yet again be Thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Un dia de gracias / A day of Thanks

El 24 de Noviembre de 2011 es el día de acción de gracias en los Estados Unidos. No puedo celebrarlo como celebramos típicamente, pero todavía tengo mucho por que estoy agradecido.
  • Gracias a todos mis amigos y a mi familia por apoyarme a venir a España. Y tambien estoy agradecido por Skype y Facebook que me permiten hablar con mi familia y mis amigos.
  • Gracias a mi compañero del piso aquí en Huelva. Si no fuera por ti, yo no estaría en España ahora. Los primeros días fueron difíciles y te me ayudo mucho.
  • Gracias al Centro Bautista "Buenas Noticias," y el pastor quienes me recibieron. Cuando vine a España no sabia exactamente que Dios tenia planificado. Para poder a ayudar en la iglesia con la enseñanza de ingles y tambien, tal vez, un grupo pequeno en ingles, me alegre. 
  • Y sobre todos, Gracias a Dios por sus bendiciones. Me traería a España.  Solo por su gracia he sobrevivido aquí. Estoy agradecido que él es el mismo en todo el mundo y en todos tiempos... ayer, hoy y mañana. 

November 24, 2011 is Thanksgiving en the United States. I am unable to celebrate it as we typically do, but I still have a lot to be thankful for.
  • Thank you to all of my friends and family who supported me and helped me to come to Spain. I am also thankful for Skype and Facebook which allow me to talk to my family and friends.
  • Thank you to my roomate here in Huelva. If it weren't for you, I wouldn't be here in Spain now. The first days were dificult and you helped me a lot.
  • Thank you to the church, Good News Baptist Church, and the pastor who all welcomed me. When I came here to Spain, I did not know exactly what God had planned. To be able to help in the church, teaching English and possibly a small group in English, brought me joy.
  • And above all else, I thank God for his blessings. He brought me to Spain and only y his grace have I survived. I am thankful that HE is the same in all of the world and always...yesterday, today and tomorrow.

Comida Internacional / International Food

Nunca había pensado que llamaré la comida de los Estados Unidos "comida internacional." Pero hoy, hago.

Vivo en el centro de Huelva. Casi todas las cosas están aquí, pero hoy, después de trabajar, fui al otro lado de la ciudad para buscar una especia especial a los Estados Unidos. Estuviera bien con la comida preparada que había encontrado en la red del mercado también.

Llegué al otro lado de la ciudad y encontré el mercado Carrefour. Es muy grande adentro. Creo que es mas grande que Wal*Mart Supercenter en los Estados. Bueno... Encontré ambos, las especias internacionales y las comidas internacionales. Ninguna local tenía la comida para que estaba buscando (salvia o rellena de salvia).

He buscado cinco mercados ahora sin suerte. Y después de ver un mercado tan grande sin la especia, no tengo esperanza de encontrarla aquí en Huelva. Ayer compré un boniato, cebolla y judías verdes. Por lo menos puedo comer dos comidas típicas por el día de acción de gracias.

I never thought I would be calling food from the United States "International Food." But today, I did.

I live in downtown Huelva. Almost everything is in this area, but today after work I went to the other side of the city in search of a spice special to the United States. I was O.K. with the prepared food that I had found on the markets website also.

When I arrived in "north" Huelva, which is really EAST Huelva (they turn the map with North being in the west, making east be north), I found Carrefour market. It is very large inside. I think it is larger than a Wal*Mart Supercenter in the States. Anyway. I found both, the international spices and the international foods. Neither location had the food I was searching for (sage, or sage stuffing).

I have searched five markets now without any luck. And after viewing a market so large without the spice, I don't expect to find it here in Huelva. Yesterday I bought a sweet potato, onion and green beans. At least I can eat two typical foods or Thanksgiving.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Pay-Per-Mile Tax

New York City. Washington D.C. Chicago. And other large cities... what do they have in common? Infrastructure. Metros, sidewalks, functioning bus systems. Public transportation. But large cities with this type of infrastructure are a very small percentage of the area in the United States.

Living in a city  is usually much more expensive than living in the suburbs. And most small cities, such as where I am from have little functioning public transportation. There are no trains. The busses within the city of Little Rock don't have the best hours or routes compared to larger cities. And city to city transportation is almost impossible within any reason. (A three hour drive turns into about 24 hours of busses.) On top of the poor routes, they aren't usually economical.

I had to commute about 32 miles each way, five days a week for wok during the summer. I couldn't afford to live in the city. I couldn't take a bus from my town into the city. And today I read that the U.S. government is considering, once again, telling Americans how to spend their money. Without public transportation, most Americans have no choice but to drive in order to even go to work. The government wants to charge a per-mile tax.

Not only will that affect everyone who has to drive, personally, it is going to mean higher prices pretty much everywhere else. As gas prices went up, so did the price of products at the grocery store. And of course, most of that is transported over the highway systems. That cost will be passed on.

It seems to me like "toll roads," as annoying as they are would be a better idea. At least each driver could choose whether it was worth the fee or not.

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Art of Learning a Language

During all of my time in secondary school I questioned, "When will I ever need to sit down and diagram a sentence?" I wanted to know why on earth I would need to label a verb or adverb. Then I found out how helpful it would have been to pay more attention and retain that knowledge when I studied Spanish.

I studied Spanish for three years in high school. My senior year of high school and freshman year of college I had no Spanish. I picked it back up in my sophomore year and then finally in my senior year declared it as a second major. Remembering how to diagram a sentence would be very helpful.

Now I am in Spain. I had my first private class on Thursday evening. It went well with only a few problems. One of those problems began with pronounciation. I went through the vowels and the sounds that each made. The problem was I couldn't really explain WHY they made the sounds they did. I learned in first grade when I was only six or seven years old. So now I have to research "phonics" again. Indeed I have a lot to relearn myself about my own language. I wonder if Spanish has similar problems?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Remembering Dreams

Usually if I remember having a dream I will eventually be able to remember at least part of the dream. However, I rarely remember dreaming at all. But is it just me or does it seem like the strangest dreams or the bad dreams are the ones that seem to stick the most?

I didn't sleep well last night. I had a hard time falling asleep because of a stopped-up nose. I woke up a time or two in the same situation, with difficulty breathing. And to top it off I had two dreams which I think were actually connected. They were both strange and bad, I guess.

These dreams mixed McGyver with Narnia, Lord of the Rings and some of my past. When I was seven to ten years old, my family and I frequented an area on the White River in Arkansas called Pepper's Eddy. This is where much of the dream occured. I don't remember exactly what I did, but I did something that had the White Witch from Narnia so upset she would stop at nothing to see me dead. She ordered medieval knights (as if from Lord of the Rings) to chase me down.

I had a sword and fought one or two off, but my fencing skills are level 0. So I ran. I threw chairs and tables in the way of the knights. (Why were there tables and chairs outside, I don't know.) I ran until I reached the river. Then came the part of MacGyver... There was a dock here and because I was trapped, I needed a boat. I walked  in to the water and left only my head above. I navigated to one of the furthest stalls. The knights followed except they stayed on the dock. When I saw I couldn't make it, I decided just to swim away. The knights took a boat, plucked me out of the water and carried me to the witch.

The witch and soldiers brought me back down to the river. Mode of death: drowning. "Any last requests," she asked me and I began stalling for as much time as possible thinking someone will come to my rescue. Someone always does. But that help never came; at least not on time. The witch held me under water. I pretended to drown. Then she drug me onto the shore to check and see. As she leaned down to check my pulse I jumped up and ran, grabbing a sword from one of the knights on my way. Once again they pursued in a chase, making the witch even more angry. Once again, after a few clashes of swords and broken chairs, the knights captured me and carried me back to the water where the witch waited.

This time she tied a heavy brick to each of my feet so that I would sink. She walked into the water and to a point I could no longer touch and let me go. Heres the real MacGyver part... Some how, someone had hidden a scuba tank under the water. I used it and was able to breathe. I walked under the water, carrying the bricks with me, until I was in the middle of the river, and then the current carried me. Once I felt I had gone far enough down stream, I began walking to the opposite shore. I came up out of the water and fell down on the sandbar in the sunlight. I managed to break the chains holding the bricks to me. And then I had to figure out how to get off the sandbar which was in the middle of nowhere. But I think I survived at least!

I think I have a basis for another short story. I just don't know how I would make it make sense.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Looking back

Spain hasn't only been about learning the language and culture. I have been learning so much more in the past month and a half, living abroad.

First, I have learned how hard-working teachers are. At first glance, teaching doesn't seem like it is that big of a deal. But looking deeper, that is completely wrong. I've agreed that teachers are underpaid-- without them no other profession would be around. I work with 60 students in the bilingual program. In addition to teaching English, I also have to evaluate them. That means learning names and learning to remember certain aspects to write down later. Both of these are weakneses for me. I am horrible at names and I am horrible at memorizing things.

Something else I have been forced into is not being such a picky eater. There are still things I do not like and will not eat. But other things, the ones where I didn't like them and didn't eat unless I had no choice, I am eating. I don't know how many salads I have endured in Europe. At the store today I bought a different kind of ham. It was unsliced, and honestly, i think it was ground and then packaged in a box to make the mold. It is kind of a square but it cost the same as lunchmeat and there is a lot more meat. So I bought it instead. It doesn't taste quite as good but it will make do for sandwhiches and will be easier to cook with if I decide to do so. Maybe that is why my parents liked to get whole hams-- they're less expensive.

One of the biggest things and probably most important things I have been learning and continue to learn is to be content. I have to remind myself each day (which I often fail to do) not to worry about the next day.

When I first came to Spain, I wasn't sure if I was really supposed to be here or not. I lost almost 15 pounds in my first four days here. I barely ate. I barely spoke the language, much less understand it. I failed at first, getting a phone. I went back to my room. I failed at finding the store I was looking for, walked a huge circle, and went back to my room. My first Monday in Huelva, I went to apply for my residence card and thought I had failed at that. So I went home, packed up my suitcase and bought a plane ticket home.

But that isn't what God had in store. My bus wouldn't leave for another five hours. That was time enough for my debit card to be rejected twice because of the ticket price. It was also time for my roomate to be back for lunch and convince me to stay. I called the company I was using to book the flight and they told me the reason my card was rejected and told me I needed to call my bank. I didn't call the bank. So basically God kept me in Spain. I finally knew he wanted me here, but still wasn't sure why.

The following Sunday I found the only protestant, evangelical church I know of anywhere near here. I had searched several times before for a church in the area and had no luck. But this time the website came right up in the search. I wrote an email and the pastor quickly responded. Later in the week, after attending the service Sunday evening, a pastor from Sevilla called me. (Our church is funded by a church in Sevilla.) He was an English teacher from the United States and he told me they had been praying for someone who might be able to help with English.

About a week later I had lunch with the pastor and his wife. Later he showed me the new church building (a 15 minute walk instead of 50 minutes) and we talked about the possibility of either an English class or a small group in English. He told me we would talk more when I came back from England.

While in England I lost my passport. I didn't know if I would be able to come back to Spain. I am still working to figure out what I have to do about residence, as my visa was in the old passport. Luckily I have a photocopy of my old passport, the visa, and I have already applied for residence. The pastor and I talked more after lunch this past Thursday. I will be teaching an English class and small group on Thursday evening from about 6-9 p.m. I am both nervous and excited as I wait to see what God will do. When I know more I will write more about that.

Another important lesson has been simply in global citizenship. As Americans we get really wrapped up in our own culture and society. We think we are the only people out there. I have discovered an entire new world. The church I am attending has a very large population from Brasil; in fact the pastor is a missionary from Brasil. I have heard many languages while traveling in Spain.

Finally, as a reflect on the past month and a half, I really see some change. I feel like my Spanish has improved a lot. I am able to communicate much better. I am picking up a little vocabulary here and there. Most of it I do not retain, but some of the repeated words I eventually pick up. I remember being so lost in my first week in Huelva. Admittedly, I still occasionally get lost if I am walking by an unfamiliar route. But because the city is a big circle, I can generally find my way to someplace familiar and from there navigate to where I want to go.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


Recuerdo mis días como un estudiante de Español. Un semestre tenía 15 horas de español con solo una clase en inglés. Aquel semestre aprendí más español que nunca antes. Siempre digo que cuando viajé a España por 10 días en 2006, siento que aprendí más español en estos 10 días que los dos y media años de clase. Fue el mismo con tantas clases.

Además, tuve que asistir a 30 horas de actividades españoles fuera de la clase. Podría ver la tele en español, películas españolas, y mi favorita: Tertulia. En Tertulia los reunimos en “The Edge,” un día cada semana para hablar en español por una hora. Dos profesores cambiaban cada semana.

Me ayudaba mucha las conversaciones. Y ahora que estoy en España no puedo elegir hablar en inglés, solo en español. Pero ayer, asistí a Tertulia otra vez. Pero esta vez, fue en España. Hablábamos por una hora en español y una hora en inglés para que ambos grupos puedan aprender. Alguien puede aprender cualquier idioma: Alemania, italiano, francés, inglés y por supuesto, español. Reunimos en un bar. Y por dos horas solo gasté 5.50 euros (una cerveza y albóndigas de bacalao).

I remember my days as a Spanish student. One semester I had 15 hours of Spanish one only one class in English (for a total of 18 hours). That semester I learned more Spanish than any before. I always say that I learned more Spanish during the 10-day trip to Spain in 2006, than the two and a half years of Spanish class. It was the same with so many Spanish classes.

In addition, I had to attend 30 hours of Spanish activities outside of class. I could watch T.V. in Spanish, movies in Spanish, and my favorite: Tertulia (conversation table). At Tertulia we met at the Edge one day each week to speak in Spanish for an hour. Two professors changed each week.

The conversations helped me a lot. And now that I am in Spain I cannot choose to speak in English, only in Spanish. But yesterday I attended Tertulia again. Only this time it was in Spain. We talked for an hour in Spanish and an hour in English so that both groups could learn. Someone can learn whatever language they desire: German, Italian, French, English and of course Spanish. We meet at a bar. I was able to spend two and a half hours and only spent 5.50 euros (a beer and a fish meatball).

Monday, November 7, 2011

I don't understand

First off, I would like to retract my words of being ready for winter. It isn't even that cold here in Huelva yet but it sure seems like it is. Walking in the sun feels nice, but inside or in the shade is cold. I used to laugh at one of my Spanish friends who ordered warm milk at a restaurant; now I am warming my milk to have a nice warm drink. And it seems colder inside than out.

But that isn't really what this post is about. This post is about the communication between me and an official this afternoon. After returning from Sevilla and applying for a new passport I took advantage of the hour I had before the police station would be closing. I knew that there was a high chance they would send me to a different office, which is what has been fairly typical when dealing with the police. One office sends you to another who sends you to another who sends you back to the start. At least this time I knew where I would end up.

I went into the station and began slowly explaining that I had lost my passport the previous week while traveling in England. While explaining I shuffled through a stack of papers I had prepared and took out a note I had written in Spanish and told him I didn't speak very good Spanish so I had written down what I needed to convey. He read the note.

A few things I mentioned within that note: I lost my passport. I have applied for a new passport which will be here in the next month and a half. I have already applied for my NIE. (For those who don't know what that it is the Numero de Identidad de Extranjero, or Foreigner ID Number. In order to apply for that number I had to go to the office and show the officials the original documents and also give them a copy of them which included my passport, visa, etc.)

After a minute the officer told me a lot of information, very little of which I could understand. He was speaking very rapidly in Andaluz. I already mentioned I didn't speak very good Spanish. One of the few parts I did get out of this was that I needed to go to the foreigner's office and show them these documents (or something along that lines). And then he proceeded to ask me if I knew where the building was. I think there was a little lack in communication here.

I've gotten the Penguins of Madagascar response down, "Just smile and wave boys. Smile and wave." What I mean by that is I nod and pretend to understand while saying "si," and "vale," meaning yes or O.K. Unfortunately, what I haven't gotten down is forgetting that move and staring blankly while asking if they could repeat that one word at a time for me.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Dream with some Spanish

Me fascinan los sueños. Qué es la causa? Podemos controlar las temas en que soñamos? Si pudiera entender la ciencia, creo que la neurología sea mi favorita. El cerebro es una cosa extraordinaria.

He hablado de soñando en otra idioma más que una vez. Anoche por la primera vez, estoy seguro hubo un poco de español en mi sueño. No sé el razón.  No estaba pensando en español; no estaba hablando en español ni estaba leyendo español.

De todos los lugares posibles, estaba en un bar. Acabo de regresar de Inglaterra y estaba tratando de explicar a la trabajadora que quería beber. Cada vez estaba hablando en Ingles. Ella me miraba con confusión. Yo estaba hablando ingles. Después de realizar, expliqué, "Lo siento, acabo de regresar de Inglaterra." Entonces me acosté. Pero por la primera vez hablé español en un sueno.  Guay!

Dreams are fascinating. What causes them? Do we have any control over what we dream about? If I had the ability to do complicated science, I think neurology would have to be my branch. The brain is an amazing thing.

I had the discussion on more than one occasion about dreaming in another language. Last night I finally had my first dream that I am 100% sure had some Spanish in it. I wasn't thinking about Spanish before I went to bed and hadn't spoken a lot of Spanish or read a lot of Spanish before sleeping either. What caused it, I don't know, but hopefully there will be more to come.

Of all places it was set in a bar. I had just returned from England after being stranded for a few days. It was late in the evening and I was trying to explain to the bartender what I wanted to drink. I kept speaking in English and she kept giving me weird looks because she couldn't understand me. Eventually I realized what was happening and told her in Spanish that I was sorry and had just returned from England. Then I woke up. But for the first time there was Spanish coming form my mouth in a dream. Pretty cool!

Friday, November 4, 2011


When things are provided, sometimes it is easy to get used to them. I have been any many hotels, especially in the United States. Some things are pretty standard in the rooms. Almost all rooms have a television, an alarm clock, a telephone, a telephone book, a bible, wifi throughout the hotel, and a coffee pot.

But traveling in Europe has been different. I have been in at least four different hotels since coming to Spain, one in Huelva, and three in London. None of them had a specific alarm clock. None of them had phone books. None of them had bibles. And wifi might exist throughout the hotel but not for free. Here are some breakdowns of what I have experienced with the different hotels.
  • Huelva: The first hotel I stayed in when I came to Spain had no clock at all. I had no phone either. My only means of telling time was my watch. The alarm doesn't do much good at waking me up. For internet, there was free wifi in the lobby, but every 30 minutes the code expired and I would have to get a new one. To use internet anywhere else in the hotel cost about 15 euros.
  • Stansted: The hotel had a shower only. There would be no hand-washing clothes there. The bed had a comforter with a sheet inside. There was no actual alarm clock but the television had a clock and wake-up setting on it. There was free wifi in the lobby, not that I was too concerned with it because it was 12:30 a.m. by the time I checked in. They also had a free continental breakfast-- something I haven't seen at any other hotel in Europe so far. 
  • Brentford, London:  This hotel was very similar to the hotel in Stansted. It makes since since it is the same company. The bathroom had a tub though and I could wash some clothes. It also included a safe. There was free wifi in the lobby area, and it cost 15 pounds to use it in the room.
  • Gatwick, London: I stayed at a Ramada Inn this time. I couldn't even take a shower because I could never divert the water even after twisting every knob in there. The internet in the lobby was free but disconnected every 30 seconds. Luckily there was a special and it cost seven pounds to use the wire in the room.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

International Costs

After visiting England, I have noticed something about the cost of goods in many countries. In the United States, a soda might cost $1.25 out of a machine. In Spain it costs about 1.25-1.50 euros. In England it cost 1.25-1.50 pounds. The price in their own currency is about the same.

But the problem is conversions. Because the pound is much stronger than the dollar (almost double in value) that coke costs about $3 instead of the 1.25 or 1.50. I wonder how that conversion works out in some of the other countries with weaker currencies such as Latin America?

Lessons from London

First off, I want to thank everyone who prayed and supported me through the last couple of days. I am so glad to finally be back in Huelva, Spain! I missed two days of work (six hours) which I will be trying to make up over the next week or so probably. I am going to talk to my coordinator about it tomorrow-- I need to go to Sevilla one day, probably a Monday, to apply for a new passport.

1. In England, there doesn't seem to be a variety of pronounciations for the letter "a." What I man by this is it always makes the "ah" sound and doesn't seem to make the sound as in apple. (Of course if you speak English in most places but the USA, you are probably thinking, "What are you talking about?"

2. It is nice to be back in a country where they drive on the right side of the road. This is partially a joke. I bolded the word right because it can be read in two different ways. They really do drive on the left side of the road in England. Most places in the world drive on the right so it seems wierd to drive on the left. Which brings me to the second meaning: correct. (I was very glad at crosswalks in London, "Look Left," or "Loook Right," were painted on the sidewalks.

3. "Chips are french fries and "Crisps" are potato chips. "Fizzy drink" is a soda. I new when I went that the English would be different. But even so, within the same area there seemed to be different accents. Some people spoke with thick British accents and I could barely understand. Others had just a hint of an accent.

4. You don't miss what you aren't looking for. I don't really know when I lost my passport. I have my theories as to what happen but can't prove any of them unless the passport is found and I find out where it was found. Are sheep like goats--will they eat anything and everything? (One possible location was in a sheep grazing pasture.)

5. Squirrels are more evil in London than at ASU. They are more rare I guess, but still. I was walking in Westminster and met some people walking the opposite direction who had stopped. I didn't realize why at first, but then I noticed they were looking at a huge squirrel. I slowly continued walking and it was confused so I stopped. I think three or four groups of people ended up stopping. Eventually we walked out on the road to avoid it's wrath.

6. The guards at Buckingham don't always wear red coats. I made it for the changing of the guards on Sunday and they were wearing gray.

When I look back and reflect on the time I spent in England it really was pretty great up until I returned to my hotel Monday night. Hopefully down the road I will be able to have positive memories. For anyone thinking of going there, unless you want to tour a lot of stuff in London, I would recommend Salsbury. I spent a day there and really enjoyed it. The Stonehenge Tour Bus cost 18 pounds and included hop-on/hop-off service, fast entry into Stonehenge, entry into Old Serum (ruins the first Salisbury), and a history lesson along the drive.

As they say in England: Cheers!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

What next?

This morning I left my hotel in Brentford about 5:30 and set off for a long journey of getting out of England. I ended up paying about $900 to check out of the hotel after an internet charge, food charges, telephone charges and the changing nightly rates. As of Sunday night I was stranded and unable to change hotels even if I wanted. Had I not gotten in contact with the embassy Saturday, I would have likely been sleeping on the street tonight (unless I could have convinced the hotel to let me pay a quarter of the price to sleep in one of the chairs in the lobby). The hotel was completely booked for tonight.

I arrived at the U.S. Embassy exactly at the time of my emergency appointment. In less than two hours I was in posession of the emergency passport and some answers to about half of my questions. When I get to Spain I will be able to apply for my new passport through the consulate in Sevilla. Or worst case, I can call Madrid and send everything by mail. Because I already paid $135 for the emergency passport I will not have to pay for the new passport as long as I do it within the next week or two. So I know I am in Spain for at least another three to four weeks.

My mom called the Spanish consulate in Houston for me and got some information about the visa for me. Apparently I will not be able to pick up my residence number without the old passport/visa. But they told me to go to the police, explain the situation and they can confirm the visa by fax. The consulate said local police but I am not sure about that. I think she meant the local office of the national police. So I will write out a letter in Spanish to give to each of them explaining the situation.

So the next several weeks will be very busy for me: applying for a new passport, possibly getting another copy of the visa, talking to the police and making up the hours I missed being stranded here in England. I can't wait to get back to Spain and out of England.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Worst Holiday Ever

I have to say Halloween was a pretty interesting one. Rather than spooky ghost stories, I got to walk through some ancient historical sites. I would blog more about it but unfortunately I am not in the mood.  I will leave it at I went to Salisbury, England and saw Stonehenge and Old Serum ruins.  I got back to London, had dinner with a friend, and then back to my hotel. 

At the hotel I found my passport had gone missing. I have no clue where it might be. I have called every police department I could think of, and have an appointment with the U.S. Embassy tomorrow morning at 7:45 a.m. My flight to Spain leaves around 8 am on Thursday morning (if everything goes well). 

I would have enjoyed England if it had not been for this. Now I don’t know what is in store even for Spain. My Visa was in that passport. All of my records for the program in Spain are under that passport number. It will no longer be valid. So, if the NIE isn’t enough or I am unable to get it without having the original visa with me, it will be audios Espana. If I am able to get it, I may be reconsidering traveling anywhere, ever, during the remainder of the program. 

*Sigh* and I had a pretty nice idea for a blog post.