Sunday, December 2, 2012

Talking to Strangers

As kids we are taught not to talk to strangers, but does that really apply as adults? It would seem like we all think so. But the cause of this probably isn't so much "talking to strangers" as it is the world in which we live. We are all so busy and wrapped up in our own world we can sometimes neglect the world around us.

I am guilty. In addition to the "business" of life, I am a shy person. I don't really know what to say to people I don't really know. I am horrible at remembering names --not even five minutes after someone introduces themselves, I am trying to remember their name.

Yesterday, a friend and I were taking a walk around the lake at Craighead Forest Park in Jonesboro, Ark. We passed some other joggers and walkers and a few even said hello. About a quarter of the way through we ran into two people who were fishing, said hello and continued walking. My friend commented that it looks like she caught something and I said, "I think thats just a lure," and laughed. A few seconds later the lady said something back to us about the fishing. So we stopped and we talked, not thinking anything of it.

It was just something small but as we prepared to continue walking she actually thanked us for stopping and talking with her. The conversation probably could have gone on all day. It was one of those moments that made me stop and think how something so simple as just talking to a stranger can brighten someone's day.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Haunted House

Throughout college I wanted to go to a haunted house or haunted corn maze with my friends. In four years, we never did go. But this past Friday I finally got to go to a "haunted house," in Little Rock. My mom and I took my niece to the "Old Haunted Warehouse" in Little Rock, located right behind the Pulaski County Jail.

I wanted to go as soon as I saw the flier at Spirit Halloween Store and the clerk said it was well worth it. Not only is it a "haunted house," it is in a bad section of town, behind the county jail and visitors have to walk from the parking area to the warehouse. I loved it. Of course, I am almost 24 years old and male. I'm not stupid, I know nothing is really dangerous inside and that people in costumes are going to be jumping out at me. I was never scared, never even jumped. But I did laugh the entire time.

My niece is 10. It was dark inside but my eyes had adjusted. I could tell where there would likely be people hiding and I kept my eyes on all of the figures. When I walked around a corner, I put my back to the wall so that I wouldn't be surprised. In another room I was watching my surroundings -- that is all I can say because I don't want to give away the surprise. I will say my favorite part was the strobe lights. Again, I won't say more than that.

I think I may go again with some other friends. If the staff will let me, I have a few tricks up my sleeve (or at least one) that I would like to pull to further scare my friends since I already know the layout and whats coming. Anyway, if you are looking for a good haunted house in the Little Rock/Central Arkansas area, the "Old Haunted Warehouse" on Brown Street (off of Roosevelt) behind the jail is one good option.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Guardian Angel

Two times in less than 72 hours, I have narrowly escaped nasty accidents. Both times, if I were alone in the car, I probably would have been dead or in a hospital. But I wasn't alone, I'm sure of it.

The first time was Friday evening after I got off work. I needed to fill my car up with gas before going to Jonesboro the following morning. The best way for me to get gas is taking exit 7 for Pratt Road off of I-530. It had rained some that day and the road was damp and oily. The exit is short and involves a very sharp turn. Of course, I was going 70 when I hit the off ramp. I tried to slow down but began to hydroplane. "I'm about to crash and it is going to be ugly," I thought to myself as I let off the break and tried to gently turn into the curve so that I would be on the inside. I felt the back end sliding. I made it around the curve and stopped by he end of the ramp. But I knew that I was about to go flying off the road at 50+ miles per hour and into a tree.

The next one happened this evening. I didn't have any problems going to Jonesboro, but the trouble was on the way home. For some reason, there always seems to be a wreck around the I-40/I-30 interchange. Tonight was no difference. I had to speed up to 70 to get into the lane I needed, as a car was letting me in, even though they were speeding. Probably 20 seconds later, everyone was slamming on their breaks, including me. I wasn't slamming hard enough and swerved into the far left lane, narrowly missing the car in front of my by mere inches. That would have probably been at 50+ mph as well and been a multiple car pile up.

Those stories said, I am very thankful to have avoided both accidents and firmly believe I was not alone in the car.

Lifelong Learning

Sometimes I wish that "student" could truly be a profession. I sometimes wish that I could be paid to go to school. Of course, what would be the purpose of that education then?

When I started High School, I wanted to be an author. I wanted to write children's books. Then I discovered journalism. By my junior year, I was writing for my school newspaper. When I graduated, I chose a school based on my desired major: journalism. I even received a journalism scholarship my first year there.

It had its ups and downs. I loved (and still do) writing. I started out as hard news and wrote a variety of articles including features, opinions and even sports on occasion. I interned at the Army News Service in Washington, D.C. at the end of my junior year. By that point, I was losing confidence in my own abilities. Is it just a thing that writers have where they hate their own work even when others say it is great? I definitely wasn't sure I wanted to follow through with journalism. But what choice did I have? I was almost through with college. If I switched my major then, I would be there for another year or two without scholarships to help me make it through.

I stuck with Journalism, knowing that the communication background could come in handy even in another field. More and more, I wanted to make a difference. I thought maybe I could do in depth stories with the homeless and try to bring light to their stories. But I didn't even know how to get started. My senior year of college, I found a way to make a difference.

My professor and newspaper adviser forwarded the class an email advertising a communications internship at an organization I had learned about a few years prior. It was an organization that, although I didn't know a lot about, I knew enough that I supported their mission. I even hoped I might be able to work there one day. Little did I know that two days after I graduated, I would begin a communications internship at Heifer International.

Before graduating I had also added a second major, Spanish. I had a few opportunities during the internship to speak Spanish with some of the international staff from Latin America. I never took any classes in video production or editing, but quickly learned some on the job and was able to help teach some other coworkers. I continued learning.

Later, I went to Spain for almost a year. Once again, that was an experience full of lessons and learning. Some lessons were a little tougher than others. Not only did I learn my Spanish was no where nearly as good as I thought it was, I learned a little more about Embassies and consulates after losing my passport on a trip to England. I also learned how big a difference just having someone to talk to can make in a person's life after spending countless hours alone in my apartment  Then there were the cultural lessons. Perhaps the most important lesson I learned was in perseverance  After three months, it was hard to leave for Christmas. And then in June it was hard to come home, knowing that I was leaving many new friends behind and didn't even have a job to go back to.

Less than a month after arriving home in the United States, I was offered a temporary position working in Human Resources at Heifer. I had no experience in that field. My task was working with company polices, reviewing and updating them. I learned. It has been a continuing learning experience all together as I researched what types of things should be policies, what policy manuals should contain etc. I have even helped with other tasks and have already learned a ton about Excel. What has surprised me the most is what I have learned about myself.

In tracking information, I have found that I actually enjoy some of the tedious work. I enjoy looking at the statistics, making charts and graphs. Even if I wasn't a math major and never had an interest in it. Applied to the real world it is interesting. I have been working in the Human Resources department for a little over three months now and am still learning. Of course, learning continues for a lifetime.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Smart Phone

When I got back from Spain, I had to have a new phone. For some reason or other, both of my batteries had blown up. Well, not literally, but neither would hold a charge for more than an hour or two when the phone wasn't even in use. So in June I got a Samsung Droid smartphone. Smart. Yeah right.

This short blog isn't really about how dumb those phones can be though. The more features you add, the harder a phone is to use as a phone. I think mine serves more as a computer now. It is super hard to type with the tiny keys though so I don't do a lot of typing. But because I am not on the computer nearly as much now, that means I am not spending nearly as much time with Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and you guessed it, my blog. So that is one reason I haven't written much.

The other is that I forget my ideas by the time I make it home from work. Or I am just too tired. But when I get on, I try to write a few blogs. Maybe I should be setting a schedule or something?

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Travel Bug

Since I've been back in the United States, I haven't had much going on. I haven't written a whole lot lately because of that. I've been working mostly, with only a few outings. I definitely haven't traveled much. Hopefully in a year or two I will be able to afford to travel some. But lately I have been able to do some geocaching and I recently bought several travel bugs.

For those who are reading my blog for the first time, let me explain briefly what geocaching is. In short, it is like a modern day treasure hunt. The first step is to get a GPS and then go online to the geocaching website to get coordinates for one of the millions or billions of caches out there. Plug the coordinates in and find the prize. Sometimes it is a box or container that has small items for trade; other times it is just a tiny container with a piece of paper to write your username on. Within this game there are special pieces that are trackable, the two most popular are "geocoins" and "travel bugs." My personal favorite is the travel bug. It is a tag that a player attaches to an item and it travels from cache to cache. That is logged along with the find on the geocaching website.

I dropped off one of the travel bugs of mine this past Saturday when I went to Pinnacle Mountain to meet up with a friend I hadn't seen in about 12-13 years. That travel bug, "Who's your llama," has a mission to raise awareness of world hunger and poverty and ways that individuals can help. I look forward to hearing stories and seeing photos of where it goes. But it also gave me the idea for a new blog, or at least something I can do and blog more here.

I am thinking about getting some kind of item that isn't as small as the other two I have out there. This one will be a stuffed animal of some kind or at least something large enough to easily take a picture with. It will be similar to an assignment I had when I was in elementary or middle school. In that assignment we had to take the stuffed animal for a week and write journals about what we did during that week with it and show pictures. With the travel bug, users will be asked to share a small piece of their story on the geocaching website and be able to submit longer narratives and photos for possible inclusion in the blog. Even if I am not traveling, I can still read about it and maybe share that here.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


Some days of the diet are better than others. Yesterday I went over my recommended calorie intake, but today I was actually under my limit and walked for an hour and 15 minutes. After watching my calories so closely today and then putting in that time for exercise, it got me to thinking about Paul.

Paul often used sports analogies when he wrote. One verse I remember in that regard is about running a race, keeping your eyes on the finish and not being disqualified. Today as I walked, I kept pushing myself to go further and to keep up a steady pace. I would set goals and when I reached those goals I would set another one ahead of me. All of those small goals still had the ultimate goal of making it all the way to the highway before turning around. And after I got there I made goals to keep my pace up and average at least 4 miles per hour overall; I also wanted to see how far I could get before my mom picked me up in the car on her way back from town. I ended up making it all the way back home, a little over 4.5 miles and hour and fifteen minutes later.

Then, since I was still below my calorie limit for the day and had exercised, I allowed myself to have some of my favorite type of ice cream. It wasn't very good. After all that hard work, my favorite kind of ice cream didn't matter much. I knew that I couldn't have much of it and just knowing that I think made it not nearly as enjoyable.

So back to the bible. A spiritual diet is probably a good idea too. Pursuing the relationship with God, through Christ -- reading my bible, praying, spending time in fellowship with other believers -- while avoiding the things that aren't good for me, that is. Sometimes things aren't inherently bad in moderation but there is a point we have to stop. Similar to not eating too much and exercising. So in addition to my health diet, I want to go on a spiritual one. Two diets at once. It will be well worth it.

And here are my goals to look forward to:

1) I will physically look better.
2) If our bodies are the temple for the Holy Spirit, I need to take better care of it.
3) If I start now, maybe the doctor won't make me go on a strict diet
4) I want to do a lot of outdoor adventures that I physically can't do right now. I want to get in shape and build endurance.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Writing Prompt: Religious Beliefs

I haven't had a whole lot to write about lately and have been running out of ideas. So if you have any crazy, off-the -wall question or prompt, feel free to comment and maybe I will use your idea to write something true or do a little bit of creative writing. For this post, I have chosen the following prompt: What are your religious beliefs? Have they changed, or have they always stayed the same?

So first, what are my religious beliefs? I believe that we are all sinners. None of us are righteous in God's sight. "Oh, I am a pretty good person," I guess I could say, but that would be speaking in human terms. "There is none righteous, no not even one (Romans 3:10); All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6)" 

I believe every person has eternal life. I believe we have the free will to choose where we will spend our life when we pass from this world, but we can't get to one of those locations without help. Because of our sin, we are bound for one location, similar to a criminal on trial is bound for jail if he cannot pay for his fine. But God loved us so much that he was willing to pay the fine, the cost, of sin for us. I believe that he sent his son Jesus, who lived a perfect life, to die for our sins, my sins, on the cross. Thats it. He died in my place and my faith is in him. Nothing I do can add to or take away from that. Jesus is the only way to heaven."For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith -- and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God -- not by works, so that no one can boast (Ephesians 2:8-9)"

I believed all of what I just mentioned even when I was younger, but I didn't really put my faith in Christ until many years later, when I was about 17 or 18 years old. I guess it kind of clicked when the preacher delivered a message about a drowning person having to grab hold of a flotation device for it to do any good. Another example is actually wearing a parachute when being warned a plane is going to crash.

So the next question, have my beliefs changed? Well, not really. God continues to speak to me in new ways and tells me new things when I allow him. Thats the thing though, I need to pray more and I need to read my bible more. And I am working on that, along with a previously mentioned diet. I am thankful for a bible app I found that has a bible in a year reading plan and audio to go with it. So I get to listen to it in my car on my way to work each morning.

Faith is a journey. And as Paul wrote, I want to run a good race and not be disqualified. I don't know exactly where God will lead me or take me, but I trust that he will do what is best for me, even if I don't realize or think it is at the time.

U.S. Life

"This land is your land, this land is my land,/ From California, to the New York Island. / From the Redwood Forest to the Gulf Stream waters, / This land was made for you and me. // As I went walking that ribbon of highway..."

Ok, you should get the point by now. That is a patriotic song here in the United States. This is a big country and there are highways from coast to coast. But sidewalks is another story, especially in the smaller towns. The downtown area usually has them, but the rest of the city/town is road. If you're lucky there is a shoulder.

The point is, we have to drive everwhere. When I was in Spain I walked everywhere. When I first got there I walked 3 miles to church and then another three to get back to the appartment. I had to walk once or twice per week a half-mile to the grocery story and a half-mile back. I had to walk about a mile to and from the bus station each day. So I got a lot more exercise. Between eating a lot less and walking a lot more I ended up losing between 15-20 pounds while I was in Spain. I had gained it back in less than a month after getting back to the United States and adding some extra weight on top.

I had to make the decision the other day to put myself on a light diet before the doctor makes me go on a strict diet. So we will see how it goes!

Monday, August 6, 2012


Wow, it seems I have taken a hiatus from blogging lately. I don't even remember the last time I wrote a blog, but I think it was late June or early July. It has been quite a summer since then.

Of course, I am still loving my job at Heifer. I hope I am able to get hired as a regular employee. Since starting in late June, I have stayed busy both at work and at home. That is part of the reason I haven't blogged a whole lot; but at the same time, life is a little more routine now that I am back in the United States... Get up at 6:20 a.m., leave the house around 7 a.m., get to work about 7:45 a.m., leave work about 5 p.m., get home at about 6 p.m. and go to bed around 9:30-10 p.m. That is quite a difference from life when I was in Spain -- going to bed at 2 or 3 a.m. Although, some of my eating schedule habits are about the same. I eat lunch around 2 p.m. and have had dinner as late as 9 p.m.

I haven't spent a lot of time on Facebook either. So I want to take a minute to shout out to all of my friends in Spain (hopefully at least one or two are reading this). I hope all is well there.

So what else have I done? Other than write a completely random blog post at the beginning of August? Unfortunately I have gained back all the weight, plus some that I had lost in Spain. I've been camping and kayaking. I've been to the lake a few times. I even got to go fishing once. I think I have finally found a church to attend regularly in Sheridan -- First Landmark Baptist. Hmmm, life is pretty average right now. I don't expect much excitement for the next several months, although 2013 will be here before I know it.

Uuf, parece que no he escrito un blog hace mucho tiempo. No recuerdo la ultima vez escribi, pero creo que era en el fin de junio o el principio de julio. He tenido un verano lleno desde entonce.

Claro, todavía encanto mi trabajo con Heifer. Espero que pueda trabajar allí como empleado normal. Después de empezar de trabajar con ellos en el fin de junio, he estado muy ocupado, ambos en el trabajo y en casa. Por eso no he escrito mucho. Pero al mismo tiempo la vida no es tan loca ahora, es vida diaria y rutina. Me despierto a las 6:20, salgo de la casa a las 7, llego al trabajo a las 7:45... Salgo del trabajo a las 18h, llego a la casa a las 19h, y me acuesto a las 21:30-22:00h. Es una vida bastante diferente que la vida en España cuando no me acueste hasta las 3. Aunque, algunos hábitos de comer son los mismos. Almuerzo a las 14h y aveces ceno a las 21h.

No he pasado mucho tiempo en Facebook tampoco. Así que quiero pasar unos momentos para decir hola a todos mis amigos en España y Europa (espero que alguien allí esta leyendo esta mensaje). Espero que todo va bien allí.

Bueno, que mas he hecho? Más que escribir un blog completamente al alzar al primer de agosto? Lamentablemente,  he ganado todo el peso de nuevo he había perdido mientras vivía en España, mas algunos pesos mas. Fui de kayak/piragüismo y acampar. He ido al lago para nadar unas veces y también una vez para pescar. Creo que por fin he encontrado una iglesia local aquí en Sheridan, First Landmark Baptist. La vida es mas o menos mediana por ahora y probable sera durante unos meses, aunque 2013 estará aquí pronto.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


For the past few weeks I haven't had much time. But that isn't a bad thing. I began work about three weeks ago. I leave at 7 a.m. and get home around 6 p.m. But I got a job in less than a month after returning to the United States which is better than I expected. Not only did I find a job, I am working where I wanted to work.

Working with great people at a great company means that work isn't really work. I've stayed busy and have even been pretty busy on the weekends. I am going to try and take the time to blog more, but I am generally pretty exhausted in the evenings and then the weekends I am busy with other stuff.

Anyway, looking forward to a camping trip this weekend. I must be nuts going camping in the middle of summer. There won't be a camp fire though with the burn ban.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Por que no pueda dormir?

Parece que siempre cuando mas necesitemos dormir, no podamos. Estuvo mi caso anoche. Prepare para dormir a las 10:30 pero no podría hasta casi 1:30 de la mañana. A pesar de no dormir bien, tuve un día bueno. Llegue a la oficina a las 7:30, leí un poquito antes de ir dentro. Las primeras horas fueron aburridos a causa de no tener ordenador para trabajar con tareas simples. A las 9:45, mas o menos, recibí mi gafete de identificación/empleo. Después, a las 10, recibí la información sobre mis cuentas. Por fin, reuní con la jefa y luego la vicepresidente. Cumplí tres tareas hoy y empece dos mas. Estaba ocupado durante todo el día, justo como me gusta pasar el tiempo de trabajo. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


Buenas noticias amigos míos! Hoy recibí una llamada desde la agencia de empleo que una compañía quería una entrevista conmigo. Pero no sola era una compañía, era la con que yo esperaba trabajar. Con mucha emoción, yo fui a Little Rock para la entrevista.

Traje mi currículum vitae (resumé). La gerente me lo pidió. Le di y dijo que también tengo una lista de referencias y empleadores antiguos.  Me dije que ya había hablado con mi jefa cuando yo estaba el interno de comunicaciones.

Bueno este blog es más o menos para informarles que trabajaré el lunes que viene. Una responsabilidad principal será traducir documentos y políticas. Entonces, este blog también sierva que practicar mis habilidades escritas. Mi español no es perfecto pero ha mejorado mucho en el último año.
Good news my friends! Today I received a call from the employment agency who told me a company wanted to have an interview with me. But it wasn’t just any company, it was the one I hoped to work with. With much excitement, I went to Little Rock for the interview.

I brought my resume with me. The manager asked for it. I gave it to her and pointed out that I also had references and past employers contact information attached. She told me she had already talked with my boss from when I was the communications intern.

Well this blog is mainly to let you all know that I will begin working this coming Monday. One of the main responsibilities will be translating documents and policies to Spanish. So, this blog also serves to practice my written abilities. My Spanish is not perfect but it has improved in the past year.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Aye Aye Captain

For at least for years I wanted to get into a boaters education class. Arkansas law requires anyone born on or after January 1, 1986 to take the course to legally operate a motorboat or personal watercraft within the state. I have been limited to kayaks and canoes. Of course I love to kayak but there is only so much that allows one to do.

Yesterday I finally made it through a one-day boaters education class at the University of Central Arkansas. It was one of many courses offered this month in the state. It was a little odd considering in the past its been hard to find any courses. It was one of the only ones I found that was within driving distance that was a one-day instead of two-night course. And I passed. So finally, I will be able to take a boat fishing or island camping.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Su propio idioma / Your own Language

Me parece interesante tantas cosas la gente puede tener en común, solo por hablar el mismo idioma. Yo soy un persona bastante tímido. Es difícil para mi, hablar con la gente a quien yo no conozco. Pero no he tenido problemas de hablar con gente en el aeropuerto de Madrid-Barajas. Durante la navidad y también hoy, hable con gente.

Durante la navidad la empezó cuando un hombre en la cola de facturar vio mi maleta. He escrito mi nombre y dirección en letras grandes. Yo puedo reconocer mi maleta fácilmente y si la compañía de avión la pierdan tal vez ellos pueden leer fácilmente también.  El me dijo que era una idea buena y que debería copiarla. Y después hablábamos durante el tiempo en la cola y después de llegar a los Estados Unidos.

Y hoy, conocí a algunos otros auxiliares de conversación en el autobús. Luego en el aeropuerto, conocí  a un hombre quien estaba viajando (senderismo con mochila) dentro de Europa. Desayunamos juntos y hablamos mientras esperábamos entrar la zona de embarcar.

Ambas las conversaciones empezaban solo a causa de el idioma.

It seems interesting to me how much people can have in common, only because they speak the same language. I am a fairly shy person. It is difficult for me to talk to people who I don't know. But I haven't had a problem speaking with people in the Madrid-Barajas airport. During Christmas and today I was able to speak with people.

At Christmas it began when a man in the check-in line saw my suitcase. I have written my name and address in large letters. I can easily recognize my bag and if an airline company loses it, maybe they can easily read it also. The man told me that it was a good idea and he should copy it. And later we talked while standing in the line and after arriving back to the United States.

And today, I met some other language assistants on the bus. Later at the airport I met a man who had been backpacking in Europe. We ate breakfast together and talked while waiting in line to enter the secured boarding zone.

Both of those conversations began just because we both spoke the same language.

Friday, June 1, 2012


No puedo creer que casi perdí una experiencia tan fantástica en mi vida. En septiembre cuando llegue a España era un tiempo difícil. Subí algo como 5-10 kilos en los primeros días. Siempre estaba perdido. Casi no entendí nada, y no hice mucho mejor con hablar. Después de esos problemas, vino el desafío más grande. No sabia que la junta ya tuvo citas para cada auxiliar en la oficina de extranjeras y yo fui solo. Era un desastre y cuando regrese a casa, hacia mis maletas y compró un billete de vuelta a los Estados Unidos.

Yo estoy tan gracioso que mi banco en los Estados Unidos rechazó la transacción.  Todavía no era fácil hasta por lo menos el fin de octubre. Pero en eso tiempo empecé a hacer amigos y no tenía que quedar solo siempre en la casa. Y ahora tengo muchos amigos nuevos en España. Me he encontrado con algunos amigos desde mi hogar. Y ahora, es muy difícil que salir.

Despedir a los alumnos y compañeros de trabajo era difícil.   Despedir a algunos amigos hoy (y algunos más mañana) era difícil. Y ahora que estoy concentrando en limpiar y hacer mis maletas, mi mente sigue pensando en las ultimas ocho meses y la gente con quien he estado bendecido. El mes pasado uno de esos amigos me dijo: “No es donde viajes, es la gente quien conozcas.” También él me acordaba que siempre tendré un amigo en Sevilla.  

Gracias a todos vosotros. Espero mucho que nuestras vidas y caminos cruzan de nuevo. Si estáis in los Estados Unidos un día, por favor, avísame. Y espero que pueda visitaros en España algún día pronto en el futuro.

It’s hard to believe that I almost missed out on such a wonderful time in my life. In September when I arrived to Spain I had a very rough time. I lost something like 15-20 pounds in my first four days here. I was always lost. I barely understood anything and didn’t do a lot better expressing my own thoughts. I had trouble eating; I had trouble getting a phone; and then the biggest challenge came. I didn’t realize that the program already organized a time for each of us to apply for our residency and I went on my own. It was such a disaster I came home, packed my bag and bought a plane ticket for the next morning to go back home.

I am so thankful that my bank rejected that transaction. It was very difficult up until around the end of October. Then I began making friends and not being stuck alone all the time. And now I have made a lot of new friends in Spain. I have met several from back home. And now it is hard to leave.

Saying goodbye to the students and staff was difficult. Saying goodbye to some of my friends today (and some tomorrow) was difficult. And now that I am really concentrating on packing and cleaning, my mind keeps going over the past eight months and the people I have been blessed with, in my life.  Last month one of those friends told me: “It isn’t a matter of where you travel, it’s who you meet,” he told me, also reminding me that I always had a friend in Sevilla.

I thank all of you. I hope that our lives and paths cross again. If you all are ever in the United States one day, please, let me know. And I hope that I can visit you all in Spain again one day soon. 

Sunday, May 27, 2012

A visit to Madrid

Madrid is not my favorite Spanish city. I think that comes from having spent so much time there in the past. In 2006 I was there for about four days. Then I went for a day in December after my trip to Barcelona and didn't really enjoy myself. And then I had one final trip to Madrid this weekend which left me, still not as a huge Madrid fan, but a better experience at least. This time the trip had a purpose. After spending a year in Spain as a graduate of Arkansas State University, I had the opportunity to meet a professor I had several classes with during my time as a student. It is amazing how much the place and situation can change things. Not having to work for a grade, speaking came much easier. It was a very enjoyable night.

But the next day was more of the same. After only sleeping for four hours, walking all day wasn't on my list of fun things to do. And the planned trip to Segovia fell through when there were long lines at the train station and it was impossible to buy a ticket and catch the train. I wasn't going to buy a ticket to just turn around and come back an hour later, nor was I going to spend an hour and a half on a train when the normal journey lasts 30 minutes. So it was a day in Madrid. On the bright side I saw a park which I hadn't seen before and I was able to see Guernica again. I could probably stand in front of that painting for an hour, but standing wasn't something I wanted to do much of. The longer I stood, the more tired I became. So it was off to the bus station, in hopes of finding there was a 6 p.m. bus to Huelva. Unfortunately, there wasn't one until 10 p.m. So four hours in the area of the bus station seemed like it would take forever.

I'd never explored the surrounding area before. So I only knew about the Corte Ingles that was nearby. Saturday I found there was a planetarium and Imax within walking distance as well. Unfortunately I missed the only movie I would be able to watch and still catch the bus by 15 minutes. And when I arrived to the planetarium they closed in 15 minutes. So it was back to the bus station with another hour before the bus left. Then came a surprise.

As I mentioned in previous blogs, people seem surprised when someone shows some simple kindnesses such as letting them out of their seat on the bus. But in Madrid, while I was waiting on the bus, an older lady, probably in her 70's, asked for help getting her bags out of the elevator because the doors would end up closing before she could get it all off. She had five or six bags and was unable to find a cart. She was trying to figure out what to do and I volunteered to help her take the bags to the taxi. Between three of us, we easily made it in one trip. And in that I also found that although I don't understand a lot of words in Spanish still, sometimes from pronunciation other times simply vocabulary, I can pick up key phrases and guess what people are asking.

I have one more week to practice Spanish before taking the bus from Huelva to the Madrid-Barajas airport, one last time. Only one more eight-hour bus ride. It is bittersweet. I am ready to see my family and friends back home, but I have made friends here that I am leaving behind. 

Friday, May 25, 2012


Foods from the USA that I currently miss:
Fried okra

Foods from Spain I have grown to love and might be missing soon:
Fresh seafood

Iberic Ham

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


Learning Spanish hasn't simply been sitting down with a textbook for me. That is how I began, but it became far much more than just that. Literature, films, television, cartoons and simple conversation have all been a part of my learning.

I finished reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone in Spanish a few weeks ago. It took me more than a year to do so, not because it was difficult, just because I wasn't reading often. I turned some pages blue with underlining while others remained relatively untouched. I underlined vocabulary words I didn't know and sometimes different grammatical structures. Although I didn't always understand some of the words, I knew what was going on.

And there has been plenty of television in Spanish while being in Spain to practice my listening. But conversation is by far my favorite. Living somewhere a language is spoken is the best way to learn it. During college it could be annoying when instructors didn't translate things we didn't understand in a Spanish class. But now I see why they didn't. During the conversation last night people kept translating. I didn't learn much and don't feel like I could really understand Spanish. But when no one translates, eventually my brain switches over and I begin understanding more and more. Lesson learned: translating = bad. Unless, of course, translation is the purpose.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Hunger Games

I am a little behind on some popular reading, but decided to catch up the other day after continually seeing and hearing about Hunger Games. I found the book online and began reading around 2 p.m. on Wednesday. I read for twelve hours straight, stopping only for a bite to eat. I read about two hours the following day and was finished with the book. After all, I only had about 30 pages left to read.

I didn’t really know what to expect going into the book, just that it was very popular. I approached with an open mind. It captured my attention from the beginning, something fairly difficult to do for me. I will say that some of the ending is predictable, but the events in between were unknown. What would happen next? I had to know. The writing style was almost journal-like as it was in first person. It often annoyed me. It was definitely not Harry Potter. But it was a great read. And throughout the entire read I kept trying to analyze it as if I were back in my high school literature class days. What was being said about our society? Was this an allegory?

I began to think that maybe the Capitol was meant to represent the United States. The districts which were more well off, at least with plenty of food, might be considered Western Europe and possibly other industrialized nations such as Australia and Japan. And further districts were representative of places where, although some people may be surviving without much problem, there are many people starving. Many people were needlessly dying from malnutrition and a lack of money to buy food, medicine and shelter.

I previously interned with an organization, Heifer International, whose mission was to end world hunger and poverty while caring for the earth. I couldn’t help but think about that in this context either. They work to teach communities invaluable skills. Later the community may receive plants or animals to help them become self-sustainable. These gifts begin to change their lives as they are not allowed to eat the gift itself. They can, however, eat the produce from the gifts and sell the rest for extra income. Take a cow for example. They can drink the milk. Or a nanny, which can provide milk for drinking or cheese. Keeping this in mind, I continued reading and then I came across this on page 144.

Owning a nanny goat can change your life in District 12. The animals can live off almost anything, the Meadow’s a perfect feeding place, and they can give four quarts of milk a day. To drink, to make into cheese, to sell.

That brings me to my conclusion. Whether or not this book is meant to be allegorical or not, it has some truth to it. It is no game at all. People around the world fight for their lives every day. Maybe they aren’t set up by the government against each other, with only one person allowed to live, but they have to fight their environment. They have to fight empty stomachs. They have to fight disease. They have to fight for their lives.

But, you and I, we can do something about this. Unlike the sponsors in the book it does not cost us a fortune to send gifts to these people. In fact, through Heifer International we can buy an entire flock of baby chickens for $20. Or, if we don’t want to spend that much, we could pay for a share of a goat for $10. Every little bit counts. Even a Heifer is relatively inexpensive, $500, when compared with the benefits. And these donations aren’t helping just one person, they’re helping many. The first female offspring will be given to another person in need. The gift keeps giving. You can view Heifer’s entire gift catalog online. With Mother’s Day just around the corner this is a great opportunity to help a family in need in her honor.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Feria de Sevilla

Learn some Spanish and dress like the Spaniards do were two of the biggest pieces of advice I found on the internet before going to the fair in Sevilla this weekend. I knew there would be tents set up and in another area there would be rides and games. But other than that little bit of information, I really didn't know what to expect. [Aprender a hablar un poquito de español y vestir como los Españoles eran los dos partes de consejo mas grande que encontré en Internet antes de asistir a la Feria de Sevilla ayer. Sabia que habría casetas y en otra parte las atracciones. Otro que esas cosas, no sabia que encontraría.]

A Ferris Wheel and other rides
 at the Grant County Fair, 2011
These are some of the prizes visitors can
win while playing games at the Grant
County Fair, 2011.

Another common ride at fairs in the United States.

In the United States the fair consists of concerts, junk food, rides, games and livestock shows. So, overall, a lot was actually the same. In the photo to the left, people are riding horses down the main street in Sheridan, Arkansas in 2011. Even in Sevilla there were people on horse back, all over the city. There were really only about two main differences: the livestock shows are replaced by family and friends getting together. It is like a big party. [En los Estados Unidos, las ferias son construidos de conciertos, comida frita, atracciones y animales. De todos modos, muchas cosas eran el mismo. En la foto a la izquierda, la gente monta en caballos en la calle principal de Sheridan, Arkansas en 2011. También, en Sevilla había gente quien monta los caballos en toda la ciudad. Solo había como dos cosas de diferencia: la enseñanza de animales no existe; en su lugar hay familias y amigos reuniendo juntos. Era como una gran fiesta.]

It was around 8 p.m. when we finally arrived and found my friend who is from Sevilla. He invited us to join him, his family and some of his friends. There was music, live at times, dancing (mostly traditional Spanish), and an overall good time. It was about 3:45 in the morning when we left from that part and went to see the "attractions" and eat Churros with Chocolate. And finally we arrived at the hotel around 5 a.m. [Era 20 h, mas o menos, cuando por fin lleguemos y nos encontramos con mi amigo de Sevilla. Nos invito con su familia y amigos. Había música, aveces en viva, bailando (bailes típicas de España por lo general) y sobre todo un buen tiempo. Era 3:45 cuando salíamos para ver las atracciones y para comer churros con chocolate. Por fin lleguemos al hostal a las 5.]

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Being a nerd

Photo compliments of
Lets face it, I am a nerd. I like a lot of things that are most likely considered "uncool." I am 23 years old and still absolutely love the Harry Potter series. I have read all seven books, several of them up to three or four times. I have even read the first book in Spanish. I have seen all of the movies. And when I was in high school I began playing on a Harry Potter Role Playing website called HEX. That stands for "Hogwarts Extreme."

A few years later, in my junior year of high school when I became a part of newspaper staff I didn't have a lot of time on the internet. So I gave a lot of the items I had earned on the website away to other users and went inactive. That inactivity lasted for about five years, until last week.
Last week I didn't even remember my password. I had to email the website staff in order to retrieve it because I no longer had access to the email address I had used to sign up. But within a day I had my password and was back online.

Many things had changed within those five years, but many things stayed the same. I won't go into a lot of that, I will simply describe what it is all about. First and foremost, it is a Harry Potter website dedicated to role playing. Some features are very similar to an old website called Neopets. Users can create their own stores, a club, and even a dormitory. They can play games, make friends, and collect items. The areas and forums on HEX are mostly named after places from the Harry Potter series. There are common rooms, the great hall, the quidditch pitch and many other locations.

One forum is dedicated to all RPGs. And for those who still don't know what RPG means, that is "Role Playing Games." Users pretend to be in the fantasy world and they make up their own plots. It is often in a story-like format. I was amazed at how quickly I picked back up after five years with no role playing.

Another common activity is attending classes. Every "term" new professors are selected to teach classes at Hogwarts. Users buy the textbooks and required items and then do homework based on an RP the professor posts. The points they get from that homework goes toward winning the house cup.

Then there are contests. And games. And I am not going to say much more. If it sounds interesting to you, check it out at As for me, I am going to go be a nerd some more.

Everything Once

When I came to Spain for the first time in 2006, I told myself that I had to try things at least one time.  During that first time I didn't eat too many strange foods, but I did manage to eat little shrimp that still had eyes. It was part of the paella that I had in Madrid.

Five years later, in 2011, when I came to Spain again, I had the same standards. Even if the food was strange, if they ate it, I had to try it at least once. I have had several foods I had never had before during the past seven months. Altramuces, which are seeds from a certain type of Lupins (a flower), were some of the first. At first I didn't like them but I have grown to like them.

Most recently is something that I never really thought of as Spanish. I knew that if I ever went to Paris I would have to try it but didn't expect to be eating in Huelva, Spain. But Tuesday night I went there. For the first time in my life I ate snail. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't my favorite. I am not a huge beef jerky fan and that is what the taste reminded me of. These snails are referred to as Caracoles. They were small. Now I need to try Cabrillas, which are a larger variety. And then I need to head to France for Escargo!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Las Minas del Rio Tinto

I went on my first real field trip with the students in level four last Monday. They had been studying the English influence on some of the local mining companies that were in the area in recent history. They had to do reports on one of them and then the field trip was to a second company, about an hour outside of Huelva by bus.

It was my first time really seeing another part of Huelva. I had heard of Rio Tinto before but had never actually seen it. At parts it looked like rust and in other areas the water looked bloody.

The first stop was however in the mining museum where we met the tourguide. The tour would be in English because it was through an English class. I was soon overwhelmed because I hadn't studied geology for something like 12 or 13 years. I only hoped the names of rocks were similar between the two languages. I also learned that their were mines in the area dating back to the Roman Empire.

The second part of the tour was a train ride which went through some of the mining area. We saw old trains, train stations, and different types of rock and natural resources including the Rio Tinto. An interesting bit of information from the area is that NASA and scientists used it for the "Mars Project" comparing it to the surface of Mars.

And the final part of the trip was to an old mine which had filled with water. To access it, one must have a tour guide who will unlock the tunnel. Before going in he told everyone we must wear a helmet. We walked through and found the following scene.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Spanish Doctor Visit

I had heard that getting medicine in Spain was much easier. In the fifty-something page booklet of information Auxiliars read before even being accepted to the Auxiliares de Conversacion program, healthcare is mentioned. We are provided insurance through our work which means we do not have to pay anything to see the doctor. However, medicine is not included. According to the book, medicine in Spain is cheap and it is like buying it in the United States with insurance.

So it may be free to see the doctor and cheap to get medicine, but that didn't make me want to need that service any more. It is mid-April 2012. I have been in Huelva since mid-September 2011. I only have a month and a half left of this grant. So I thought I was home free. Spring is here so I shouldn't be catching the cold or flu. So I shouldn't need to visit the doctor. That was great. I don't like to go to the doctor even in the United States where I can easily speak the language.

But last Friday (which just happened to be the 13th) after taking a nap, I woke up with lower back pain. I dealt with it for several hours and then finally went to bed just to sleep it off. Unfortunately, the next morning I woke up with the same pain. That was odd, I can usually sleep stuff away. Later Saturday I noticed that I would scratch an area on my side and it would feel better, or other times if I added some pressure it felt better. On Sunday I began noticing a few spots and so I started researching what it could be and determined it was shingles. I had the back pain, the itchy feeling, I had experienced a few headaches, and some of the other symptoms.

Of course, I am no doctor so I mentioned it to some family and friends. Their first impressions was also shingles. But my case was minor. There was no rash, just a few bumps here and there and the pain. My pain was only minor so there was no need to get the doctor involved, I would just let it run its course. Then Monday a small rash began to form; it still didn't concern me. Until Tuesday night when it began to hurt me to breathe and I finally decided to go to the doctor the following day after work.

I was nervous. I had heard several people complain about having to go to go to several doctors until one would finally admit they had a sinus infection and give them a prescription. But I prepared for the doctor by writing out some words such as "rash," "shingles," and "chicken pox." The work paid off. The receptionist asked what I wanted to see the doctor for and I told her I thought I had Herpes Zoster. I was soon called into a small office.

Inside the office the doctor sat at his computer. When I entered the room he asked me what the problem was. I hesitated a little, not knowing whether to tell him the whole story from Friday to Wednesday or what. I decided to give the brief story: My back hurts and itches on my left side. There are also some outbreaks on my stomach and left side. He asked me to show him my back and I did so. Then he wrote a prescription. He never touched me. He never took my temperature or blood pressure. I never had to tell anyone my height or weight. I was in and out in less than 30 minutes and it was completely free.

Unfortunately free didn't last for long. I went to the pharmacy and expected to get maybe two medicines based on the report he gave me. But it turns out its four. But even at four I don't expect to pay more than 30 euros. A pain medicine that dissolves in water, a herpes antiviral pill, a cream to put on the rash and a rusty-colored liquid ended up setting me back about 150 euros. That isn't what I expected.

On the bright side, it doesn't seem to be anything serious. And I am able to go about life normally with the exception of having to medicate every eight hours. Luckily, although it is the same virus as chicken pox, shingles is not contagious. Life shall be fairly normal.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

A walk in history's footsteps

Note: I have been attempting to write this blog for a week now and keep having technical difficulties.

I do not enjoy sitting down and reading a history book. Most of what I read I forget soon after a test. But I love being able to walk through a place where history happened. Recently I walked through place (although I am currently living in a place that was under that same empire) with a lot of history. I was walking in a city where people such as Julius Caesar, and St. Peter had been (just to name a few). And of course, what would a trip to Rome be without seeing the Colloseo?

One of the first major attractions I saw in Rome was Circus Maximus, the old chariot racing grounds, and nearby the Roman Colosseum. I wish we had payed extra for an audioguide or a tour guide. Later we went to Palastino  and the Roman Forum. The entrance to all three of these places was paid for with the same ticket which was valid for two days.

I wished I had remembered more about the history of the Roman Empire from high school. I remembered very little from the text book. And unfortunately I did not have a lot of time to research the background of Rome before going. Instead I would have to look it up when I returned to Huelva.

The second full day I saw the Vatican. The journey began about 8:45 in the morning, standing in line to visit St. Peter's Basilica. Cost to climb the stairs: 5 euros. After descending the stairs exited into the Basilica. After walking around for a little bit there was a door with museum written above it. Thinking that was the Vatican Museum where the Sistine Chapel is located I paid another five euros only to find out it was the treasure room. Not something I wanted to pay for when I had seen the same stuff in other basilicas for free. After leaving the treasury and walking through the bible history museum (free) it was time for lunch. Very small amounts of food still cost a lot of money in Rome. Two of us ended up sharing food meant for one person so that we could bring the lunch cost down to 40 euros. A small plate of lasagna, green beans, potatoes and a bottle of water cost a fortune.

After lunch, it was time to seriously find the museum. It didn't take long and soon I was paying another 8 euros to enter. It was already 1 p.m. by the time I was seeing the museum. I just wanted too see the Chapel and look around quickly before leaving to see more of Rome. But they wouldn't have any of that. Although signs said, "Sistine Chapel this way" and pointed down a hallway, the path was always blocked. Instead they forced visitors through every one of the 7 kilometers of galleries. Or just about every one of them I guess. It was about 3:30 before finally getting out of the Vatican and heading back to Rome. Which brings me to a quick side note.

The first night in Rome I threw two coins into the Trevi Fountain. The legend has it that if you throw a coin in over your shoulder you will visit Rome again. And indeed, I left Rome to go to the Vatican and once again returned to Rome. But I hope that doesn't count because there is so much more that I have yet to see there.

Anyway, after heading back to Rome I wanted to see a film which was advertised on the tourist map and told some of the history of the Roman Empire. It would be nice to see the re-creation of some of the buildings I was seeing throughout the city. It was hard to imagine what the ruins I was seeing might have actually looked like 2,000 years ago. The movie helped and was definitely interesting. It answered some of my questions and left me with new questions. After the movie I made my way to several other locations but unfortunately it was after 6 p.m. and they had closed. As I said above, I hope I can go back to Rome some day. The following morning it was time to catch a flight to Milan.

The biggest attraction for me there was "The Last Supper," yet another famous painting. However, upon arrival I found that they only allowed 25 visitors per hour. That was about 10 a.m. and they had already sold out of tickets for the day. I was not able to see the painting but I guess I can say I have stood in the same building. The rest of my time in Milan wasn't of much interest. At about 9:30 p.m. I was getting off a train in Venice. And three hours later finally arrived at the hotel. Venice was a maze at night.

The next day is when I got my first real glance at Venice. This is the city I had seen in so many movies and had come to have a romantic connotation with it. I didn't know of a lot of things to do in Venice except for St. Mark's Square. I also wanted to find at least one geocache and visit the Hard Rock Cafe. And once again, what would visiting Venice be without a ride in one of the gondolas? Even better, I got a 40 euro discount from the normal 100 euro cost.

Thursday evening after sightseeing I got to witness a live concert. The tickets only cost 20 euros. The first piece was Vivaldi's Four Seasons. I had heard "Spring" many times before but never the entire work. It was nice.

Then Friday came and it was back to Spain where it was raining on and off, of course. But it was a great trip. Once I returned to my appartment in Huelva I was able to upload pictures and finally do a little more searching about the Roman Empire.

Here are two videos I found and enjoyed on Youtube:

And finally, here are a few other videos from Rome and Venice.

1. Musicians and other street performers are in no shortage in the plazas.
2. Venice has a "metro" made up of boats.
3. One of many street performers in Venice

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Southern Kindness

It is really interesting that I can often travel outside of Andalucia and be able to talk or meet someone wherever I am traveling and without being told, recognize, "Hey, they're from Andalusia." It is a lot like being able to identify someone who is from 'The South' in the United States. Us southerners say y'all. Andalucianas don't say a lot of the letters. For example, "pescado," which means fish, becomes "pescao," in andaluz. And let's not forget southern hospitality.

Something I have noticed here in Huelva is when people come in to a cafe they greet everyone. When they leave, they tell everyone bye. These greetings aren't just for their friends or the staff. People in Andalucia are generally very friendly. In Barcelona, when we went into cafes and said hello to the staff we were lucky to get any response. Much less from the people inside. But one day when we greeted them another person inside returned the greeting. When he left he told us goodbye. Immediately I said, "He is from Andalucía." I could tell by the speech and the manerisms. Don't get me wrong, I didn't confirm this fact, but I am positive I am right.

The people in Andalucia seem much more open, even than in the United States. On a bus ride between work (Corrales) and Huelva the other day, I witnessed something that I don't fully understand but I definately enjoyed. In the United States it would be considered rude and called "butting in" to someone elses conversation. Here, it was a community joke of some sort. My spanish isn't great so I didn't understand most of it. But first a few girls were talking loudly and laughing. Soon  another lady joined in. Soon it was a large crowd of people throwing jokes around and laughing. The bus was loud but no one cared. Even the bus driver was laughing and joining in. For some reason I just don't see this happening in the United States where its taboo to talk in an elevator.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Walking in Venice

The dark, wet and narrow streets looked like a scene straight from a movie. All that was needed was a man in a hat or something. Luckily no such person appeared in the three hours it took to find the hotel. I felt like a lab rat, one of those who has to search for a piece of cheese at the end of a maze. The hotel was the cheese and I was the rat.

It was less than a mile from the train station to the hotel, but I have no clue how far we walked. It is impossible to walk a straight line because of buildings most of the time. But in addition to streets coming to an end at a building, we often ran into a canal without a bridge. If we didn't pay attention we would have been swimming.

We didn't have a city map to help, just the name of the hotel and my GPS which was not getting a good signal in the narrow streets. And finding a taxi was not an option because we hadn't seen a car since arriving. With all the water it was apparent there would be no cars, only pedestrians and boats.

It was a nice experience. Although the streets were dark and winding I never felt any kind of threat. I felt safe. I was just annoyed at having to carry my bag so far not knowing where I was going. We finally arrived at the hotel around 12:30 a.m.

Sunday, April 1, 2012


Somewhere over the Mediterranean Sea--Traveling is great. I have never been a huge fan of reading history books, but to walk where history is happens makes it come alive. Soon, I will be walking where many historical figures walked in the Roman Empire. I don't know a lot about the culture and even less about the language.

Language is another very interesting aspect to me. English is the universal language for traveling it seems. But not everyone speaks English. Not everyone speaks the local language. I only speak English and Spanish.

In Barcelona I never knew what language to speak. When I tried to speak in Spanish, people always ask if I speak English. But it is Spain... In Italy it will be a little more difficult. I think people who don't speak English may understand my Spanish but when they respond to me in Italian, I am a little nervous. I don't think I will understand a whole lot. I may be saying, "Io no compicho," a lot. I brought a Spanish-Italian dictionary along so hopefully that will help. Let the walk through the Roman Empire begin.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Food in Barcelona

After two trips to Barcelona, I am convinced that it is impossible to eat at a restaurant, cheaply. But at the same time I can say that eating at a restaurant in this city is worth the cost.

My first trip was in December and I decided to eat a nice dinner outside of my hotel. It was 9 p.m. or later when I went for dinner and most restaurants had closed. But I finally came across one that was open and went in. I don't remember the name but it seemed fancy. I felt under-dressed. I decided to order the menu of the day which was served in several courses. First came the break with tomato sauce and olive oil. They also served "aceitunas" and carrots. Later came a plate of steamed (or grilled) vegetables. That is where I learned to eat asparagus. After the vegetables came the main course, "dorada" with more vegetables.

The service was awkward. Most of the time, the waiter refused to speak to me in Spanish, which is common in Barcelona (I think the people like to practice their English), and for the majority of the meal he was standing two or three tables away watching me eat. I don't like people watching me eat. "Would you like to pull up a chair and join me," I thought. In Spain, unlike in the USA, the waiter only comes by a few times, not every ten minutes. This may be partly because there are no free refills on drinks or tips.

My second trip also had several experiences with food. Lunch was hard to find -- my tapa bar from the previous trip was closed. But we found paella and chicken on a stick. Dinner though was easy to find after we left Plaza de España. After being disappointed when the Magic Fountain of Montijuic didn't come on for the 8:30 show, dinner was no disappointment. I had a mixed plate with Baclao that tasted great. The sangria tasted so much better than the imported Sangria I have found in the USA. And the desert was no exception. The chocolate dipped fruits were amazing and the "Crema Catalan" didn't even compare with what I can buy in the stores. I give the food and the service an A+ at the restaurant.

The waiter greeted us upon arrival and was fairly prompt in asking if we wanted anything else after we ate. He didn't watch us eat the entire time either. Although it wasn't a fancy restaurant, the atmosphere was great. Eating outside with a fire lamp burning nearby for heat is nice. If I come back to Barcelona, Xop Dor, may have to be on my destination list.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A Lively Country

Coming from small towns and city, I don't know a whole lot about the city life in the United States. I experienced living in Washington, D.C.  for two months. I grew up in the Little Rock Metropolitan Area. And I went to university in Jonesboro, Arkansas. And I have lived in a small Spanish city for the past six months.

Huelva is by no means a tiny "pueblo" or village. It probably takes a little over an hour to walk from the east side of town to the west side. And I don't run in to people I know on the streets very often (although if I lived here long enough that would be very likely). The populations is probably around 150,000 people from what I have heard.

But life in a small city here in Spain is much different from life in a small city or town in the United States. I feel like the people are much more lively here. It is much more social. There is a bar that I frequently visit and I have noticed that when people come in they greet the whole bar with a "Buenas." The complete phrase is "Buenas dias," or "Buenas tardes," but they shorten it. It is similar to how we will say, "morning," or "evening" and leave off the good. But instead they just say good. (I really like this when it comes to writing emails; it doesn't matter when someone reads it.) And upon leaving a bar, "Hasta luego," which roughly translates to "see you later."

Even in this small city, midnight is early. Dinner is around, what Americans would call late, 9 p.m. or so. And then people go out after dinner. Many pubs don't even open until midnight or later. And the people still get up and go to work the next day. Well, most of the time. That brings me to something else I have seen a lot of since coming here. Protests.

Even in the larger cities I have lived, I have not seen more than one or two protests. I am sure there were some in D.C. since it is the capital but I don't remember ever witnessing one in Little Rock, much less Jonesboro. But since being in Huelva, for only six months, I have witnessed at least five protests. Most recently, I saw a small group of people protesting outside the local newspaper. And tomorrow is the General Strike (Huelga General) in Spain.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Mixture of Strange Dreams

Strange dreams are no strangers to me. I have shared a few of them on my blog before. Usually they have something to do with my fear of heights or something to do with water. It seems that the night before I go somewhere where I have to face my fear of heights, I almost always have a nightmare involving me being stuck in a high place or falling for a high place.

In another common dream I am swimming in a strange lake which is made up of three levels. The first level is fairly calm and there is a waterfall at the edge. The waterfall is about 20 feet high and lands in the second level of the lake. Occasionally I would swim to the edge and fall into the second level, which was a little less calm and a lot colder. In order to return to the first lake I had to climb up some rocks carefully in order not to fall back into the second lake. On one of the trips back to the top I slipped and fell. Not intentionally returning to that second level I was stunned by the cooler water and the pace at which it was moving. Someone in the top lake threw a flotation device which I went for. I had to swim closer to the edge of the second level, close enough to see the third level.

About 500 feet below me the water fell into a third level with ice shards all over the place. To go over that fall would surely mean death. I was able to grab the flotation device but I was losing ground (or water) to the swifter water. I was being dragged closer and closer to the edge of the second level. I don't remember what eventually happened.

Last night I had a dream that mixed several of my strange dreams from the past with a little bit of reality. Its hard to determine where to even begin so I will start with the context.

I was camping in the hills with about five other friends. It was a rather secluded campground with a large lake below. During the night a large storm came through and the next morning we decided to pack up and leave. We drove up and down hilly roads with steep drops until we arrived at the campground exit. To our horror, there was water everywhere. The only exit had flooded and there was no safe route out of the campground. We decided to go to the campground office to inquire about the possibility of a ferry that could take us away from that place. The office had a sign on the door, "Closed due to severe flooding." And then we saw dark grey clouds moving in and decided we had to make a plan otherwise the entire place would be flooded.

We saw that there was a dam nearby that should keep the water from rising too much if we were to find high ground. But because of the dangerous roads no one wanted to drive up the hills again so everyone decided to leave the cars and walk. The scenery changed a little bit at this point and the high ground we found was the location I grew up hunting with my family. There were trees all around. There was no electricity except for a car battery. It provided enough to charge cell phones and for dim lights in the shelter. It had about three rooms and several of us were in one bedroom taking a nap. When we woke up it was dark. With heavy thunder we figured the storm had knocked out the power. We stumbled around calling for the others before eventually flipping a switch and finding that we had power.

There was still light outside. I suggested a few of us walk back to the car and bring back some food because it had been a long time since we had last eaten. Everyone agreed and about three of us headed to the door. When we opened it there were headlights coming through the trees. "There shouldn't be people going through this area," we thought. We decided to grab a few rifles before investigating.

When we went outside the vehicles stopped. There about three four-wheelers. The riders told us that they were out riding when they were trapped by all of the rising water and were just searching for another way out that wasn't covered by roads. We told them what happened to us and that it was flooded all over the place. They told us they would give us a ride to the car and that they would try to cross the water with their four-wheelers.

We arrived to the cars and they stopped the four-wheelers. The water was only about 10 feet from where we had left the car before. So we moved it closer to the office. As we did that, the others tested the water on foot and realized it was far to deep to attempt driving through. We told them to come back with us and spend the night.

When we got back to the shack, some of our friends had told us that they had gotten through to some of their friends on the phone. There was no ferry but there were more storms coming the following afternoon. That meant the dam would probably break, flooding the rest of the park, including where we were staying. So it was back to planning. We came up with several ideas for rafts. The next morning we woke up early and began constructing a raft, using three trunks as pontoons. If it worked, we would hollow out the tops of several to put the cars on and float out. But for the meantime, we placed smaller tree limps across the two logs. Three or four people got on and tried to navigate. To our surprise the raft floated, but it was very unstable on the flowing water.

It wasn't long before they were thrown off. Lucky for them it was near a flat shore and they were able to make there way back out of the water and back to where we were. We knew that the raft idea failed and we only had about four hours left. We were running out of options and one suggestion was calling the national guard to use helicopters. "Great idea. Who has the number to the National Guard?" Of course no one did.

And at this point I don't remember a lot of details. The National Guard showed up as the dam was breaking. They had almost everyone in the helicopter, but I woke up as my head went under the rising water. Who knows what happened next.

Little a poco

Yes. That title is most definitely in Spanglish which is slowly becoming my dominant language. I remember when I went back to the United States at Christmas. Upon arriving to my connecting flight at Atlanta I went into one of the stores to buy a drink. The employees had a little difficulty understanding me.

A few weeks ago, the other auxiliar and I had a conversation with the bilingual coordinator at our school. The coordinator told us that when we returned to the United States we would speak a strange form of English. And at this point, after six months in Spain, I can already see the truth to that statement.

For instance, every Tuesday I attend a language exchange. The first hour is in English and the second hour in Spanish. During the first hour I had to ask the Spaniards at the table, "Como se dice 'vocales' en ingles?" The answer: vowels. In a later conversation I almost said, "We assisted the same university." In Spanish, "to attend," is "assistir a."

And finally, today in a conversation with another American, I was trying to say English and instead "Englis," came out without the 'h.'

I guess this can be a good sign that I am learning Spanish and using it. But at times it can be annoying to some of my friends and family when I am talking to them and let a Spanish word or phrase drop into the conversation. I just hope that I can retain everything I am learning.

Monday, March 19, 2012

My Spanish Diet

There is no doubt about it for me. Coming to Spain not only has helped me improve my spanish skills, but also has helped me become healthier. I am slowly losing weight (opposed to the fifteen pounds I lost within the first week) and my diet is much better.

I wrote last year how I wanted to eat less meat (Solving World Hunger One Step at a Time). I may have had a little success at first but soon fell back into the same old meat-eating ways. But when I came to Spain, my meat consumption changed drastically. I don't want to spend the money to buy meat. Four slices of lunch meat cost a euro! So I eat enough to get some protein in my diet.

On top of eating less meat, my vegetable consumption has also changed. For someone who wouldn't touch vegetables at one point, I actually crave some of them. When I went to Barcelona in November 2011 one of the dinners I had included some amazing fresh asparagus. So I had to start trying to cook it on my own. (And it isn't bad actually.) Another thing I learned to like here is Eggplant or "Berenjena" in Spanish. Although my method of cooking it doesn't look nearly like that at the bar where I learned to like it.

I bought several fruits and vegetables today that I have never eaten or cooked. I don't know how I will like them but I have an avocado, turnip and an artichoke to try. I guess I better get to researching how to cook them.

Not in the Scenarios

I found myself in a situation today that caused me to reflect back on my time spent studying Spanish at Arkansas State University. There have been a lot of times where I am in a situation and I think, "I know I learned that word in class at some point. Why don't I remember it now?"

I am a clumsy and forgetful person. It took me three trips to the market today to finally come up with all the ingredients and groceries I wanted for the next two weeks. The second trip is what caused the reflection. After shopping for about half an hour I made it to the check-out counter only to find I had left my money in the apartment. I had been shopping online for hotels before going to the market.

So the reflection was about the times in Spanish class when we had to act out a scene or come up with a skit and act it out in Spanish. Never did this scenario cross my mind: forgetting your money while shopping. The good news is although I figured out on the walk home how to say it, I was able to communicate my thoughts in a sufficient manner that we both understood. About 15 minutes later I was standing in the line again with the groceries waiting for me.