Sunday, January 29, 2012

Surprises of Cadiz- English

Five researched destinations, four hours of sleep, three hours of sitting on trains, two jackets and a one-way ticket later Cadiz awaited. With only five destinations in mind to visit it seemed like it would be a very short day-trip. There might even be time to explore a little in Seville. Nine hours later the hunt for a way back to Huelva was on. But that is another story.
Cadiz had much more to offer than the five simple simple destinations. The cathedral, Plaza de Flores, Tower of Tavira, Santa Catalina Castle and Plaza de España were great. But there was much  more to do than simply look at these attractions. And among all of the things to do, some were better than others. Some were better than expected.

Of all the destinations, Plaza de Flores was the most disappointing. Only about two vendors had flowers on display to sell. And their weren't many people there; it was no Puerta de Sol, Madrid for sure.

Plaza de España was better, but still, compared to the other things to see, comes fairly low on the list. Of course the history of this area makes it better. The monument and eternal flame are also improving factors.

According to, the monument is a memorial to the Spanish Constitution of 1812. Construction of the monument was completed in 1929.

A surprise can be found at the Tower of Tavira. Descriptions talk about the 180 degree panoramic view of the city. The entry fee is five euros for most visitors which seems a little high just to climb some stairs to see the city from above. However, there is a little more to this location.
Before visiting the roof of the building visitors get a live tour of the entire city from above. But don't worry, there are no planes involved. Visitors don't even have to leave the building. It is called "Cámara Oscura," or "Camera Obscura."

If a person stands in the sunlight with a piece of white paper and then places a magnifying glass between the sun and an image it will be projected onto that paper. This worked similarly. On the roof is a tower which has a mirror and a lens. The guide directed visitors into a dark room with a bowl-shaped white screen. She proceeded to explain how it worked and then opened the shutter for the first view of the city from above. (Unfortunately photos and video are not allowed within this room.)

By turning the mirror with a rope the guide is able to show the entire city. Another rope allowed her to raise and lower the screen which focused the image. The higher the screen was, the further away visitors can see. She did a 180 degree tour of the city, explaining different locations. Not only was the information interesting, but some parts were comical and there is no doubt it was a great way to practice listening to a language. The guide spoke very clearly and at a fair pace. The "tour" lasts about 5-10 minutes and then guests climb some more stairs to the roof.
A sign on the roof states the height is about 45 meters above sea level and visitors climb about 173 stairs to get there. And the view was great. The tower was well worth the four euros (student price).

Geocaching provided knowledge about another location which was a local park. Genoves park is in the northern part of the city. Within its gates are playground for kids and several educational sights. There are plants from different areas of the world, each labeled with their name and species, and what I refer to as the "Jurassic Park." In this part there were several species of geese and ducks along with statues of dinosaurs. It provided several photo opportunities, along with the geocache hidden within the park.

Of course, a day of walking around any city might leave one hungry. As with any city in Spain, there are plenty of places to eat, from restaurants to cafe-bars. Cadiz was no different with examples of each. One restaurant was next to the beach and several other attractions which made it very convenient. At lunch time there was nothing special happening but it seemed that there may be flamenco shows at times. Nonetheless, the food tasted great. Two coca-colas and two tapas (pork chops and shrimp omelet) which also came with a roll, only cost about 12 euros and fed two people.

Art was everywhere along the ocean in the northern part of the city. Iron-work lined the sidewalks. One of the preplanned destinations, Santa Catalina Castle, was also dedicated to art. The old castle, in the shape of a star, has several exhibits within. Entry to the castle is free and visitors can walk around the walls, imagining being a guard. Several styles of art are available to look at in the various buildings inside, along with the metalwork outside.

Within sight from this castle is another. San Sebastian Castle, was one of those surprises. It had a lot to offer and was perhaps one of the best locations in this day-trip. A stone wall extends out into the ocean, with beach on both sides. Further out is water, or rock when the tide has receded. Although the castle itself was closed, the fun doesn't stop with the walk out to it. Their were stairs off the wall which offered an opportunity to explore below the castle and wall. As the tide was out at that time, visitors could walk all the way around the castle.

Just below the wall, near the castle is rock. The movement of the tides has eroded holes through these rocks, some reaching all the way down to the sand below. Exploring the rock below the wall provides for some fun. And of course the temptation to climb down into one of the holes may be overcoming. Some are possible to get out of by crawling on the chest under the rock and out onto the beach. Other holes can only be exited the same way as entered.

Some interesting finds around the castle included a hole which had an old pipe in it. That pipe could easily be mistaken for a sword until the visitor sees the base which is in a square piece of metal. During a walk around the grounds, wildlife is abundant. As with any beachfront area, there are seagulls. But in this area lobsters (or related animal) were also common. There was even a sea turtle (dried out unfortunately) in one of the crevices. Perhaps one of the most intriguing finds was what could just be trash washed into the rocks by the tide and lodged there to stay. But it could actually be a piece of history. The device had wheels on the outside and gears on the inside.

A walk to the south along the sea-wall will lead to the Cathedral of Cadiz. The new one is probably the most impressing, with its rounded domes and architecture. It might even be mistaken for a mosque. According to a list of attractions which included entrance prices, the museum and tour cost something like five or ten euros. But another option was just to walk through oneself for free in the old cathedral. But that is only on Sunday mornings, not Saturdays.

Another interesting trivia fact about the city is it was the setting in part of a 007 movie. From February 16-26 it will be filled with visitors and participants of El Carnaval de Cadiz.

Although at first it seems there is not a lot to do in Cadiz other than a little history and the beach, it holds surprises for visitors.

Practica Makes Perfecto

Practice may make perfect but some things take more practice than others. Learning a new language is something that takes a lot of time, patience, practice and immersion. I think every university student should be required to live abroad for at least four to five months, whether they are learning a new language or not.

Living opens up a new way of looking at the world and the people living in it. For four years I sat in a classroom, listening to teachers talk about history and culture. In September 2011, I began living it. In the classroom it was apparent there were some differences but more or less everything was the same with a different name. When I arrived I couldn't even find milk because it was boxed in a different way and sold off a non-refrigerated shelf. It was a lot more different than I had ever realized. I was dealing with culture shock and almost left the country after only four days.

Three months later the culture shock wore off. It just became "natural," or as natural as it could be for a foreigner. It was time to really focus on the practicing part. In October I began attending a weekly "Intercambio," or language exchange. It helped a lot and I began to be able to understand people a lot better. And then came Christmas break when I went back to the United States for two weeks. I expected to lose a lot during that time.

When I arrived back in Spain I was surprised that I still could speak and listen about as well as when I left Spain. I continued going to the language tandems. Of course, the teachers at the schools where I work are all very helpful and supportive as well. Several times the other assistant and I have talked to the bilingual coordinator about her experiences when she moved to Spain as a child. Both of us have noticed we will have a hard time coming up with words even in English sometimes.

A friend I made from the Intercambio who is from Whales and I went to Cadiz on Saturday. We generally speak Spanish together, with a few words in English if we don't know how to say something. Both of us feel awkward speaking a lot of English in the streets of Spain. On Saturday we began our journey at 6:30 in the morning. We checked in to a hostel in Sevilla at about 11 that night after missing the bus back to Huelva. During that time we spoke Spanish. Even by 3 p.m. when we met some Americans at the top of Torre Tavira I had a hard time speaking English to them. By the time we were in for the night I was pretty much thinking in Spanish.

My Spanish is far from perfect. That will require years and years of more practice. But it is definitely improving, even if I have a serious problem with prices. Nevertheless, I at least have something specific I know I need to work on. I need to go places just to ask the prices of items. Hopefully I can solve this problem soon. Yes, it is a problem. I am quite sure no one be so unreasonable as to say a soda costs 1,000 euros.

Living in Spain provides me the opportunity to experience a different culture and improve my language skills.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Video Blog 3 from Spain

I made another V-log when I got back to Spain after break but I never posted it here. So here it is.

I don't really feel like my speaking is getting any better, but I feel like my listening is getting a lot better. Who knew watching TV could be so educational. The weekends can get rather boring even with the TV, but hours upon hours of listening to Spanish definitely helps. It will be interesting for me to look back at these videos in a few months and see if/how I have improved.

Thursday, January 19, 2012


Usually there's nothing really going on that affects me enough to care to write a senator or representative. Little did I know one of those issues would be arising while I was over seas. Yesterday I was able to write Representative Ross along with encouraging other friends on Facebook to write their senator and/or representatives, especially those in the Little Rock area whose representative was a co-sponsor of the SOPA act.

It was nice to be involved. But even more, I saw a lot of people on Facebook getting involved, writing their congressmen/women, and raising awareness. It was nice to see so many people being involved in the political process. I have seen that both Boozman and Griffin have removed their names from the respective bills and said they will vote against them. Hopefully we see that through, and hopefully with all of the letters nationwide the bill/resolution will not pass.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Speaking out while you can

It is all over the news. It is all over the social media. Although, from Spain I see very little of the "protesting," that has been reported such as the Wikipedia blackout (this links to Wiki's explanation of the blackout and some more info about the whole idea.)  and Google's photo of the day. However, I have read some articles and seen videos explaining the intent of a new bill/resolution introduced to the U.S. Congress. In the house it is commonly referred to as SOPA, or Stop Online Piracy Act; and in the senate the name is so long I will only refer to it by acronym, PROTECT IP.

I am going to try to keep this blog fairly short so if you want a lot of details I would encourage you to look at some of it yourself. Some of what is reported that the bill would do is require all websites such as YouTube, facebook, etc to remove any material that might infringe on any copyrighted material. Those that don't would suffer from fines and penalties. Search engines and advertisements would have to remove all links to infringing websites. And the government would be able to block access to the websites. That sounds like a very dangerous precedent to allow to be set to me--the government being able to block access to any website deemed to be in violation.

I was glad to see an announcement stating that the white house does not support this bill. For once I can agree with them. I know in countries such as China many websites are filtered through the government. For instance, without a special way around their filters Facebook is not available in China. Now, this bill may not exactly let the government pick and choose what sites to filter but it is still a dangerous precedent. What might be next?

At the same time I can somewhat sympathize with the entertainment industry. They spend thousands or millions of dollars to make a movie or an album, only to have it end up on the internet where anyone can download for free. But, if I am a true fan of an artist I am going to want to buy their products to show I am a fan and to support them. Without the sales they may not be around for long. As far as music goes, being able to listen to songs on Youtube or other websites doesn't mean I won't buy a CD, in fact, if it is often why I buy a product. If someone sends me a link to listen to a group and I like it, I might buy a CD. Without Youtube I would probably never have heard of the group. So banning all of this could actually hurt the industry even more. If I can't preview music I won't buy music. I have enough in my collection already and there is always the radio.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Geocacheando en España / Geocaching in Spain

Primero, ahora que estoy en España mucha más gente están leyendo mi blog. Significa que mucha probable están preguntándose, "Que es geocacheando," y quiero explicar un poquito para empezar.

Geocacheando es un juego/deporte mundial en que un participante mira al sitio de red,, para buscar el local de un "tesoro" escondido. Puede encontrar los coordinados, ponerlos en la Sistema Global de Navegación, y  ir para encontrar el "tesoro." Puede ser una caja con cosa pequeños para cambiar o tal vez solo un papel para escribir su nombre y la fecha. Después de devolver el geocache a su lugar de esconder, regresan al sitio de red para registrar su visita. ***Pinche aquí para ver un documento oficial de geocacheando.

Hoy encontré mis primeros geocaches en España. Uno en el parque más grande y uno cerca de una iglesia importante a la ciudad. Fui la primera persona a encontrar el segundo geocache aunque no parece tan importante aquí en España. Estoy esperando a poner un "travelbug" mio en un geocache pronto en un lugar con más actividad.

Y la mejora cosa, podría hacer algo fuera de casa. Hace buen tiempo hoy. Y casi siempre hace mas calor fuera del piso que en el piso a causa de la construcción en esta área. 

First, now that I am in Spain, many more people are reading my blog. That means many probably are asking, "What is geocaching?" And I want to explain a little bit about it to begin.

Geocaching is a worldwide game/sport in which participants go to the geocaching website,, to search for the location of a hidden "treasure." He or she can find the coordinates, put them in a GPS and go to find the "treasure." It could be a box with small items for trade or may only be a piece of paper to log the visit. After returning the cache to its hiding spot, the geocacher then can log the visit online. ***[[Click here to read more from the official brochure.]]

Today I found my first geocaches in Spain. One was in the cities largest park and the other near an important church. I was the person to find the second one although that doesn't seem to be as important here in Spain. I am hoping to place a travelbug of mine in a geocache soon but in a place with more activity.

And one of the best things is I was able to get out of the souse for a while. The weather is nice today. And it is almost always warmer outside than inside because of the way buildings are constructed here for the summer.

Monday, January 9, 2012


One career path I can say I am glad I did not pursue now is that of an airline pilot. The more I fly the less I like it. Neither flight coming back to Spain was enjoyable. The first one was probably the worst overall. But the second one, being crowded and long made it pretty poor as well. Not to mention I was leaving my family again; that was even harder the second time. This time I know I won't be returning home before May at the earliest.

I knew before going home for Christmas I was homesick and I missed my family. After enjoying the two weeks at home with them, coming back was really hard and I miss them even more.

As far as the flying and traveling itself goes though there was a lot of turbulence on the first flight during take off and landing. Then when we landed at LGA it seemed really fast, especially when we were at the end of the runway looking at water and still moving. Take off from JFK was a little rough but landing in Madrid was fine. We arrived two hours early and I made it back to Huelva by 4 p.m.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Flying By

New year resolution for 2012: Write no more than one blog per week. With that out of the way hopefully I will be better about blogging now that Christmas break is over. For those who don’t know I said I would make my resolutions this year the opposite of what I really meant since I never seem to follow through with them. 

Christmas break flew by. I made it back to Arkansas around 11 p.m. Christmas eve after almost 40 hours without sleep. And I pretty much stayed busy since. At least two days I spent geocaching. I managed to beat my daily record and found 10 one day. With the help of family I also hid my second geocache.

I was able to meet up with one of my friends during the break and of course see my family. I am sitting in the Memphis airport waiting for my flight to New York La Guardia now. I arrive around 12 p.m. to New York and have an eight hour layover during which I intend to visit the ground zero memorial before going to the airport to sit for three to four hours.  Then it will be off to Madrid and the journey back to Huelva. I just hope two weeks of no Spanish doesn’t hurt too bad. (They didn’t want to speak Spanish with a gringo in the restaurante mexicano…)