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.