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19 November 2009

Espana: Day Five

It's official. I am moving here. Well, to Segovia. I like Madrid. But I LOVE Segovia. It's a perfect quaint authentic and charming Old European town. It even has its own castle!!! What's not to love! It's also official that I take too many pictures. So I'm uploading a Picasa slideshow. It covers the whole trip and has well over 300 pics. :D Enjoy!

I got up bright and early this morning and took the "slow" train into Segovia. Surprisingly, the "slow" train moves at about 210km/hour. That's like 130 miles per hour. I'd hate to know what the "fast" trains do! I was in Segovia by 9:30, and I took a cab with a really cool cabbie who was pointing things out to me. He dropped me off directly in front of Alcazar, the 16th century castle that overlooks the entire city and valley (which is more like a plain, but semantics ...). I toured the castle and climbed up the 152' tower. I was more than a bit tired at the top, but it was well worth it. The view was breathtaking and surreal. I stood on the top of this castle thinking "Am I really in Spain? On top of a medieval castle? What world do I live in?!?!" It was pretty fantastic.

After Alcazar, I wandered through the city until I happened upon the Cathedral. Wow. I thought the cathedral yesterday was impressive. Compared to today's cathedral, that one was just a pile of bricks. I can't even begin to describe how beautiful this space was, and my pictures don't even begin to do it justice. The architecture was absolutely overwhelming and the knowledge that goes along with it -- it being such a profession of faith and adoration to God -- makes me weak. I don't think I could ever get used to a space like that.

Once I had wandered around the cathedral for the better part of an hour, I continued to explore the city. They were having el mercado in the city square, and it was like I had stepped into a time warp. Other than the clothing that they were selling, it was just like a medieval market. There was all varieties of produce and meats and candies and sweets and handmade goods. It was wonderful. I wandered around for a while, soaking in the environment.

As I walked down the cobblestone streets, the aqueduct rose up in front of me. Holy moly. Talk about wow. It was 95' high and old. Like 1st or 2nd century old. That means single digits, people!!! It was absolutely amazing. I have never been so close to something so old (that was man-made, of course!). It was at that point that I decided that I would live in Segovia someday. Not sure when, most likely after B passes away, but it will happen. I love everything about that city -- the people, the food, the atmosphere, the treasures of antiquity. It's exactly what I imagine when I imagine Old Europe. I need to be there. So, now I need to REALLY work on my Spanish. I mean, I survive with the little know, but I'd want more than just surviving if I lived there. :)

After a sleepy train ride home, I'm back in the hotel and ready to go get some grub downstairs. The Boy arrives tomorrow (YEAH!!), and I have to meet him at the metro around 11. That means I get to sleep in. I really hope he isn't too tired from the flight and is ready to explore. But I'll understand if he is. We do, after all, have all next week!

Enjoy the pics, peeps!

18 November 2009

Espana: Day Four

Today's adventures ran the gamut of emotion. At times I found myself in tears from awe and beauty and then raging and ready to murder. Happily, it all ended okay, but it took a while! Let me explain ...

My day started on the conference sponsored tour of the city. I wasn't excited about that, but a lot of my new friends were going and I figured I'd be a good sport. I much prefer exploring and seeing things on my own, going my own pace and feeling free to explore things that interest me. Once the bus tour stopped and the walking tour started, I said my goodbyes and headed out on my own. All was wonderful ... for a while. But we'll get there. Happy things first.

The trees in Plaza de Espana are all twisted and gnarled. Beautiful ugly.

The front of the monument in Plaza de Espana.

Santa Maria la Real de la Almundena Cathedral was A-MAZING! It took my breath away. It's an old style cathedral and is overwhelming.

The Sanctuary.

The Blessed Mother Chapel.

The cathedral has access to the dome, so patrons can walking up the million stairs (or take an elevator) to the top of the dome to look out over all of Madrid.

I hiked to the top, and this is what I saw.

By the time I got into the cathedral proper, I was close to tears. The experience was so awe-inspiring and moving. I stopped to pray in the cathedral and thanked God for the blessings that fill my life. It's hard not to be humbled when surrounded by hundreds of years of iron-clad faith.

Here, also, is where my day turned for the worst. I am normally a total misanthrope when traveling. As the Boy says, we wear "city face" and remain like stone. However, after leaving the cathedral, I was inspired and elated. I walked out of the cathedral, and, before I was even out out the gate, a woman approached me with a red carnation. She was speaking rapid Spanish and told me to go see the flamenco dancing tonight. I said, "Sure" and started to walk away. She stopped me and asked for a penny. I didn't have one, but I offered her a Euro ($1.50). She protested and wanted an American penny for good luck. (At this point, "normal" me would have just left, but "happy and kind" me had taken over and snatched my good sense!) I was still holding my wallet open when she reached across me to take back the carnation. I left and all was fine. Four hours later when I tried to pay for something, I realized that she had somehow snagged about 70 Euro ($125) out of my wallet. I have NO IDEA how she did it. My hands were on my wallet at all times and it was right in front of my eyes!! Talk about slight of hand. I was really pist at myself, but I did a good job of talking myself out of it. The Boy told me to write it off as a contribution to the church. It still makes me mad, but I still have my license and credit cards. I was still fuming though!

I wanted to visit the inside of Palacia Real, but the lines for tickets and entrance were RIDICULOUSLY long. Instead, I settled for some good exterior shots.

Changing of the guard.

Plaza de toros - The bull fighting arena

I also got to tour Estadio Bernabeu (where Real Madrid plays). I'm not a huge football fan, but this was pretty cool. I got to go through the trophy room, walk around on the pitch, check out the locker rooms (unfortunately no hot footballers were changing!), and sit in the stands. It was very cool. One of my students is CRAZY of Real Madrid, and I'm eager to share my pics with him.

After touring el estadio, I returned home to nap. I didn't get much sleep last night, and I as dragging. After a two-hour nap, I got up and ventured downtown to see La Reina Sofia -- the contemporary art museum. I'm not big on contemporary art (I'm looking much more forward to El Prado on Friday), but I did want to see Guernica. Wow. That was impressive.

On my back to the hotel, I picked up some snacks in una tienda poquita. When I got to the hotel, they were able to upgrade my room to a bigger room (because I'm staying for more than four nights). They couldn't do it before because the hotel was booked, but my new room was worth waiting for. I'm quite pleased.

Tomorrow I am taking the high-speed train to Segovia for 16th Century castles and Roman aqueducts. VERY excited about that!

Espana: Day Three

Two of the four tallest towers in Madrid. They live in Plaza de Castilla and are only a few blocks from my hotel.

A street in Centro Cuidad.

The streetview from my new pals' apartment.

I've been delinquent in posting. I've been having too much fun!!! Lo siento!

Day Three was another amazing day. I slept in until 9am (!!!) and decided to blow off the "professional development" part of the day and headed directly to the Museo de Americas.

This museum is focused on the indigenous peoples of the Americas as well as the waves of immigrants that initially shaped the culture. We're not talking Irish and Slavic; we're talking slaves. The artifacts and exhibits were very amazing although it was a bit difficult trying to understand everything when I only know conversational Spanish (and even that is a stretch!). But I was able to figure things out, and I took a ton of pictures of the Mayan artifacts which then allows me to write off the cost of admission (I'm here doing "curriculum work" as well! I love my job!)

After el museo, I returned to the hotel for free lunch. There I met up with my new homeboys from NCA&T and we ventured back out. We went to Retiro first because Brian and I wanted to see it in the daylight. So spectacular. I could totally see myself living in a city like this and "retiring" to that park after a long day of work or on a Sunday afternoon.

After Retiro, we all headed to Centro Cuidad for drinks and snacks. We happened upon a Correos (post office) and I ran in to get post card stamps.
El Correos

I was actually able to ask in Spanish for what I wanted and actually had a conversation with the mail lady!! I am so impressed with me. What I am not impressed with was the cost of each stamp: .78 Euro!!! That's like $1.50 USD!! Everything here is sooooo expensive. But very well worth it.

We returned to the hotel for the Honor Wine. This is basically the closing ceremony where we all gather and socialize. To me that is the most important part on any conference. Making connections with people from around the world who have similar interests. I met a nice professor from England, a prof from Limerick, and PhD student from Australia, and some more ladies from the U.S. We all ended up paling around for the night and headed downtown to find a nice place to eat.

We found one quickly!!! The food was amazing!!! I LOVED it. We all had sangria and great food and wonderful conversation. It was a wonderful evening. After we were all sated, we broke up into two groups: the group returning to the hotel and the group going out to look for fun. Can you guess which group I was in? :)

After some bar-hopping in Old Madrid, we returned home at 2:00am. It was a good time.

I love this city!

16 November 2009

Espana: Day Two

Day Two in Madrid has been pretty kick ass.

I met some people to hang out with ... all of whom are form North Carolina. Who knew I'd have to fly to the other side of the Atlantic to make some new friends?!?!? After our registration period and our coffee break, I headed back to my room to practice for my talk. I was more than a little nervous. But, happily, I friggin' rocked it!! People really responded to my position and topic and even approached me afterward to talk to me about my topic and my ideas. It was pretty fabulous.

Lunch as pretty amazing. We had wine and yummy food with dessert and amazingness. Yum!! After lunch, one of my new chums and I hit the streets and explored Madrid. We walked for quite a few blocks to see things, and then took the metro to Retiro park. By the time we got there it was dark and, since my camera sucks, the photos turned out sub-par. Oh well. We'll be heading back tomorrow for more exploring. After the park, we walked around downtown for a while before finding somewhere for dinner. It was expensive, but yummy! Especially when coupled with wine. Everything is better with wine.

After wine, we walked down the calle to a pub where we sat at tables on the street and people watched. It was a very good time.

I'm looking forward to tomorrow when I get the WHOLE day to explore and not just a few hours. I love it here though. It is pretty fabulous.

15 November 2009

Espana - Day One

I should really call this "Espana - Day Half" because I spent most of today either in a plane or catching up on lost sleep. :)

The trip was fairly easy. I left yesterday (Saturday) afternoon around 5pm after having to take things out of my suitcase that was already overweight by 5 pounds! I only had three books and clothes in the suitcase?!?!?! How can it weigh 55 pounds?!?!?! The Boy hadn't left the airport yet, so I was able to offload some of my overweight items without too much stress. After I finally was able to check in and get through security, things went a bit better. The flight from RDU to Philly went well, but the flight from Philly to Madrid was PACKED. There were absolutely no open seats, and it was rather tight in there!

I had originally planned to sleep the entire flight from Philly to Madrid, but the cabin lights weren't dimmed for over three hours!!!! We got an amazing meal of lukewarm tortellini, salad (loosely defined as such), a cold roll, and some chocolate cake. I had brought along my own cocktail fixings, so that helped, but it was extremely difficult to sleep when the cabin was a bright as midday. I ended up watching Julie and Julia, and, when the lights finally went out, I got a few hours of restless sleep. Of course, as soon as I got a teensy bit of shut eye, it was dawn. I guess that is what happens when you are flying into a time zone 6 hours ahead. But the rest I got was enough to recharge me until I got to my new "home" in Madrid.

Passing through immigration was neat, and I was expecting to be stopped at Customs. But, nope. I just walked right out of the airport, and my bag was never even checked nor was I asked any questions about my visit. I love that. I'm sure when I return home, I'll be questioned and harassed by the good old US Customs people.

Getting from the airport to the hotel was extremely easy, especially sine the metro opens right up into the airport, very much like Logan and other US airports. A few stops and one transfer later, I emerged into Plaza de las Castillas. I found my way the four or five blocks to my hotel and checked in with ease. After unpacking my stuff, I napped. And napped. It was only a few hours, but it was very much needed!

After my nap, I ventured out in search of food. Sadly, everything was closed. It's Sunday night, and I'm staying in a Catholic country so that makes sense. Since school pays 50 Euros a day for food, I figured I'd just get room service and chill out, preparing for my presentation in the morning. The room service was surprisingly yummy, especially coupled with the half bottle of wine that I ordered. The desert I ordered (a brownie with vanilla ice cream) was super good!

I look forward to tomorrow when I get my conference stuff over with and can venture out into the city to see the museums and the city. And, let's be serious, I'm excited about eating and drinking! You know me!!

13 November 2009

In case you weren't keeping track ...

I'll be leaving for Espana in 24 hours!!!!!

I will do my best to blog with pics during my week in Madrid, but I probably won't be blogging all that much (although I will try!) during the second week when we are at the Med.

Peace out, peeps!


03 November 2009

The new addition to my blog

I've recently been introduced to the following internet software:

Weird name, but awesome stuff people! You can see some of my examples on the sidebar of my blog. I've been using the education side of this program with my kids to create virtual posters (being green and techie all at once!), but I've also been playing with it on my own for fun.

It is incredibly easy to create "glogs" which are visually-based blogs. There are a ton of animated and still graphics that you can add to your glog to spice it up. You can upload pictures and video as well as text. They are pretty fun. I've used them to post favorite poems, picture collages, and I have a glog-in-progress about my trip to Spain. You should definitely check it out. They are a lot of fun to make and so easy to learn!

I love good days!

And good weeks are even better! (Granted, it is only Tuesday, but I am moving forward with positive outlook!)

I started out the week with Kiki and Soybeans and Kiki's mom too!!!! They came into town on Sunday evening and stayed over into Monday morning. We had a low key night, laughing at Sawyer being adorable and at Bailey as she continualy leapt over Sawyer's little body. They became friends and had a good time. Although, Sawyer tried to cuddle up with her a few times, but Bailey, not being used to "cuddling," kept moving. It was very frustrating for Sawyer and very amusing for us! Kiki looks as radiant and great as ever, even with her adorable 6-month-along baby bump. We said good bye on Monday morning, and they drove down to Atlanta. It was sad to see them go, especially after such a short visit, but I'm looking forward to a Houston visit in the spring after Oliphant Baby 2.0 shows up!

I got observed on Monday morning by my department chair, and I feel pretty confident that I did well. I wasn't nervous or anxious. I just did what I do. We explored the Monomyth (of course we call it the Hero Journey) and did a cool, interactive activity that required them to use their blogs and "journey" through the novel. The kids had fun because they got to use the technology that they love. We'll see what the department chair thinks in another week or so when we have our post-observation conference.

My classes today were pretty great as well. My kids have been really great about self-motivation and staying on task. I've really enjoyed working with them these past few weeks ... even more so than the earlier part of the semester.

And ...

I LEAVE FOR SPAIN IN 11 DAYS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Actually, at this late hour, 10 DAYS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Damn, I wish I were there now!


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