Saturday, March 27, 2010

i knew things were going too smoothly..

Firstly, feliz cumpleaños grandpa!

Izzy got all moved in to her new apartment today.  It was surprisingly easier than I thought.  We loaded up a taxi with her stuff, headed across the city to her new place, and got it all up in the elevator.  I'll have to take some pics of her apartment when I get back - the living room is so awesome! There are signs from everywhere, metro signs, salida (exit) signs, a shopping cart... her new place has a lot more life to it.

Her friend Mara, who flew in from Barcelona, got in around 6pm-ish.  We did a bit of last-minute shopping for the trip (since it's a Muslim country, girls need to be covered up, despite the hot temps.  It is strongly not recommended to wear V-necks and shorts, so we've been looking for longer, light-weight flow-y things.)

I left her apartment a bit before 9, to go print out all our tickets and itinerary at this 24 hr printing place closer to my end of town.  Got there and it was closed.

Also, I called Mike along the way to the printing place, to make sure I was walking in the right direction, and here's a snippet of the end of our conversation:

Mike: So are you going out tonight?
Me: No way! I still have to pack! And we lose an hour of sleep tonight (our DST is this weekend), and we have to leave for the airport at like 10.45am!
Mike: But not tomorrow, on Monday.
Me: Ha, ha, ok, see you tomorrow at the airport.
Mike: But it's not tomorrow, it's Monday.
Me: Very funny, ok bye.
Mike: No I'm serious - my ticket's for Monday the 29th, I thought we were leaving on Monday.
Me: Tell me you're joking...

So our tickets aren't printed, and we're currently working on a plan to meet up with Mike on the 30.  The thing is that we're flying into Tangier, but going right into Marrakech on a night train that first day.  And our phones don't work in other countries, so we're not even bringing them.  We just need a plan to meet up.

Hope things work out, and that the rest of the trip runs more smoothly than the start...

Alright, but I still have to pack!
Hasta abril

Semana Santa en Marruecos

We didn't have class today - 'twas the first day of spring break (or Semana Santa, what the break is referred to as here - Holy week).  I spent a the last couple hours trying to figure out my schedule for next fall...
Classes start up again on Tuesday the 6, but I'm going to miss all of my classes Tuesday and Wednesday, as I'll still be in Africa!

I'm going with Mike, Izzy, and Iz's friend Mara.  We bought the plane tickets a couple of weeks ago, but failed to make any other plans until two days ago.  Heh, that wasn't so smart on our part.  So it's been a frantic couple of days trying to find hostels, bus schedules, trains, desert trips on camels, and such.

Tomorrow we need to finalize our plans, look up maps and directions - how to get from the airport to the bus station, to the train station, from train stations to our hostels, PACK, go shopping for some stuff we'll need (travel size shampoo, a watch/alarm, lonely planet Morocco book?), go to a print shop to print out our tickets/reservations/itinerary.  Oh -- and did I mention Izzy's moving tomorrow?  She found a new apartment in an area of the city close to the university, so I'mma help her move in tomorrow afternoon.  Busy day.

I'll be back the evening of April 7, with plenty of photos and stories of our adventures.

Until then,
¡Que lo pases bien!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


Bueno, as I may have already mentioned, last semester I had a tutor for my Complutense class, Laura.  (She's amazing, btw) Our program, WIP, offers tutors for our Complutense courses if we want them.  WIP pays for the tutors, whom are mostly all past or present students of our current classes.

Luckily, Laura is a tutor once again this semester, and wanted to keep working with me, so she's my tutor for History and Theory of Science.  We've been meeting for the past three or four weeks.

But I still needed a new tutor for my other Complu class - History and Philosophy of Logic.  So I sent an e-mail off to WIP's grad student, Virginia, requesting a tutor, and received contact info of a tutor within a few days.  Simón.  We made plans to meet last Thursday.

Alright so this Simón guy is a professor at some other university in Madrid.  Virginia and I weren't sure about his age, but we both estimate he's in his 30s somewhere.  He was just a bit odd.  You know, when something's just a little off with a person.  He starts off by showing me a brochure of some philosophy conference in Madrid this past weekend - he was speaking on Sunday and said I'm invited. Alright, but no way I'm going...

We met for an hour and a half, and I honestly learned nothing helpful.  He started looking at my notes, would see a name and go off in a rant about this person - information that I don't need to know...

Or he'd see a word in my notes and tell me how to say it in latin, then how to write it in greek, followed by all this unnecessary linguistic history.  He is clearly in love with philosophy.  Which is great and all, but this is not my major. This is not my passion.  I find it interesting, but this is a single class that I would like to pass this semester... I just need to learn what's in my notes from class.

So he'd jump from the first page of my notes to the fourth, to the third, to the ninth - random philosophy historical figure to another.  This is not helpful to me.  I need to see the big picture, how it all fits together.  Who was first, who came next - the historical order.

Then at the end he suggested I start typing up my class notes and e-mail them to him, and he would edit them and add details and extra information to them.  Alright, I supposed I could do that.  At the end of every meeting with a tutor, the sudent fills out a sheet with the date, amount of time you met, and then signs it.  This is how the tutors get paid at the end of the semester - with that info.

So we're at the end of our meeting, and he suggests we put 3 hours for today, because he's going to provide "virtual" help - editing my notes, adding to them, looking for texts, planning stuff, etc.  So I suggested: why don't we write 1.5 hours for today (because that's how much time we met...) and next time you can tell me how much time you spent outside of the tutorías, and that's what we'll put.  He didn't understand what I meant, or didn't understand why, and explained to me again that we should put 3 hours because he's going to spend time outside of class preparing for these meetings.  He then added that he'd probably spend a lot more than an hour and a half preparing for the next meeting.  I tried explaining my idea again, but in the end I just wanted to get out of there, so I signed off 3 hrs on the sheet.  We planned to meet again this Thursday.

So as I'm walking back to our WIP office, I replay the last hour and a half in my head, and am simply dreading the thought of meeting with this guy ever again.  That time would have been muyyy better spent reading through my notes in a library alone.  Sooo better off.  But what to do - we have plans to meet next Thursday, he's expecting my notes to be e-mailed to him by Monday.  I could always say something came up and cancel Thursday and wouldn't have to deal with him until after spring break.... but how do you dump a tutor forever?

So I went to the WIP office and told Virginia and Mamen about the terrible tutor.  Virginia asked me if I wanted him to just change his method of tutoring, or if I didn't want to meet with him again ever.  Option #2 please!  They had to think about it for a while, too.  In the end, Mamen hand-wrote me an e-mail that I was to type up and send to him:

Hola Simón,

Te escribo este e-mail para decirte que he estado pensándolo y creo que no voy a continuar con la tutoría.
Francamente, creo que la ayuda que yo necesito para seguir la clase debe venir de otro tipo de persona, quizás no tan cualificada como tú.
Voy a buscar la ayuda de un(a) compañer@ de clase.
He hablado todo esto con la coordinadora de tutorías y con la subdirectora de mi programa y han entendido la situación.  Ellas me han dicho que pases por la oficina para cobrar las horas que ya hemos tenido.
Espero que me entiendas.  Te agradezco sinceramente la ayuda.
Un saludo,

It said that after thinking about it, I've decided not to continue with the tutorías.  Frankly, the help I need for this class should come from a different type of person, perhaps someone not as qualified as you... and then it said I would look for help from a classmate.  And to stop by the office to get paid for the hours we have had.  I think Mamen wrote a great e-mail - it was straight to the point, honest, yet not harsh.  I typed it up and sent it off on Friday.

His response was hilarious.  I will post it below:

Bueno, Rebecca, as you like it, como quieras. Pierdes la oportunidad de tener como profesor particular a un filósofo, no a un simple empleado. Algún día encontrarás mis libros publicados y traducidos en tu enorme país; si para entonces me recuerdas, espero leas alguno.
A parte de las tutorías si tu o algún compañero/a o amigo/a necesitáis alguna aclaración de algo difícil de comprender (por ejemplo: la teoría de la verdad en Heidegger) siempre me puedes enviar un email con alguna pregunta corta que lo responderé con mucho gusto.
Sincerily yours
Simón _______
PD. Mañana domingo sabes que hablo en un Congreso Internacional de la UNED a las 10:00 horas, si quisieras venir, éres bienvenida.

I will summarize with my commentary between ( )s: He tells me well, as you like it... you lose the opportunity of working one-on-one with a philosophy professor, not just a simple worker (saying that all the other WIP tutors are "simple" and below him).  (The next part is great): Some day, you will find my books published and translated in your enormous country.  If then, you remember me, I hope you read one. (!!! hahaha)

Apart from the tutorías, if you or a friend needs help with something difficult to understand - for example, the theory of truth in Heidegger... - you can always send me an email with a short question and I'll respond.  (I'll just use wiki...) And then there's the PS - you're still invited to hear me speak at this philosophy conference tomorrow (Sunday).  (Hah no thanks, I still pass.)

I forwarded on his response to Virginia and Mamen, they got a good kick out of it.  Also - Virginia told me that last Friday afternoon, before he received my e-mail, he sent an e-mail to Virginia saying how wonderful our first meeting was, and that he's excited for the semester... that the tutorías were going to be great... little did he know...

Anyways, it's a relief to have that all taken care of.  Tutor-dumping, that is.  Which leaves me still without a tutor, but I understand a lot more during this class than my other one, so I think I'll do alright without a tutor for now.  My professor also seems really nice, so once I finally sit down and go through the first month of notes, I can make a list of questions and I'll head in to office hours after spring break to clear some things up.

Friday, March 19, 2010

semestre #2

Disclaimer: Since my computer is always in Spanish-mode, nearly every English word I type online is underlined in a red squiggly as a spelling error.  Since I am too lazy to change the language to English every time I write something in English, it is very possible that there will be spelling errors in the following. Lo siento.  Here we go:

Since Reunidas midterms are right around the corner (they start on Monday...) I thought it's about time I tell everyone what sorts of classes I'm taking this semester.

I'll start with Reunidas. (Reunidas is a conjunto de programas norteamericanos: WisconsinIndianaPurdue, Cal State, Tulane, Boston College, Marquette, and some others?  Our profesors for these classes are all professors from the Complutense, but all the students are northamericans.  This semester Reunidas classes started on February 1 and final exams are the last week of May)
Sintaxis comparada II: I took sintaxis comparada I last semester, so it's the same type of class, just different material. We do lots of translations and learn useful spanish-things.
Etnología de América: Kind of like Anthro 104 all over again, minus the Sulawesi.  This class is reeeaaallly slow and boring, but it'll count towards some type of Spanish culture credit I needed.  Our first five temas included: Culture, Ethnography, Language, Economics, aaaaand... shoot, I can't even think of our current unit. That's bad news. Some studying is in order... Our trabajo (paper) for this class will be an ethnography of some cultural aspect of Madrid, whatever we want to write about.  It appears as though you do some "field work", interviewing madrileños and maybe some outside research, then write your findings. I was thinking about doing religion/the secularism here, since I did tons of research on that for my religion class last semester. Or something about the living status - how kids live with their parents until they're 30 or so.  That's the norm.  It'd also be interesting to do something about all of the graffiti on all the buildings or in bathroom stalls.  Girls here have full-on abortion debates on the walls of the bathroom stalls, or ask for guy-advice, or draw pictures, or debate the ethics of bull fights... they cover everything.
Cervantes: My professor is a passionate Cervantes fan, highly enthusiastic.  Thus classes are never boring, but I'm sure if anyone else were teaching it, it could be a terrible, uninteresting class.  Luckily that is not the case.  However, since Cervantes was all for 'la libertad', our professor also gives us lots of freedom in our papers and exams.  This I do not like.  For example, for our midterm on Monday, we'll receive 4 texts (the beginning and end of two of Cervantes' novelas ejemplares) and choose one. And write. Write about what, you may be asking.  Write about whatever. So... that'll be interesting. I have no idea what he's looking for.  He gives no specified length (we have that freedom too) nor requirements.  Just "write about whatever you want to that's related to the text you pick".  Ok.

And now my Complutense classes.  Complu classes started at the end of February, and final exams are throughout the month of June.  Unfortunately, my finals are quite late in the month, June 21 and June 23, but oh well.  Hopefully I can fit some travel in between Reunidas finals and my Complutense finals.
Historia y filosofía de la lógica: (Does that one require a translation?  Meh: history and philosophy of logic).  My professor's really nice and he talks at a perfect speed, and very clearly.  He writes on the board, too, so I feel like my notes are pretty good.  On Thursdays he lectures on philosophy of logic, and Fridays are history of logic.  I like the philosophy lectures better - fun to think about how we know what we know... how can you actually prove something's true... what does it even mean to be true... that sort of stuff.  It's all new info though, so I should really start studying, and learn bit by bit this semester.
Historia y teoría de la ciencia: (history and theory of science)  This class is interesting, but I don't think I'm grasping what everyone else does during lectures themselves.  This is ok though, because I have made a friend in class, Esther, that lets me borrow notes and photocopy them every week.  Then I read through Esther's notes with my tutor, and my tutor explains everything so to me - so well, too!  The semester started out with what is the history of science, what is the philosophy of science, do we need both, then looked at different figures (Aristotle, Francis Bacon, Nietsche, etc.) to see what they thought about the separation between history and philosophy of science - which were necessary to study the evolution of science.  (Do we need to only study the facts - who discovered what when? or should we study the historical context, the influences on these scientiests and learn why certain concepts were developed when and where they were discovered, and not elsewhere)

Both of those classes deal with a lot of meta-, so that keeps it interesting.  My grade for each class will just be one final exam in June.  My history of science exam will be some type of essay I think, and I have no idea the format of my logic exam.  I'll ask details when the timing gets closer.

Also, the format of most classes here in Spain is quite different than in the US.  They don't use textbooks with classes - there goes a valuable resource.  Rather, you go to class where the professor talks for an hour and a half straight, and you write it all down.  And you study your notes.  That's it.  Some classes have required or optional supplementary readings, either in a photocopied packet that you have to go purchase at the photocopy window, or could be books - but not textbook books, just normal books.  My logic class has no books at all (in fact, we still haven't even gotten a syllabus.  I had to ask my prof to write one for me, because I needed to turn one in this past week to get credit for this class in Madison).  The science class has some required readings every unit - it'll be maybe three or four books, and a chapter or two from each book.  So I go to the library and get a book at a time.  But like I said before, they're just normal books, not textbooks, so they're a bit harder to learn from.  It's not nicely outlined in units, concepts you will learn in this chapter, vocabulary, comprehension questions, like textbooks are.  So that's something that still takes some getting used to.

Anyway, I've barely done any studying all semester, so I should go start learning what we've been taught these past two months for midterms.


Sunday, March 14, 2010

ps - daylight savings time

ps - I don't have daylight savings until the 28th.  I was thinking from all the facebook statuses (and events! - seriously, who needs an event for that?...) that it was today, but further investigation told me otherwise.

I don't think I'd wondered much about daylight savings in other countries until now, now that I'm living in one.  It anyone's interested, here's a list of the dates and times of daylight savings in 2010, by country.

I'm surprised by how many countries don't recognize daylight savings.  It looks like more don't have DST than do.  Who decides?  Some of the places that don't have DST in 2010:

  • Afghanistan
  • Algeria
  • China
  • Costa Rica
  • India
  • Hawaii, Arizona, US Virgin Islands
Interesting... I may have to look more into this.

Blast from the past: Spain's TV

Just as nearly all the movies at the theaters are dubbed here, lots of the TV shows are dubbed as well.

Yeah, it's annoying that the mouths don't match up, but the great thing about dubbed American television in Spain is that I get to re-live my childhood/teen years.  They have some current shows, too, but most of the shows that are usually on are from the 90s or early 2000s.  Including:
  • Judging Amy (was sooo excited when I discovered this is on nearly every day here)
  • Diagnosis Murder
  • Early Edition (that show where that guy gets the newspaper a day early)
  • Fear Factor
Also, speaking of tv... of the 32ish channels that we get in my apartment (lots of my friends' places only have 5 or so), one of them is the "aprende inglés" channel... or "learn English".  Anytime you're in the mood for an English lesson, just flip to that channel and wa-la!  It was clear from the start that learning a second (or third, or fourth) language is definitely more important here in Spain than in the US, but the fact that there's an entire channel (1 of 32) dedicated to learning english makes it even clearer.

The kids I teach English to and the kids I help at the women's center have French and English classes in school (and they're not electives...).  One of the girls, Janira, at the women's center (she's 7 or 8) has her science class in English.  In my history of science class at the Complutense, a couple of the required texts are in English.  In the origins of humanity class that I was going to take (but didn't), all of the powerpoints were in English, and all of the readings were in English as well.  Since a majority of the top anthropology research is done by English-speakers, and there aren't many Spanish translations (biological anthropology is a fast-changing field, so the most up-to-date books and articles are in English), it's learned in English.  It seems to just be assumed that by the time you're in a university, you should be able to read and comprehend English at that level.  (When the anthro professor asked if anyone couldn't read in English, only two students raised their hands.  Glad I'm not them...)  

But clearly, you would never show up to an anthropology or history class at UW and have required readings in Spanish or French, for example.  Just goes to show the influence the US (and UK) have over Spain: non-English speaking countries learning English rather than us learning theirs.*

*Though I realize learning Spanish has picked up recently, at least in our district - they're starting to teach it in elementary school rather than waiting until middle school.  But still, there's a whole lot more English/US culture in Spain than Spain in the US.  That's for sure.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Lisboa, Portugal

This past weekend I went to Lisboa (Lisbon), Portugal.  It was a pre-planned trip through a company called Forocio, so I paid one fixed price for everything.  I knew two people going on the trip before leaving: Asad and Maggie.

The bus left rainy Madrid probably around 2.30 Friday afternoon. First we went 2.5-3 hours north to Salamanca to pick up some more people, then made the trek to Lisboa.  We got to Lisboa around 12.30am Madrid time, 11:30pm Lisboa time.  The group was split between two hostels; I stayed in Lisbon Old Town Hostal (which btw, if you ever find yourself in Lisbon in need of a place to stay, I'd highly recommend it).

 My room at the Lisbon Old Town Hostal

After people got settled into their rooms and freshened up a bit (about an hour after getting to the hostel), the group headed out for a bar crawl organized by the program... where we ended up just going to one of the three bars on the itinerary.  Oh well, we worked up a sweat dancing.  There were lots of Puerto Ricans on the trip... and boy do they have energy!  We walked home in the rain around 3/4am (Portugal/Madrid time), but others stayed out later.

Waiting outside the hostel before the bar crawl

Saturday we started off the morning with a walking tour of different barrios in Lisboa.  We somehow lucked out on weather and had sunshine that day.  Some photos:

We split up and had an hour to find lunch, then at 2pm we bussed to el Monasterio:

el monasterio

Next stop was Sintra, a gorgeous little town that was green, green, green!

Then we headed to Cabo da roca, the westernmost point of the continent of Europe!  They actually sold certificates as souvenirs that stated you have been to the westernmost point of Europe.  Asad bought one, but I thought pictures would be proof enough.  It was gorgeous:

Then we bussed to Cascais.  The Puerto Ricans tried to get the wave going on the bus:
 In Cascais, lots of people went for ice cream, but since I am unable to consume it, I watched the sunset on the beach:

I was so exhausted by the time we got back to Lisboa - Saturday felt like two days - but alas, dinner! We got to the restaurant a bit after 11 I think.  Soup, salad, meat dish, and bacalao dish (typical Portuguese fish), desert (ice cream... had to pass it up again), and bread 'n wine.

The group was then bussed to a discoteca, but I was so exhausted I just went home to sleep.  And I don't think I got back to the hostel until around 1.30 or so.

Sunday morning packed up then loaded up the bus and stopped at la Torre de Belem before heading back to Spain.

As you can probably tell from the first video, the Puerto Ricans loooved to sing on the bus. It was entertaining... until you were trying to sleep, and they somehow still had energy to be dancing, singing, and clapping.  Was pretty funny though, because when you're as exhausted as I was, and the singing continued, you could only laugh:

I always end up making new friends while traveling, usually in the hostels, but the nice thing about this trip was that all the new people we met from the trip are all from Madrid (minus the 8 or so from Salamanca).  Thus it will be easy to make plans to hang out again.

And as always, the complete photo album is up on my shutterfly site.

PS - if anyone's interested, here's Maggie's post about the Lisbon trip.  I forgot/left out a bunch of details that she remembered/included, so if you feel like reading another perspective, go for it.  I'd link you to Asad's post, too... but he hasn't written yet! (tsk tsk)

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


How is it March already?  February sure flew by.

Gregorio's mother got here Wednesday night while I was teaching English.  (She's actually still here... not sure how long she's staying with us)  Didn't meet here until Thursday afternoon.  She's a sweet, old lady - it's kind of like having grandma here all over again!  Friday morning when I left for class, she was in the living room ironing, and Gregorio's clothes were all over.  I think the washing machine was running nonstop all day Friday and Saturday, and she kept herself busy ironing, folding, and cleaning up around the apartment.  On Friday she and Gregorio worked on his bedroom... made a bit of a dent I suppose.  [Our deal is that if he finishes cleaning/organizing the shelves in the living room, AND cleans his bedroom (and I mean really clean it... it'd be at least a week-long project of taking things out, getting rid of things, etc), then I'll go for a ride with him on one of his motorcycles -- which he's been bugging me to do since day 1).

On Friday, his mother made lunch (paella!) for Alex (Grego's friend and co-owner of his side business, who is here nearly every day working out in the living room), Alex's sister Natalia, Gregorio, and I.

Let me preface this next story with a reminder that Gregorio has three motorcycles, but his mother has no idea.  He had to hide his helmets and stuff in my room before she got here. Now story:
So while we were eating a little appetizer out in the living room before lunch on Friday, Gregorio was showing Alex, Natalia, and I some pictures on his camera.  Gregorio's mom came in the room and started looking for her glasses so she could see the pictures too, when all of a sudden Gregorio hit a huge batch of photos with him and 2 others on their motorcycles...  it was hilarious!  He made a face "oh shoot..." and started scrolling really fast to get through all of them before his mom got over by us.  Meanwhile Alex, his sister, and I are all cracking smiles trying not to laugh... then his mom wondered what was going on -- hah, the moment was too perfect.

Also on Friday, post-lunch, it some how came out that Gregorio has thousands of electronic books (pdfs, word) on his external harddrive.  My ears perked up, and he let me look through them all that afternoon and take whatever I wanted.  It was like Christmas in February!  He has everything!  Any classic or well-known American author in Spanish, and all of the well-known Spanish authors.  It was difficult to not take everything, but I only took 74 (which is a fraction, fraction of all the books he has).  The 74 include: Dan Brown, Dale Carnegie, Cervantes, Douglas Adams, Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Harry Potter, Orson Scott Card, Lewis Carrol, Einstein, Darwin, Descartes, Carl Sagan... and more!  Clearly, I'll have lots of books in Spanish readily available to me for the next couple of years...

This weekend I'm heading to Portugal - six months here and this will be my first time out of Spain! (It's about time...).  I should really get to bed now, but I'll write-up a class update later this week.