Monday, May 31, 2010

feria del libro

Finished my Reunidas exams on Monday and Tuesday.  Still waiting to get them back...

On Saturday afternoon, Asad and I made maklouba again:

Then with Vickie, we headed to the feria del libro which is currently set up in Retiro Park until mid-June.  There are over 300 stands of books, from different book stores all over the city.  Every day, some of the stands have authors in their booth for a few hours to sign books.

 Feria del libro

Snoopy autographing books...

On Sunday I went to the Rastro again (got your fans, grandma!), followed by tomar-ing some sol.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


Last Wednesday, the program sponsored our last group "event", a paella lunch at Casa de Valencia.


That evening, there was a graduation ceremony for the Reunidas program (The North American program from which I had three classes each semester)

It felt a bit weird to graduate before we had actually finished, but now that I'm done with my Reunidas finals (had two yesterday, and the last one today), I can post the graduation pics.

 Everyone looking nice and spiffy before the ceremony

Getting my certificate and sash-thing

Me, Asad, and Virginia (graduate student that works for WIP)

 Me with the WIP staff: Virginia, Amy, Mamen, Prof. Juan

Monday, May 17, 2010

otro domingo en moto

This morning I was woken up to Gregorio's "Rebe?! Rebe?", quietly asking if I'm awake.

Eh?  Qué?  Ok, now I'm awake.  He peers his head round the door. Asks me if I want to go round Madrid on his motorcycle. Half asleep, I say no.

Apparently there's a big crowd of motos at the plaza de toros, and any minute now they're going to take off together, and go 'round Madrid.

I think of all the work I have to do that day. My plan was to wake up, shower, and go to the library.


Come on, let's go, he tells me.  I'm a little more awake now.

If it were a short little trip, I'd have said yes. But a ride around Madrid could last... hours.


He's persistent.  Come on, let's go, let's go, get up, get up.

Five minutes later I'm dressed and we're headed out the door!

After a half hour ride or so, we make a stop at the Egyptian Templo de Debod, which somehow I still hadn't seen yet, so that was nice to cross off the "to-do before leaving" list.  The temple was given to Spain in 1968 by the Republic of Egypt.

Templo de Debod

Inside the temple

View of Palacio Real y Catedral de la Almudena

Me reacting Amelie


Then I thought we were heading back to the apartment... little did I know cañas and pinchas would be our next stop:
Bocadilla de calamari, patatas, pincha de tortilla, y cervezas.

The place we ate though had all these funny quotes painted on the walls.  I only translated a few; so Spanish speakers, enjoy the rest. (Some of them are plays on words, and I'm too lazy right now to explain all the meanings of the words and why it's funny... maybe later):

Don't worry about life, because you won't leave it alive.

By the light of a candle, no women are ugly.

Poderoso caballero Es Don dinero

 Aunque soy Feo Gordito y Gangoso Los euritos Me hacen Gracioso.

 ¿En que se parecen un hombre aún cepillo de dientes?
Que sin pasta no vale nada.  

(^^jaja, uno de mis favoritas)

Los chicos son como los músicos.
Vienen, tocan, y se van.

Since we were right al lado, we stepped into Plaza Mayor to see who was singing.

And then we head home.

A pleasant, unexpected start to my day.  We were gone about 2 hours, but I still got stuff done the rest of the day.  And now begins another week... two presentations tomorrow, still have that logic paper to write, and finals to study for.

woot woot

Monday, May 10, 2010

los compañeros del piso

Had dinner with the roomies and Asad a couple of weeks ago for my birthday.

Asad y Gregorio

Me, Zuzana, Gregorio, y Asad

Then two weeks ago or so, we had a lunch with the roomies más Alfonso.  Then after-lunch drinks.

Grego, me, and Zuzana

Alfonso, Gregorio, y yo

Las asignaturas, schmaschmignaturas

As all my UW friends are finishing up finals this week (and some siblings are graduating...), thought I'd post a quick update on my classes:

We have two weeks left of Reunidas classes.  My three finals for those classes are on the 24 and 25 of May.
  • Cervantes: Need to write one more paper between now and the final, and plan out the essay I'm gonna write for the final.  And read our last novela, La española inglesa.
  • Etnología de américa: Wrote my paper for this class on Saturday.  It's 300 words short, but I think I'll leave it as is... I have nothing else to add.  That's the paper where we had to interview madrileños about some aspect of Spanish culture.  I picked religion, since I had written that paper last semester comparing religion in the US to religion in Spain.  Next Monday/Tuesday each student will present their "results" of our interviews to the class, and then we turn in the papers on the day of the final.
  • Sintaxis: Wrote the paper for this class a couple of weeks ago (so I wouldn't be completely overwhelmed with papers these final two weeks).  I'll look at it again some point this week to edit it before we turn them in on the 17.  Just need to study for the final now.
And Complutense classes go through June 4, I believe.  Or maybe just the 28 of May.  I'm not sure, I'm kind of confused on when the last day of those classes are.  But I'll figure it out as it gets closer.  My finals are on the 21 and 23 of June. Yeah, kind of blows. But oh well.
  • Filosofía y historia de la ciencia: I keep meeting with my tutor every week, and we go through Esther's notes from class together.  Then the day after, I combine Esther's notes, my notes from class, and the notes I write down during sessions with my tutor, and re-write that week's notes in my notebook.  I've done all the required readings thus far, except for Francis Bacon's El avance del saber (Advancement of Learning).  I started it... but it's quite dull.  I'm 30-40 pages in, but I don't think I'll finish the whole book.  At least not in May.  Maybe I'll give it another shot in June...  So after classes end, my task will be to memorize all of my notes from the entire semester, and hope I can pull off the exam.
  • Filosofía y teoría de la lógica: So we have our new professor finally (can't remember if I've said that yet or not).  Two weeks ago he told us that since we had switched professors over halfway through the semester, that we have the option of writing a paper in place of the final exam.  I'm opting for the paper.  We have to pick some text... something that has to do with the philosophy of logic, summarize it, criticize it (using other philosophers' texts), then write our opinion on the topic  (I think.  The day he told us about the paper was the day I came a couple minutes later than usual... after he'd explained the whole thing.  But I think that's what we're supposed to do).  Anyway, so I wasn't sure what type of "text" we pick to base our paper on, so I asked him after class.  He told me to send him an e-mail as a reminder, and he'd send me some suggestions.  So I sent him an e-mail that weekend.  Never got a response.  Then last Thursday in class, he told me that on Friday he'd bring me some texts I could use.  Great.  I go to class on Friday... and he doesn't show up.  Turns out he had a conference or something, that he didn't tell us about the day before (or maybe he didn't know) so class ended up being canceled.  So that set me back another week... Hopefully he'll bring me something on Thursday.  If not, I'll go to the philosophy library and try to pick something myself.  I'm anxious to start this one, because instead of turning in the paper the date of the final (in June, which is the usual), he wants them at the end of May.  That means I only have two weeks now, and this paper will take a lot more research and time than other ones (reading all the philosophical texts, figuring out what the heck they mean, organizing ideas, etc.)  But at the same time I'll be studying for finals/writing trabajos for my reunidas classes.  A ver.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Backpacking through Morocco Part 6: Chefchaouen

[Note: This post is the final post of a series.  You will find Part 1 here, Part 2 here, Part 3 here, Part 4 here, and Part 5 here.]

April 5, 2010
If you recall from the previous post, we have just arrived in Tangier (about 8am) from an overnight train we caught in Marrakech, after first taking a 3 hour taxi from Essaouira to Marrakech. Phew.

But we're not done yet.  We stop in the train station to quickly brush our teeth and use the restrooms before heading off on foot to the bus station.  From there, we take a two and a half hour, 3-euro bus ride to Chefchaouen.  Yes, the bus was a bit sketch, but we made it without dying (unlike the man working at the train station told us on our first day in Tangier).

The four of us were in the very last row of the bus.  In fact, we took up the last four open seats: Mike and Izzy on the left, aisle, then me and Mara on the right.  And then another dude got on the bus.  So the bus driver comes to the back, grabs a piece of wood (it was seriously just an old chipped piece of wood), layed it across the aisle between Izzy and I, and that became the dude's seat for the entire ride. Eh, yeah.

And then we arrived at this town up in the mountains. Took a taxi to our hostel.

Our hostel was run by a Scottish couple and their 19-year old son (They have another son, too, but he still lives in Scotland).  The couple had frequently vacationed in Chefchaouen, and fell in love with the town so much that four years ago they moved here and opened the hostel.  Quite a brave move, to drop everything and start a life in an Arabic-speaking muslim town, where you don't speak the language.  The son doesn't attend school here in Morocco, but he has picked up a lot of Arabic in the past four years, from talking with new friends and townspeople.

The couple were so very helpful, and their son took us around town throughout our stay.  He took us to an amazing restaurant (so good, in fact, that we ate there both days) where he's friends with the owner.

The town is gorgeous, and I can see why they decided to move here.  Different shades of blue on all the buildings - I was in my element.  It was so relaxing, with nothing on our to-do list but enjoy the great food, soak in the sun, and appreciate the scenery:

...And that was Chefchaouen.  We got up early on our last day, took a taxi back to Tangier, and caught our flight back to Madrid.  What a wonderful spring break.

Oh, and all the Morocco pictures are up now on Shutterfly.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Backpacking through Morocco Part 5: Essaouira

[Note: This post is part of a series.  You will find Part 1 here, Part 2 here, Part 3 here, and Part 4 here.]

April 2, 2010
We got up at 6.30 to pack up all our bags and make it to the bus station by 8.30.  Walking into the bus station is quite an experience.  When you step foot inside, at least six people from different bus companies will all come up to you, asking where you're going, listing all the main cities.  Some might grab for your arm, and try to take you to their company's ticket window.  And as soon as you say "We're going to _____." then you're stuck.  They assume you'll go with them,

We only wanted to find out the departure times and prices of the companies, to see if it would be cheaper to bus or cab.  But as soon we found out that info from one of the workers, he assumed that we'd be buying tickets.  He got really upset when we told him we couldn't buy any tickets just yet because we were meeting two other friends (Elena and Jordi), and had to wait for them.  Rather than continue to argue with him or deal with the other five people trying to get us to go with their company, we just got the heck out of there and got some coffee and bread at a nearby café.

I think the bus tickets were around 70 durham, so 7 euro per person.  We asked a worker at the café about a taxi, and he told us a taxi would be 600 durham from there to Essaouira.  Between 6 people, that's only 10 euro a person.  10 euro for a 2.5 hour cab ride!  When Elena and Jordi arrived, we talked about our options outside of the bus station and decided to split a cab, as it'd probably arrive faster than a bus, and just be more pleasant than a bus full of people.

The man who we had talked with earlier in the bus station spotted us outside, and tried to get us to buy tickets again.  We told him we were going to go in a taxi instead.  Well then he wanted to call for our taxi (I think they receive a commission or something).  Ok, fine.

The weird part was that they wanted us to pay in full before we left.  We were all a bit wary of this, and Jordi - who spoke a bit of French - asked if we couldn't pay half now, and the other half upon arrival.  Nope, they wanted it all now.  So Jordi talked to the man and basically told him that after we pay, you'd better get us to Essaouira, or else.  So we paid the guy, and then he goes and runs across the street with our money.  A couple minutes later a different man came back, our driver.

We made it there just fine.  Our driver even stopped an hour or so into the ride, without us asking, so we could have a pit stop.

Walking down the main street, we couldn't find the side-street we needed to get to our hostel.  After walking all the way to the end and back of this main medina-street, we decided to look for other lost people and see if they were going to the same hostel - or had a map.  Just as we decided to do this, we thought we heard some English nearby.  We turned behind us, and a man and women were looking at a map, talking in English.  We asked them where they were going, and they were headed towards the same hostel!  I had directions printed out from the Supratours bus stop, but we had come a different way (since we took a taxi).  This woman had directions to the hostel from the other bus stop, where our taxi had dropped us off.  So as four became six, we headed off with correct directions this time, and easily found the hostel together.

After checking in we lied under the sun up on the roof for a while:

Had lunch overlooking the coast:

Got after-lunch crepes.  Walked around the medina.  When we got back to the hostel around 5-6pm, Mike and I were so tired from the past couple days of travel with such early wake-up times, we decided to take naps.

...and then I woke up and found out it was 10pm.  So I brushed my teeth, put on pjs, and continued sleeping through the night.  Guess I had a lot of sleep to catch up on.

April 3, 2010
We had a 3 euro breakfast of an omelette, fresh (and real) orange juice, tea/coffee, and yet again that delicious Moroccan bread.

It was really windy, but we headed to the beach to walk around a bit and to watch people kite surf.

Later I read up on the roof for a while.  We hung out with some Brits and Australians from our hostel. Went to dinner. Crepes. And such, and such. Sleep.

April 4, 2010
We had breakfast at a nearby pastry shop, after which we loaded up on pastries for the train ride later that night.  Spent more time in the medina, then more time reading on the roof.

Around 2.45 we went to the Supratours bus stop to get tickets for the 3.30 bus back to Marrakech, where we would then take an overnight train to Tangier, followed by a 2.5 hour bus ride to Chefchaouen.  We waited in line with the rest of the crowd at the bus station until it re-opened after lunch.  Found out the 3.30 bus was sold out.

So we walked to the other end of town and found a taxi to take us back to Marrakech.  150 durham each, so it wasn't too bad.  Waited in the Marrakech train station for about an hour and a half until our 9.05pm overnight train arrived.  It was a long night of trying to sleep in upright train seats, but our destination proved to be worth the day of travel.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Backpacking through Morocco Part 4: The Sahara

[This post is part of a series.  You will find Part 1 here, Part 2 here, and Part 3 here]

March 31, 2010
Mike, Iz, Mara, and I all woke up at 6am, and leaving all our backpacks at the hostel (except for one duffel bag between the four of us), we walked about 40 minutes to the meeting place of our desert trip.  Jimmy had a flight back to Madrid later that morning, as he was headed to Amsterdam for the rest of break.  We saw a few other people with backpacks waiting on the steps of the designated meeting location, so we took a seat and waited.  Since we hadn´t eaten anything that morning, the not-yet-open McDonalds across the street toyed with our emotions.

Waiting for the van

Soon a man arrived to collect our money.  Then came the van that would take us to the desert.  The man who had collected the money led us to the van, but did not come with - that was the end of his involvement.  Never being introduced to the driver, we climbed in, buckled up, and headed out for a drive longer than we had imagined.  Although there was no mention of breakfast in the trip summary, we briefly stopped two hours in at a little place where I got some mint tea and a pastry.  It was freezing when we stopped, and I was worried I'd be cold the rest of the day, since I hadn't really brought anything warm, but I think it's just because we were so high up in the mountains at that point.  It warmed up a ton as we continued our drive.

The roads through the mountains (the whole day's drive) were all very curvy and on the edges of huge cliffs.  I luckily had brought my wristbands with me for motion sickness, which definitely helped.  A woman puked in the back of the van later in the afternoon, so we pulled over for a few minutes to, er, clean up.  A couple more people used that stop to puke as well, but outside of the van.  Luckily, I held it in, but if I wouldn't have had those bands I definitely would have been sick in the van.

The small, curvy roads on the edges of huge drop-offs coupled with some crazy n' fast driving led to many almost-accidents.  On curves to the right, our driver would end up driving in the left lane, making the curve less sharp so he wouldn't have to slow down as much.  However, he would do this on curves where you absolutely could not see ahead of you.  Thus, a number of times we'd be driving on the left side going around a curve when all of a sudden we were head-on with another car and quickly had to swerve back into our lane, inches from collision.  Sometimes I just couldn't watch.

Other times the roads would be too skinny to fit two cars.  As we continued driving after lunch, while on a straight road in a flat area, a car driving in the opposite direction didn't slow down and hit our side mirror as they went past:

Shattered side-view mirror

Around 6.30 I believe, we arrived at our destination, greeted by camels.  We all hopped on a camel and headed to the campsite as the sun set.

Iz and Mike on "Violating Viktor"

I don't think it took more than 30-45 minutes to get there, but by the time we arrived at the camp site, the sun had set.
Izzy and Mara, and Sally's head (my camel... Sally the Camel)

The person who had led the camels showed us where our group's tent was.  And then he disappeared, presumably with the camels.  There were a couple other tents in the area, with groups from different "desert trip" companies.  We grabbed a couple blankets from the tent and lied down outside, to star gaze.  

Now I'm not one to use the word "beautiful", but the sky that night was unlike any I'd ever seen.  At this point it was around 7.30pm and the moon was nowhere in site.  With complete darkness, the stars were so bright, and appeared to be right in front of our faces.  We stared at the night sky, we pondered the meaning of life.

And then we noticed two Moroccan men at the door of our tent, asking what group we were with.  Nobody knew the name of the company.  Then they asked us who our driver was.  Nobody knew his name either, as we had never been told.  I think they even tried to tell us we were supposed to be in a different tent.  So the men didn't know who we "belonged to", and we just wanted to be fed. (I had only munched on some bread for lunch since my stomach was upset from all the curves, so I was, erm, just a bit hungry).  There was a man in our group with his pregnant wife, and he was understandably concerned that nobody knew what was going on.  He was upset that there was no water there for us (after all, we had spent the entire day in the desert...and his wife is pregnant).

Mike fell asleep while we were waiting inside the tent.  Iz, Mara, and I played some old school MASH.  By 9.30 I was convinced we'd go to bed without eating.  

At 10.30, at last we were fed!  It was a miracle!  Corn-based soup, cous-cous with chicken, amazing moroccan bread, veggies, fruit, and they brought us bottles of water.  The potatoes were sooooo delicious.  It was all really yummy.

The carrots all week had been bigger than carrots I normally see in the US, but check out the size of this one from Mara's plate:
 Big carrot: zanahoriazo?

THE carrot: a close-up

After dinner there was a drum circle around a fire, accompanied with dancing.  I watched for a little bit, but was hecho polvo and soon went to bed.  Also: Unlike the description on the website, there were absolutely no facilities where we were. So, you know, you just have to walk out into the sand, find a spot, make sure no one can see you... and you're set.  (This was obviously harder the next morning, without the night's darkness)

April 1, 2010 

Light breakfast of bread, jam, butter, coffee, tea.  Rather than heading straight back to where we had came from on our camels, we rode through a nearby "village":

We arrived to the van pick-up spot around 9.30, and snapped a group photo while waiting.
Me, Mike, Izzy, and Mara

On the drive back, while talking to a young Spanish couple from Mallorca that were in our van, Elena y Jordi, we found out they were headed to Essaouira the next day as well.  Essaouira is on the coast, about two and a half hours west of Marrakech.  They suggested the possibility of sharing a cab, so we made plans to meet them at the bus station the next morning, bright and early.  If it was cheaper to split a cab between six people, then we'd do that.

When we got back to Marrakech that evening, we picked up our bags from our first hostel, then headed to the medina to find our new hostel for the night.  After checking in, we all took showers, then went out to find something to eat.  We actually ran into Elena and Jordi that night, and re-confirmed our plans for tomorrow.