Wednesday, March 23, 2011

What doesn't kill you, part 2.

(This part is kind of long….stick with me, please!)

So where was I?  Ah, yes.
The lady went to talk to her manager, and left me anxiously awaiting my fate at the camera counter.

After a few minutes, she sauntered back over with my information and said, “Well, we can’t do anything about it here, but it’s possible that if you go to the exact same Corte where you bought it (in Sevilla), there’s a slight chance that they might possibly be able to look it up on the same computer you used when you checked out, maybe.  It’s not a sure thing, but that’s your option.”

This may not seem encouraging, but considering I was basically expecting to be laughed at, I took the news to be tidings of great joy.  This by no means solved my problem of having a camera for my trip, but at least it meant I might not have to spend an extra 240€ on a camera in the near future.

I had posted something on my Fbook page to the effect of “fml" upon returning to my apartment.  I promise I’m not one to seek pity or attention with Fbook updates.  I was just really frustrated with being sick, not having a camera, and (I forgot to mention earlier) finding out that I did NOT in fact have two extra days off school like I thought.  I believe the word here is, “bleak.”  I had to say it somewhere.

My dear friend Jeanette chatted me up and was asking what was going on.  I gave her the abbreviated version and the first thing she said was, “well, if you want, you can just use my camera until you get the situation worked out with yours.”

To be perfectly honest with you, it had never even occurred to me to ask someone to just up and borrow a camera for a weekend.  I would of course let someone I trusted borrow my camera, but the idea of me asking someone else for the same thing just didn’t cross my mind.  I met up with Jeanette later that evening and got the camera.  It was a nice camera too, btw, so I was very happy, and very grateful that she let me use it.

The next morning I got up (still feeling sick) at 6 to catch my bus to Málaga, got to the airport sin problemas, and arrived in Amsterdam to sunny skies, and an even sunnier disposition on my part.  I met this kid, Jason, in my hostel within 10 minutes of having arrived, and we hit it off and made plans to hang out, maybe hitting up a museum or just getting some drinks.

My first afternoon in Amsterdam was great!  I just walked for a few hours, went to the Rijksmuseum and saw lots of Vermeer, Rembrandt, Hals, and many more.  I’ve always been a big fan of the Northern School, so it was great to see it all.  Unfortunately, most of the museum was closed due to renovation, so I only got to see about ¼ of everything.  Still worth the 12,50€ entry, but…just barely...


Eventually I started feeling worse, so I grabbed some dins and headed back to the hostel and chilled and read for a while until I went to sleep.  Luckily most of the other people in the room (8 person dorm) were back, so we didn’t have anyone stumbling in at 4 am from the clubs.  Also, for the first time in living history, I was in a dorm with no snorers!  I couldn’t believe it.  If my throat hadn’t been hurting so bad, I probably would have slept as well as if I were back in my own bed.  But it wasn’t to be, unfortunately.

The next morning I woke up feeling down right awful (and felt pain creeping up into my ear….), so I got up early and went to the front desk, got directions to a pharmacy where I could ask for medicine.  Got to the pharmacy, but they couldn’t give me anything except the address of a doctor.  I went to the doctor, but he hadn’t come in that day, so it was just the nurses there.  They gave me the address of another doctor, one who sees a lot of expats.  So I finally get there, wait 30 minutes for the office to open, and eventually get seen by the doctor.  I told him that my tonsils hurt and it felt like I was possibly getting the beginnings of an ear infection.  He took a look at my throat and said, “yup, your tonsils look enflamed.”  Then he looked in my ears and said, “yup, your ears look a little enflamed.”  None of this was shocking to me.

What was shocking, however, was that he then proceeded to say, “You have an upper respiratory infection.”  ¿Excuse me?

Now, I’m no doctor, and I’ve never had an upper respiratory infection, but last time I checked, it’s hard to diagnose said malady without an x-ray.  Right?  And what does my ear looking red have to do with my lungs?

Basically I left the doctor confused, but successfully got a prescription for antibiotics, which is all I was after.  (I felt 100% the next evening, btw.)  They also gave me hydrogen peroxide to wash out my mouth and gargle with.  I did it twice, got freaked out I was going to accidentally swallow it, and then just dumped the rest out.  Not after having spilled a good bit of it on myself while trying to open it though.

By the time this had all come to pass, it was only about 11 am, so I grabbed some food and went to the Van Gogh museum, which was terrific.

The museum was great not only because they had lots of art by Van Gogh, but also because they showed you the things that inspired his work and his ideas.  I’ve studied Van Gogh and the Impressionist movement before, but it was interesting to see where all these things began for the individual person.

Rijksmuseum from the Van Gogh museum.  No pictures allowed inside, so this is from the outside stairwell.

Then I decided I would go to the train station and get my train ticket printed out a day early, just because I had time, and then I wouldn’t have to worry about it later.

I hopped on the tram and got to the train station.  Got a number to wait my turn, got called up to counter, and gave them my ticket info for my ticket.

Me: I need to print my ticket for my trip to Paris tomorrow.  Here’s my info.

Train Station Guy: Umm, did you buy this ticket on the French national railway site?

Me: Yes…

Train Station Guy: And did you select “Print ticket at train station?”

Me: Yes…

Train Station Guy: Ah, well, then you have two options: We can’t access the French system, so you can either try to change the method of retrieval online, or you’re going to have to buy a new ticket.

Me: Say what now?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

What doesn't kill you, part 1.

This was my mantra during my past trip.  Well, not really, but it should have been.

Mostly what I said were a lot of things that aren’t suitable to be repeated here.

I think I might dedicate a few posts to my trip, just because there was so much that happened, both good and bad, that it’d be better to break it up into manageable chunks.

Let me start out by saying Amsterdam is amazing, and if you get a chance, you should definitely definitely go.  The houses are beautiful.  The canals are beautiful.  The art is beautiful.  It’s an extremely walkable and calm city, too.  Mostly what you find while meandering around is that the streets are full of about 10x as many bikes as cars.  I think this is great.  I didn’t rent a bike while I was there, just because I was content to walk and observe everything at a slower pace, but it’s a good option if you’re looking for more activity.  Be careful though!  Because of the ubiquitous bikes, readily accessible public transportation and ever present cars, crossing the street is especially dangerous!  Bikes don't make any noise until they're plowing you down!

Only proof I was in the Dam.

And now for some of the stories that went on leading up to and during my trip.

On Sunday, in the Canary Islands, I woke up with what felt like a swollen tonsil.  This is never great news.  But, it’s happened before, and usually goes away in about two days.  So I was hopeful that things would go back to normal before I left on Wednesday morning for my next adventures.  Well, that didn’t happen.  It got a little worse, then a little better, then a little worse, etc etc.  I ended up catching the bus to start my adventure to Amsterdam feeling rather miserable, but I wasn’t about to not go: That’d just be crazy.

On top of that, my camera started fritzing on me in the Canaries, so I was frantically trying to decide what to do before my trip.  Having a camera, while not an essential part of travel, definitely makes things more fun.  I was especially upset because I just bought it in September, so there was no reason why it should be giving me problems.

I went to El Corte Inglés in Granada and asked them what my options are.  I thought there was some kind of warranty with it, so I wanted to find out the details.

The Target/Wal-Mart/Macy's/FNAC/what-have-you of Spain.

Saleswomen: There’s a 2-year warranty on all cameras sold by Corte.

Me: Yes!

Saleswoman: All you need is the receipt.

Me: Oh.  I don’t have that…what can I do?

Saleswoman: Well, without the receipt we can’t do anything.  But you probably used a credit card to buy it, right?  Go look online on your bank and see what you can find.

Me: Qué buen idea.

I said that to her.  She laughed.  It was a tender moment.

So I went back to my apartment and got online and looked up all the bank transactions that had occurred on both my credit card and my debit card during the month of September.  I looked and looked but came up with nothing.  I was pretty surprised, because I definitely didn’t pay in cash.  Then it hit me: Why would I have used my American cards when I had a French debit card at my disposal?

Well, in retrospect, the answer to this question would be: So that I can look up my transactions later.

To be fair, you can look up your transaction history online with your French bank account, but considering I had closed the account in December when I was in Paris for my birthday, it didn’t do me a whole lot of good.

Sometimes I’m so efficient it’s astounding.  Not only did I close my French account, but I deleted the info for how to access the account from my computer.  Not only did I lose the receipt for my camera, but I took the box my camera came in home when I was there for Christmas.  I also got rid of 90% of all papers relating to my French bank account in an attempt to remove clutter from my life.  So, suffice it to say, I couldn’t find the receipt, and I couldn’t find any trace of what the card number was anywhere.  Normally I keep a scanned copy of my cards somewhere….just in case something happens.  Not this time.

I spent the next 30 minutes tearing through all the papers I have in my apartment looking for any trace of a card number, looking through any emails I have that might be a payment confirmation or something from a time I used my card.  I even got all CSI crazy at one point because I noticed an impression in my American wallet of a credit card.  I checked the numbers against my American cards, and unfortunately, it was from one of them and not from my French card.  Bummer.

Eventually, through researching blog updates, photo booth pictures, and all other manner of information retrieval, I figured out the exact date, and, thanks to the waking nightmare that is the SNCF (the French national railway union), I found 12 of the 16 numbers that were on my French card.  Incredibly random, I know, but I was looking for anything.

With this information in hand, high hopes, and a throat that wouldn’t quit paining, I marched back to Corte and presented this info to the lady at the camera desk.  I explained my situation (it was a different lady).

She took a look at the info I brought and said, “hmm…I don’t know, there might be something we can do.  Let me check with my supervisor.”

That's all for now.  Stay tuned for the next installment.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Low and high notes.

Today was a crappy day.

I'll write a post about it in more detail later (about how I missed my calling as a CSI-type detective), but to sum it up in a word or two, I found out my camera has a 2 year warranty from El Corte Inglés (they all do, actually...for those of you who find yourselves in a similar situation), but you need the receipt.

Well, I didn't.  So I thought I was going to have to spend 240€ on a gd camera for my trip.

Plus I was sick.  Plus it was cold outside.  Plus one of my teachers told me that my schedule changed for work this week.  Plus I had accomplished almost nothing on my To Do list.  Things were looking dire, friends.

Then, my wonderful and kind friend, Jeanette, said that I could just use hers for the weekend.  So I went to meet up with her, and it turns out she has a very nice camera, so problem solved...for the time being.

I was walking home after having met with Jeanette, and I was kind of playing around with the camera, just to see what's up.  And then I saw this.

The Sierra Nevadas.  Always there when you need them.

I've said this before: Sometimes we need to be reminded how small we are.  What's the very worst thing that would have happened if I didn't have a camera for Amsterdam/Paris?  I mean, you guys wouldn't get to see the evidence I was there, but really, that's about it.  I would still have gone, and I would still have enjoyed myself.

Thanks for the reminder, Granada.

The Dog Islands.

I'm making myself do this post because I leave in tomorrow for my next adventure.  I love writing these things, honest.  But I have a lot to do to get ready.

Anyway!  The Canary Islands were a freaking blast.  We (Brittany, her roommate, Carolina, and myself) arrived to 70º weather, met up with friends and then went to lunch.  There was this fishing village near the airport that consisted of 12 houses and a bar/restaurant.  So we went there, sat on the boardwalk and ate and ate and ate.

After lunch we dropped our stuff off at the apartment we were staying at (staying with the friends of a friend), then I met up with Joey, Mike, Karl and Merci.  Karl and Merci were there for a frisbee competition, so the guys and I entertained ourselves for a bit, then headed over to another beach for some foods.

After we ate a bit, we split up for a while and the guys went back to siesta while we went back to relax and get stuff to make dinner.  I had only slept about 4 hours the previous night, so in order to do the Carnival up right, it was imperative I get a nap in.  I laid down for like 30 minutes, but didn't sleep.  It was good to just be relaxing around the apartment and not doing anything though.  Eventually I got showered and we started making dinner.

Everything that follows is reflective of the typical Spanish timetable for socializing.

We started cooking dinner around 9:30-10.  Mike and Joey arrived around 10:30 or so.  A bunch of other people came over around 11 and we started eating and drinking and getting the party going.

A few hours go by and then we decide we should head out to the carnival.  We get in cabs and what not and arrive around 1 to the Carnival.  The party is almost in full swing.

We chill for about half an hour or so nearby, then enter into the huge outdoor club scene that's happening.  Different clubs and bars in Las Palmas had set up "minibars" (not like what you have in a hotel) all around this plaza and there was a huge area for dancing in the middle.

I'm going to take a brief side note and talk about the Carnival itself.  I was a little nervous about how the crowd would be for the event.  I had heard less than inspiring stories from people about the previous weekend's Carnival in Cádiz (fights, getting separated because of uncontrolled crowds, messy messy streets, etc).  I asked someone about how crazy things were going to be and they made the interesting point that, in Cádiz, everyone that lives in the city leaves, and it's mostly people from outside who come, whereas in the Canary Islands, most everyone is Canario.  Typically people don’t destroy their own city.

Another big difference was that clubs were open in Las Palmas, whereas everything was closed in Cádiz.  There was literally nothing to do in Cádiz but stand around outside and drink.  In Las Palmas, there were tons of food stands up, 24hr markets, bars, clubs, plus a concert happening right next to where we were.  It was good to give people options, methinks.

So anyway, we were outside dancing for a while, then around 4 half of our group went back.  The half that stayed (consisting of mostly Americans, oddly enough), kept dancing for a while, then headed to a club around 4:30, and danced until around 5:30 or so.  One of the Spanish guys we were with had a car, so he drove us back to the apartment we were staying at.  By the time we got back to his car, dropped off Mike at his hostel, then got back to the apartment, it was 7:30 am.

It was an unbelievably fun night.  There's just something about dancing outside that makes the world seem right.  The costumes (practically the most important part of Carnival) were also really fun and creative.  Something that was really interesting was that groups of people dressed up in a theme.  So at any given time you could see groups of Ninja Turtles, bananas, fairies, ballerinas, cops, firemen, and everything else imaginable walking around or dancing together in a group.

The next morning, my beach instincts told me that it was sunny, beautiful beach weather.  So my brain turned on at 10 sharp, and I was up and ready to get things going.  I've been realizing lately that this isn't a common occurrence for most people.

For me the most important thing while traveling somewhere for the weekend is to see and do as much as possible.  You can sleep later.  It’s with this philosophy in mind that I make everyone around me get up earlier than they want so that we can get up and out and start doing stuff.  They pretend to complain about getting up at 9 or 10, but I know they secretly appreciate it.

In this case, my main concern was to get as much sunny beach time as possible.  Eventually I got Brittany up and a mere hour or so later, we were walking to the bus station to catch the bus to the beach.  We finally got there and it was glorious.  Absolutely glorious.  Full sunshine, slight breeze, not too crowded.  Pretty much everything you could ask for.

We got in a few good hours of sunshine, then Brittany and I went with Carolina and her friend, Meri, to the center of the island to this little town for lunch, then drove around the island for a few hours.  It was absolutely gorgeous.  The only bad part was that Brit and I kept falling asleep in the back of the car amidst all the beauteous scenery around us.  We also went to the southernmost tip of the island where, apparently due to the wind patterns, it’s pretty much always sunny.  It was nice, especially because it started raining in the middle of the island.  By the time we got to the south, it was sunny.  Crazy, eh?

Just being in the Canaries and having nice weather would have made the weekend fun, but going there with great people like Brittany, Carolina, Mike and Joey made everything that much more enjoyable.

Mike and Brittany.  Mike tells great stories, so I'm pretty sure that's what was happening here.

I have no idea what's happening here.  But this is pretty typical of Joe and Mike.
The most well-known beach on the Canaries.

Only picture of me, haha.
Brittany and Carolina at Plaza Catalina.

I wish I had pictures of the Carnival activies, but my camera was and is on the fritz.  I actually have to go and get a new one today.  I hate spending the money, but a camera is one of those things you can't not have when traveling around.  If anyone wants to donate to the "Peter needs a camera...but also needs to eat" fund, you can contact me here or via the facebook.  Any donation, small or large, is appreciated.  Especially the larger ones.

Ok!  I'm leaving for Amsterdam tomorrow morning, staying until Friday night, then taking a late train to Paris and staying there for two nights.  As I write this, I'm actually feeling sick.  My throat is kind of swollen and sore...and it kind of hurts to talk.  But when you've spent the money on a trip already, you're not going to let a little thing like sickness stand in your way.  Am I right?!  Of course I'm right.

In addition to traveling while not feeling 100%, this'll be the first time I've traveled alone in a while, so it'll be different.  I'm sure I'll meet some cool people though.  Normally hostels do a good job of having "social" events and what not for people.   We shall see!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Spring Cleaning.

If any of you out there were to take a peek in my room right now, you’d probably see the title of this post and think to yourself, “Wow, good thing he’s finally cleaning.”

Well, sorry to get your hopes up, but I’m not talking about my room.

I was chatting with a friend online this morning when I realized I had inadvertently forgotten to print off my boarding passes at work yesterday for my flight tomorrow.  This isn’t a huge issue because I live pretty close to an Internet café.  But…who wants to unnecessarily pay 15¢ when you can just do it for free?  Let’s be honest.

So I downloaded the passes and was checking them on Adobe to make sure they looked ok, and as I got about half way down the page, a window popped up and said, “Out of Memory.”

I’m no computer expert…but I think that message is universally accepted as being bad.  I immediately checked my hard drive to see if I was indeed running out of space.  And, thankfully, I wasn’t.  I’m not sure what’s going on with Adobe, but it got me thinking that I should take some time and clear out the junk that accumulates on one’s computer.

So I started going through my Downloads and Documents folders.  And let me tell you, what a treasure trove.

Here’s a list of some of the things I’ve found so far.

Triple copies of letters of recommendation from 2007, 2009, and 2010.

Incriminating photos of fantastic nights out in Sevilla and Granada...such as this:

Last night in Sevilla, September 2010.

Tons of random pictures people have sent me over skype or email.

GCC Crew Christmas party, December 2007

Thanks, Sarah.

Dozens and dozens of ridiculous Photo Booth pictures (always good for a laugh).

Shannon's a teacher...that's why her brain is so big.

Lots and lots of extremely important screen shots (mostly to do with the weather).

A bad week for weather in Andalucía.

I've also found applications for various programs/associations/grad schools.  Including one to work on a farm...which I definitely don't remember ever being interested in doing...

I have no explanation for this...

There's also lots of things I look up when I'm getting ready to travel somewhere...especially maps!

Map of  the London Underground.

The worst offender, however, are the lesson plans.  Oh the lesson plans!  I have snippets of lessons on every topic from Thanksgiving to Urban Legends to the Conditional (1st, 2nd and 3rd) to Gender Roles.  Most of which you have to download from the Internet before you can check I have tons and tons that are crap, but I didn't know that until they were on my computer.  Blurg.

Anyway, so I was in the middle of cleaning out everything and then decided to write a post about it.  I guess I should get back to it, eh?  Or maybe I should take a shower...or finish doing laundry...or get dressed...or make lunch...

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


I would like to take a second and clarify something important about this blog.

At the crux of the relationship between the blog writer and blog reader is the trust that the experiences and perceptions being related by the writer are genuine.  Such is the case with this blog.  Though lending itself willingly to sarcasm and hyperbole, there needs to be trust between you and me that the events portrayed are indeed factual and accurate, (though slightly exaggerated at times).  Hopefully this doesn’t seem contradictory.  Let’s see some illustrations, eh?

For example, in the Guide to Granada post, when I said, "You may be in Granada if you get a tapa the size of your face, for free, with your drink," you can rest assured that the tapas in question are satisfyingly large.  Whether or not they are, in actuality, comparable to the size of the human face depends on the restaurant (not to mention the size of the face in question).  Also, it feels much more satisfying to say, "the size of your face," than "really big."  I'm hoping it's much more satisfying to read as well.

Another example of creative license can be found in my entry about the movie "Babe."  I was exaggerating mildly when describing the amount of "tearful expression" that occurs on my end.  Don't get me wrong, I pretty much always cry, but it's not the messy sobfest I made it out to be.  In reality, the phrase "tasting their salty sadness" popped into my head for some reason and I felt compelled to use it.

(If you're becoming at all disillusioned, my most sincere apologies.  This is going to lead us to a better place in the end.  I promise.)

I say all this because I don’t want you to think that I’m wont to creating completely fictitious happenings.  For me, this is not a platform for invention.  Mostly I want to communicate what’s happening around me, or in my brain, and hopefully get two primary things in return: laughs, and some confirmation that I’m not nuts, haha.

All this has come to my attention because my friend, Valerie, whom you already know, and I were walking around town the other day an she told me that she read my “Guide to Granada" entry.  The following conversation ensued:

Me: “Oh yeah?  Great!  What did you think?”

Valerie: “Yeah, I thought it was good, but…”

Pregnant Pause

Valerie: “Well, I read the part about ‘seeing weird stuff like the "Pacmen" on the reg.’  I thought, ‘that’s bullshit, he does not see that kind of stuff all the time.'”

Me: “Really?”

Valerie: “Well, I was thinking that as I read it, then I walked outside of my apartment today and saw three girls dressed as Mickey Mouse and thought, ‘oh…well maybe he’s right.’”

So, dear reader, take comfort in knowing that I’m making no attempts to deceive you.  From now on, let’s be honest with each other, shall we?  It just makes everything so much less complicated.

In other news, I have three very busy weekends coming up.

Next weekend is this place:

I hope to come back quite sun burned.

Followed by a long weekend beginning in Amsterdam (finally), and ending in my favorite place in Europe:

Photo courtesy of my friend Sarah.

Then, assuming I have any funds left, I'm hoping to make a more local trip to Toledo and a few other Medieval cities in Spain.  I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Como se dice "brunch" en español?

One of the greatest aspects of living in a small city is that all of my friends live within about 20 minutes of each other, at the most.  This makes getting together for last minute events easy, fun and frequent.

Two of my best CIEE buds, Annie and Valerie, came over yesterday for some sweet brunch action.  We cooked up some chicken and spinach (is it weird I've been missing spinach lately?) with lots of spices, onions and garlic, and then made a goat cheese and walnut salad.  The weather was beautiful outside, so, rather than the original plan of watching a movie while eating, I cleaned up the patio furniture and we had a delish, sun-filled lunch.

I never really spend any time on our patio.  Not sure why, really.  Well, I mean it's been crap weather for the past few months, but I think I'm going to try and venture out there more.  We normally get direct sun from 11 until around 3 or so.  Pretty much the only drawback is that the plastic chairs out there get dirty really fast, so you always have to clean them.  I guess another drawback could be that one of our elderly neighbors that lives above us likes to look out her window and keep track of our apartment's happenings.  So much for a no-line tan, I suppose.

Anyway, so we got all the food outside and enjoyed our meal in the warm and refreshing sunlight.

Val, Annie and myself.
(I know the picture looks super posed, but I just put my camera on the window sill and set it to take dozens of pictures, so we were just eating our meal, conversing per usual.)

After our meal we moved things inside (the sun had moved away) and set up my computer to watch the hottest movie of 7 months ago: Black Swan.

I thought it was brilliant.  I normally try my best to eschew whatever the current fad is, but I have to say, the movie was really impressive.  I don't want to give anything away (for the five of you out there who haven't seen it), but the friction between good vs. evil (white swan vs. black swan) was projected in the most intriguing way.  It starts out as the typical internal struggle, then quickly gets projected outward onto one of the other characters who embodies the "black swan" ideal.  Eventually the main character couldn't even tell the difference anymore between herself and the other character.  Very interesting. (Shannon: Let me know when you're around so we can debrief, please)  I'm not exactly excited to see it again, but I would definitely recommend some people.

Natalie Portman did an unbelievable job with all the dancing and acting.  I can't imagine how much training she had to go through.  I've never really been a big fan of Portman, but I have to say she moved up a few steps in my opinion.  I'm sure she'll be glad to hear it, haha.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Men's March Malta Madness.

I had the great fortune last weekend to visit the bizarre and wonderful island nation of Malta.

I had been looking forward to this trip since my friends and I bought our plane tickets on December 8th.  I remember the date very clearly because it was the day I missed my flight back to Spain from Paris due to inclement weather, and was forced to spend the night in a hotel in the most distasteful town in the world: Beauvais, France.  Just a little background.

I bought a Lonely Planet guidebook to Malta while in Paris, and looked through it in the weeks leading up to the Malta voyage to figure out what there actually is to do on the island.  You may be asking yourself, “You mean you didn’t know what there was to do on the island before you bought your tickets?”  To you I say, “You are correct, sir!”

The only things I really knew about Malta were that it’s an island off the southern coast of Italy, about halfway between Sicily and Libya, it’s famous for the “Knights of Malta,” and the language (Malti or Maltese, both are correct) is the only Semitic language with a Latin alphabet.  That last one means that, while the language is written with the same letters we use in English (or French, or Spanish, or German, or Italian), the words have their roots in Arabic.  If you transcribed Arabic phonetically into English, you’d be able to see similarities between quite a few words.  It’s really fascinating.  Needless to say, I bought a dictionary.

I went with three of my good friends from my teaching in Spain program, Mike, Joey and Reed.  We decided when we bought the tickets that we wanted to keep things low key and have some guy time.  It was probably one of the most fun weekends of my life.  I enjoy traveling with my amigas here in Spain, don't get me wrong.  That being said, it was nice to take a break and just kick it with some brohans.  It was a very relaxed, meander-from-place-to-place kind of trip.  A vacation indeed.

We had to fly out of Sevilla, so we all convened the day before to hang out for the afternoon/evening.  I met up with my Sevilla host mom for lunch and one of the CIEE program directors, Helena, after lunch for some lunch beers.  Mike Fish joined us as well.

Mike Fish, Helena and myself at Plaza Alfalfa, Sevilla

Eventually I met up with my amigos americanos and we had dinner at Los Coloniales (fantastic), and then met up with some other friends who live in Sevilla for some drinks.

We flew out to Malta the next afternoon, finally got to our hostel in Valletta (the capital), met a girl named Vanessa who was in our hostel, and then corralled her into joining us a night out in the neighboring town of Paceville (the going out capital).  It was a surprisingly happening place.  Despite the windy rainy weather, the Maltese youth were out in full force, dressed to the nines.  I was impressed.  I feel like a lot of the time in Spain jeans and an ambiguously logoed t-shirt are “going out” attire.  These kids were wearing button up shirts, jackets, nice shoes and dress pants, dresses and stilettos.  The works.

We hit up the town for a few hours and then retreated back to sleepy Valletta.

The next two days were filled with trips around the island to see different sites.  We saw some 5000-year old temples that were arranged according to where the sun rises on the Equinox.  We went to the other side of the island (an 45-minute, 0,50€ bus ride) and got rained on while looking at some cliffs, and then stopped for a visit to the fortified city of Mdina.

My favorite part of the trip was the visit to Mdina (pronounced /emdeena/).  It’s smack in the middle of the island, and is incredibly well preserved.  Here’s an aerial shot:

Sky shot of "The Silent City," Mdina.

If it looks big, don’t be fooled.  You could walk from one end to the other in less than 5 minutes probably (the whole city is 0.3 sq miles).  Mostly all the streets had this uniform tan stone on the building façades.  At first I thought the city was too sterile and uniform to be beautiful.  After walking around for a while, however, it dawned on me that there was an inherent beauty in its simplicity.  I don’t really know how to explain it other than that.  The longer I was there the more comforted and more at ease I felt by my surroundings.  I would highly recommend it.

After a few days of seeing as much as we could of the island (no beaches, unfortunately), we had to return to Spainland.

Thanks, Malta, for good times.

Reed, Mike and Joey at the Hagar Qim temples.
The preferred form of Maltese public transportation.

Cathedral in Mdina.
Streets of Mdina.
Another Mdina shot.
The cold, windy and rainy cliffs of Dingli.
Evidence of the

Square outside of Valletta with the Floriana cathedral in the background.
Valletta at night.
On the shoreline.