Sunday, May 15, 2011

Nap Time

I need to finish packing, then I may take my Sunday afternoon nap.  I'd seriously be willing to switch the order on those two activities, but I decided that it would be a good idea to use my bed as a staging area so until I finish packing I don't have anywhere to nap.

After I get back home, maybe I'll be able to catch up on my blogging.  If nothing else, I have a bunch of pictures to share.  For now here's one to tide you over, in honor of today being Good Shepherd Sunday.
For the annoying customs and immigration people who will want to ask all sorts of silly questions when I enter the US again: I have not been anywhere even remotely agricultural in the entire time I have been out of the United States.  I don't know why you might think otherwise.  For everywhere else: if you go to England and take the drive up from Salisbury to Avebury to see the neolithic stone circles, earthen-works, and barrows (which you totally should) security at the site is basically comprised of a sign next to the gate latch that says 'please don't let the sheep out'.  The adult sheep do not particularly care about the humans who occasionally tramp through the fields to point at the rocks they're grazing around, but this about as close as you can get to the lambs before they shy off. 
For extra bonus fun, bring a dog that's used to life in the city with you.  Watch it go nuts trying to figure out what it's supposed to do about these interesting new creatures.  This is only fun for the dog.  The sheep know what their dog is like and are prepared to ignore any others, much the same way that they are prepared to ignore tourists. 

I'll see you soon,

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Preview of Comming Attractions

I'm about to take off for Easter Break, which means I will be effectively out of communication for the next week and a half (more so than usual I mean). 

For the curious, my schedual looks like this:
April 14 - 16: Vienna, Austria
16-21: homebase in Canturbury, UK; day trip to Bath, Salisbury, etc
21-23: Bratislava, Slovakia
23-25: London
April 25: return to Madrid

Overlapping dates represent the days I move from one city to another.  I'm quite looking forward to it.  At some point in the future, there will be pictures.


Saturday, February 26, 2011

Pictures from Pompeii

I was in Rome last weekend for my winter break, and I took a day trip down to Pompeii.  I have a bunch of pictures to share.  Right now they have all been unceremoniously dumped here.  Further details will have to wait until tomorrow, because it's really late my time, and I ought to be in bed.  The picture on the left is me crossing the street.  The sidewalks are raised about a foot above the road.  At intersections, there are a series of stepping stones, which allow pedestrians to cross without touching the street, spaced in such a way that the wheels of a cart can still fit around the cross walk.

As a further note, links to pictures on my older posts are now almost assuredly all broken.  This is because I have finally enacted a much needed re-organization of my photo bucket.   I do intend to go back and fix the now broken links, but it will take a while because there is only one of me and there are so very many of them.  The good news is that this re-organization has allowed me to see just how much I haven't shared yet.  It turns out that I've been selfishly sitting on quite a lot of pretty pictures.  Expect to see lots of them in the coming weeks.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Almost Home

Part of my brain is worried about adult things like have I packed all the documentation I need in order to re-enter Spain next month?  What time do I need to leave my apartment in order to check in on time at the airport?  Am I sure? Because I'm really bad at math, and this would not be a good time to miss-read the clock and show up an hour late?  For sure, sure?  What's the most up to date map I can get for Dulles airport, and more importantly, how do I find out things like which gate my flight from Madrid will arrive at, where is the gate for my flight on to DFW, and is two and three quarters of an hour enough time to get from the one to the other, knowing that I will have to go through passport control and customs somewhere along the way?

The other half of my brain keeps saying things like, "I'm gonna' ride on an airplane tomorrow!  Yay! I love airplanes!"

This is not as helpful as I would like.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Adventures, I Have Had Them

I went to Avila the first weekend I was here.  I've actually had the pictures up for a while, but I'm just now getting around to writing about it because I am a bum.  It's an easy day trip from Madrid (less than 15 EUR for a round trip train ticket) both because of it's distance (about an hour Northwest) and because there's really only three things that you would go to Avila to see.  Those three things are, in no particular order: the cathedral, the medieval walls, and St. Teresa's birthplace.  In the picture on the left, I'm standing on one of those things and a second is in the background.  I trust you can work out which thing is which, and which is not pictured.

I went to the cathedral first, and found that I had it mostly to myself.  The end of September is the beginning of the off-season, and Avila isn't at the top of the tourist list anyway, so instead of having to fight hordes it was just me, a few pairs of Spanish and Japanese tourists, and a French group.   As for the cathedral itself, well the only interesting things are the fact that it's apse is actually a part of the city walls, and that it has a secret passage way that leads into the old city.  Disappointingly, despite all sorts of signage talking about the secret passage way and its discovery (including several pointing right to the entrance) , the public is absolutely forbidden from exploring it.

Another thing the public is absolutely forbidden to do is take pictures, although given the guard/visitor ratio I probably could have gotten away with it if I had wanted to.  Alas, the only thing I wanted pictures of was the one thing in the whole city I absolutely would not dare approach with my stupid flash-happy camera: the 15th century illuminated choir books.  Naturally, since I have an interest in it, this was also the one thing about which the sleepy ticket agent/souvenir vendor did not have a book.

Something that kind of bothered me was the half-assed way that signage was applied to everything.  It was not informative (i.e. nothing was said that I could not figure out myself by looking at the various items), and the signs themselves looked as if they had not been made or applied with much care.  Especially in a sacred setting, I'm of the opinion that if you are not going to do something well, it is better not to do it.  I would rather you gave me enough light to read the Latin inscription on a statue's base than have a poorly translate English card pasted next to it.

St. Teresa's birthplace was long ago converted into a convent, complete with a chapel on the location of her old bedroom.  Like all pilgrimage sites in Spain, this one has over the years acquired a thick layer of bling that almost completely obscures it.

In the basement, there is a nice little museum explaining the events of Teresa's life.  At least it is a nice little museum if you can read Spanish, which is the only language option there.  I can read it well enough to get the gist, but by the time I left I had a splitting headache.  Included in the museum are her writings, including a few of her actual manuscripts as well as printed versions.  That's interesting for three reasons: 1.) she has a very distinctive style of handwriting, that is regardless of content, quite attractive; 2.) the printing press was still the hot new technology at the time, so the fact that her writings were noteworthy enough to print during her lifetime is interesting; and 3.) she is the only female Doctor of the Church which not only puts her in the same select group as Sts. Jerome and Thomas Aquinas, but means that essentially she was cannonized for her writing.  For a woman in 16th Century Spain to have had the sort of influence that she had and continues to have, is absolutly mind boggeling.

The museum also includes exhibits about the founding of her order (she thought the order she was a part of was not strict enough, so she started her own), and her friendship with John of the Cross (Avila's other local Saint).  There's the expected bit about the process of her canonization.  To me the other truly interesting thing was a room about all the other Saints (and yes, the capital S is important).  Whose lives were directly influenced in one way or another by St. Teresa.  Most of them are there because they were members of her order or else the order of monks that St. John of the Cross founded.  There are over a dozen, from John of the Cross, to a couple of martyrs of the Holocaust.  To me, the fact that she lead others to a Saintly life is the most powerful testimant to her memory.

There are relics of Teresa and John on site (part of her finger and a ring, some un-specified bone of his).  The relics themselves are located in a small room that is only accessible through the gift shop.  I have a hard time not being insulted by this.

As for the city walls... well they're walls.  And they wrap around the old city.  The apse of the Cathedral actually forms part of one of the walls, and unlike most medieval structures in Europe, the walls have miraculously not been disassembled and used as pre-made construction materials elsewhere in the city.  I bought the ticket and went for a walk until the combination of hurting feet and the sneaking suspicion that Spain is trying to kill me with non-OSHA compliant railings led me to decide that I did not want to stay in Avila for three more hours, no matter how attractive the guidebooks say that the walls are at night.

I exchanged my train ticket for an earlier one, and was back in Madrid in time for dinner.  Including the train ticket, I spent just under 30 EUR on the trip (a number that does not include meals, because I ate lunch and dinner in Madrid), which is not to bad for one afternoon of site-seeing.

The BBC Lied to Me

More specifically, the BBC's weatherman was wrong today.  The guess on the temperature was about right somewhere in the neighborhood of 5 degrees (just above freezing, but is sounds a lot colder in Celsius than in Fahrenheit), but it was alleged that today would be sunny (as per usual) with some rain later in the week.

Today it snowed.

It wasn't a very hard snow, and it's not sticking, so in practice is like a very persistent rain, but it was still snow.  All in all, tonight is a good night to stay in, curl up around my coffee pot, and write, which is what I'm doing.  It's finally clicked in my little head that the semester will be over in two weeks and that if I am going to finish my final papers (two 12+ page research papers, one 40 page play) I need to do a lot of preparation work now.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

On Cow Squeezings

As a graduate student, two of my primary food groups are things-that-can-be-eaten-from-a-bowl (cereal) and things-with-caffeine-in (coffee and tea).  As such, the state of milk is a concern to me.  Here is a list of the attributes I associate with milk I buy in the United States:
-comes in a jug
-sold by the gallon or half-gallon
-available in whole, 2%, 1%, and skim verieties
-goes bad in about two weeks

Here are the attributes of the milk I buy in Spain:
-comes in a box
-sold by the liter or half-liter
-available in whole or semi UHT
-goes bad in about 4 months
It's that last item that is a concern to me.  I can't help but think that somewhere between me and the cow, something has gone horribly wrong.

For the record, the milk here is thinner and smells different from the milk back home, but it tastes just fine.

Also my travel plans have changed.  Due to ongoing strikes in France (boo french-y frog-ies!), RyanAir canceled the flight that would have taken me to London this weekend.  Why a strike in France affects a flight from Spain to England, I'm not sure, but I had to rebook anyway.  Assuming everyone is back at work, I will be going to London next weekend instead.

In the meantime, I have a long weekend because All Saint's Day is a holiday here.  Since I don't want to waste the chance, I will be going to Berlin this weekend.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

What I've been up to

There's been some interest in what I've been doing in the month or so since I arrived here.  (By which I mean that my mother worries if she isn't updated frequently.)  The long answer involves a day trip to Avila (a post of which has been stuck as a draft for most of the past month), a run to IKEA (unusually frustrating), and moving into my apartment (far more difficult than it needed to be, due to a lack of communication between the schools various campuses).  The short answer is the picture on the left.  That's what I've had to read since I arrived here.  It's not quite complete.  There was a copy of All My Sons that I borrowed and returned, and several hundred pages of pdf that I opted not to print.  In addition, there's the 21 pages of A4 that I've written an turned in, at a rate of approximately an hour's worth of work per finished page.  That's not counting the 5-7 page paper I have due tomorrow, or the two annotated bibliographies I have due next week.  Other time consuming tasks I have include going to class, knitting, eating, and catching up on my sleep. 

Apparently I'm going to take breaks from all of this soon.  Next weekend I'm going to London, and the first weekend of December I'm going to Prague and Budapest.  I know I'm doing this because in a fit of cabin fever I just gave RyanAir and the Deutche Bahn a bunch of money to get me there and back, and I wouldn't want to waste my investment.  Knowing me, I will take a bunch of school work with me, and forget something essential like my toothbrush or socks.

If I get really adventurous, I might go to the Zoo tomorrow or Saturday to see the new baby pandas.