Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Finally, an update!

First - I've been absolutely swamped with stuff to do since I last updated thus there haven't been any new updates. But now I have found some time where I can actually relax and not worry about doing my homework!

Last weekend, I went to Avila, Spain, which is about a 2 hour train ride Northwest of Madrid. We left (the group was 18 people, 2 guys and 16 girls -- interesting experience) Alcala at about 830AM and got to Madrid but didn't know where we needed to go in order to catch the connecting train to Avila, so we were confused for a little bit and we missed the early train to Avila and ended up having to wait until 11AM to leave. Nevertheless, we made it to Avila in one piece, the train ride went pretty well and when we arrived we got a rude awakening with a shot of cold mountain air.

I took about 150 pictures and you can see them HERE, HERE, and HERE

In Avila, there is a giant defense wall that surrounds the old city. It is the best kept wall in the world and it has some spectauclar views. We went up on top of the wall and walked around taking pictures. After that, we ate some lunch and drank some wine then headed out to do some more sight seeing. We visited the Cathedral of Saint Teresa which was absolutely gorgeous. I couldn't tell you what she is the saint of or anything but I do know that she is a very important religious figure in Spain. After it got dark, we had some time to kill so the girls shopped while I waited around doing, well nothing. We had some pizza (it was four cheese with blue cheese on it -- ew, I just want some good ol' American pizza) and churros, then went to the train station to wait for our train. Now, here is where the disaster begins.

Our train gets to the platform about 10 minutes late (no problem) and everyone boards, but we sit there for another 10 minutes not moving anywhere before the conductor walks down the isles and tells us that we have to switch trains (okay, lets just get back to Madrid). After we switch trains, we wait another 15 minutes before the train leaves the station! Now, at this point we are about 30 minutes behind schedule and we're cutting it close to catching our train back to Alcala.

So we get to the Charmartin station (which is in the north of Madrid) and we have no idea where the train is to Atocha (in the south of Madrid, station where we connect to Alcala) and we keep asking people and they keep telling us different things. The girls start running (for the record, I never ran in the station) to different platforms until we finally get on the right train. We get to Atocha but we realize that we missed the last train by 20 minutes or so and now we have no idea what to do.

After asking around, we realize we can take the Metro up to the bus station and take a bus back to Madrid. We take a 20 minute metro ride while enduring a bunch of drunk people on the train scaring the girls in our group and make it to the bus station. The group wanders around for 15 minutes trying to figure out where the bus leaves from and finally we catch the bus just as it's pulling up. Luckily we got on the right bus and we ended up getting back to Alcala at about 2AM.

Besides the travel disaster there at the end, it was quite a fun trip! In other news, school has been going pretty well this week, I've given two presentations and written one paper (thus the lack of updates) and I've had plenty of home(busy)work to keep me occupied.

This weekend, I'm going to Granada or Sevilla, my friends and I haven't decided yet. I'll be sure to take a lot of pictures (I always do). I hope that everyone is staying warm and enjoying your days off of school!


Friday, January 23, 2009

Second Week

Well, I've made it through the second week of my classes and the workload is starting to pick up. The only thing interesting I did this week was watching the Presidential Inauguration of Obama in a Spanish bar. It was quite interesting because I was in a bar with a bunch of Americans but the speech was dubbed in Spanish (obviously) and the voice of the translator was way to loud to hear anything Obama was saying. So, when I got back home I went online and found a video of the speech. There was quite a bit of coverage of the inauguration here, almost as much as there would be in the States. Most Spaniards seem to be excited about Obama if only for the reason that they just despised Bush. However, I think that the Spaniards (and Europeans) are putting way to much hope in Obama to change the world right away. I don't think they realize how much bureaucracy he will have to get through (in my opinion) just to change some very minor things. But, I don't want to start a political debate, that's just what I see over here.

My classes are going well, I already have presentations and papers due next week, so Sunday looks like a big homework day. Tomorrow, I am going to Avila, Spain. It's about an hour and a half to the Northwest of Madrid. I don't really know much about it except it has a huge wall surrounding the city from the occupation by the Romans. I'll be sure to take a lot of pictures and post the link to them on here tomorrow or the next day. That's all for now, take care everyone!


Saturday, January 17, 2009

Second Day in Madrid

For the second day, I went and visited Madrid. I met at the train station at about 10AM and rode the train and metro to the Puerta de la Sol. First we visited the Parque del Retiro which is like Madrid's version of Central Park but is much better (in my opinion). The park had so much to see and we only saw about half of it. There were street performers all around a lake situated in the middle of the park, fountains and statues could be found in every direction of the park. Just some absolutely brilliant sights. After that, we walked around some more and just took in all the great architecture that Madrid had to offer and looked for a place to eat.

We ended up eating at a restaurant called "La Cocina de Neptuno". I split a plate of chicken fajitas with my friend, they were okay but nothing to special. When we got our bill we were very surprised to see that they charged us for EVERYTHING. They charged us for bread (which we didn't really ask for), extra tortillas, and little butter packets. It was very bizzare but now I know to ask to not get bread next time. After lucnh, we wandered around and looked at a few vendors set up in the plazas and made our way to the Plaza Mayor to meet up with some friends.

We met our friends and deicded to go take in a movie at a local theater with the original version in Enlgish with subtitles in Spanish. We saw Milk, I highly recommend, which is about the gay rights movement in the 70's in San Francisco following the life of Harvey Milk -- the first openly gay person elected to a public office.

After the movie, we just meandered around for a little bit more and started heading towards our Metro stop. When we got to where we were going, we saw a huge mass of people and a lot of Palestinian flags and we realized it was a protest calling for peace in Gaza. Lots of people held up signs with "Paz" (Peace) written on them and others had cut outs of bombs stating "Made in Spain, Launched in Gaza". I had never seen a protest like this with my own eyes so it was very interesting to see how the people in Madrid could gather peacefully to protest the government's involvement in the fighting. There were even people burning an Israeli flag -- intense. You can find pictures of my second day in Madrid HERE and HERE.

Now it's time to sleep and today hopefully I can sleep in! Then watch futbol all day! (and possibly work on some hw)


Friday, January 16, 2009

First trip to Madrid

What a day! We met at the school at 10 AM and then headed over to the train station and hopped on a train to Madrid. While we were waiting on the platform a high speed train came by and it didn't even slow down one bit and whizzed right on through the station. It was crazy! The train ride was about 20-25 minutes to the "Atocha" station then we got tickets for the metro and rode that to the "Plaza de la Puerta del Sol". Too bad public transportation doesn't work that well in most places in the US. Anyways, we took a two hour walking tour with one of our professors and he pointed out some of the interesting things in Madrid. I took almost 60 pictures and they are all online HERE.

After the tour, some people in the group stayed in Madrid while myself and about 9 others returned to Alcala by ourselves. Luckily we got on the right trains and made it back in one piece. We ate lunch at this Irish Bar called "La Pinta Media" (the half pint, I think). Everyone in our group got American food because we were all craving it since all we have eaten in our different houses is Spanish food. Now it is time for a siesta. Hasta luego!


Thursday, January 15, 2009

First week of school is over!

My classes are over for the first week! Woo hoo! Tomorrow I am going on a tour of Madrid with the university and I'm very excited to see the capital city of Spain! The tour was originally scheduled for last Sunday (before I was here) but there was a few inches of snow so they rescheduled it which is very good for me because now I can meet some more people and see Madrid! I will be taking a lot of pictures and I will put them up soon. Also, over the weekend I will take some pictures of the apartment I am living in so everyone can see what it looks like.

Yesterday, I went out and bought a dictionary (but of course today I left in my classroom, D'OH, hopefully it's either still in the room or someone turned it in to the office) and went to this bar called "Kingston's Pub", it was a pretty neat pub and they were even playing N*SYNC songs which was kinda weird but it made me feel like I was at home (kinda) here are some pictures (click to make them larger):

Today, during my break in classes I bought a SIM card from Vodafone and I now have a Spanish number! I also ran other errands like getting a passport picture for a student card that I need, purchased a workbook for a class, and then I went to McDonald's (I know gross) to get some American food! After lunch today, I helped Maitane ("my-taaaan-ey", my little host sister) set up her Nintendo DS to work on the internet and now she (or me) can play Mario Kart against my brother! How cool! Then, I took a 3 hour siesta, oh man that was so good.

Now, I am just getting ready for bed so I can wake up and meet at the school at 10AM for the tour. Please comment and let me know how the blog is and what else I should talk about and ask me questions about stuff you want to know!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Greetings from Alcala!

Yesterday was an interesting day. Traveling on the plane was just fine to Madrid but when I went and found a taxi, he took me to Alcala but then ripped me off and made me pay 280€ instead of 40€. I got an "official recepit" but it didn't have any sort of ID number on it and I forgot to look at the liscense plate or anything that would have ID'd the guy. The only thing I could do, according to my host mom (HM) who called her friend from the police, is to go back to the airport and look for him and then call the police while I'm there and try to get my money back. It seems dangerous but I will think it over because that is a lot of money I lost.

After the drama with the taxi, my host mom (HM) took me down to the University so I knew how to get to and from the campus. It's about a 20-25 minute walk which wouldn't be so bad except the temperature hovers around freezing all the time so I'll probably be taking the bus until it starts to get a little bit warmer. My first day of class was alright, I woke up late because my alarm clock on my phone thinks it's still in US time so my HM woke me up at 8, thankfully, and I was just about 10 minutes late to class. Today, the classes I took were "Iconos y Tradiciones de España" (Icons and Traditions of Spain) and "La globalización y la economía de española". The teacher for my Icons class is the director of the study abroad program and the teacher for my business class was the former director and speaks spanglish which actually helps me because he says what he is saying both times once in both languages.

Besides that, my day was quite plain (save for the fact that I'm in Spain). My HM marked some places on the map where I can shop and do some other things, so I might do that tomorrow, or maybe I'll just lounge around the apartment some more. Thats all I have for now, I'll put some pictures up soon of the city and my apartment so you all can know what it looks like.


Monday, January 12, 2009

Frankfurt is Freakin' Freezing

The flight over here wasn't all that bad. There were a few crying babies on board but they didn't cry for too long after take off. I wasn't able to get to sleep for some reason (not because of the babies), so I'm sitting here in the Frankfut airport about to fall asleep. At least I'm not outside where it feels like it is 5 degrees, there is snow covering the ground, and low clouds limit the visibility to -- well not much at all, it keeps changing as I look out this window. Hopefully the clouds will clear up and the precipitation will stay away so I can get to Madrid on time. If you want a post card or something leave your address in the comments or email me at saxplaya (at) gmail (dot) com. That's all for now, more when I get settled in Madrid -- and get Internet.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Back from Miami -- on to Spain

I didn't get to update the last few days because I was without Internet. Anyways, the game was an awesome experience, except for the awful Florida fans (before the game at least) and the fact that we lost. The stadium was very nice and the crowd was probably 75% UF fans so it was basically a home game for them -- oh well, no excuses they beat us fair and square. After the game we sat in the parking lot on the bus for at least 2 hours and we were the last people to leave the parking lot --awesome!

The next day we left Miami, stopped in Tallahassee where we had dinner provided to us by the OU Tallahassee club which was very awesome. There is a little write up and some pictures about our stop here : LINK. Then somehow we got off schedule by 4 hours (!!!!!) and instead of getting home at 12:30 PM, I ended up not getting home till closer till 5:00 PM (ugh!). All in all, it was a very enjoyable trip but now I must repack and get ready to leave for Spain tomorrow!! (scary)

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Only a Day Before the Game – Day 4

11:34 PM

Phew, quite a long day. Early morning practice at Barry University (where the football team practiced), then drum major auditions, and crappy quiznos sandwiches for lunch. When we got back to the hotel, I relaxed for a little bit then went and sat on the beach for a little while. Then at night we went to a lame "fan fest" and waited around for like 20 minutes only to play like 10 minutes worth of music – it was so much fun. When we finally got back to the hotel, I headed back down to South Beach and went to the "Nexxt" restaurant then picked up some more souvenirs. Now we're less than a day away from being in Dolphin stadium and I am so excited!!!!

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Livin’ the SoBe life (sorta) – Day 3

8:27 AM
Early wakeup call this morning in order to fight through traffic to get to our practice site today. We’re practicing at “da U” today, apparently the current Athletic Director used to work at OU so he pulled some strings for us and we get to use their football practice facility for free. We’ll have a 3 hour rehearsal (gag), lunch, and then the rest of the afternoon/night will be free. Last night, Andrew paid the $10 to get internet which is good because we are all addicted to it, but hopefully when we get to the campus there will be free WiFi so I can update my blog.
On a side note: the build up to this game is getting kind of ridiculous and I wish we could just play the damn game already. The media is over exaggerating every little thing a player or coach says but I guess the media has to make their own news from time to time. Hopefully we can get away from the trash talk and settle everything on the field

1:02 PM
We just got done with our rehearsal at the University of Miami and it is very warm – at least for January. I guess I shouldn’t complain since it is apparently cold and rainy back home. Rehearsal was pretty typical but it seemed like it lasted forever. After rehearsal we picked up our uniforms and some KFC for lunch. Now it’s time to take a nap and then go down to the beach!!

11:37 PM
I took a nap earlier today instead of going to the beach; I think that was a very good choice and it made the rest of the night much better. Tonight was very fun – yet very expensive – we ate at an Italian restaurant where the food cost about as much as I would eat in two weeks in Norman. We then went to a gift shop and I got another shot glass to add to my collection. When we headed to the bus stop, we ran into this guy rambling about who knows what and then he found out that we were from Oklahoma he started talking about “The Game of the Century” and about how he was going to break our backs? Crazy south beach vagrants…when we got back to the hotel the Arkansas – Texas game was on and we got to see at least one team from Texas lose! Another long day ahead of us, with more rehearsals and pep gigs to get all the drunken fans even more excited for the game.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

On the road - Day 2

8:24 AM

Through the night we traveled through Mississippi and some of Alabama. I picked up a shot glass from Mississippi last night for my collection. I wasn’t awake for much of the ride but when I did look out the window all I could see was a dense fog, so I had no idea where we were. From what I could tell, we arrived in Tallahassee – our breakfast stop – around 4 AM this morning, way ahead of schedule so we ended up driving through to Lake City, FL to eat breakfast. There’s nothing like eating McDonald’s in the back of a Wal-Mart while looking for outlets to charge your phone.

"Smile when ya say MISSISSIPPI"

12:22 PM

Quick lunch stop in St. Cloud, FL, just south of Orlando, now on to Miami – about 4 hours away. It is very warm here but then again when is Florida not warm? At least we’re not in the cold like it is back in Texas and Oklahoma!

5:15 PM

We’re in Miami Beach! The views are beautiful and the hotel is pretty nice, although the Internet is $10/day which is absolutely ridiculous!!! So, I’ll have to go hunt for free Wi-Fi around Miami Beach and then I’ll be able to upload my blog posts! Tonight, we’re going to go find a place to watch the Ohio St. / Texass game. I don’t know who to root for…on one hand I don’t like Texass at all but then again I’m not a fan of Ohio St. / the Big 10. Hopefully it’ll be a good game and not another Big 10 suckfest.

11:52 PM

So, Texas won in a thriller – I guess it’s good for the Big 12 but how in the hell can Mack think no one in the country can beat them when they only beat Ohio St. by 3 points!!! So, we went down to South Beach tonight and ate dinner at Jerry’s Old Fashioned Diner (where the menu was really big and the choices were a plenty) to watch the game. I ended up splitting a large pizza with a few people and I had a cannoli while we watched the first half of the Ohio St. /Texass game which was actually kind of boring. So we left at halftime to go walk around South Beach which was pretty cool, but we didn’t really find anything just a bunch of shops which were way too expensive for me. Time to get to bed now because we have rehearsal at the butt crack of dawn.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

We’re going to Miami! – Day 1

9:39 AM
The day has finally arrived and the band is off on its 30-something hour bus ride to Miami to support the OU football team and to have some relaxing time off in South Beach. I am mostly packed but I think I will do one last look-through to make sure I have everything before I leave in 20 minutes. I'll try to update the blog at least once a day because I'm sure there will be plenty of stuff to write about while I am gone.

2:04 PM
Riding the bus is soooo much fun but we did get our per diem of $40 today and a personalized BCS National Championship luggage tags. They are pretty cool and I’ll have pictures attached later. Right now we’re stopped outside of Shreveport for a driver stop/bathroom break. It’s always interesting to figure out the logistics of moving 300 some-odd people halfway across the nation – in busses. Everything we do is planned down to an exact science but the question is, how well will we stay on schedule—I’ll keep you up to date on all the drama that unfolds…

6:35 PM
First food stop of the ride – West Monroe, LA. I went with a group of seven people to an IHOP that was painfully slow. The waitress was a female version of the Soup Nazi and it didn’t make the service any better. Apparently there was only one cook on duty when we arrived and some of the Pride kids didn’t even get their food until 10 minutes before the busses left. Somehow, my table was the first table served even though we were not the first to be seated. A cold front seems to be following us – when we got off the bus here it was warm and humid but by the time we left IHOP it was cold and windy – feels kind of like the weather in Oklahoma! We have a long drive left in front of us, about 24 hours or so until we get to Miami but our next stop is Tallahassee, FL. Oh and by the way, we are actually a bit ahead of schedule—for now at least.