Monday, December 7, 2009

Stockholm Syndrome

I have to say that Sweden lived up to just about every stereotype that I expected. Everything is ultra modern (you return your used glass containers to a machine that automatically calculates your refund), the people are beautiful and really tall (this was a different experience for me), and they really love to follow rules (they even wait at crosswalks... I mean, who does that?). Overall, Stockholm is a beautiful city, I can't imagine how nice it is in the summertime. Everybody does in fact speak English, or at least everybody I encountered. And it was really really expensive. To ride the metro 3 stops down I paid $4.50. Needless to say I didn't take the metro that often, and when I did I didn't pay.

So there wasn't a whole lot of daylight and it rained just about every day but I suppose I managed to take a few decent pictures. And here they are.

A nice church in the middle of a cemetery.

A Christmas market downtown- a pretty happening place.

A central square with lots of lights.

A skating rink in the center of town.

I think this shot is pretty representative of what most of the city looks like.

Some nice architecture, not sure what this building is used for.

The Vasa Museet, which houses a 16th century war ship that sank in the harbour and was recovered a few decades ago, restored, and made the center piece of a museum. An extremely interesting and well designed museum.

I took this picture in a part of the museum because I thought it was pretty funny. As I am sure many of you don't know, Scandinavia (and Stockholm) is world famous for the quantity and style of death metal that it produces. When you see that they have a history like this, it makes sense that Swedish musicians are able to produce such brutal tunes.

I liked how the architecture just cuts through the sky, much more impressive in person.

Speaks for itself.

I went for a cold walk along the edge of island where the old town is situated and saw this.

A typical evening scene.

Here is a picture of my host Leif (in the center), and Hubert, a fellow traveller from France. The success of my trip was made possible by the former and further enhanced while wandering around with the latter. Cool guys no doubt, I hope our paths will cross again in the future.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Life Plan in Maps

So just about every day I come up with a new idea for different "chapters" of my life. Why should I stay in one place and start down a career path that will leave me grounded in both place and time? I figure I would rather do all sorts of things, from being a fisherman and living on a boat to working with mentally disabled people. In the past 2 months, this is the best short term life plan that I have formulated so far. I won't even try to put these in order, but I know that in the next 2 years of my life I want these things to happen. Of course there will be more and possibly better things to come.

Idea 1:
Go to Cuba for a couple months in order to obtain fluency in Spanish. Preferably live in La Habana. Simple enough.

Idea 2:
Ride a bike across Canada starting in Halifax, Nova Scotia and ending in Vancouver, British Columbia. I reckon I could easily do between 100-150km a day, which means it would take probably 3 months if I took my time and visited family and friends along the way. Obligatory stops in Quebec, Montreal, Ottawa, and Calgary.

Idea 3:
Move to some sort of Island in the Pacific. Hawaii, Galapagos, French Polynesia, New Caledonia, Fiji, whatever. Perhaps my biology degree or language skills could come into play here. Hawaii could probably be done pretty easily since its a state with lots of Biology positions. The obscure South Pacific could possibly be done via the Peace Corps if I ever get the money and desire to apply for Naturalization. Or if I convince my girlfriend into marrying me so that I can get papers (or if I get married to Ryan in a state that recognized gay marriage).

Sunday, October 25, 2009


Mallorca quickly became one of the coolest places that I think I have ever visited in my life. I got lucky with the whole trip- unbelievably cheap flights, no crowds whatsoever, and beautiful weather. On the first day I chose a city on the other side of the island more or less at random and took a bus over to it. From there I walked about 15km or so across a peninsula on a walking path that I just happened to stumble upon but turned out being better than I could have even imagined. I found a really cool youth hostel that night with a gorgeous Mediterranean view- I shared the entire 100+ person facility with one other lady from Argentina- I met Sylvia the first night and ended up riding with her in her rental car all across the north side of the island the following day, stopping off at cool little towns and for outstanding views the whole way. Though it was a serious test of my Spanish, it was a great opportunity that I never would have been able to make happen on my own and without a vehicle. My second night was spent in another cheap hostel in Playa de Palma, where me and this English dude I met chatted on into the wee hours of the night. Made it to the airport via bus this morning with probably only 10 minutes to spare. Now I need to head over to Menorca.

Building outside of Alcúdia, the beginning of my walk.

Beginning of the walking path, an old country road.

The country road gave way to a proper hiking path in a park / nature reserve.

A ''La Victòria'' wild goat checking me out cliffside. Mediterranean sea, old castle, and a golf course in the background.

Walking along a ridge in the park.

Down into a valley...

And eventually to the other side of the Peninsula.

A monastery or some sort of religious building further down the peninsula, in La Victòria proper.

Walking back down to where my hostel would be.

Not exactly, but the a similar view from the hostel.

Sunset on the rocks.

Driving around the next day, one of our stops.

Another one of our stops, a freshwater lake.

I wanted to swim and/or fish, but it is prohibited.

Mountain town of Deià.

Famous Catedral in Palma.

Sunset in Palma.

Hanging out on the beach the second evening.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Patatas Bravas

As I often say, I have been living the dream. I don't work exceptionally hard and don't mind teaching, though it is hard to really know what the rest of my 7.5 months is going to be like because so far I haven't been participating much in classes. Rather, I've just been an observer, so I haven't had to come up with any lesson plans or actually lead any activities for my students. I've been limited mostly to introductions and brief conversations with only students in my English classes. Turns out that because I am part of some experimental project that integrates English across different subjects within the entire curriculum, the majority of my classes are actually not even English classes. Thus, I have anything from a computer operating systems class to graphic design. Its strange because I am honestly not sure what my purpose since they aren't actually language classes. I understand that students can learn a language better when they are exposed to it more often, but theres no guarantee that somebody in a science class actually studies English- he or she could study French or Italian as their required foreign language. Now I also understand that some classes, i.e. technology and operating systems, require an understanding of English because it is the international language and the subject matter is appropriate. But I am not sure what I can offer a class of 17-18 year olds who are learning to take care of nursery school kids (this also accounts for 2 of my classes). Nonetheless, I am keeping an open mind and hope that I can help Spanish government achieve the goals of its project.

As for the rest of my life in Spain, I can't complain one bit. Last week I took a placement test for an intensive Spanish class that will start sometime in January through the official school of languages. I am also supposed to be participating in an Spanish discussion group until that starts, but I'm still waiting to hear back. Additionally, I will be leading my own English conversation group in exchange for free registration for the class in January. Both will require an hour a week each, but thats no problem because I have a lot of free time. Speaking of free time, here is what I have managed to accomplish lately:

Very famous view of the river going through the middle of Girona.

Another angle

Looking south.

A colorful tree up in the old town.

A couple enjoying a romantic moment in a nice little courtyard area near the church. I have no idea what its called but its very nice.

Shot while wandering around the old town.

The city itself, taken from one of the lookout towers along the old defensive wall.

Said defensive wall.

A convenient little ladder for those looking for a view. This is just in a random parking lot towards the top of a hill.

Not sure what this is.

The rambla, a nice place for an often tourist infested stroll.

Looking north along the river.

The same shot with a twist.

This is actually Parque Ciutadella in Barcelona. It was the nicest picture that I took while I was there last weekend.

This is in the coastal town of Sant Feliu de Guíxols, a 45 min bus ride from home.
The monastery in Sant Feliu.

The nice beach that I shared with lazy Catalonians.