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December 17, 2010

From Proverbs to Suburbs

How does life end up getting so busy?  The problem is that when we get busy, life turns into a cycle in which we get continually more busy.  We get so busy that we don't even have time to think about what's going.  Sometimes it takes a major event, usually in the form of some unfortunate trauma, for us to realize what our lives have become.  In my case, it was the end of a dear friend - power.  'Taking it for granted' has haunted my living dreams the past few days.

So, here's the story:

I walk home from school, tired and ready to eat.  As I walk up the stairs I hear my roommates arguing (not unusual, although sometimes I think that's just how they talk to each other).  My thoughts of making lunch are dashed as I realize that my roommates mother is probably using every utensil, device, and square inch of counter space.  This is a weekly ritual in which she prepares all her sons meals for the coming week.  Little do I know that more dreams are about to be dashed.  

I walk through the door, and all my roommates turn to me and say "we have a problem."  Never has anything sounded so horrible, until the next four words, "we have no power."  Apparently, the landlord recently divorced, and the electricity was under the name of his wife.  His wife turned off the power, and no one changed the account, nor notified us.  It's a fantastic system.  So, after several frenzied phone calls, we got the good news - the electric company will be here within 5 days.  So I asked, "are those business days?"  Sparking another frenzied call.  "No, business days."  The result is that we will have up to one week without fridge, microwave, hot water, light, internet, (man I would have settled for Mario's mother hogging the kitchen, but as I found it, it gets worse) no antimosquitos.  I know you don't know what that is, but just imagine being bit by mosquitos all night long.

So, there we were.  And, what do we do next?  Fight.  Well, not me, or my venezuelan roommate Mario.  But, the woman from Barcelona starts getting heated, in typical spanish style.  In my estimation she is completely correct.  My french-lebanese roommate then proceeds to tell her to shut up.  Mario and I sit transfixed, watching as the drama unfolds.  They yell back and forth, saying things that I wouldn't translate, even if I knew how.  Suffice it to say that there was a lot "whore's mothers" being thrown around (also very typical spanish).

Once this is all done, we each find our own seperate fixes.  Able (the frenchie) left and bought the longest extension chords he could find.  They currently go from the top floor of our building, across the courtyard, and in through our kitchen window.  It is used to power the fridge, water heater, and Able's computer/internet.  I spent the night on the couch of my friend, the lifesaver.  While there I noticed that her apartment had none of the flaws that mine had.  It was then that I had my first proverbial moment, "No todo lo que brilla es oro" (not all that glitters is gold).  I was so in love when I found my place.  Old, historic, and right in the center of town.  It has now been replaced by old, decrepit, drafty, and in the center of all the noise.  You may be thinking 'beauty is in the eye of the beholder,' but I can handle things one at a time, but all together is a completely different story.

So, I began to look at moving.  After all 'antes que te cases, mira lo que haces' (look before you leap).  And, I found a few dozen places with exactly what I was looking for.  Someplace a little more modern, out of the way, and with less roommates.  So, it looks like I am a suburbs kind of guy after all.  Well, maybe not entirely, but I'm not a center of the city kind of guy.  

I'll keep you posted on what I find.

November 13, 2010

Guess what I saw...

Before I left home I had one wish.  However, a dream come true kind of got in the way (thanks Katie).  I wanted to go see the fall colors one last time before I left.  However, I had to settle for a day wandering the streets of New York for the first time.  So, I never got to see the beautiful Rocky Mountain colors.



Because I've just seen


More to come, so keep posted.
It just might be as good as the Wasatch in the Fall.

November 08, 2010

Here It Comes

So, I've been tinkering with how to organize my thoughts on this so called adventure.  While I'm not the most sophisticated writer, I am however, charmed by the idea of writing.  So, I've developed the following, a series of what I've learned, in monthly installments, aka. chapters for your reading enjoyment.  Don't worry, the anecdotes will continue, but by the end of this year, I'll have something to show for it, and something to reflect back on.  So here it is:

Intro - “Reading Lolita in Tehran”
“The theme of the class was the relation between fiction and reality... 
...Here and now in that other world that cropped up so many times in our discussions, I sit and reimagine myself... 
...But to steal the words from Humbert, the poet/criminal of Lolita, I need you, the reader, to imagine us, for we won’t really exist if you don’t.  Against the tyranny of time and politics, imagine us the way we sometimes didn’t dare to imagine ourselves: in our most private and secret moments, in the most extraordinarily ordinary instances of life, listening to music, falling in love, walking down the shady streets or reading lolita in Tehran.”  - Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books, Azar Nafisi.
And so it is, I in one country and my life in another, that I write this for you.  Like so many authors before me, what can I write that hasn’t already been written?  Much.  I can write my experience, and I can write how my experience has been influenced by people, both real and fictitious.  So, I will call on the great works that have framed my life.  Like a painting, you, both artist and acquaintance, define my life.  This is my life, and it is a work in progress.
I’ve always dreamed about returning to Spain.  The memories of my first trip as a student while at BYU to Madrid in the fall of 2007, will remain some of my fondest reveries.  While in Spain I flourished.  For the first time in my life, I was free, but more importantly I was honest.  Or, at least I began to be all of these things.  What I have forgotten about my first trip in Madrid, is the pain.  The pain of captivity by the lies which made up a facade, my life, which was not really my own.  Like a carrier pigeon, I was allowed precious hours of freedom and flight, but was always to return to a cage.  A cage which protected, but also prohibited me.  For three years, I dreamed about returning, but without a cage.  So, under the Auxiliares de Conversacion y Cultura, I was able to return to Spain in the fall of 2010, as a teaching assistant.
My story will be quite different from Nafisi.  My story, like Nafisi’s will focus on the transitions between freedom and oppression, however, unlike Nafisi, mine will be focused on suddenly being free, rather than being captive.  The freedom of being who we are, is just as distant for some in the “1st world power” as it is for others in a distant nation at war with itself.  While both changes involve a change of governments, ideals, and practices, Nafisi saw her world change without ever leaving her home, as Iran was consumed in fell swoop of tyranny; For me, however, leaving my home was the only way for me to experience freedom of being, and therefore, change my world, at least the world as it presently exists.
Nafisi and I will share one crucial aspect in our stories.  We will share the love of literature.  Great works of literature, whether fictitious or real, are inherently didactic.  And the characters, events, and morals form connections that develop and mix with our lives, becoming both intertwined and defined, in a way that can only be art.
Whether you are familiar with the works or not, my desire is that you will understand the themes and morals of each, as it relates to my life.  I say that, because, meanings change with our lives.  We come to understand each in a new way as we develop over the years.  Even though the works remain the same, in this way, great works, like great lives change together.  And so it will be...

November 05, 2010

Not Yo' Mama's Field Trips

When my school invited me to accompany them on a field trip, I accepted without a second thought.  The most important thing I've learned - Spain is hardcore!

Field trip I was to Cordoba for a Math exhibit.  This was a bit more traditional.  We started out the day with a stop at the ruins of Medina Al-Zahara.
This was a palace-city built in 900 a.d. by a Califa for his favorite wife Zaraha.

Next stop... Plaza Mayor.  After a walk through the historic district, we ditched the kids and grabbed a "traditional" bite to eat called Flaminkin (I could swear it was just like Chicken Cordon Blue).
What was originally the prayer tower for ancient muslims, now the bell tower.

And the big finally... drum roll please.

Why maths?
Students playing interactive math games.

Field Trip Number II - Antequera

Senderismo (hiking) comes from the spanish word sendero meaning trail or path.  So it's fitting that for my first experience haciendo senderismo I went on the Antequera - Atenas (Antequera - Athens) trail, one of the longest hiking trails in the world.

This is when things get a little more hardcore.  While I'm used to climbing mountains, this stretch kicked my butt.  Why? you ask.  Not because it's tall, not because it's steep, but because it's mile after mile of rolling hills, in the middle of nothing.  There were only olive groves and us...
oh and maybe a few sheep.

So, the bus drops us off, and we walk 10 hours, approx. 15 miles.  Great times!  Although, my favorite part might have been when we stopped for lunch, and heard the refreshing shhhh-'Snap'-'PoP' like oh so many PBR's.  That's right, at least someone remembered a cold one for this extra-curricular activity.  So, all anecdotes aside, was it worth it?
You be the judge.

Field Trip III - "El Chorro"

So, if you thought the spanish take on hiking was interesting, wait until you get a load of orientacion.  Orientacion is a type of P.E. exam.  If you're expecting sit-ups and a stop watch, well, you got half of it right.  But this is way more intense then how many sit-ups you can do in 60 seconds.

Students are separated into pairs.  They are then brought to the finish line, where they are allowed to go one pair at a time.

 hey are given a topographical map before hand with specific points they have to locate.
At each point they have to find a flag with a hole punch.

So what do you think?  Think you could do it.  Well, here's a view of the course.
Good Luck!

October 19, 2010

From Plato to Shear Cliff - the learning curve

Somewhere between translating Wikipedia's "Plato" and teaching my fourth class on square roots and powers, I found an odd bit of inspiration.  The past few weeks I've felt as if I've been treading water, just bellow the surface.  My spanish has been less than subpar, I've been swindled every way a person can be, and I have yet to make friends with a single spanish person my age.  However, I have had a couple of really great classes, learned the in's and out's of a different (but all too similar) bureaucratic system, and the friendships I've made with teachers, and other americans more than accounts for what I'm lacking with my foreign peers.  This constant of surpassing expectations, and then falling short with others, has been a roller-coaster of up's and down's. 

If you were to chart progress of a typical person in intense language learning, it would be a series of learning curves, or plateaus. Like this:
This is the day to days (micro level).  However, if you looked at the big picture (or macro level) it would be an exponential graph like so:
(cool graphics I know, even thought they're not mine)
With one exception, the end would level off somewhere near being fluent.

The thing to remember in all this is the line never actually goes down in the learning plateaus (I'm not saying that without practice for long periods of time, you won't digress).  But, that the plateaus may feel like you're getting worse because you're not learning at the same rate.

So, relating back to what I was talking about before...

My life has been so filled with adjusting to daily life, that I haven't made much headway in my goals.  Just now, as I walked home to my wonderful apartment, words that were once strange like, Eroski and NIE, have moved past familiar to quotidian.  Without stumbling blocks like these, I've finally been able to grasp language concepts again.  The epiphany, however inconsequential you may deem it, is that in retrospect, I was in a learning curve, an academic funk, and that with perspective, things weren't bad, but merely not as great as before.

So why was this curve so hard to recognize?  More importantly, why was it so easy to recognize now that I am on the upward (or, at least hope I am)?

That got me thinking about another learning curve I've recently been coming out of.  It's an interesting juxtaposition leaving home, the land of the free, to come to a country that, thirty years ago, was ruled by one of the worst fascist in contemporary history.  Only to find that, globally we're know as the most oppressive, progressive nation.  More recently, Spain was among the first to grant marriage and adoption rights, but more importantly full civil rights to all couples.  I come from the state in the Union, that has "won the war on H8."  But now, I'm in the autonomous community that has won the title "the modern model of progress and fun."  The hardest part for me is that people here have no empathy.  Take a minute to let that sink in.  Yes, they have no empathy.  They don't have empathy because the rising generation hasn't witnessed this kind of oppression.  For the life of them, they cannot understand, nor do they believe that it is legal to loose your job, or your apartment just because you're gay.  At first they can't grasp it, but when they do, they feel for us.  I think many of us believe that one day the U.S. will be at this same point on the learning curve.  Imagine my surprise as I've tip-toed around the subject of who I'm dating (if not just avoiding it altogether) while everyone around me talks freely, naturally, and openly about their dating lives.  Only to hear that it's de moda to go to the local gay bars.  In fact, most gay bars in Malaga have become "mixed" because, people don't notice as much as they used to.

While I love my country, it's hard when what you love hurts you.  What can I compare my relationship to, but that of an abusive guardian.  The good news is that when the learning plateau ends, it's only up from here.

October 16, 2010

Anyone up for a challenge?

As swimsuit season draws to a close, we enter the holiday danger zone.  I was pretty avid about working out at home.  This year I hoped to avoid the extra "presents" that I always seem to be left with after Christmas.  However, that idea is in jeopardy for several reasons:

A) Gyms here are horrible.
I went to the three closest ones to my house and they had row, after row of treadmills, but only one set of free weights.  Okay, so maybe they're not horrible.  I'm just spoiled.

B) Gyms here are MEGA expensive!
One gym charged 54 Euro, about 75 dollars, to use the gym three days a week.

C) Gyms here close for siesta, but don't seem to open back up.
Again, I'm just very spoiled.  Thanks 24...

So, in lieu of the circumstances I have chosen the less restrictive (FREE) method of weight training.  A friend recommended the following site:


That's right!  100 push-ups in six weeks.

Now, I need a gym buddy.  That is where you come in.  Surely, someone out there in CyberSpace is up for the challenge.  So, you, whomever you are, let's do this thing!  I'm proposing that we do this together.  We can help keep each other motivated, and help each other progress.  So... How 'bout it?

All the rest of you will be in for a treat, when in six short weeks I will have hulked my rippling pectorals through every shirt I own.  I will literally be forced to display my "100 Push-up Body" for all.  Or, at least so I've heard.

October 11, 2010

Long awaited new post

Hey devoted followers,

I know you've all been dying to know what I've been doing, so here is a play-by-play:

Twelve hour layover in JFK - Went to Manhattan (thanks Katie and Bryan)

Arrived in Malaga (thought my luggage was lost, but it was just the penultimate to be put on the carousel)
Train ride to Seville for orientation (which I slept through most of)
Arrive back in Malaga, and began a weeklong search for a place:

         Internet sites used: 9
         Web posts looked at: 100's
         People called: 62
         Apartments looked at: 24
         Number of Doner Kepabs consummed: 6
         Hours walking the street calling every "se alquila" number: 56
         Number of apartments found w/ balcony, internet, and great roommates:  1

I think it was all worth it, don't you (even though I spent almost two hours commuting each day to the city, and stayed next to the worlds largest mosquito farm)?  Plus, I am right in the middle of the city.  Ten minutes to either beach, two minutes from the port, main bus stop, or city center, 30 minute walk to my school (when I don't get lost), and best of all two minutes to the daily farmers market!

First week of school.  I teach four math classes, two wood shop classes, and two philosophy classes.  The staff is great!
Figured out living arrangements (thanks Antonio for the manta!  I won't spend another sleepless night freezing)
Two days of waiting in line to get my workers card.  I don't really want to get into it.
And for the other two days:

September 15, 2010

What to do in 9 months...

So, this job is a pretty sweet deal.  Not only will I be living near the beach, in a climate that rivals heaven, but;  I will also be breaking my back 12-18 long hard hours a week.  Now, I know that in some places their work day comprises more hours than that, so I must keep myself busy.  So here's what I've come up with:

Sleep some more,
Take a siesta,
Sleep again,

While this could probably continue the entire nine months (and no, I'm not trying to cover up a pregnancy), I've decided to be a little more productive.  So after several weeks of the above schedule I will be adding the following features to my blog:

A taste of two cities - I will be in the heart of the food capitol of the world according to Newsweek.
But, I met some pretty good cooks, and had some fantastic food in Salt Lake.  Being the gourmand that I am, I just can't afford to leave that behind.  That being said, food is expensive, so this will be a place to not only swap awesome tales of tapas, but also to share recipes.  I know y'all are wanting some good down south 'sol' food.  (In case you don't get the joke, I will be living on the Costa del Sol, try to keep up :)

Where in the world is Alex...San Diego? - OK, ok, so the title needs some work.  Here's the deal, I am going to be traveling all over, and I want you to guess where I am.  First, person to guess it gets a prize.  First I will just need you to fill out a form.  Please include name, account number, and pin.  Trust me...

R't NeW kVOw - At the suggestion of several friends on facebook, I will be taking many fotos for people to steal.  I guess if you take a million pictures odds are, one will turn out decent.  You be the judge.  But please, judge responsibly.

August 05, 2010

Another step done!

I sold my car.  Now I get to practice my walking.  It's like I'm in Spain already.

July 29, 2010

Please let me know if you're reading this.

I'm setting this up before I go and want to know who is actually interested.  So, before I blog a single post into the blogosphere let me know that you're there.  Call me, email me, or simply click follow.  You can even sign the guest book.

Possible topics to come...

Comical observations
Why I miss you all
And, why I don't miss a thing... :)

Bienvenidos and Welcome!

I'm finally doing it!  It's been over three years in the making, but I'm almost there.  Starting September, I will be living and working in Malaga, Andalucia, Spain.  Here's what I have to say about it...