April 20, 2007

4/20/07 Almansa Spain

One thing that can be tough about traveling is that while you are away, all your friends and family are still at home. And sometimes, you really wish you could be in both places at the same time. That is the case with me this week. A few days ago, I got an email from my mother telling me that my youngest brother might have a brain tumor. It was a nervous few days waiting for news after he had more tests. Now, he has a better prognosis. They think it is a cyst but still want to operate to remove it. He should be back to normal in a month, they say. Still, I wish I was there to help out.

click here to read more from Time MagazineIt's also been a tough week discussing the tragedy in Virginia. Really, the only exposure the Spanish get of America, is from the television and the movies. It's hard to explain to them that we are not all gun-toting-cowboys. They ask why is such a tragedy a surprise when we have so many guns. I usually don't have very good answers for them.

Note to self: Always test everything at least once before leaving on a trip. And plan for the unexpected. Seems my great idea to upload digital pictures to my iPod using a card reader instead of a cable in order to save weight wasn't a good one. I just 'thought' it would work fine. But it didn't. So, ended up buying a cable here instead. Now it works fine. But another problem I didn't think of was that not all computers are up to date, so not all will recognize the iPod as another hard drive. Hence, I can't get to any of the documents I loaded there to retrieve later. I'll either have to find an internet cafe or wait until I get to my cousin's house in Toulouse.

But I have to say, some of my other ideas have worked quite well. My solar panel (that will be on top of my backpack) recharged a set of batteries in two days of full sun. I just put it in the window and it worked great. I thought it would take at least a week, but I guess I overdesigned it. Good to know for future designs.

Class has been more difficult this week. Amparo tells me that it's really pushing my brain to learn more. We're into the Intermediate level, and the grammer is a lot more complicated. The sentences are longer and more complex and don't readily translate directly. So, my brain is working overtime to understand it all. But I'm enjoying myself. Even though I have homework every once in a while, almost all of our class time is spent in discussion, everything from religion to history to healthcare.

Another thing I was able to do this week is a 'language exchange'. Maria is a high school teacher here who is learning English and was looking for someone to practice with. So, in exchange for talking to me in Spanish half of the time, we talk in English for the other half of the time. She teaches business classes and loves teaching. She says the kids keep her young, and she really enjoys interacting with them. She has an 18-year old son who is studying IT in college. Even though we're only scheduled for an hour, we seem to talk and talk, sometimes for up to two and half hours. I think her English is much better than my Spanish. But it has been fun.

With my 'language exchange' partner Maria