27 May 2010

Everything is Cheaper in Prague. Lost Finale

Internet hasn't been very nice in the past week or so. Arrived in Prague about 30 minutes ago. The hostel cost is cheap. 40 Euros for a private 8 person room. There's five of us, so 8 euros per person. P neat.

I finally watched the Lost Series Finale. That's right, instead of updating my blog, I have been wasting bandwidth downloading Lost.

Going into the Finale, I knew that not everything will be answered. I also knew that the sideways universe must be set after the island timeline because sideways verse was set in 2005 while islandverse is sometime in 2007/8? People who were awakened seemed to have memories that occur after 2005. (ie, charlie died in the main timeline day ~90), but it was still like two weeks after the plane in sideways verse.

When the mythological episode hit, I realized that there wasn't going to be anything remotely close to a scientific explanation. I'm kinda ok with that.

The problem is that I wasn't really engaged in the story anymore. The finale was filled with sequences of people 'remembering' their past lives. While nice and serves as a recap of the last six years, it just happened way too much for me to care anymore. The End was really bleh for me.

18 May 2010

Day 14 – Onwards to Ibiza

Ibiza is an island resort. Beaches, parties, all that stuff. This place reminds me very much of Guam, so I’m not that excited about the place. Water has that salty taste and is definitely not potable. Everyone has to buy water from the store. Temperature is not too warm. Hovering around 19 centigrade. The beach is full of people doing beachy stuff. I find that the water is actually not very warm -certainly not warmer than Guam back in the Christmas holiday. The water also had a bunch of sediments and other floating objects. It did not look very good for swimming. The beach is not for swimming. There were tons of people sunbathing in their European uninhibited style. Good stuff.
Walking around, we were approached by a bunch of bar promoters. Basically it isn’t the prime season for tourism yet, and all the local bars are struggling to get enough people. Every bar has people standing on the streets trying to get people to go to their businesses. A lot of them actually look pretty dead.
After last night, I have decided to take a short reprieve on drinking. I had three nights in a row of bad sleep and heavy drinking and I just didn’t feel super great. Just didn’t want to continue waking up with a dehydrated hangover. So, I didn’t drink at all but still joined in on the card game.
Not sure if it was the exhausting day that everyone has had, but it didn’t look to me like they were having a lot of fun. The party ended when one of the players made a mad dash to throw up in the balcony. He almost made it to the edge, but missed. Vomit. All over the ground and partially on the balcony wall.

Day 13 – Madrid

As soon as I stepped out of the hostel, I realized that my camera/phone wasn’t charged at all. No photos. :( We walked for about 4 hours, managed to stop and get fast food twice (cheap budget!) Originally we went to a fairly large mall. It was closed. We decided to head back to a museum which was fairly large. From what we understood at the entrance, there was a timed exhibition thing going on and that it will cost 10 euros to enter. By now, most of us have seen enough art to not really care about art. We found out later that apparently museums are free on Sundays, but what do I know?
After a short break, we went to go to the largest flea market in Europe. They were just cleaning up when we got there around 5. Not cool.

It was Sunday and the places were pretty much all closed. Boo. We acquired supplies to make a decently tasty chicken curry. It was nice. This is also the last night we get to see a bunch of people, possibly forever. Even though last night was supposed to be the party night, we partied pretty hard. At 2 AM, a bunch of people left by cab to the airport.

Day 12 – Travel to Madrid.

Left at 7:30, arrived at 8:00

This is the party night. Since half of the students are going back to Vancouver on Day 14 (flight at 4am), this will be the only reasonable time to party. Passed out at the airport is not a good idea. In addition, this will be the bachelor party for one of the students getting married soon afterwards. Huzzah.

Before getting to Madrid we stopped by a mining museum slash park. I think it is a historic site or something. It was the standard museum experience except about mining. What was neat is that they had an underground part of the mine that can be visited. We walked around for a little bit. The coolest part is that in order for us to get out of the underground, we rode a (straight path) mine cart train out of the mountain into an old refinery system.

Day 11 – Rio Blanco

We had an early field trip to Rio Blanco. It is basically just another copper/zinc mine with fairly low grade of ore compared to Los Cruces. The COO of the company came to chat with us and was immensely interesting. He talked about how the company was founded and how through mergers and acquisitions became a big player in the market.

We also got the standard tour of the mine and got to see the circuits and everything. It was incredibly nice of the engineers to come and show us the stuff. It was supposed to be a local holiday and they weren’t supposed to come in.

Spent the night mostly with my main man Jerome. We went out looking for souvenirs and ended up having dinner due to overwhelming hungriness. We walked quite a bit and found this mysterious structure which did not seem to have any functional purpose. The ‘structure’ is composed of two parts which is interlinked only at the top. One side has an elevator and stairs. The other side seems to be the main building. What doesn’t make sense is that the existence of the stairs and elevator on the outside will probably negate the chance of having stairs or elevators on the main building. The stairs/elevator section is also only connected to the top. Supposedly it is a remnant from a Spanish Exposition event.

Once back at the hostel, I joined in on an existing party and blahed.

14 May 2010

Day 8,9,10

Day 8 - Free Day
Cadiz is surrounded by water on all sides. I have a picture here:

The end of the strip is where the old downtown used to be. It is now mostly a tourist attraction used to take money away from tourists with their extremely expensive meals and items. I went to see some lame cathedral and ate poorly cooked food.
Oh yeah, I bought a totally sweet ds charger. It was sweet because Nintendo didn’t opt to pay the extra 20 cents to include a voltage convertor for their default charger. This one is USB and should be fine wherever compooters are used.
After lunch, we walked back to the hotel (did I mention the hotel itself is pretty sweet, except for the whole see-through bathroom door. Had a little siesta (afternoon nap), and then headed out for dinner. Went to McDonald’s again and this time I went for the value menu again. Spent 2 euros versus the 15 euros for the stupid expensive lunch. Blah.
Walked along the beach and then I mostly went to bed (after hanging out with some cool guys.)

Day 9 – On the way to Seville.

Checked out at 9 am and headed for Seville. The ride only took about an hour and a half. This City is very organic and old. What I mean is that the streets only have enough space for two lanes max. The rest of them only have space for one lane. In addition, the roads are laid out at strange angles (not parallel and perpendicular like ours.) This is the result of having a really old town centre that just grew outwards.
While I still had clean clothes when I got to Cadiz, I was running out of clothing by today. I went to see the Cathedral at Sevilla, which was pretty neat. One of the better ones I’ve seen in Europe. I then bolted back to the hostel to put my laundry into the dry cleaning. 3 euros for each machine, which is way more reasonable than the 3 per item at the Laundromat. Went for a walk for dinner, but ended up eating cheaply at some cheap place. I’m trying to conserve money for now. I don’t really think I like the whole Spanish-seafood stuff in this part of the province. I had this mussel that had disgusting things inside that tasted like grass or some sort of plastic. Not exactly clean water. It was within the mussel, so yeah.
Didn’t go clubbing or partying, but just stayed indoors. Went to bed at 1:30 am. One of the roommates got hella pissed off because she wanted to sleep. I can understand wanting to sleep, but the thing is that she disappeared downstairs for 3 hours ‘waiting’ for people to leave the room and when she got back she was angry it wasn’t over. By that point, we’ve winded down and people were leaving. She decided to ‘get back’ at us by playing Chinese music which was stuck in a loop. I put on my earplug/phones and lol’d to sleep. Fact: If she stayed in the room, people would have left for bed earlier, like at midnight. (the next day’s activity doesn’t start until 10.) Oh yeah, the hostel fits 6 people and she was the only one who didn’t want to do anything.
Day 10 – Los Cruces

Went to Los Cruces, a place where dreams are born. The deposit at the mine is intensely rich compared to other places and as such are able to afford many luxuries. I mean, just look at their front entrance. They have enough money to make a waterfall moat. They’re also in the process of installing new palm trees. Baller.
We got the usual mine tour. Apparently the clay in the region makes it impossible for vehicles to go when it is wet, so every time it rains, they have to stop operation. They’re still making a boatload of money though. Good for them. They served us lunch and we went back to the City.
I feel like I have to reiterate that alcohol is really cheap. I’m not sure if it is the taxes or what, but on average, I have to say it is about 40% cheaper in Spain.
Another awesome thing about Spain is that all of the prices listed have tax included. That’s right! What you see is what you pay. No more bullshit dumb calculation in the head.

13 May 2010

Day 7 – Smelter, Cadiz, and Laundry

Early in the morning we left for the smelters in Huelva. Here, they take the copper concentrate, purify it, and the product is a sheet of copper 1 m by 1m and 65kg by weight. When I first entered the building, there was a huge conveyor type grappler that was moving above my head. Obviously there was more than enough clearance for safety reasons, but because of the huge scale of the object, my natural response was to duck down a little. Honestly, it felt like something from a science fiction movie.

After lunch, we left for Cadiz. By now, people in my class are desperately out of clothing and clean underwear. I understand their plight because my under wears weren’t exactly clean. Fortunately, I have many extras so I was still safe. Some of them were afraid though. We made a trek across the city to look for a laundramat, but it turns out that laundry is really expensive. I’m talking about 3 euro per item expensive. Apparently, the Spanish people aren’t really big on the whole self-serve Laundromat idea. I spent the rest of the night being dumb. Went to McDonalds and spent 3 euros on dinner. I got a Chicken Move-it, a Chicken Burger BBQ, and some onion rings. Vastly cheaper than anything else I could have eaten.

Jerks were staying in my room for way too long and I didn’t get to sleep until 3 am.

The hotel room was much, much nicer than the hostel we’ve been staying. Wide open spaces, INTERNET, great.

The problem with the room is that there’s a broken window pane. It is permanently stuck on open. Cold.

11 May 2010

Day 6: Free Day

So, apparently no Internet. I just couldn't find a hotspot. Well, day 6 is a free day with no scheduled itinerary. Played some  beach volleyball, went to the market, and had some "papajas", which is a spanish seafood rice dish. There are clams(shell included), prawns, and even a mini lobster thing. Overall, it was alright. It really wasn't anything special.


My feeling about this place (technically called Punta Umbra) is that the economy has hit the place hard. When walking down the streets, even downtown, there were many, many stores that were closing down and have for sale signs. The hostels have bad quality and the beach isn't really maintained. Yeah, it might be because it technically isn't the right season yet, but I can't help but feel that the best is behind this place.

Went for a bike ride around town. It costed 4 euros for half a day. While biking, Jerome and I stopped by some stores to buy some items. I swear we stopped by three stores owned by three chinese guys. Because my mandarin is better than my spanish, we just communicated in that. I got a 10% discount from one of the guys. Neat. Its just funny how I'm half an ocean away in a foreign country, and they're from half the world away in the same foreign country, and I'm speaking mandarin. Talked about where we're from and why we were here.

Coolio. Afterwards we decided to just bike around. Wasn't really afraid because I had my NOKIA N97 with the built in GPS. Apparently we biked pretty far after backtracking the path we took.

This was the first real time I biked for a long time. (10 years?) Probably totally less than 10 hours for sure. This was a challenging experience for me. Bleh.

Found a weird sandwichy place that served mini sandwiches. I didn't order any sandwiches, but I got this strange bowl of strangeness. Eggs. Potato. Sausage. Tomato sauce in the bottom. It didn't taste that great. Sourness from the tomato sauce. Saltiness from the sausage. Bleh.

Day 5: Rio Tinto District

Rio Tinto. Red River in Spanish. The river is red because of the oxidation of base metals which is naturally exposed to the environment. However mining activities throughout the ages has contributed to more exposure, making the river really red.  The pH of the water is 2.52

We got up at 7:00, which was tough considering the night before. Drudged along to the bus with a small prepared meal. One of the weird things in Europe is the lack of a concept of a breakfast. Their lunch is served late and their dinner is served even later. Bah.

We got a tour of the Project Rio Tinto mine by IMED. They bought the mine along with all of the liabilities (environmentally, the previous owners were not good.) There’s still a lot of copper that can be profitably extracted, but there are a lot of concerns regarding fixing the environment and upgrading/updating the equipment before this can occur.
Went to the Mining museum afterwards. Saw the history of mining in the region. Went to a model roman mine and a restored tunnel leading to an open pit that’s filled with water. You can see the red tint in the water. After lunch (from 2 to 4) we went to take a train ride along the Rio Tinto River. Went back to the hostel afterwards. I’m going to try to find Internet now. Its been a couple of days without the Internet and I’m starting to feel a little crazy. Day 6 is a free day in Huelva. We leave for another place on Day 7.
Note: No internet : ( Went for dinner right after the attempt. Got some good old Pollos (pronounced Polos :D)    

10 May 2010

Day 4: Huelva

Woke up at 7:47 am. Breakfast was served at the hostel at 8:30, so I just blahed around somehow.

The first place we went to was to see the boat of Christopher Columbus and his monastery. Huelva is the spot where Columbus originally set sail for America and thus there are some sights dedicated to him including a huge statue. Along the way, we saw huge industrial buildings.


Afterward, we went to visit the University of Huelva's other, more industry related campus. Here, we had a presentation and a short information cultural exchange. Afterward we toured the campus, had lunch, and headed back to the Hostel.

Once there, a group of us went to the beach to nap in the sun and swim. I have to say that the water here is really salty. Way saltier than the ocean water in the Pacific. Yeah, I know I'm not supposed to be drinking the water, but it accidentally happens sometimes. Not bueno.

We had a search party go out to find dinner. 18 of us ate a bunch of fish and the bill totaled to about 270 Euros. 15 per person. Not a bad meal. Spent the rest of the night at the beach until about 1:30 am.

Day 3 – Lisbon to Huelva bus ride.

The bus left Lisbon at 9:30 am. Took a detour trip to Sintra. Arrived at Huelva at about 6 pm.

Huelva is surrounded by beaches. It is a pretty nice place. Unfortunately, the hostel does not have any Internet, so this is all delayed.
Went to the University of Huelva for a guest meet and greet dinner. There were like 50 people just standing around the main hall. There are tables with snacks but no chairs. The idea is for people to walk around and mingle. I met some students from Germany, and a (white) instructor teaching in China.

Afterwards, we went back to the hostel. Went to the beach and had a small swim.


04 May 2010

Lisbon, Portugal.

I arrived in Portugal safely after a 10 hour flight to Frankfurt and a 3 hour flight to Portugal. There were many delays due to circumstances including one which involved the Icelandic Volcano erupting again.

One of the methods I use to beat jetlag is to stay awake the entire flight. I stayed up for the first flight (which landed ~3 am vancouver time), but I dozed off occasionally for the second flight ( arrived ~8 am vancouver time due to waiting for transfer).

 By the time we got to the hostel, it was around 6 pm local time. Shower was necessary because of the ickiness. Went out for din din at a restaurant about a kilometre away.

Indian Curry. Not the best, but not the worst I've had.
Beside it was a store with a lot of Hello Kitty merchandise. Too bad it was closed by the time we were done.

In the Portugal / German airport, there were these Camel Smoking Booths. It was an area where people can isolate themselves and smoke. Of course, it was ventilated.

Coming back to the hostel, there's a lot of drinking involved.