December 21, 2006

It's been a while...

...since I blogged, and I have something quite important to post about later, so here's a quick update since I've been in the US for 2 months now!

Santiago was great; I didn't make it too far out into non-urban Chile, but the city is rather nice. The view of the Andes behind downtown is absolutely breathtaking since they completely dominate the skyline. Brushed up on my Spanish a bit again, but the Chilean dialect is extremely odd with tons of slang and such. Apparently native Spanish speakers even have a good bit of trouble in Chile. I climbed up Cerro San Cristóbal, a 860 meter hill that dominates the local area with great views all around, and then took the gondola down! Toured the Unduragga vineyard as well, which was quite interesting since they took us all around the wine-making facilities. They had working equipment from 100 - 200 years ago preserved which was quite cool to look at compared to the modern facilities they use now. Definitely worth doing a vineyard tour if you've never done one. I thought about going to Easter Island, which is actually part of Chile, but 5 days wasn't enough to do that. I will go back at some point though, both to do some climbing in the Andes and to go to Easter Island! After paying my $100 "reciprocity fee" (we charge Chileans the same for a visa, so it's only fair they do likewise; they even happily took my Amex and charged it in US dollars), I can now return to Chile for the life of my passport without paying that again.

Back to the US after that, where I've been since. Made it out to Toledo to see Jason and Heather (er, I mean, to go to Cedar Point of course; it must've been coincidence that they were there!) on the last day of the season; it was fairly chilly, which was good since it made it even less crowded! (I'm still not quite as cold-resistant since I was in India all of last winter. I need to start back up on my regular 4.2mi runs in shorts and a t-shirt in 30°F snowy weather and I'll be immune to cold again!)

After that it was off to Kokomo, IN for Nikki's birthday party. Kokomo is basically an hour from Indianapolis and pretty much the middle of nowhere. (And apparently one of the worst meth areas in the country; they caught a high school kid with most of a portable meth lab in his backpack recently!) I always like visiting out-of-the-way suburban areas since I spend most of my time in more urban surroundings. And Nikki's kids are absolutely adorable.

I headed out of town again for Thanksgiving; we had it at Chip's place in Seattle this year. Amber, Jason, and Heather flew out as well so we had most of the usual suspects. The last couple days I was there, it was actually snowing! (Very rare in Seattle.) There was like 1-2" of snow total, but the city was practically shut down because they don't really have snow removal equipment. I had a 1AM flight back and took a cab; good thing I called well in advance since they told me that some people had been waiting up to 2 hours for one to show up!

Other than that, I've been whiling my time away at home and unwinding from having been gone so long. Right now I'm down in Plano, TX (in the Dallas area) visiting my parents for Christmas, the fun commercial holiday that it is! (I actually rather like Christmas.) Sadly, there's a new Walmart going up a mile or two away; as if they didn't have enough of the horrid things all over the place already! The park system in Plano is decent at least, and I can borrow my dad's bike and ride around. (They actually have a couple "bike routes" connecting through different parks and such.) Anyways, I'll be back on the 28th and generally in Boston for the foreseeable future. I've barely seen my friends since I got back between domestic travel and being lazy, so sticking around Boston will be good.

Anyways, this technically concludes my year-long international trip! Not that I'll stop traveling anytime soon...

October 19, 2006

Hey, I'm in the US!

So I finally left Europe this morning, flying out of London to Atlanta where I currently am for a few hours until I continue on to Santiago, Chile. I have no idea what I'm going to do down there (I don't know anyone in the area), but it seems like a fun place to visit since I've never been to South America! I'll be there for 5 days or so, then finally back to Boston...where I'll spend the night and then leave again in the morning. :) (Gotta head out to Toledo to visit Jason and Heather since the last weekend in October is the last weekend Cedar Point is open for the year!)

Anyways...let's see, what have I done in the past month? Well, to be brief, I went to Munich for Oktoberfest (which, of course, is mostly in September) which was a lot of fun. Met up with my friend Phil (who speaks some German, which helps since I don't) who was visiting Germany when I went over there. The beer tents are tons of fun too, since you end up sitting at huge tables with other random groups of friendly people...all with giant 1L mugs of beer! The temporary grounds they erect complete with the massive tents, a rollercoaster, and other stuff are insane for something that goes up and comes down every year. Definitely will have to go back at some point.

Headed up to Stockholm after that to visit a few friends up there and see the city. Stockholm is quite cool because it's basically a giant archipelago with bridges between the islands, which I didn't realize. One of my friends took me on a tour around a bunch of the islands one day. In the middle of winter the days are all of 6 hours long since Stockholm is so far north!

After that, it was off to Amsterdam. I think Amsterdam may be my favorite city to wander around on foot in Europe. Part of that is the lack of traffic—there are quite a few more bikes than cars in the city. Plenty of trams and other public transit as well. It's quite nice walking around with all the canals running through the city as well. Not to mention the typical laid-back Dutch attitude.

Spent some more time back in London as well visiting various friends and relatives, since I'd been going back and forth from London to elsewhere in Europe. Anyways, that's the past month in a nutshell; I'll write something more interesting later. But now, it's off to Chile! I think I'll be back to Boston for some time around Nov 7 or 8 or so; after Toledo I'm going down to Indianapolis for a friend's birthday, but then it's finally back home to stay (for now.)

September 03, 2006

¡Hola de León!

Hola, estado en España por las tres días pasado. Estoy en León; es 300km noroeste de Madrid. Soy visitando con mis amigos quienes hablan un poco de ingles. ¡Es muy bien, porque cuando aprender mas español mientras mis amigos aprenden mas ingles! Estubre gustando León mucho.

So, after butchering some Spanish... I've been in Spain since Friday, specifically in León, which is 300km north-northwest of Madrid. The friends I'm staying with speak a bit of English, which when combined with the bit of Spanish I speak works out just fine! I took 5 years of Spanish from 8th grade through high school, but I haven't really spoken it since then, which is about 9 years. It's interesting how my Spanish is these days; I have trouble conjugating "simple" (e.g. basic but totally irregular, though no language matches up with English for irregular conjugations) verbs like to be, which a first year Spanish student would probably know, yet I remember how to say pointless things like hovercraft en Español. My Spanish is rapidly improving, though I'm leaving in two days so it's not like I'm going to be fluent anytime soon. It's interesting that my brain works in such a way that any words that I remember or re-learn I have no trouble spelling (with accents and such) at all. Yet I can't remember most of the useful vocabulary that I learned in the past; it's a slow process to re-learn it.

So León is quite a cool city to visit. It's about 1km above sea level, surrounded by mountains and some rivers. I went out to the mountains with my friends today which was quite nice and picturesque. There's an interesting tradition here of free tapas (e.g., "small plates" for anyone who hasn't had Spanish-style tapas before; basically little appetizers) with your drinks. And that can mean anything including a coke, sparkling water, or, more likely, una caña de cerveza; that's literally a small glass of beer, anything from 125 - 200ml or so, for 1 - 1.5 euros. With tapas included! A lot of them are just tasty bread, olive oil, cheese, and ham (good soft cheese and serrano ham usually), but many places give you quite a few, more interesting, tapas. I've never been anywhere before where you can just go out and have a few mini-drinks and get more than enough dinner at the same time with them! And as for real dinner itself, they have quite amazing and tasty buey (ox) here that one can get barely cooked.

Anyways, before that, since I haven't blogged in a while, I spent 5 days or so in Dublin. Went to the World Cultures Festival over the weekend with my friends there which was kind of cool; lots of interesting foreign music. Spent a day just wandering around the city, which was nice since it's one of those compact cities that one can just walk around without any transportation. I think the highlight was wandering upon a public Shakespeare performance in one of the parks when I was looking for the James Joyce memorial. They were reenacting the Twelfth Night, 80s style! It was pretty funny since they had Cordelias instead of Cordelios. I think the funniest part was when the fake-Cordelia was fighting with one of the courtswomen(?) in slow motion... with Kung Fu Fighting playing in the background... Great stuff.

Let's see, other than that and various wanderings around London, I had a good time up in Glasgow. Succinctly, we didn't see Nessie, but we saw all of the city and such which was pretty cool. Saw a really cool modern rock concert as well...with pipers! (It WAS the International Piping Festival that upcoming weekend.) I think I need to go back up to Scotland some time and actually make it to Inverness.

Anyways, I'm back to London in a couple days, though I may just stay in Spain for another week; I'm not sure yet. Perhaps going to Serbia in a week or so. After that it's off to Norway and Sweden, and Germany afterwards. Too many countries to see and too little time! I might need to spend more time in Europe than planned.

August 07, 2006

Mmm, scorpions

So my short visit to India was fairly mundane; only had a few days there, so I took care of the business I needed to do there and visited some relatives in my free time.

Headed up to London after that, where I've been since. Ethan, John Arresty, and Kate came over for the Great British Beer Festival, which ran from Tuesday - Saturday, so we went to various sessions of that. Went around to random London sites in the meanwhile; I've been a bit lazy since my friends have been going to a few places that I'd been to just last year. Had fun exploring the British Museum today, though (at least a very small part of it; I plan to go back to see the rest.) Last night we managed to see a hilarious standup comedy show. Good cuisine has been quite the highlight here! Between good pub good, tasty restaurants, gastropubs, and the like, I certainly haven't gone hungry.

Tonight was perhaps the most eclectic dining experience of my life. Well, there wasn't any foam, but the oddness certainly kept it up there! Went out to Archipelago with Ethan and John as it came highly recommended. For starters we had peacock, crocodile, and tom yum soup with 24 karat gold-plated quail eggs. After a palate cleanser of some very strange, interesting ices, we moved on the main courses: wildebeest (gnu! these didn't seem very open source though), wok-fried frog legs, and kangaroo. Had a nice side salad with crickets and locusts to go with it. Dessert was some strange sorbets, cheese, and my personal favorite—chocolate-covered scorpion! Mmm. Topping it off was a visit from The Doctor; of his many remedies I chose the absinthe in a bottle bottomed off with a baby boa constrictor. And one of those fun pills that turned into an elephant after dunking into a bowl of hot water!

Anyways, off to Glasgow tomorrow with Ethan, John, and Kate. We shall indeed find Nessie.

July 25, 2006


Well I've reappeared from Europe in less than a few days time! Got to Paris today to find my flight to India cancelled. Argh! Took forever to get rebooked, verify my luggage was where it was supposed to be, etc. The best they could do was rebook me for tomorrow on the same flight. Delta put me up in a hotel near the airport for the night; free Internet here at least, and amusing EUR26 and EUR28 vouchers for lunch and dinner (even mediocre food's expensive here!) So this isn't quite the tour of Paris I'd planned, but I'll be back to see more. Saw the Concorde in person finally, at least! They have one parked on the grounds of Charles de Gaulle. Anyways, finally off to India in the morning (hopefully.)