Saturday, January 3, 2009

Catch Up

One of my favorite authors, Barbara O'Connor, has a fantastically interesting blog that I love reading. I just checked it for the first time in a few days and I was especially impressed with the wide-range of topic she has posted since I left school for Christmas break. Now, it is important to keep in mind that I am currently in my classroom PRETENDING to get things set back up for students on Monday . . . but I always tend to wander back to Greetings from Nowhere.

Reading Barbara's blog reminds me that I am not yet a true writer. I talk with students all the time about how great writers are constantly brainstorming for ideas. They find the smallest, seemingly most insignificant occurences in everyday life and write big, grand, crafted works from it--or at least include pieces in some work at some point.

I started this blog as a way to grow in my own writing, however, I am realizing that I am not doing much growing!

Therefore, I am making it ONE of my New Year's Resolution to be a better blogger. Essentially, to be a better writer.

I realize there are only a few who even read my blog, but that is great for me. This is a place for me to express my thoughts. Perhaps it's a good thing some don't read it. HAHA

To 2009, the year of the writer!

Derek :)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Thankful Thursday

One of my nearest and dearest friends, whose blog I check daily, does this really cool thing called Thankful Thursdays. Because she is so awesome and wise, I am going to copy her and do the same. Don't hate, I liked the idea. :)

Ten Things I am Thankful for Today:

1. Brian comes to town tomorrow! So pumped to see my college roommate!
2. I get a Challenger paycheck tonight!!!
3. I am doing this Dave Ramsey course and will be mailing a check to pay off another item on my "debt snowball"!!! I am on my way to "living like no one else".
4. We ordered out Zaxby's for lunch . . . YUM!
5. I am going to meet the lead teacher for Adult Education tonight, to hopefully start teaching there in January . . . kudos for extra money.
6. My students' Christmas gifts are ordered and SHOULD be here tomorrow.
7. My grandmother and uncle arrived to my parents house yesterday from Michigan. They were delayed and missed a flight, but made it safely.
8. Cody's birthday was today and he brought me a cupcake. Yes, Zaxby's and a cupcake in the same day. I'll be sweating it out at the gym tonight.
9. I spilled my protein shake ALL over my shirt this morning. I am not thankful that happened, but I am, however, thankful that we have a washer and dryer at school! It should be done in a few minutes.
10. We are 6 days away from Winter Break! Christmas shopping, sleeping in, and daily Starbucks here I come!

Rainy Day

Gotta love rainy day dismissal!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

I've been pondering . . .

So I've been pondering . . .

I tell people all the time that I have the greatest job in the world, and I truly believe it! However, at times, I wonder what it would be like if I did something else with my time. I ran into a buddy from college this weekend who is doing very well for himself as some sort of traveling accountant with a firm in Charlotte. He is on the road several weeks out of the month, visiting different places, a frequent flyer with company credit cards to boot. I would be lying if I said I was not becoming somewhat jealous as I talked to him and for the past few days have been wondering how I'd do in a different job . . . what I would do?

Is this just a case of "the grass is always greener"?

I had a full circle moment last night, however, when I was working with a student that stays after school a few days a week with me for tutoring. He is a HUGE football fan, and over Thanksgiving break he was given some football tickets to a game in Charlotte. As he was talking, he said he had enough for him and 2 friends. He then very casually went on to say, "Yeah, I thought I'd invite you and blank (another student) to go with me."

I just kinda smiled and looked at him and he goes, "What?"

I love the fact that these kids see me as a part of their lives, as a family member, as a friend. I started with this group last year in the hopes of having a great first year as a teacher, and now in my second year with them, I am realizing they have allowed me to be so much more. They have invited me into their lives. I am so connected to them and their families, that now as I am counting down the days to Christmas break, I am also secretly regretting the fact that with each passing day I am one day closer to having to say goodbye to these kids.

I am not blogging today to brag in any way, but to help myself work through the idea that although I don't have a company credit card, don't get to fly several days a week, or wear awesome suits to work, I get to spend 11 hours a day hanging with some of the coolest kids I know and that's OK with me for now.

The now-humbled teacher,

Derek :)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Renovation Continued . . .

The kitchen turns white!!!

I'll take some new pictures tonight of it NOW with new flooring and some wall color!





House!

Hey Friends!

I will dedicate the next few posts to my house!!! It's been awesome to remodel and although the job still isn't done . . . I'm getting there!

Here is a peek at the BEFORE pictures . . . don't worry, it will get better!

Cheers!
Derek









More Beach Pics


Beach Trip!






Hey!


I am now trying to "catch up" on the major events in my life that have happened since I stopped blogging . . .


I had to include a few pic from an AWESOME beach trip Dana, Derrick, Andy and I took back in September. It was fantastic. It was my first time ever going to Cherry Grove. I have to admit, I no longer think the Myrtle Beach area is quite so trashy. I had a wonderful time!


A few pics from our trip should be above.


Cheers!


Derek :)

Hello long, lost friends!

Hey everyone!

After my somewhat dramatic departure from Spain I returned home safely and just chilled for the remainder of the summer.

I was glad to get back to Rock Hill and to start the school year, and I closed on my house in RH on August 18th. Since August my days have been filled with home improvement and lesson plans.

The school year so far is going WONDERFULLY! Looping with my class from 4th to 5th grade was one of the best decisions I think I could have made, because this year has been a delight. I am so luck to work with such awesome teachers and the kids have been, well . . . the same great kids as last year! I truly mean that.

So . . . I'm back! I realized in the past week or so that I really miss blogging. I also realized that lately I have not been doing a great job of keeping my writer's journal and made the executive decision in the land of Derek to merge the two together. Welcome to the most extraordinary tales of the ordinary life of Derek the humble teacher!!! It's not quite as exciting as my trip to Europe that was a BUST but oh well.

Check back often!

Cheers!

Derek

Sunday, June 15, 2008

I found a way out of Barcelona!

Oh boy!

Do you remember how I complained about how long the flight was from Philadelphia to Barcelona (over 7 hours)? I take it all back! I finally found an inexpensive way to get from Barcelona to Madrid. I will be traveling by bus, and the trip that is just a few hundred miles will take 8 hours to complete!!! Do they have beverage carts, blankets, pillows and movies on el autobus? NO! The lady at the ticket counter told me to make sure I am there early because I purchased the last seat on the bus. Great, it is even a REALLY full bus with Europeans (no offense intended). In my head I have this vision of me sitting on a 1970´s retired school bus with no windows or air conditioning and chickens flying around everywhere, people stacked 3 high, children puking in the aisles. Got the mental image? I hope I am sorely mistaken! :)

For a few hours I was afraid I was going to be stuck in Barcelona, I know, poor me. In hindsight, it is probably good that I am leaving because a few more days here and I might get too comfortable for my own good, I may not come home! I feel like I have a few friends here now to ring up and meet for dinner and was even offered a job at the some embassy school teaching English (I sat with the director of the school and his at dinner last night).

I went out last night for tapas with my Indian roommate (and the director of the school) who I have finally been able to understand within the last day. I have to keep asking people here to repeat things slower so that I can understand them, and last night at dinner the waitress (a local) asked me to do the same for her with my Spanish. I guess I am trying too hard to be a local. HAHA

I met a few new friends to tell you about . . . Deon is a really cool guy here from Cape Town, S. Africa. He is studying architecture and just purchased an AWESOME flat on Diputacio (Dee-poo-tas-e-o). Also, I have 2 new flat mates. The guy is not friendly at all and to me seems very lazy. His travel companion though, is very kind. They are from Turkey and her name is Ozega. She has a laptop and has been kind of enough to let me borrow it to find a way out of Barcelona.

Two things I have learned:

1. I packed way too much stuff
(Next time I will bring a SMALL rolling suitcase instead of a hiker´s backpack)

2. I should have brought my laptop (there are free wifi spots everywhere here)

Now that I have another evening in Barcelona I am going to actually do my laundry tonight that I was suppose to do last night. I am sure there will be many things going on tonight, but not nearly as many as usual because it is Sunday. The market was not even very busy today, and those that were there seemed to all be tourists. Are all of the locals still in church? I think market day is Saturday here. I am really mad that I am not in Madrid, because I know the big day to market there is Sunday mornings and the bullfights are on Sunday nights. Oh well, I might try to catch it on a Sunday another time.

Since I am losing a day in Madrid I thought about blowing off my flight to Paris and making other plans when I was ready to leave Madrid in a few days but I have decided to keep my flight to Paris since I have already paid for it. I will travel on to Paris, then Italy (Rome, Venice, and Florence) THEN travel from Florence back to MADRID to spend a few more days there. I also want to venture from Madrid down to Seville at the end of my trip as well. I am moving those unplanned events to the end of my trip since I have to come back to Spain anyway to fly out of Barcelona and because I will have a paycheck to refuel my wallet before those travel plans come along.

Anyway, kind of a boring post today, but I wanted to update everyone as to where I was and what the plans are from here.

Keep commenting!

Love,

Derek :)

Saturday, June 14, 2008

My final day in Barcelona






Hola!

Today has been an exciting day that I did not plan at all. I finished yesterday, for the most part, seeing all of the major attractions in the city that I wanted to check out while I was here. I was able to get some great pics of the city last night, and ended up doing nothing else after that. Most of the cafes and tapas that I tried to go to last night (what have become my favorite spots) all had a cover of more than a couple euro so I politely declined. I am sure I will be fine on money, but this early in my trip I do not want to throw money away on gaining entrance to somewhere and later not have money to eat!

This morning I got up and decided to check out La Sagrada Familia which is another BEAUTIFUL work of Antoni Gaudi. I have mentioned him in a previous post I believe . . . he was a very talented architect/designer. All the people in Barcelona talk about him as if he is royalty. It turns out this church La Sagrada Familia, which he designed and worked on until his death, was a tribute to the royal family. It is amazing to think humans could make such a masterpiece. For an extra 2 euro I went up on the lift . . . BIG MISTAKE! I thought it might take us up to the second, third, or even fourth story of the actual structure. Sadly, I was WAY wrong. I am getting sick thinking about it, so let me just finish this paragraph by saying I felt like I was on the Tower of Terror at Disney World, only I was the only one screaming, the only one who spoke English, and no one else seemed to be phased by the experience! I did meet a couple from Texas in line to get into the church. Their daughter is studying abroad here for the summer. They had an extra coupon book that was given to them by their tour guide and I very much appreciated them saving me three euro on entry!

After my near death experience in the house of the Lord, I decided I needed a much more casual afternoon so I headed to the Villa Olimpica, which as you will remember, was home to the Olympics some years ago. That is where I found the beach!!! I have seen water everywhere since arriving but it has all been ports and docks but no real sand. However, today I saw the sand! Luckily, I had trunks in my daypack just in case, and so I spent most of my afternoon sleeping on the beach. Yes, get the mental picture, I did have my daypack locked to me with a bike lock!!! Get a good laugh, but I am traveling alone and my life is in that bag . . . I am not taking any chances! I also ran into Frock at the beach, I mentioned her a few days ago--she is the cousin of one of my French flat mates. I have decided that she is my guardian angel in Spain because I keep running into her in the most random of places. I guess, on the other hand, she could also be stalking me, but who knows. Oh wait, she just walked into the cafe now!

Just kidding . . . yeah, that one was a stretch. :)

It is right around 8 as I am writing this and tonight I don´t have a thing planned. I am going to attempt to wash some clothes in the SINK at my flat, this will be very interesting! I found a laundry facility around the corner but they charge 5 euro per load!!! That´s like ten bucks US currency!!! I am unwilling to shed that kind of dough just to be clean so I figured I would wash it at home in the sink tonight, squeeze the water out the best I can, and take it there in the morning to just dry it. Good plan, right? I am sure I will also walk through La Rambla tonight for one last nostalgic experience before I move on to Madrid tomorrow.

I am traveling by Eurrail (known to us Americans as the EuroRail) to get to Madrid and as of this moment I have no clue where the station is located. I have done the trip planner on their website a few minutes ago, but it really wasn´t much help. I am going to try to swing by their information center tomorrow morning before the train leaves at 13 something to see what the heck I am suppose to do! I am a bit concerned because it looks like I have to make 3 transfers to get to my destination of Madrid, Chamartin station. One transfer involves me walking from one station to another. LOL; I am laughing as I type this because tomorrow´s blog should be very hilarious to say the least! Don´t worry if I post late tomorrow night, I will be fine! I am staying at a hostel in Madrid that is actually an old castle. Spooky but still very cool.

I think that is all for now friends, I was able to chat with Meghan and Jeryl for a few minutes on AIM today and that made my day. I was telling Meghan I feel like I have been here so much longer than 5 days. I think it is because I am so busy in the daytime and because already I have experienced so much, and perhaps because I have yet to be in bed before 3 am. I guess in the days I have left there are WAY more experiences to come! I did decide to travel to Seville after Madrid, I have not updated my itinerary but I am cool with the idea of just winging it. I will def. be flying out of Barcelona on the same day, check back for more details.

Take care everyone, don´t forget to comment back!

Derek ;)

Friday, June 13, 2008

Day 4 in Barcelona






Hey everyone!

Day 4 in Barcelona has been a great one, but before I can tell you about today I have to tell you about last night! I went to an awesome tapas cafe in Passeig de Gracia (the neighborhood I am staying in). I was eating alone, which I´ve become ok with doing . . . I guess that means I am growing? I was enjoying my meal (the food here is fantastic!) when I overheard a group of people speaking English. I, of course, struck up a conversation and they were a very nice group of friends from London staying in Barcelona on holiday until Sunday. They were loud, obnoxious, and used awful language but MAN they were hilarious!!! I ended up abandoning my table and joining them, and then going out to some pubs with them after dinner around 1 am. We had a blast! They speak no Spanish, nor did they have any desire to. To see them try to talk to locals and get directions or even to order a drink was QUITE hilarious to say the least! Let´s just say that each conversational transaction ended with loud words being shouted by the Brits. When I woke up this morning my abs hurt from laughing so hard for so many hours. It really was the funniest thing I have ever seen in my life. They have a very dry and twisted wit about them that was so fun to hear. I arrived back at my flat this morning around 6am.

When I woke up around 11, I headed to La Rambla to rummage up some breakfast. I'm including some great pics of this area. I´ve grown to this custom very quickly, just like a local. I´ve taken some awesome pics of this area of the city, it is by far my favorite. It´s a place where olde world meets modern, but tradition is still such a part of the daily fabric of the lives of the people here. Typically you can eat a GREAT breakfast of fruit and juice, a bottle of water, maybe even a tortilla for less than 4 or 5 euro. However, today, market prices were outrageous as a result of the trucker strike! The 4 or 5 euro that usually gets me a wonderful breakfast from a few different stands today only got me a pineapple and a bottle of water. From what I could read of the newspaper, the government has has reached an agreement with about 90 percent of the drivers but the other 10 percent still striking are starting to get violent in some parts of the city. Let me insert here that I have NEVER felt unsafe in anyway in the city. The truckers who are still striking are simply making it difficult if not impossible for the truckers who have gone back to work to make their deliveries. There have been some special force law enforcement wandring La Rambla all day with big guns. As long as they are there protecting me and not aiming at me, I am good to go. You can tell the people of Barcelona are not use to this because many are saying rude things to them and bumping into them in the market. Today was a great day to people watch!

I also ventured out to P├ásseig de Picasso this afternoon and spent a few hours at the Picasso Museum. What a beautiful endeavor! Picasso loved Barcelona and near the end of his life he DONATED around 3,000 of his works to the city as a thanks for the many great memories and inspirations he found here. The city created the museum in an old medieval castle that has been beautifully restored, it was quite a delight to see. Gina, I wish they would have allowed me to take pictures, it was so divine. I was particulary fond of a piece called La Copa Bava which is quite simply a glass of water containing a flower sitting on a cafe table. A woman who studied Picasso at university, who was standing beside me, told me in Spanish that Picasso created the piece in honor of the many many hours he spent at cafe tables in Barcelona with friends and family. She went on to explain that many say when Picasso created the piece it was at the end of a month. She said at the beginning of the month Picasso and his friends always met at cafes to enjoy conversation and wine, but towards the end of the month, they enjoyed just conversation and water as the money ran out! I can totally relate! I loved the piece because for me it captures the essence of what Barcelona has been for me, great people enjoying life to its fullest, often times at a cafe over a coffee, wine, or even water! The painting was made during Picasso´s blue period, Picasso´s mourning the few years that followed the death of his best friend, but I think that only adds to th symbolism of the piece for me. Through good times or bad, wine or water, friends and family will always be there. I will hopefully be able to find a great copy of this piece when I get home to have in my own house.

While I was touring the museum I ran into an American couple from Philadelphia. They were very, very nice and it was great to talk to people who spoke my native language the way I use it! (No offense to my new British friends and their bloody pushchairs! HAHA). The American couple has a 24-year-old son as well who is in college in Boston and the mom kept saying over and over, "Your poor mom, I bet she is a nervous wreck!" She was even trying to convince me to give her my parents number so when she gets back to the states on Sunday she can call them to tell them I am ok. They refused to let me leave them before they treated me to lunch, so we had lunch at a cafe around the corner from the museum. I had an AH-HA moment when we got to the restaurant and they had to tell me what they wanted so that I could order for all of us in Spanish. I am by no means fluent in the language, but it is amazing to me how much you pick up just from listening and practicing in your head. I can totally see why 100% emersion in a language is a great way to learn. I bet if I were here only another 30 years, I´d be a pro! HAHA

It is just shy of 21:00 here and after I leave this cafe, I am going to go home and take a nap before going to dinner tonight. I learned of a great little spot called quattro gats. Supposedly all the great artists and writers of days before hung out here to bask in each other´s creativity. I want to see what I can get from it. It was actually copied after one in Paris with a similar name during an artistic awakening there, so I may have to check out the one in Paris while I am there as well. After dinner I want to take some night pictures of the city. The architecture here is so magnificent. Antoni Gaudi is one of the most significant for Barcelona, and one of his most creative works is just a block from my flat. I am hoping to get some good pics of that and of the Columbus monument tonight. I have also captured some awesome images of the street performers in La Rambla, it is so cool. I have become quite skilled at realizing ANYTHING in the city that grabs your attention could be a possibility for someone to help themselves to your goods. I am following the locals on this one--if my feet stop moving I put my hands in my pockets before someone else does! Even if they are trying to get my spare change, they are still very talented artists! There are also many street bands that just gather and strike up a song. As I am sitting here at a window seat in a cafe writing this I am looking out into a side street of La Rambla where a band is playing Hotel California with a Spanish twist and several passers by, locals not tourists, have stopped what they are doing just to laugh and dance in the street together. I don´t know if this positive attitude for life is just in Spain or all of Europe, but I LOVE IT! I guess I will soon find out!

On a last note, I leave Sunday for Madrid but am thinking about taking a detour to Seville (pronounced suh-vee-uh) for a few days after Madrid, before Paris. I will let you know!

Keep reading and keep commenting, I love hearing from you!

Mucho gusto!

Derek, or Del has the crazy Brits have named me :)

Just checking in at the moment

Hey all!

I am just checking in to let everyone know I am ok! I don´t think this cafe is open for long, but we will see how far I can get with a post for today.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Trucker strike in Espana es no buen for American traveler






I can´t help but laugh at my luck, or lack there of. Of course, when I plan a trip to Spain there would be a trucker strike that begins the DAY I arrive! The markets were soo busy this morning as people tried to stock up on items they knew would soon be gone until the strike was over. I have been able to understand a few conversations in Spanish about the strike and most agree with the truckers but don´t think it will work because they can´t afford to strike for long. Here is an article about the strike. http://www.iht.com/articles/2008/06/10/europe/spain.php

In any regard, the only way in which I have been directly tied to the strike was with my car rental this afternoon. With the strike many gas stations are out of gas and I do not want to risk running out of gas in an unfamiliar area with a car I am renting BY THE HOUR! I leave on Sunday for Madrid and hope that things are better by then, I´d hate to starve in Spain! I have heard the strike is much worse there. I guess as long as they don´t run out of jelato and cappuccino I am good to go. Jelato is my favorite thing about Europe so far, sad I know.

As I write this I am back in Las Ramblas, it is by far my favorite part of the city. It is almost 2:30 here and siesta started a bit ago. I think this is a perfect time to update my blog. I even found an internet cafe that is run by locals and not japenese so the rates are lower. Besides, trying to read Spanish on a computer operating system is so much easier then Japenese (I know that is hard to believe, wink).

After siesta I am going to tour the Gothic Quarter (which has 4 divisions) and then head out again tonight.

Last night I went to dinner around 11 at a wonderful tapas cafe called Mossimo and then wandered around for a few hours after that. Barcelona is pretty in the day time, but it is GORGEOUS at night. I noticed so many different things that I had completely missed in the daytime. I arrived back at my flat around 4am and slept until around 10 this morning. I can´t get over the leisurely style of life here. There were several tables that had finished their meals when we arrived at the restaurant. Our dinner was 3 hours long, and after we left, many of them were still there! In the states, as a former server, I would have been kicking them out of my tables! Jill told me that to have dinner with a friend in less than 2 hours is almost an insult, like you do not like hanging out with them.

Also, I have learned more about my flat mates! The Indian guy speaks English they swear, but I have yet to understand a word he is speaking. There are 4 young French students that share a room who are all in Barcelona studying international business. They speak flawless Spanish but do not speak much English. However, one of them has a cousin named Frock, yes Frock, I made her write it down to show me, that is also here from France studying international business. She speaks very good English and has been hanging out at the flat a good bit even though she is not staying there. I have enjoyed very much talking to her. I think I made her day when I told her she spoke English very well. She then said, "I dream of one day living in America!" It made me realize how great I´ve got it. She also told me this morning, "Why you so happy? You know no one and speak no language but you wear a smile most of the time. I no understand." HAHA, I guess that is the way we Americans are . . . blindly and foolishly optimistic! It made me laugh very hard, and then she apologized about 100 times if she offended me.

My other flat made, the local Spanish lady, deserves an entire paragraph of her own. She is crazy! She has told me her name 4 times and each time it is different! This morning she is Rosa but yesterday she was something that started with an S. Anyway, she woke me up at 6am this morning to tell me the heat was on. I thought at first I did not understand her, but come to find out, that was all she said. We then had to have an hour long conversation about how hot she was and how outraged she was that it had come on. Of course, I am only comprehending about every third word, so it was annoying to say the least. FINALLY, after an hour long conversation we decided to go back go sleep and to contact Dmitri, the flat owner, today. Oh wait, there is more! She woke me up again at 7 am accusing me of turning it up higher! She went over to the wall control (which is for the WATER HEATER not the central heat) and accused me of turning it up to make her angry. If this were an American woman I would been mad, but I just had to laugh. I explained that I had not been out of my bed and finally after much interrogation, in an instant, she decided it must have been those "other FRENCH boys". She said French like it was a cuss word. She also does not believe I am an American and said that I look and act more like someone from the UK then the US. I am not sure if that is a good thing or not, but at least I guess I hide my Goose Creek roots well . . . or she is a complete fool, probably the latter. HAHA I was finally able to go to sleep again and when I woke this morning she tried AGAIN to talk about the same issue, but I politely said, "No hablo espanol" and continued to get ready and then ran out of the flat. I ran into Frock in the market while I was having breakfast at an outdoor bistro and told her what was going on. She said that this local woman is nice but "different". The last thing I will say about the issue is that I had a wonderfully cold shower this morning because she turned off the water heater thinking it was the central heater (imagine that some women just don´t listen!!!) Just kidding.

Anyway, I am off to find some lunch and then go back to the park to eat/rest/and plan my afternoon.

Much Love from Barcelona,

Derek :)

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Wow, what a crazy day!






So I am here . . . I know this sounds crazy to say but I have been here all day and it is just now starting to set in that I am in a foreign place. As I walk the streets I don´t feel out of place but as soon as I have a question or am unsure of what a transit maps says I realize that . . . I am the outsider! HAHA

I found my place today without problem and my living situation while in Barcelona is going to be interesting to say the least. I am renting a bed in a flat that currently has a guy from India there, three French students, and a local spanish girl. There is also a random girl who has been there all day named Birgida, she has been doing laundry all day but clearly is a local. I am guessing she works there? At any rate, it is clean, the bed is comfortable and the wardrobe I was provided with the bed is lockable with the padlock I brought from home. So . . . in general I am in good shape!

I exchanged 500 US dollars when I arrived at the airport this morning and had a WONDERFUL (sarcasm here) exchange rate of .57 to 1. That means for every dollar I spent, I was given .57 euro. Essentially one US dollar is half a Euro . . . yes, I will be poor while I am here!

I have been fascinated all day with the culture and lifestyle of the people of Barcelona. I love the vibe of the city, and today I wandered through Las Ramblas which is the centre city market. It is HUGE and runs from the center of the city down to the port (which is the old Olympic site). It was so amazing to be looking through Prada purses and Dolce and Gabanna glasses at street vendors and then to turn a corner and be facing a castle that literally dates back to the Middle ages. It´s mind-blowing!

ALSO! Literally at 2:00 pm on the dot EVERYTHING closes for siesta, which lasts until around 4:00 each day. I followed everyone else´s lead and went home and took a nap. Man, these people have got the right idea to life! Businesses and schools do not start until 10 am, they then close from 2-4 for lunch/siesta and open back up from 4-8pm. It is currently 8:45 pm as I am writing this and the city is DEAD. Everyone gets off work at 8 and goes home to hang. Dinner reservations begin around 10 and easily go until midnight from my understanding. Most of the bars open at 10, but many of the "dance clubs" don´t even think about opening their doors until midnight or 1 am.

The place I am staying backs up to a school and all day I have been amazed at the educational system (from what I can see from my window). The school takes up an entire city block and is stories tall . . . with a backporch at each level that students use to go from level to level and to enter their classrooms. At 8pm, when the school closed, I heard a bell ring and literally I could hear the kids BOOing because they had to go home. I need to take notes so that I can evoke this feeling in my students state side!

Tonight I am going to head to a local cafe for dinner with an American I met on the flight who backpacked like I am doing 10 years ago and never went home! Her name is Jill and she is married to a local guy who owns a pub in Porta de Catalunya (which is just a few blocks from where I am staying in Passeig de Gracia). She has been very kind and offered suggestions and advise on how to stay safe and what places to catch on what days for the best prices. She even said, "If anything happens to you, just come to my husband´s pub and we will help you!" She is a teacher here and I took comfort in knowing that IF something bad did happen I knew an American whose Spanish is beautifully fluent to help me!

At any rate, I think I am going to log off for now (internet is .50 Euro per ten minutes). I will post tomorrow with more information about the city and the cool things I see. Tomorrow I am going back to Las Ramblas for open air viewing and I am going to also check out the beach. If I have time I am also going to visit a few wineries located a short ride out of the city. Yes, I did rent a tiny European car to go . . . this should be every interesting! I took a peak in the window today and I can only decipher 4 gears . . . lol, we will see what happens! At least they drive on the same side of the street here as Americans do back home.

Much love from,

Derek


I made it!


Hey all!

I have arrived in Barcelona! The flight was REALLY long but I made it! I have already met another American who is backpacking Europe alone as well. It´s ironic, we met at the information station at the airport exchanging money. He lives in Charlotte (small world) and is also a teacher! (REALLY small world!) We have already gone our seperate ways but we exchanged info to maybe meet up at another time . . . his itinerary is very similar to mine.

I don´t have much time to type now I am going to try to find my hostel . . . I´m at an internet cafe renting internet right now. I will write more later!

MUCH love from Pau Claris Street, Centre Cuidad, Catalonia Square

Derek :)

Monday, June 9, 2008

My watch is synchronized!

Hola!

It's 11 pm and I'm sitting here at Meghan's computer waiting on the last of my laundry to be done so I can get it all crammed into my pack (thanks again Candyce for hooking up a deal) to be ready for take off in the morning! Gracious Dana is being kind enough to take me to the airport. I just double-checked and all of the places I will be visiting in Europe are on the CEST time schedule which is 6 hours ahead of US Eastern Standard. Example: It is currently 10:53 pm on Monday, June 9th but in Barcelona or Madrid (and everywhere else I am going) it is currently 4:53 am on Tuesday morning. My watch is officially synchronized!

I am so pumped to be going on what I know will be a life-changing journey but feel like there are a zillion things I have not yet taken care of here . . . oh well I guess, it will all work out, right? Within the past week I have finished my very first year of teaching, moved classrooms, moved out of my house in Charlotte, and now am embarking on this trip. Yes, I am officially homeless when I get back, but that worry is for another day.

In the past few days a few people have asked me what possessed me to plan such a trip (most with a scowl on his/her faces after I tell them I am staying in hostels) and I can honestly say I don't have one particular reason.

I think this trip for me is a number of things, it's a 1) celebration of the fact that I made it through college and am in a job/career that I LOVE! 2) chance for me to begin to see what else is out there in the world in an attempt to become more global, to truly live as a person who values life experiences more then material possessions 3) As all who travel Europe say, "A chance to find myself" but even more cliche to find "my place in this world". I am really excited about learning more about the religious and cultural social norms that people of Italy, Spain, France and Switzerland are accustomed to. I don't think I would be able to experience any of these things as richly and authentically had I signed on for a group trip or any commercialized form of tour.

Who knows, really . . . all I can say is that in 24 hours I will HOPEFULLY be fast asleep above the Atlantic dreaming of life experiences to come. Will I hit bumps along the way? OF COURSE. But what some people cannot wrap their heads around is the idea that until we are faced with challenging situations do we realize what we are truly capable of achieving on our own. Yes, I think I did steal that from a classroom poster somewhere.

Thanks to everyone for such kind words and support, and don't worry Crystal I will keep my blog "g" rated.

Also, Mom . . . please don't worry. You sounded upset on the phone when I talked to you just a bit ago. Remember, THOUSANDS of people take this journey each year and come back just fine. I promise I will come back in one piece (but maybe with a tattoo!!!) HAHA

Goodnight for now friends, much love from Meghan's computer.

Derek :)