End of the Summer

Well, this is a week later than planned, but I’m actually moved into my fall dorm now!  Originally, I’d intended to post last Sunday before packing up, but since I didn’t do a lot of exciting things while in UAdvantage, I thought I’d combine the post with my move-in week to make it more interesting.

A few words about the UAdvantage program though – it was great.  I really enjoyed my classes, especially Anthropology, and I’m very thankful for the resources UAdvantage will give me during the fall semester – for example the adorable little cacti we planted.  In addition to a field trip to the museum, I also had the chance to explore Downtown Tucson with my Anthropology class.  We looked at a few historic sites in the city and noted how it has changed in recent years.  Even more fun than that, the UAdvantage group also took us on a Food Tour that I would recommend to anyone visiting Tucson.  Or, if you aren’t up for a full tour, just go to The Fix for Mac n Cheese and The Hub for ice cream.  I also spent a few hours at the Scented Leaf Café which serves a myriad of wonderful teas (also a great spot to chill out and read a book).

This past week was hectic with both classes finishing and everyone packing up to leave, but it’s been fun.  Wednesday was actual move-out day, and although I was supposed to be on the golf cart to my dorm at 9 am, it was a bit closer to 10:30.  There were a few problems causing this – check out papers not being available, the golf cart leaving without me, etcetera.  But, I digress.  Once I reached Yuma Hall, it only took half an hour to carry my things upstairs (no elevator) and a further three hours to unpack everything.  However, I do mean everything, so the time was worth it since I no longer have to search for anything.  I also met my awesome RA Wednesday, but after the unpacking, I was pretty much dead on my feet.

Thursday was my last big thing with UAdvantage – Meet Tucson.  There were a few options for this, but I chose to go to Roadhouse Cinema, which is very fancy and more than I could afford on my own.  Courtesy of not having to pay for it though, I was able to enjoy the reclining chairs and waiters while watching Dunkirk.  Although I would recommend Roadhouse, I would also recommend planning to spend a lot of money there.  The whole experience was a lot of fun though, and the movie wasn’t bad either!

Friday and Saturday were a bit more laid back.  Although I did make three trips to the financial aid office on Friday, I mostly spent the day figuring out what I need in my room and going shopping at Safeway to buy some groceries.  Another notable occurrence on Friday was that other people moved onto my floor so I’m no longer alone.  As for Saturday, I had no plans at all and just finished the last of my library books (How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn, also featured in 3 of the pictures below) while exploring a few different places to read.  Last night was also the peak of the Perseid meteor shower, which I tried to see, but because of the clouds, I watched a distant thunderstorm instead.  The lightning was incredible though, so no complaints.

Today was the start of Bear Down Camp.  Mostly, this is school spirit activities and explanations of things on campus, but it seems like it will be fun.  I’ll be getting on a bus at 7 tomorrow morning to go to Prescott, Arizona for the rest of the camp, and I’ll post my next update either next Sunday or one week into the school year.  Until then ~

 

Pasó Por Aquí

Two weeks later, and I’ve not only seen a lot of Arizona, I’ve also finished another first week of class.  But first, the trip.  Before entering Arizona, we stopped in New Mexico to see El Malpais and El Morro – some of my favorites from the whole trip.  El Morro translates to “The Headland,” which is an apt name for this mesa that dominates the landscape around it.  Since pre-historic times people have seen this cliff face as something awesome and have carved into it.  Walking along the trail, you can see not only petroglyphs, but evidence of Spanish explorers, American soldiers, and New Deal workers who carved the staircase that leads to the top.  The Spanish phrase “pasó por aquí” (passed by here) that is written so many times on this rock is, to me, a mark of how people have always wanted to note their passage through the world, like I am on this blog.

In Arizona, we passed by many other places that have been held in equal esteem for the last few centuries.  From the beautiful Painted Desert that is the entrance to the Petrified Forest to the Grand Canyon and Casa Grande, it’s remarkable to see how generations of people have shaped this land and called it home.  Driving through a state known for its desert, you wouldn’t expect mountains, trees, and fields, but they’re all here under a beautiful Arizona sky.  The names of these places make them seem like they’re from another world (i.e. Montezuma’s Castle, which is neither a castle nor anywhere close to Montezuma’s empire).  However, I really liked this trip for the chance to see how people have lived and thrived in this apparently inhospitable land for so long.  That phrase “pasó por aquí” certainly has a deeper meaning when you can go to Casa Grande.  People made in this huge settlement nearly six centuries ago, and their descendants still live in Arizona today!

And last Monday, I continued my own passage in this place as I moved into my dorm for the three weeks of UAdvantage.  I haven’t unpacked much since I’ll be moving again soon, so this place really just feels temporary.  In fact, by the time I post again, I’ll be packing everything up to move again!

The classes themselves have been a lot of fun this first week, particularly the “field trip” across campus to the Arizona State Museum.  As the first part of the Anthropology class has focused on Native Americans in Arizona, the museum’s primary exhibit was relevant.  As a description can’t really capture how cool this exhibit is to walk through, I would first recommend coming out to visit, but for those who can’t, let me just say that this was a really well-done exhibit.  Not only does it have interactive portions and awesome artifacts, it was also designed with the help and permission of the tribes whom it discusses.  By far my favorite part, however, was the life-size diorama that depicted a scene from a story told to you via recording.

As for my first weekend here, I would deem the Lord of the Rings marathon a rousing success.  I think the remainder of my time in UAdvantage will go just as well as this first week, and I can’t wait for the fall semester to start afterwards.  I’ve kept up with Arabic online, so I’ll be ready for that class when it starts too.  It’s exciting to be starting college so soon, as these summer sessions really haven’t been too different from past summers abroad.  Thinking about staying here is exciting, and I welcome the thought that I too will be able to say I passed by here.

The World is a Book

I meant to post this on Sunday, but I got a bit caught up in the scenic driving.  After going home for a few days, I’m now driving back to AZ with my family.  More on this later though because I still need to talk about the last two weeks of Arabic!

For the most part, these were two really fun weeks.  I had two days off of class (Eid-al-Fitr and 4th of July), and it was also getting towards the end of class, which meant I was getting ready to come home.  The only real problem I had was that summertime is also maintenance time at the University.  In the dorm I was staying at, for example, all the washers and dryers were removed ostensibly to be replaced by newer models.  This wouldn’t have been as much of a problem if I hadn’t been completely out of clothes and just about to go do a load of laundry.

After several stressful hours of thinking I would be walking a half mile each way to the laundromat accompanied by my suitcase, I found a ride over there.  It was a little disconcerting since the building was empty except for one employee, but it was definitely an experience.  Naturally, the pick-up I arranged did not quite go as planned and, while waiting for the car, I experienced my first mini-dust storm, which was an…interesting experience.

Over the weekend, I took another trip to 4th Avenue to buy a birthday present for a friend back home (shout-out to Summer!), and I again got to see all the cool little stores there.  I also may have caved and bought myself a book to read (Michelle Moran’s Rebel Queen about the last queen of India ~ highly recommend for historical fiction fans).

This was probably my favorite weekend while I was doing Arabic.  It was really hot, but I still spent a lot of time outside just reading.  I’m loving First United Methodist Church of Tucson. With school out of session, it isn’t very full, but the community is incredibly welcoming and full of wonderful people.  They cook extremely well too, and I am getting far too used to the treats every Sunday afternoon.

As for the last week of class, it was really just review for Thursday’s final.  We played several games and just had fun with the language.  We also had Tuesday off for the 4th, and I was able to hang out with a couple of friends from the class – Aimee and Emanuwela.  I had so much fun on the 4th with them, and it was bittersweet to be leaving to go home.

Thursday itself was The Most Stressful Day Ever.  IB scores were released at 8:15 am (or 15:15 GMT), and the final exam was at 9:00 am.  Needless to day, I didn’t do much sleeping the night before, but I not only received my IB diploma, I also got an A on the Arabic final.  The stress still wasn’t over though.  Despite a relaxing (and free!) lunch at Sinbad’s Restaurant, courtesy of the MENAS department, I still had to finish packing and catch a plane.  There were ultimately no problems with this though, and I had a very nice driver on the shuttle from Tucson to Phoenix.

I was exhausted when I reached Charleston, but I maintain that it was completely worth it to celebrate Summer’s birthday.  After seeing Wonder Woman (also highly recommended, though less for historical fiction fans), we went ice skating and then hung out at her house.  Somehow, after not sleeping on the plane and only getting a few hours of shut-eye earlier in the day, I stayed awake until almost 1 am.

After three nights with so little sleep, it may be expected that I was dead on my feet Saturday, but being back home gave me some energy as I was able to visit with my family before getting up early Sunday morning to drive back out West.

We made it to Missouri on Sunday, which was a 14 hour drive plus a 1 hour stop for lunch and an Abe Lincoln Memorial.  My third recommendation of the post is the Quality Inn in…whatever town we stayed in.  That was the best sleep I’ve had in a week.  Yesterday, we drove across the New Mexico border and have now started to see some of the trademark Southwestern landscape on Rt. 66.

I’m honestly really excited to be returning to Tucson and actually settling in to live there. My other summer classes (Anthropology and Student Leadership) have started online, and I like these as well.  Maybe not as much as Arabic, but they’re still good.  The next time you hear from me, I’ll have a better-informed opinion of the classes and the new dorms, but for now I’m taking St. Augustine’s advice and doing some traveling.  “The world,” after all, “is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.”

 

Passport to the Future

Three weeks into Arabic class, I can now say a decent amount in the language; however, I doubt a list of vocabulary words is what you want to read.  In that vein, I’ll talk a bit more about the cultural activities and exploring Tucson.  I’ve been learning a lot here though, and the class is awesome, which leads me to the quote that lends itself to the title – “Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today” (Malcolm X).  Since Arabic is a huge part of what I want to do in college and beyond, that phrase seemed apt.

The cultural activities in the class are varied.  The first Friday, for example, was calligraphy.  Last week, we learned some about games from Arab countries and watched an Egyptian movie.  This past week, we had henna and Dabkeh, a traditional dance from the Levant.  Like most dances, I’ve tried to learn, I did not excel at this, but it was fun.

I was also able to go to 4th Avenue last weekend, which is home to any number of cool shops.  No huge companies are allowed to own stores on that street, so all the little boutiques and bookstores are original and really cool.  In one of these shops, for example, I bought a tunic to wear to the mosque.

As Ramadan was going on for the first three weeks of the class, and we were studying Arabic, the department was able to organize two outings for us related to this.  For the first, we went to the nearby mosque for Iftar – the time after sundown when people in the Muslim community can break their fast during Ramadan.  It was like being at a big family reunion to me.  People talked to their friends; kids ran everywhere; there was REALLY good food.

The last day of Ramadan was this past Saturday.  This is celebrated with the Eid-al-Fitr, which is basically a celebration that started Saturday at sundown and will last until Tuesday at sundown.  Here in Tucson, it was celebrated with a service at the TCC (Tuscon Convention Center) yesterday morning.  The sheikh who spoke was actually from Egypt and had been invited to spend the month of Ramadan here in Tucson.  It was so cool to be able to witness this event and learn more about Ramadan.  I also did not mind the free candy and cookies.

Since today is still part of the Eid, I don’t have class, which is relaxing…although I still managed to wake up before 6:30.  It’s amazing how quickly this class has gone by, and I can’t wait to take more classes here come fall.  My only disappointment is that I don’t have a way to store food in my room, which means I’ve been eating out basically every night.  However, this did have the consequence that the employees of two different restaurants know me, so that’s not too bad.  Here’s to making that three restaurants!

Until next time ~

 

The Secret to Getting Ahead

Hello to all my readers!  For the everyone who read this last year, you’ll notice that the penultimate post about Canada turned out to be the ultimate one, but I did (obviously) come home safely and even survived my last year of high school.  Senior year was a lot. After all the IB coursework and college applications, I’ll admit I’m glad to know where I’m going to college and to know that I don’t have to do another Extended Essay for a few more years (thanks to the Honors College, I’ll be doing a Senior Capstone Thesis).

Despite the jokes and complaining of the Senior IB students this year, it really was a good experience.  For my part at least, I can’t seem to get enough of a heavy course load, so I signed up to take eleven hours of college credit this summer, hence the partial Mark Twain quote in the title: “The secret to getting ahead is getting started.”

~ Since I know my family and friends back home read this to keep up with my adventures, I’ll try to update with some modicum of regularity despite the coursework.  ~

According to my mom, this particular post should detail the time between graduation and finishing the first week of Arabic.  I think the following image summarizes that:

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In short, I’ve done a fair amount of flying lately.  A few days after graduation, I came to Tucson (suburbs shown above) for orientation where I met other U of A students and enrolled in my first semester classes.  Following that, I came home for a few days to go on one last trip with the church youth group and take a picture that scared a few people who saw it.

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New River Gorge; Endless Wall Trail

I will point out that there was a rock under my feet, so I wasn’t in as much danger as I could have been.  After a few days of packing most of my clothes and not nearly enough books, I took a fraction of that luggage to return to Arizona for month 1 of college.

Why Arizona?  The short answer is the Arabic Flagship program (“Why Arabic?”) and the scholarship money.  The longer answer is that I love the myriad of cultures that speak this beautiful language, and of the five schools in the country that have this program, Arizona has some very nice scholarships available.  Not only that, they offer this Jumpstart Program in the summer.

Jumpstart is mostly self-explanatory, but I’ll explain in detail anyway.  The Arabic department at Arizona is one of the best in the country, and its directors do everything they can to make Arabic available to students who want to learn the language, from students already attending the U of A to ProjectGo cadets from across the country.  Jumpstart is geared toward high school students who want to learn Arabic and potentially continue learning it as college students.  For those who start the program early in high school, it is possible to come back for multiple summers and gain several college credits along with fluency in the language.

As I am already planning to take Arabic in the school year, taking the 101 class this summer will get me ready to start 102 in the fall and also familiarize myself with the campus.  (I’ve already found some delicious restaurants.)  This first week, we have gone through the textbook Alif Baa, which is essentially phonetics of the language and basic writing conventions.  Starting Monday, we will begin the main textbook Al-Kitaab that is used in most Arabic classes.  The course is intensive, so I’ve learned a lot.  For reference, what we do in one day of class in the summer is comparable to a week of class during the school year, so regular attendance is a pretty good idea.

This won’t be quite like my blogs from past summers where I detail all the fun things I do because the majority of my day, I am either in class, tutoring, or attending office hours.  That’s not to say it isn’t fun.  I really love the class, and I’m enjoying it immensely, but I don’t think pictures of my homework would be of much interest to anyone.  I will, however, attempt to update with what’s going on as I start college and when I do exciting things, I’ll try to upload a few pictures.

Until next time ~

 

Book Rambling: Slaughterhouse-Five

I’ll preface this by saying I have not been writing anywhere near as often as I meant to.  After coming back from Spain, I didn’t really feel like I was doing anything worth blogging about.  In that respect, I’m posting a simple book review for today.  I’m not going to say that I’ll post again next week, since I don’t know that I will, but I really liked writing this, so I’ll probably do another.  Anyway, yesterday afternoon, I finished reading Tess of the D’Urbervilles, and decided to write a quick review on Goodreads. After doing so, I decided to look at how I’d rated Slaughterhouse-Five since I’ll be having a test on it Monday. I’d only given it two stars. I could remember why; I didn’t like the plot much at all, but after spending a month discussing nothing else, I felt compelled to raise it to four stars. There are many possible interpretations for the things that occur, but what follows is the lengthier version of my already lengthy review that goes into a few points of the book. Forewarning: I do assume people reading this review have read the book, so there are probably some spoilers if you haven’t.

  1. The Tralfamadorians and Time Travel. Is he insane? Is this real? Is it PTSD? Is it just Vonnegut’s reflection of the zeitgeist of the 60s? I DON’T KNOW. My gut instinct was that this was sci-fi and the aliens were very real. In class, I decided he was insane and Vonnegut was commenting on the lifestyle of the 60s. After a few online articles, I thought PTSD. Right now, I’m leaning toward a mix of those. The PTSD explanation is very helpful for understanding a lot of the confusing things in the book as it makes you think all this is Billy’s mind playing some tricks on him and he wants to have control of his life though he knows he doesn’t. However, I also lean a little towards insanity, which I suppose could be argued to go along with the PTSD (I don’t know a lot about it, so I’m not sure). Mostly though, I think all this goes along with Vonnegut commenting on the 60s. As my English teacher is fond of reminding us, the zeitgeist of the 60s was one of chaos like that which is reflected in Vonnegut’s writing style.
  1. The Writing. This is ordinarily not something I would bring up. I love writing and reading, but until recently, I didn’t think much about how the writing style can have its own subliminal messages. In fact, the only reason I related it to this book was because I read The Catcher in the Rye at about the same time. (Coincidentally, J.D. Salinger was also in WWII and his most famous work was about the loss of innocence, hmm…). Vonnegut uses a lot of funny, but dark images in the novel. To me, it feels like he’s either trying to help us accept death as a part of life (contradictory as it sounds) or he’s pointing out the sick way in which we can laugh at something that we probably shouldn’t be laughing at. Considering the fact that this book is lauded as one of the greatest anti-war books ever, I think it’s the latter. A key phrase in the book is the almost-humorously repeated “So it goes.” By chapter three, you ignore it. By chapter five, it’s annoying. By chapter seven, you laugh at it. By the end, you have the sobering realization that it’s written so you will laugh, ignore it or both…and consequently scorn yourself for laughing. The phrase is repeated for everything from champagne to the deaths at Dresden. If a cup had been shattered in the book, its death would likely also have been concluded with “So it goes.”
  1. The Children’s Crusade. The overlooked subtitle of Slaughterhouse-Five is “The Children’s Crusade: A Duty Dance with Death.” Just looking at that before I read the book made me wonder. I’d read about the Children’s Crusade before, but wasn’t sure what it could have to do with the book my English teacher told us was about an optometrist filled to the breaking point with symbolism who has a science fiction life in a World War II novel. (All right, that’s not exactly what he said, but that was my understanding of the book at the beginning of the summer.)   I won’t go into detail about the Children’s Crusade since Vonnegut gives his own explanation in the book, but suffice to say there were a lot of children who were praised for their loyalty to God and country as they were given a pat on the back and sent off to fight a war they didn’t understand. A good number of these children never came home. So it goes. The first big point on the Children’s Crusade is the reference in the first chapter to how the movies glorify war, which they really did (until, you know, Vietnam). And before there were movies, there were books and plays. There were gallant knights and war heroes who returned from the front lines having slain a hundred men and upon coming home won the hearts of a thousand women. Yep, war sounds pretty great to the average bachelor, especially the young, unproven, expendable boy who grows up with these stories. As Mary says in the first chapter of the book, “You’ll pretend you were men instead of babies, and you’ll be played in the movies by Frank Sinatra and John Wayne or some of these other glamorous, war-loving, dirty old men. And war will look just wonderful, so we’ll have a lot more of them. And they’ll be fought by babies like the babies upstairs.” Vonnegut promises Mary that in his book John Wayne and Frank Sinatra will not have roles to play. He follows through. The second part of this subtitle “A Duty Dance with Death” first intrigued me because of my love of alliteration. I think that’s part of the reason Vonnegut put it there. Say it aloud. It’s a bit of tongue-twister, so that each word has to be pronounced carefully, reverently even. This part of the subtitle though also seems to carry a lot of meaning. Going back to Mary’s quote, the propaganda of war makes for more wars, which makes war like a duty. I don’t remember the exact quote, but Theodore Roosevelt once said something to the extent of war being a great thing for young men. It taught them discipline and made them brave. He would probably call fans of Vonnegut’s book spineless idiots. Vonnegut would likely return with the line that “The ones who hated war the most were the ones who’d really fought.” (Chapter 1) Basically, I think this refers to the mention of an anti-war book being as effective as an anti-glacier book in that war is one of the recurring motifs of time. So it goes.
  1. John Wayne and Frank Sinatra. This was mentioned at different points in the book, and came up in my mind at many more places. However, what really got me about it was a page in chapter seven that I covered in annotations. The line is simply, “All the real soldiers are dead.” So it goes. This was true for most every country fighting in the war by the end. The supply of actual fighters was running out. The draft age, especially in Germany had been lowered to account for this. One site I found said they could volunteer as young as sixteen, and we won’t even go into the Hitler Youth. All of this combined with the repetition of John Wayne and Frank Sinatra made me think that maybe it’s not the soldiers who win at all. The boys who are on the front lines realizing that war is not the wonderful thing GI Joe and Uncle Sam made it out to be came home with PTSD before that was even in the common vernacular. They would have been, like Shakespeare said, young bodies with old souls. They’d seen things we couldn’t even imagine until Vietnam was brought into the living rooms of America. Even then, a picture of war on the TV is not war. The people who win the war and drink toasts to the success of the strategic bombing of a civilian city (Dresden) are the editors. They look at the negatives and clip out the scary scenes or the controversial scenes and paste it together into a heroic film strip to be shown on the Fourth of July. To relate this to the time in which it was published, we have the Pentagon Papers and later Watergate. The president may swear on the Bible, but he doesn’t have to “swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me, God.”
  1. Bugs in Amber.

“Welcome aboard, Mr. Pilgrim,” said the loudspeaker. “Any questions?”

            Billy licked his lips, thought a while, inquired at last: “Why me?”

            “That is a very Earthling question to ask, Mr. Pilgrim. Why you? Why us for that matter? Why anything? Because this moment simply is. Have you ever seen bugs trapped in amber?”

            “Yes.” Billy, in fact, had a paperweight in his office which was a blob of polished amber with three ladybugs imbedded in it.

            “Well, here we are, Mr. Pilgrim, trapped in the amber of this moment. There is no why.”

That was one of the few parts of this book that I understood to have meaning from the first time I read it. It’s a fairly obvious one especially as the conversation later moves to free will and how it is talked about only on Earth. That was weird to me. If the Trafamadorians are saying there is no free will, then maybe this is an anti-glacier book because in that sense war is just the destiny of some people. And if that was what it’s saying, then why was this book considered anti-war to begin with? Or maybe that’s what Vonnegut wants us to think. If there’s no free will, then there’s no point. To the war or anything else. If people die, so it goes. If Dresden is destroyed, so it goes. There’s no meaning or point or need for feeling. Billy goes through a lot in the book, and he feels a lot; he’s human after all. But maybe he doesn’t want to feel. Without free will, he doesn’t have to. He survived because he survived. There’s no why. Billy is a frustratingly apathetic character. So it goes. So it goes. So it goes. Any normal human, we would say, would care. And yet, when in the hospital, Billy hides from his mother’s visit because she cared so much and wanted so desperately for him to live. Billy felt guilty because he didn’t really want to live. After what he’d been through, maybe he felt there was just no point. Each moment was just a block of amber he was forced to experience, and when that was over, it simply was. We could read even more into that section with the three ladybugs at his office. Do they represent the Trinity? The Trinity stuck in a blob of amber would make for a good term paper. And does their location at his office represent how desperately he wants the normalcy of a nine to five job in middle class Christian America as opposed to the four-dimensional Tralfamadorian life? Or are they an ironic representation of luck? Maybe Vonnegut just needed an example and there was a ladybug on his window. Whatever you think about this passage, it’s still one of the most iconic in the book as it seems to be one of the few times in which Vonnegut is straightforward. Unless of course, that’s the deception.

For the 215 pages of my edition of this book, I think I’ve done justice to about half a page of text. Without having to think, I could probably write a few thousand more words. Most of the time when I read a book, I like it or I don’t. This is one of the first times where I’ve had to come back and say, “Maybe I was wrong.” If you want a book that is simple and straightforward, go the other way, but if you want a book that makes you think and has enough material for fifty essays, pick up this one. To be honest, a lot of things in the book worried me (Vonnegut’s portrayal of human nature), scared me (Roland Weary and his torture stories), or just weirded me out (Chapter three, paragraph one). I thought Billy Pilgrim was at best pitiable and at worst a spineless basket case. I won’t say I liked the book, because I don’t think I did. It seemed to be more of a warning than a story. The four stars I gave this book are for the meanings I found in it, and a grateful recognition that I found something in it at all. In all respects, this was probably a pretty terrible book review/analysis as it was mostly me trying to make sense of a novel that tries to make sense of a war. I wonder if either of us succeeded…

Walking…and lots of it

As the title suggests, I did a lot of walking this week from three miles around the city Wednesday to a little over six miles today (It felt like more).  Tuesday was a pretty relaxing day other than taking a walk around Marc’s campus.  He attends the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, which is known for its physics department.  For an idea, Marc currently works at CERN.

So, after resting for the afternoon, I headed out to Barcelona the next morning with a couple things to see in mind.  Number one was La Pedrera, a work by Gaudi that was originally hated and said to look like a stone quarry before eventually being praised as ahead of its time.  The walk there wasn’t much of a problem.  The steep admission fee was.  I decided that for a two hour wait and twenty euros, the building wasn’t worth it.  My next stop was a little farther: La Sagrada Familia.  Luckily for me, this other Gaudi masterpiece offers plenty of touristy excitement outside as well as in.  While the admission fee was pretty good (I’m young=I’m cheap), I still would have had a five-hour wait to see the inside.  Once again, not really worth it.  In other words, Wednesday was good for sightseeing, exercise, and picture-taking, but not touring.

Thursday included another long walk.  It took a few hours for me to get motivated enough to even move.  Once I did, I returned to Barcelona and did a thing most tourists don’t do: walk up Montjuïc from Plaça Catalunya.  The walk wouldn’t be so bad at only two miles either way.  It only gets bad when you start going up the unshaded, poorly-marked road.  Halfway up the mountain, I gave in and paid for the lift.  This was actually a good investment as I was able to talk to my fellow riders in a mix of Spanish, English, and French.  Dutch would also have been available for me to practice if I’d known it.  Once at the castle on the hill, I took a few pictures before riding back down and getting lost on my way along the embarrassingly straight road to Plaça Catalunya.  I’m not entirely sure how this happened as my phone (unreliable as it is) said that I simply needed to “continue straight for 0.7 miles.”  I got lost after 0.3 and had to ask for directions.  Thursday evening was also interesting as it was the start of a week-long course on International Relations at the local (I kid you not) Peace University.  The opening ceremony included an enjoyable play based off Mark Twain’s “The War Prayer.”

Friday morning (surprise, surprise) I showed up at the university for the first lecture of the course.  I won’t bore anyone with the details though the lectures themselves were interesting.  Basically, it was a normal school day: I arrived at 9:00 with “class” beginning at 9:30.  At 11:30 there was a coffee break until the second lecture at noon, which let out around two for lunch.  The third lecture began at 16:30 (4:30 pm) and went a little late so that the fourth lecture of the day began at 18:10.  This one also ran late and it was nearly 20:00 by the time I got back to the house.  Still, a very enjoyable and educational day.

I didn’t attend the lectures today though they sounded pretty interesting.  Where was I?  That’s actually the subject of Tuesday’s blog, so instead, I’ll leave you with a picture at the bottom of the post and we’ll see if anyone can guess.

Casa Mila or La Pedrera from across the street.  It's a very easy landmark to find.

Casa Mila or La Pedrera from across the street. It’s a very easy landmark to find.

Street view of La Pedrera

Street view of La Pedrera

La Sagrada Familia from the park across the street

La Sagrada Familia from the park across the street

Looking up at La Sagrada Familia

Looking up at La Sagrada Familia

Me, not in the air, but in front of a screen.  Still  pretty good

Me, not in the air, but in front of a screen. Still pretty good

A better view of Sagrada Familia

A better view of Sagrada Familia

I tried to selfie with La Pedrera.  I suddenly see why selfie-sticks are so profitable here.

I tried to selfie with La Pedrera. I suddenly see why selfie-sticks are so profitable here.

My phone's route to Montjuïc

My phone’s route to Montjuïc

Walking up Montjuïc and this was the pleasant part of it

Walking up Montjuïc and this was the pleasant part of it

A view of Barcelona about 1/4 the way up

A view of Barcelona about 1/4 the way up

Looking at La Sagrada Familia from Montjuïc

Looking at La Sagrada Familia from Montjuïc

Columbus monument from Montjuïc.

Columbus monument from Montjuïc.

View of "teleferric" up the mountain

View of “teleferric” up the mountain

Not the greatest picture, but you can see the mosquito bite on my arm

Not the greatest picture, but you can see the mosquito bite on my arm

Montjuïc castle

Montjuïc castle

The port in Barcelona again from Montjuïc

The port in Barcelona again from Montjuïc

Teleferric going down

Teleferric going down

Pretty building I found when I got lost on that straight road

Pretty building I found when I got lost on that straight road

Performers Thursday evening at the university.

Performers Thursday evening at the university.

Me on Montjuïc, actually only about halfway up, but it was the best of the pictures

Me on Montjuïc, actually only about halfway up, but it was the best of the pictures

Hey, look!  I went to school in Spain!

Hey, look! I went to school in Spain!

Teaser for Tuesday's post.  Guess in the comments where I am.

Teaser for Tuesday’s post. Guess in the comments where I am.