Tuesday, December 14, 2010

From home, to home...to home -- Chasing the sun

Sunset in Atlanta

Dear citizens of the world!

This United Statesian has left home in the US to go home, but with a stop at home along the way.

My 30 hour long journey from home to home... to home was not without its problems -- snow, cancellations, racing to the airport; however, I did try to enjoy the trip.

My trip started with a very cold snowy day in Pittsburgh:

Snowy Departure

The first leg of my voyage took me on a short flight to Atlanta (should have been through JFK) and a three hour layover that gave me the chance to watch the sunset over the tarmac in Atlanta (picture at top)...

The nine-hour flight was not too bad, but Delta did manage to show the same movie I had seen on the inbound flight three months earlier... c'est la vie.

After a few hours in Madrid at my next home where I switched luggage and went to the train station to catch my six-hour train ride to Valencia.

The hour long stopover in Valencia gave me the chance to snap some fotos around the station:

Layover at the Valencia Train Station

An hour later, I was home...again...in Castellón:

Finally made it to the coast of Castellón

I'll be here (home) for another week...then we will be off to the Madrid (home) and the village... home... for Christmas.

Merry Christmas to all... wherever you may be!

The United Statesian

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Light Up Night...Let the consumerism begin!

Dear citizens of the world!

Thanksgiving is almost here, but it has already been usurped by Christmas.

Last week, Pittsburgh held the "Light Up" festival to kick off the holiday shopping season.

The festival was a nice mixture of live music, huge Christmas trees, ice-skating, ice-carving, and a fireworks display for the grand finale.

However, the festivities held five weeks in advance of the holiday on November 19th seem ... excessive, even for United Statesians.

This Friday, November 26th, "Black Friday" kicks off with its' normal lunacy. Many of the stores will be open at 5:00 am! This all happens four weeks before Christmas -- a reasonable amount of time compared to the five week advance ceremony in downtown Pittsburgh.

Are you ready to shop until you drop?

The United Statesian

Monday, October 04, 2010

Reverse Culture Shock -- The United Statesian is in the US!

Dear Citizens of the World!

The United States has landed and it has been a bizarre few weeks. Reverse Culture shock, after seventeen years away from the homeland, has hit hard.

Culture shock is normal when you are going to a foreign country and it is expected. Reverse culture shock affects people differently. Basically, an expat who has been away for a long period of time is shocked because they do not "fit in" with their home culture.

My personal experience has been that I find myself staring at people and I feel awed by the most mundane aspects of being back. My fellow United Statesians hear my accent and ask me, "where are you from." I in turn look at them and wonder why MY country is so different from me on so many levels.

The shock does lessen, and there are many aspects of the local culture that I do like, but I think that my experiences abroad would always make me feel like a foreigner in my own country --even if my first nationality will always be...

United Statesian

PS. A parting shot of a detail that made me think...not something I would remember seeing outside of the US...

A huge "Blind Pedestrian Crossing" sign in a neighborhood in Pittsburgh, PA.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Marina D'Or -- Rain, rain, rain

The calm after the storm

Dear Citizens of the World!

Marina D'Or "Vacation City" is now officially (Rain city). After a week of August rains, a huge thunderstorm rocked the city, flooding streets in seconds.

This reflection is from the day after...

The day started with rain and dark clouds. The afternoon started looking better, but then I heard the screems...

I ran out to our 9th floor terrace which has a good view of the surrounding area. The storm was moving North at such a speed that birds running for cover were blown away. The rain and extreme winds only took a few seconds to cover the mile (1.5km) distance from Marina D'Or Hotel/Spa.

I leave you with a parting shot from this morning. The sun and heat is back to the beach...for now...

The United Statesian

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Weird story -- the ringing rock in the mountains

Dear Citizens of the world!

There are a fare share of odd "coincidence stories" in my travels, but this coincidence was just plain weird!

We were nearing the end of our trip in Norway and decided to do a hike to a peak behind Stryn. There are great views of the surrounding lakes, mountains and glaciers, but it is not on the tourist route, thus it was deserted.

We were enjoying the fact that we had the mountian to ourselves and we were about half-way up the climb to the peak when we heard a mobile phone ringing. We could see for kilometers in every direction and nobody was around. We started to search for the source of the sounds when they sudenly stopped. After a few moments the ringing continued and we found the mobile phone under a boulder!

We called the last number in the phone and talked to the owner who had lost the phone the day before. They were at the peak, looking for the phone. We continued our hike up and met them on the way to return their phone to them. We then continued our hike to the peak and back down without seeing anyone else that day. What are the chances of that happening?

A reflection in a pond near Gryta Peak

I leave you with a parting shot of the traditional, environmentally-friendly homes in Norway.

The grass-roof homes just melt into the surroundings

The United Statesian

PS...the gps route on wikiloc:

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Searching for the light -- getting away from kitch

Sunset over desierto de las Palmas and Benicassim,
with the unique pinkish red of the local stone

Dear Citizens of the World!

My motivation for this month will in part be to search for the light that makes the Mediterranean so special. I had almost forgotten about it because it is either raining or too hot to venture out.

Today's ride was hampered by a summer storm. Luckily, I was able to watch it from nearby. The picure below shows the rain over part of the sea. A nice tone of pinkish-orange contrasts well with the dark-gray clouds. Just to the right, the sky was blue!

Click to Enlarge...

Enjoy the rain!

The United Statesian

Monday, August 09, 2010

Marina D'Or -- Kitch Paradise

Dear Citizens of the World!

I write to you from the "kitch paradise" of the Mediterranean. Marina D'Or, Vacation City, is located on the Spanish Mediterranean coast, about an hour North of Valencia.

Since Kings Day 2010, I have been coming here on weekends...and now the summer. My luck has not been good because it rained every weekend I came for the first six months. There was a bit of rain last night and there is a thunderstorm as I write this, but in general it is hot, humid, sunny and sweaty all summer long.

Marina D'Or has been designed to attract blue-collar families that dream of spending time at the beach, but feel like they are in need to be surrounded by a cheap version of Las Vegas. OK, maybe I am being a bit harsh, yet it does not feel like the Mediterranean coast of great artists like Soralla and Cezanne.

The good part is that fact that I can easily jump on my bike and see lesser trampled parts of the coast, leaving the lights behind.

This panoramic shot taken (with my mobile phone) of the ruins of a tower along the coast is a bit more of what I had in mind when thinking about the Med; it's only a few kilometers away on bike trail that goes towards Benicassim.

Stay cool.

The United Statesian

Jumpshot I -- The return to normal

Sunrise in Marina D'or --"Vacation City"

Dear Citizens of the World!

Somehow I have landed on the beach of the Spanish Mediterranean coast for the month of August. It is the dream of many to spend their summer on the coast, but I have never aimed to spend much time baking under the sun.

However, even though it is tough for me, I have been trying to get used to spending a month at the beach. I am happy to report that there other people here -- a lot of others. One of these days I will have to go down and get some pictures. Yesterday, we sat on the beach for an hour, without being able to actually sea the Med through the mass of people and umbrellas.

I leave you with a parting shot of starting my summer vacation in Torrico (el pueblo). It is geographically the furthest spot from the beach as you can get in Spain, but the cousin has a pool with a great view.

The first of many "jumpshots" to come in the future:

The United Statesian

Monday, June 28, 2010

Go Tech Go! Solar Decathlon Champs!

Dear Citizens of the World!

Yeah!!!! Virginia Tech has just won the 2010 Solar Decathlon which was held in Madrid this year!

The Hokies are great in United Statesian Football, yet they still Rock in Solar house design!

Here are a few pics from the competition that took place down by the river. A few pics are more artisitic than others.

Sunset over the river.

A profile shot of Tech's LumenHaus

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Duck! Rice Incoming! - Spanish Country Weddings

Dear Citizens of the world!

It's Spring...time for Spanish country weddings!

I have been to a few weddings but this one took the cake for length and for... rowdyness.

Any celebration in Spain involves food. The wedding was three days of eating, but with a ceremony and white dress somewhere in the middle.

The white dress

The festivities started with a long dinner, dancing and drinking until the wee hours on Friday.

Saturday morning's ceremony was "traditional" but the tossing of rice and rose pedals became a pumelling that had everyone diving for cover.

After a snack of rosquilas (the local version of donuts, but with more grease), we headed off to lunch.

In between the various courses, the bride and groom were "forced" by their rowdy friends to do all manner of rituals.

The groom being paraded around the reception wearing only a diaper...

After lunch came dancing, drinking, a siesta and then more eating that evening.

The grooms friends cutting his tie, and.... his underwear...

Sunday, we finished up with a big lunch with the family and a farewell. The bride and groom did not take off on the honeymoon for a few days because they would have missed part of the celebrations...

Since we are ariving at the end of the term in the school, I was grading and putting final grades to my students at every break I got from the eating and festivities.

The United Statesian

PS...Take cover...

Thursday, May 27, 2010

A cool sea breeze at the top of the desert

Mountains above the sea... a good mix.

Dear citizens of the world,

How things can change in just one week.

One Saturday we was hiking over an ice-wind swept mountain, and the next we were on the Mediteranian coast, at 700m, a balmy 30 degrees Celsius and a cool sea breeze coming from the beach below.

This weekend, will be another wedding in the pueblo...

Hasta pronto!

The United Statesian

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Fractal Spring

Dear Citizens of the world!

The winter has ended in Madrid. The sun is shining!

My last post from my hike on Saturday might be the final dregs of winter. But you never know. Spanish people have a saying: "Hasta el cuarenta de mayo no te quites el sayo." Which in United Statesian means: "Don't store your winter clothes until the 40th of may (June 10th)." Because winter can always come back and surprise you, even in June.

The other good news I have to share with you is rocking sound of Fractal. My coworker Ryk, a musician from the Canary Islands, is preparing to put out his first album. I went to the FNAC on Sunday for a cool concert.

A good way to start Spring.

Check it out if you want to know what Spanish rock sounds like. Some of the songs are in English.

Hasta pronto,

The United Statesian

Saturday, May 15, 2010

"Winter is a Cabrón" - Go away!

Aguila Peak, Madrid in Spring?

Dear Citizens of the World,

Cold, rain, snow, and ice...I am tired of it! It is mid-May and winter will not go away!

If you go to the mountians you know that you have to be ready for anything, but five centimeters of ice on the trees is too much, even at 2000m.

The forecast of next week looks much better... I hope!

A second of pure joy while the sun was shining in the valley. Only to hide away moments later. Even in the sun it did not get above 15º C.

The song for today "Cabrón", is dedicated to winter - brought to you by the Red Hot's...

The United Statesian

Thursday, April 15, 2010

"Fires in Valencia" -- The funny side

Dear Citizens of the world,

In my last post on the fallas of Valencia I talked about the prettier and noisier side of the Fallas Festival.

This post is about the satyr and parody that most of the Fallas sculptures do so well. Many are like seeing a 3-D newspaper caricature. Obama was one of the more popular topics.

One big difference would be that there is no censorship and there is a lot more nudity and crude racial stereotypes that you would not see in a United Statesian version.

Critique on the USA, but with a large Coca-cola advert behind it...

Caricature of a Spanish politician...

One of my favourite...gotta love his smile

What's he looking for?...

Ahhh... the key ;-)

One of the cruder ones...Usain Bolt?

Local traditional clothes -- mothers and their dolls...

Hope to see you again soon!

The United Statesian