Monday, June 29, 2009

Things have been crazy AND slow at the same time lately. Since getting back from Spain, I've been working on my college class (last one for my master's!) so that's just been steady. We've already taken care of the vast majority of packing and just a few more paperwork things to do remain. I made a calendar for myself for the two weeks left before my departure, and on paper, it all looks relatively simple. That made me feel quite a bit better! Some recent craziness in Honduras that you may have seen in the news is a little disturbing, but I just tell myself that it shouldn't affect my drive down, since I am not driving through Honduras. We'll see...

Not a lot of news, currently. We'll keep you posted.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Spain 9 of 9 - Granada and La Alhambra

Gardens of the Alhambra - one of the best parts of the trip.

Main part of La Alhambra from the summer palace, which was a little higher up and much cooler.

Spain 8 of 9 - Granada and La Alhambra

Sunset shots of Granada as well as the gardens of La Alhambra.

Spain 7 of 9 - Toledo and Costa del Sol

Toledo was one of the highlights of the trip. Absolutely beautiful and cool processions while we were there due to the festival of Corpus Christi. Great photo ops!

The ocean from my balcony window in the distance on Costa del Sol in the south of Spain.

Spain 6 of 9 - Don Quixote's Windmill's

I was so excited to see the windmills that Don Quixote supposedly fought (yes, I know he's not real :))

Shot of windmills and overlooking La Mancha.

Spain 5 of 9 - Oh wait, that's my little girl! :)

Well, I knew I could use a break from the old buildings :)

Spain 4 of 9 - Royal Palace

Royal Palace, used for state dinners, but not usually inhabited by the royal family. Like most things that I found different about Spain when compared with France, the palace, while beautiful, is much more practical than, say, Versailles.

Spain 3 of 9 - El Retiro Park

El Retiro Park in Madrid - sort of like Central Park in's beautiful.
Man-made square lake in middle of park with boating and eating available.

The park also had some cool pruned trees. I've been told that the trees take decades to get this large and varied.

Spain 2 of 9 - Plaza Mayor, Madrid

Shots of Plaza Mayor - Mostly various actors around the square except for the awesome accordion player who played for us while we ate outside.

Spain 1 of 9 - Downtown Madrid and Plaza de Toros

I (Ben) left for Madrid on June 8 with a group of middle school students for a 10 day trip to Madrid and southern Spain, with a side day trip to Morocco. This is a series of pictures from our trip.

This first picture is the statue in front of the Plaza de Toros (bullfight arena) in Madrid.

Front of Plaza de Toros in Madrid.

Shot of me in downtown Madrid.

Downtown Madrid

El Oso y El Madroño

(The Bear and Strawberry Tree - symbol of Madrid and on Spanish Coat of Arms)

Monday, June 1, 2009

Pre-moving, Spain, unpacking, re-packing, and general rambling

I'm starting to feel like the Clampetts!  See first post for our travel song :)   In the last week, we've managed to move OUT of our apartment INTO the in-laws' house for the just over six weeks that we have left until we move to Guatemala.  Muchas gracias!!! to Adina's parents for letting us crash at their place and disrupt their empty nest for a few weeks.  Of course, I think they've been liking having the little munchkin around a little more, but she does tend to get into stuff, as little ones are prone to do.  So, we are finally all the way at their house, anyway, with stuff sort of organized.  I love my wife...she's been working really hard to keep it somewhat normal around the house.  Things were sort of hectic last week, from moving, to a final Spain trip meeting to someone attempting to pass me on the left while I was turning left!  Anyway, dents resulted, but at least I wasn't at fault.

Spain trip coming up - Adina is probably sick of hearing about it, but since Febrary 2008, I've been planning a trip with about 10 middle-school students and assorted parents (since I am the Spanish teacher, it made sense to go, and it didn't hurt that I didn't have to pay).   We started this long before we thought about moving to Guatemala, so imagine how hectic it is.  Anyway, we're with EF Tours and are doing a 10-day trip to Madrid and Andalucia, with a side trip to Morocco.  I'm really looking forward to it.  When we decided to move to Guatemala, I briefly thought about handing the trip off to someone else, but I'd already done 90% of the paperwork, so I figured I may as well enjoy the fruits of my labor.   We leave next Monday.  I don't really have all that much left to do, but what is left to do is important  What good is planning a trip if you don't get everyone to the airport on time? A plus was that for new group leaders, which I am, we could choose with our "global points" to get a free trip to Paris, which I did last July.  It was basically a mini-tour so we'd know what to expect on a "real" tour.  Didn't have to pay for that either....I love travelling for free!  I think Adina is going to hit me over the head with a skillet, hard, if I don't take her to Europe next time I go.  Three times, and have managed to somehow earn the trip instead of pay each time.  Once was part of a government-funded international business course (two weeks in Europe), and twice with EF.  Maybe I should review airlines or something...hmmm.  I will say that Lufthansa is much better than some others.  I flew to Paris with them, and our group is going with them this time, as well.  Very nice.  If you're interested in travelling with EF, let me know so I can refer you (I get $1000 bucks after you travel if I refer you!)

Anyway, when I get back from Spain, I've got one last college class to finish up for my Master's in English (lots of paperwork, apostilles, etc, in the meantime), a quick visit with family in Jackson, Mississippi, then I leave to drive to Guatemala.  Still looking for a riding companion...any takers?  At least the ride will be more comfortable than the chicken buses this time.

We are very much excited about this adventure.  I think we're going into it with our eyes open as much as possible.  Enthusiasm and idealism are both great, but they have to be tempered with a dose of "nothing's perfect, so just enjoy it for what it is."  I can deal with things much better that way.  

Some plugs along the way to a couple of people whose blogs, advice, and general cantankerousness have proved useful:  Mark at for his informative posts and crankiness, Genesis at ExpatMom for a realistic look at family life in Guatemala, and Mexico Mike for his detailed, annotated driving maps of most of the Gulf Coast of Mexico.  Check them out (especially if you're coming to see us in Guate)!