Ending the year on a high

I spent a few days skiing in the Pyrenees to finish up the year. Lots
of fun, lots to reflect on, lots to be excited for next year!

Then October hits...

It's been a big month! In week one I took a trip to Barcelona. I saw friends, talked my way into getting an interview with a cool company, and enjoyed the great weather. I love that city.

In week two I put out a minor kitchen fire, got in a small car accident (everyone's OK), got stuck in an elevator, and was offered a job.

In week three I came to the UK.

...I can't wait for week four.

September Highlights

The parade of new places continued in September. I'm aware that things might have turned the corner into just pure bragging at this point, but I don't think there's any room for apologies here. As long as I'm unemployed I'm going to take advantage of the free time.

  • The month started off with a trip to Navarra, a region along the border with France. I saw the city of Pamplona, it's famous walls and of course the bull ring and old city where the bulls are run in July. I was invited to eat at a txoko, a members-and-guests-only eating club. I visited an amazing old castle in Olite. I went to the summer fiesta in the tiny village of Lumbier, where there was a miniature running of the bulls (they all went free afterwards, I asked) and then folk dancing in the streets.

Castle in Olite
  • The Vuelta a Espana (the Spanish version of the Tour de France) finished in Madrid with huge crowds.
  • Friends visited me in Madrid! I got to play tour guide and see the sites, order the dishes I've learned are the best, visit museums, see the cool neighborhoods, stop for churros con chocolate, etc, etc.
  • I spent the last weekend of September in the village of Itero del Castillo, population 50, beside the Camino de Santiago de Compostella. On Saturday we roasted 90 pounds of red peppers, skinned them, and preserved them in jars. On Sunday we walked a bit of the Camino including a bridge from Roman times, chatted with some hikers/pilgrims, and picked endrina, a fruit halfway between a blueberry and a grape.

August Highlights

The month of August was great and I traveled a lot. There was some serious stuff mixed in as well, but the travels included:
  • A few days in Lisbon, which I briefly mentioned here previously. The city was fun and accessible and I was pleasantly surprised that could understand a bit of Portuguese.
  • A trip to London, during the second week of the Olympics! While I was there, I watched a handful of events that were being broadcast on BIG outdoor screens at Hyde Park. People were proudly wearing the colors (and t-shirts and pins and hats and flags) of so many countries. I recall walking past an athlete wearing official national team warm-ups for the Nigerian basketball team and a clutch of people who seemed to be coaches for some team from Serbia. I met a journalist from Chile who told me crazy stories from life in the Athletes' Village. And there were tons of volunteers everywhere in official, brightly-colored polo shirts offering directions and maps and just generally being cheery. There were even non-official volunteers handing out free bottles of water. Additionally, I got to see the men's marathon and the gold medal match of women's indoor volleyball. It was all really special.
  • I traveled to Luxembourg briefly. I went for an interview (which didn't work out) but while there got to see a bit of the city, which is very picturesque. Additionally, I had the chance to see some old family history. 
  • Following Luxembourg, I took a fast train to France where I visited cousins in Paris and friends outside the city. Hooray for easy train travel! With the friends outside the city, we spent a day at the tiny farmhouse they rent out to vacationers in a village called Courtieux. And with my cousins I got to catch up as well as see a lot of sights in Paris by bike. Sunny weather and the Velib bike sharing program made it incredibly easy to get around. 
  • I also spent a weekend in Bilbao and hung out at some beaches not too far from the city. The city's annual fiestas were going on which meant massive street parties, fireworks, and open water boat races between local school teams.
And when I wasn't traveling, I was spending time in Madrid, where it was incredibly hot for most of the month. I improved my Spanish a bit, cooked a little, and mostly tried to stay out of the heat.

July Highlights

I was in California for much of July. This included the following:
  • I attended a friend's wedding in San Francisco. I took a public bus to the wedding, which was held at a museum. I think both of these were a first for me.
  • I saw a whole bunch of friends and family. Lots of get-togethers and so on.
  • Together with two old friends, I competed in a triathlon relay in the mountains. We've done it together a couple times and it was a great time, as always. We won, despite coming in second.

June highlights

As previously mentioned, I've had the chance to do a lot and see a lot of places in Europe since arriving in June. In an effort to remember all the many things I've done and to address the "hey, what've you been up to?" question, I'm going to try to try to chronicle some of the highlights.

  • I moved out of my apartment in New Haven and arrived in Madrid on the 6th. I decided that even though I didn't yet have a job, I might as well search from Europe.
  • On one of my first weekends in Spain, I went to Bilbao and barbecued with some friends in the tiny village of Lekeitio. The subtle differences in barbecue etiquette and culture were interesting.  
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  • My first weekend in the country also coincided with a massive bailout for the country's banks.
  • I attended a wedding in Barcelona which was fantastic. The ceremony was in a gorgeous cathedral. This was totally new to me, though I recognize big, Catholic cathedrals aren't nearly as rare here as they are in the US. The wedding party was at a small castle outside the city and the hours of hors d'oeuvres preceding the meal were a bigger deal than in any wedding I'd been to before. The dancing continued until the sun came up.
  • I took a brief trip to London to see about job stuff. The country was in the final stages of preparing for the Olympics.
  • The Euro Cup took place. It was fantastic to watch the many matches during group play and of course watch the Spanish team work its way through the elimination games all the way to the championship. There was a clear feeling of euphoria in Madrid when they won, from celebrations the night of the final match to the victory parade a few days later. People were incredibly proud of the team given that it's won a couple of the biggest championships consecutively: Euro Cup 2008; World Cup 2010; Euro Cup 2012. I think some people also appreciated the sports win as a counterweight to the banking bailout.

Bouncing around

I've had the chance to see a lot of cool places since coming to Europe. I have been to a handful of amazing cities and have also made it to two new countries: Portugal and Luxembourg.

The trip to Portugal included a few days in Lisbon and some nearby towns. The capital was hilly, with trams like this one on a handful of the narrow streets. There were photo opps nearly everywhere and it was easy to get around. It did feel touristy, though that wasn't an obstacle to enjoying it. The nearby beach town of Cascais was gorgeous, as were the old castles in Sintra. I found myself wondering about the incredible wealth that coursed through the city when it was the capital of a global empire and I'm interested to learn more about its history (and what became of this wealth in the intervening centuries).

Luxembourg was a truly unique place. The old city is perched high above a winding river and the squares and streets are very charming. The question I pondered here was how this city and surrounding communities came to be their own country. 

I've got some research to do.

Back and forth in July

I had the fortune to travel to California for a good part of July. A
childhood friend got married, I caught up with family, I saw college
friends, and connected with grad school pals. I ate well, from
garden-fresh produce at home to new restaurants in the city.

It was too brief and tough to leave, but GREAT to spend some time there.

The photo is art from the side of some apartments in the city.

Madrid and all the rest

Grad school ended with a flourish last month. The two years were an intense and remarkable experience which I'm thankful to have had the chance to pursue. Now it's back to the working world and all the changes that are associated with that shift: having relatively consistent working hours, rather than the haphazard schedule of a grad student; adjusting to a new city after two years in New Haven; having a paycheck again (hopefully) after going without; applying what I've learned and proving to myself this experiment was all worthwhile.

Madrid's bear and tree symbol
For my return to the working world, I've decided to make a very big move to start things up in Europe. For the moment I'm in Madrid, but expect that the role I'm searching for will be elsewhere. It has been exhilarating so far to soak in and internalize all the ways things will be completely and thoroughly different. It all feels new for so many reasons.

The changes I will encounter as I shift away from school are compounded by the new environment I've chosen. This includes the minor differences -- the detergents have different names, the crosswalks look different -- as well as the bigger changes -- government systems and cultural norms.

There has been lots of observing so far, listening and watching and asking questions. I expect there will be plenty more of that as well as a handful of mistakes along the way as I push forward. Clearly my education didn't end at commencement last month. I'm excited about what's next.

On the street

Street art / graffiti in New Haven.

Mud race

I did a mud race over the weekend.  I've heard there are lots of these races, where you run a bit, jump in the mud, run some more, cross some monkey bars, crawl through a tunnel, do some more obstacles, and then run some more.  It was a ton of fun.  

The entry fee for the race was substantial and the drive to get there was kind of long.  As a student, these things are on my mind.  And it reminded me of a conversation I've had before with some runner friends about the point of paying for entry into a road race.  The question is why you'd pay to run a 5K when you could easily head out the door and do a 5K for free every day of the week.  Of course there are plenty of reasons to want to do an organized race.  But the point transfers to this mud race.  Why pay to go out and get wet and muddy and put yourself through the discomfort at all?

Clearly, the point to doing it is the spectacle of doing something this out of the ordinary.  It was doing it for the challenge, it was something so over-the-top that one wouldn't ever do it otherwise, and it was a great event to do with a bunch of friends.  


I've been playing ice hockey at school and having a great time.
There's a big final game at the end of the season and to get everyone
excited, players wore their jerseys to school and some friends
decorated players' lockers. Here's my locker at school (yes, we have
lockers). It was very fun and it all felt a bit high school.