Friday, August 28, 2009

Two months, 1 year

So this is about two monthssince I've been home, and about a year since I left for portugal. I feel like I have done quite a bit in what summer I've had here in Oregon. My to-do list remains as tall as ever and is starting to fill up with some big, daunting items.
As far as what I've been doing:
I went to Oregon Country fair which was excellent.
I got a job working at an organic farm.
I have been kayaking and backpacking.
I bought a motorcycle. 1984 Honda VF500 Interceptor
And I have started taking baby steps in preparation for school and college.
I have been at the computer for over an hour now so I'm due for a break, but I will start being more 'wired' again soon.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Back in the U.S.A.

Well, I am back in the good ol' united states of america, well, I have been since the 29th but this last bit has been a trip, coming home and all is just as interesting as any part of the experience. I hopefully will find the will power to sit and write a whole bunch but maybe later. (famous last words.)

Monday, June 15, 2009

What a long, strange trip it´s been.

Well, first let me start by apologizing for my lack of blogging activity in the past while, I´m not going to make any excuses but that´s just kind of how things worked out, I´m not happy about it either.
Second, when I return to the states I plan to continue my blogging and patch some holes that I left in that absence streak, so even though the stories won´t be fresh, they will be fresh to you and might still be worth while to read.
Third, I also want to do a kind of last blog from portugal, I don´t know if this is going to be it but we´ll see how things play out.
This year has been monumental in my life so far. A very wise teacher once told me, (this was in third grade) she said something to this effect, ``This year has just flown by for me, do you all feel that way too?´´ My classmates and I all looked around to one another and shook our heads, ``No,´´ we said, ``This has been a whole full year and it feels like it.´´ My teacher thought a little bit and then said: `` I have a theory, you all are around 8-9 years old, and I´m about 40 something (I can´t remeber but that fits the idea.)´´ We were doing fractions back then and she asked ws what fraction of our lives had just passed us by. We did the math. We were 8, she was 40, one year in 9 years of life is 1/9, and one year in 40 is 1/40, we then saw that we had a way bigger peice of pie than she had, and we realized what she was trying to say. I guess what I´m trying to say now is that, even with only 1/17 of my life having passed this year, that I´m already feeling the acceleration and my thoughts and emotions are being whirled up into this bathtub where someone has just pulled the plug. That´s my analogy, metaphor or similie (can´t remember right now) for the point where I am in my experience right now. I only hope I can react quick enough and throw in some good braces (kayak term) to guide myself safely throw the churning water.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

University parade

This tuesday marked the start of the annual ``Academic Week´´ which is basically a week of straight partying for all students. The university students had a parade to kick things off called Quema das fitas, or Burning of the ropes, I´m not sure what the deeper meaning or historical context of that is but I bet I could find out. The parade started in the lowest point in Viseu and would work its way up to the city center, or Rossio, the downtown, kind of like the plaza in Ashland, this is where the city hall is and it´s big and nice with fountains, long rows of trees etc. Each section of the universities had a float, for example, the economy kids had an economy themed float, the veterinary students had a vet float, etc. you get the idea. Most of the floats were being pulled by tractors and had a big trailer behind with the float, music, dancers and the most important thing, TONS-O-BEER. Each float had either kegs set up with taps and a mountain of plastic cups or a giant bucket of ice, probably the size of a hot tub, full of beer. Behind each float was a proccession of students from the respective classes all dressed to match in either suits with canes and tophats or t-shirts, or other forms of uniforms, and they were all dancing to the blasting music from their float, drinking and, of course, since the students couldn´t possibly drink all this beer alone, they started having beer fights. These beer fights consisted of throwing cups of beer on to one another, themselves and anyone watching the parade. They got pretty creative in their beer hurling techniques, some making make-shift grenades while others came equipped with super soakers and hoses. It didn´t rain that day but anyone walking down the street would have thought that the area had just been hit by a flash flood, the gutters guided rivers of beer into the storm drains carrying along cans and used plastic cups, the sides of buildings dripped with the amber liquid. Once everyone was thoroughly drenched in beer, had drank enough or just wanted to be nice, the students would open up their floats to the public and would hand out as many cans of free beer one could carry. This went on until night started falling and too many people had taken a trip to the hospital so everyone went home, more or less stoked.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Another update

Hey just saying I´m working on a lot of stuff to post. This post is as much for you to know what is coming as to remind me of what to write about.
Spring break, algarve, serra da estrela, pascoa, uhm, and a bunch of other stuff.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Back to Lisbon

After our adventure in the Alentejo Sebi and I were taken back Lisbon to continue seemlessly on to our next great activity. We went back to lisbon with sebi´s whole family packed into their small suv. Like I said ealier it was a short drive, atleast on west coast united states scale, and we all enjoyed ourselves. We entered lisbon on the east side passing across one of the longest bridges in europe. The bridge put us right in the neighborhood where we wanted to be. At a stop light sebi and I hopped out of the packed car and were off. Our plan was this: Head to the world famous Lisbon Oceanario (big aquarium full of animals from the oceans of the world), lunch, explore, then, last but not least, the main attraction of the whole weekend, the OASIS Concert!!!
We passed through a big fancy mall on our way to the oceanario and, popping out on the other side, found ourselves in the heart of the modern district of lisbon. This area is one of my favorites in lisbon, it is just chock full of modern art, fountains, architecture and it´s situated right on the banks of the Tejo river. This area has a history too, it was once the sketchy part of lisbon, crime ridden, dirty and generally a dump. It was a big plot of land right on the river characterized by old rundown factories, loading/unloading docks, oil refineries and the such. As the industrial sector of lisbon expaned north, this area was left as waste and soon became a scene much like the book I read last year in english, Cannery Row. Well, in 1998 Portugal hosted the Fair of Nations called, EXPO ´98, the portuguese government at the time bought this sorry plot of land and resolved to spice it up. They poured a ton of money in to making the place a cultural center full of modern art and architecture, of course other nations that were to have `booths´ at the expo, like the united states, wanted to help and make the place a success so they too dumped a bunch of money into the area´s restoration. Well, the result was more than a success and it is now dubed one of the best places in Lisbon to visit, hang out, tour etc.
Sebi and I headed past the Pavilhão Atlantico through the Park of Nations under the cable cars to the Oceanario, we entered and took a blitz tour running around like crazed kindergartners. We saw everything from penguins to tropical fish, to some giant deep sea monsters and the most fragile looking dragon fish. It was all really cool but by the end we were both really hungry. We passed through some more cool areas and parks on our way back to the mall to get a bite to eat. There was this one park with tons of exhibits that had to do with water, a big artificial waterfall and a japanese sort of bamboo water garden. Another park was characterized by the ground, all covered in grass, shaped into big un-moving waves. You could run up and down the backs of this waves, about my waist hight 1m or so, and jump and slide down them. It was really fun running, sliding on the grass, and jumping off the waves of grass. It was a trip. In the mall we made a quick stop at a burger king where I got a delicous triple whopper. We decided we should go eat our meal as we waited in line to get in to the concert so we took it to go and hurried over to the Pavilhão where the concert was to be held. Well, we got to the main entrance only to find the place completely deserted except for a couple policemen. We got right up to the gates and were stopped by the cops to do a routine check. I started to eat my burger before we left the mall so I was about 3/4´s done with my beast of a sandwich when we got to the checkpoint. Sebi went through one side of the gate as I went through the other. My cop didn´t do much checking on me, he said, hey, where are your drugs, I said I already took them and that it was too late, he laughed and let me pass. Sebi´s cop was a little more thurough in his task and while sebi was being checked the guard who checked me started up some small talk. He said my burger looked good and I said it was, and that my secret was that the burger was my drug, we laughed and I continued devouring my beefy delight, dripping all kinds of ketchup and meat sauce. It was quite comical really, finally sebi passed and when I started talking with sebi the cop realized that we werent portuguese and asked me where I was from, I said the states and we started talking about that, I told him all about how me and sebi were exchange students and that sebi was from argentina and he seemed pretty interested. So the good vibe was set for the concert.
We got in to find the colossal pavilhão almost empty except for a mas of tightly packed people close to the stage. I went to the bathroom as Sebi went to buy a t-shirt and c.d. promotion combo. When we were both set we went to conquer some spots. We were still a little early and as we waited the main floor slowly filled up behind us. Soon the lights went out and the opening band came up on stage. They rocked for a little while but where really nothing memorable. Free peace they were called. As they left the crowd gave a big surge and sebi and I took our chance to get a little closer. Our move paid off and we found ourselves about 20 or some odd feet away from the stage. The curtain started to rise and everyone settled down, big screens lit up and the concert was on. The rest is history. We saw everything you would expect at a concert of this size, fights, beer, etc. About 30,000+ people in total. Oasis rocked out and put on a memorable performance, of course Wonderwall and all the old hits were the highlights and as the lights came on everyone was left with a sort of dazed look as is all too common after big shows. We joined in the shuffle to exit the building and as chance would have it, shuffled into one of our AFS volunteers who had been at the show aswell. We chated about everything as we shuffled to the exit, eventually parting ways for good. Feeling another shot of hunger, sebi and I made our way back to the mall, this time to mcdonalds where we met another crew of people we knew. We all ate and conversed about the spectacle we had all just seen and then headed as a group down towards the metro. We road the metro together aswell, saying goodbye to one or two of our groups members at each stop. Sebi and I were going the farthest and eventually found ourselves alone and tired ready to go to sleep. Another train ride and a little bit of walking and our wish was granted.
After a couple way to short hours of sleep I was awaken by my alarm clock. It was time to say goodbye to Lisbon. Sebi woke up with my and insisted on accompanying me to the bus station. We met a taxi close to sebi´s house and set off to the station. We made it in perfect timing and I got on my bus, said a deep farewell to sebi and was off. I slept a little on the bus ride home, but no matter how hard I tried, rest didn´t come easily. I got off the bus in Viseu and headed home for a quick shower and then straight to class, afterall it was monday and due to the AFS code had to make it to the majority of my classes that day. It would have been unexceptably rude to have fallen asleep in any of my classes but I think the teachers would have understood, so I didn´t do much and felt an odd sensation as an end to my fantastic weekend.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

lisbon school visit

A while ago I went on a school trip to lisbon as part of a research deal for a book we are reading called OS MAIAS. OS MAIAS is a very famous portuguese romance written in the 19th century by EÇA DE QUEIROS.

I got up really early, got ready and headed to the school. I met up with a freind of mine on the way and we made it to the school to catch the bus and meet up with our class before 8. We waited a little while as about half of the 11th graders from our school boarded the busses. We left and I sat next to my friend Miguel. The bus ride was long, about 4 hours, and we took one 20 min. break. The portuguese teens are a rowdy bunch, the bus ride consisted of photos, making signs for truckers and everyone getting annoyed and fighting in the aisle. We got to lisbon later in the afternoon and went to go eat lunch in that nice new district where the concert was. We ate lunch in the mall and walked a little bit afterwards. Then we got back in the bus and headed towards downtown lisbon. We all got off the bus in the middle of the old district to start our walking tour. The tour was about two hours and we saw the outsides of a lot of buildings. That was it. At the end of the tour we got a little free time to enjoy the new downtown of lisbon and then get back on the bus for four more hours. That wasn´t that fun. The kids didn´t really calm down at all so no one really got any rest. We got home at about ten and I walked home with some friends. I went to bed right afterwards.

Sunny times = Happy times

I know that I start so many posts with the by now familiar phrase ``This last weekend was great´´ but there is really no other way to go about it. I started playing pick up games of american football with some freinds from the other highschool here in Viseu. Every friday we meet up in an abandoned parking lot in the outskirts of the town to play. The scene is somthing like one would expect to find in the days of Sandlot. (great movie) There is a supermarket, a stretch of big road, a big field and us; running, grabbing, catching, laughing, all those great things that come with friends and a ball. We use the lines of the parking lot as yard markers and set up TD zones with our backpacks and bicycles. We get a diverse mixture of kids at our games, girls, boys, rugby stars and math wizes. Now, football is not the easiest of sports to master and therefore I do a lot of explaining and sometimes things meltdown into utter havok, but we have our fun just the same. After this fridays game I went to a jazz concert at the Teatro Viriato. It was an interesting show to say the least. The band was made up of a bassist, pianist, and drummer. They played the craziest experimental jazz I have ever heard in time signatures that I thought impossible to exist and ended every song in perfect harmony and coordination. It was something to experience. They are called Mikado Lab. I think they have myspace and I´m sure are worth a quick google search or other internet magic to hear their unique sound. After the show I went out with some friends. The next day Luis and I went to visit Luis´ parents in Sever do Vouga. The drive to my grandparents house is about 1 hour from viseu, most of it (45min.) spent on a big fast highway with the rest passing by going on small loopy roads in the mountains overlooking river valleys and the likes. Very pretty. We arrived just in time for lunch. Ah, before lunch Luis and I also took a little tour of some industrial area in between Viseu and Sever Do Vouga to see the plant of one of the biggest green energy producers in the world. This company, Martifel, makes everything from windmills to generate electricity, solar panels, to sports stadiums. It was cool just seeing the outside of the process to create one of these monolithic metalic structures. Well, After lunch Luis and I got back in the car to go on another tour, this time it was of the picturesque sorrounding mountains and river valleys. We looped high up to the tops of peaks over looking the river far, far below, and then back down through villages and past farms to the bottom of this river basin to dip our hands in the cool water. We also went to this really cool waterfall that seemed to pop up out of nowhere. Such beautiful country! And so much history too, I think 4 generations of Luis´ family have lived there and still many people from his family still do. We met up with Luis´ dad and went back to the house for a snack. Then we headed to some property that belongs to the family. The property is really cool, its big too, stretching all the way from one roadway about halfway up a mountain until the valley floor where it meets the river. We decided to take a hike and explore the area down until the river. There is an old house on the property and I was told that it was a great place to hold some parties with friends and to bring some people out there to camp. We walked down through the property passing all kinds of cool things, swings hanging off big trees over steep inclines, hammocks, orange trees where you could simply grab an orange of the limb and eat it all juicy and perfect. I was also told that this property was home to many wild boars, although I didn´t see any, there tracks through the mud were plentiful. We heard the rushing of the water long before we saw the river, I started mentally drooling over some imaginary kayaking and started wondering if there were some good rapids on this section of river, maybe even a playwave. We passed a small waterfall and followed it´s flow down to meet the river. As soon as the water popped into sight from behind the dense brush and big trees I saw it, a perfect play wave staring me in the face. I nearly yelled, ``Luis! DO YOU SEE THAT!´´ I said, ``A wave, just perfect for me to go kayaking on!´´ Luis had already seen the video I have here of me playing around on a playwave on the Upper Klamath river so he knew what I was talking about and agreed that it would be good. I sat there for probably ten minutes just looking at the perfection of this wave, long-ish glassy face capped with a nice white boiling top perfect for keeping the boat from washing downriver, and if this were the case, a big long pool afterwards with perfect eddy access and a sandy beach on the side for relaxing, some rocks for sitting, filming, jumpin and everything, just perfect. We walked up river a little more to another spot where the river formed a confluence and the water gained speed and presented another rapid. I would say iniccially class two, maybe three, but I dunno, looked like fun! After our hike, many oranges and some small yard type work we headed back to the house for snack time and then we left.
After arriving back in Viseu I re-dressed and set out for a birthday party in the big mall we have here. I met up with some freinds and we ate dinner, watched a soccer match and saw a film. Sunday was a work day for me as I had to turn in a bunch of drawings for the Design final. We also went out to Vila Nova for lunch and I spent my time drawing out there in the rustic old office of the farm house. Very nice. All in all a goooood weekend. And don´t worry my dear blog reader, I have sooo much more to write about. Much, Much more to come, I garuntee it.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Alentajano House

Ah, I forgot to write about the house where we stayed in the alentejo. The house itself was amazing. It was long and sort of skinny, with a part in the middle raised up to provide a second story and a deck. There are many ways to enter along the long front face of the house, with no one main front door. On one end of the house are bedrooms, kind of like cowhand rooms at a cattle ranch, with one communal bathroom between them. Next the house divides itself in two longwise. The front half leads into a giant living room with a big open fireplace, couches and tvs. The back half looks out onto an empty pasture and has a large dining room. Next is where one of the entry ways comes into the house and this cuts the house again in to two peices but in the other way, shortwise. There is a small study at the beginning of this hallway and as you follow the hallway you´re lead into the kitchen. The kitchen is the realm of the maids, they are about 7 strong and if you do anything even slightly wrong, well, it doesn´t even have to be something wrong, if you do anything in their view any where in the house you can expect to recieve a long stern look of dissapointment or a quick slap on the hand. It was one thing I didn´t understand very well, just walking down the hallway one time I passed one of them holding a laddle for the soup pot, as I passed I´m sure I didn´t do anything out of the oridinary, perhaps I even gave a friendly smile, sebi was walking towards me from the other direction and he told me after I passed her that she stood behind me and pretended to wack me on the back of the head with the spoon. I didn´t even notice and sebi just stood there laughing. They are just funny people, really part of the character of the whole setting. Well, to get to our room which was part of the second story converted attic we had to pass through the kitchen and climb up a wooden ladder. When you surface through the floor you enter into a main play room complete with a couch and a tv, and a ton of toys. On the other side of this is the door to our room. Our room was quite big, with a tall cieling and about ten beds with plenty of room inbetween each one. Back to the hallway downstairs, you turn back following the long spine of the house past more bedrooms and then enter into the main food room. This is where all the old, beautifully painted plates are hung on the walls sorrounding a big table constantly filled with food. Here there is another giant fireplace and two more doors. One of the doors leads to the big main dining hall with the long tables and giant fireplace. The other door leads to another living room with couches, a tv and tables for the little kids to eat and play and another big fireplace. Above the Tv and fireplace in this room is a big loft where a huge amount of animal hides are kept. There are elk heads hanging from the walls and pelts from all kinds of animals from deer to fox. This is where the house ends and the wine shop starts. And thats all for now. More coming soon, still got a tooon to write about, stay tuned!

Alentajano style.

After watching our fair share of rugby we felt it was time to do some physical activities of our own. Me, sebi, and some of sebi´s relatives went out to take a tour of the farm. We started out on a quad, piled high with us five, to go chase some pigs. We entered into the large pig area and were confronted by a group of some of the biggest pigs I have ever seen. Some of us jumped of the quad to start hearding the pigs while the others drove the quad around the other side honking the horn to give the pigs a scare. After a good bit of fun we went to look at the other parts of the farm, we saw the barns, the dog kennel (which was home to about 7 dogs all bread for hunting), the giant house, the chapel, the peacocks and other birds, the chickens, the sheep, the vineyards, and the pool. The pool was located in the middle of everything cast under the shadow of a giant water tower. It was nice and sunny but no one wanted to swim with me. We ate a little snack of cake and sweets and then headed out to play soccer. We played all afternoon until no one could take it anymore, luckily before I reached the point of collapsing the dinner bell rang and we all went to take another lap at the monumental soup bowl. After dinner came desert and lounging. We set up our beds soon after and went to hit the hay. The next morning we were up early to pack and get things ready to head out. We went downstairs and met sebis mom, dad, brothers and sister to go to a nearby village for breakfast. The drive out there was lovely, we passed more farms and, before I realized, entered the town. We went straight to the city center where we stopped at a small café to eat some traditional Alentejano pastries. After the meal we went up to the highest point around for miles to where an ancient castle was perched. This castle didn´t have any sort of people running it, we simply drove our car under the old, majestic, crumbling gate and parked next to the main tower within the castle walls. We walked around a little bit taking many pictures. After gazing out on the rolling hills for quite some time we headed back into the city center to see the downtown area. Sebi and I walked around the main square for a little while and met back up with sebi´s dad to go see some very traditional Alentejano rug shops. The rugs they make here are very well known in portugal and are very beautiful.
On the way back to the farm we took a little detour to see more of the vineyards and sorrounding area, we even stopped at an old abandoned school and church that was used when the migrant workers would harvest the crops back in the olden days. When we got back to the farm we packed the car and since we had a little time on our hands we asked sebi´s grandfather to give us a tour of the wine making buildings. We entered into the distillery witch was full of big tanks to distill the wine, they were´nt making any wine at the time but it was still really cool to see. We got the full tour from sebi´s grandpa, it seems that he knows everything there is to know about wine making, temperatures, humidity of the buildings, etc. etc. etc. We saw all the bottling machines, the big barrels to finish the wine (made of the finest imported french wood), all the giant racks of full wine bottles waiting to be sold that reached the ceiling and filed the warehouse. It was a really cool thing, seeing, smelling and tasting all that wine and the process it went through, from grape to bottle. After we saw the farm at the shop that was part wine making museum, part shop and part tourist attraction. We were even given free polos with the farm logo embroidered on them! After the tour we went to have some lunch. We gave our third and final dive into the giant soup bowl before playing another quick game of soccer and saying good bye to everyone and setting off from the farm once more, now our destination, LISBON!

Friday, March 13, 2009

On to the Alentejo!

Sebi and I awoke to a knock on the door from Sebi´s host father. We opened our eyes and grogily looked at the time. WOW we slept in! We said. We dressed and made our way downstairs. I still hadn´t seen any of Sebi´s family since I had arrived and greeted my hosts enthusiastically. I really like Sebi´s family a lot. We were instructed to head over to a nearby café to eat breakfast and wait for our ride to the Alentejo. This cafe by the way is one of the most well known and delicous in Lisbon. We passed through the courtyard outside the cafe dodging tables and people who were enjoying their breakfasts at their own paces, some quite lesiurly and others quite hurried. When we entered the cafe we were greeted with quite a line and ended up waiting a little longer than planned. This however gave us enough time to decide what we wanted from all the scrumptious pastries staring up at us through their glass shelves. When it was our turn we ordered quickly and were once again put up to wait. We both ordered tosted croisants with ham and cheese. These croisants are maybe a little different than you imagined. They are small and dense and covered in sugar. They are cut in have, slapped with ham and cheese and thrown into a toaster press. They come out hot and goey and when you eat them all the ingredients just come together and melt in your mouth. It is truly something divinve. We also drank some fresh squeezed orange juice and just as we were finishing our ride came. The man who was in charge of delivering us to our destination in the Alentejo was Sebastians host uncle. We entered the cafe greeting everyone as he made his way over to us. We started talking about soccer right off the bat. Sebi and his host family are supporters of the team Benfica, and me and Sebi´s uncle support Sporting. These two teams are bitter rivals and we always get into these little bouts of friendly teasing. Well, some other people in the cafe, including some people tending the counter, heard our discussion and joined in. We talked for a little while more and when we realized we had kept Sebi´s aunt and niece waiting in the car, hurridly finished up our gloating and left. We piled into the car exchanging greetings and made our way through Lisbon passing over the big red bridge that reminds me so much of the Golden Gate.
The drive wasn´t at all long, and the scenery turned very pleasant as we parted from the city. The alentejo is a region in portugal where a lot of farming is done. It is caracterized by rolling hills, cork tree groves, and ancient stone walls weaving their way about flocks of sheep and herds of cattle.
When the main highway finally turned into a dirt road I knew we were close to our destination. We made our way ever further into the expansive pastures turning on to ever smaller and smaller dirt roads until I thought we´d hit the point where the light blue, cloud speckled sky met the green of the earth. Our last turn under a big gate set us onto a road lined with tall trees, at the end of the way I could see a group of buildings. When we arrived at the end we parked and all got out. We were not met by anyone as all that inhabited the farm had gone to mass at the tiny chapel. We walked over and saw all the people packed into this tiny chapel. There was no room for us to enter so Sebi and I watched from outside a little bit and then decided to explore. The white buildings were set around a main courtyard that opened up onto the expansiveness of the pastures. It felt as if our little cluster of buildings was a life raft sent into an undulating green ocean. We went to play ping-pong in one of the old farm buildings converted into a play room. After a little while mass was over and me and Sebi were called to greet everybody. We exchanged the customary kisses on the cheeks with all the women and strong, firm handshakes with all the men. When everyone had been introduced we headed for lunch. We entered straight into great dining hall through two big old doors that opened onto long tables and an enormous fireplace in the corner. At the end of the hall sat a steaming pot big enough to cook a human child in. Everyone grabbed a bowl and formed a line behind the pot. As I got closer and closer in line to the pot the aroma started tickling my nostrils. It was a traditional Alentejano soup with chicken, rice, vegetables and other delicous things. We sat and ate and laughed until we couldn´t take any more. After all our bowls were empty and our tummies full, we retired to one of the comfy living rooms to watch some rugby and relax.
Time to go now, but tons more to come.


Hey, I´m just gonna skip around a little bit here, the stream of posts will still come as promised but I just want to write these little things before I forget. I went to a couple concerts in the past few weeks at our local theater here in Viseu. The first show was Rodrigo Leão and Cinema Ensemble. I really liked it a lot. The group was headed by Rodrigo Leão, like you can see from the name, on piano and consisted of a singer, an accoridan/marimba player, violinist, viola, cello, electric bassist and drummer. The style of music was like a mix between tango and modern rock, with shorter songs sigur ros like singing and build ups seemingly leading into infinity broken by sudden silence. It´s really interesting and if you get the chance you should definitely do a google search and try and hear some of their music.
The second artist I saw is called Noiserv. It is the project of only one man, but he manages to create complete and deep songs with the use of a looping machine. This is; he starts out playing one instrument, loops it, and steadily adds more and more things on top and sings and everything. It is very impressing. He also uses such diverse instuments as toy cars, cameras and loudspeakers.
The weather here has been really hot lately, just like summer.

Friday, March 6, 2009


Got on the bus. The bus ride was fine down to lisbon. It´s about a four hour haul, no stops through the heart of portugal. It is a trip I have done a fair share of times but one that I never get tired of. Being on that bus, alone, accompanied only by my Ipod on my way to another great adventure just evokes some kind of feeling in me. A feeling of satisfacton, comfort and freedom. Sounds tacky but doing that on my own makes me feel free, out in the world, going to rondezvous with my friends in a big city. I settle in, listening to the music that fits the mood which seems to change almost as rapidly as the scenery outside the bus window. We go from mountains to plains, over rivers and past lakes until finally the industrial city scape of lisbon breaks over the horizon, rising up, growing ever bigger and more fascinating as our bus nears the metropolis. Of course we get stuck in some minor traffic. After many minutes of anxious ``Are we there yet?´´s the bus pulls a hard right and heads down a beaver slide into the busy bus-port. The scene is that from a star wars film, space ships buzzing around like bees docking and un-docking, loading and unloading of cargo and different species from far off worlds. I climb off the bus in a slight daze, awakening from the calmness that was my ipod and bus seat, and see sebi waiting for me with his cell phone at his ear making some last minute arrangements for the night ahead of us. He says something into the phone and quickly hangs up. With a broad smile on his face and his arms spread even wider he charges. I duck into a football tacklers position and take him around the middle. After that little scene in the crowded bus station, we exchange some quick words of hello, how´s it going and then sebi brings it to my attention that the bus arrived twenty minutes behind schedule and that we needed to put on the afterburners to get everything ready for tonight. After that is was a mad dash. We raced out of the station to the nearest metro, hastily bought tickets and boarded nipping our tails in the closing door. This was our real first chance to have a conversation. We embraced once more and then broke out in laughter, this is it, we are doing it, living the life! We hopped stops, tranfering trains, surfacing to catch the famous lisbon electricals, and finally jumping off at a breakneck pace and sprinting the last 100 yards to sebis front door. Only sebis maid and little brother were home when we arrived. We said quick formal hellos and then went to prepare in sebis room. Sebi insisted that I use his bed so i set my bag down, pulled out some fresh clothes, threw them on, and we were off once more. We left the house and stopped at a nearby bank to take out some money, went back to sebi´s house to drop off his credit card (dangerous to carry it around) and went back to the train station. we got our tickets and arrived on the platform in the nick of time to catch the train. We took the train into the heart of the lisbon night life scene passing pulse-pounding clubs that could be heard inside the train on our way by. Lines of people stood outside in the warm, clear night air waiting to get in some of these clubs. The mood was set. We passed under the big famous bridge in lisbon just before our stop. We got off, standing out a little as we both looked utterly exhausted and hungry as we had just ran this crazy marathon of transport, and were easily spotted by our group of friends that we were planning on meetimg. With shouts and yells of welcome ringing throughout my ears, and those of anyone else on the platform, I was grabbed and hugged by all my exchange student buddies. I was really happy to see them all. We waited around for some more straggling friends and, when the whole gang was assembled, we set of to find our restaraunt. The place was a little farther off than anyone had expected and after a long walk we were all very excited to see the big bright orange, that was the sign and name of the place, shining out in the dark street. We entered and were greeted by warm smiles and bright orange walls. We were seated and given a sheet of paper and a pen. Now, how this place works is really cool, it is basically just designed for teens. They have about 4 basic dishes, you tally how many of each dish you want and thats that. The main draw of this place is the drinks. You pay a small fee, get a basic meal, and all the free drinks you can handle. Soon the restaruant was packed, each long table packed with roudy teenagers. The drinks come before anything else and before you know it everyone is laughing and having a good time, tottally oblivious to the fact that the meal hasn´t even started. Sooner or later the waitress comes bearing our ready-made plates and we laugh and eat some more. After many pictures, spills and stories told, we feel it´s time to let the night lead on. A night to remember. It came to a nice end with me and sebi making our way home to rest and prepare for the day to come.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Blogs and pics

First part

Friday morning: I woke up and went to school. I had english class. After english my class was instructed to meet my philosophy teacher at our local theater in and hour. We were to get there on our own, and as most of my coleagues can not yet drive, we set off on foot. The local theater, teatro viriato, is not that far from my school, about a mile, mile and a half tops. The walk there however is very interesting, we passed through the city park, downtown square, the narrow shop lined streets that sorround the cathedral that dominates our city and out the other side to our destination. We arrived about five minutes before our teacher and once everyone was ready we were shown in. With just enough trouble that you would expect from a giant crowd of teenagers we found our seats. The only thing I knew about the peice we were going to see was the title, and from that I could gather very little information. The something of the adolescente something, was what is was called. The lights went down and two men appeared on stage, after that the (for lack of a better word) art that flowed out in front of me on that stage was unlike anything I had ever experienced before. These two men, acrobats, poets, philosophers, musicians, did most a bit of everything and a little more. The ``Play´´ wove in and out of sense, changed languages (spanish, portuguese and english, all of which I could understand)flowed flawlessly from debates about Don Juan to akward reproductions of hit 80´s tunes. It was a sight, an experience, not to be described in words, but more, expressed, they were not putting on a play by reading us a script, these men were creating something that involved you as an audience member, that pulled you in, yet kept you out, in the reality that you were still an audience member, it was wicked cool.
After the play ended we were instructed to stay in the theater with my art teacher to make some sketches of the theater. The building is really cool, kind of like different sized cylinders inside one another. I finished this task with haste and was off to collect my things and begin my journey to lisbon.

Thursday, February 19, 2009


theater, bus, sebi, rush, meeting, hidden restaurant, food, going out...., heading to alentejo, breakfast, bridge, alentejo, farm, people, food, house, animals, soccer, wine, wine making, proccess, quad, back, lisbon, bridge, new area, aquarium, park, rolly hills, water park, concert, epic, mall afterwards, metro, train, sleep, early, ears, taxi, bus, teacher missing, boots, next weekend.
Meeting, early, bus, car with amigos, stop, drive, bejar, stop, windy road, stop, lunch, food, kids, hostel, unload, rooms, dinner, sleep, leave, equipement, resort, lessons, back on the board, shredding, carnaval, dinner, meals, bus, kids, soccer, feilds, mountains, tons of snowboarding action, tricks, etc, back on the bus, sleep, way tired, two days of school, next weekend, afs kids at bus station, camp.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Coimbra, new girl.


Last saturday I went to Coimbra for the afternoon. I caught a ride down there with some teachers from Fun Languages (my host parents language school) who were heading down to attend a teaching seminar at the British Council. The drive wasn´t bad, about an hour and a half spent listening to teaching strategies and child-behaviour-control techniques being swapped by the new teachers. We arrived just in time for the seminar and as the teachers filed in, I was let loose. I had over two full hours to get my self lost (and then found) in Coimbra, the intellectual capital of Portugal. I started of with the botanical garden which is home to one of the worlds largest lillypads, I was so unfortunate however, to visit on a day when it is closed to the public. The garden was nice and displayed a wide array of plants from every corner of the globe. After my romp in the garden I marched up the tallest hill in Coimbra to where the University sits perched like an old wise owl overlooking the rio Mondego. I explored around the university for quite some time, reminding myself of Lara from the Golden Compass as I ducked around scholars and found little passages between ancient buildings.
Next my wandering lead me to the city park located above the downtown area. This park is home to some interesting modern art such as two giant metal rings enclosing groups of trees. More wandering, and then I met back up with the teaching team and we went to the local mall (see anterior posts) to look around and grab a quick bite to eat.



This week we got a new exchange student from Boston in our school. She is with the same program that I am (afs) but she is only here for 6 months. It will be interesting to see the first part of someone elses experience from (my) the perspective of someone who has already been there and done that. She is doing well so far, (as far as I can tell) and I think will pick things up pretty quickly. She also has a blog and when I find out the address I´ll post it with something.
Well, that´s all for now. Xau

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


Here are some fotos of madrid, and lisbon, just some that I haven´t posted yet.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Second part of winter break.

After returning to Viseu after Lisbon we spent a couple days on the DL. (Down Low) Relaxing. The package my parents sent me arrived and Sofia and I went to pick it up. Everything was there and intact! Thanks Mom and Dad! After a quick opening of the package we hopped in the car and set of for Madrid! After about four hours we were greeted by Madrid´s city-scape. On the way to our hotel (which was 5 stars) we passed under the two famous leaning towers in Madrid. It was late by the time we made it to the hotel so we hit the hay immediately to prepare ourselves for tomorrow. We woke up early and caught the bus right outside our hotel and made our way to The Musem of the Prado. (Museu del Prado) We waited in line for a while and then got our tickets and went on in. We started with seeing some masterpeice paintings and then some masterpeice sculpture. Next we went on a tour of the biggest malls in Madrid. I think the act of Mall touring has become a very portuguese thing. When I was in Lisbon, even though we were in a small suburb of Lisbon called Estoril, we went to the local mall to check it out. Other friends of mine here on exchange have noted the same phenomenon. I´m not a huge fan of shopping and thus was a little un-enthusiastic about the possibility that my first day in Madrid would be spent seeing the inside of giant shopping complexes. Well it turned out that after our mall blitz we would be going to see the center of town called La Puerta del Sol and Plaza Mayor. That was pretty cool and fun. We saw the whole spectrum as far as street performers go. We rested at the hotel for a little while and then went to a really cool restaurant that serves very typical food from Madrid. The madrid style food is like gourmet bar food, small sandwiches of steak and other things. The next day was gonna be big. We slept in and at about noon made our way to the royal palace. This was the first actual palace I had ever seen, the roayal family indeed still lives there and thus was closed to visitors. We looped around the outside of the behemoth house and then ducked into the adjacent cathedral. After walking around a little bit more we went to an argentinian steak house for lunch. That was good. Now we´ll fast-forward to the night of new years.
We left our hotel around 9:30 p.m. and went driving around to La Puerta del Sol. We parked our car in the hippest parking garage I have ever seen and did the last couple of blocks to the main square on foot. The real festivities wouldn´t start till later but there was no lack of people there getting an early start. There were street vendors selling various things that lit up, one of these such items was a pair of sunglasses with rims that had lights in them. An oxymoron. Think about it. There were also people selling mixed alcoholic drinks in the streets. We ducked into a café for a quick bite before we headed into the square to stake out our spots. Well, tons of things happened that night, music, lights, fireworks, countdowns, very much you see in New York´s Times Square. After the stroke of midnight the tradition is to eat twelve grapes and make a wish on each one, we had bought tins of grapes for each person and all ate them in time with the other million or so people who were downtown with us. Once everyone finished their grapes the crowd began to surge as people tried to leave the densely packed square. We were caught in a current of people and made our way back to our car. I probably saw more things during the walk back to the car than I had seen all day as far as interesting people doing interesting things goes. I was offered Marijuana multiple times, saw many fights and met a suprising amount of americans, all in the short walk to our car. Well, the distance was short but it took us well around an hour to make the trek. Someone should write a book on the behaviour of people in giant crowded situations.
The next day we left madrid and headed to salamanca to meet up with some friends for lunch. That was cool. And that´s all for now.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

First part of Winter Break.

I went down to Lisbon for christmas. My sister, Avo and I were picked up by my host uncle´s Chauffer and Mercedes in Viseu, we then drove down to lisbon. We dropped all our stuff off at the hotel, snacked, and then I hopped on a train and went to meet up with Sebi! We hung out and met up with our Mexican pal Tlaloc. I had some trouble with the train schedule but all was well. The next day the fam and I went to walk around Estoril. We had lunch and all and then I went for a swim at the hotel pool, OUTSIDE!!! The day before christmas! We then went to have christmas eve dinner with Sofia´s family. This is the most important part of the holiday. We hung out and then had dinner. The tradition is to eat Cod-fish and turkey. After dinner was dessert of all kinds of baked goods. Sugary donut like pastries. The next day we walked around again and then had lunch back at Sofia´s family´s house and the left. On the way home we stopped at an old castle town called Obidos. The whole town is tricked out for christmas. There were all kinds of things there from Christmas tree row (a street lined with christmas trees) to fake sledding to zip-lines. The whole set up reminded me of the country fair with people dressed up, booths, the smell of good food, fun, laughs, all set in an epic location. This whole shindig was set up in a circle around the base of an old giant castle. It was memorable. Here are some pictures.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Even 30 Skype post

Hey, this is my 30th post! woohoo! yoohoo! Yippy! Hi-HAY! Yippy yai-yay! Just kidding, the most important thing is that I just downloaded Skype. For those of you who don´t know what Skype is, it´s a type of free internet phone. You can call from computer to computer, just like a phone, for free (microphone/speakers or headseat needed). You can also chat(instant messenger style), and hold video confrences (webcam needed). All these functions can be excecuted with up to 25 people. I thought this would be a great way to communicate a little more personally. You can also call regular phones from Skype for a small fee, yet still cheaper than regular phone to phone. I think Skype is quite the new technological revolutionary deal that is helping people connect all over the world. You can download Skype for free at And believe me it´s easy. Oh, and my skype name is Bssmall (2 s´ and 2 l´s). So add me if/when you have it! That´s all for now, and I look forward to talking with you!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Weekend in Lisbon and Foz do Arelho

So, I have soo much to say, I hope I can do my weekend justice. Here it goes. Last wednesday my friend from argentina called me and asked me if I wanted to stay with him in lisbon for the weekend. We decided that it would be better if I skipped school friday and we would take an extra day to see the city. So thursday night I hopped on a bus in viseu and was off. I arrived in lisbon 4 hours later at 10 pm. Usually the trip isn´t that long but the bus stopped through coimbra and other places and I thought it was really cool to see them. I was greeted by sebi and his host mom at the bus station and after some sleepy hellos we headed to the house. Sebi´s house is located in one of the best neighborhoods in lisbon, the same one with all the embassies and old monuments. The first night we hung out and talked and after a quick bite to eat we went to bed. We woke up early the next morning to get a jump start on the city. We did the usual morning routine (shower, food) in record time and were out the door. The weather was perfect. It was the day after some rain but the sun was smiling down upon us. Windy but great. We walked a couple of blocks down to a train station were we bought tickets from a cool machine and waited for our train. A couple of trains passed before ours, but when it came we were ready and got on easily. We rode the train all the way into the city and then changed onto a metro. We got off the metro in downtown lisbon. It was really cool, the metros in lisbon are really clean and nice, with art all in the stations and the walls are white tiles with arching ceilings. When you exit the station in downtown lisbon you are greeted with views of the castle of saint jorge and the cathedral. Well, we headed through the shopping district, passed under a big famous arch/clock tower, saw the square of commerce and headed up through the narrow labyrinth of streets to the cathedral. The cathedral is really really cool and really really old. The coolest thing about it is that it was built over an old muslim center that was built over an ancient roman city. So you have three layers of history sorrounded by modern lisbon. SO COOL!!!!!!! after that we headed up to the castle that dominates lisbon with its ever vigilante, ancient eye. As we worked our way up the hill to where the castle is situated we passed another ancient roman site that was once a theater capable of holding over 4,000 spectators. This ruin was so cool as it was a giant chunk cut out of the lisbon hillside. We got up to the castle and realized we needed to buy tickets to get in. We waited in line talking in portugeuse and when we got up to the counter we showed our portuguese student cards and our lisbon metro tickets and got in for free! The castle was probably my favorite thing, it is just this amazingly beautiful old castle with cannons and everything overlooking the whole of lisbon with a view stretching out to the ocean. WAAAY COOL. After running around the castle for some time we rolled back on down to the city center where we climbed up this famous tower constructed by eifel or a student of his. We walked all the way up to the top, even though there were elavators (they cost 4 euros to use) and soaked in the amazing view from yet another amazing vantage point. This time we could see back to the castle from whence we came and could see our next destination: The ruins of (ah, can´t remember) some epic name that sounds like it belongs in the Lord of the rings. We went there and were so stoked to find that is was waay more than either of us expected to see. The ruin is of an old cathedral that was nearly completely destroyed in the earthquake/tsunami/fire lisbon experienced long ago. It is really cool because the ground is all grass now but the walls and the arches supporting the giant vaulted cieling are still there, but nothing else, it reminded me of the great hall in Hogwarts with a magic cieling. The walls are really cool too, especially on the outside with all the old architecture. In the back of the ruins is a small restored museum with relics from all over the world including mummies from peru and everything. After this we left to go have lunch and see the biggest christmas tree in all of europe. We walked up the avenue of liberty and caught the metro at the top. We took the metro back down to the city center where we met an electric, a kind of trolley famous in lisbon, that took us to Belem. Belem is one of the most beautiful city places I have ever encountered in my lifetime. Belem is the name of the area in lisbon where the ocean meets the river and the land is all low and green. There is a really famous pastry shop that we eventually went to, a giant monastary, the tower of belem which is a unesco world heritage site, the monument of discoveries (commemorating all of portugals history in navigation) and the cultural center of Belem which is a very pretty building that does everything from the fine arts to school trips. First we went to the monastary but were dissapointed to find it closed for the night. We meandered through the beautiful park until the Monument of discoveries. This monument is sooo cool, it is a giant white marble statue with carvings of all the great portuguese explorers. It is probably 5-6 stories high and has an elevator in the middle of it that allows you to go to the very top. We did this and when we got to the top were greeted by (according to the biggest moon of the year. It was like that because that was the time when the moon was closest to the earth in it´s orbit. But yeah it was sensational. After that we tried to get into the tower of Belem but again were dissapointed to find that its doors were shut and it´s windows dark. By this time we were exhausted so we went to get something to eat in a nearby cafe. After a quick bite we walked back to sebi´s house, tired and happy. We rested for a good while and then decided to go get dinner with some of our other exchange friends from lisbon. Me and sebi hopped on a bus and we all met up in a big mall about 20 min. away from sebi´s house. We met up with two other guys and went to find some dinner. We stopped at a pizza place and sat and ate and laughed so hard for quite a while. After that one of our friends had to go home so we decided what to do next. We went to the movie theater in the mall to buy some popcorn (the sweet kind is really popular here) and ended up buying the biggest box we could. After that we adventured around the mall for a while with our popcorn until we just couldn´t take it anymore and when all the stores closed we left. We got home and I was able to meet the rest of sebi´s family, we relaxed for a while and, as the clock struck midnight, were suprised by sebi´s parents who came to give me a birthday present. I didn´t think that I had told them it was my birthday and I sure wasn´t expecting anything from them, but I was presented with a polo and a t-shirt from sebi´s host fathers winery/vineyard. I was very suprised and thankful. After that is was sleep. The next morning (my birthday) we woke up, showered and headed to catch our bus to the AFS lunch. We took a taxi to the big bus station and quickly found our bus and our seats. We still had pocorn left and some candy from the night before that we brought with us for the drive. Just before it was time to go, two last passengers got on the bus and started looking for seats. As they neared the back of the bus, where me and sebi were seated, we recognized them as fellow afsers and invited them to come sit with us. It was such a coincidence. It just happened to be the two students from greenland, one of which was mine and sebis room mate at the last orientation. During the ride we ate and laughed and slept until we arrived at our destination. When we got off the bus it was raining and cold. We still werent all the way to where we needed to be, so we hired a taxi and were on our way. Our final destination was Foz Do Arelho, a beach town famous for it´s beauty and restaurants. It reminded me a lot of the oregon coast with the dunes, the wind and the rain, and the city nestled in a cove sorrouned by cliffs. We were the first ones there and decided to take our time and go on a walk down on the beach. We explored all around the dunes and the rocks and sebi got hit by a wave. His pants were soaked and he ended up being wet, but not entirely misserable, for the rest of the day. I found some great rocks, only like the kind you find in oregon, and then we were met by some more students. The lunch was great; just a lot of friends laughing, telling stories and merry making. AFS payed for everything and even gave us all santa hats. I was sung happy birthday by everyone and just had a genuine time. Sebi and I hitched a ride back to lisbon with another family and, exhausted once again, were thankful to be home. We were greeted at the door by all of sebi´s family and more, that day there was a big soccer game on tv and a lot of people came over to watch, and I was grabbed and sung to once again. This time there was a cake and we all just had another great time. Sunday was great too. Sebi slept in a little longer while I made pancakes from scratch for everyone so say thank you. I was told they were the best pancakes that anyone of them had ever eaten! After a good breakfast went out to tour belem once more. First we went to the tower of Belem where we went all around the old fortress and admired it´s beauty. After that we got in to the monastary and saw the tomb of Vasco da gama. There is another world history museum there and we saw tons of stuff from all over the world, including more mummies and ancient roman artifacts like some of the first gold jewelry in the world. It was really cool. We made a stop at the famous Belem pastry house and bought some pastries for me to bring back to viseu. We were then picked up by sebi´s parents and brothers and treated to lunch. We went to the famous beach at Guincho where we ate at a well known seafood restaurant. I saw a plate there that cost over 140 euros, some sort of lobster I think. After a great meal we went to see the beach and the old fort, take pictures and be blasted by gale force winds. When we just couldn´t take it anymore we all took shelter in the car and went on a tour of the high-class beach towns. We saw the biggest casino in Europe and much more. We arrived back at the house at the perfect time, I packed and we headed out to the bus station. I took the pastries and was off. When I got home it was late and I was asleep before my head hit the pillow. I had a pretty much normal week, I recieved almost all of my grades from the first period and it´s looking like I´m going to do more than just pass! School ended for me yesterday and now I´m just looking forward to a great christmas break! More later, if I remember any details or anything.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Early Happy Holidays!

I just wanted to say thanks for everything! I don´t think I dedicated a post to thanksgiving so this one will be for that and early holidays! I´m thankful for everything in my life that has brought me to where I am. All the random things happening in every aspect of every miniscule part of what we call existence. I have so, so, so many people to thank that this post would be twice as long as my last one! :) So I´m just gonna say you know who you are! (that means YOU!) Happy Holidays to all, and this is just a leader-inner post to the holiday season! Até já from here in Portugal!

Thursday, December 4, 2008


I had so many words floating around in my head over what to title this post, but the one I chose seemed to me to be the most appropriate. Greve in Portuguese means ``Strike,´´ the kind that happens when peoples rights are abused not like all you baseball fans were thinking. (Sorry to get your hopes up.) This word has kind of been the theme to my week and has hardly been off the lips of any person in Viseu, let alone Portugal for that matter, for the past while. Before I go into detail about the issues under scrutiny or my opinions on them I´ll tell you a little bit about my week. For starters this week has all been really rainy and dark, I guess you could say dank but in the literal sense. Gloomy. This hasn´t really helped anyones attitudes towards anything let alone the Greve. The cold wind and rain has kept most of us homebound and has even pushed Afonso to sickness. I´m always doing my best to stay healthy and I hope none of my Oregon toughness (cough cough) has worn off yet. Like you know if you read my last post I didn´t have school on Monday due to a holiday, Tuesday was normal and I only had two classes. That was the day of the whole visa shinanigans. I woke up wednesday morning to the incessant buzzing of my alarm clock and climbed out of bed in the darkness that stays with us even until 7:30 a.m. I was expecting nothing less (or more) than a normal day at school that morning as I ate breakfast and started my commute (A.K.A. The ten-minute freezing morning hell dash to school.) I´m just kidding it´s not that bad. (But still cold.) When I arrived at school I found the parking lot looking surprisingly empty and the classrooms strangely dark. The main gate of the school was still open though, so I went on ahead and entered. When I found the classroom in which my first lesson was to be held I encountered a small group of students and asked what was going on. They said today all the teachers would be going on strike to counter the Ministry. Our teacher however, was not on strike and would be coming to class. Well he did, class was fine and the final bell rang as normal; little did I know that this was the end of what was left of the normality of my week. I went to the room where my next class was to be held and upon arrival finding no one, I went to go look for some answers. I ventured down to the school bar where I met some of the other kids from my term and asked what was going on. They said that apparently all of our teachers were in support of the strike and that school was over for us today. So all my friends were planing to just hang out down in the school for the rest of the day until the buses came to take them home. I headed home myself and then back to school and then home again just kind of passing in this onslaught of confusion that was plagueing everyone affliliated with our school. During one of my passes I noticed a poster, or a canvas rather, covered in spraypaint displaying all sorts of things about the Ministry and how bad it is and that tommorow (today, the 4th of December) we students were going to do something about it! And how you might ask? The letters G.R.E.V.E. were painted in big, bright red at the bottom. When I saw this I had mixed emotions. Maybe now is a good time to explain the situation. The teachers are protesting because they feel they are being ``Militarized´´ by the Ministry, I.E. stricter regulations, schedules, testes etc. I guess kind of like N.C.L.B. and they feel like they need to be left alone, teach what they want, and get paid more. Of course this has recieved a lot of the media´s attention and when various student groups from around the country gave their support to the teachers they (the students) were given a lot of attention as well. The students have been feeling the pressure of the Ministry´s rule for a long time, and, riding this new wave of publicity and unrest they are doing things they would never have done before. GREVE! Sure protesting is the easiest and most fun way of getting your point across, (I mean what teenage student is gonna turn down ditching school for a day and causing chaos in the streets, the romanticity and rebelious attitude behind idea of anarchy is an appealing one.) but the sacrifice your going to make is looking like an idiot and that´s not worth risking. It can also be said that teens have organizational problems, besides keeping rooms clean, and this (rioting) is easier than putting in the effort to organize and really effectively inspire change. I personally think that we (students) have much more power than we realize, after all we are the future of the world wether we or anyone else likes it or not. There are much more realistic threats or comprimises that could be made instead of refusing our education. How do we expect to make things better if we can´t write laws to change them etc.? I think we have to show how smart we really are in ways that don´t prove the opposite, otherwise we will be labeled hypocrites and never taken seriously. This remindes me of a quote by Friedrich Nietzsche ``Whoever aims publicly at great things and at length perceives secretly that he is too weak to achieve them, has usually also insufficient strength to renounce his aims publicly, and then inevitably becomes a hypocrite.´´
The students basically have three main points that frankly are right (or wrong) enough to deserve some serious attention and tweakage, and they used this strike and media coverage to get that attention. I think an all out strike is not the right way to come about change, but I´ll get to that later. Anyway, the three points of the students are as follows: 1. End this regime of faults. A fault is like an absence but you can fault if you don´t have the materials neccessary for class, if you are more than 10 min. late or if you just don´t come. These are are equal in the eye of the ministry. 2. How free is public school when each student is required to pay over 35 euros for each textbook in each class. and 3. Us students just work to damn hard for you, school is hard and it should be easier and WAH WAH WAH. (one of the points I don´t agree with.) One of the main arguments the students have been making is that they are not manipulated and that they are smart. One thing that makes me sick is just how cool they all think they are. They make these big old spray-painted banners, block of the school gates not letting in teachers or staff members (the whole time it´s raining and freezing cold), yelling, screaming and chanting all these things. And that´s not even the beginning. So that´s just were I´ll start. I woke up early again this morning, more tired than yesterday, dressed and prepared for school. I knew the strike would be happening but I thought that since it was only a STUDENT strike I could still go to class as I had no intention of participating in the hell-raising. When I got to school the scene was much as it was the day before, empty parking lot, dark windows, gloom.Dank. Now, when I come to school the way I walk from my house puts me in the back of the school, far off the main street. I can usually just pop in a side gate and head straight to class or to the social areas or whatever. Like yesterday the back gate was locked so I made my way up to the front of the school. When I got there I was greeted by a literal mob of well over a thousand students chanting, screaming and generally being like the steriotypical protest. There were signs, megafones and, the main attraction of the show, the media. The students I think succeeded in other areas than making fools of themselves, they used their own desire, the media, to document them making fools of themselves. There were media personnel all over this juicy student rebellion and they didn´t hesitate to go so far as to climb up on walls to get a good angle. (This just made everyone more excited and led to a sort of symbiotic relationship,if you will, with the media.) I quickly found my classmates and we got down to business; which was doing exactly the opposite: nothing.(So smart.) We hung out there watching the cars pass on the streets, the people inside showing looks of anything from support or unintrest, to disgust or to even documenting the event with digital cameras and cell phones. Ahh, technology. Every so often the crowd would start surging and the yells would become louder, whistles would blow and all the reporters would run with their cameras at the ready to see what was happening this time. If you´ve ever been to Halloween or New Years (or any holiday worth getting drunk over) on the Plaza in downtown Ashland you can picture it a lot like that, whenever a lightsaber is raised, a countdown started, the cops drive by, or someone stumbles and finds themselves at the top of the drinking fountain a huge roar of un-comprehensible noise raises from the crowd. As I talked with more people and began to try and educate myself about this manifestation I quickly realized that probably 90% of all the people there didn´t know exactly why they were. Most of the people new it was a demonstration/protest for something(props on figuring out that brainbuster) let alone that it was student lead. Those who did know a little about the motives of the deal only knew the three sentences written all around them on the big spray-painted banners and that they were here to fight the ministry and for their rights as students and people too! One thing I do know now is that 100% of those people were rightly stoked to have a day off of school! The more I tried talking with people and debating ideas about our soon to become riot, the more I was shut out. Just before I was going to go home to do some research and get some answers something changed. A group of students was standing there with big signs spelling out the word ROSSIO, which is the center of town. That´s when the avalanche started. People started fooding through the city park that divides our school campus from downtown and pooling up in front of the city hall. Traffic screached to a stop as the river of angry students washed by churning and spitting as if the threat of being run over wasn´t an object. I followed reluctantly seeing that there was no way I could get in to school. I actually took a quick break and got a snack too, a lancheira. I think other people had the same idea at this time but instead went to buy beer, eggs and ciggarettes. (all leagal and all perfectly appropriate to help the student cause!) When I got back the now riot was moving towards the other section of the city hall up across the street. This other new city hall building doesn´t have a plaza in front of it, so the mass simply halted in the street outside. Once again traffic came, with screaching brakes and near misses, to a halt. This is when the Police came. At first they were just there to aid in the flow of traffic around the nearly 2,000 strong body of students but then decided to bring in a van force to keep things under control. The street was blocked off and the students were trapped with a whole street to themselves. Aided by beer and ciggaretes the fuming student machine began drawing more attention than ever before, with a final blow eggs were sent soaring at the windows and white washed walls of the city hall. Of course the Police didn´t like this and didn´t let it last long. Like a bunch of ashes after a fireworks display the students started to disperse and blow away. I too returned home and saw that our actions had truly not gone unnoticed and that the national news T.V. station was already broadcasting the story for everyone to see. (Or laught at.) Well, I think that´s all I have about that. I think we´re lucky in the stats, or maybe just in Ashland, to have such dedicated teachers and such rational, smart students. (o.k. maybe just in Ashland.) Thanks, and any questions or comments would help fill in some of the blanks here (for me and you!), clarify and all that. Até Já.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Visa renewal.

So today I went to renew my visa and apparently all the stuff I had (which was everything AFS told me I needed) was only a small fraction of what was really needed. We need to have our house inspected and all these tax forms and stuff. Well, I´m working on setting up a Skype account and you can have conference call with up to 25 people all for free. I´ll post the info when I´m done.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Saturday night.

It was a dark and stormy night (really), so we went to dinner at Louis´ brother Miguel´s house. We drove through the evening on the main freeway and just as the last bit of light dissapeared and the sky turned black and the fog engulfed us we turned off onto this small mountain road seemingly leading a lone windy path into the hills. After rounding some dark corners, illuminated only by the cars head lights that shot light which refracted off the fog sorrounding us in a bubble of grey light, we broke through the smoke thick fog and were presented with the view of a large valley speckled by the lights of of a hundred tiny houses. We wove our way down into the valley only to criss-cross our way back up the other side where we finally encountered our destination. As soon as we pulled into the driveway we were greeted with open arms and open umbrellas by Miguel. We entered the warm house to see a table set with all kinds of delicious things to eat. There was pizza(baked traditionally in a stone oven), these really good peas called Piu-Piu´s, and tons of other delights. We ate and merry-made and ate some more. And after eating and drinking as much as we could we had cake and other traditional portuguese desserts like chocolate salame. (not really salame but it´s like a chocolate roll thing, it´s really good.) After somemore hours we left and headed home. When we got back on the freeway we were met with snow! We slowed down and enjoyed it a bit. After that, comfy in the warm car, I fell asleep. This morning over breakfast we watched on T.V. and saw that our snow had made the national news. Cool. It´s still cold here and outside has been un-appetising lately. Até Já.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

First part of weekend.

Actually I´ll start with Friday. I had extra classes Friday night because we didn´t have art on Monday so we needed to make it up on Friday. After that I went home, ate a quick dinner of Rice and Duck and dressed up to go to the theater! We all had tickets to go to the Teatro Viriato because Sofia and Louis donate there anually. The play we went to see was called The Café and it was probably the most bizzare spectacle I´ve ever seen. Don´t get me wrong, it was a spectacular peice of art, but as far as being even close to comprehensible... Well. I understood most of what was being said, all of it was in Portuguese of course. But the plot of the play was strenuous. I´ll start with describing the theater itself. Teatro Viriato is situated on the corner of a city block, part of a cluster of buildings. The corner it is on is rounded and the theater is shaped like a triangle with the corner facing the street rounded. The whole side is a group of windows and inside you can see three levels. Each level has a balcony looking out the window and sorrounding what looks like a giant column. On the bottom is ticket sales, second is a bar and the third level has entrances to the theater. This column is hollow and inside is the theater. On the floor (bottom level) of the chamber are a bunch of seats and the other levels around the edge on the inside have seats as well. The stage is situated just off the edge of the column. It is a really cool building. The stage was set up like a Coffee shop, it had tables and chairs and stuff. Around the edge of the stage were screens and cameras and props (Like fish tanks with little boats in them) and other random weird stuff. The actors would give all their monologues and soliloquies into a mic with a camera on top and the resulting images were then displayed on all of the screens around us. The script was about a Coffee shop next to a gambling parlour and the troubled gamblers who would go get coffee. I won´t say more incase any of you want to see the play. The whole time there was a narrator who would walk around the stage all serious and constantly changing costumes, the only words he would ever say were amounts of money and when anyone would start to say a price he would say it aloud for them. I dunno, it was really odd. I really liked it though. After the play I went straight home and fell asleep. Today (saturday) I woke up and had tennis. That was fine. On our way home from tennis it started snowing! More like slushing but it was great. I have been home the rest of the day as I am tired and the weather is just too cold and too wet to go out. :( Tonight we´re going to have dinner at Louis´ parents house. That´ll be cool. And then who knows? I don´t have school this Monday so we´ll see where I get to!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Weekend of Ice!

,WOW, I really don´t know where to start. This weekend was just so much fun. Even though I didn´t even leave Viseu I felt like I did so many new things. Okay, so chronologilcally: Friday I had school, then after I went to make some photocopies,(really cool) and then I went to the bus station to pick up my friend Sebastian Lande, who is another AFS exchange student, at around 6. After we met up in the bus station we headed to go get a bite to eat. I know this really good café really close to the bus station that has these amazing things called Lancheiras, they are like these... I dunno, I guess you could call them pastries, with ham and cheese melted together on the inside. They are probably as big as a slice of pizza, the same shape too but they are semi-round and only one unit, not a slice of anything. They dough is done to perfection, a nice light brown, gooey on the inside and just crisp on the outside, the cheese and ham are layered together and moist and melty. They are so good and are only 1 euro and they really fill you up. Well, we took our Lancheiras and went and sat in the plaza and savored our delicious snack. After that I showed him the central city park and we headed home. After dinner we went to this really cool talent show at the local college. The college really reminds me of SOU in that it´s not super prestigious but it´s fun, has a heart and has good education. This talent show was a benifit for Autism and was packed, a really good sign. The first half of the show wasn´t all that spectacular, a bunch of music performances of mixed age groups, none of which would even compete at the AHS talent show. Then there was a little break with free food and drink, and then the second half. The second bit was infinitely better. There was an acoustic duo who performed, one guy with a classical guitar and the other guy with a traditional portuguese guitar. The portuguese guitar is reallt cool, it´s like a cross between a mandolin and a turtle. It has twelve strings and is shaped like a dome, and the neck is really cool with a hook like thing on top. Well this group was really cool and inspiring. The rest were ok but not really memorable, and then the grand finnally. A TUNA! No, not the fish. A tuna is a special kind of college music group with about 20-30 men all wearing big black cloaks and huge, black, wide brimmed hats with guitars, ukalelees, portuguese guitars, basses, flutes, you name it and a really important instrument:Tamborines. Well this tuna was called TUNADÃO (Dão is the region in which I live and where the college is) and apparently they won a tuna competition or something and are well known. Tunas can be found in colleges all over the Iberian peninsula and are the equivalent to pep-bands in America but really traditional and prestigious. Well, all the guys with instruments made a wide half-circle around the center of the stage and started singing and playing really loudly and boistrusly. Don´t get me wrong it was really good music and it definitely recquired skill but it sounded like someone gave instruments to a frat party and started singing the fight song. Now, this is what Tuna is but somehow it felt more full of art than beer if you catch my drift. As the music kept roaring you could feel a definite build up in the atmosphere of the place and then bam! The guys with Tamborines and flags blasted out into the middle of the stage and started, litterally, beating them selves with their instruments in time with the music. After a minute I realized they were dancing and was awestruck. The flag bearers where twirling away and the guys with Tamborines were doing acrobatics and throwing their instruments, and the whole time the music was blasting and everything fit perfectly together. It was really, really, really cool. Amazing, inspiring, what you want. This lasted till about 1 in the morning and then we headed home exhausted and passed out.
Saturday: On Saturday we woke up and made breakfast and then headed out on an epic bike loop of Viseu. We started with going to Fontelo, the biggest city park, then weaved through the narrow city streets to Sé (Central Cathedral area). There we saw that Sé was closed for about another hour and a half so we decided to head out and return later. After this we went around the town and saw all the monuments. We decided we didn´t want to take the bikes with us back to Sé so we ditched them at home and headed back. At Sé we went into the big main Cathedral and were let into the museum section for free, so we went all around and took pictures and admired the view and all the old stuff. After that we went to the Museum Grão Vasco where we saw all kinds of really cool art. Then we hit up the museum in the other church and headed to Forum (a mall in downtown Viseu). We grabbed a quick lunch in Forum and then we had to recharge Sebastian´s cell phone. After this it was really cold so we went home. For dinner we all went out to my favorite pizza restaurant Piazza Di Roma. We ate and merry made there until late and, after meeting up with some friends of Louis and Sofia´s, we all went home. Know before I say this next part let me tell you a little story. Or more, A History. I´ve never been one for sports video games, I dunno, something about them just doesn´t really appeal to me. What that is I´m not sure, or not willing to say risk offending all you sports enthusiasts out there, Kidding. Well, anyway, I´m just not that great at them and, I pride myself as being a lover of the finer things in life and, not to say that video games aren´t, but... So Afonso is really good at this one sports game called Pro Evolution Soccer and he plays it all the time and I would say he has mastered the art of domination in this particular video game. I dared play him once and found myslef sacrificing my players with red cards at the end of the game just to put a little hurt on Afonso´s, albeit virtual, team. I lost a whopping 8-0. After this I haven´t really gone near the game. Well, After dinner me and Sebi headed down to the basement for a game of Foosball, now Fooseball I have grown to like and would normally be down to play it but we were both really tired so I opted for something less arrousing (we tend to shout and jump around alot when we play Foosbal) and offered we play videogames instead. Sebastian was up for that and when he saw we had Pro Evolution Soccer he said we must play. I warned him of my pre-disposition and he said not to worry. Sure enough he wooped me hard the first game and sent me sneaking of like a dog with its tail between its legs. Sebastian felt bad after this slaughter so he offered to train me in the art of PES. After a couple matches of practice and explination I felt I was ready to test my skills in a real game. This time the score was a little more even and I think he ended up winning by only one point. (In hindsight I see he was going easy on me still) Afonso came down after not to long, and jumping at the opportunity to get out of the losers seat I suggested that Afonso play Sebi. It just so happens that the master (Afonso) was ``out of practice´´ and lost to Sebastian by one point in a sudden death shootout. The next couple of games Sebi continued to assert his dominance and I continued to slip lower in my seat. It was time for bed.
Sunday:Sunday we woke up late and headed straight to the farm for lunch. We ate well and I took Sebi on a tour of the place. We played more foosball and a round of ping-pong before leaving. Instead of returning home we were dropped of at the Palacio De Gelo or Ice Palace to walk around. This is one of the Biggest Shopping malls in all of Portugal and is a 10 minute walk from my house. I think it´s like six stories of sheer shopping madness. The Ice palace has a bunch of unique stores but there is one in particular that is really famous. The Minus 5 ice lounge. The Minus 5 ice lounge is a bar entirely carved out of ice. It costs 13 euros for 30 min. and the bar is kept at a chilling -12 degrees celsius. When Sebastian saw this he said we just had to do it, A because we are exchange students and we must take advantage of every experience and B he saw a show about this on tv and he said one time in his life he would go there and tell his grandchildren about it. So, we went in. I only had shorts on but they gave us full gear to survive in the sub-arctic tempuratures, JK. We had a blast and took well over a hundred pictures. After we went back around the mall and saw a for real Formula 1 racing car. After that we ran out of time and had to deliver Sebastian back to the bus station. We got on the bus and made it home fine and we are left with the memories (and ton of pictures) of a really worthwhile weekend!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


So this last weekend was really fun. On saturday I woke up and had tennis as usual. After tennis I went home and took a quick shower, dressed up in my suit and headed to Fun Languages to do a presentation with one of the advanced classes. Only two students could show up that day (Out of about 8) but I did the presentation anyway. I started out talking about the states and where I´m from and then we moved into politics, the (post)election and the current global economic crises. I got to draw fun, un-accurate graphs on the white board and joke around about the dollar bill that was on the table, I said it was hardly worth their time to pcik it up! It was all in good fun and we all had a good time. After that I went home and prepared for a friend of mines birthday party that was to be that night. At about 7:30 I met up with another friend and we headed to the club where the Birthday party was going to be. The club is called City-ponto-come (pronounced City-point-com like a web address.) It is a big building with several dining rooms, a main dance floor and an upper level lounge. We first all met up in the lobby and were each given a card to buy things with. You use this card to buy whatever you want and then when you leave you pay the balance on your card (a good marketing strategy if you ask me). We all ate dinner together and chatted about whatever and then headed up to the lounge to play billiards. After about two hours of this a live-band began to play on the stage/dance floor and we all went to watch. I guess the band is pretty famous, they´re called ON A PLAIN and they are a portuguese chick rock band but the lyrics are all in english. It was pretty good and we all had fun. After that I went home with two other freinds and went to sleep. The next day (sunday) was rad. I woke up and made pancakes for everyone, ate my fill and took a shower. When I got out of the shower I was suprised to find another exchange student, Kaylah from Boston, waiting in out living room. Kaylah is with a different program than me and she lives about 20minutes by car away from Viseu. We don´t really see each other much, infact this was only the second time we had met. Well all of us, Sofia, Louis, Afonso, Kika, Amelia (My Grandma) and Ellen (an english teacher at Fun Languages who we met up with) went out to lunch at a Brazilian Rotisery grill. How this restaurant works is really cool, everyone sits around a big table and the cook brings out one giant skewer of meat at a time. All the meat is really, really good and done to your liking. You take however much meat you want off the skewer and then the waiter passes on to the next person. This cycle of bringing different meats continues until it is humanly impossible to eat any more and then you go for dessert. For the main meal I had all kinds of meat but one that really stuck in my mind were the most delicous (actually only) chicken hearts I have ever had. While being here I have also tried, like and continue to eat Rabbit, baby goat, entire roasted pig, octopus (not to uncommon) and other foods not un-heard of in the States but not necessarily normal. One food I´ve really acquired a taste for are Chestnuts or buckeys, here called castanhos. They are prepared in all types of ways and can accompany anything from seafood, goat to chocolate cake. They are also really good solo. Well after this intricate lunch followed by roasted bananas we went to a medeival town called Almeida (I´m sorry I can´t actually remember the name now, but I´m 99.99% sure thats right). This town is a really small restored medeival Portugues village that is open for tourists and the like on weekends. I don´t think anyone really lives there full time. The town is tucked away on the side of a small valley fairly distant from any major roadways or towns. Viseu is about 20-30 minutes by car. It is the most rustic (portuguese style rustic) place I have ever seen. The town actually has a really nice website about it and I´m sure it´d be easy to find with a quick google search if you are so inclined. After wandering the streets of this little settlement we headed back home. On monday I got my first big Philosophy test back and was stoked and shocked to see I got a 13 (out of 20 possible points)! This test was and the class is, of course, entirely in Portuguese, and me with out ever taking a formal Philosophy class prior to this one was very impressed. I´m also really looking forward to this next weekend as an AFS friend of mine is coming up from Lisbon to stay with me friday through sunday! Well, that´s all for now, Até Já!