Posts by Country

Thursday, December 31, 2015


On Friday, December 25th, I flew from Madrid to Copenhagen, Denmark. Upon my arrival, I met up with my good friend Marcus and we set out to see some sites. First we went to Christiania, also known as "Freetown Christiania", for some backgammon.

The area itself, aside from the funky, hippy sort of vibe, has a pretty interesting history. It's a self-proclaimed autonomous neighborhood covering 84 acres regarded by civic authorities as a large commune. Apparently, a special law in 1989 transferred parts of the supervision from the municipality to the state. I guess this made some people unhappy as the area was abandoned temporarily in 2011 while the Danish government was deciding what to do with it.

After a couple games, we went to find a bike. The funny thing about Copenhagen is that there are so many bikes that you can literally find a busted one, fix it up and have a free bike! You just have to look for the yellow tape placed on the back tire by authorities which signifies that the bike has been officially abandoned. Marcus, with his history of bike recovery/repair, and resulting collection of tools, was able to sort me out with a bike in a matter of minutes.
The next day we went grocery shopping with some friends and cooked up a bunch of food for a traditional Christmas day feast. The following day we would be eating: mushroom bake, award winning bacon, meatballs, liver paste, hummus and a shot of intentionally bad snaps every hour. We also played a few games... the one I can mention here being the hidden almond game - a game where you get a prize if you find the almond in your food. The other games were just... creepy.

Over the next couple of days we biked around, made burgers, slept and I went to the Bakken - the oldest operating amusement park in the world. Opened in 1583, the park has a few rides and some things to see, but what I really liked about it was the forest out back. Considering that the park wasn't really open, I went straight back and started looking around for wildlife. It wasn't long before I found a whole herd of deer and, later, even more still.

Up to this point I had been really enjoying my visit to Copenhagen. Of course, we still had New Years Eve to celebrate. Marcus has friends all over the city (he's even moving closer so that he can imitate the cast of the show "Friends") so we had a big night ahead of us. First we went to dinner at Phillip's place, where we watched the queen give a botched speech, and then we went to Thomas' house and watched a traditional NYE special about a butler who gets drunk trying to serve a lady who keeps insisting that he "help" her finish the wine. He makes a solid effort to maintain his professionalism but, in the end, he just can't hold it together.

As the night continued we visited a number of Marcus' friends by bicycle and eventually ended at a nice apartment where we literally jumped into the New Year off of some chairs. The fireworks during this time were going full bore, like I've only seen in a short bursts during a show, but for over an hour! The last house was where I had to leave Marcus, as we were up quite late and he was still going hard, so I took my bike and rode it home on a flat tire and with no map... thankfully I remembered the station near Marcus' place "DR Byer" and was able to arrive back without a problem.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

El Escorial

On Thursday, 17th of December, I joined my colleagues for some paella at Julio's in Pedro Munóz just because. That's one of the great things about life in Spain - people don't need a reason to come together and enjoy good food. Like everyone else, Spaniard's have their special days for being with friends and family (though I reckon they have quite a few more than the rest of us), but they're also just incredibly sociable! I like to talk about the kids as an example. Kids in Spain have their video games and things just like the rest of the world, but they also spend a considerable amount of time just standing out on the street talking with their friends. I mean JUST talking... for hours. They do this so often that you literally see them everywhere you go. I seriously can't think of one time when I've seen kids in America standing on the street just chatting with their friends. I think we just enjoy being on the go so much that we can't stand the idea of just standing around talking. Of course, I suppose either case has its pros and cons.

The next day we went on an excursion with the students to El Escorial (Royal Seat of San Lorenzo de El Escorial), a large complex of royal buildings historically called home by the king of Spain. Completed in 1584, the site has a number of buildings, including a monastery, royal palace, museum, library, school, etc. Unsurprisingly, it took us the better part of a day to see the whole place.

I spent the next couple days in Madrid and then took the bus back to Belmonte. Now only a couple days away from holidays, I started looking at travel destinations (flights around Europe are generally quite cheap and easy to come by even last minute). I already had a big trip planned for Andorra with friends from Madrid, but that wouldn't start till January 2nd, so I sent a message to my friend Marcus in Denmark about going to visit him in a couple days. Then, back in Las Mesas, the whole school had chocolate and held singing performances by the students.

The next day, having confirmed my trip to Denmark leaving the following day, I stopped in for a short visit with Julio and friends for Noche Buena (Christmas Eve dinner) and had some amazing food - Jamon, baked shrimp, mussels, roast lamb and cheesecake. Well, it was midnight before I finally hopped on the bike for my 3.5 hour ride to Madrid through fog and ice... the things you do to make a flight!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015


On Friday, the 4th of December, I went up to Madrid and had another go at driving in what I call "the city on LSD". Thanks to the crazy drivers and unusual layout (a British friend recently visited me and confirmed that the Spanish roads are strange for Europeans as well), driving in Spain in general is no picnic. I've also determined that the drivers here are maniacs bent on overtaking (passing) anything that enters their line of sight and at any cost - just read this TripAdvisor driving guide for foreigners. Indeed, the people being overtaken include even those who are going well over the speed limit... the Guardia Civil has clocked some of these lead-foots overtaking at 280 kph!

So, the reason I call Madrid "the city on LSD" (the crazy driving culture is not limited to any particular part of Spain) is that there are three things about driving here in particular that leave me feeling rather... vulnerable.

Lights: in America, and the many other parts of the world that I have visited, you can't miss them. The light dangles directly in front of your face - a logical system if you ask me. Of course, in Spain I have had to learn to look to the side of the road in order to find the traffic signals... the same place where the pedestrian crossing light is. And, if that isn't confusing enough, you often have to stop again at the other side of the intersection because the pedestrian crossing isn't synchronized with the flow of traffic!

Signs: aside from the obvious benefits of having drinking fountains in every corner of every venue, America also has some pretty decent signage - at least compared to Spain. In Las Pedroñeras they literally put a sign for Las Pedroñeras directing traffic away from the pueblo... but, at least it's not difficult to turn around. In Madrid, on the other hand, the consequences of poor signage are often quite dramatic. Not only are signs generally a bit misleading but, in many cases, there aren't any at all! Again, my British friend attested to this during his recent visit as, many times, he was left wondering where traffic was meant to flow. In any case, the real nightmare of driving in Madrid is when you come to a fork in the tunnel (Madrid has a great many tunnels) and, while many of the initial signs direct traffic into the left lane, the last sign (at the turn itself) directs you to the right! Assuming that the new information on the last sign actually makes sense (often specific destinations, like cities way up North, are listed on the last sign), you have literally seconds to cross several lanes in order to access the tunnel going the correct direction. If you fail to get over in time, this can result in over an hour of delay in getting to your destination as one tunnel takes you a half hour north while the other takes you a half hour south! Certainly makes you think twice about taking the M-30...

Divisions: just pointless... Madrid has center medians everywhere you look. Well, you may ask, don't we need traffic divisions to keep both sides safe? Well yes, of course, but not when both sides are going the same direction! It seriously seems to me like they put in these divisions just to take up space. You'll be driving along and suddenly you're forced to make a choice - left or right. You think, "Oh... I want to get off soon and I don't want to be stuck on the left side but, on the other hand, I don't want to be forced into an early exit!"

Well, don't fret, turns out it doesn't make any difference. Left or right, the lanes will converge again later anyway... or not.

Despite the awkward period of adjustment, I have managed to adapt to driving in Madrid for the most part. This particular weekend was quite an interesting time to be driving around in Madrid as many people were visiting thanks to Día de la Constitución (Constitution Day). Walking around the main square, my group and I found ourselves weaving through the vast crowd of people in order to see a few street performances and some monuments.

We visited the Royal Palace of Madrid, the nearby park and other monuments while walking back to the main square in search of food. We waited in line for some churros con chocolate but, when that wasn't going anywhere, we settled on a bucket of chicken and some bocadillos.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Holy Toledo!

On Saturday, the 28th of November, Preston, Angelo and I got on a train from Madrid and went to Toledo. I had driven up from Belmonte on the bike the previous day to visit friends in Madrid as I would do many times in the coming months. The train ride from Atocha was nice and only took about 20 minutes. After we got off the train, we talked to some people at the station about a bus into town but ended up just walking in since it wasn't very far.

The walk took us along a beautiful river on a trail that led us into the city. We soon arrived at a bridge and saw a castle up on a hill opposite the city center and decided to have a look. Well, the castle was pretty neat but, as it turns out, it was actually serving as a youth hostel. Still, we were able to get some pretty good photos from up there. After coming back down and crossing the bridge, we came to the entrance through the old city walls. As we entered we saw some holes above our heads which, according to Preston, were for pouring hot oil on invading forces. We climbed up the walls and walked along until we found a view of the hostel we had visited on the other side.

We ate lunch on the walls and then made our way into the city center. There we went through the busy tourist areas, saw the Cathedral of Saint Mary of Toledo and wandered through many narrow alleys as we finished our visit to the place that most of us know as "Holy Toledo!"

Thursday, November 26, 2015


On Thursday, the 19th of November, I rode to Cuenca to get my TIE (Tarjeta de Identidad de Extranjero AKA foreigner identity card) and transfer the bike into my name. That night I stayed in a nice local hotel (Pension Cuenca) for just 15 euros. The owner, Angel, told me I was the first international visitor there which was a surprise considering that Cuenca is the capitol of the region. Angel was a really friendly host; he showed me where I could keep my bike safe, gave me a quick tour around the city center and told me about his village of just 100 or so people. Angel moved to Cuenca about 40 years ago and loves living there. He told me that the city has a similar vibe to his village because the community of the city center is actually quite small.

The next day I started early at the Extranjeria so I could get my TIE and ended up going for donuts and hot chocolate with a couple other Americans. Apparently city life is a bit different in our program; they worked more hours and had less help with their personal arrangements, such as accommodation, bank stuff, etc. On the other hand, things in the city can be a bit more efficient than in the countryside. Unfortunately for me this was a harsh reality that I would be dealing with for some time. My bank (Caja Rural) was so hopeless that I couldn't even get them to give me a bank card or keys to access my account online... Well, it turns out that this was not just a countryside problem, but a problem with the bank in general! I went to the headquarters in Cuenca and they gave me the same runaround as in the pueblos - promising that my tarjeta (bank card) would arrive soon in the mail, giving me keys for online banking that didn't work, etc. As a result, I would eventually end up changing my bank... but only after another month or so playing their waiting game.

My first stop after the banking charade would be the Trafico office to see about transfering my bike into my name real quick... except that "quick" is a concept that does not exist here. Granted, I knew that going in but, nevertheless, the process was far more complicated than I could have ever imagined. Trafico sent me to the Hacienda for a NIF (same as TIE but required nonetheless) and the Hacienda sent me to another Hacienda to get transfer documents. That Hacienda had fees which I had to go pay at a bank before filing the documents back at the Hacienda. Then I had to take the filed documents back to Trafico (now closing for siesta) and submit them. Trafico needed me to pay their fees so I ran to another bank and returned to locked doors. Fortunately, I had left my stuff inside so they had to let me back in at which point I finished submitting my documents and received the title to my bike!

I figured I deserved a reward after all of that so I went and got myself a kebab. I love kebabs. After eating I went to a mechanic who assured me that my newly registered bike was doomed to self-destruct at any moment... brilliant. I then carefully drove it back to my pueblo and handed it over to the local mechanic with hopes of a rapid recovery - wishful thinking, of course.

At this point I still had a couple days left on my weekend (gotta love having four days off every week!) so I spent a day relaxing and preparing materials for school before heading off to Albacete with my housemate, Cristina.

In Albacete we visited friends Pepe and Consuelo for the day. We enjoyed some awesome home cooking and then walked around the city with Pepe as our guide. Despite Cuenca being the capitol in the region, Albacete is actually the largest city in Castilla La Mancha. Though, walking around in the chilly evening, one might assume that it was a ghost town. That's Spain though - slightest hint of bad weather and people stay home.

Over the next few days I worked and, on Wednesday, my last day before the weekend, I lost my voice! I could hardly whisper for the next few days during which time I tried to see the doctor. Now, Cristina assures me that you can just go and see the doctor anytime, but that was not the message I got from the receptionist. A couple days later I cancelled my appointment because my voice was coming back and everything seemed fine. Still, it seemed suspicious that my local friend could just go in whenever and I had to wait until it was no longer even necessary... not sure what to make of that.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015


On Thursday, November 12th, I went to Belmonte to have dinner with my colleague Cristina and we talked about me living there as an alternative to the place in Las Mesas. You might ask why this even came up? Well, aside from the smoking, loud television 24/7, walking in on me in my room/bathroom (oblivious granddad who also seems to have some sort of nighttime-only tourettes), broken shower and power outages from lack of "potencia" (basically paying power for five people in a house of six)... there was also the change of agreement in regard to the food. Apparently, they were told that I would be traveling EVERY weekend and they had calculated costs based on that. So, in order to make up the difference, they decided not to provide the "board" part of the "room and board" that we had agreed on. Basically, I was putting up with a family without getting the unique benefit of living with a family - local, home cooked food. Of course, they ate so many bocadillos while I was there that I imagine I actually wasn't missing much!

Well, the next day offered a solution contingent on one purchase - the bike. With the lack of public transport between the pueblos, a private vehicle is really the only practical way I could manage the move to another location. My colleague, Mary Bell, spends most weekends at her flat in Valencia - a place where motorbikes are quite common and, thus, affordable. That weekend Mary Bell invited me to visit so that I could see some bikes and have a look around the city.

That evening we followed up on one of the bikes on that we had called about and I ended up with a 250 cc moto for 500 euros! The next day I went to buy insurance, and make the bike legal on the road, but the guy at the office couldn't figure out how to put me in the system so he gave up... No problem, just means I risk huge fines for breaking the law until I find someone who can do their job. Later I had lunch with Mary Bell and her brother, who's a musician, and he brought us to a concert the next day. That same day we had some amazing authentic "Paella Valenciana" at the beach and then headed back to Las Mesas. For the next two days I tried to get insurance but the owner of the local "seguros" was in the hospital and I couldn't do anything. Finally, I decided I just couldn't wait any longer, so that night I packed up and rode to Belmonte.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Cuenca & Beyond!

On Friday, the 6th of November, I went to Cuenca with my colleague Cristina and her daughter, Claudia. We went to the cliffs and saw the Casas Colgadas (Hanging Houses) in the casco antiguo or "old town". Walking through the old town we saw many cool old buildings which were well preserved mainly due to the fact that the town was always well defended by its surrounding walls and challenging cliff faces.

The next day I went to Las Mesas and hopped on a bus to join my students for a weekend excursion. We saw the historic pueblo of Huerta del Marquesado, where they have a working watermill, followed by the walled pueblo of Cañete. There we had a big soccer match before making our way to a small pueblo called Henarejos for some magdalenas with chocolate.

That night we stayed in a nearby hostel called Maria Hosteleria. The next morning we had a breakfast which consisted of chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate! Not a place for people like my dad... he hates chocolate. That day we went to see the nearby cave paintings.

We went to a couple different sites and visited a cool country house before heading back to Las Mesas. A few days later my principal, Isidro, came to tell me he was very happy about the excursion and that they would be free for me for the rest of the year!

Thursday, November 5, 2015


I've started doing the extra classes after school and it has been very... interesting. I have some very friendly and fun students and other that are simply out of control. Often they hear me speaking this foreign language (English) and they literally just start wandering off. At least now I know that teaching infants is something to avoid in the future. In any case, the extra classes are a good opportunity and it is nice that I didn't have to arrange any of it. The extra income will help provide a little play in my budget so that I can travel around and still be able to pay on debts back home. I also have four day weekends during which I can recover, so I think I'll manage.

On Thursday, the 5th of November, I went to Belmonte with some colleagues and saw the Colegiata de Belmonte (convent), the Palacio Del Infante Don Juan Manuel and the castle of Belmonte. Unfortunately, the castle was closed but thankfully the classy pueblo of Belmonte had more to offer. El palacio (the palace) in particular was actually quite an interesting place with lots of history and some archaeological aspects as well. The convent and the palace both have grand halls and historical relics/artwork but something unique about the palace is that it has a dig site along with the spa and views of the surrounding pueblo. Personally my criteria for accommodation doesn't go much beyond a bed with a roof above it, but then I certainly wouldn't mind staying in the palace for a night or two if given the opportunity. In general, Belmonte is a little pueblo with a lot to offer and I'd say it's definitely worth a visit.

Sunday, October 25, 2015


On Friday, October 23rd, I moved in with a family in Las Mesas where I was offered room and board for 250/month. My boss in the primary school, Yolanda, also organised after school lessons for me so that I could make some extra cash. That evening Yolanda came to pick me up for a trip to Guadalajara. After arriving we went to have dinner at a restaurant with really big bocadillos.

The next day we went on an excursion into Guadalajara and saw lots of cool places, like the Palacio del Infantado and the Pantheon.

For lunch we had some paella & flan and then went to Alcala de Henares for churros con chocolate. On to way to get the churros we passed through a wine festival and, after stopping again for some cheap tapas, we went to the Colegio Mayor de San Ildefonso.

After that we went back to Yolanda's and the next day we went back to Alcala de Henares for merienda before returning to Las Mesas.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Casa de Dulcinea

On Thursday, October 22nd, I taught at the school and sorted out my Spanish bank account before heading back to Pedro Munoz with Julio for some Merluza (Hake) and rice. Later on after siesta, we went on another excursion. This time we went to El Toboso to see la casa de Dulcinea (the house of Dulcinea). As with the giants in Campo de Criptana, la casa de Dulcinea is the purported site of a famous scene in the fictional novel by Cervantes called Don Quixote which is also known as The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha. According to this particular tale, crazy old Don Quixote is meandering around on his way to some place for some contrived reason when he comes upon a simple peasant woman named Dulcinea.

Well, in his usual psycho way, he assumes that this woman (who, according to Sancho, is rather plain, quite loud and a even bit masculine) is some sort of princess and he vows to defend her honor somehow by going on a "quest" for her for some reason even though he hasn't met her and doesn't actually know anything about her... I think at this point he goes on a killing spree at a local pub. Anyway, after exploring the rather large "house" of Dulcinea (it actually does lend itself to the idea that she was a princess), Julio and I walked around the pueblo a bit. We saw a couple of large statues of the Don and Dulcinea and then went back to Pedro Munoz for kebabs.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Campo de Criptana

On Wednesday, October 21st, Julio and I went to work. On the way he jokingly told me of the "selvas de vino en la Sahara del Manchego" or basically: the wine producing jungles in Spain's version of the Sahara which is inhabited by local people of Castilla la Mancha (Manchegos). Indeed, the vast expanse of vineyards in Spain could easily be compared to that of a desert - endless. Interestingly, as the region lends it's name to it's inhabitants, so does each pueblo; the people of Belmonte are Belmontenos, in Las Pedroneras they call themselves Pedroneros, the Mesenos live in Las Mesas and so it goes from pueblo to pueblo all throughout Spain.

At the school I presented a PowerPoint introducing myself and the land I am from to each of my classes. The day went by pretty quickly and soon Julio and I were back in the pueblo of Pedro Munoz. We picked up some "pan tierno" (fresh bread) and, after returning home, had "merienda" - a light meal usually eaten between lunch and dinner. After that we relaxed for siesta and then headed out on an excursion to Campo de Criptana.

On the way we stopped at a local wetland park followed by the santuario de la Santísima Virgen de Criptana - a cathedral in Campo de Criptana which overlooks the countryside. After that we made a trip over to "los gigantes de Don Quijote" (the giants from Don Quixote). Of course, if you've ever heard the story of Don Quixote, you know that the "giants" are actually just wind mills or "molinos" mistaken by Don Quixote (the crazy old semi-protagonist of the story) for giants. As part of his senile decision making process, Quijote makes the valiant pledge to take down the would-be aggressors (assuming that giants existed anywhere outside of his wild imagination). With sword drawn, he charges toward them in an attempt to slay his rather stationary foe... disregarding the vain cries of his squire, Sancho, who has the futile notion that he might actually be able to talk some sense into his kooky companion.

Pretty wild story right? Just another tale from the adventures of Don Quixote de la Mancha: an instant classic which has been around for centuries... origin of the Spanish conquistador perhaps?

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Bienvenido a España!

On Saturday, the 17th of October, I boarded my plane to Spain and, after a total of about 17 hours flying, I was finally there. I met up with Julio, another professor from my school, and we went to get some tapas before making the drive out to the pueblos. I was really lucky as Julio was not only hosting and showing me around, but he and the school had prepared everything else for my arrival as well.

Most Auxiliares de Conversation / Cultural Ambassadors / Language Assistants, as we're called, have to figure out everything themselves when they arrive - transportation, accommodation, legal documents, etc. Fortunately, my school was happy to help me with everything. They mailed my documents, made appointments for my TIE (Tarjeta de Identidad de Extranjero or "foreigner identity card"), set up a bank account and even put together a mutually beneficial after-school program so that I had some extra cash flow and wouldn't have to seek out my own private classes right away.

After arriving at Julio's place in Pedro Muñoz, we ate lunch and took advantage of siesta - a traditional break period between the hours of two and five. This doesn't necessarily mean people sleep the whole time as the stereotype suggests (in fact, the nap, if taken, is usually only about 15 minutes), but it certainly doesn't mean they can't either. I probably slept through siesta time every day that week (as Julio likes to remind me). It wasn't until dinner that I saw fit to climb out of bed so that we could go get Bocadillos - basically the Spanish version of the ham and cheese sandwich.

The next day I went to Cuenca with Elena, another professor from my school, and applied for my TIE in person... a long trip but necessary in order to fulfill one of the many bureaucratic requirements of working in Spain. Later on, we went back to Las Mesas so that I could meet my students.

Everyone was super friendly and excited to meet me; they had even made a sign to welcome me. Although, as it turns out, everyone at the school had mistaken my surname as my first name... a fairly humorous error that would be repeated over the first month or so about a thousand times a day as the primary students all yell my name every time they see me.

Saturday, October 17, 2015


On Tuesday, the 13th of October, I went back to Ellensburg for a final visit with my brother, Sam. We had a good time hanging out and enjoyed some pretty nice local Mexican food at Fiesta Mexican Restaurant. We also went up into the mountains and did some off-roading with his Jeep which, as you can see in the video below, was a bit more of a challenge than your everyday, casual backroad jaunt.

For my last week in the states I did a few things: I learned to cut my own hair (a bit tricky on the back but taking photos with the camera helps); I tried a few restaurants with my mum (5 Guys in downtown Puyallup, Hawaiian BBQ at the Tacoma Mall, and some old favorites - Taco Del Mar and Cold Stone); I bought some secondhand clothing (used stuff fits better, is often higher quality and comes at a fraction of the price); and I finished packing my bags. On Saturday, the 17th of October, I flew to JFK, New York and then, finally, Spain.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Tiny House Project

On Thursday, September 10th, my dad and I laid the foundation for my tiny house. The day before that we had finished preparing the forms but we still needed a foundation for the foundation. Early in the morning we started by piling up a solid base for the slab to sit on and we placed some plywood around the outsides of the forms to contain the concrete. We also had to put some dirt around the plywood to keep it from bowing out. Finally, the cement truck arrived and we started pouring.

A week later I came back and we started putting up the walls. We were at it for a couple of days and the third wall had to be lifted up by the excavator so that we could carefully lower it down over the plumbing that we had stubbed off around the perimeter.

During the following week back in Puyallup, I went with my mom to have lunch with the
Stampers for their 69th anniversary. We met at Indochine in Tacoma where they had ordered mountains of super delicious Asian food from different cultures - definitely a place worth checking out if you have the cash.

A few days later I was back with my dad putting the roofing on my tiny house. This took two days and, a few days after doing that, we installed the power cables and lights. We also installed the door and the outdoor electrical socket for plugging in a mobile home.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Back to Work!

On Monday, the 10th of August, I went wakeboarding with my dad and my brother, Sam. Later, Sam and I went to Ellensburg to check out his bike and see if I might want to buy it. Unfortunately, his bike wasn't even in good enough shape to get back to Puyallup, so I had to borrow his car. The next day I went back to my job at Pierce College in Puyallup (the same security job I left a few years back when I went to Australia). It's a really great job with awesome people, a flexible work schedule and good wildlife spotting opportunities as you can see above. So yeah, I was definitely happy to be back. Over the next few weeks I spent a fair amount of my time working at the school and for my neighbors, the Stampers while also house sitting for some other friends. I figure I was making pretty good use of my time. I also managed to finally sort out a motorcycle at the end of my first month back home.

The bike is almost exactly like the second one I bought in New Zealand - simple, small 250cc, dual purpose (enduro) and.., Chinese. Unfortunately, as I found out, American mechanics are extremely reluctant to go near these bikes and, as expected, I needed some work done. Well, my dad was able to fix the main problems so that the bike would last through summer but, after that, the safety of the bike would become a concern.

After I bought the bike I went to get it registered in Parkland... where I saw the first of two people that month that I would see running around naked. The other would be at the school and both were in broad daylight... the cops and I had no luck finding the second guy, but I'm not sure I'm really so disappointed about that.

Overall, the main reoccurring theme this month was in relation to my visa for Spain. I must have sent about a million emails to people at the Spanish consulate and the police headquarters in Hong Kong about my background check there. First, Hong Kong demanded a letter from my employer (the Spanish government) stating that the background check was necessary, but the Spanish government just told me to send the Hong Kong police to the program website - which states that I need a background check from every country I've lived in over the last five years (for me that's Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong and America). Of course, Hong Kong didn't like that idea, so I forwarded this to the Spanish consulate who finally agreed to provide the letter. This all took about a month but, of course, it wasn't enough... The Hong Kong government then wanted written authorization from me in order to use MY fingerprints (ATTACHED to my application) in MY background check...

Confused yet? It gets better. They only accept snail mail (no emailed scans or faxes) which, considering that this is China we're talking about, takes over a week to be delivered. Furthermore, after they finally received everything (listed here: Certificate of No Criminal Record) they still needed about a week to process my payment (which cost me double the amount just to convert and send it in their currency - no online payments or USD accepted) and they needed another week after that to process my background check. Only then (in October), after I was already late for my program, did they finally send the background check to, not me (because they don't trust the certificate in the hands of the subject of the background check), but rather the Spanish consulate who then had to combine the background check with my visa application even though the background check was technically required to be submitted WITH said visa application... ya esta!

Aside from all of that insanity, I also had to make several trips back and forth to Olympia during this time in order to get my American background checks sorted which, fortunately, no longer included the FBI check as neither government could seem to get their act together in a reasonable amount of time. I'm pretty sure that any normal person would have just called this whole thing a miss but, what can I say? I guess I'm just a glutton for punishment!

Wow, still reading? Good on ya. Here's a video of bunnies that I took while I was at work...