Posts Tagged fruit

Exposing Ourselves to Spaniards!

Mr. HalfFull and I participated in VaughanTown (an English immersion program for Spanish business people) as English-speaking volunteers.  And boy did we speak!  It was a heck of a lot of talking for an introvert like myself, but even Mr. HalfFull’s extroverted social battery was happily drained by the end of our week.

When we applied for VaughanTown as we were planning our 30/40 World Tour, we were excited at the prospect of cultural exchange with Spaniards.  After traveling for an extended period of time, all the churches, monuments, and town squares start to blend together.  What you really want is the human story and the insider’s perspective.

As a tourist, it’s hard to meet natives; you don’t travel in the same circles.  But even if you did happen to meet each other, how would you start a deep and meaningful conversation?  It’s unlikely to happen, so VaughanTown is a great way to capture real Spaniards and make them talk to us!

Meals

VaughanTown final dinner

Our final dinner at VaughanTown was served on a long banquet table instead of the 4-6 person tables for normal meals

Each day at VaughanTown, we were required to eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner in groups of 4 or 6 with even numbers of Spaniards and Anglos to keep the conversation going.  Lunch and dinner were always full service meals at the 4-star hotel with an abundance of wine.

One-On-One Sessions

One-on-One Session

Mr. HalfFull in a One-on-One Session on the hotel steps

But the majority of our time was spent in One-On-One Sessions with one Anglo and one Spaniard.  Anglos were given an idiom to explain to the Spaniard, but aside from that we were just supposed to talk about anything for 50 minutes.  As you can imagine from normal life, this can be easy or excruciating depending on the person.

Gredos Lobby

Ms. HalfEmpty waits in the hotel lobby for her One-On-One partner

I learned a lot about the lives of these Spaniards from the personal to the cultural.  I even got to ask my burning questions about Spanish life.  I was supremely disappointed to find out that most working Spaniards do not take a siesta in modern life.

My favorite part of Spanish life was just shattered!  But the Spaniards explained that it’s not really practical to drive home for lunch and siesta if you have a long commute.  It just extends the day, and they would rather finish their workday earlier.  Makes sense, but still disappointing.

Walking Back to Gredos

Ms. HalfEmpty walking back to the hotel

Remember when I said we did a lot of talking?  There was also a lot of walking.  The grounds around the hotel were beautiful, so we would often walk and chat for our session.

The closest town, El Barco de Ávila, was cleverly located a 25-minute walk away from the hotel.  So just as you approached the edge of town (with all the Spanish speakers), it was time to return to the English enclave at the hotel.

Sleeping

Ms. HalfEmpty in her room during a free session

After a 10 minute break, it was time to move to your next One-On-One Session.  Sometimes, there were more Anglos than Spaniards and we would get a session of free time.  My introverted self loved these breaks.  I often used them for another siesta, in addition to the one after lunch.

El Barco de Ávila

Mr. HalfFull was able to game his way into town.  Some of the Spaniards requested permission to buy fruit during their One-On-One Sessions.  So 2 Spaniard and 2 Anglos (including Mr. HalfFull) spent their session driving to town.

Beers in Town

Mr. HalfFull and the fruit buyers enjoy a surreptitious beer in town

They were supposed to buy fruit and come back to our English oasis.  But instead, they stopped for some beers.  When the program organizer found out, she wasn’t pleased.  But it actually turned out to be a serendipitous occasion.

One Anglo traveled to VaughanTown from India.  His trip ended up taking 3 days, so he missed the group bus from Madrid.  He had to find his own transportation to the nearby town, but never made it to the hotel.  Apparently, the program sent a taxi to town to pick him up, but they missed each other.

Hides

Animal hides hanging from a balcony in town

So what is a weary traveler to do?  Grab a beer, of course!

Church

Look Mom, I tried to go to church, but they wouldn’t let me in!

Somehow Mr. HalfFull heard the Indian man speaking English in the bar and had a feeling it was the missing Anglo from VaughanTown.  Mr. HalfFull introduced himself and bear hugs ensued!  The Indian traveler was so relieved to be rescued by VaughanTown comrades.

Aqueduct

Aqueduct in El Barco de Ávila

The rest of us got to town later in the week on a group outing.  We all walked to town on perhaps the hottest day during at the sun’s peak!

El Barco de Ávila is a quaint village with Roman and Arab influences.  It contains a small aqueduct, a castle, chapels, and even an old prison.  It was fun to finally enter the town we had been walking toward and peering at from afar all week.

Entertainment

Mr. HalfFull Plays a Bull

Mr. HalfFull in his role as El Torro!

Sometimes, instead of One-On-One Sessions, you would be pulled into a group to prepare entertainment — a skit, dance, etc.  Mr. HalfFull often got roped into these.

Skit

The bull fighter, Carrie, and Lady Gaga dance as Darth Vader watches. This is high art, people!

In his first performance, he was a bull.  He really took this role to heart.  He tore through the space running into chairs.  He even knocked over a floor lamp, that I was able to catch from my seat.  The other characters from his skit were Carrie from Sex & the City, Lady Gaga, Darth Vader, the famous Spanish bull fighter Enrique Ponce, and Big Bird.  Hilarity ensued.

Bollywood Dance

Mr. HalfFull and his fellow Bollywood dancers perform “Jai Ho”

Mr. HalfFull also started his training as a Bollywood dancer at VaughanTown.  If you know Mr. HalfFull, you know that he believes that nothing good can come from a man dancing past age 25 (unless it’s his wedding).  So you can imagine my surprise when he danced to “Jai Ho” from Slumdog Millionaire.

Teaching Lindy Hop

Ms. HalfEmpty teaches Lindy Hop

My contribution to the entertainment was to teach Lindy Hop, the original swing dance from the late 1930s.  I taught Lindy-style Charleston to the group and ended with a mini-performance.

Queimada

Mr. MC brews queimada in an elaborate ceremony

On our final night, Mr. MC brewed queimada for the group in the Galician tradition.  The base of this concoction is aguardente, a spirit with high alcohol content, that burns to a fiery blue. While Mr. MC was preparing the punch, others read a spell to confer special powers to the queimada and those drinking it.  It was a rather spooky affair.

Queimada Taste

Ms. HalfEmpty is not a fan of queimada

When I saw that the queimada was flavored with coffee, I was quite excited to try it!  But it was terrible.  I couldn’t even finish my little cup.

The Experience

By the end of the week, I was worn out!  But I am glad that I had the chance to get to know all sorts of Spaniards from recent college graduates to medical doctors and government workers.  Plus, I also got a chance to get out of the city, see a bit of the idyllic country-side, make some personal connections, and even learn about my namesake for free.

 

  • How do you meet natives while traveling?  Do you enjoy making deeper connections?
  • Have you ever found your limit on interaction?
  • What ridiculous characters have you played?
  • If you went to a place like VaughanTown, what talent would you share?

Ms. HalfEmpty is a 30-something introverted realist, perhaps a pessimist. But she’s trying to see the world half full on halfempty4now.com, which she started in February 2011. Her worldview may not be all bad, as it probably helps keep her husband, Mr. HalfFull, grounded and out of trouble!

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Wandering Through Barcelona

You may be wondering if we did more than sleep and attempt to buy train tickets in Barcelona.  Yes, we did!  Eventually, we ventured out of our hotel to see the sights.

Barcelona side street

Many of the homes in Barcelona had shutters or fabric siesta shades to block out the afternoon sun. I love that the culture is so focused on naps!

When we first left our space-like sleep chamber, we ended up on a nearby side street with various fruit shops.  We would stop into one and buy something that looked deliciously ripe.  Then we would go outside to eat it just in time to visit the next shop.  I’m sure the store clerks were annoyed that we were only buying one piece of fruit at a time, but it saved us from carrying anything (and saved the environment from one more bag).

Ham Shop in Barcelona

I’ve never seen so many legs on display!

We did not enter the meat shop on the same street as the fruit stores.  But we did spy through the window.  Leg after leg of meat hanging by the hooves was quite a sight to behold.  Legs of meat aren’t as immediately edible as fruit, so it wasn’t so practical to pick one up on this outing.

Our initial process of sightseeing was basically to wander.  We had a map and general direction in mind, but stopped whenever we saw something of interest.

Perhaps our tanned skin made us look a bit like Spaniards or perhaps we carried ourselves with purpose.  But it was a bit comical when other tourists would ask us for directions as we wandered.  We didn’t even speak Spanish!  (Incidentally, this also happened to me on a trip to Mexico.  Natives would start speaking to me in rapid fire Spanish.)

CaixaForum

A neat line of mopeds and motorcycles in front of CaixaForum, a social and cultural center in Barcelona. Moped drivers were quite the daredevils, darting in and out of urban traffic!

I thoroughly enjoyed our somewhat aimless walk. We saw some beautiful architecture and panoramic views of Barcelona as the sun set.

near Place St. Jordi

Ms. HalfEmpty pauses amidst the beautiful scenery near Place St. Jordi

As we started walking back toward the hotel at 10:30 PM, I felt a rumbling in my tummy. That 1 PM lunch wasn’t going to keep me full forever!

We stopped into a restaurant and asked to be seated outside.  It was such a lovely summer night.  We had just been in winter in the southern hemisphere for much of our summer and then experienced the extreme heat of Dubai, so night in Barcelona was just the right temperature for dining al fresco.

But we were the only people outside and the servers looked at us funny when we asked.  Maybe they were annoyed that were creating more work for them.  Outside is a longer walk with more doors.

Palau Nacional de Montjuïc

Mr. HalfFull and Ms. HalfEmpty below Palau Nacional de Montjuïc. Fortunately, we captured Mr. HalfFull’s good side in this self-portrait! But both of my sides are good, so that’s why I’m centered. =)

After our 3-course lunch, of course we had to have a 3-course dinner.  Again, this one came with wine.  We had recovered enough by this point to partake.  But there was SO. MUCH. FOOD.  Just look at the appetizers they served us!  We still had 2 more courses after that.

appetizers in Barcelona

Ms. HalfEmpty starts another 3-course meal with appetizers. Yes, those are JUST the appetizers for TWO people!

After finishing our meal, we laid down on the sidewalk and rolled back to the hotel.  No wait, that’s just what I wished we had done.  We stumbled home full and happy, ready to sleep in preparation for another day of eating our way through Barcelona.

  • Do you make an effort to buy fresh fruit while traveling?
  • Do you prefer to see meat in small packages or full legs with hooves?  Do the hooves freak you out or is it a good natural reminder of the source?
  • Do you prefer to wander or have a plan while traveling?  What about in life?
  • As a tourist, do you ever get mistaken for a local?
  • Do you seize opportunities to eat outdoors?  Even when everyone else is inside?
Palau Nacional de Montjuïc

Palau Nacional de Montjuïc sits atop a hill with a beautiful view of the city below

view from Palau Nacional de Montjuïc

Panoramic view of Barcelona from Palau Nacional de Montjuïc

view from Palau Nacional de Montjuïc

View of gorgeous towers as seen from Palau Nacional de Montjuïc at sunset

Ms. HalfEmpty is a 30-something introverted realist, perhaps a pessimist. But she’s trying to see the world half full on halfempty4now.com, which she started in February 2011. Her worldview may not be all bad, as it probably helps keep her husband, Mr. HalfFull, grounded and out of trouble!

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What’s in a Name?

What’s in a name?  Apparently, not much.  In the South Pacific, we found that the presence of a sign was more important than a name to put on said sign.

Local No Name Apples

Mr. HalfFull selects some Local No Name apples in New Zealand

Kiwi No Name

While driving through New Zealand, we would often stop at roadside fruit stands.  Being on the move and eating out for every meal doesn’t usually provide much fruit in the diet.  So apples in the car was a delicious and healthy seasonal snack.  At one fruit stand, we decided to try the Local No Name apples.  They were perhaps the best apples we had in all of New Zealand — sweet, crunchy, delicious!

No Name

Ms. HalfEmpty puzzles over the sign for No Name in New South Wales, Australia

Aussie No Name

In Australia, we found another more permanent No Name sign during our bus safari from Sydney to Melbourne.  We were on a road that requires a special license — a curvy, narrow, dirt road through mountains with no guard rails.  I don’t think we saw another car, which was fortunate because I was worried about the possibility of a head-on collision with the bus around a blind curve.

We did see a few signs along the road with names of the forests and one marking our entrance into Victoria province.  But I still found it odd that they erected a permanent park sign without first deciding on a name.

  • Do you think names are important?
  • Have you seen No Name signs?

Ms. HalfEmpty is a 30-something introverted realist, perhaps a pessimist. But she’s trying to see the world half full on halfempty4now.com, which she started in February 2011. Her worldview may not be all bad, as it probably helps keep her husband, Mr. HalfFull, grounded and out of trouble!

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