Saturday, December 22, 2012

Back in San Diego...

... and the surf is gnarly. I got wrecked by these waves in Del Mar!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Seen in Madrid #7 - Belén

This awesome nativity scene (Belén in Spanish) was made by our doorman Luis. That is definitely a space poster in the background.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012


I spent the last weekend in Porto (Oporto for some), Portugal.

Porto is known for its beauty, so we found a spot at the top of the Jardim do Morro and toasted with mimosas while drinking a breathtaking view of the old city and sparkling river below.

Porto is known for its wine (port), so we toured an old famous wine cellar called Graham's. I'd never had port that I had particularly liked until here. I also found out that I'm a high-quality vintage year (1985)!


Porto is known for its food, especially Bacalao (codfish) and Francesinhas (which are overwhelmingly rich 4-meat sandwiches, covered on all sides by walls of cheese and a sweet, but spicy gravy) so we ate unreasonable amounts of both.

Porto is known for its beaches, so I took the chance to go surfing in Europe for the first time, while my buddy Cromwell took the chance to go surfing for the first time, in Europe.

Porto is NOT known for its Americans, but I had a wonderful time with a pretty amazing group of them! Oh, and Ben. He's not American but he's a cool dude too. Special thanks to Herb, a fellow Stanford alum that we met in the airport and supplied us with humor throughout the weekend and beautiful photos afterward.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Christmas Lights

Even in a recession, Madrid doesn't hold back on decking itself out in lights during the Christmas season.


All along Gran Via, and down all the streets leading toward Puerta Del Sol, bright lights amaze and excite.

Inside La Plaza Mayor, lights shine down on the Christmas market, where vendors hawk gaudy Christmas decorations made in China, the crowds press close together and the smells of roasted nuts waft over everything.

Not to be left out, our house has gotten into the Christmas spirit with decorations and a tree! 'Tis the season!

Monday, December 3, 2012

What's That Under the Tree?

A Christmas puzzle!

...don't worry, back to actual adventure posts this weekend. I'm off to Portugal!

Seen in Madrid #6 - Don Quixote and Sancho Panza

At night in Plaza de España.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Seen in Madrid #5 - Protesting Doctors

One of many strikes and protests that have swept Madrid in the past few months. These doctors and hospital workers are protesting cuts and reforms that are trying to privatize some of Madrid's public hospitals.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Regulations and Radicalism

As bankers discussed the technical aspects of capital requirements that would minimize the stifling of economic growth from the safety of Santander's suburban campus, young Spaniards in central Madrid defaced bank branches with graffiti and prepared for confrontation with the heavily-armored police.

Yesterday, the 14th of November marked the last day of Banco Santander's annual international banking conference, this year titled, "Global and local solutions for growth and stability." The 14th was also the date of a planned general strike, in both Spain and other countries, to protest austerity and the role of the financial sector in the current crisis.

The conference, headlined by speakers from the ECB, the Central  Bank of Spain and Banco Santander, was a gathering of policy-makers, academics, regulators and bankers in earnest discussions to find ways to get Europe's economy back on track. Despite the suits and hors d'oeuvres at lunch, this was no back room old boys' club. There were genuine disagreements over how rapidly reforms must be implemented to prevent another crisis like this, while still keeping growth and recovery for the European people as a priority. However, there did seem to be an almost wilful ignorance of what was happening elsewhere in Madrid.


The strike, which I started seeing fliers for about a week ago, was supported by all of Spain's major unions and promised to paralyze public transportation and commerce around the city. A grand demonstration was planned for 6pm, which I missed while still coming back from work. The strikers demanded that the rich and powerful implicated in the crisis pay more rather than let the middle class suffer through the layoffs, evictions and budget cuts caused by the recession. After wandering the aftermath and taking some photos, I had a chance to sit down with a Spanish girl later that night who had taken pictures and been there for the demonstration. She told me that each new manifestación has been increasingly radicalized. As darkness descended on the 14th, protesters knocked over trashcans, threw objects at the assembled police, and set some things on fire, also seemingly ignorant of the efforts of the very policymakers and bankers that they were railing against, just miles away.

It struck me how similar the goals of these two events were, but how different the means and the rhetoric, and how little communication was occuring between the two world-views.


My friends Valerie and Colin were planning on moving to Tunisia at the end of this summer, but then a day or two before they left, Tunisia happened. Luckily for me, their Plan B ended up being a move to our southern neighbor Morocco! RyanAir flights from Madrid to Tangier are pretty cheap, so even though RyanAir is probably my least favorite airline, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to jet down to Morocco to visit my friends.

Although they live in Rabat, we met up in Fez, which meant I had to make my way from Tangier to Fez by train on my own. I befriended the two women in my row on the 1.5 hour plane flight on the way down and one of them, a Moroccan, shared a cab with me into central Tangier after yelling angrily at our taxi driver (or maybe this is just what Arabic always sounds like. I'm still not sure).

As I arrived at the train station a heavy downpour drenched both me and the many dirt sidewalks, leaving just as suddenly as it had come. The wet landscape in the touristy district near the train station turned pink as puddles and the sea reflected the setting sun.

My train ride was an adventure, as I didn't know that I had a transfer and then I didn't know where to transfer. It takes a village to ride a child and apparently it takes a trainload of Moroccans to get me to Fez in one piece. At one point, I had gotten off the train and was trying to understand while two Moroccans hung out the window of the train, arguing with each other about whether I should get back on the train or stay standing on the dark rural platform. I'm glad I reboarded rather than getting stranded here.

I arrived in Fez at 10pm, its winding narrow streets reminiscent (as Colin so appropriately noted) of Agrabah. The three of us stayed in a beautiful home we found on AirBnB in a tiny little alleyway.

The next day, we wandered Fez's streets...

...browsed its markets...

...discovered the secrets of leather dyeing...

...and weaving...

...wandered an old madrassa...

...drank tea in a giant palace...

...and spent the evening on our roof drinking wine and eating dates and olives like ancient Roman aristocracy. My favorite moment of the trip came as we sat on our rooftop and the evening call to prayer began: musical chanting echoing from a dozen different tinny-sounding speakers from a dozen different minarets, enveloping the darkening city with a solemn but caucophonous reverence.