World Cup Fever in Spain!

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Nicole and I cheering on "La Roja" in one of their early world cup games.

How lucky was I to have lived in Spain the one year they make it all the way to the finals and win the world cup? I suppose some would consider it unlucky, with all the swarms of loud fans, honking car horns, and traffic caused by the games, however as a foreigner from Canada, where nothing exciting like the world cup ever happens, I was thrilled to be a part of the action!

Even though I had never sat down and watched a soccer game from start to end (shocking, no?), I found myself watching every single Spanish world cup game and even dressed up and supported “la roja” like a true Spaniard. Alicante was a truly exciting place to watch the game, where everyone rushed to the bars an hour before the game started to secure seats in front of the many new HD big-screen TVs bought just in time for the games, and sat outside cheering, drinking beer, and having a good time.

For the final game, I wound up in Toledo. After a disappointing first period watching the game in an almost-empty bar, my family and I rushed to the “plaza de toros” (the bull-fighting ring) where the action was at. The plaza was completely filled with people, all sporting the colours of Spain. It was as if everyone in that arena was linked emotionally; we all cheered, boo-ed, shouted, and screamed at the same time as Spain fought their way to become world champions for the first time in the history of the world cup.

Here are some pictures and videos to give you a taste of what it means to be Spanish and support the national football team!

[zenphotopress album=17 sort=random number=12]

WordPress 3.0 Installed

WordPress 3.0 has finally been released, and is now installed on RaphSammut.ca. I’m not sure what happened, but the automatic update knocked out my website and I am now going through the painful process of restoring everything.

(Obvious) Lessons (re-)learned:

  • Always back-up your files!! It’s as easy as making a tar.gz archive of your wordpress directory and a simple backup of your MySQL database.
  • Remember to disable all your plug-ins first (this may have caused my crash).
  • Put your site into maintenance mode before updating.

I could not get anything to work properly, so I just ended up installing a fresh copy of wordpress and am now transferring all my files to the new installation.

Oh well, you live you learn..

The reason I updated WordPress was so that I can start attacking my back-log of unwritten posts! Here’s my checklist:

  • Trip to Florence, Pisa, Siena (May 28-30)
  • The Curious Incident of the Angry Algerian with Two Knives in the Night-Time (June 3)
  • Trip to Malta (June 11-12)
  • Trip to Rome¬† (June 18-20)
  • Las Hogueras de San Juan de Alicante (June 21-24)

What else is new?

  • A big welcome to the new Canadian interns, Lucy Yin and Kasper Woiceshyn who have started working at CYPE Ingenieros in Alicante, Spain and are sharing the flat with us.
  • I bid farewell to by far the nicest and most fun room mates I’ve had the pleasure of sharing a flat with: Conni & Sebastian! (You can check out their awesome blog here).
  • The amazing atmosphere we’ve had in Alicante these past few days due to the feast of St. John and the World Cup (Spain is still in the running!!)
  • My dear mother and brother are visiting a week from today. We’ll be two road-trips: Alicante-Granada/Motril/Trevelez-Toledo-Cuenca-Valencia AND Valencia-Barcelona-Madrid.
  • My Grandmother and cousin are visiting at the end of the month for a weekend.
  • I head to Malta for 10 days from August 7-17, followed by a visit to Finland from August 18-22 and Gothenburg City, Sweden from August 28-29.

Stay tuned for the promised posts! Now that I’m on half-day summer schedule I have time to catch up ūüėÄ

Guide to Living and Working in Alicante, Spain as an EU Citizen

After living and working in Alicante, Spain for almost a year, I decided to make it easy for anyone else who decides to follow in my path. While all citizens of the European Union are welcome to work in Spain, not knowing the local language and customs can be a barrier, especially in obtaining all necessary legal paperwork.

The attached flow chart describes how you can become a full, legal employed citizen in Alicante within just 7 business days! The information is current as of June 2, 2010.

Download the guide now!

Aventuras en Barcelona

English translation to follow below.

El fin de semana del 12-15 de febrero, viaj√© a Barcelona para explorar la ciudad y celebrar el Carnaval. Hab√≠a una oferta muy buena de Spanair para volar desde Alicante a Barcelona directo por solo 25‚ā¨ ida y vuelta. Ya que estaba muy acostumbrado a Ryanair (donde haces la facturaci√≥n en Internet y puedes llegar al aeropuerto media hora antes de la salida) m√≠ compa√Īera, Nicole, y yo llegamos al aeropuerto cuando el mostrador de facturaci√≥n se acababa de cerrar. Ya que Nicole no hab√≠a podido facturar en Internet, no pudo pasar por la puerta de seguridad ni embarcar en el avi√≥n. La mujer de la taquilla de Spanair dijo que no pod√≠amos hacer nada. Ya que solo 25 minutos quedaban, corr√≠ a la puerta de embarque y despu√©s habl√© con otra mujer de Spanair, Nicole pudo embarcar porque antes, yo hab√≠a llamado a Spanair para verificar la reserva, ellos hab√≠an realizado la facturaci√≥n. Por fin, llegamos a nuestro hotel en Barcelona a medianoche. Encontramos un bar que cocin√≥ una pizza preparado para nosotros (todos los restaurantes ya hab√≠an cerrado) y tomamos una cerveza para olvidar todo.

El s√°bado, fuimos primero a la famosa Casa Batll√≥ de Gaud√≠. ¬°Era impresionante! Nunca hab√≠a visto un edificio tan creativo.¬† Todas las habitaciones se hab√≠an dise√Īado de forma completamente √ļnica y con mucho detalle. La casa se hab√≠a dise√Īado sin l√≠neas rectas, porque en realidad, no hay l√≠neas rectas en la naturaleza.¬† Adem√°s, cada habitaci√≥n ten√≠a luz natural. Luego, fuimos a mirar escaparates por la avenida principal de compras (Passeig de Gracia). Descubrimos una tienda muy interesante que se llamaba Nespresso que vend√≠a expreso de mucha calidad en c√°psulas de colores diferentes. Hab√≠a una mesa con caf√©s de degustaci√≥n donde tomamos un caf√© gratis (Ahora he descubierto que hay una tienda de Nespresso se acaba de abrir en Alicante cerca del Corte Ingl√©s). Poco despu√©s bajamos a la Plaza Catalunya y encontramos un restaurante japon√©s de buffet libre. La comida estaba muy rica, y s√≥lo vali√≥ 13‚ā¨. Para digerir la comida, dimos una vuelta por las Ramblas donde hab√≠a mucha gente y tiendas de mascotas, flores, y libros. Tambi√©n hab√≠a un mercado con muchas frutas y zumos ex√≥ticos, frescos, y llenos de colorido. Por la noche, fuimos a un desfile de Carnaval. A pesar de que estaba lloviendo, hab√≠a mucha gente y los participantes ten√≠an mucha energ√≠a y √°nimo.

En nuestro √ļltimo d√≠a en Barcelona, fuimos primero a la Catedral de la Sagrada Familia (otra obra maestra de Gaud√≠) para ir a misa. Despu√©s, no pudimos entrar por la parte principal porque hab√≠a una cola de horas. Entonces, desayunamos y fuimos al Tibidabo, un parque de atracciones encima de una monta√Īa donde pudimos mirar toda la ciudad. M√°s tarde, bajamos a la Plaza Catalunya otra vez para comer en una tasca y despu√©s, dimos otra vuelta por las Ramblas. Por la tarde, fuimos al puerto de Barcelona y fuimos de tiendas a un centro comercial all√≠.

El lunes, tuvimos que despertarnos a las 4 de la madrugada, y a las 8, llegamos en Alicante y fuimos a trabajar.

Barcelona es una ciudad muy antigua y muy impresionante. Me gusta mucho más que Madrid, y tengo que irme otra vez para ver más. La arquitectura, la cultura, la comida… ¡toda está muy bueno! ¡Qué suerte tuve que Nicole pudo ir después de todo!

In English:

On the weekend of February 12-15, I travelled to Barcelona to explore the city and celebrate Carnaval. There was an amazing offer from Spanair to fly directly from Alicante to Barcelona for just 25 euros (round trip). Since I was quite used to flying Ryanair where you check-in online and can arrive at the airport a half hour before the departure, Nicole and I arrived at the airport just as the check-in desk closed. Since Nicole wasn’t able to check-in online, she didn’t have a boarding card and couldn’t pass through security. The lady working at the Spanair ticket counter told us there was nothing we could do! Since only 25 minutes were left before departure I ran to the gate and after speaking with the staff there, Nicole was able to board since I had called a few hours before to confirm the reservation and Nicole was checked in over the phone. When we finally arrived at our hotel in Barcelona around midnight, we found a bar that cooked us a frozen pizza (since all the restaurants were already closed), and we drank a beer so as to forget what had happened earlier.

On Saturday, we first visited Gaud√≠’s Casa Batll√≥. It was incredible! Never before have I visited a building so creative! Every single room was uniquely designed and with great attention to even the smallest of details. The¬†entire house was built without the presence of straight lines, since there are¬†no straight lines in nature. Moreover, every room¬†was designed to allow natural light to enter. Afterwards, we went window-shopping along the principal shopping avenue (Passeig de Gracia). We discovered an interesting store called Nespresso that sells their coffee in small, colourful capsules. There was a tasting station were we enjoyed a free¬†shot of espresso (a Nespresso store recently opened up in Alicante and I now have my own machine :P). Next,¬†stopped by Plaza Catalunya and found an all-you-can-eat Japenese buffet. The food was very good, and only cost 13‚ā¨. To digest the food, we took a stroll down the Ramblas of Barcelona were there where many people selling pets, flowers, and books. There is also a colourful¬†market¬†were you can find fresh, exotic fruits and juices. At night we went to the Carnaval parade. Despite the fact that it was pouring rain, there were lots of spectators, and the participants had a lot of energy and spirit.

On our final day in the city, we visited Gaud√≠ unfinished masterpiece, the Sagarada Familia Cathedral and heard mass in the newly renovated crypt. Unfortunately, we couldn’t enter the main part of the Cathedral since there was an hour-long line-up to get in! So instead, we had breakfast and went to Tibidabo, an amusment park located on top of one of Barcelona’s mountains from where you have an excellent view of the whole city. Afterwards, we returned to Plaza Catalunya for lunch in a tasca (tapas bar) and went for another walk along the Ramblas and waterfront.

On Monday, we had to wake up at 4 in the morning, and by 8, we had already arrived in Alicante and went to work.

Barcelona is a very old and impressive European city. I, in fact, enjoyed it more than Madrid and will have to return to see more! The architecture, the culture, and the food… everything is amazing! How luck we were that we were able to board the plane in Alicante!

Buenos Días

Wow! Time flies. On Tuesday I will pass the three-week mark here in Spain. I just woke up not too long ago as last night was Fiesta Night! Wondering what a Fiesta is? It usually starts with a big dinner at around 10pm, followed by some drinks. At around 1 or 2 in the morning, you head to a few nightclubs and dance until around 6 or 7 in the morning. Afterwards, it is common for people to go for breakfast near the beach. Last night I only made it till 4 in the morning, but I still have plenty of time to build up my endurance.

A week ago, I had a dream that I left Spain still not speaking much Spanish. I made it my priority to find a way to take Spanish Lessons, and next week I’ll start with my first Spanish Lesson at a language school in downtown Alicante. It should work well as my current schedule at work allows for a 2-hour lunch break, and from now on, one of those hours will be a Spanish class. I hope to learn quickly since I’m always immersed in Spanish. All my co-workers speak Spanish, I have to occasionally read and translate Spanish documents, and the documents I produce are in Spanish as well.

Work at CYPE is really enjoyable so far! The working environment is great: everyone dresses casual, other engineers are always more than happy to help out when you run into problems, and the work is very self-driven. I am really surprised at how much responsibility and freedom I have after just two weeks here. I spent two days getting trained on how to use the software, was shown my desk, and was told to go through the American Steel Code (used to determine if steel structures in the USA are safe to build). CYPE’s software uses these codes to analyze CAD models of structures and report any problems to the user. In my first week, I found a few small errors in the code and began working with a programmer right away to fix them. In my second week, I was asked to train a new intern to use the same tools I was using to get his job done.

In other news, I’ve booked my first two trips!

From October 2-7, I’ll be travelling to Bologna, Pisa, and Florence with some co-workers. The round-trip flight from Alicante cost me 40 euros (although my friends got the fare for 20 euros), and we’ll be renting a car when we’re there so we can drive around and explore. Look for a post upon my return!

From November 21-24, I’ll be travelling to London and meeting up with some friends who are working in Switzerland. I managed to get this flight for only 20 euros with Ryanair ūüėČ

While I haven’t booked it yet, I’m also planning to travel to Malta to spend Christmas with my family and friends for the first time in 18 years.

That’s all for now. Check back soon for more updates!