Tuesday, September 16, 2008


So, as you may know, I´ll be heading out to Athens, the Greek Isles, and Turkey over the next week and a half or so (edit: Already done the first two, on my way to Turkey tomorrow). So it´ll be a while until I can post any more updates (but I´m sure the flurry of posts I'll be posting upon my return - yes, about Madrid and Spain, finally - will keep you busy for a while). Until then, I leave you with my first encounter with Near East culture.

Hopefully, next time: Posts about Spain - Granada, Madrid, my host family, classes, and the Metro system - and the journey to the Eastern Mediterranean region.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Love of the Game

I'm back! Hooray! As you may have noticed, I haven't had as much time to post (good) entries here as I thought I would. Sorry about that. And I'm even more sorry that this and the next post going up have nothing to do with Spain. Rest assured, I'm working on them, but they're just not entertaining enough to put up yet. Nevertheless, here's a post I wrote a few days ago, on 9/11 actually, about my interest in politics.

If there´s one thing I´ve learned in Madrid about myself is that my love of politics is deep and inescapable. When I was signing up for the program, I thought it would be good to get away from politics for a while. I was correct. At about the time AU Abroad had its confirmation/ info session, the Democrats had just had the Pennsylvania primary took place and I had had enough of the thing.

And I think I´ve still had enough. I´ve said for a while that this race would, in the end, be nasty. Some of this stuff that´s been going on, from both sides, is just sickening. But I´m still more interested than ever, hungry for news, eager to share my opinion, excited to hear others´, and concerned for my country - the last one even more so, being so far away from it.

So, in honor of my newly discovered, evidently permanent zeal for politics (and a lenghty survey of the news in the basement - terrace, for you AU students - computer lab of the AU center here, I´ve posted the links to two (short) articles, not on the presidential race, but on politics in general today. They´re both fascinating, and quite good.



Next time: They Might Be Giants.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

It's not a Belarusian trick. It's a Belarusian illusion...

I might have mentioned that I'll be backpacking across Europe for 3 weeks once my study abroad program ends on December 7.

More on that later. No concrete plans yet. I'll get to that. Really. In fact, if anyone wants to join me, send me an e-mail. I'm looking for companions.

That digression/ desperate plea for friendship/ precursor to a sickening online dating personal ad aside, I've lately been considering traveling to Belarus during my travels. Now, some of you are saying, "Hey, I'm not sure, but isn't that the country the State Department deemed 'The Last Dictatorship of Europe?'" I say, "Yes, but my grandfather and his whole family are from the capital, Minsk, and I really do want to explore my heritage. Plus, besides not being six feet tall, I think I look more like a Belarusian than any other people in my ancestry." These being my feelings, I took a moment to do some basic (and for those in my family worried about me, I reiterate, VERY BASIC) research on travel to and touring Belarus.

I stumbled on this priceless wiki page. It is long, but I promise, well worth the read. What I've posted below is absolutely the highlight of the article. I didn't even try to paraphrase it because the writer captures the backwardness and inanity about the place beautifully:

"Legal theft". Most hotels in Minsk are safe. However, be aware of the Belarusian trick. Since Belarusians are very afraid of the authorities and thus of committing a crime, some corrupt hotels may practice a very annoying way of stealing, so called "legal theft" involving maids (often in conspiracy with the reception personnel). While cleaning your room (in your absence) they may hide your personal belongings in the most outrageous parts of your room, combining bizarre sets of items, such as a cellular phone with a piece of bread, a wallet with a cheap magazine or a pair of glasses (!). The trick is: if you miss them, the maid will come and collect them later, if you report the items missing (or find them by yourself) you won't be able to do a thing (since the items never left the room, it is not considered a theft). The personnel may also ridicule your allegation by pointing out why on earth they would want to hide some bread or a hotel magazine - they just accidentally tucked the items away while cleaning. Avoid such unpleasant situations by always locking your valuables in the hotel safe or at least taking them with you. Before checking out, always search the room thoroughly (wardrobes, cabinets, deep shelves, behind sofas and radiators).

The jury's still out on whether this completely excites me or completely scares me about Belarus. At the moment, I think it's a superficial excitement - because the idea is so comical I could easily imagine it as part of an elaborate Buster Keaton routine - with a well of fear beneath the surface - because the trick is in fact an everyday reality in Belarus.

In all likelihood, I'm not going to Belarus. Strike one, it's near impossible to get there because it's so far away from Spain and not on the Eurail lines. Strike two, I think I have to secure (not to mention pay for) a transit visa just to get into the country. Strike three, they're a strong Russian ally, so who knows if we'll even have diplomatic relations with either country in four months.

For all the trouble, Scandinavia is the more doable and less totalitarian option. But a Belarusian boy can dream.

*Next time: A lot. My arrival in Spain, my week in Granada, traveling with 22 girls, and a list of the differences between Spain and the United States.


Hi Everyone! Welcome to Ryan's Blog from Madrid (and other fun places too)! This is probably the last time I'll update this blog. Thanks for visiting!

Just kidding! As you may have guessed, I'm Ryan, and yes, I'll be in Madrid for quite some time.

I think I'm at least the fifth person I know to start a study abroad blog for this semester, so I really appreciate your readership and apologize for being so late to the game. If you aren't reading any other blogs, great! I'm glad I have your undivided attention. If you are reading others, also great. Either way, I'm going to try very hard to make this blog fun and interesting for both of us.

Since this is the first time I'm writing a blog where I can set the ground rules, I'll lay out the game plan: I'll try very hard to update this blog at least weekly, and more if possible. I think the first few weeks will be a good indicator of my pace, so reload the site more often than you ordinarily would during that time to see how I'm doing.

Never mind, new plan: I´ll only be able to update the blog when I have internet access, and judging by how this first week's been going, I won't have it quick or consistent internet. In fact, I'm paying about .02 Euros/ minute right now to use this computer in an internet cafe in Granada, and the European keyboards are frustrating. But more on that later. What I'll probably end up doing is typing up multiple entries on my computer and uploading them all to the web when I get the chance. When it rains it pours, I guess.

Anyway, sometimes I'll have a lot to say, and sometimes I'll have hardly anything to say (Hard to believe, I know, but that's just how my brain works, regardless of what's going on around me. In fact, I hope this blog will help me break of that habit and others, like my habit of being a fairly slow and unnecessarily meticulous writer.) Also expect some commentary on the election (I just can't help myself), particularly how Europeans feel about America and our politics (although I'm sure you can guess).

That´s about it. Oh, I almost forgot. Fun fact: the web address for this blog Ramon Luis Maiz, is a pun on my name. Ramon (my Spanish first name, throughout junior high and high school, at least), Luis (a logical Spanish name for my middle name, Louis), and Maiz (the Spanish word for corn.)

And please leave comments and feedback, ask me questions, tell me what you think of my writing, and things you'd like me to write about. I hope this place can be a forum as well.

I think we're off to a good start! Enjoy my Blog from Madrid (and other fun places too)!

*Next time: Thoughts on Traveling to Belarus, the country the U.S. State Department calls "The Last Dictatorship in Europe."