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Permalink 05:34:49 pm, by joseph Email , 1312 words   English (US)
Categories: Announcements [B], Cultural

Spain-day 1,part 2

This is part 2. Part 1 is still on my iPhone and i will upload it later.

Sunday, September 26.
Arrived in Madrid around 7 in the morning.  We were one of the last to exit the plane and had to wait for someone to get mom to escort her and her wheel chair to customs. The walk to customs was something out of a Steven King movie, the one where folks find themselves all alone at an airport.  The handicap escort told us to walk down a long tunnel and he would meet us at the other end since he had to drive mom to the customs station. During the long walk there was literally nobody around, making me question if we took a wrong turn somewhere.  We just kept following the signs to luggage pick up.  10 minutes of walking we found the customs station.  We had to wait a couple of minutes for mom to arrive via shuttle. 

In the movies, going through customs is a major undertaking.  However in Spain, it was a mere hiccup.  I just handed them our passports, they opened them up, stamped them and gave them back to us.  No questions, no looks, nothing.  Heck there was no line to wait in to be passed through.  It was much different than going through customs via Canada or Mexico.

Since we were late getting there, our luggage was waiting for us we walked up to the carousel which was kinda nice.  I did laugh because next to the luggage was a cubicle where people could light up their favorite tobacco product.  OMG, these Spaniards love to smoke.  Luggage in tow, we made our way to Alamo to get our vehicle.  I had reserved two vehicles because I wasn't sure which type would be best for us.  For those who haven't been to Europe, it is a bit of a quandary to figure out what they have against automatic cars.  Perhaps they get some masochistic thrill of driving stick shifts, but, yeah, all the vehicles they had were stick shifts which meant that for the next two weeks I'm the only one who will be doing the driving.

The first vehicle was a 7 passenger van which was just that - a van for 7 passengers, 7 passengers WITHOUT luggage.  Really Alamo, you rent out a vehicle at an airport and don't consider that maybe they will have luggage?  Would it hurt for you to add 4-6 inches of cargo space?  Since option #1 was out the door we had to settle on option #2, a Opal Jumpie 1.8.  It seats 9 people and their luggage.  The down side it is tall and not that smooth of a ride.  I bring that up because mom was unable to get into the vehicle on her own and the drive was painful for her.  Have I mentioned how much I hate round abouts and hidden speed bumps?

Since we weren't able to check in until 3:00 p.m. We decided to go and check out Segovia.  It is a small and old town with a rather unique castle that inspired Walt Disney when he built tinker bell's castle.  The drive was very windy through the mountains which made for a lot of gear changes.  I couldn't help but recall the phrase " if you can't find them, grind them". 

We made it to the town and was able to see the castle from a distance.  We were hungry, so I punched in a restaurant that uber travel guide Rick Stevens recommend and off we went.  What I didn't anticipate was that the route would take us through the old town.  Okay, if you are driving a mini Cooper, this would have not been a problem, but I was in a full sized van, driving on cobblestones.  We never did find the restaurant but did come away with an exciting story.  Since the roads are small, many of them are one way roads meaning you can go back.  I bring this up because I came face to face with a one way road that went between two buildings.  To put you in a better state of understanding the situation, I'm driving a stick shift van, going down hill with no way to turn around.

Before I go any further, I wanted to tell you of the time we went drove to Oregon and had the opportunity to drive through a redwood tree.  It was kinda fun to drive through it as the walls of the tree were inches from our van.  I bring this up because I was now forced into a similar situation.  This time the stakes were raised as the space between us and the buildings were less forgiving.  We are talking less than an inch on either side of the van, not to mention I had to swing both mirrors inward to fit, forcing me to drive blind.  Since this damn van was a stick shift, their was literally no redo.  It was as Yoda said. "Do or do not... there is no try".  Inch by inch I made my way through with the boys in the back exclaiming "oh no, oh no!" in anticipation of the sound of metal scraping stone.  But alas, we made it through unscathed.  It was my first indication that there was someone looking out for me, which wouldn't be the last time before the days end.

We decided to head back to Madrid to check into our hotel room.  We decided to take a longer route back that didn't have roads that were so windy.  I guess I should mention that with the exception of the 2 hours before we left for the airport, I've been awake for 40 hours.  With the driving taking its toll on me, I was starting to feel the effects of sleep.  I pulled over and took a shot of my Stackers 5 hour power to give me a pick up so I could make the two hour drive back to Madrid.  In short, it took awhile to kick in.  Unfortunately before it kicked in I started dozing off.  I was doing a pretty good job of staying awake, thanks in part to those roundabouts and hidden speed bumps.  But once I got onto a major highway, the effects caught up with me.

In Spain the roads don't have those grooves on the sides to alert you when you are drifting off the road but thankfully Spaniards have mastered the use of their horns, which saved me from running off the road and into the median barrier. All I remember was being in the #3 lane and waking up in the #1 lane.  It is a miracle in itself that I didn't hit anyone in the process.  I will say this much, after the awakening, I was fully awake for the rest of the way to the hotel.

Prior to coming to Spain, I read up on the driving habits and was at awe at how accurate the write ups were.  When driving in Spain, you take the attitude that it's you against the world...and everyone is out to take your lane from you.  Counter this with the fact that street names are not on signs but on the corner of buildings in very small font, not at all unlike driving in Boston.  Now you get the idea of getting around in Spain.  I did mention how much I hate roundabouts, right?  But the thing that just made me say WTF, is that locals use the right lane as their own parking space.  You're driving along and the car in front of you stops, puts on his flashers and the driver high tails it to where ever they need to go.  In a span of 2 miles I witnessed this seven times.  

We did make it to our hotel safely, and thankfully there was a parking space right in front of the hotel!  Saved me 17€.


Permalink 05:07:09 pm, by joseph Email , 1241 words   English (US)
Categories: Announcements [B], Cultural

Happy Mother's Day to my five mothers.

In the mid 90’s a popular quote from Africa that was used as a title for a book by Hillary Clinton entitled “It Takes a Village to Raise a Child” I often feel as if someone in Africa has me in mind when they coined that phrase.

You see I find myself in an inimitable position here, for most of the year life kind of takes me where it wants to go with business as usual. But then comes May, the month that we set aside the second Sunday to honor mothers. Early in my youth this was an easy process. In kindergarten I recall making my mom a candle that we made in class by pouring wax into sand at the communal sand box. I hid this precious gift in our pickup truck under the seat so no one would find it. Yeah this was the 1964 Ford Pickup that hauled all six of us around where ever we went. No seat belts back then, but with 4 kids and two adults; I doubt there was really a need for belts to be worn. Many a time I recall being the one sitting on the passenger floorboard between someone’s legs as we drove down the road hitting every bump and pothole along the way. At least it was warm down there all balled up next to the heater.

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Permalink 10:24:04 pm, by joseph Email , 2342 words   English (US)
Categories: Announcements [B], Political, Cultural


Originally a 2 part article which I have condensed into one article. This article is about my grandpa, Eulalio Arzaga Sr, who currently lives in Killeen Texas.

floated right
By MARK BROADAWAY Killeen Daily Herald

We're the battling bastards of Bataan;
No mama, no papa, no Uncle Sam;
No aunts, no uncles, no cousins, no nieces;
No pills, no planes, no artillery pieces.
... And nobody gives a damn.

Those grim words became the battle cry of former Filipino Scout Eulalio “Eli” Arzaga of Killeen, who helped defend the mountainous peninsula of Bataan for 14 weeks during the Japanese invasion of the Philippine island of Luzon.

With an empty stomach and sick body, his mind tortured by the strain of fighting with the knowledge that all hope of aid from the outside was gone, Arzaga fought until overwhelmed by hunger and disease.

“Beriberi swelled my face until I could hardly see,” recalled Arzaga, who joined the elite 26th Cavalry Regiment in March 1938.” By the time (Maj. Gen. Jonathan) Wainwright surrendered, I had the chills and my entire body was numb.”

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Permalink 03:27:50 pm, by joseph Email , 835 words   English (US)
Categories: Fun, Cultural


Here is a list or signs that will help you identify if you are at a Filipino Party. Feel free to comment and add any observances you may have to help others identify if they are indeed kickin' it at a Pinoy Party.

~You're an hour late and there's still nobody there!

~There’s enough food to feed the Philippines.

~You can't even get through the door because there's a pile of 50 shoes blocking the way.

~You see a huge fork and spoon on the wall, a framed picture of the Last Supper, a huge Santo Nino, and a barrel man.

~Someone is singing "Peelings" on karaoke.

~There's a piano in the living room for decoration.

~You are greeted by a Tita Baby and/or a Tito Boy.

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Permalink 03:24:43 am, by joseph Email , 1099 words   English (US)
Categories: Political, Cultural

I am Filipino, what can I do?

Last week I received word of an award winning author from the Philippines coming to National City to give a talk. I was intrigued not some much that a Filipino author was coming to town as I was in knowing more about his book, now in its 9th printing, entitled 12 Little Things Ever Filipino Can Do to Help Our Country. The same author also wrote the passionate award winning poem I am Filipino.

In breaking with Filipino tradition, I showed up early at Kalusugan Community Services in order to get some candid photos and catch up with folks I’ve not seen in a while. As I was watching people come and fill the room, I found myself standing next to a quiet gentleman, similar in size and age who looked oddly familiar. I started making small talk, mainly in hopes I could remember where I’ve met him. Well, about 2 minutes into our conversation, it hits me where I’ve seen him. His name is Alex Lacson, the author that everyone was coming to see that evening. By the way, his photo on the promotional flyer is exactly what he looks like in person.

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