Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Hasta Luego Sevilla

TTU COE in Seville is over now and most of the students have started to disperse on their various paths back to the U.S. Last night was our last night together and we commemorated the event with an Italian dinner that was outstanding. We had a class meeting from 10:00-1:00, lunch and siesta, another class meeting from 5:00-9:00, and then went to our dinner that finished at about midnight. We are all fully acclimated to the Spanish lifestyle. Last dinner photo album

Each of the students got a commemorative t-shirt (modeled below by Tommy and Carson) which I hope they will wear frequently in Lubbock to help encourage another great group Tech engineering students to come next summer.

Its been a great summer. Most of us are ready to go home now but I don't think anyone wanted to leave earlier. The students were all fantastic. You made Kathy's and my summer extra special. Thanks Mark and Stacy for the great job you did with your classes. It wouldn't have been half as good without you.

Hasta Luego (see you later) Sevilla.

The End of Thermodynamics

This is our last official day (Tuesday) for our "TTU COE in Seville" and appropriately, the students got their final exam in thermodynamics. Unfortunately, this course was somewhat back-loaded, meaning that we had a lot of material to cover in the last few days. We met twice on Friday but quit early enough for some of the students to make a Peace Cup futball (soccer) match in the evening. They got Saturday off so that the students could make one last trip to Cadiz and the beach or get some late souvenir shopping done. Then we met twice on both Sunday and Monday for a total of 14 hrs. Some of their host moms were shocked that I made them come to class on Sunday. One even asked if I had a wife (meaning a life). But, the students didn't complain too badly and the problem solving practice paid off. Although the tests aren't graded yet, I am sure they all did well.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Manufacturing Processes

This morning we had our last official excursion for the summer. It was a short bus ride to the outskirts of Sevilla to visit an Yvarra food processing and packaging plant. The Yvarra company was started in 1842 to produce olive oil which is still a mainstay for the company. The visit to their plant gave our students an excellent opportunity to see applications of process control and automation. (Follow this link for the Yvarra Photo Album.

Our tour guide, who works as a biologist/chemist for Yvarra, did not speak English. Dr. Inglis, who is the TTU Sevilla Center Director, served as our interpreter and did an excellent job. We received an in-depth presentation on the processing necessary to produce the variety of grades of olive oil, e.g. extra virgin olive oil.

It is standard procedure for all employees and visitors to wear hats in the plant. The hats given to us will make excellent souvenirs that I am sure will show up in Lubbock.

Material handling and packaging in an automated processing facility is always fascinating.

The plant is fully computerized with a centralized control center.

Computerized inventory control is also a critical element of the plant.

The visit to Yvarra was very interesting and we all appreciated their hospitality. Between the visits to the solar power center, Sevilla municipal water company, and the Yvarra food processing plant, our students have seen a wide variety of engineering applications and possible career options.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Concert at the Alcazar

The United Nations has designated 2009 as the International Year of Reconciliation. In observance of that declaration, one of the nightly outdoor concerts in the gardens of the Alcazar highlighted medieval music on period instruments representing the three major religions which coexisted in Spain for several hundred years: Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. (See the July 12th blog entry 'While the Students Are Away' for more pictures from the Alcazar). The class got together for a dinner at a sidewalk cafe and then went to concert. It was a very pleasant and entertaining evening. Please pardon the poor quality of the night-time pictures. We didn't want to use a flash. Concert Photo Album

Sevilla Municipal Water Company

This morning (Thursday), we visited the municipal water company for Sevilla, EMASEA. A company engineer (who spoke excellent English) spent over an hour with the class in the main control center to describe the various systems.

The majority of Sevilla's water comes from man-made lakes in the mountains approximately 35 miles north of the city. If all of the lakes were full, they could provide a three year supply of water for Sevilla and several surrounding communities (slightly over 1 million people). However, southwestern Spain is prone to droughts and Sevilla is forced to draw water from the nearby river every 20-30 years. That is undesireable because the river water is much more difficult and expensive to treat. Most of the time, water is drawn from the two highest lakes which have sufficient altitude to drive a hydroelectric power plant and for gravity driven flow to the water treatment plants on the outskirts of the city.

Storm and waste water removal are also the responsibility of EMASEA. Sevilla is like Lubbock in that it is very flat and when it does rain, it pours. Flooding is , periodically, a serious problem. Rather than using playa lakes to store the storm surge as we do in Lubbock, Sevilla uses huge underground tanks.

A particularly interesting part of the presentation related to their control systems. The central control room had one wall that was completely covered (30ft x 8ft) with a single screen where the output screens from several computers could be arranged and overlapped just as if they were on a desktop computer. On those screens, the operators could check the status and control all aspects of the mountain reservoirs, hydroelectric plants, water transport lines, treatment plants, distribution systems, and waste water collection and treatment systems. All of the these major systems also have localized autonomous control systems that could continue safe operation if communication to the central control center was disrupted. Very interesting.

Unfortunately, for security reasons, we were not allowed to take any photos in the control center.

Art Appreciation Wraps Up

The Art Appreciation class has ended, and I (Stacy) just wanted to share some of the experiences and projects.

After a brief introduction to the intentions and motivations of artists, and different types of and examples of art, the Art Appreciation class went to Madrid to visit the Reina Sofia, Thyssen, and Prado Museums as well as a private gallery to discuss the art. Upon returning to Seville, we viewed more art and began to create art in a visual journal, not only to record the experiences, but to enter the world of the artist by making art. Below are some examples of the different projects.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Living With a Host Family by Kerry

Lodging for all of the students (and Kathy and I as well) was with host families. In many cases, the host family was just a host mom. Here is Kerry's assessment of her and Lauren's experiences with their host mom, Pepi.

Living with a host family is far and above the best way to delve deep within into Spanish life and culture. This account concerns the experience of living with a Spanish housewife for two months while studying abroad.

One of the first things I noticed about my Spanish home was the size. The flat is much smaller than the typical Texas sized home and everything must be stowed in its right place. My roommate, Lauren, and I share a room with bunk beds (she graciously took the top bunk) but we usually don’t stay in the bedroom for too long. Most of our time at home is spent with our host mom in the living room (el sal√≥n) where we have meals, do our homework, and watch TV in Spanish.

Our host mom is quite the character. The main barrier we have is language: she speaks absolutely no English. However, Lauren and I are up to the task and we have both improved our Spanish immensely since arriving here; we regularly have long, drawn out conversations with our host mom (she loves to talk). Although, when we first arrived, we were both pretty rusty and had to buy a bilingual Dictionary. Our host mom cooks us 3 meals a day. Breakfast (desayuno) is usually buttered toast, juice, tea, or coffee, and occasionally muffins. For lunch (la comida) around 2:30 pm, we usually have an appetizer, the main course, and fruit for dessert (and occasionally ice cream). After lunch my roommate and I take the famed siesta and nap for an hour or two before going to school at 5. Dinner (la cena) is much lighter fare and served very late (9:30 pm). If we decide to go out for lunch, our mom even makes us sub sandwiches (bocadillos) to take with us. She does a good job of figuring out what we do and don’t like, but we have our share of misfires and miscommunications. During one incident, Lauren accidentally told our host mom she wanted mango slices in her salsa when she really meant the salsa tasted sweet. Our mom came home with a mango the next day. Luckily, I managed look up the right words in our dictionary to correct the confusion.

A big change for Americans is the lack of air conditioning, and I have been no exception. Lauren and I leave our window open and use the ceiling fan whenever we’re home. It’s a different world when you can’t crank down the A/C to 60˚F and bundle up. Fortunately, our host mom takes pity on us and turns on the A/C in the living room when it gets really hot. For this reason, we get out of the house a lot and walk around the city in the shade. It forces you to go out and really see Sevilla instead of baking inside.

Overall, living with a family is a great experience and my Spanish trip wouldn’t be complete without it. Even though we have some occasional miscommunications, it’s worth it to experience the authentic Sevillan lifestyle. I hope to visit my host mom when I come back to Spain sometime the future.

Tommy's Big Adventure

I am including Tommy's description of his adventure in Pamplona as an example of the not recommended way to travel in Spain. I was hugely relieved that he made it back safely.

Tommy's story:
I went to Pamplona this weekend to see the festival of San Fermin and the Running of the Bulls! It was pretty crazy. It was like the entire city was having a party. Pamplona has about the population of Lubbock, but a million people come each year from July 6-14. I took a couple of buses from Sevilla to Madrid, and Madrid to Pamplona, and ended up on the bus for about 12-13 hours. Hotel/ Hostel rooms are ridiculously expensive, so I just kind of camped out at the bus station and on a park bench and pretty much anywhere that looked like a nice place to go to bed. I ended up getting there in time to see the running twice, bright and early at 8:00 AM. I think most people were up all night partying anyways, so they didn’t seem to mind being up at 8:00. I made a bocadilla the first day for lunch and ate a whole bunch of beef jerky. I ended up spending 100 euros for the transportation to and from Pamplona, but only 20 for everything else. Everybody in the whole town was wearing white pants and shirts, a red bandanna and a red sash/belt. The first morning I got to the barricade to watch the running at like 6:15, but I got there too late so that I couldn’t really see much. So the next day I got there around 4:00and got a seat on the barricade, and sat for 4 hours and watched the bulls run for 20 seconds, it was epic.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Solar Energy

Spain is a world leader in the development of altenative energy and Thursday we got a chance to visit their solar energy research center. We saw their concentrated solar/steam 10 and 20 MW power plants which were very impressive. Next week, we will be discussing vapor power cycles and will be able use these plants for sample calculations. Solar Power Excursion Photo Album

Pizza Night

As the end of the summer draws closer and we start think more of things back home, it seemed like a good idea to have a "pizza and movie night." Wednesday was our second one and the movie was "Sleepy Hollow" which at least I considered a big improvement over "Step Brothers" that we watched last week. The pizza in Sevilla is not exactly Papa John's but not bad.

There are some Texas Tech students in there.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Vist to Lagos by James

With Spain mastered, 15 of the students decided to take on Portugal last weekend. This is James' account of the weekend. A complete set of his photos are located at this link: Lagos Photo Album.

This is James.

This past weekend 14 of my classmates and I decided to take a trip to someplace warm. A place where the beer flows like wine. Where beautiful women instinctively flock like the salmon of Capistrano. I’m talking about a little place called Lagos.

We started our trip Friday at 1:30, at the Plaza de Armas bus station, where we boarded for a short 4 hour bus ride to our destination in Lagos. Once we arrived in Lagos we decided to explore the city, and by explore the city I mean look for our hostel. While walking around nearly the entire little city we were able to see the beautiful ocean along with little white buildings that made up almost the entire city's hilly and curvy streets. After “exploring” the city for nearly 45 minutes we stumbled across our hostels, which in our favor happened to be right across the street from each other. Half of us stayed in the Casa Sauza while the other half stayed in the Carlos House. I can’t speak for the lads in the Carlos house but our room in the Casa Sauza had a bunk bed and 3 smaller beds right next to it, along with a wonderful balcony(with a table and 4 chairs none the less) and a small bathroom with a shower, toilet, and sink. Also right outside our room was a little kitchen to help us get by without making too big of a dent to the wallet or purse.

Upon settling in we talked to the very helpful guy working at the Casa Sauza to learn where everything in Lagos we could possibly need was. By this time we were all pretty hungry and wanted to go grab a bite to eat, but first we had some grocery shopping to do. We bought everything we needed to hold us over for the weekend, or most of the weekend at least. Speaking very little Portuguese at the store was no problem because most of the people in Portugal new English which became a real treat the entire trip.

After returning the groceries to the hostel it was time to go eat. Carlos informed us about a cheap restaurant to eat at called Casa Rosa. When we got there the place was packed and there were no places to sit. We waited a short 5 minutes and actually got a really long table that was connected next to the Spanish group (just a coincidence). The menu was pretty simple, 3.95 euros per plate, and if I remember correctly consisted of a pork platter, hamburger, spaghetti (all you can eat for an hour), ribs (which they didn’t have at the time), chicken burrito, and more that I can't remember off the top of my head.

After the meal we walked back to the hostel to get ready to adventure into the Lagos nightlife. We discovered that you can't walk more than 5 minutes without someone approaching and promoting their bar or club, which made the 10 minute walk into 20 minutes. We then went out to discover a pretty upbeat nightlife with tons of places to go within a small distance of each other. Throughout the course of the night we split up into small groups with plenty of good stories to tell the following morning.

As the night turned into day we awoke with a plan to go to the beach. Like usual, it is hard to get the entire group to get moving at the same time. The group I went with quickly got lost and ran into a few dead ends where we thought we could possibly get through. After correcting our mistakes we arrived in what I thought was paradise. It had to be one of the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen, it was covered with rocky cliffs and crystal clear water. I guess you can say it paid off to get a little lost. As it seems to be a trend with all the beaches that I have been to in Spain and Portugal, the water was extremely cold. That entire Saturday was spent leisurely hanging out on the beach, visiting the nearby cave, going to other coves, and climbing the nearby cliffs to get unbelievable views of the entire beach and city. Oh and have I mentioned all the beautiful people that Portugal seems to attract. Very impressive. Some of us liked the beach so much (me, Carson, and Kyle) that we stayed the entire day and were the very last people to leave the beach that we were on.

Eventually we went back to the hostel to shower up and make some dinner. Our very wonderful chef Chris decided to make a monster size bowl of pasta that could have fed a small nation (any single ladies looking for a man that can cook, Chris is available). The pasta turned out great, and I believe fed almost our entire group. Being exhausted I did not go out that night, but others did and had another great night in Lagos. The next morning the girls, along with ladies man Chris, went kayaking and as far as I know went pretty good. The others took another trip down to the beach to relax until we had to be at the bus station by 4.

All and all the weekend was a great success and I could definitely see myself returning to Portugal. The atmosphere there was one of a kind. Great beaches, beautiful scenery, extremely nice people, it’s hard not to like. Also it seemed to have an endless amount of touristic things to do. Some of the things I can remember are kayaking, taking a boat to see the caves, go dolphin watching, parasailing, jet skiing, they even had a zoo. More than enough to do in a weekend.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Spanish Food

A surprise for us has been the Spanish food. Growing up with Tex-Mex, we expected strong flavors with a lot of spices. That isn't the case at all. At first we thought the food was extremely bland (We had to go out and buy our own black pepper). Now we can appreciate it as just more subtle. The picture below is the lunch our host mom served this past Sunday. It is a fried egg, rice with tomato sauce, and a lightly deep-fried plantain (banana). Although it looks a little strange, the flavors all went together very well.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

While the Students Are Away

Most of the engineering students have followed the Spanish students to Lagos, Portugal, this weekend. The summer is winding down and they are packing as much as possible into the last few weeks. Here is a map of the parts of Spain and Portugal that they have visited. Our official excursions took us to Cordoba, Granada, Toledo, and Madrid. Most of the students have also made their own trips to Cadiz, Malaga, and Lagos. About half of the students are planning an additional 1-2 weeks of travel to other parts of Europe at the end of classes. They have learned how to schedule bus, rail, and airline reservations and discovered how inexpensively and comfortably they can stay in the hostels located in all of the major cities. Kathy and I are planning to rent a car and make our own trip to Lagos next weekend. That should be an adventure.

This morning, Sunday, Alex and Kenneth joined us for a stroll through Sevilla and provided the horsepower for a paddleboat ride on the Guadalquivir. They claimed student exploitation but I think they were just whining.

With the students gone, Kathy and I did a little sightseeing on our own to visit the Royal Alcazar and the Plaza de Espana. The Alcazar (palace) was originally a Moorish fort constructed in the 10th century. It has been modified by many of the Spanish monarchs over the centuries, most notably Pedro "the Cruel" in the 14th century. It still serves as the royal residence for the king and queen of Spain when they visit Sevilla. Royal Alcaza Photo Album

The Plaza de Espana is part of the construction for the Ibero-American Expo (World's Fair) of 1929. The purpose of the exposition was to improve relations between Spain and the countries in attendance (Portugal, The United States, Brazil, Uruguay, Mexico, Peru, Argentina, Chile, the Republic of Columbia, Cuba, Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, Bolivia, Panama, El Salvador, Costa Rica, and Ecuador), many of which were former Spanish colonies. Plaza de Espana Photo Album