The Truth About When Lockdowns End

China and Hong Kong are about to face a second wave. Their lockdowns ended just a few weeks ago. Please, let this be a lesson to you.

When lockdowns end, you are going to want to go to the club, or to a party. You might want to rush to the beach or take that group camping trip with your friends you have been swearing you would take for the past 5 years.

Don’t. Here’s why…

When lockdowns end, it does not mean the end of Corona Virus. It means that it is safe to go outside. That does not mean life as we know it has resumed and all is good in the world.

While I understand the want for the little things (like a cup of Starbucks’ coffee or a gin & tonic from one of the local bars), it is going to be how we handle ourselves AFTER quarantine that dictates when we can return to life as normal. If we all go to the club and party like nothing happened, then we are begging for another outbreak and a return to lockdown.

So, while I understand that it will be difficult, for a few weeks avoid large crowds, avoid going out a lot, and, most importantly, wear facemasks, wear gloves, and WASH YOUR HANDS!

Lockdown in Spain

Intro

4 walls. It’s just me and these 4 walls.

I scratch a mark for every day that has passed. I am a prisoner in my own home.

Ok that was a lie.

But we are in lockdown.

Here is what I have been up to:

Netflix

A classic. I have probably watched more Netflix in the past week than I have in my entire year abroad. I am a huge SUITS fan, but I decided that 5-6 times of watching a series is a bit much, so I started watching movies quoted in the show. Now is a good time to catch up on the classic movies your friends and family have been bullying you about seeing for years.

Books

I have been reading a little bit more than usual. I finished “Getting to Yes” (great book btw)and have started a book that my grandfather wrote about the political thought of Roger Martin Du Gard. Next I plan to read “Think and Grow Rich.”

Schoolwork

My online classes haven’t been cancelled, so I still have to do work. Unfortunately, I only have one class left, so it does not take up too much of my time.

Conclusion

Lockdown sucks. But, I know it is worth it.

Please, #STAYHOME and #STAYSAFE.

Cordoba

Intro

My mom had been to Cordoba a few months ago and believed that it was an important place to visit. We went there on Monday the 24th with one of her friends who was visiting.

Train Ride

I am not sure that there are a whole lot of options aside from Renfe for this trip, but the train rides both ways were nice and, even if there are other options I would recommend Renfe.

Mezquita

The Mezquita in Cordoba is beautiful. Once a cathedral-mosque, it became a mosque in 784 AD and then a cathedral again and is now a cathedral-museum. It is truly breathtaking and was the highlight of my visit.

Castle Past the Roman Bridge

Unfortunately, I do not remember the exact name of the castle turned museum that I went to, but if you find the roman bridge you will find it. The former castle is one of the few museums I have enjoyed (I am not a big museum person). Inside, I learned a lot about Spanish culture and Arab culture. As an Arab-American, an opportunity to learn about Arab culture always excites me. My favorite part was probably the top of the castle, which has a beautiful view. 10/10 would recommend.

Conclusion

I loved my first trip to Cordoba. If you can go to the Castle and Mezquita, you should!

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Do as the Romans

Intro

My trip to Rome last week was my first time in Italy. It was an amazing experience and I would like to share some things with you.

Ryanair

Ryanair is a budget airline, and this was my first time taking one of their flights. The flight to rome was nice, I was in an aisle seat, and the people next to me didn’t bother me. The flight back I was in a window seat, and the people next to me did bother me. So, I have to say that it’s ok. The biggest downside is that seats don’t recline.

Shopping

Rome has a lot of shopping, a lot of which is really nice. You don’t need to break the bank to get one thing in Italy! Many people only know Italian designers such as Fendi, Gucci, or Prada where a shoelace costs $300 (I saw a dress that looked like a shoe string that cost more than that) but fail to realize that Italy also has designers such as Dan John and Doppelganger that are much cheaper, and look nice too!

Colosseum

I did not actually go into the Colosseum, but I have heard great things about it. I did walk there with my mom, and on the way, we saw the tomb of the unknown soldier, many statues and artists, and giant seagulls. I would recommend walking there so you can see all of these things and more, and next time I will for sure go inside the Colosseum.

Food

As a big fan of Italian food, I had to eat pizza every day while I was there. Fortunately, carbs don’t count I Italian pizza (google it!). As a guy that loves to eat pizza, I have had it in pretty much every country I have been to, and I have to say La Locanda Di Pietro in Rome has the best pizza in the world! Also, I feel like I need to thank Italy for introducing me to Cappuccinos!

Vatican Museum Tour

On our last day, my mom and I did a tour of the Vatican museum and I have to say that it was the opportunity of a lifetime! There were many works of art that captivated even people who are not the least bit interested in art. The highlight of the tour was, of course, the Sistine chapel. The only downside was that I could not take a picture of the Sistine chapel, but it will forever be etched in my mind.

Conclusion

My first trip to Italy was relatively short, but eventful, fun, and the experience of a lifetime. I can’t wait to go again!

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5 Apps to Make Travel Easier

Intro

Going to a foreign country for a long period of time can be difficult. I know that it has been for me. However, there are a few apps that I believe have helped make it a little easier.

Meetup

The first app is meetup. Meetup is an app that allows one to join groups and participate in activities. This app works in just about every single country, to the best of my knowledge. I have met the majority of my friends in Malaga at a meetup group’s activity.

WhatsApp

Outside of the US, it seems like WhatsApp is the most common mode of online communication. In the US, it is a little popular as well. WhatsApp allows you to text on Wi-Fi, allowing users to not pay massive international fees for a few texts. I use it to communicate with friends in Malaga, friends who have gone back to their home country, and even a few friends in the US.

Amazon

Without Amazon I think I would have gone insane. As a reader, Amazon has allowed me to get access to books in English. Most bookstores here have very few English books, most of which are classics. I like a good classic book occasionally, but right now most of my reading is business and self-improvement focused. Amazon has also allowed me to order products that, while readily available here, are of the quality I am used to in the states.

Omio

Omio is an app/website that allows you to order train and bus tickets. In Europe, a lot of places are not too far away, especially in your country. My mom and I have used Omio to go to Seville, Barcelona, and Madrid. She has also used it to go to Cordoba. If you like travel, but hate planes, I highly recommend Omio.

Duolingo

Before I came to Spain for the first time in the summer, I had used Duolingo for a few minutes every day for about a month. While this did not make me fluent, it did make learning how to order food, ask where something was, and greeting people a lot easier. I recommend using this for about a week or two before you travel somewhere where you do not speak the language.

Conclusion

These 5 apps have helped me a lot so far, and I believe they will continue to help me in the future, both with my year abroad, and with future trips!

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NFL Football – A guide for watching abroad

Intro

The NFL playoffs have just concluded. The San Francisco 49ers and the Kansas City Chiefs will play on February 2nd for the Superbowl. Being a huge football fan, I had to watch a few playoff games. During the regular season I would watch a few games when I had time (I was always checking scores) on YouTube TV. During the playoffs, I found a few bars that showed the games, so I went to check some out. Here is a detail of my experience.

YouTube TV

YouTube TV is great for watching TV in general, not just NFL or in another country. In fact, it is even better in the United States. In other countries, you might need a VPN. Here are the pros and cons of using YouTube TV

Pros:

  • Watch from the comfort of your own home
  • Do not have to worry about strangers getting the channel changed (a big problem in Europe when there is soccer playing)

Cons:

  • VPN most likely required
  • VPN can cause slow connection to Wi-Fi for other devices on the network
  • Video quality can be very poor
  • YouTube TV can be expensive

Go to a Sports Bar

The other option you have is to go to a sports bar. This too has many pros, and many cons.

Pros:

  • A lot have NFL RedZone allowing you to watch many games at the same time.
  • Meet other people (I have met quite a few Americans while watching football)
  • Watch other sports at the same time (if you’re interested)
  • Getting a drink once or twice a week is cheaper than YouTube TV

Cons:

  • Someone may get the channel changed to another sport
  • Can be loud (but let’s be honest, if you’re an American football fan, this is a pro)

Conclusion

I personally prefer watching football in a bar. If you are in Malaga, a good one to go to is Las Tortugas Bar in plaza Merced, but many others show it as well. If you know of any other good places to go, or platforms to use, to watch American football in Malaga, let me know!

Volleyball in Malaga

Intro

When I first came to Malaga, I wanted to find a group I could meet with weekly where they spoke English and Spanish (so I could communicate and learn), and where I could be active. I searched for basketball and American football on Meetup (highly recommend you download this app if you travel a lot) and found nothing, but, almost accidentally, I stumbled upon this group called “The Coolest People in Malaga” which is basically a club for people from all over the world. I have met a lot of Spaniards (obviously), some Americans, Europeans and even a few people from the Middle East and Africa.

Volleyball

When I first started going to volleyball, the only interest I ever had in Volleyball was if a girl I was dating played. While volleyball is not my favorite sport, it checked all my boxes, so I went. It is 45 minutes walking from my apartment so the first time I went I thought I would probably never go again, but I enjoyed the games so much that I decided it was worth it. The long walk from Centro can actually be a plus. I view it as my alone time and a time to think and reflect.

People

As I said in the intro, the people you meet at the games have very diverse backgrounds, so it is a very culturally educating experience. A lot of the people speak Spanish (in fact, I have met maybe three people there that do not speak Spanish and have met more that do not speak English) so it is a good way to learn some words. I myself am not a particularly good volleyball player, so it is nice that most of the people are not too competitive and are very understanding. So far, I have not met a single person that I do not like, and I find just about all the people very interesting!

Conclusion

If you are ever in Malaga, you must join this group at http://meetu.ps/e/.qdlpmrybccbqb/Lx2h5/a and go to the volleyball games! They have other events as well if you are interested.

Holidays in the Costa del Sol

Intro

In the past, I have done Christmas in either the Washington, D.C. area, or in Montreal ,and New Year’s had always been in DC, but I had never done either outside of North America. It was quite a different, but interesting, experience.

Family from Washington

My Dad, brother, and grandma were supposed to come for the holidays, and, in a perfect world, they left yesterday. Instead, their flight to Montreal got delayed, and their flight from Montreal got cancelled. After multiple attempts to get to Malaga, they spent Christmas in Washington, but my mom and I talked to them almost every day.

Family from Canada

My cousins were supposed to fly from Toronto, Ontario on the 18th, but due to delays, ended up arriving on the 19th. They were tired when they got here, but by the next day were full of energy and ready to have fun in Malaga. One of them left the 26th, the other left the 31st.

Christmas

In Malaga, there is a major street called ‘Larios’. On Calle Larios, there is a beautiful light show during the holiday season, and on Christmas we went to see the 8:00 show, but the music did not work, so we walked for a bit, and my cousins made an amazing dinner. We exchanged symbolic gifts for the most part.

Seville

After one of my cousins left, my mom, my other cousin, and I took a train to Seville. We walked around and saw the cathedral, a few antique shops, and a few college campuses. Because we were only there for a day, we decided to use the opportunity to see what we want to do in future visits.

New Year’s

On New Year’s Eve, I went to a party with a few people who I play volleyball with every Sunday. It was more chill than I expected, but still a lot of fun. Fireworks are apparently very popular in Malaga, and I saw 4 or 5 firework shows (not sure how many of them were legal, but I must assume that only one was). Afterwards, I walked home with some friends of mine from the group.

Lessons Learned

  • Don’t fly through Montreal during the winter
  • Seville is great for a day trip, but if you have the chance, you should go for several days

Conclusion

This was my first Christmas and New Years in Spain. It was exciting, and I am excited for future holiday seasons here!

Tour of Istanbul

Intro

I took a three day trip to Turkey, and on one day I had am 8-hour walking tour of Istanbul. The tour ended up being me, the guide, and one other person. I saw a lot on my tour, so I want to talk about 5 of my favorite sights.

The Blue Mosque

The interior of the Blue Mosque features 4 pillars in the corners, but has many others that have been added for design purposes, such as the ones in the picture above.

The Blue Mosque was one of my favorite sights of the day. There was a lot of history behind it, including its competition with the neighboring Hagia Sophia, the reason there are 6 minarets outside it, and the reason that it is called the Blue Mosque. The Blue Mosque is something I would recommend that everyone visit because it is so close to so many things, it is free, and one can learn a lot about history and culture there.

The Grand Bazaar

One of 22 entrances to the Grand Bazaar

The Grand Bazaar officially has 4000 stores. In addition, there are 3000 stores on the streets around it. In total the Grand Bazaar has 7000 stores, making it just a little bit bigger than the malls I am used to hanging out at. There are stores selling a varity of items, from rugs to fidget spinners, at varying levels of quality. You can buy jewelery, fake designer brands, real designer brands, suits, and more. The Grand Bazaar is a spectacle, and if you are ever in Istanbul a visit there is required.

Underground City

Istanbul is home to an underground city. Literally. Under almost the entire city there are tunnels that are part of an ancient city that have had various purposes at different times in history. Unfortunately, nowadays these tunnels are home to a lot of homeless people and drug deals, so a lot of the enterances are being blocked off, but you can still see some parts. I went to a waterway that features two Medusa heads that are upside down. In the past, these heads served as protectors from invaders, but today they just protect tourists from not having something to take a selfie with.

Horse Square

One of the obelisks in the Horse Square

In Istanbul, there used to be a lot of horse races. They would feature chariots led by 4 horses. This used to be done in a square that also hosted parties, executions, gladiator fights, and more. Today, there are two obelisks, one of which was partially rebuilt after one of several invasions into Turkey, and the other which is still standing. There are still a lot of horse races in Turkey, but they are held at Veliefendi race course.

Sultan’s Palace

The Sultan’s chair in his office

I saved the Sultan’s Palace for last because it was the last place I visited, as well as my favorite part of the tour. The Sultan’s palace is now a museum that features artifacts from all over the world, including relics from Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. There is a display of where the Sultan used to have meetings with his advisors, where he used to work, and a kitchen that puts those granite countertops you see on HGTV to shame. To visit some parts, such as the Harem, or “woman section” of the palace will cost more than the initial 72 TL ticket. The Sultan’s palace really inspired me to become a sultan one day.

Conclusion

You can not see all of Istanbul in one day, or even one year, but if you are fortunate enough to visit, you should go see these 5t sights:

  • The Grand Bazar
  • Any part of the Underground City
  • The Blue Mosque
  • The old horse track
  • The SUltan’s Palace (Topkapi Palace)

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Traveling Solo in Madrid

Intro

On November 8, I went to Madrid on my own to visit IE University for an open day. I was in Madrid for less than 5 hours, less than I had spent on the train ride there and back (I spent 5 hours and 20 minutes on the train), but I still learned some valuable lessons. This was my first solo trip in Europe. I had taken flights on my own in the states, but it is not the same experience. At all.

Train Rides

I had 5 hours of train ride ahead of me, so I decided this would be the perfect opportunity to try something: not downloading any movies for the train rides. Now, this was my first time, so I did download a documentary, but the goal was to learn/be productive for 5 hours straight where I had limited access to the internet. Apart from writing this blog, I did not do much that was productive, but I will try this again on my next flight and write about my experience!

IE University open day

During the open day we were treated to a lecture by one of IE’s professors. Here he is teaching us about Deep Work.

IE University is one of my top choices for university. They advertise innovation and the encouragement of entrepreneurial thinking, and the open day proved it. I showed up 15 minutes late because I had poorly timed my train rides, but they were still showing the marketing presentation that I had already seen twice, so I did not miss much. After I got there, they had some former students talk about their experience with IE university. Right when I had chalked this up to yet another marketing session, a professor said he was going to give us the first lecture on focus and concentration; he had my attention. A lot of it was about social media and its negative effects on us. I already knew most of what he said, but I did learn a lot as well. The open day really was an interesting and educational experience and totally worth the trip.

Walk to the Train Station

Here is a photo of me outside Madrid Atocha train station

The open day finished at 6:30 pm and my train was not leaving for almost 3 hours. Naturally, I did what anyone would do with three hours in Madrid: walked to Tim Hortons for donuts. I then walked back to the train station, taking a longer way to walk through Retiro Park. I had heard a lot about Retiro Park, mostly from my mom, and decided since I had time, I walked through it. I mostly walked within eyeshot of the fence so I wouldn’t get lost, but it was a nice experience. Although it was a little scary, the walk through the park was worth it!

Lessons Learned

As I said in my intro, this was my first time traveling alone in Europe, and here are some lessons, most of which can be applied to travel in general, I learned:

  • Bring a pair of sweatpants in your bag. This will definitely make your train/plane rides more comfortable
  • Always double and triple check times of events if you are doing a trip for the sole purpose of going to said event
  • You never know what you are going to learn, so always be open to new experiences and listen to what people are telling you
  • Watching the Minimalism:  Documentary About the Important Things on Netflix is a good use of an hour and a half
  • Charge your phone before going on a trip, ESPECIALLY WHEN YOUR TICKETS IS ON YOUR PHONE
  • Even if you charge your phone, bring a portable charger

Conclusion

While it was only a short trip, this journey was definitely life changing. I am grateful for the opportunity to take the trip and I am excited for my next solo trip!