a few things about espanananananana.
mercadona is like publix except 10 times smaller. first thing i noticed was how alcohol is crazy inexpensive. the first time i walked in i felt very weird because they don't have shopping carts here. instead, they have baskets with a handle and wheels. so you can carry the basket and if its too heavy, you can drag it around. i got used to it about the 3rd time. i almost always use my mastercard at mercadona with my florida drivers license. all the markets are closed after 9pm and all day sundays. at first this caught me off guard but i guess for emergencies, there has to be something open. there are 24 hour stores, similar to convenient stores back home. the prices are double or triple the supermarket amount. i quickly learned to get all my shopping done on saturdays and a few days after work.
el corte ingles...think of it like the size of super-walmart with the quality of macys. you can buy almost anything there. its a giant green building with many floors. the basement floor has a grocery store; slightly bigger than mercadona but the variety of items is much larger. walking around, at times i felt like i'm at sears, home depot, macys, best buy, publix...insanity!!! oh and blue label for like 12 euros?!?! also at the el corte ingles, i was asked for my passport when i tried to buy DVDRWs with a credit card. luckily i had cash on me. i thought they were as cool as mercadona with the drivers license.
vodafone kind of sucks! at the charmartin station in madrid, while waiting for the train to albacete, i bought a spanish sim card. i have at&t and before i left i got the unlock codes to temporarily unlock my phone for international travel (it's legal and they're cool about it)...also at&t's international rates rape your wallet so and gabriel from PIRE has been in spain before and he told us about it. it's about 30 euros but the minutes quickly run out at first. the nice thing here is that you can add credit to your phone from an atm and select groceries stores check out lines. vodafone allows your to refill your sim card online but it never works for me. receiving calls here is free but making them costs the $...which leads people to test friendships by seeing who calls. another option is what we have in america...the data plans. we've been using the "missed calls" as a signal so minutes aren't used.
to call home i got an international calling card from cloncom.com. it's very cheap and definitely worth it. the quality is very good. right after i bought the card, i see that skype has a SIP to PSTN service (skypeout) that's about the same rate if not cheaper. not having a phone ring or text alert every other minute is muy bueno! no 'phantom' rings in a long time :) i used cloncom once to call the folks and then relied on gmail for video conference.
for a small town such as albacete, i noticed there sure are a ton of banks (ccm, santander, barclays, to name a few). i've been going to barclay's in the center of town because there's no transaction fee for bank of america account holders. at mercadona i get charged a 1% foreign exchange fee, according to my bank statements. also the dumpsters are kinda cool. they have a lever on the bottom. when you step on the lever, the lid opens up. i just realized that its like out trash cans at home...except these are the size of our dumpsters.
i'm kind of glad i don't have a tv. on one hand i could learn spanish or better understand it. and on the other hand, if i did have a tv, i probably wouldn't get so much work done as i am now. and speaking of, i noticed how everyone's nuts about "the simpsons." everyone watches them, even when it turned to crap. it comes on around 2 so during lunch time, i see people of all ages watching. also in valencia, in the park, i noticed a graffiti of bender from futurama. at uclm, there's the same graffiti of bender. which leads me to believe that matt groening may be well received in spain.
oh and finally, before leaving florida, i got the 'targus travel power adapter' from best buy for $21. it's a huge rip off. you only get one port so my laptop is plugged into it at all times. i'd recommend once coming here, you can get adapters with 2 ports for about 1.5 euros at one of the local shopping centers like el corte ingles or carrefour.
Keywords: alcohol, banks, bender, blue label, calling home, carrefour, dumpster, el corte ingles, european power adapter, food, mercadona, shopping center, simpsons, skype, supermarket, tv, vodafone