Friday, July 20, 2012


I woke up this morning a bit cranky but very happy that Friday has finally arrived.  This summer has moved along at a snail's pace because I know a great adventure awaits me this year.  Still I remind myself how lucky I am to be gainfully employed and enjoying the time I have left in Denton.  So I roll out of bed, get ready and before leaving my apartment, decide to check my e-mail.  Lo and behold, I got an e-mail from the Conselleria d'Educació, Cultura i Universitats de les Illes Balears.  My jaw hit the ground!  It finally came!  Upon further reading I found that I will be teaching in a school named C.P. Costa i Llobera in a small town called Pollença ([poˈʎɛnsə] for those who are linguistically inclines or pol-YEN-suh for the others).  Seriously, check out their website.  There are pictures galore.  Now if you're like me, your Catalan is a little rusty, but that doesn't matter.  It looks phenomenal.  The little town is located in the Serra de Tramuntana range on the northeast side of the island (about an hour away from Palma, where I hope to live) and has a population of about 16,000.  Sounds tiny, huh?  Don't pity me.  Check out the pics below.
You can see Palma de Mallorca on the south-west side of the island.  The circle in the north is Pollença.  It's about an hour's bus ride from Palma.

Couldn't you die?

A typical street in town

An overview with the town cathedral and Plaça Maior

A flight of 365 steps in the middle of the city.  It gets cooler and cooler!

The bottom of the 365 steps.  I captured this one on Google maps

Google Maps shot of Plaça Maior, the main square 

And apparently it has snowed there before!!!

So those are a few shots of my future haunts.  I don't have any idea of what my schedule will look like, but I sure hope to have the chance to explore this amazing place.  Towns in Spain are much more concentrated than here in Texas (and a heck of a lot cleaner) so they look much larger than they really are.  Now I'll give y'all a bit more info on the school.  It's named after Miquel Costa i Llobera (many people of Spanish and Catalan origin have two last names, hence the "i" in Catalan or "y" in Spanish, between the last two names) who was a poet born in Pollença.  It really is an appropriate name for a school on the island, and it makes me feel as though I'll get a great history lesson along with this position.  All of the pictures of the school on the Internet are very impressive.  I thought a little K-6 school in a small town would be an ugly little place, but it's really a beautiful facility.  Check out the website linked in the first paragraph and click around.  Even if you don't understand a word of the verbage, they have some really great slideshows of what an average day is like.  Can't wait to get started!!!

Front view from Google Maps.  Looks great!
A look down the street from Google Maps.  The school is on the edge of town so there's a great view of the mountains.
This is the back side of the school.  They have an enclosed area out back for recreation.

Now what will I ever do with my free time around town?  There are three amazing beaches located nearby, and I can't wait to get a little color on my skin.  The water is crystal clear and the surroundings are spectacular.  I can't even express how lucky I feel.

The first beach area: Cala Figuera (Figuera Cove)

Cala Formentor - Are you kidding?

Cala Murta - OK, when's the ball gonna drop?  This place looks amazing!

Shot 2 of Cala Murta

As I mentioned earlier I hope to live in Palma and bus out to Pollença every day that I work.  I'll have to play this by ear.  If I love Pollença I may just find a more convenient (and cheaper) apartment in town.  Still I'm excited to live in Palma.  Getting around the island will be an adventure as I generally love exploring public transportation systems (unless I'm in Texas).  In Palma I will mostly be walking.  If it's too hot or the distance is too long, I can always make use of the wonderful public bike system, grab a taxi or take the metro.  The metro is what excites me the most.  Metro de Palma is a fairly new system built in 2007 to service the Palma area.  It is a single line that has 9 station, stretching from L'Estació Intermodal Plaça d'Espanya (The Palma Intermodal Station) to L'Estació d'UIB (University of the Balearic Islands Station).  Past the metro, trains also extend throughout the island to select locations.  Sadly the train doesn't go to Pollença (thus the bus trips), but I can't complain.  The train does reach some really cool places, and it will make it easy to explore the island and all its corners.  The bus service is fairly cheap.  From my calculation I will be spending less than $100 on transportation every month, and that's about the price of 2 tanks of gas here in TX.  I'd say that's a win!  The Transports de les Illes Balears offers una targeta intermodal (intermodal card) that will allow me to use trains, the metro and buses through one single system.  Sounds like a great deal to me.

My new ride

Inside a metro car

I think the more pics that I post, the more apparent it will become that Spanish is not widely used on Mallorca.  Of course most of the people on the island speak both Catalan and Spanish fluently, but Catalan is the preferred language, especially in the smaller towns.  Spanish will be more prominent in Palma while I assume that I'll mostly hear Catalan in Pollença.  I'm excited to learn a new language!  Actually, on Mallorca the inhabitants speak their own brand of Catalan called mallorquí so that'll be some added fun.  I'm thinking I may need to change the title of the blog to Les aventures diàries de Tyler!  No? OK ...

Un petó,
Tyler from Texas

Friday, July 13, 2012

Bought my flight!!!

I'm not a very patient person.  This I have to admit.  I was planning on flying back mid-June of next year, but at the moment I can't book more than 330 days in advance.  So I decided to take a look at flight availability for the first week of June.  I knew I wanted to buy a round-trip ticket, as it is MUCH cheaper.  I checked Student Universe this morning and found a cheap(ish) flight for $967.00.  I know this seems pricey for you folks in NYC and Boston, but flights from DFW are pretty expensive.  I was planning on dropping $1,200 - $1,300 on a ticket so I was over the moon to have found such a cheap flight.  So I bought it! 
Flight plan

I'll be leaving DFW in the afternoon (in late September) and taking an overnight flight to Amsterdam with the Dutch airline KLM.  I've never flown with them before so I'm very excited.  Anyone have good experiences with them?  After my 8 hour flight I'll have an 11.5 hour layover in Amsterdam!  I'm really excited about this little "accident."  I've never been and am looking forward to exploring the city for a few hours.  Any suggestions on what to see in my short stay?

I'll add Schipol Airport to my list

After my layover in Amsterdam it's just a short flight to my new home, Palma de Mallorca.  I still haven't been assigned a school or city, but I'd like to be based in Palma.  The train system on Mallorca seems to be very efficient, and I think it could be easy to take a train every morning as long as I'm not assigned a town on the opposite side of the island.  After I land at PMI my adventure begins!  I'll just be teaching and enjoying the island for the next 8 months. 

Airport in Palma de Mallorca - Hopefully I'll get to know this place really well.  Maybe I'll be doing a bit of travelling during my stay. 

My return flight (which I don't even want to think about right now) will stop through Barcelona where I will have to stay overnight.  Then back through Amsterdam to switch flights.  Finally I have a direct fligh from Amsterdam to Dallas.  This was the first flight I found that didn't have an extra stop in the U.S.  No offense to Memphis, but I'd rather just go straight from Europe to my home, sweet, home.  But like I said, I'm not thinking of that just yet.  I've got 8 months of adventure before then!

Un beso,
Tyler from Texas  

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Visa "appointment"

Well, it's done.  I turned in all of my documents for my visa.  Now it's just a waiting game.  So to help any of you who may be going to Houston in the future for the same process, I'll be giving a run-down of how the process works.  It was fairly painless.  My first advice is to check out the numerous blogs and Facebook groups regarding the application process.  LEARN FROM OTHERS' MISTAKES!  Also, you can never have too much information.  I get the feeling that not all applicants turn in the same forms so it helps to have everything just in case they ask for it.  I made a checklist of different documents/items that I needed for the visa, and it helped immensely.  Actually I had two columns on my checklist: one for assembling all the proper docs and the other to check off right before I left to Houston.  It doesn't do you any good to have all the documents but leave one of them at home. :) 

SO here's my ridiculously thorough checklist:
1) Passport (They hold onto the passport and mail it back with your visa.  If you need your visa between now and the return of your visa, contact the consulate for further info.)
2) 3 copies of passport (I only needed 2, but you never know!)
3) 4 Passport photos (I only needed 2, but see above.  Don't worry about attaching the pictures to the visa forms because they will provide you with a glue stick to do so at the consulate.)
4) Driver's license / state ID
5) 3 copies of driver's license / state ID (I only needed 2, but bla bla bla...)
6) Carta de nombramiento (This was tricky for me.  I received my carta via e-mail from the Balearic Islands, but it did not have a city or school name.  It did however include all of the information regarding my compensation and insurance coverage.  I was asked for the original when handing over the printed letter.  Since it was signed electronically, it ends up that I didn't need the original.  Make sure you explain the situation, and they seem to be very accomodating.)
7) 3 copies of the carta de nombramiento (Once again, doesn't hurt to bring too much)
8) Medical certificate WITH apostille attachment (From what I understand the medical certificate DOES NOT necessarily need the apostilled attacment.  But since you can all tell I'd rather be safe than sorry, I went ahead and sent it in with my background check.  If you don't know what the Apostille of the Hague is, do yourself a favor and find the information on various blogs around the Internet.  OR just send me an e-mail, and I'll give you the information.)
9) 3 copies of the medical certificate (Why not?)
10) $160 in cash (Many websites will say you need a money order.  Save yourself the trouble and the extra charge, and just hit up the ATM before you go to the consulate.)
11) 2 Visa application forms (This can be a little confusing, but you'll basically fill out the first page, the top of the second page, the info on the 3rd page regarding student information and the 4th page which includes a signature and date.  Get them to double-check the form before you leave.)
12) State background check WITH apostille attachment (The apostille attachment is ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY for this form.  DO NOT drive/fly down to Houston without this form becasue it's not something you can obtain quickly.  Once again, if you don't understand what this means, please find out.  This is the most time-consuming part of the process.)
13) 3 copies of the state background check (OK, don't shoot me, but I don't remember if I had to hand these over or not.  I think that I gave them at least one copy, but I'm not certain.  In any case, make copies of the bg check for your own records.  You're already making copies of everything else.  Why not make a few of this form?)
14) Self-addressed express envelope from the USPS (I've heard that you don't need the overnight $18.90 envelope from the post office, but it's what I purchased.  The employee at the consulate specifically asked me for an express envelope so I was happy that I spend the extra money.  The envelope comes with a stamp attached as well as a form for mailing information.  A note for anyone moving between your application and receipt of your visa: make sure you have a stable address to which you can mail your visa.  I'll be moving TWICE so I had them send it to my folks' place.  After all this work, why risk having your visa and passport lost in the mail?)
15) Extra paper (You never know when you're gonna need to write anything down.  I didn't have to, but I have a feeling that everyone's experience will vary.  Be prepared.)

Keep in mind that all this info is for the Houston consulate.  I assume most will be similar, but I understand that some consulates have some pretty whack-a-doo requirements.  Never hurts to be too prepared.

  Here's the building you're looking for.  Never mind the address on the picture.  The building is located at 1800 Bering Dr. #660, Houston, TX.  It's a very modern building unlike the majority of Houston.  Definitely beats the run-down Mexican consulate.

So I went to the consulate around 9:30 (they are open from 9:00 - 2:00 Monday - Friday) and headed up to the 6th floor.  The consulate is not listed on the directory in the front of the building, but rest assured it's there.  Inside the suite that houses the Spanish consulate there is a waiting room with 2 windows.  You'll need to go to the window on the right.  Apparently the people on the left cannot help you at all.  I got the impression they dealt with Spanish citizens living in the US while the other window dealt with visas.  I waited 10 minutes at the window before anyone came to help me.  Keep in mind that the concept of time and customer service are quite different in Spanish culture.  This is not a dig at their culture.  Just get used to it because you'll set yourself up to be frustrated if you expect all cultures to be the same as your own.  So a very courteous but curt woman finally came to the window to assist me.  She told me what I needed to hand over, and I supplied her with all the proper documents.  It did take a few minutes to double-check all the documents and verify that everything was complete.  My visa application form was not complete so I took a seat to allow others to be helped.  When I had finally handed over all of my documents she gave me a form to sign giving them permission to mail me my visa and passport.  She took my $160.00 in cash, and I was on my way. 

Quite an adventure, no?  That being said it was a very short ordeal.  I was only at the consulate for 30 minutes, and the employee was extremely helpful during the process.  Here are a few more tidbits and tips just so you're not caught off guard:

1) The employees of the consulate are bilingual, but I have a feeling that Spanish will get you a little further.  I first spoke to the employee in Spanish, and she seemed much more willing to help because I was taking the initiative to speak to her in her native language.  Don't fear if you don't speak Spanish.  You'll probably just have an easier time if you know a little Spanish.
2) Be courteous at all times.  This can be a trying process for the both of you.  Remember that they have the upper hand, and you don't want any reason for them to put your application to the bottom of the stack. :)  Don't misconstrue a dry personality or shortness as rudeness.  Just use this as a learning opportunity.  After all, this is the beginning of your adventure.  Enjoy it!
3) All of this will be done at the window in the waiting room.  I was under the impression that I'd be taken to a back office so I could lay out all of the information on a table.  Not so!  You get a little ledge on which to balance all of your documents.  It really helps to bring the checklist with you so you can do a quick run-down.  The employee seemed to appreciate my preparedness (although my papers were strung all over the counter), and it took a lot of stress out of the situation.  Once again, fortune favors the prepared.  

Soooo I think that's all I can say about the visa appointment.  Be SUPER-prepared, and you'll be just fine.  It wasn't nearly as stressful as I had feared.       

Now let's talk about Houston.  My awesome brother happens to live in Houston, and I got to stay with him for the weekend preceeding my visa adventure.  I've gotta tell you right now that most of Houston is as ugly as any city I've seen.  It's old, run-down, traffic-ridden and seemingly unwelcoming.  Luckily my brother gave me the grand tour, and by the end of the trip I was already planning my return.  The city, while not a perfect vacation destination, can be quite a bit of fun.  My brother works for an up-and-coming craft brewery in Houston (Karbach Brewing Co.), and he knew all of the hot spots.  Surely you'll be sitting around in a hotel the evening before heading to the consulate so you might as well have some fun while you're there. So here are some really cool things to do while staying overnight.

1) La Carafe
Check out Houston's oldest bar.  They have a great selection of beer and some good wine as well.  Stop by, say hi to Daniel and get a Karbach beer while you're at it. :)  Head up to the upstairs balcony for the most beautiful view of downtown Houston.  You'll swear you're in a different city.

2) Hearsay Gastro Lounge This place has atmosphere you can cut with a knife.  Make sure to go in the evening so you can check out the amazing lighting.  Also grab a really interestingly-named coctail.  Mine was a little strong but really enjoyable mostly becasue of its awesome name: Plastic Covered Couch.  My bro had a similar experience with his coctail named Whiskey and Cigarettes.

3) Andalucia Tapas Restaurant and Bar Well if you're going to get your visa to teach in Spain you might as well get a taste while you're there.  Although the restaurant was lacking in overall "Spanishness" it did have great food and sangria.  My brother and I shared pulpo a la brasa (grilled octopus with potatoes), rape con miel (monkfish in a honey almond sauce), cola de buey (braised oxtail) and empanadillas de res (beef tenderloin in a puff pastry).  It was fantastic.  The sangria was a great topper.  Thanks for the birthday meal, bro!

4) Sundance Cinema
This cool theatre (which I think used to be an Angelika Theatre) has your normal blockbusters.  However you can eat gourmet food and grab a drink while you do it.  They had a really interesting menu and a great array of drinks.  As we'd just finished at Andalucia I had no room to eat, but I sure did have another sangria.  The management was excellent, and the movie was funny.  Go see Ted for a fun night at the movies... and if you're not easily offended.  Completely worth it for Giovanni Rabisi's creepy dancing.  You have been warned.

5) The Hay Merchant
This place is a beer-lover's paradise.  I'm not into beer myself, but my brother is a fan of this bar.  Also grab some food.  We had some French-Canadian Poutine to tide us over, and it was pretty yummy. 

6) Benjy's
Oh holy goodness!!!!  I loved this place.  It's been a long time since I've looked at a menu and thought I'd enjoy everything on it.  Great laid-back atmosphere and killer food.  Had some mimosas over brunch.  Yummy mini-muffins as an appetizer were excellent as was the main dish.  Do yourself a favor and go!

7) Majorca After my visa adventure and on my way out of town I thought I would treat myself to Texas' only Mallorcan cuisine restaurant. Although the food isn't exclusively Mallorcan, they have a great selection.  Had gambas con arroz and enjoyed every bite.  A nice crema catalana topped off a lovely experience in Houston.

So, I've gotta apologize about the long post.  It was a whirwind trip to Houston but well worth the time spent.  I now have my visa coming to me in 4 weeks, a new appreciation for Houston and about 5 extra pounds added to my body weight.  No wonder Houston is the fattest city in America.  They sure know how to make a dinner and a drink.  Take from this post what you will.  You can make the most of your visa trip or bemoan the fact that you have to schlep all the way down to Houston for a 30-minute "appointment."  Travel safely and enjoy the process.  The fun has already started!

Un beso,
Tyler from Texas 

Thursday, July 5, 2012


OK!  So it's been a while since I've posted anything.  It's kinda slow going waiting for more info from Spain.  Still haven't received a city/school placement letter from the Balearic Islands, although they have sent una carta de nombramiento that outlines my dates and compensation.  It's better than nothing.  More on that in a second. 

In June I finished my masters coursework here in Denton, TX at the University of North Texas.  Glad to report that I'll be finishing with a 4.0!  Hopefully I can get a little break from the academic world before starting my PhD.  Now I've just gotta finish that pesky thesis while I'm in Spain.  Also, I've been performing quite a bit.  Just finished Oklahoma! at Lyric Stage and immediately started rehearsals to play Corny Collins in Hairspray at the Campus Theatre in Denton.  Both casts have been so much fun, and it's making the time pass quickly while I'm waiting on news from Spain.  (You know they move at their own pace.)  Additionally I'll be joining the cast of The Most Happy Fella at Lyric playing the role of Pasquale.  I'm extremely honored to be part of the cast.  Also stoked that the majority of my songs/lines are in Italian!  Soooooo that's what's been keeping me busy this summer.
On the far left in the number "Kansas City" from Oklahoma!.  No need to be jealous of the awesome facial hair.  You too can grow your very own creepy beard. (Photo by Michael C. Foster

Our cute promo poster for Hairspray

Now it's back to "real life."  Back to working 40 hours a week and saving for Spain.  Luckily this week is a 4-day week thanks to the holiday on the 4th.  Next week will also be a 4-day week as I will be in Houston on Monday for my visa application.  My awesome brother lives in Houston so we're gonna make a weekend of it.  Going down on Saturday morning (after a birthday celebration on the 6th with my Denton folks) and hoping to get a grand tour of H-town.  As for the visa, it's been extremely difficult finding exactly what the consulate in Houston requires, and I've gotta give a special shout out to all my Facebook friends who have helped me through the process.  Without them I wouldn't be very well prepared.  So now I think I've got all my documents, forms, photos, cash etc., and I'll be ready to hand it over.  I'll make sure to follow-up with a separate post to update y'all on how the process goes.  I expect it to go well, but ya never know!  

I've been packing up my place to move out by the end of the month.  Luckily I've found a room to rent for the buffer time between the end of this lease and my flight to Spain.  My place is a little bare at the moment, but I've got a TV, AC and a toilet.  What more could I need?  Just waiting it out now.  Glad to say that I've paid off all my debts (except school loans) and can now actually save money for my trip.  I'm stoked!  Now I'm just gonna need awesome companies like Scream Factory to stop coming out with new Blu-Ray releases so that I don't spend everything I make! 

Don't even act like you could pass up these sweet releases

So I guess I'll wrap this motha up with a few random thoughts:
1)  I hope to never take another linguistics/phonetics class for the remainder of my stay on this planet.  It's a painful experience.
2)  Pixar's Brave was a completel letdown.  I wanted to leave the theatre about 15 minutes into the movie.  Guess they can't all be winners.
3)  Prometheus was a really fun movie.  Definitely watch this one in 3D.  Usually I think that 3D is gimmicky (not that there's anything wrong with that), but this movie used the technology to its fullest potential.
4)  Never leave me alone (or with Clay White) at Red Lobster.  There will be no food left.
5)  The Amazing Spider-Man was a blast.  Never really warmed up to the Toby Maguire series so this was a winner.  Dennis Leary looks like a 70 year-old woman, but I still enjoyed his performance.  Sally Fields is still awesome.  Andrew Garfield... Hommina hommina hommina!  *stuffs tongue back in mouth* 
6)  My 28th birthday is tomorrow.  I've never been so excited about a birthday because I'm finally back on track.  I've not felt this hopeful about my future since I was in elementary school, and I feel like the luckiest guy in the world to be who I am and where I am. 

Un beso,
Tyler from Texas