Aamir in Portugal

Back to Week 1Aamir in PortugalOn to Week 3

Monday, 14 May 2001
The first week has gone by and I started a brand new week today with, you guessed it, RAIN and COLD WINDS. Every day someone tells me it's not usually like this and that it will clear up and be warm and sunny. We'll see.

It's finally clearing up here at around 6:15pm and I was just chatting online with a friend of mine in Gainesville (if you have Yahoo!Messenger I try to keep it online when I'm here so look for me!). I'm going to head out here in a little while to see what trouble I can find downtown and wherever else I decide to go. Actually, I've been using this little book that Sarah lent me that's been REALLY handy. It's got basic phrases in several different languages to help you get what you need. Many thanks to Sarah for that little gem!

So what did I do today? I went for my morning run in the rain, then got home and collapsed on the bed for a little while. (I'm really out of shape) I showered and managed to get into my office by 8:15 this morning. I wanted to get in before the rain got worse and I was hoping for a short day. I worked on some of the Visual C++ that I'm learning (it's a very good book if anyone's interested) then went to get some information from Luis. Thanks to Luis, I've got a mailing address now that should get to me (Someone will have to try it to find out) and with his help I managed to get a soldering iron so I can work on my robot. There are still a few extra items that I will need to actually be productive, but I've got several people looking for those.

After lunch I came back to my office and worked on my program again. I took a break to help Rogerio look for plane tickets to the US (If anyone knows of a cheap way to get from NY to Fargo, ND let me know). I sent off a bunch of e-mails and actually heard back from a few of you. Thanks! It's nice to know what's happening. Actually I chatted with one of my professors in Gainesville and he told me about some riots at recent fútbol matches so I'll have to check into that before going to the match next week.

I do actually have a small TV in my apartment, but I only plugged it in long enough to see if it worked. I get one channel right now. The antenna on the roof is broken apparently and there's no cable for my apartment right now. I haven't really missed it though. There's too much to do here to worry about that.

I'm going to post this and go home now. I'll probably go out for dinner and a little more cultural education. There's an event tonight somewhere downtown (I have a rough idea where) called "Obras Completas de william Shakespeare en 97min" which translates to "The Complete Works of William Shakespeare in 97 minutes". I'm going to see if I can find it. Oh yeah, tomorrow I'm going back to Porto to pick up Professor Doty. See you later!
UPDATE: Monday night
Today turned out to be a pretty good day thanks mostly to a couple of really good friends. Thanks to both of you. The day turned pretty nice for my walk home and after I dropped off my things at the apartment I went to get some food. I tried some turkey this time (that's perú for those of you learning Portuguese) and explored past the mall. I didn't go as far as the newly renovated cultural center where Shakespeare was being held because I found a poster listing the times and I had missed the start of the last show by about 30 minutes. As they say in Spain, "Así es la vida" ("That's life").

On the way home I picked up a 12-pack of Coke for Professor Doty so he'd have something cold to drink tomorrow. I also picked up this little dessert from the freezer section called Natas de Céu. It was really good, but I can't place the flavor exactly so I'm going to have to get a few more to figure it out. I'll call that "Culinary Research" and I'll give you a full report when I figure it out. By the way it translates to Heavenly Cream and there were several other flavors and no two had the same name (including a wonderful looking chocolate mousse). If I come back weighing 300 pounds just remember I did it for all of you (in the interests of cultural enlightenment).

That actually brings up a good point. All this walking around is actually pretty good. Usually after meals like a couple I've had here I just laze about realizing how much I ate. Here, there's still the walk home and I've used a different way every time so far. I generally feel a lot better when I get home after that walk. I may try to keep that pattern when I get home. I took some more pictures, so look for those in tomorrows installment. Bye again!

Tuesday, 15 May 2001
I'm going to go later today to pick up Professor Doty from the airport in Porto, but I at least wanted to post some pictures I took. The first one is a little silly, but it's what I had for dessert a couple of nights ago. It's got even more sugar than it looks like it would. It was good and yes, I went for a little walk afterwards to work off some of the excess energy I had after tackling it.

These two shots are what I walk between on the way to and from my office every morning. The first shot is to my left on the way home yesterday. You can see the sky cleared up for bit. Apparently the ponds are part of the water treatment facility which is part of the Environmental Engineering school. You can see the school in the upper right corner of the picture (the white and green square building). Now a lot of the areas are being made into fisheries. Underneath that shot you see what I guess is a random pond they've decorated. It's pretty cool and the flowers smell great in the morning. On the right are a couple of shots of another random piece of art. If you look carefully in the bottom left picture, you can find this sculpture on the left side of the image.

These two pictures are of a nice restaurant near where I live. I decided I deserved a nice dinner Friday, so I went there. The shot on the right is the table where I sat. I had Beife no Prato (beef on a plate) which was a fancy steak with a little rice and salad. It's no Outback Special but it's what I have available for the next couple of months. It was a bit on the pricey side compared to what I had been eating, about 1000$00 Escudos, which is about US$4.50 but I decided to splurge.

It's about 6:30pm here and professor Doty and I have finally gotten back to the apartment. His flight was delayed (maybe I'll get him to write a guest article about it) and we got back to Aveiro about 45 minutes ago. We dropped some of what made it here (most of his baggage is still in London) at the apartment and went on campus to get some details straightened out. He was hoping for a different apartment so tomorrow he's going to check into possibly moving. He's taking a brief nap right now (over here it's called a siesta) then we'll go out to dinner. Most of the good restaurants don't open until 7pm and he's looking forward to a good meal.
Special Guest Entry:     Air Travel for the Sophisticated by Keith L. Doty

When he got up Professor Doty knew exactly where he wanted to go and he led us straight to a place called "Tam Tam" which looks like a bar when you enter. We walked straight through a narrow hallway and found a fancy restaurant in the back. The owner remembers him, but that's not surprising considering this has been his favorite dinner place in Portugal for the last 6 years.

I ordered a lamb dish and Professor Doty ordered veal, which seems to be very popular here. I tried his veal and it was good. A little tougher than I'm used to but it had a lot more flavor (and the garlic and pepper seasoning was delicious). My lamb was served in a bowl with the broth and potatoes all together. I think it's made as a stew, and the lamb just fell right off the bones (just about everything here still has the bones in it). It was an excellent meal and the butter they brought with the bread was made right here in Aveiro without all the processing that happens with butter in the US. It was the tastiest butter I've ever had. For dessert we ordered a chocolate mousse that's a speciality there. It was delicious, and the unique texture comes from the fact that they actually mix marshmallow into the mousse. I'll have to try that when I get a chance.

I ate a bit more than I should have and I was really full (it was all just too good to leave there) so I was glad we went for a walk after dinner. I think Professor Doty just wanted to see how much he remembered and how much had changed. It was a lot of fun and I actually learned a lot about the different areas of the city. For example, I had seen the patterns in the sidewalks, but I didn't realize that by looking at the patterns you could tell what part of the city you were in. I'll post a few of the patterns now that I know they're more than just decorations. He also showed me the new cultural center which is where the Shakespeare show was. I was on the right track looking for it, but I was too far south. It's hard to believe it was an abandoned ceramics factory. He even took me near the red-light district, but when the rain started up we had to rush back home because he doesn't have enough of his clothes to be able to afford getting them wet. Hopefully his luggage will arrive tomorrow. I'm also going to start carrying the camera everywhere so I can share some of the cool sights I've been seeing. Look for some in tomorrow's update.

Wednesday, 16 May 2001
I had kind of a restless night, but I didn't seem to be tired today. I guess it was just too busy. We headed out for campus just before 9am and went in search of Luis. Professor Doty had a list of things we would need for the apartment (essentially things he was used to having from his previous trips) and repairs he wanted done. We explained everything to Luis and he got started on that. I left the professors alone to do whatever they needed to do and headed down to my area to get my day started. I was a little anxious to get started because I had gotten to a good point yesterday before leaving to pick up Professor Doty.

I actually was pretty productive today and became dangerous enough with my Visual C++ progamming to crash my computer a few times. I'm learning how to write Windows programs, and it's pretty easy to make a simple mistake that leads to BIG (often bad) results. Anyway, I heard the profs upstairs (Professor Doty's voice tends to carry) and went to see what was up. We ended up going to lunch (it was 12:30 by then) at Refugio. After about two hours we made it back on campus and started settling back into a groove. Professor Doty found an office and in record time we had him up and running on the network and ready to work.

I went back and worked for a bit, then got a call from Doty asking if I was ready for a break, so he could introduce me to some more people. I'm constantly amazed at how many of the people he knows and how much he knows about them. He seems to know every restaurant owner, all the staff and their entire histories. That was actually one of the running jokes through lunch.

We left the office at around 6:30pm or so, shortly after Professor Doty's luggage finally arrived (hand delivered from London). We rested for a little while before dinner, and as we were preparing to leave, the woman who lives on the ground floor below us (we're on the third story, which they call the second floor) came to check if our water main was still on.I guess I forgot to put the story in yesterday's entry, so here it is from the start. Tuesday night Anna Laura from the ground floor came up and asked if all of our faucets were off, which was a strange question, so it took us a few minutes to make sure that's what she was asking. It turns out that there's water dripping from the light fixture above her front door, and she had already closed off the water supply to the apartment directly above hers (and below ours). When we looked at our water meter sure enough, the meter showed that water was flowing, but all of our water valves upstairs were off. That suggested a cracked or damaged pipe somewhere in the walls between the main line coming in for us and the apartment. We agreed to turn off the main like when we were done for the night and again when we left for the morning. Well tonight the water is leaking inside Anna Laura's front door and while we were there talking to her we noticed that there were about a dozen more places where water was coming into her apartment.

Essentially her walls were soaking up all the water they could, then it was dripping down. Well, the way the building is built, the repair is a MAJOR job, and although we told the university people about the leak earlier today, they didn't seem to be too concerned. I've got a feeling we'll be moved out of the apartment real soon, because even turning the main valve off downstairs doesn't drain all the water in the pipes on the way up and there's really no way to do that. I don't think we can leave our water on without seriously damaging the building. We'll see what they say tomorrow. Our apartment is the only one in the building owned by the university, so I don't know how they'll approach it.

Dinner consisted of some delicious ribs at a place called Zico's, which is like an old style diner crossed with nice restaurant. The garlic and other seasonings was perfect. For dessert I got some pineapple with Port wine. I thought it was pretty good, especially since that was my first taste of Port. In case you didn't know, Portugal is famous for it's Port wines (hence the name). It was a pretty strong flavor, but also sweet.

After dinner we walked around the city for about another 2 hours and he showed me some of the other fun spots in town. My feet are sore in a few wierd spots (actually they have been since last night) and I think it's because of the sidewalks and roads. I'm not used to the cobblestone (not exactly the right word, but it will do) walkways. I've noticed they put pressure on your feet in unusual places. Running on all the wierd surfaces are where I probably bruised them. Actually, Professor Doty confirmed that his feet usually get sore for a day or two because of that as well. I saw some of the old areas of town and just observed some of the night life. I also got to see a couple of the really nice restaurants further away from here. Hopefully we'll go to them sometime soon. One is a Brazillian restaurant and the other is Italian.

I'm looking forward to tomorrow, when we have my first lab session and I'll get to see what the students are really capable of doing this semester. We're trying to schedule a morning and afternoon session in place of the 4 hour block that's currently scheduled. I'm going to sign off now because I really just want to go to sleep and I have to get up in a few hours.

Thursday, 17 May 2001
I'm starting today's entry a little earlier than usual because I don't know how much time I'll have later tonight. It's about 7:15pm and I got back from lab not too long ago. Professor Doty lectured from 2pm until around 4pm, and I started the lab immediately after that. I actually missed the end of his lecture to go set everything up for the first day of lab. I'll normally have lab on Thursdays from 2-6pm and the lecture will be from 11am-1pm. On Fridays I'll have lab from 5-7pm (pretty crappy, isn't it?). That's the only schedule we could work out for all three of the students.

In lab I covered some of the basics of the electronics they're using and I taught the students how to solder. They're picking things up, but the first two weeks are really going to be hard on them because they've got a lot to do if they're going to finish the robots in time. The students are each going to build a robot that will seek out the other two robots and disable them by flipping them over. These are going to be small robots, not the big Battlebots robots.

I actually spent an extra half hour in lab to help some of the students, but when I got back to my office and checked in with Professor Doty, I found out that we had to hang around a little longer because Luis had news about our apartment and he would be over in about 30-40 minutes. Around 7:30pm or so Luis came and told us that we would have to move out of the apartment right away because the damage was not repairable anytime soon. We actually left everything we were doing right there and went with Luis to pack our things to move.

I tossed everything I had into my bags and we rushed over to our new place. We'll be staying in the Hotel do Albôi for the next two weeks at least. I'm actually guessing it will be longer because nothing seems to be going as planned so far. The rooms are really nice. It's really too bad we can't stay here the entire time. They're finishing up a place right now for us so we'll be moving again in a few weeks. I'm going to be pretty spoiled by then.

Here are a few pictures of my new home away from home. The first three pictures are of the bedroom and the next two are the kitchenette. I haven't used any thing yet, but it looks like I may finally be able to try my hand at Portuguese cooking! You may also notice the all wood floors. Almost everywhere I look there are really nice wood floors. I've seen a dozen places on campus that would be perfect places for our swing club meetings. It's too bad there aren't any places like that back at UF.

These three shots are what I see out my window. The first two are looking straight ahead. I can't do real panorama shots, so I did the next best thing. That's the main avenue. We're actually on a small side road off the avenue, so it's pretty quiet. The third shot is the road we're on. Actually, I'm looking to the right out the window for this one. I took all these pictures today (Friday morning) because I didn't have time last night to finish my writing.

We finally got everything settled with the new rooms and made it out to dinner a little after 9pm. We just went out to the local mall for a quick bite to eat because there were other things I wanted to do. After dinner, I headed back to campus to tie up some things I had left hanging earlier. Around 11pm I went to a place called Riacafe where there was supposed to be Karaoke. I've walked past it several times and it looks like a nice trendy coffee shop so I thought it would be fun. When I got there the place had completely changed in to a fancy coffee house/dance club. The smoke was thick enough to make it impossible to see the other side of the room, and it looked like the Karaoke had been cancelled. I decided to duck out quickly so that I could breathe for a little while. I walked around a bit then went back to the room to get rid of some of the smokey smell.

I guessed that I was a little early for the real fun, so I went back out a little after midnight. The place had changed back to a normal little coffee shop. It was really wierd. I stayed and watched people with a half-dozen different accents lip-synching to lots of 80s American songs. It was a lot of fun. I didn't stay there all night because I knew I had to get up early to get things done Friday before class. I still don't know how I'll finish everything before the students get here.

Friday, 18 May 2001Aamir and Doty
Today started out pretty nicely. I slept pretty well, although not for very long. Check out the breakfast spread. I get this for free every morning. There's a machine on the side that provides, just about any hot drink (or combination) you would need. I didn't get a picture of that. The bread is delicious, and the jams and jellies are all locally made. Delicious! I'm hoping they drag their feet on the new apartment.

I got in and finished up yesterday's web update, then I was about to work on some software for the student to use in setting up their robot brains when Professor Doty called and asked me to come up to his office. I got up there and found him talking with Lucia, very able assistant here. We had filed a complaint with the airport regarding Professor Doty's luggage. In short, his baggage was held up in London and had to be delivered to us here in Aveiro. The customs people (or the delivery people) opened the bags and made a bit of a mess. It looked like they had simply dumped everything out of the bags and then tried to stuff it all back in. I had asked Professor Doty to bring a couple of warmer shirts for me, and somehow the nicer of the two ended up missing from his bag. Apparently the last time he came here and his bags were delayed, several things were stolen from his and Ivan's bags. This time it was just my shirt. Well, we spent quite a bit of time in the morning going through all the information for the report, then we talked for a bit with Lucia about some of the places around here to go see. Professor Doty's seen a lot of them, but I wanted to know about some that he may have not seen.

Anyway, we went to lunch shortly after that and then came back to the office. I got some of the bugs worked out of my program and then started getting ready to go to class. After class I held the lab until 7pm, after which I dropped everything off in the office and we went to dinner. We ate at a place called "The Diagonal Cafe" which was another of those combination fancy restaurant/sports bar places. I ate "ribs on the coals" and watched the fútbol game there for a while. It was apparently a pretty big game because everyone in town seemed to be watching it. I headed home to drop off some things I didn't need and to pick up the new key to my room (the first one only worked about 1/4 of the time) before the receptionist left.

I had planned on going back out but I don't think the food agreed with me too much. I've been doing alright so far, but the food over here tends to be quite a bit higher in fat content. That means it often has a lot more flavor, but you have to be careful when you eat. I don't generally eat a lot of fatty foods, so I guess I just had a bad reaction to the food. It wasn't enough to cripple me but I really didn't feel like going out. That means I had a quiet night in watching the game. I'll check out some of the weekend life again tomorrow night.

Saturday, 19 May 2001
Today started out the same as the weekdays. I had breakfast downstairs then went on campus to get some work done. Sometimes I forget that I'm being paid to do work. This isn't really a vacation. Oh well, at least I'll be caught up for Monday. The weather is great and I was hoping to go to see the Roman ruins about an hour south of here. I'm going to try for Tuesday so that I can ask some people about them on Monday. Besides, I have to go Monday morning to do my laundry. The laundromats here are pretty expensive so we've arranged to be able to use the faculty facilities. Unfortunately that means doing laundry during the day on a weekday. It's funny that when we were asking around to find out where to get an umbrella, everyone said don't bother because it will stop. We didn't believe them and jokingly said that as soon as we finally bought umbrellas the rain would stop. Guess what? The day we bought umbrellas, the rain cleared up and it's been sunny and warm ever since! (knock on wood)
I spent most of the day working on all the little things I wasn't able to finish this week because of all the interruptions. On the way home I took the pictures on the right. The first is an example of the tile art that I see everywhere. I'm going to make a page just to show them, but here's one from a factory wall. Aveiro is famous for a specific type of blue tile. There's actually not any in this picture, but I'll get some pictures to show you. One of the interesting things is that all of the buildings here have tile on them. Most of the houses are covered in tile. They do that to because the ceramic tiles are very good protection from the saltwater and winds here. The next shot is that area that I walk past on the way to/from school. I'm not sure what they're looking for, but between the two of us we didn't speak enough Portuguese to find out.

Ramon came in for a while and Ramon, Professor Doty, and I went to lunch at the student cantina. We walked through the middle of campus where a new building is going up. Ramon wasn't sure what it's going to be, so I'll ask around later next week. You can see the Doty and Ramon posing in front of the building (bottom picture). The first shot on the left is a central plaza where a lot of students meet. In the foreground you can see the area being prepared for landscaping. They don't actually use sod over here. They plant seed and let it grow out on its own. It takes a little longer but it works. You can't see it but on the right (just off the image) there is an outdoor stage and seating for student events. Actually, those triangular protrusions are skylights for the student shopping mall and food court under the plaza.

Later, Ramon invited me to join him and a friend of his to see The Mummy Returns at the Jumbo (pronounced Joombo). I didn't know where it was or even what it was, so he told me what he could. The Jumbo is a shopping mall with the theatres inside. Apparently it's really new and is still a big novelty. He couldn't give me directions, because the streets are really strange around here with all the construction. When I left to meet Professor Doty for dinner, we decided that I should ask the Prof. to explain to me where it was.

Professor Doty took me to a new place for dinner. This was the legendary "Frango Place" I've heard so much about. Scott and Doty have told me a lot about this place. Apparently when they first came over here it was some time before they figured out how to order the chicken. The Portuguese word for chicken is frango, which is not related to any word in any language that I've been able to determine. Professor Doty has been going there as a regular since his first trip here. It looks like a dive, but I have to agree that the chicken is great! It's called Churrasqueira Frango E Febras which roughly translates to barbeque chicken and pork. There's really not a translation for the first word, but barbeque is as close as I can get. We just call it "The Frango Place" because it's the best frango in town.

On the way home we went a new way because The Frango Place was on the far side of town in an area I had never been to. We found the chapel on the left. This is an example of the blue tile that Aveiro is so famous for. It's easier to see in the picture on the right. The old ceramics factory has been renovated and turned into a large cultural center, but the tiles are still made here.

 The back way found some fun places. There's Doty hangin' out in an alley (left) and I found this place (right) that was pretty cool. It looks like the same people who made the old video game Q-Bert built this. Actually, most of the streets are like this. Everything is packed really close together. Once I realized why they were so packed, whil in tehUS we're so wide open it seemed obvious. America actually grew up with the automobile. A lot of the expansion and development is fairly modern. Over here, some of these families have lived in the same place for generations, so the roads for cars had to be squeezed in somehow. 

I mentioned earlier that I needed to find a place to do my laundry. It's about $10-$20 per load to go to a normal laundromat and wash your clothes. When I asked Professor Doty about where we would be going he brought me here. This is how a lot of people still do their laundry. Laundry machines aren't used as often, and I can understand why when detergent for the machines costs what it does over here. Actually, dryers are even less common. It's a lot easier (and cheaper) to just hang your clothes out to dry.

Here's Professor Doty trying to find his way into a nunnery. Actually, we're not sure if this is still occupied. It looks like no one's been in there for some time. It's kind of hard to see, but at the upper right of the image, there's a stone statue of a cat that looks like he's guarding the place. I couldn't get close enough for a decent shot, but take a look. On the right you can see me and my new low rider. What do you think?

I was supposed to meet Ramon before the movie at the Jumbo, but Professor Doty had never heard of it and I didn't know where it was so I started off in the general direction (I knew that much) I never actually found the Jumbo, but I wandered around and found a whole new part of the town. I hung out at a couple of nightspots for a while, then found my way home. Ramon said that if he didn't see me before the movie, he'd try to call me around midnight. I got home a little before midnight, but I never heard from him. It turns out the movie was longer than he realized and he didn't want to call too late. I decided not to waste the night and went out to a little coffee bar nearby. I've seen some other people I know there before, but they were all home for the weekend. I got back late and eventually got to sleep.

Sunday, 20 May 2001
Today started really slowly. I was still tired from the night before, and I didn't really sleep that much. I got up, loped around for a bit, then went for lunch at around 11:30am or so. Professor Doty saw me and we went to the Telepizza place right down the street. Most other places were closed on Sunday. I had a pretty good pizza there, then headed over to the park near our old apartment (nothing's really far here). Professor Doty headed off to do whatever he had planned for the day. I thought about going to Coimbra but I was talked out of it. Not much is open on Sundays so I wouldn't have gotten to see much. Weekdays are better. I stayed at the park from about noon until about 4pm, when I went to a nearby snack bar (their phrase for a sandwich shop). I got a really good Kiwi Milkshake (one of the best Kiwis I've had in a while)

And what did I do for all that time, you ask? I had one of the most relaxing days I've had in a long time. I sat up against a tree and read quite a bit of The Clan of the Cave Bear. If you haven't read it, I really recommend it. I'm only halfway through it but I'm hooked. I need to find the next books in the sequence, and I don't think I can wait until I get back to the US to buy them. Somewhere in there I also took a short nap there on the grass. It was a great day. The weather was just warm enough and the skies were cloudless. Everyone was out there, so I did a little people watching while I was there. Tennis seems to be a big fad right now and a lot of people were trying out the tennis courts they finished a few days ago. They also have a fun-looking area for bicyclists to ride around in. I'll have to try that later.

I went back to the apartment for a bit thinking I would take another nap, but decided to go back outside. This time I went to a park right across the street (I actually have to walk all the way around to the bridge over the waterway to get to it). I found myself a nice little spot and read some more. A little after 6pm I got up to go back so I could meet Professor Doty for dinner. On the way, I ran into Ramon and brought him back to the apartments. We all decided that Ramon would show us where the Jumbo was and we'd decide what to eat on the way. It turns out the Jumbo isn't quite as far as I thought, but it's a little farther west than I was going. If I had been over a few blocks I probably would have found it. We ate dinner at the mall and headed home. Actually, we went to the supermarket at The Forum (the outdoor shopping center near the hotel) to pick up a few supplies before going home. I read for a little longer and worked on this entry then went to bed.

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