Aamir in Portugal

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In case you didn't realize it, click on the pictures for a bigger images.

Monday, 28 May 2001
I didn't get much sleep last night, so I've been pretty tired all day. I'm not sure why, but I spent the entire night just tossing and turning, which means that I got a grand total of about 30 minutes of sleep. After breakfast I went out and did my laundry, then headed in to school. I cut the day short and headed home to get a little sleep. On the way home I stopped off at the bookstore around the corner from the hotel. I've finished all the books I brought and I'm now reading a book that my friends from Boston gave me last week when I was doing laundry.

While there I met a couple from Atlanta who are touring all of Portugal and Spain right now, Amanda and Matlock. They're basically doing what I'd love to do, just roam around and see everything. We exchanged information, although they arrived today and are heading out tomorrow.

Professor Doty called a little before 7pm to see if I wanted to join him for dinner. I was just falling asleep (I couldn't sleep all afternoon either), but I was hungry so I joined him. We went to the Chinese place about two blocks up the street, after which I headed back for a little while. I went out for ice cream then headed back to try to get some sleep.

When I got back to the hotel, I had a message from Amanda and Matlock asking if I wanted to join them for a drink. I gave them a call on their cell phone, and we agreed to meet at Muralha, a local bar that was supposed to be playing Fado music tonight. I don't think I've already mentioned it but Fado is a traditional Portuguese music. I've heard it's somewhat somber, but powerful. I met the Schlumberger's at Muralha just before 10pm and we stayed there for a while.

They didn't play any Fado music, and one of the regulars said they'd be playing it on Thursday night. Well, Matlock and Amanda were heading out later on Tuesday, so that wouldn't work out. We decided to head over to the Praça de Peixe (Fish Plaza) to see if anyone else had it. The town seemed pretty dead, though and we ended up at a little Irish Pub. It's strange though, that all the music was New Orleans Jazz. I felt more like I was in New Orleans than Ireland or Portugal. They even played the New Orleans version of Sing, Sing, Sing with a Swing and I taught Amanda how to swing dance. She's a quick study.

We never did find anyone playing Fado music, and since we all had to get an early start, we headed back home around 1am. They're headed up to Porto later Tuesday for a few days, and they're going to work their way through Spain, then down to the south of Portugal before they fly out of Lisbon to go back home. We're going to try to hook up again in a few weeks in Lisbon before they leave.

Random Pictures from Last Week
Robotics lectures

Tuesday, 29 May 2001
We were planning on going down to Castella Branca, but we had to delay that trip. Instead, I had my first complete day of work in a little while. I've been travelling and doing so many other little things that I haven't been able to accomplish too much in the last week. Today I got back in the groove except for a few minor breaks.
One of the breaks came when Rogerio was looking at some of the pictures he had from the weekend. There was a trip down to Sintra put on by the International Student Association here on campus, and Rogerio, Ramon, and
Antonia went. During the slideshow Antonia occasionally doodled on the whiteboard behind us. When Rogerio noticed it he decided to analyze the picture and explain what it told him about Antonia's personality. I thought he did a pretty good job, and you can see what Antonia thought of it. Eventually we got back to whatever we were working on before the break.
After not getting more than about 4 hours of sleep over the last two nights, I've decided to stay in and try to get a full night's sleep. Besides I have to rest up because Rogerio is leaving for the Fargo, North Dakota (he's presenting a paper at a conference there) on Thursday and he wants to go out on Wednesday night. That should be fun! Not much else that would interest most of you, unless you want to learn about programming in Visual C++ (fun!). If that's what you're interested in, then just send me an e-mail so I can tell you how strange you are one at a time. Alright, time to sign off and get going.

Wednesday, 30 May 2001
Okay, I didn't write this up last night, so I'm doing it this morning (Thursday). I spent most of the morning working on my little three wheeled robot. I've got some more things to finish up on the hardware (mostly wiring) before I can program it. It's a small version of the larger one I'm working on as part of my thesis.
I had Arroz de Pato (Duck with Rice) for lunch. It was great! After lunch I worked on a little programming and I finally got to meet Anabela, who had been Professor Doty's secretary on all of his previous visits. She's on maternity leave right now, and the baby's name is João. He's six weeks old.

While Anabela is on leave, Lucia is helping us with all the little adminstrative things we need here. That's her on the right hard at work (well, she was until I interrupted her).
Baby Closeup
At around 5pm a bunch of us got together to watch Rogerio practice his presentation. He's on his way to New York right now to present a paper about distance learning, which is what he's working on as part of his PhD work. He did pretty well. He's going to practice it a few more times on the plane but I think he'll do fine.
At around 5pm a bunch of us got together to watch Rogerio practice his presentation. He's on his way to New York right now to present a paper about distance learning, which is what he's working on as part of his PhD work. He did pretty well. He's going to practice it a few more times on the plane but I think he'll do fine.
I headed out for dinner just after 7pm and Dr. Doty and I decided to try a place recommended by Faith. In case you don't remember she's here from Boston and I met her last week while washing my clothes. We tried to find the place but the only place we found didn't seem to meet the description so we kept walking and found the mural pictured on the left.
We had dinner at an italian resaurant called Pizzart. It was pretty good, but the best part was the dessert! I had a crepe with vanilla ice cream, hot chocolate (real chocolate!) and sliced pears. It was almost a meal on its own. After dinner I went home to lay down for a bit and wait for Rogerio's call.

Rogerio and Antonia showed up a little after midnight and we headed over to the Praça de Peixe to meet Elizabeth. We relaxed and let loose for a couple of hours there before we all decided to go home. After all, we had to get up early to get to school/work (and in Rogerio's case, to the plane). I got home around 3am and went straight to bed.
Click for more Random Art from the streets of Portugal

Thursday, 31 May 2001
This morning I started my day at school by working on my little Tribot, but I've been hungry all day so I went for an early break and grabbed some pear nectar. I know, it sounds wierd, but it's actually good. About an hour later I broke down and went for a grilled cheese sandwich. About the time I got back it was time to pack up all my things and head over to the other building for lab (2-6pm on Thursdays).

Apparently Friday is an open house for the university, so there were a lot of people setting up all the demonstrations in my lab. We had to reschedule the Friday labs for the morning, which I prefer anyway. I spent almost all of the lab tracing my way through some faulty electronics that one of the students had. In the mean time the students worked on assembling their robot prototypes.

When I got back to the office I got in touch with Kasia to see if she was interested in checking out some sites this weekend. Unfortunately, she's a little short on cash right now so I'm going to try a little more exploring on my own. Actually, I may take in a movie and then see if I can find some Fado music somewhere. Antonia was interested in looking too, so we discussed getting together and heading to Porto to see what we can find. I talked Antonia and Ramon into joining us for dinner to go "frango-ing" (the Frango Place again).

Other than that, it will probably be a quiet night. It seems a lot of people have exams tomorrow so I don't expect anyone to be out too late. That's fine because I didn't really get much sleep last night anyway. Oh yeah, on the way home from dinner, Professor Doty told me we're going to be moving on Saturday. He's going to see if the new apartment meets with his approval tomorrow. Maybe I'll have a place I can actually settle into for more than 2 weeks. That'll be strange. I'm going to have to spend a little time tonight preparing to move. Fun!

Friday, 1 June 2001
I'm moving!! As I mentioned I found out from Professor Doty that we're supposed to move on Saturday. I packed up many of my things last night and this morning. Not a bad way to start a new month. I headed in and prepared for my lab, which we moved to 11am for today because of an event on campus. Today was an open day for the university and there were demos all over campus.

The guards all got their new uniforms today. Alexandrina's quite happy with hers.
Joca got most of his robot finished today. He even had it moving around and avoiding things. Eduardo got a lot of his robot assembled, but didn't finish because there was a problem with his microprocessor board. Once we worked out the bugs in the electronics, he got close to finishing his prototype robot.

After a day of working on some of my projects, Professor Doty and I went with Luis Almeida to check out our new apartment. It's a little farther away than where we are now, but it's pretty nice. Unfortunately, there's only one bedroom and one study. Professor Doty wasn't terribly happy about the situation, including the fact that there's nowhere for him to hang his clothes. Professor Luis Almeida has been doing a great job getting things organized, but there are some things we just can't control. The end result of all this is that we're staying in the hotel until Monday.

Okay, now I'm finishing off last night's entry. By the time we got finished with dinner, it was after 10pm, so I went home to rest up for the night. I got cleaned up and ready to go out, even though most people said they were busy tonight and weren't going out. I decided to wait until around 12:30am since that's when everything get started. About a quarter after 12, Antonia called me and said she was downstairs and she wanted to know if I was interested in going out. I went down to meet her and some other friends.

We headed over to the Praça de Peixe where I met even more new people. In all I met about 9 new people at the Praça. Most of the places closed at 2am so we headed over the Urgência to meet up with some other people. I met about 7 new people there, and we made our plans for Saturday. There were students from 11 different countries all together mostly speaking Portuguese, with some English and a few other languages thrown in every now and then. We decided to meet up at 11am Saturday, then Antonia, Francesa and I left for home.

Saturday, 2 June 2001

Antonia met me at 10:30 this morning at the hotel, and we walked over to the boat dock to meet up with the gang and catch the boat. We found the place (and the boat) and got together on the boat for São Jacinto.

The ride out was a little more than half an hour, and there were a few interesting sites along the way. That's the town of São Jacinto on the upper right, and on the bottom left you can see people fishing on an atoll. There was a lot of salt water spray so the pictures are a little fuzzy.

There's Antonia, Ann and Francesca on the shore. We split into two groups. I went with the three of them to explore the national preserve while the others went straight to the beach.

We went to the tourist office to find a guide for the trails, but everything was closed up so we decided to find our own way around. We found a trail (at least it looked like one) off the main road and started walking. One thing that still surprises me is the wide variety of terrain here. The trail started with lots of eucalyptus trees, then we started going through an area that looked almost desert-like.

It took us a little while to figure out exactly which trail we were on, and when we did, we found the boardwalk across the dunes.

On the way across the boardwalk we found some unusual foliage, and one of the really irritating things was a plant similar to the sand burrs back in Florida. I kept getting the burrs stuck in my shoes, and they were just as bad for everyone else. On the plus side there were some pretty cool plants, like the one on the left.
Once we found the boardwalk, we followed it all the way across the dunes to the ocean. If you look in the background of the picture on the left, you can see that the boardwalk continues for quite a while. In case you're wondering, they built it so that visitors could explore the dunes without damaging them. You can just see the end of the boardwalk in the picture on the right.
We hopped off the boardwalk to enjoy the nice quiet beach. Eventually, Antonia and Francesca decided to brave the cold water and go for a swim. As you can see, it took them a try or three to finally get into the water. I decided to join them and we spent about an hour swimming around. As long
as we stayed in the water we were warm, but when we got out we got a little cold so we decided to move out. At that point we split up again. Antonia and Ann went to explore some more of the trails, while Francesca and I decided to walk along the beach to try and hook up with the others who were already on the beach. In the picture on the right, you can see Francesca chasing ogg a flock of seaguls. I the background (in the water) is a remnant of an oil tanker that ran aground years ago.
Here's another remnant of an old ship. Apparently a lot of ships get blown aground on the rocks off the coast in this area. They stay out to avoid them, but sometimes as they come in to shore near the port, they get caught up. The winds are strong and there are a lot of shallow areas.
We walked along the beach and actually missed the path off the beach into the town. They're not actually marked and we didn't really know what we were looking for. We walked for about an hour then found some people on the beach. They told us to head back and described what to look for. We never did find our friends, but I found these cool looking beach plants. I've seen them before, but I can't remember where.
Eventually we worked our way back into town with a little time before the ferry was scheduled to return to Aveiro. We found Ann and Antonia having a snack at a roadside cafe, so we joined them. We were all happy for the short rest. When the time came, we headed back to the dock to catch the ferry.
I finally managed to get all of us together for a group shot on the ferry. In the back row, from left to right are: Matt, Aamir (that's me!), Nadine, Antonia, and Francesca. In the front row , again from left to right are Nozomi, Kazuhiro and Hanna. That's eight different countries represented in that picture. We all had a great time and I found out that we didn't find the others because they had camped out in a secluded area behind a sand dune.
On our return we made plans to get back together later that night to see a movie. At 8pm I met Antonia and Francesca for dinner. We tried a new restaurant that had really good food, then went to meet the others at 9:30pm. The six of us (me and five beautiful women!) walked over to the Jumbo to meet Ramon and see "Along Came a Spider" with Morgan Freeman. I didn't see it in the US because it didn't look very good, but I was pleasantly surprised with the movie.

After the movie a bunch of us headed over to the Praça de Peixe for some dancing, and I got my first students in Portugal for my new Swing Dancing classes! When things closed down there, Nadine and I headed over to Urgencia to see what was happening there, then headed home around 3:30am since I had to do some packing so I'd be ready to move on Monday.

Sunday, 3 June 2001
I started the day by packing some of my things then getting ready to meet my new friends for lunch at 1pm. We went to a nearby place and all had Bachahlau con Natas, which is a dish made with dried Cod, potatoes and cream. (I'm sure there's more to it than that) It was really good. It's too bad they always run out so fast when the restaurants make it. That's a difference between restaurants here and in the US. In the US they always have the same things. Here, a lot of places have their specials of the day as well as changes in the menu when different things are in season. It's nice to be able to go to the same place and always try something new.
After lunch (and a dessert of chocolate mousse) Matt, Nozomi, Nadine and I went to Ria Cafe for the traditional after-meal coffee. While there, we saw a lot of police motorcycles driving by along with a lot of logo-plastered cars. After a while (with us making guesses along the way) we finally saw what all the fuss was about: there was a bike race and those were the team cars.

After all this I went back to the hotel to wait for Antonia's call so we could arrange to go to the beach for the rest of the day (different beach). I never got in touch with her though, so I just took it easy for a while and read my book and worked on this journal. Tonight I got just about everything ready to move for tomorrow.

Hopefully we'll get all of the details straightened out and I can finally start putting together a normal schedule. All this moving around makes it really hard to settle in and get down to a normal way of life. I've been living out of my suitcase because I had to be ready to move on short notice. It's a little strange living out of a suitcase for 3 weeks and it's nice to be able to come back to home after a long trip. Anyway, at least I should be done moving for a little while after Monday, and that will be a relief!

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