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jueves, 13 de junio de 2019

Time to Get Rid of Stuff - Marci

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I just had to sell my drone last week… because of its size, transport issues and the lack it was getting. At the same time, I helped my girlfriend move out of her Madrid room and that really made me think about the number of items I own, leading to this whole notion of whether we own stuff, or the stuff owns us. Originally, I intended to write a blogpost simply about selling my drone, but then it led me down a rabbit hole of thinking about downsizing, minimalism and a semi-mobile lifestyle. I know that people on this blog don’t necessarily have the patience to read long, philosophical stuff, so if you really want to dig deep, read the full post on my own blog HERE. This one is a heavily shortened version, you know, in the spirit of downsizing…

I am moving away from Granada in 1.5 months. Even before that, I’ll spend a large part of July living in a village near Granada running youth exchanges. My girlfriend moved out of her Madrid room and I helped her pack all of her stuff. We managed to fit everything into her backpack, a suitcase and part of my big 70L hiking backpack. That is quite a bit of stuff, but when you think about how much stuff you have in your room, it is probably many times more. It got me thinking a lot about how much stuff I have with me here in Granada.

While you could say that I am pretty minimalist when it comes to my clothes, I do hoard some stuff… Camera gear and gadgets are definitely one, although now that the drone is gone, my kit doesn’t take up too much space. However, this relatively low size is simply due to me not being able to afford a bunch of expensive equipment I want. The second big category is hiking gear: while it makes sense to have a good amount of quality gear to ensure that my adventures are safe, I do occasionally push it too far and I have a couple of items that I probably don’t need.

Overall, in Granada I accumulated very few items that I have to get rid of. Of course, the usual useless papers I accumulate have to go to the recycling and a few items of clothing will go to charity. Since the flat will be taken over by new EVS volunteers, most of the household items, leftover supplies, stationery, etc. can simply be passed on to them. I’ve already got rid of my drone and I am currently selling my bicycle (wanna buy it?). Finally, I will probably have to find a new home for a few pieces of hiking equipment, like my hammock.

I love taking landscape photos with a drone and just seeing my surroundings from perspectives that I am not able to otherwise see. I have owned a DJI Phantom 3 Standard drone for the last maybe 1.5 years. After a lot of thinking, I decided it was time for it to go. When I had it with me, I loved using it and if I was doing more car-based travel, I’d certainly keep it. I still think getting a nice used Phantom 3 Standard is one of the best deals out there if you are looking for a beginner drone that produces quite good images. However, it just doesn’t fit my lifestyle of long-distance hiking and a lot of travelling. It is simply too big and cumbersome Ideally, I will eventually buy a used Mavic Pro or Mavic Air which would fit right into my camera bag in the place of a lens, however those are currently out of my price range.

It really just hit me last weekend how much crap I own… Compared to most people, it is not a lot, but with my fairly mobile lifestyle I really need to optimize my kit even more, with multifunctional and compact items. I am a big fan of buying and selling used gear, plus donating stuff, which is not only more environmentally friendly, but also way more cost effective than buying stuff new and selling it when you move. So, while in the next few weeks I’ll be getting rid of some more items, I will need to think even more about what I am going to keep, what to get rid of and what to buy in the future. Starting a new chapter of my life in September, I want to be more conscious of these things and keep the lessons learned here in mind…

PS: If anyone needs a nice cheap trekking bike in Granada, I happen to know about one for sale…

lunes, 3 de junio de 2019

Being Idle Is Killing Me – Marci

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I’ve been doing a lot of hiking and more recently, trail running around Granada since I started my EVS here. This is literally the perfect place for activities like this, with a million options just outside the city and you don’t even need to take the bus or have a car for a lot of them. With trail running, I’ve ran through the Sierra de Huétor and more recently (about a month ago) I ran along a famous trail called the Vereda de la Estrella in the Sierra Nevada. The latter run didn’t go so well, because I completely annihilated my knees… I went to the doctor about a week after and she said it would heal pretty quickly, but now the knees are still not okay, so I’ll be back to the doctor again to do a more in-depth look at what is wrong.

Of course, this means that I haven’t really been allowed to run for the last month, and I also couldn’t do a bunch of hikes that I’ve been planning. This is annoying on many levels. First, I am simply worried that I have done some permanent damage to my knee, which would be devastating considering how important hiking and walking is in my life. Second, I really, really love trail running and it has been great for my overall fitness. Third, I’ve already signed up for the marathon distance of the Sierra Nevada Ultra running race in July and I don’t want to chicken out. Obviously if things don’t improve, I won’t go, but it has been a huge goal of mine this year to complete that race, to prove that I can do something like this.

While I don’t know exactly what caused my injury, it definitely highlights some of the failings of the training program I’ve been doing. While it involved a lot of running with a great variety of styles and distances, like doing sprints, uphill sprints, trail runs, half-marathons and lighter runs, it was lacking cross-training that helps strengthen the knees and legs overall. Beside the running, I was doing training for arms and upper body as well as training for my core, which can all help, but are not as essential to running. I should have probably added some more exercises that strengthen the muscles around the knee, helping relieve the load on the joint. I also think that my warmup routine before runs was quite lacking.

We will see how this all pans out – I’m going back to the doctor this week for a more in-depth checkup and that will hopefully give me more answers. Hopefully, it is something that will just go away soon, and I can get back to my normal routine and prepare for the running race in July and be back to my usual hiking adventures. Sitting more or less idle, not going running or hiking, only doing some small exercises indoors has really been tough, because it is simply difficult for me to sit on my ass for this long. I love to be active, to be outside and it has really impacted my productivity and even my mood a bit for the last few weeks.

For the first two weeks it was fine… I was frustrated, but also very positive that it would heal quickly, and things would be back to normal in no time. The intense pain with walking disappeared after a week, so I no longer needed a knee brace and you couldn’t see me limp at all. I could comfortably walk around the city without a problem. I could feel my knees being not completely okay, but it didn’t really hurt much. But then the progress plateaued. That’s where it has been ever since and last weekend, it may have even got a little bit worse, but since reverted back to normal. So, I can walk without any problems, but I can feel some little pain in the knees. It doesn’t seem to be getting much worse, but it also isn’t improving. I think it is safe to say that it is time to get it checked out again.

This injury really made me reflect on how little time I have in my EVS. Not only did I have to skip a bunch of cool trail runs I wanted to do, but even worse, I had to cancel a bunch of plans for hikes in the Sierra Nevada. There were a series of really epic hikes that I’ve been dying to do ever since I first started looking at the maps of the mountain range. Last autumn I climbed Veleta (twice) and Mulhacén, as well as a bunch of smaller peaks and had some epic adventures (read about one of them HERE). I now have a new route in mind, which would go along one of the highest ridges of the Sierra Nevada, hitting all the major peaks, including Alcazaba which has been on my bucket list for a while, plus re-doing part of my old hike that was very challenging at the time. The plan was to do it this weekend, but that would have clearly been irresponsible… There were also some smaller hikes I wanted to do, which would have involved doing course-recon for the running race and doing the famous Beas de Granada – Granada hike.

So many plans, but my knee still isn’t cooperating… Even if the doctor tells me not to push running so hard and maybe skip the race, I still want to be back at hiking as soon as possible. Two months from now, I will be back in Hungary, so my opportunities for mountain adventures will go down to zero. Hungary has some nice hills, but the landscape is not exactly what you’d call “epic”. The highest peak in Hungary is 1015 meters. For comparison, the highest mountain near Granada is 3478 meters. That’s the Mulhacén, which also happens to be the highest point of mainland Spain. While I know I’ll be back to Granada in a year or two, probably it won’t be all about hiking and outdoor adventures. Making things even worse, we will move to Íllora to run youth exchanges at the end of June, so my window of opportunity for these hikes is really damn limited – basically the next 3.5 weeks, plus however much time I stay in Granada after the end of my project on the 21st of July, which will probably be an extra week or so. But don’t get me wrong, I’m very excited about the youth exchanges. It’s just that it will really limit my chances of outdoor adventuring.

This has been by far the longest blogpost on here, but after all the posts about travelling here and there, I feel like it was time to write properly about a more personal part of my EVS experience. One that has been frustrating and difficult, showing the less happy aspects of my time here. As for what’s going to happen now? Who knows… But I’ll definitely be writing some updates about it in the near future.

martes, 28 de mayo de 2019

Madrid Ain't That Bad - Marci

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During my EVS, I've been to Madrid quite frequently and I have to say, I didn't become the greatest fan of the place. In fact I've kind of thought of it as the London of Spain... The similarities are pretty obvious: great cultural and arts scene, with fantastic museums and galleries, but it's a pain in the ass to get around, it is super crowded, with expensive rent and lacking character compared to cities like Granada. That said, Madrid has kind of grown on me over time!

I was in Madrid for the first time about 4 years ago, as I was on my way to Íllora and Granada for a youth exchange. I only saw a couple of things, like the Cibeles palace and the Retiro park that I really liked. A year later I did a trip through Spain (see a funny attempt at vlogging from that trip HERE) and I actually got to spend some time in Madrid. I used those two days pretty much exclusively to go and see exhibitions that were on at the time, like Bosch, Caravaggio and a photography exhibition, along with some smaller galleries and the permanent collections of the Thyssen and the Prado. Those were an intensely cultural two days...

Since then, I've been back numerous times during my EVS. Especially since my girlfriend started working there, I've visited fairly frequently! That meant that I had to realize how expensive it is to rent there and how much commuting it takes to get around when you don't live in the center. The metro system is pretty good, but some of the lines are being repaired and the integration of the local light railways (Cercanías) and the metro system leaves a lot to be desired. It is also quite pricey to eat out and do things there, compared to Granada, but that's not surprising - after all it's the capital!

What really made me like the place is the number of parks and green areas! Of course, most people know about the Retiro, but looking at the map, the whole city is just full of them. I think the coolest one is at the edge of the city called Casa de Campo, which is feels like a little wild escape to the hills, when it is within walking distance of the Royal Palace and the city center.

The galleries and the art scene is still great, and neighborhoods like Salamanca or going to the Rastro when the market is on is definitely very cool and hipster! We've spent the last weekend just walking around, going with the flow and seeing both old and new places. Sure, I think Granada is a 100x cooler place, but I have to admit, Madrid has grown on me a little.

lunes, 27 de mayo de 2019

Voting in the EU Elections - Marci

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Just a day after the EU elections, the results are starting to trickle in... In some countries, the results are very surprising, in some it was completely predictable. But that's not what I want to talk about here. After all, I am not trying to tell you who is right or wrong here, even though I have pretty strong opinions on that as well. Ask me about that over a beer if you are interested...

The question is more about the fact that people should go an vote in elections. I had to get on a bus, take a 5 hour ride up to Madrid and go to the Hungarian consulate and cast my vote. Before that, I needed to get through some paperwork to even be able to vote in the consulate. Why go through all this trouble? After all, that one vote doesn't change much, right?

Well, one vote by itself indeed is nothing in the big picture, but if everyone had the idea that their vote didn't matter, nobody would turn up. People complain about elected politicians, but do you really have a right to complain if you didn't turn up? I think not. Hell, even turning up and drawing a penis on the ballot as a protest vote is still better than not turning up. I just think that if you didn't bother to turn up, don't complain about things until the next elections.

I really agree with this Jonathan Pie video. Young people are terrible when it comes to voting participation. I can see why my generation is disgruntled with politics and don't care, but this is how things are: you have to go and vote if you want to change something, because more often than not, the people who you don't like are also going to vote, electing people you don't like. Brexit is a great example, young people literally just slept through the whole process.

We've done a bit of work here at Las del Tul to promote EU elections to the Granada youth and I really hope that we've convinced at least a few people to go and cast a vote for whichever party they favor. We've had speakers from pretty much all the major parties in debates and talks, discussing their plans and programs with the local youth.

If you went to vote, go give yourself a pat on the back, well done! If you didn't, well, there is always next time... Except please don't complain for 5 years, until we have the next elections!