The last couple of weeks have been more or less uneventful.
About the only thing that I've done is to take a trip to Madrid.
I only spent a few days there, but it was still a great way to collect myself, and to get a different perspective of Spain. Madrid is a great city. Perhaps most importantly of all, I learned that many of the things that annoy me here in Alicante are not found in the rest of the country.
For instance, mullets are definitely an Alicante thing.
As well, Alicante is extremely noisy. Motor scooters are very trendy, even if they're so old that they barely chug their way down the street. And if they're new, it's trendy to modify them to make as much racket as possible. Apparently some people think that they look good wobbling down the street on these, mullet flapping in the breeze as they go. They need everyone to notice them as they sputter on by. When one of these broken down pieces of crap drives by you, it's impossible to hear yourself think, let alone what the person next to you is saying. These sort of people aren't nearly so common in Madrid [and hopefully not in the rest of the country either].
Madrid's culture is vibrant, it's architecture beautiful, and it's tourist attractions interesting to boot. The Prado museum [the Spanish equivalent of the Louvre or Vatican] had a fantastic collection of works by Raphael, as well as a few by another of my favorite Renaissance artists, Luini. Although nowhere near the scale of Louvre, it was still too much for one day. In the end, I only saw about two thirds of it. To be able to get the most out of the visit, it's nice to spend at least a few minutes on each interesting piece. After the 200th or so, it starts to become so much effort that it's hard to enjoy them.
Although I was aware that the trains going back to Alicante on Sunday night were sold out [I'd tried to book one last Tuesday, but all of the tickets were sold out even then], I had assumed that the buses wouldn't be a problem. After all, most intelligent companies run a second bus if the first one is full.
Of course, the company servicing the route that I needed didn't operate this way. And it was of course sold out. The girl at the ticket window told me that they are always sold out on Sundays. This struck me as a bit strange. It seems rather clear that if you're sold out every week, you might just need to run more buses. But making this connection was completely beyond her.
Also, Marc-Olivier, my Quebecker roommate, moved out. He had a bit of a falling out with the landlady. I didn't understand exactly what happened. Something about massive tension due to his having taken three strawberries more than he was allowed one morning. Plus he took too many showers. It was very strange. But now she's being extra nice to me. I suspect that she's afraid of losing me as well.
But as long as she's treating me in a civil manner, I might as well stay quiet.
There have been a few stories in the news that are interesting [well, to me, anyway]. My two cents...
ITEM: The French are holding massive demonstrations, often turning into riots, to protest a change to the labor law concerning those under 26 years of age.
It seems that the French are being, well, French. As in, like what people expect of the people in France. This is the thing that I disliked most about France. It's a shame, really, because otherwise I would like to have stayed there much longer than I did. They're crippling the country over an issue that's really not worth the attention. It's true that the new law will reduce job security, but this may be the only way to kick start their economy. The unions are far too powerful, the result being that a person who cleans the train station makes twice as much as an associate professor with a PhD in one of their leading universities. Plus he only works 35 hours per week and gets six weeks paid vacation. Something has to give.
Another annoying part of this is that most of the people in the demonstration aren't even there for the cause. These sort of things are considered very hip by the French, and most people are just there to 'make the scene'. The media doesn't help matters, as even the most credible papers romanticize the hell out of it. The titles loosely translate to 'The Struggle of the People' or 'The Fight for Justice'.
ITEM: The pro-Russians win the parliamentary elections in Ukraine, reversing the momentum behind the pro-western 'Orange Revolution' two years ago.
The press has treated this as the death of pro-western sentiment in Ukraine. Apparently they can't add up two digit numbers. The problem is that Viktor Yushchenko and Yulia Timoshenko, the co-leaders of said revolution, had a nasty falling out last year. This time around, Timoshenko ran in her own newly created party, thus dividing the vote from the pro-western supporters. If you add up their combined take, they did even better than last time. Unfortunately, the pro-Russians, led once again by Victor Yanukovych [why is his name so bloody similar to Yushchenko?] were much more united, and hence picked up a larger percentage of the seats. Although I'm sure that this is oversimplifying the results, why hasn't the media recognized this obvious factor?
ITEM: Belarussian president Aleksandr Lukashenko holds a fraudulent election, and brutally suppresses demonstrators that protest the result [although compared to old Soviet tactics, this is just a slap on the wrist].
It seems that Lukashenko is a complete retard [there's that word again...]. Belarussians would probably reelect him even in a fair election, although with a somewhat narrow margin. The majority of people in Belarus are all very much pro-Russian, as most of them can trace their ancestry back directly to Russia. And Lukashenko keeps the country very close to the motherland. The pro-Western opposition is this country is squarely in the minority. Apparently Lukashenko is insecure [putting it mildly], unsatisfied with any results that are less than 80%. Or maybe he just likes drama.