February 18, 2013

Cadiz, Scotland, And Engineering Trips!

Hello again! In this first month of studying in Spain I have been incredibly lucky in the myriad of experiences that I have witnessed! It is close to insanity when I think of everything I have done in only 6 weeks. I don’t think I could fit a specific list of all the things I have done in one post, but I will quickly attempt to give a summarizing list since I could not start the blog at the beginning of the semester:

1. Visit Toledo, Spain

2. Visit Segovia, Spain

3. Visit El Escorial, Spain

4. Visit Barcelona, Spain

5. Travel and explore all around Madrid of course!

6. Learn some moves in a Merengue, Salsa, and Bachata class!

7. Visit Cadiz, Spain

8. Visit Scotland, and discover a culture that is interestingly similar to the U.S.A.’s!

9. Study some great elective courses while abroad (int’l economics, and of course Professor Kney’s VAST class on sustainability)

10.  Visit the dam outside Madrid, a major source of Madrid’s public water (see earlier blog post)

11. Visit a biomass power plant also outside Madrid, responsible for a major portion of Madrid’s recycling, and waste management. (More on this later)

12. Visit and get to see the inside of impressive operations at the International Madrid-Barajas Airport.

13. Participate in lots of activities organized by European Vibe, a business that specializes in planning events that attract a varied crowd of people who are studying in Madrid.

14. And many more experiences that I could not describe in words… A little trip to an amazing gelato place near puerta del sol, the discovery of a great flamenco bar, enjoying tapas from the legendary “El Tigre”, and literally everything in between!

Anyhow, now that I have written down a small update of the many places and things I have gotten to do, here are some details of what exactly my classmates and I have seen recently!

Several Lafayette students and I visited Cadiz, Spain on the weekend of the ninth and tenth of February. We traveled with European Vibe, and it was truly an awe-inspiring experience. The entire city was filled with excitement and high energy leading up to a cultural festival on the scale that I had never experienced before.

A carnival crowd in Cadiz, Spain

The beautiful blue skies and palm trees in this beach town… Over-run by lots of people dressed up as all kinds of characters! Celebrating the carnival!

Essentially the carnival was a gathering of different people from all over Spain in a gigantic square. Luckily the weather was beautiful, and I took full advantage of all there was to see! 

Through our sustainability course, we have seen some rather impressive operations! Last Thursday we went to a “bio-mass plant”, which is also known as an environmentally friendly trash dump.Recyclables inside a biomass plant in SpainBiomass plant in Spain

As you can see in the pictures posted, there is quite the infrastructure to support recycling. It is interesting to see in real terms how much waste our society generates. In fact, every day Madrid generates enough trash to fill one of its soccer stadiums! Despite this figure, Madrid actually exhibits lower waste per capita than other similar developed cities. The most important feature of this bio-mass plant was its ability to use organic waste productively. This plant was able to take the methane gas from the decomposition of organic waste and use this to generate electricity. While this is a very sustainable form of electricity generation, Professor Kney and our class wondered if this power plant’s cost of making electricity would prohibit its profitability. In other words, sustainability is great, but there must also be some form of economic incentive to use this energy.

Then, last Friday we went to Madrid-Barajas airport (which smelled much better). The sustainability efforts being put forward by the airport are impressive to say the least. The airport renovated and redesigned its data and control infrastructure in 2006. It certainly showed in the impressive control center that we were shown (sorry I have no pictures, as they were not allowed). This control room is one of the first of its kind in the entire world. What made it special was the impressive scale of collaboration between departments. It contained every department that was even remotely related to the airport’s operations including everything from 4 different security agencies to the teams that control the air conditioning power consumption. It was the heart of the airport’s operations… very impressive!

Students in teh Sala de Crisis, or crisis/situation room, with state-of-the-art communication capabilities, at the Madrid-Barajas airport

This is the “Sala de Crisis”. Translated as Crisis room, it was much like a “situation room”. It has state-of-the-art communication capabilities, and is located right next to the major control center of the airport.

Special procedures and facilities are in place to maximize energy efficiency in the newest terminals, T-4 and T-4S. A few included exclusively high-efficiency lighting combined with an architectural design that maximizes natural light, and rotating panels that could reflect sunlight into the terminal.

High-efficiency lighting at the Madrid-Barajas airport

High Efficiency Lighting in Madrid Airport

They also had state-of-the-art air conditioning/heating delivery systems that control the temperature in the terminals with efficiency levels that had not been seen in an airport before.

After all of these trips, I had the unique opportunity to explore Scotland! I worked at a camp last summer that hired staff from around the world. As a result, I had met a few friends from the U.K. and we decided to all A view of buildings and the street in Scotlandvisit Scotland last weekend! I was actually in shock that I was in a country that only spoke in English. I had gotten quite used to speaking in Spanish, and I found myself enjoying living in a place that speaks a different language. Aside from this temporary culture shock, I enjoyed seeing many sites and conversing with many people. The culture in Scotland was remarkably similar to the United States in that meal times, taste in music, and even eating habits were all very similar. Overall, it has been a great week! So much to reflect on, and I’m sure there will be much more! 

A man wearing a kilt and carrying a bagpipe in Scotland

My next adventure starts Wednesday night on a bus to Morocco for a 4 day excursion around the country to take in what I expect to be a fascinating experience! And that’s all for now! Hasta Luego

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