Categories
Travel

Quito, Ecuador: Shotguns and Happy Meals

Mile-High City?  Meh.  Try 1.8 Miles.

Because of our unexpectedly late arrival in Quito, it was late in the following day when we finally opened our eyes and officially arrived in South America.  And, hey, does anyone else feel a little weird?  Quito, Ecuador lies in the Andes mountains at an elevation of 9350 feet.  Each of us had a mild headache for a day or two as we got used to the effects of the altitude.

Our first hotel stay wasn’t exactly an immersion in the local culture, as I had booked a free reward stay at the Quito Holiday Inn Express.  With 16 nights of the trip in hotels, it was nice to start out with a few free room nights.  The Holiday Inn Express was as comfortable and familiar as one would expect.  Just like in the US.  Well, except for the armed security guard stationed at the front door 24 hours a day.

Categories
Travel

A Trip 30 Years in the Making

The Lure of Peru

For all of my life, I have been fascinated by South America.  As a teenager, I loved to read about adventurers who travelled deep into the Amazon jungle or high amid the Andes.

When I first saw pictures of the Inca ruins at Machu Picchu, it instantly moved to the top of my wishlist of places to visit.  At that time, travel to the area was far less common than today.  Machu Picchu had only 120,000 visitors in 1982.  That number has risen dramatically in the years since, with over 1 million visitors seeing the site in 2012.  The Peruvian government has now instituted a daily cap of 2500 visitors per day to protect the site from its own popularity.

Categories
Travel

Istanbul July 2012

To celebrate our twentieth wedding anniversary, my wife Jan and I wanted to travel somewhere exotic and far away. We settled on Istanbul, Turkey, and booked our trip immediately. Despite our impulsive decision, the choice proved to be an excellent one. Of all the places that I have traveled, no destination has delivered an experience like Istanbul. Our week in the city was everything you hope for in travel.

Categories
Finance

A sneaky way to get a better interest rate on your CD

It looks like the crazy-low interest rates on savings and CDs aren’t going to improve any time soon.  The Fed has indicated that they plan to keep rates low for the foreseeable future.  And, frankly, our federal government just can’t afford to let interest rates rise because of the ballooning federal debt.

So, what’s a suffering saver to do?  Here’s a trick to improve your interest rate on a 2 year CD.  And, the tip also works for other medium length CD terms.

Categories
Apps

Moxie, a word game app for iPhone

If you like word games, you’ve got to try this iPhone app.
I agree with one of the reviews I read: “Can’t. Stop. Playing.”!

Download the original Moxie from iTunes here.

Categories
Learning Spanish

Must-visit site for language learners: LiveMocha

Update: LiveMocha no longer exists, nor does the Falling in Love with San Miguel site, so I removed the links below. Oh well!

In the lengthy time since my last blog post, I’ve been steadily improving as a Spanish student, mostly through reading and watching shows on DirecTV Más.

I was reading through some posts on one of my favorite American-Expatriates-in-Mexico sites (Falling in Love with San Miguel) when I came across a brief mention of a language learning resource called LiveMocha.  Wow!  I had no idea what I was missing out on.

Categories
Learning Spanish

Get the Foreign Service Institute Spanish course FREE!

Several years back, I bought Barron’s “Mastering Spanish” volume 1, which included a book and 12 audio cassettes.  It’s a good program, and I learned a lot from it.  I now know that this product is merely a commercial repackaging of the government-funded FSI Spanish Basic Course.

Categories
Learning Spanish

Fuera de Serie, now with closed captioning

I mentioned the entertaining Spanish travel show “Fuera de Serie” in a previous post.  At the time, I noted that closed captioning wasn’t available on the show.  However, the last few of these shows that I have recorded finally do have closed captioning.  If you’re using this show for practicing Spanish comprehension, check it out.

The show airs on the Galavision network, which is part of many satellite and cable providers channel lineup.  Currently, the schedule is 2 PM Central time, Monday through Friday.

Categories
Learning Spanish

“Jewels of Mexico” is a real jewel

Among the many Spanish language shows I’ve been watching lately (see my last post), one of the best is “Las Joyas de México”, or The Jewels of Mexico.  It’s a half-hour documentary about various sites in Mexico, airing on HITN-TV at 7 PM Central on Sundays.  There are repeats at other times as well.

Categories
Learning Spanish

Have DirecTV? Supercharge your Spanish learning

My normal DirecTV satellite TV package included a couple of Spanish language channels, Univision and Galavision.  However, I found that only a handful of shows on those two networks were interesting to me.  On a whim, I decided to head over to the DirecTV website and see what else I might could get.  They have a package called En Español, which adds 26 additional Spanish language networks to my choices.  (They say 33, but that includes some music channels and other items.)  At $19.95 extra per month, it’s not cheap, but I think I’ll keep it for a while.
Now I can actually find something interesting to watch while improving my language abilities.  Many shows are subtitled as well, so don’t forget that option.  My favorites so far are HITN, which shows a number of interesting shows, and EcuaVisa from Ecuador.  I’ve heard that Ecuadorian Spanish is among the easiest for non-native speakers to understand, and so far I’d have to agree.  They seem to speak a bit slower, and drop fewer letters from their words than other speakers.

CNN en Español is always a good choice, as is Discovery Channel Español.  Now my ReplayTV is chock full of Spanish language shows.  HITN also runs 2 episodes each Sunday of Destinos, a Spanish language instructional show.  The best part of all this Spanish TV is that I can really see the difference in my comprehension.  In my last exposure to Destinos, I was able to understand only bits and pieces, while now I can follow along with much of the dialogue.