PressReader Newspaper Application: A Review

When I was seven, my favorite place in the world was my best friend Megan’s farm. Even though she needed to shove her cats into the basement and vacuum the entire house so my allergies could be kept at bay, the farm and her mother’s cooking made for many happy memories. Among these were having her mother carefully split the comics section down the middle, serve us pipping hot pancakes and mason jars of milk and digging into two things I have always loved – newspapers and breakfast food.

I graduated from college 15 years later with a journalism degree.

While I’m abroad, my desire for news seems to be more acute. Even Spanish news programs are on at 3pm, the time at which most families are sitting down to lunch. I devour newspapers each morning over breakfast – this time with a cup of coffee instead of a mason jar of milk.

I recently took a test run of PressReader, the largest online kiosk for reading newspapers from around the world on a mobile device, tablet or computer. Over 2,300 newspapers in 54 languages are available for browsing, and my subscription started just before the 2012 Presidential Elections. I opened the application to find loads of information about the impending polling and last minute pushes in swing states, quickly saved a few English and Spanish language newspapers into my favorites and dove right in, cup of tea in hand.

They say no news is good news, but no news makes for a deprived Cat with nothing to do to keep her entertained in the morning. Here’s what I thought of PressReader’s application.

What I liked

The benefits of PressReader stuck out right from the beginning. I could easily move through titles, sections and languages and get a good feel for the applications and its capabilities.

Easy Navigation and Stellar Graphics – When each new newspaper is opened, found through a keyword search or by choosing a language, the front cover pops up and the sections can be found on the right hand side. Here, one can browse the sections that interests them the most, using either the table of contents or the thumbnails of the paper’s actual content. There’s also the option to download the paper to a mobile reading device or to send the article to an email address. The newspaper appears just as it was if it were in your hand, with crisp graphics and the ability to open a separate window with larger text and related articles. If anything, I’d prefer the icons for zooming in, turning the page and closing the article to be floating, rather than on the bottom.

Radio Option –  An automated reading of the piece is available in all languages, perfect for multi-tasking or downloading for later listening. The Spanish readings actually sounded better than the English ones!

The Price – After frustratingly trying to open articles to just browse and get my news fill, having to click to read through Facebook ro other social media was irritating. PressReader offers a close to unlimited number of views for a flat fee of $0.99 cents per download, or a rate of $29.95 a month. Considering you’ve got access to well over 2,000 newspapers and all of its content (including the crosswords!), it’s a great deal for keeping informed.

What could be improved

Small Type – The small type led to problems with me clicking on the wrong articles or links. I couldn’t find a magnifying glass to help me sort it out, either.

Not personalized enough from the beginning – Largely due to the enormous number of newspapers availble, the front page is a big jumble of popular articles, my saved newspapers and a dashboard. Trying to find articles that interested me was tougher than I expected, so I would have liked the application to begin with a short questionnaire about my preferences, geographic location and preferred language, along with the look of my homepage.

Overall Value

While PressReader is great for the traveler and the digital minded, I miss the slight weight of a newspaper and the smell of ink on my hands. Regardless, PressReader offers travelers an easy way to stay in touch with no pesky “two clicks a day” limit and a reasonable price to have it all at their fingerprints, no matter where or when they’re having their coffee and paper break.

PressReader generously offered me a multiple-month trial of their application for my desktop. As always, all opinion are my own.

Seville Snapshots: Santa Catalina Church

When my friend Nancy came to visit nearly five years ago, she had two goals in mind: to not eat anything with a head on it, and to see as many Catholic temples as she could.

Since I had to work, I let Nancy loose with little more than a map, marked with circles around all of the places I thought interesting and worth a visit. She, instead, gravitated towards the churches. Her walk down Calle Imágen took her all the way to Santa Catalina de Alejanría, a mudejar style church right next to the bus depot and steps away from the Duquesa de Alba’s house.

The church has been closed to the public since 2004, upon which is was deemed in ruins. Despite the local government proclaiming its worth, no public money was put towards its restoration, even though immediate action was called for eight years ago. Locals have called for the intervention of the Cultural commission in the city to finance the project, but it may be that St. Catherine’s is closed forever.

You can sign a petition for the call to action by sending an email to elrinconcitocofrade@yahoo.es (Asunto: “Por Santa Catalina”) and leaving your full name.

If you’d like to contribute your photos from Spain and Seville, please send me an email at sunshineandsiestas @ gmail.com with your name, short description of the photo, and any bio or links directing you back to your own blog, Facebook page or twitter. There’s plenty more pictures of the gorgeous Seville on Sunshine and Siesta’s new Facebook page!

Rocking the Vote in Spain

 

Only a teacher would think to bring a map of the United States, a blue marker and a red one, to an Election Day party in Spain.

“Ok, everybody! Teacher’s here with the electoral map!” Lindsay called out as I hung it on the wall under the TV, and I had miniature US flags waved in my face as a show of solidarity in the upstairs bar of Merchant’s Malt House in Seville. I don’t remember if it was a blustery sort of November that we tend to have In Chicago on Election Night, or which states I colored in, tallying up the electoral votes for each candidate. I do remember the elation of knowing the small team, spearheaded by an incredibly savvy and forward-thinking American woman, had registered dozens of study abroad students and American residents to vote from sunny Spain.

For someone who is not overly patriotic, voting is one of the most important responsibilities I feel I have while overseas. In fact, it’s the only ONLY right I don’t have as a resident in Spain, which makes my voice all the more important when every first Tuesday in November rolls around.

Voting abroad is simple, so there’s no reason to not do it! Here’s how to easily cast your ballot from abroad:

First: Make sure you’re actually registered to vote!

Remember all of those civics classes you had to sit through in high school? By now you should know that no one counts as 2/3 of a person and you can vote as a woman, so there’s absolutely no reason on this big Earth why you can’t do it (unless you’re under 18). Registering to vote is an insanely simple process that can be done in person at a local election office, by heading into the DMV, or even by soliciting this information through the mail. If you’re currently abroad, you can print off these forms and mail them back Stateside to your local office.

If you are already overseas, you will have to print out the forms listed on your state’s election website and mail it to your election office, or complete the online registration at the Federal Voter Assistance Program. You’ll need to provide basic information, including your driver’s licence number, or the last four digits of your Social Security number.

Second: Educate yourself, duh.

I don’t like no stupids, so please be a good person and do your research (this article is strictly non-partisan, so make sure your candidate’s ideals are lined up with your own! It’s all about knowledge, friends!)

Third — Request an Absentee Ballot

Click to the FVAP’s site, choose request an absentee ballot and click on the state you are registered to vote in. Using the Wizard, carefully fill in your pertinent information about where your ballot should be sent. You can request the ballot by email, fax or regular mail. Do note that, using this method, you can mail in the registration and the ballot at the same time.

You’ll receive a PDF with all of your information. This must be printed, signed and dated, then sent to your local election office. I faxed my request into my local office and received my write-in ballot not 12 hours later.

Finally – Cast your ballot and enjoy elections parties around Spain on November 6th!

Your local election office will send you the PDF form of a write-in ballot. your state will have its own regulations about how to return the ballot and whether there is additionally information (Illinois, for example, requires a secrecy waiver). Send it certified and let your voice count!

DA is planning a massive tri-city simultaneous party for the big night, meant to be a sort of gala fundraiser.  I’ve been speaking with the president of the Seville organization, but plans are not finalized. Get in touch with me through my Facebook page for more information, or to help out (possibility of a paid position!).

An Open Letter to the State of Iowa

There was a night that will go down in infamy dubbed the Valencia Bar Crawl night.

I was in Valencia, Spain with three girls I’d met on my study abroad program – Megan, Ashley and Anne – and we’d decided to nurse our Ibiza hangover with a few beers on a quiet night that involved more than a few beers, moto rides on slick city pavements and even a male stripper.

But I digress.

The night started by ducking into a brightly lit old man bar – the kind where the bartenders wear crisp white shirts and black pants, and the beer is always cheaper. In our half drunk state, we wrote love notes in Spanish to the bartender’s son, Miguel, and he asked, “¿De dónde venis?”

Ioooooooowaaaaa, said Meg, and I realized I was in the company of all Iowans. All of the sudden, that cartoon bombilla went off over the man’s head.

“Ah, yes, the Iowa of Walt Whitman! I love his poetry. Iowa must be beautiful.”

Sure, if you consider acre of acre after cornfields beautiful, then Iowa is your Garden of Eden (though I really, really do love corn on the cob). I only had the pleasure of calling Iowa home from August – May each year while in college, but I adore that state.  I got a degree from their flagship university. I was taught by engaging professors who had succumbed to the charm of Iowa City. I bled black and gold (and still do). I met my closest friends there. I studied abroad thanks to a grant made possible through the state, which may have arguably led me to end up in Spain. Yes, Iowa is more than just the Hawkeye State to me.

During my sophomore year of college, I was finally able to vote in a presidential election. After having sat through hours of civics classes, I wanted to exercise my freedom to. Iowa’s important role in our nation’s changing – or not – of leaders made for the first few months of that school year to be interesting and dotted with celebrity sighting (rumor is I let Tom Arnold stumble past me while under the influence).

Let me remind you that I went to the Iowa J-School. I never had Stephen Bloom as a professor, despite seeing him in the hallways of the Adler Building and smiling, as Iowans do. When his name kept cropping up on my Facebook feed this week, I figured he was some kind of political analyst before I thought, Hey, he shares a name with a professor I almost  took a course from.

Sure enough, when I looked for the Atlantic Weekly article where he lambasted the geographic center of America, the face with the straight nose and shiny, dark curls was smirking right back at me. I read the article. I furled my eyebrows as to why anyone would find a problem with people relating pigs with money (um, HOLA, I live in Spain). I hated on Bloom in Spanish. If I had the actual article in my hands, it would have gotten ripped up and thrown in the recycling.

In it, Bloom states that, to be Iowan – not a transplant like he and I – one must hunt, fish and love Hawkeye Football. I only fall into one of those categories, same as good old Steve, as I was born in Detroit and have called Illinois my home since I was four. But it stung to have someone throwing all of what I love about Iowa back in my face.

Iowa never seemed foreign to me, just an extension of the things I learned to love living in a bustling suburb. Iowa exemplifies rural America, sure, but Bloom glosses over its thriving arts scene, its sustainability achievements and the world-class universities, one of which employs him.

I may never be able to claim Iowa roots, but the Hawkeye State is more than cornfield, swines and kids named Bud. Field of Dreams, which takes place in Eastern Iowa, claims that “If you build it, they will come.” I think Iowa is trying to reinvent itself, offering incentives to teachers who stay in the state, pioneering sustainable agriculture ideas and playing up its arts scene. Iowa may not be a utopia, but I love hundreds of things about it.

Iowa City: University town and UNESCO World City of Literature

I come from the concrete jungle of Chicago, so choosing not to go to journalism school at Northwestern shocked my parents – I didn’t want to stay in the city. I wanted somewhere wide open, an extension of my high school years (I actually enjoyed mine). Besides, I’ve never been too artsy fartsy – I much prefer a cold beer and sports (see below).

Iowa City has been haunted by plenty in the past (Ashton Kutcher, duh!), but it’s especially known for its Writer’s Workshop, a world-renowned center for literature. Even Kurt Vonnegut was a director of the program, which has garnered Iowa City the title of a UNESCO World City of Literature – the only in the States. Sidewalks are paved with verse and independent bookstores thrive. The hours I spent running my hands over bindings in Prairie Lights are only rivaled to those spent at Brother’s during FAC, but as someone who loves words, Iowa City was just it for me. And, funny story, I spent time calling the Hancher Performing Arts Center pool without having ever seen a show there!

People say Iowa is all bacon and beer, but even the artsy fartsy can get their kicks.

Where else can drinking be acceptable before sunrise?

I am a self-proclaimed beer lover, so I clearly enjoy being able to have a beer for lunch and go back to work.

Iowans like beer, too. Not just for lunch, but many like it for breakfast, too.

But this isn’t what I love about Iowa. In a professional sports team-less state, everybody becomes a Hawkeye Football fan (you did pick up on that, Stephen). There’s little else to say, expect for that people came across the heartland to watch the Hawks run onto the field, followed by Herky on his little trolley waving the Iowa flag wildly. I came from a high school with a strong football program, so buying into the Hawkeye fever was an easy decision.

I have so many wonderful memories of other black and gold embraces in Kinnick, of other fans sharing their chili and space heaters in the back of their trucks, kids decked out in Hawkeye gear. I’ve never felt the spirit of how a sports team can bring people together until I went to my first Hawkeye game freshman year. I still follow the games from Spain, feeling the crush of defeat when we lose and yelling IIIIII as if I were in the student section. I love football, I love the taste of the second Natty Lite on Melrose, and I love sharing Gameday Iowa with Iowans.

The Fabric of Our Lives

Ok, so clearly cotton isn’t the main export from Iowa, but Iowans are about as down-home, country-loving as they come. And I love that about them.

Passing the I-80 Truckstop, deemed the largest in the world, the radio stations suddenly switched to country. All of them. My dad searched for anything else before cursing and turning off the radio to give me a pre-college visit pep-talk.

“Don’t rush into it. you’ll know when it’s right.” Ah, Don. You so smart.

We pulled off the exit towards Iowa City, a welcome break from the miles of endless highways that crisscross the Midwest. Rolling down Dubuque Street, I gawked at frat houses as my dad recounted his own years as president of his chapter. We parked near the Iowa Memorial Union and began our tour. After scaling what is seemingly the only hill in the city, upon which sits the Pentacrest, we toured the new business building, exiting in front of a crumbling brick church. An old man tottered by and tapped me, saying I wouldn’t regret being a Hawkeye.

I asked my dad to buy me a hoodie, convinced I would be calling Iowa City home for a few years’ time. Even after visits to Wisconsin, Illinois, Purdue and Indiana, I knew I had my mind made up.

When he asked why, it was simple – the openness of the people who smiled on the street, the simplicity of the Iowans. I was never once disappointed with the people of Iowa who take their family traditions seriously, who open their homes and hearts to anyone who asks. When a tornado ripped through downtown Iowa City in 2006 just hours before a busy Thursday night in the area popular for nightlife, I was overwhelmed by the support I saw from friends of the University, lifetime Iowans and the president.

Iowans are, for lack of better words, great people. With hearts the size of their state. I’ve met some of my dearest friends there, as they were always the ones to turn to when I needed someone to talk to, the ones who send me cards here in Spain, the ones who invited me to Easter brunch at their houses. Those religious freaks over in Iowa know where they come from, and are proud of it.

Come January, people will be watching Iowa. For better or for worse, a seemingly homogenous state will help determine the political course for one person. Maybe Bloom’s words really have taken roots. Here’s hoping they haven’t…

How to Survive The Foreigner’s Office

Author’s Note: This post seemed fitting today, considering my first experience with the dreaded papeleo started on July 3rd, 2007, when I applied for my student visa to come to Spain. Likewise, I just picked up my five-year residence card on Friday.

On my first trip to Sevilla, six years ago nearly to the day, I was breathless at the site of the half-moon, colonnaded Plaza de España, nestled just out of the historic center and at the helm of the plush María Luisa Park. The Triana tiles gleamed in the early July sunlight as I sat writing on a bench in the mural depicting Valladolid, a city I had just moved away from. I brought my travel partner, Catherine, the very next day. While not as bowled over as I, she did know that it was the fictional Planet Naboo of Star Wars fame.

Two years in the future, I was applying for a visa at the Chicago consulate. The deal was that Spain put a shiny visa on an entire page of my passport in exchange for 90 days in the land of toros and tapas. From there, I would need to go to local police and present a mountain of paperwork claiming I had a salary and health insurance. Seemed easy to present a few pieces of paper and stand in line.

Think again – what ensued has been a very ugly battle between me and the central immigration offices of Andalucía, a little bit of trickery (ok, flat-out lying) and finally securing a five-year residency card after thirteen months of appointments, photocopies and a lawyer.

Estés dónde estés, here’s a few tips to make your trip to Extranjeros a little more smooth:

Brush up on your vocabulary
The people who work in the oficina de extranjeros are called funcionarios. Spain, like Italy, has a high number of civil servants, and those Spaniards wishing to have job security and work short hours take an exam called an oposición to be able to be one. If selected, they are entitled to have breakfast at the precise hour you arrive to the front of the line. You’ll need to turn in all your papeleo, paperwork, to these people, so follow the advice below, too.

At the office, you’ll need to queue up and get a ticket. When your letter and number is called, you turn in your documents and receive a snobby-ass look and the word that you’ll come back for your fingerprints – your huellas, in addition to paying a tax and presenting two or three recent photos. Note that in Spain, these foto carne are much smaller than their American counterparts. After that appointment, you’ll have to wait 45 days to pick up your plastic card, and chat up a security guard to let you cut. I learned that two prorrogas in.

Know what you need to bring, and bring photocopies
Tres fotos carné? Form EX-##? Best to do your research, as every official act performed in the office has a different set of requisites. For pareja de hecho, for example, I had to present a certificate stating I wasn’t already married, signed and stamped by an official US Notary. Not necessary for an extension on your student visa. Speak to your consulate or embassy, download the forms to turn in here, ask about tasas, or fees, and bring a few small pictures. That said, made at least two photocopies of each document and have anything notarized if it’s a copy to turn in. Believe me, this will save you headaches, as this woman can tell you. Got a stapler? Toss that in your bag, just in case.

Dress appropriately, and bring a Spaniard along if you can
Showing up and looking nice can really make a difference, especially here in Sevilla, where appearances are everything. I have been in a skirt when everyone else is in flipflops and board shorts, but am generally greeted with a smile and a willing attitude.

Likewise for bringing a Spanish friend. My dear amiga Kelly told me this as she was applying for a work visa last year. She swears that having her saint of a boyfriend along meant more efficiency and no Sevillana stink face. If you’ve got a willing friend, invite them to a coffee in exchange for a few hours of quality time with you (And by quality time I mean you pulling out your hair time).

Go at the right time
Officially, winter hours in the office are like a banker’s: 9-5. In the summer, don’t expect the office to be open past 2. I remember my first trip to the office in October of 2007, clutching a paper folder with all of my documents. I left my house barely at 6am, arriving to stand at the end of a very, very long queue. At 8am, you can get your number, but our dear friends the fucnionarios won’t roll in until after 9. For this reason, I tend to show up either right at 9am, or after everyone has had their breakfast rotation at 11.30. It’s also advisable to go after 1 p.m., as the wait times are generally shorter. Note that some tasks have only a certain number of tickets assigned each day, so if you’re merely renewing a student visa, go whenever te da la gana. If it’s something like asking for your marriage book, the earlier, the better.

Be patient
Chances are you’ll be sent to multiple offices, to numerous people. The rules for every type of trámite are complex and must be followed precisely. Use message boards, other expats from your countries and the consulate to be as prepared as possible before you go, and realize there will be lines to wait in, documents missing, frustrations to be had. But, really, it all works out. I waited thirteen months to be able to hold a little red card in my hand, and now don’t have to go back (barring a residence change) until February of 2016. A little patience goes a long way in Spain, especially in the foreigner’s office.


All you expats: Have any extranjería horror stories? Tips for making the process any degree less painful? Got enchufe somewhere? Tell me about it in the comments!

Spaniards and the Inauguration

Yesterday I was so anxious about the inauguration and the start of a new presidency, I could hardly sit still. The historic day was darkened by sad news over here in Spain, and I forgot to cancel a class to watch the ceremonies.

What hs stood out most in m mind was the reaction of Spaniards. News pages here in Spain have uploaded videos and transcripts of the speech translated into Castillian and Obama and his supporters’ faces have crossed every broadsheet. Yesterday morning, I read an article on the bus called “Los Siete Pecados de Bush” – Bush’s Seven Sins. While Bush has been shown recently as aged by office, Obama is either shown as relaxing and portraying how normal he is, or looking serious while making a speech. Although President Zapatero warns that Obama can’t solve all the problems that face the US and Spain alike, Spaniards are ever-confident in a president that isn’t theirs. I got lots of congratulations, handshakes, the like. My students in 1D, instead of applauding when I walked down the hall, chanted “O BA MA! O BA MA!”

But by far the most surprising was how all of the women were asking me about what I thought of Michelle Obama’s dress. While I hadn’t spent a lot of time looking at it (I’m listening to his speech for the first time right now, nearly 24 hours after he spoke it), I wasn’t thrilled. Listening chatter about it around the brasero and in the car, they seemed to criticize everything about it. I told them the two dresses were designed by minorities and that, to me, was the message, they just shrugged it off and commented on how the boxy jacket made her look fat.

There’s an interesting saying in Spanish: “Cuando los Estados Unidos estronuda, nos refriamos” -When the US sneezes, we catch a cold. How very true.

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