If it weren’t for the extremely overzealous government of Palma, I would never know that it’s already November. Over the past week and a half I’ve been watching crews of electricians put up Christmas lights and other giant Christmas-themed decorations all over the city. Fair enough, they’re just making sure they have time to get everything in place. Or so I thought. Last night, however, they were lit. Do they realize that Halloween was on Monday? Apparently not, but on that note, Halloween has recently become an increasingly celebrated holiday in Spain. It’s not nearly as crazy as Americans make it, but there is a good amount of time and energy spent on costumes and decorations. Trick-or-treating is reserved only for small children so, sadly, I did not get any candy. I can’t feel too bad though, at least my Halloween wasn’t cancelled (sorry, Glastonbury. Too soon, I know).
November 1st is a holiday here in Spain, called “Dia de Todos los Santos” which is essentially a day of mourning for friends and family who have passed. Given the gravity of this holiday, I could see the satirical view of death portrayed on Halloween to seem disrespectful, but this isn’t the case. Spanish people wear only scary, death related costumes. Bloody face-paint and black clothes constitute about 90% of all Halloween attire, so I don’t know what led me to think that taping a piece of paper that says “America” on my shirt and wearing red shorts, a white hat and a blue shirt would be an acceptable costume. The bouncer of the club that we tried to get into especially disliked my patriotism, as I was denied entry for wearing shorts. This is the third such instance of shorts rejection so far in Spain. I think it’s about time for me to learn my lesson. My Halloween therefore ended pretty early when I walked home at 3:30 am. Some of my friends were out well past 6, so I did miss some serious festivities.
I had an excursion to a big outdoor market with my Catalan class on Sunday. “Class” is a relative term. It’s only me and one other girl from my program so we drove to the market with my professor, her husband, and her 2-year-old son. There were vendors selling lots of fresh veggies, fruits, meat and animals (birds and other small pets) but there was also a very large number of small clothing stands. Overall, interesting to see a typical Mallorcan market and overhear some traditional Catalán being spoken.
On Saturday I brought my friend who was visiting to a small town called Valldemossa. We were going to do the Soller Hike that I talked about in one of my last posts (the one with the refugee camp) but it wasn’t worth the effort because the weather was overcast and threatening. It was my first time in Valldemossa and I have to say, it was really nice. It was a little touristy in places (lots of cruise excursions were there) but overall a very quaint mountain town. I toured a monastery and saw Chopin’s piano (he lived in Valldemossa for a little while). We saw the entire town in about two hours but I think I’ll still go back at some point.
Friday was definitely the highlight of my week. I started the day waking up at 6:45 in order to meet my “Cultural Encounters” class for a tour of some caves. The only information we knew going into this excursion was that we were going to drive about an hour to the other side of the island, walk to some caves, check them out, then leave. It turned out being the most difficult hike I’ve ever done (up and down two good sized mountains). This included wicked sketchy rock walking right next to some very strong breaking waves. Getting into the cave required a harness and a very insecure feeling ladder. The entrance was also only large enough for us to sit in, and as a result, the 56-year old man in our class and his wife ended up deciding not to enter. Once in, we saw that the cave was enormous and the underground pond/lake created by the ocean water was gorgeous. We were told that pirates used to hide their booty in the cave, but much to my dismay, there was no booty to be seen.
Upon returning to Palma, I had about an hour to eat lunch before my “Business Spanish” class trip to Castle Bellver. This wasn’t enough time for a siesta, so I didn’t even bother. “Bellver” translated from Catalán means “nice view” and I have to say that it lives up to its name. With 360 degree views of the entire port, mountains behind and the entire city of Palma, it’s well worth the 15 minutes of stairs (except we took our professor’s car) to see.
I’m jumping around here, I know, but on Tuesday, I went to the Palma cemetery to see what this holiday was all about and I ended up spending about two hours there, just walking around looking at the various tombs and the flowers that family members had placed on them. It was very interesting to see this kind of holiday because in the U.S. we really don’t have anything similar. Upon thinking about it, I’ve come to the conclusion that we could use a holiday similar to this one in the United States because we seem (or at least in my opinion/experience) to cast death aside once some time has passed. It’s important to move forward with life after a loss, but at the same time, it’s not right to neglect a person’s memory. This kind of holiday doesn’t have to be as sad (Mexico’s “Dia de los Muertos” is a giant fiesta), but it’s nice to set time aside every year to remember those that are usually forgotten.