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4 posts from November 2013

11/18/2013

Paella, by Matt Mantikas, CIEE Palma de Mallorca

The highlight of the week was the paella “class”.
“Class”: going to a professional chef’s kitchen and watching her make us paella. Any class where my required participation involves only a fork is obviously fantastic, and it was as glorious as you might imagine. Watching our teacher, Cati, slowly make magic out of mundane ingredients was incredible to see, but painstakingly slow to bear.
In preparation for the feast, I had fasted for roughly 13 hours prior to the class. A huge feat for me in itself, but the last hour was brutal. I’d like to equate it to a fat person’s version of a marathon. The last mile, when your body says, “stop being stupid and walk” and your minds says “shut up and run,” is what hurts the most. I know what you’re thinking: my internal battle was probably far more intense than a person running 26.2 miles, and I think you’re right.
May you find peace in my happiness after four servings of paella, a piece of cake, and two flans. In all seriousness though, this was the best paella I’ve ever had but sadly, I don’t think I have the technology nor steady hand to pull off the maneuver of recreating such greatness. Cati did, however, invite me to stay in her home for the remainder of my time in Palma, but I could never leave Carlos alone in the trenches taking grenades like that.
Cati




11/11/2013

Hot and Cold by Matt Mantikas, CIEE Palma de Mallorca

Can someone tell me where October went?  Without real seasons I’m finding it easy to lose track of the date. Last year at Colby we got our first snow of the season on Halloween. I’ve been here almost two months and I have yet to be rained on (except that it’s starting to drizzle right now as I write this). How the tables have turned. Rain has been in the forecast here all week but I’ve only seen sunshine. Guess you can’t trust weathermen in any language.
Just got back from Sevilla on Sunday night. It was great to see my friends again, make some awesome new ones and also get a taste of what Andalucía has to offer. Sevilla was a lot of fun and my friends are really happy there, which is always good to see. They have a big group of nice people. But when I was walking home from the bus stop along the water on Sunday night, I felt at home for the first time. There’s something about the fresh ocean breeze, the sight of the port in the distance and the illuminated cathedral that I’ve really taken for granted up until this point. Sevilla has a lot going for it, but coming back to Palma reminded me of the reasons why I chose this program. I came for the small city and the island lifestyle. I’m starting to appreciate it more.
In other news, I just realized that if I skip one day of classes in December I have a 10 day break, but being the good student that I am, I decided that I’m going to skip two days to make it an 11 day break. This is unconfirmed, but I’m definitely doing the 10. Paris, London, Venice and possibly one other stop are on the agenda. I just need to find internet fast enough to find some flights. Wicked excited about this discovery. It’ll be a nice last hurrah before returning to Los Estados Unidos.
Anyway, that’s all for now. First weekend in a while without exciting plans. Very sad. But my friend who is studying in Milan is here visiting so there’s no way that we won’t find something fun to do. If you’re in New England, enjoy the beginning of winter. I hope the thought of me in a tee shirt and shorts warms your heart. But not really, because I don’t even know what that means. Just be jealous. Until next time.
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11/04/2013

Holiday Season, by Matt Mantikas, CIEE Palma de Mallorca

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.

11/01/2013

Fall 2013, Issue 2: CIEE PALMA DE MALLORCA

Granada 13

As promised, this is the story of our three-day trip to

Granada

Granada 1
We stayed in a family owned hostel, Hostal Moni, decorated with Andalusian style, and with a big terrace on the top where we had breakfast every morning overlooking the roofs of Albaizín neighbourhood, the old Arab quarter of Granada.

Granada 2
On Friday, we visited San Bartolomé Church, Plaza Larga, Puerta de las Pesas, the Mezquita Mayor, the El Salvador Church, and of course the Mirador de San Nicolás to see the Alhambra coloured in orange by the afternoon sun.

Granada 12
We went down to the Cathedral walking by the Cuesta del Chapiz, stopping every once in a while to contemplate the Alhambra rising on our left side, on the other side of the river.

Granada 7
We visited the Cathedral and the Royal Chapel, where we literally saw the coffins of Isabel I and Fernando II Catholic Kings of Spain in the XV century and authors by their marriage of the unification of Spanish kingdoms Castilla and Leon.

We had some time to wander and shop in the little Morroccan stores in downtown Granada. And afterwards we had the best kebabs of Granada in Baraka, of course with a very sweet Morroccan style mint tea.

Granada 3
Granada 5

In the night, we went to see a classic Flamenco show, with two spectacular dancers, a guitar player and a singer "cantaor". Students were so impressed as to say they had never ever seen something so intense and such a beautiful dance. We waited for the female dancer to come out, just so we could take a picture with her.

Granada 4

Granada 6

On Saturday we spent the day at the Alhambra, the Generalife's Gardens, and the Palacios Nazaríes. And in the afternoon we tried the typical dessert of Granada, the famous piononos. In this case, I think pictures are the best way to tell our story:

 

Granada 8

Granada 9

Granada 14
 

Granada 10

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