…Which translates to “be seized!” The Spanish use this phrase in the way the Romans would use Carpe Diem… or as Americans use YOLO. “Seized” is how I have felt in the past 48 hours. The culture shock–in the best way possible–has been overwhelming.
On my tiny flight from Barcelona to Palma (by “tiny” I mean we were airborne for 20 minutes before the captain announced our descent) I looked out the window and saw something unusual: mountains. I realized I hadn’t seen anything other than the flat, green Dutch landscape for weeks. That was my first hint that I was in for a change, and since then I have experienced nothing but change.
Yesterday was my first full day here. We walked around the city center with our “guardian angels,” Spanish students who act as our guides, and shopped for shampoo, plug converters, notebooks, and anything else we forgot. Downtown is bustling but not overcrowded like Amsterdam or Rome. It’s a more local population and tourists don’t stand out as much (ehem, “I <3 Amsterdam” shirts). The architecture is a gorgeous cross between Italy and the American Southwest–flat slated roofs, tan stone, balconies with forest green shutters, crooked satellite dishes. And, of course, there are lots of palm trees.
I also met my host mom yesterday, Marisa, who I will be living with in Palma. She’s a señora (unmarried middle-aged woman) and a fantastic cook. Last night I came home to homemade vegetable lasagna, Mallorcan zucchini soup and ice cream. She works as a cooking teacher in the city so I’m hoping to learn a thing or two before I leave. Despite the fact that we can bond over food, we have had trouble bonding otherwise because she speaks no English. The last time I took Spanish class was in eighth grade, so our conversations are short and basic. What’s interesting, though, is how much of the language I remember when I’m forced to speak it. I find myself putting together simple sentences without really thinking. Marisa has been very patient with me; she takes time to correct my mistakes and make lots of hand motions.
Last night was the festival of San Juan, which is equivalent to Christmas for Spaniards since many people believe that, historically speaking, Jesus was born on June 24th. We were advised to wear all cotton, pants, long-sleeved shirts and hats. Hmm… After walking to the cathedral’s courtyard as a group we were greeted by dozens of masked demons in red and black costumes. They were dancing crazily with torches and sparklers and fireworks. Teenagers, older people and even children gathered around and danced with the demons, even through the flames. I immediately understood why we were instructed to wear lots of clothing. The demons processed through the courtyard, followed by a band of drummers. So many fireworks were going off at once I didn’t know where to look. It was absolute madness. People seemed unfazed by the fire, though, and were laughing and joyous. One of my friends and I eventually found the guts to (briefly) go into the sparklers. It was kind of scary, but more exciting. My host mom told me that people also write down their hopes for the coming year and send them into the ocean with candles. The night was a crazy, happy experience I will never forget.
Today we first went to the town of Santanyi by bus. There we shopped through a busy Spanish market selling fresh fruit, meats, cheeses, jewelry, clothes, and souvenirs. We bought lots of strawberries and cherries and ate them on the sunny steps of the town’s cathedral.
Fresh produce at a market in Santanyi
Nora eats strawberries in the Santanyi market
From there we drove to the fishing town of Cala Figuera where we had incredible views of the turquoise ocean and learned a bit about the Spanish fishing industry.
View from the cliffs over the fishing town of Cala Figuera
Our last stop was the gorgeous beach of Cala Mondrago. It looked like something out of a movie–turquoise clear water, rocky cliffs, and white sand. We stayed there for a few hours before heading back to Palma, where I had a delicious dinner of Mallorcan zucchini topped with melted Menorcan cheese. Very Balearic!
The beach of Cala Mondrago
I don’t think one could pick two countries more different than the Netherlands and Spain. I am so excited to see what else Palma has in store. Carpe diem!
Visit CIEE Palma de Mallorca: