I'm in SPAIN!!!!!
It’s been a ~slow~ week here. But such is life here, and from what all the locals tell me it’s only going to get slower. I’m not complaining. Yet. I might even grow to like it :p
The flight over was… well I couldn’t even tell you, I slept the entire way. The layover in Madrid was a bit boring as I finished my book (The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera, I highly recommend it. please read it so we can talk about it!) in the first hour. The plane to Menorca was small but the flight was smooth, and I had an extra seat next to me (yay for sleeping in odd positions!). A 15-minute cab-ride from the airport (and that’s including all the windy one-way streets in town) and I was at my AirBNB (which Is quite nice and I'll be staying at for the month).
Maó-Mahon is a beautiful little city - I say little, but it’s bigger than I imagined. 5 days in and I’m still getting lost. In contrast to the grid of Chicago where it’s flat enough for the skyline to always point you in the right direction, here it’s hilly and there are no landmarks, and no 19th century Great Fire clearing way for a more logical city plan. A lot of times I try and take a new route to my destination and follow my intuition… a lot of times I end up taking the “scenic route”. I’m not going to go into the history of the city, but it’s pretty damn old (talking BC here people) and Wikipedia can tell you all about it.
This is a port city and one my first day walking and getting acquainted there were two cruise shops docked and a ton of tourists (naturally within minutes I overheard Russians). Luckily that seemed to be the last weekend for cruise ships and since then there’s been a reasonable amount (i.e. minimal) of tourists around town.
This week I’ve been sleeping a lot. #Siesta. Partially because the first few days were rainy. Partially because as much as I claim to be immune, I’m probably jet lagged. And Mostly because everything really does shut down in the middle of the day. In Barcelona I experienced a little of this, but being a big metropolis (and constantly full of tourists) most businesses stayed open. Here, not so much. For example on Saturday I slept in (for other, hangover-related reasons) and finally got my shit together and went out for a walk and some food around 4. After being turned down at 3 or 4 places (with their kitchens not reopening until 8pm, or rather 20:00, as they use 24hr time here) I was stuck eating Burger King (which by the way is one of the more expensive options here, so I really don’t know why anyone would eat there). “Why didn’t you just cook something?” - because I learned the same lesson with mid-day grocery shopping earlier this week: it ain’t happenin’.
Other highlights this week:
Tuesday I attended “English Night” at a local bar where other english speakers get together with locals who want to practice English (everyone here is eager to learn). It was quite an eclectic crowd and I’ll definitely be back next week. The regulars here also go out for various social functions so it's a good way to make friends!
Tuesday I also went for a run and despite the ensuing stomach ache it felt pretty good for my first time in a year+. When I get to a new place I love running to explore and learn my way around. It’s like walking around exploring, but faster! However, this run gave me confidence to join a fellow language assistant on Thursday for his workout. Davey gets knee pain doing long distance, so instead we did sprints up one of the ramps leading down from the city to the port. That. was. rough. After walking back towards home, I spent 20 minutes lying on a bench in the near-by plaza catching my breath, finally persuading myself to do a short cool down and stretch. I wonder if running and stretching in public gives me away as a foreigner. Davey said he heard from some locals that jogging is “catching on” here, but so far I haven’t seen it :p
Thursday I finally met the teacher I have been in contact with. We had coffee at a nearby café and she told me a bit about what I’ll be doing and learned more about each other. Really sweet lady that I look forward to working with! I had an hour to kill until my next meeting with the principal of the school so I headed to a bookstore and serendipitously came upon a used copy of one of my favorite books (in Spanish of course) - Shadow of the Wind, or La Sombra del Viento, a mystery/adventure set in Barcelona written by Carlos Ruiz Zafón. When I studied abroad in 2013 I purchased another book of his that I hadn’t previously read, and 5 months later finished it. This one is 500+ pages, but at least I’ve read it 3+ times in English, so I’ll set a goal of 3 months! Anyways… after this lucky find I headed to the school where I met the principal (who’s also the math teacher) and got a tour of the school. The school reminded me of my elementary school in size and decor - but the students here range from 3 to 16. Also an extremely nice fellow, but his English wasn’t great so we stuck to Spanish, which was fine in the office but once we started walking and the loud young voices echo’d in the hallway, there was a lot of me nodding along but really not even hearing let alone understanding what he’s saying :p. In either case I’m extremely excited to start!
Friday was my first time “going out”. Finally the young people came out of hiding - all week I’d only seen people <10 and >50 (which makes sense since I don’t think there are any universities on the island). I met with some of the other assistants and new friends from English night at the fish market for “Oktoberfest” - the market is a square building with a open air area in the middle where there was plenty of seating and live music. Live music being a one man cover band that did not do any traditional german music (I’m okay with that) but had a great voice and went from Sinatra to Sting to Bob Marley to Bono (and this is not embellished for alliterations sake, but really the order) doing each one justice. No German music but there was plenty of beer, although after one huge mug I opted for white vermouth (it’s only 3euros, i couldn’t resist) which I thoroughly regretted in the morning. By midnight the music ended and we made our way to the other market down the street - same design, 3x the size, where there was a DJ. Ahhh soul music, it’s like I was back in Wicker Park. I guess it’s a global trend. Enter 4 am and I’m following the locals to another cafe down the street, down a staircase and into a cafe-life rave-life environment, where we stayed until half past 5 and it was time to call it a night. I was really worried I wouldn’t get the opportunity here for my usual stress relief - shameless late night dancing - but luckily I was wrong. And unlike Chicago, it’s really only an option once a week, so I won’t be getting loco every night :).
Saturday I stepped out to eat and take some photos and was surprised by a all-town multi-part parade of Giants. I guess it was a anniversary celebration of some foundation (the flyer was in Catalan so I can’t quite tell you more) but there were kings and queens and nuns and priests and marching bands. Quite a nice surprise and great background music for reading in the square (the sky turned grey so I decided to save the photo-taking for another day).
Sunday I finally got a taste of the beautiful landscape here on Menorca. 12 or so of us - other language assistants as well as their Spanish roommates and friends - met at a grocery store and headed to hike part of the Camí de Cavalls and check out some beaches. Camí de Cavalls is a path that encircles the island, dating back to the 14th century (read more here and here). The whole thing is 116 miles - I’d be lying if I think I can cover all of it, but as soon as I get my mountain bike I’m going to try!
We started our day on the south of the island at Cala Galdana (Cala means cove, and pretty much every beach here is a cove I’ve noticed). It’s a touristy spot with lots of hotels and vacation homes right on the coast - and clear from the people leading us it’s not where they like to hang out. Snapped a few quick photos and got on our way, hiking about 30 minutes to the next Cala where I thought we we would be posting up and mistakenly changed into my sandals. Luckily our actual destination was just another 10-15minutes through the forest and boy was it beautiful. I got a taste of the beautiful island coves of the Balearic Islands when my brother and I scootered around Ibiza in 2013 stopping by at least 10 beaches, but when you have to hike through the forest and descend down a ton of [well done and not at all scary] stairs to get to paradise, it’s that much more rewarding and beautiful.
Step 1 when we got to the beach was clearing an area of water of the jellyfish - accomplished by grabbing them through plastic bags or scooping them with paddles (brought for sport, but clearly they have many uses). We were told that usually if the jellyfish are on the south of island, people head to the beaches on the north, and vice versa.
Step 2 was stripping down to my undies and jumping in - obviously I didn’t come prepared and left my swimsuit at home. At least I brought plenty of water! Anyways beaches here are clothing optional so no funny looks at the boxer briefs I was in like I’d’ve gotten at North Ave.
Step 3,4,5,6,7, ∞ - eating homemade tortilla (no not what you would use for a burrito, here it’s a potato and egg omelette of sorts, and surely soon you’ll read about my attempts at making it), along with tasty olives, and in my case apples and granola bars. From there we spent the afternoon swimming, sleeping, reading, playing cards (fun fact, there is a different deck here that only has either 40 or 48 cards, but I guess they also use our “poker” deck depending on the game… in this case we taught them Egyptian Rat Screw), playing Heads Up (super fun app in general, but great for language practice) in both languages, and finally hiking back as the sun came down. This day definitely made up for the not so great weather I experienced on my first days in town.
Unfortunately Sunday night I made the mistake of starting Narcos on Netflix… and thus today (Monday) in the afternoon I had to finish it, so I’m writing this in a bit of a rush and hopefully not leaving out too many details (who am I kidding, I talk/write too much anyways so I’m doing y’all a favor here). Adios!