It’s a long, hot summer on Mallorca. Last Saturday it finally rained after many dry months. The usual three raindrops were this time more serious and clouds started to burst and thunder accompanied the dark skies. I love it when it’s like that after so many months of scorching heat. It is as if we all can breathe again. A release, a liberation. As clouds bursted and rain fell down heavily, we were just cycling. In the morning I received very sad news about my aunt. I only wanted to be home, cry and drink lots of tea. But I couldn’t. I had to go, and somehow cycling in this pouring rain, our clothes soaking wet, shoes as swimming pools was just what I needed (we brought some extra clothes with us).
We learned that heavily rainfall is often local on Mallorca, so when we cycled through the countryside half an hour from our village, the streets and roads were dry, no rain at all. We stopped in a town to have a cup of coffee and our clothes were almost dry again. When we arrived in Selva, a beautiful old village, the sun was burning full power. We were invited to a gathering of people from the island who are educators or otherwise involved with permaculture. I had promised to help in the kitchen, so I did.
The house of the couple where the gathering took place is an old rustic home and finca. I just love it. In the garden they have raised beds with plants and vegetables. The couple is American and they are the spill of the permaculture community here on the island, living here for many years. Such sweet, warm and welcoming people. Especially in times when you see and read about so much sadness and problems in the world, we need such people. People who lift each other up, encourage and support each other. It was just what I needed. There was an abundance of food and the man of the couple had made a delicious vegan paella for 40 people — you can imagine how big the pan was!
This summer I have had a few problems with my bike. A flat tire, a broken bike chain. Both times I was positively surprised by people offering help. A group of cyclists wanted to help change my tire, but it was okay, I could do it myself. When I had to walk , because the tire was flat again (I thought, but in the end it was alright), I could get a lift from a super friendly couple. The bicycle could go in the back of their car if I wanted. Yet, I thanked them, positively surprised by their friendly gesture. I was almost home anyway. And more people like that on the way — mostly men I have to say 😉
Some weeks ago I wanted to go to the beach and had planned a long cycle. I was looking forward to it like a kid, totally excited, also because I was on my new racing bike. When I almost arrived the next town 10 km further, the bike chain broke. I felt to curse and be angry, but I just turned around and started to walk home in the scorching heat. With this summer heat, you always have to remain calm. To become agitated or angry, when you know it doesn’t make any difference, you must prevent at all times. So I did. Then a friendly black guy on a bicycle asked if he could help me, but when he saw the broken chain he apologised that he unfortunately couldn’t. No problem, it was all fine. I would go to the beach another time soon, and I kept on walking.
Those small gestures of kindness had lifted me up. Just like a sudden smile of a stranger on the streets can do that.
Some visitors of the gathering last Saturday we have met before, good people who all do a tiny part to make the world a bit better. We won’t save the world, or Mallorca in this case, it’s too late for humanity to survive, but we can inspire each other, bring some positive change — no matter how small — and brighten up our lives which know the shadows of it too.
Life is good on Mallorca this January month. The days are sunny and soft, mostly 13 or 14 degrees Celsius, it feels like a mild spring, like always this time of year. But the nights are cold. Colder than other years and colder than when we lived on Ibiza. It’s around freezing temperatures and when we wake up I see the plants and earth covered with a thin layer of ice.
Early mornings in January are cold when you live off grid. Sometimes I light the rocket stove and make a fire straight when I get out of bed, but today it was so cold I went back under my warm duvet. Soooo good, especially with a warm cat next to you! Dorus was already on his way to his building job he’s doing at the moment. He cycles each day 1,5 hours to get there. Yes, on this cold morning under my warm duvet I thought of him on his bicycle, and I said to myself: just enjoy for the two of you, to feel guilty is a waste of time girl!
Still practising to lose that guilt and to silence the Calvinist little voice in my head. Slowly making progress. While I was still in bed this morning I thought about my family, especially my mum and sister. It has been a year since I saw them. Luckily my brother and sister-in-law visited us last June. Next April my mother will turn 82. It’s hard for her to live alone, I know that so well. But still, knowing this doesn’t make me a frequent caller, and when we call we mostly talk about the state of the world, and guess what, covid is still part of it.
It’s a fascinating time we are living in. The developments around covid, such as the covid-passport and the coercion to get vaccinated are disturbing. We went to a protest in Palma two weeks ago. Walking through the streets of Palma with so many people, some of them with drums and whistles, young and old. It was moving. It was peaceful. Police was only present, that’s all. No fights or aggression like you see in other covid protest around the world. None of this here. It gave me hope, although we still have the covid-passport and exclusion of a large group of people and medical discrimination are daily business in most European countries.
Protesting against these shameful policies around the world is necessary, but there’s more than covid. More other crises yes, but also more life. Since the new year I promised myself not to dive into the media on this topic that strongly anymore, as I felt negative about it all.
Especially the cold November month was a difficult month because we lost our cat, Liefje. He disappeared and hasn’t returned. I miss him so much. Lately I have dreams that he’s back again, scruffy and hungry. But deep down I know he won’t return anymore. He now lives in cat heaven, leaving a little hole in my soul.
Donate a compost loo
Dorus wanted to do something with our sadness around his disappearance. In December we received a message from an animal sanctuary here on Mallorca. They needed a compost toilet and asked us if we could make one for the animal sanctuary. Dorus did and we donated the toilet to them. Dorus felt he should do this in remembrance of our cat Liefje. I think this was such a sweet gesture. The animal sanctuary is a wonderful place, with abandoned, neglected, and handicapped cats, donkeys, pigs, sheep , etc. The owner, Nicole, does a fantastic job.
To donate this toilet gave us a good and positive feeling. That’s why we need to support the things we believe in. To transform the sadness into something meaningful, into love and trust. I felt that too during the manifestation. To move into action, even if it’s just small. That’s what I try to do this new year, so I’m in the driver’s seat again (the symbolic one, as you probably know, I am carless 😉
Support what you believe in
That’s also why I gifted us a membership of the Dutch Party for the Animals over Christmas. Because we only can vote in the Netherlands, we want to support this party for its important work it does for humans and animals and planet. Also with regard to covid, the Dutch Party for the Animals are doing the right thing. In contrary to all other Dutch leftish parties, they are the only party that rejects the covid passport and the covid law and defends everybody’s freedom to choose to get vaccinated or not. Proud of this party! In Spain we have a Party for the Animals too, PACMA (Partido Animalista Contra el Maltrato Animal). Their approach is a bit different though, more case to case, instead of seeing the bigger picture like the Dutch party does. Anyway, maybe I will join them too in the near future.
Turning sadness into joy and positivity and hope doesn’t mean we don’t allow ourselves to be sad. Feel and sit with our sorrows first, accept we feel this way, and then turn it into a (small form of) action. And to know what feels right and doesn’t feel right, such as for me, not to be overwhelmed by (social) media, is something to be more serious about.
Speaking about control…You remember this one? Janet Jackson’s Control. Always loved this song (and the moves..)
It’s happening now…living off-grid on a piece of land on the Balearic Islands with my man and two cats. We’ve just started life from scratch. There’s land, water, solar energy, a compost-toilet and an old tiny shed which my partner is converting into a tiny home, and that’s about it. The rest we make ourselves.
The last weeks of December were chaotic and crazy. We moved all our stuff (which isn’t much) on our bicycles to our new place eight miles further from where we used to live. Even the cats were moved by bike in a trolley. I expected them to be stressed out, but I was the one who was stressed, not them.
The Mediterranean nights are cold now and as I write this, my partner is working on a rocket mass heater, an efficient and eco-friendly wood burner. Also, the bricks and pipes he purchased were transported by bicycle. Everything we do, is by bicycle; we don’t own a car. You can imagine, it’s a long process.
The sand we scrape from a rock wall, is mixed with cement to paste the rocket stove bricks and to plaster the walls. Some days in winter sunlight is scarce, so we need to use the solar power wisely and building with the help of electrical tools have to wait until the batteries are charged sufficiently.
Our new off-grid adventure on the Majorcan countryside is an extreme exercise in patience and perseverance. And it’s way out of my comfort-zone. Also, I noticed I can hardly explain this way of life to my family and friends, who live in central-heated houses with beautiful bathrooms and spacious kitchens. Our lives are so incredibly different; I’m still surprised how some of them try to understand all this and think of us as brave people.
Sometimes I can hardly understand it myself.
My partner and I used to live in Amsterdam with “normal” jobs as a contractor and jurist, and we were happy in the city. We went to restaurants, to techno parties, and traveled to New Zealand. We used to make long hours and worked hard for it, like everyone who needs an escape every now and then.
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Sometimes coming home is not as good as you hoped it would be. Coming back to the island however, it surely was. When I arrived last Wednesday by ferry early in the morning in Palma and my feet stepped on Mediterranean soil again, I felt butterflies in my stomach. Somehow I feel I belong to this soil.
As I passed the marina the sun was rising, a few men and women were running along the marina in the fresh morning air, early cyclists passed me by on their fast bikes. “No gracias,” I said to the taxi driver. I didn’t need one, I just wanted to walk and roam a bit. I have time, nobody was waiting for me anyway — except for the cats.
After a month in the quiet French countryside where I stayed moreless at one location all the time, I enjoyed the dynamics of a city, especially a city in the early morning when a part of it is still asleep. I entered Santa Catalina, a popular part of Palma, which has a creative vibe with its vintage shops and trendy, cute cafes where it’s possible to eat healthy and glutenfree tostadas.
I stayed in Palma the whole morning and took a bus which brought me to the village of Algaida later that day. From the village I walked home, which was long. As I walked home, the weather started to turn and the clouds were closing in. As I got closer, I couldn’t wait to see our cats again. I never left them alone for that long, but they were taken care of, foodwise.
Sad arrival home
A t first glance the cats looked confused, a bit upset even. Our shed was messy, no water, no food for the cats (probably they already ate everything). The garden overgrown by weed, our bathroom (which Dorus built for the two of us) dirty. In short: it felt sad to arrive home, it wasn’t good. The wife and daughter of our landlord moved to Asturias, the north of Spain, and I suspect he is busy with other things than pulling out weed. Times are uncertain right now and he has to keep his head above water. Suddenly I noticed how dark our home is. It felt depressing and heavy.
Howard’s country house in France, where we stayed, is just fantastic, so spacious and warm with wooden beams, a cozy fireplace and the bedroom Dorus and I stayed in, was huge! The kitchen has everything you need to cook delicious meals. It’s an old house — a former barn — and I adore these kind of houses with history and character. To me, these are the best houses.
Time for change
I think the change from this warm place to our dark, tiny shed was just too big. All of a sudden I realize I can’t stay much longer here, also because another tenant arrived to live here in a caravan in the garden with two little girls, his daughters (he will take over the shed when we are gone the 15th of December). It isn’t for long anymore, only one more month to go and we will move to our land and start creating our own home, just for us. No more being a guest at what is supposed to be home. I’m so over it. After almost two years (it began in Casita Verde) of being a guest somewhere, I can’t wait to have a home, a place which is ours and we take all decisions, nobody else. Where we are in control. I think for me that’s the most difficult part right now: not having control in relation to our housing situation. It has been a financially good solution and it was supposed to be temporarily, and it still is, but time has come for change.
In the meantime I make sure to leave the house every day and go out on my bicycle and enjoy the soft, sunny weather (the best now!). Cycling is my medicine when I’m alone. Bring my laptop and write somewhere where it feels light and I can leave the heaviness behind. The cats, especially Luna, is constantly around me when I’m home and is more affectionate than usually. Maybe she knows I’m not having the best time right now. She’s so adorable and it probably sounds crazy for some readers, but she’s my friend. And so is Liefje, our Amsterdam cat. Love them.
Our month in France has been wonderful and the Sustainable Living course a success, although we only attracted a small group of people. More people said they wanted to book, but they couldn’t travel or didn’t have the time. We were extremely lucky that we were able to have these great men and women on board and in these times of Corona, it isn’t an easy job to get people booked (we worked on that whole summer).
When I first met the participants, I felt immediately grateful for this group. We had a beautiful two weeks together. Most of the time, however, I was in the kitchen by myself preparing food. Some of the people weren’t vegetarians or vegans to begin with, so it felt so good to hear they didn’t even miss the meat and animal products as this is mostly the case when people just start to quit meat. I can say mission completed. Thank you so much!!
It was quite a challenge to arrange the materials needed for the course, but Vanessa, Howard and Dorus managed to get all of it (through market place, Howard’s friends and construction stores).
The shopping for the vegetables and fruit I did as much as possible at the local markets. And wow, it was expensive! (Two cauliflowers seven euros!). Such a difference with the vegetable – and fruit markets in Spain, but the people earn way less too in Spain; salaries here are extremely low.
My French was terrible though. Once at school I loved learning French and I wasn’t bad at it. But when you never practice a language, you really lose it. Only reading French went quite okay. Maybe in a next life as a Parisian, I will learn to use the words like Jacques Brel, Edith Piaf and Charles Aznavour did – I (re)discovered and played their music when I was cooking and what a great music these people made! I remember my mum used to play Charles Aznavour at home, the French Sinatra. La Bohème is just one of his master pieces and I couldn’t stop listening to it.
It was special to experience the falling leaves and the colors of autumn again after quite some years in the Mediterranean where this change of season doesn’t exist. One day when I walked through the forest, right next to the house, I thought I heard raindrops falling down. It wasn’t, the leaves were making that sound. I stopped and looked to the sky. These falling leaves were so noisy for a moment, just surreal. I looked above to each of them, watching their fall. Never before I saw this remarkable rain of falling leaves.
Despite the autumn colors, the surroundings in France look quite grey, without any color. It was hard to imagine, a life in France, but I understand for our host Howard that he feels happy there. The people on the markets were super polite and friendly, addressing me with “madame” constantly. “Bonjour, Madame”. “Bonne journée, Madame”. The cashier in the supermarket waited patiently until I had put all groceries in my bags before she helped the next customer. I can’t remember the Dutch were that polite. Obviously life in the village differs from life in the big city, nevertheless it felt refreshing and welcoming.
France went in complete lockdown again. Yet, I was still able to travel by train to Barcelona. A very recommendable, environment-friendly, safe and economic way to travel (a ticket for only 80 euros). The true eco-warriors are Dorus and Vanessa though, as they chose to travel by bicycle. They’re still on their way to the south.
While in France I watched some videos on YouTube on my laptop and this video below suddenly popped up. I got immediately drawn in. This video is so incredibly well made with these actors in it. You can turn on subtitles of other languages, so you can understand what the judge has got to say. It was on my mind for days. I showed the video to the others and we were all breathless. Its message is incredibly sad. Really, animals, and children in need – the loyal innocents – they should deserve only but our love.
A quite unexpected note to — almost — end this blogpost, but somehow these true words showed up in this very moment.
The American dream
World events didn’t stop when we were in our small French bubble. Trump lost the US elections. The first woman (of color) as vice president in the American White House. Yes, it’s on the other side of the ocean. No, it isn’t my country, but it feels kind of good and positive and hopeful. Although my mum speaks of this lady, Kamala Harris, as a “leftish witch,” I do like this woman. She’s intelligent, charming, a true powerwoman. Her speech and her white suit made me happy. Kamala Harris is the realization of the American dream, and better.
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