I was one of the millions that didn't believe in the end of the world on 21 December 2012. The Mayans just didn't have time to finish writing their calendar or that's my rationale anyway.
After all that I had endured from surfing the day before, I went to bed early. There's nothing worse than being cut up and sick on vacation. It didn't help, though. At 4:30, three consecutive sounds resembling a bomb struck. The clock from the church rang afterward. Seriously, could this be the end of the world? Or maybe a terrorist group was raiding the island? I just couldn't believe the latter. The only sensible option to me at 4:37 in the morning was that a meteor had hit. I sat up in bed, lights on, nose running. I got out of bed, hesitantly, only to get a glass of water. Walking through the hallway, I noticed the light was flickering; it hadn't done that before. The door at the end of the hallway was also cracked open; hadn't I closed that the night before? I closed it, got my water, went to bed. Not that I could sleep well. I couldn't imagine what was happening or rather, what had just happened. I swore I heard faint screams, voices of young girls, from nearby mountains. All of this plus some slowly spun in my mind as I tried to convince myself that death by meteor would be easiest to handle while sleeping.
Two hours later I was terrified to hear the explosions again. Would this be the interval to expect until we were all dead?? At this point, I absolutely knew it wasn't a foreign raid and if I wasn't dead yet, I might be alive for awhile. Scared still, I stayed in bed until 7:15. Then for some reason, I jumped out of bed and ran to the porch; the door was cracked open again. I was sure I had closed it all the way. No matter, I heard loud chattering from the church. It seemed like the whole village was there. It was getting serious now. I ran back to my room. I stuffed my boots with my passport, airline ticket, and 30 euros. In case I would live through this, I of course put my pink point-and-shoot camera in my jacket pocket.
Walking outside, I hadn't noticed any structural damage, no bodies, no fire. I got to the church and only one person was seated in the pews. Everyone else seemed to be enjoying their last cappuccino in the cafe next door. Well, Portugal is one of the more religious European countries. Maybe they weren't worried about how they were going to die because they had so much faith. Possibly?...
I found a girl who spoke minimal English. She didn't tell me what the sounds were; she told me that if I wanted to know what they were, I needed to walk toward the sound. She gave me directions.
She didn't understand that I didn't want to walk toward something that, to me, could have been a bomb.
Alright, well, what will be will be, I thought. Might as well walk toward the sound that had given me so much grief.
I turned the corner and went into the first cafe. There, behind the bar, were two men and an elderly lady laughing away.
"Espanol? English? Do you speak English?" I think I asked too fast for them. Either way, they only spoke Portuguese. So I did this thing in Spanish. I was flustered and this guy was having a hard time keeping up. From all my eccentric hand motions, though, he got the point. "bomba...explosion a las cuatro y media....q paso????"
This was the moment I learned that the locals all around Madeira have their own Christmas traditions, this being one of them. Everyday since the 20th until Christmas, the "bombs", "explosions" would be set off. They were set off yesterday morning but I guess I just didn't hear them. One of the men took me into a small shack next to the cafe. The shack was filled with crates of fruit, a refrigerator, and the culprit. In the corner, the man pointed out a light brown stick, taller than me and thinner than a lamppost. I couldn't believe this little thing had produced so much sound. My blood pressure is still up.
I went home and ate an avacado, can't sleep. As for the screams, I'm almost positive they were just seagulls.
No more of this end of the world nonsense. Too much stress.