Inge Perreault.eu

By Inge Perreault  e-mail Inge at ladyauthor@sapo.pt

12/27/2006

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 Azores-Journal 06

The Move and the “Portuguese Lethal Weapon."

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This is an invasive weed, believe it or not!

Spring has sprung in the Azores and the deciduous trees are showing their splendour along with a new crop of flowers which either had taken a break or whose time it is to shine, such as giant blue alum, a great variety of daisies and tropical flowers the name of which I am unable to pronounce or remember. Something is blossoming someplace all the time – there seems no end to the variety of species. Even pesky weeds have beautiful blossoms!
Though the container is still in Terciera en route to Ponta Delgada, my husband returned from the States with some of our personal belongings so that we are now using our own cook- and dinner-ware plus we purchased some items here that were not cost-effective to transport such a distance.

 

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We moved next door to a charming quinta about 200 years old in the middle of banana trees, gardens and meadows.

Our new landlord, the son of our first landlord, is most congenial and helpful in more ways than I can count. He knows the place he once lived in himself is in good hands. While the move itself was not all that exhausting and my husband all too happy to return to Sao Miguel after experiencing New England in Feb. and March with snow, sleet and FREEZING temperatures, we made some most amusing experiences fitting so well into the Azorean life-style and character. Unpredictable is the word that comes to mind!
We had tried to arrange for the deliveries of purchased items from two different sources on the same day and requested our phone line and Internet connection to be moved, following the instructions of ordering same one week prior to the actual move and installation..

 

The sofas, shelving systems and the PC desk were assured to be delivered at 10.30 a.m. on a Friday while the refrigerator, gas-range and mold-resistant Sisal rugs should have arrived at 11.30 a.m. The emphasis here is on SHOULD. Sapo pt, the telephone and Internet Co., had told us the lines would be switched on Monday of the following week. We were just having breakfast at 9 a.m. when there was a knock at the door. Lo and behold the sofas, shelves and the PC desk had arrived early. Since we were just moving next door my husband directed them accepting delivery and no sooner than 20 minutes later the delivery of the other items scheduled for 11.30 a.m. arrived. Isn’t this interesting? Daily surprises await you when you just got used to the life according to “amanha” (tomorrow or whenever)!
Meanwhile I was just getting out of the shower when there was yet another knock at the door which I answered soaking wet wrapped in a large bath towel thinking it was my husband. You never guess my surprise at facing the representative from Sapo pt (remember this was Friday and he was not due until Monday) ready to switch our lines to the new digs. “But you are not due until Monday” was all I could think of saying when, totally disregarding my state of “dishabille” he answered in perfect English: “Well I am here NOW.”
All this speaking directly in the face of most people complaining that Azoreans are unreliable and “amanha” (tomorrow) can mean anything from tomorrow to a week or two from now. I was speechless at such efficiency and am being told by friends that we have just been inordinately lucky. Well, sometimes it helps when people know that you are a writer and will report about life in the Azores in the 21st century – it surely has not hurt.
We have been doing a fair amount of socializing but are putting on the brakes since I am not giving my writing the time I need and switching languages constantly (at some events I speak 4 languages during the course of an afternoon or evening) is exhausting. After all, we came here to slow DOWN, not speed-up which leads me to the second theme of this entry.
No longer owning a TV and only occasionally entering the “real world” via the Internet we did read about the terrible shooting at Virginia Tech. What a senseless act that could have been avoided! But doesn’t everybody need a gun? Of course it is part of the American Constitution after all, the right to carry arms! Yet here the police and authorities are VERY strict about gun-ownership, especially weapons which can easily be concealed and thus you don’t have to worry about sending your child to school, the store down the street or playing outside which is done mostly with soccer balls and old-fashioned toys I myself used to play with. Plus I have yet to see an argument or bullying between kids though in high-school there can be found some of that. Teenage girls defend their right to the boy of their choice by pulling hair and need to be send to the principal. Discipline is strict here. What I also find very nice is to see older siblings walking younger ones by the hand to go to school or when shopping without complaining, and there is a closeness no longer to be found in the States.
Well Portugal has its very own lethal weapon though and it is called “CAR.” While this is the European country with the lowest crime rate it also happens to be the country with the highest mortality rate caused by automobile accidents. Recklessly speeding while turning a blind curve, riding too closely behind you or swerving into the oncoming lane has caused my heart to skip a beat on numerous occasions. By nature a defensive driver myself, I am astounded how the normally calm and courteous Azorean (male as well as female) turns into a race-car driver once behind the wheel of a motorized vehicle and seems to get a thrill driving at breakneck speeds while on the ever-present mobile phone talking or even texting. This occurs on the narrowest and curvy roads you ever laid eyes on. It is scary and I have yet to see someone being stopped for crazy driving while I observe daily ambulances racing back and forth to the hospital in Ponta Delgada. Having been in many parts of the world I always thought Italians were the ones most in a hurry but I was wrong……….statistics bear this out clearly.

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Someone was not looking or going too fast.........

As mentioned this is not due to male machismo either, women are just as DRIVEN once behind the wheel of a car and “cellularphonitis,” the obsessive use of mobile phones has reached new heights in this part of Europe. It is still an enigma to me what is being talked about constantly – going for simplicity and minimalism we decided against “handy” ownership at this point. One important item that is highly commendable in the driving habits is the fact that by law pedestrians ALWAYS have the right of way. There are clearly marked pedestrian crossings and lightening surely would strike the person who would dare NOT to stop for a pedestrian. Public transportation is very much available and never before have I seen such modern and HUGE buses as here, manoeuvring the often problematic terrain. They are on time and used regularly.
Actually I am amazed how many Azoreans of the younger generation do not even know how to drive and prefer a leisurely bus-ride.
This being an island so far removed from the European continent, gasoline is very expensive and though a fair amount of BMWs, Mercedes and other expensive European cars can be seen, more and more people are opting for smaller diesel or electric cars. The cutest Smarts and other tiny brands of “mini-cars” that seem like toys to American eyes zip about, especially in cities like Ponta Delgada or Ribeira Grande.

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Practical SMART for narrow roads.

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The Cha (tea) plantation in Porto Formosa.

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Gorreana tea plantation growing green tea.

They come in an array of adorable colours, some with sunroofs or even as convertibles. The perfect vehicle for short distances, narrow roads, tight parking spaces and two people. Should we wear out the used car we purchased, that’s what I want – most definitely!

Our exploring has been somewhat affected by the move but we did visit the Cha (tea) factories/farms in Porto Formosa and Gorreana, founded around 1820 and the green tea grown here is delicious. We admired not only the view but visited a type of museum showing the old machines for sorting the tea leaves as well as many photographs from days gone by. After that we sampled some Cha and washed down some home-made sconces that were delicious. The teas come in different strength, we chose the middle one.

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Partaking in decoration of path for
procession with flowers in Furnas

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Isn't she a little angel?

Our exploring has been somewhat affected by the move but we did visit the Cha (tea) factories/farms in Porto Formosa and Gorreana, founded around 1820 and the green tea grown here is delicious. We admired not only the view but visited a type of museum showing the old machines for sorting the tea leaves as well as many photographs from days gone by. After that we sampled some Cha and washed down some home-made sconces that were delicious. The teas come in different strength, we chose the middle one.

Likewise we took part in preparing a carpet made from flower petals picked by us freshly that morning in Furnas for a religious procession at the lovely Casa das

Camelias, owned by a British lady who has lived on Sao Miguel for I believe 30 years. No doubt our design was the best one as a walk through town admiring some of the others proved to us. But we worked hard at it with great zest and gathered for a wonderful meal after the procession had passed.
Until next time when I shall let you have a glimpse of the clash of generations taking place in this basically Catholic country that is by far more liberal than I could ever have imagined….
Oh, we did experience our first earthquake waking us up out of a sound sleep in the middle of the night (6.3 on the Richter scale) but nothing collapsed and frankly – I thought it was VERY exciting!

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