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

12/27/2006

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 Azores-Journal 07

It is difficult to believe that here we are at the end of May

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Proud Mama vaca with newly born baby

It is difficult to believe that here we are at the end of May and tourist season is in full swing. More folks of various age groups, some armed with knapsacks and of Nordic European background, are serious hikers and nature lovers. Others debark from cruise ships and spend their time milling about the streets of Ponta Delgada or they are being shown the highlights of the island comfortably sitting in huge tour busses with a guide, reminding me of the movie “If this is Wednesday, it must be Belgium.”

The weather has been absolutely gorgeous, brilliantly sunny in the 70s with cool nights so good for sleeping. I do miss the huge waves though. They seem to be a winter phenomenon but the flowers continue to surprise in their variety, splendour and profusion.

 

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Caldeira Velha - ready for a dip or stand
under the warm waterfall?

Our new landlord has provided me with flowerboxes for the terraces including some of his own favourite plants and they are thriving under my care.
As a matter of fact, since his wife is very pregnant, I am also caring for his potted flowers lining the stairways up to his part of this old, rambling and most charming complex.

Since the summers tend to be dry I guess the “cow lawn mowers” visiting the adjacent field next to our new home will not return until the fall and shall be sorely missed. As you know by now we like cows and there is nothing like having breakfast on the terrace while listening to the munching of fresh sweet grass and looking into those soft docile eyes only a few feet away. (Photo 1– keep photo from original)

Our belongings have arrived, finally and “only a month late.” At this time they are waiting for the official release into our hands at a warehouse. Likewise our Portuguese Driver’s Licenses have been obtained as well as our membership documents to participate in the Portuguese health care system. Ponta Delgada has several good hospitals and some of the best physicians because they too love the quality of life in the Acores more than a higher income on the mainland of Portugal.

Unlike in the States, nurses are in the hospital where they belong and the 2 minute visit is unheard of .You spend as much time with a physician as you need.

 

 

Most of them speak English, have travelled widely and have relatives in the States where they would never want to practice due to the insurance mess having to ASK somebody who is not medically trained what he/she can do or prescribeWhoever is against a one-payer system does not know what they are talking about and socialized medicine is far better than the system in the States which is only good for the very wealthy leaving millions without any health care. In the Emergency Room which I had to visit once so far, I waited 20 minutes and was seen by a competent physician. Had it been anything serious I would have been admitted right away. All that at NO cost if you can believe it plus the same meds I was taking in the States cost me a fraction of the co-pay I had to dish-out to the pharmaceutical industry, same manufacturers and this applies to all of Europe. American citizens really ought to fully understand how a one-payer system works before telling everyone that the States has the best health care system in the world when in actuality it ranks number 27. It amazes me how an entire country can be convinced of something that just is NOT true.

Once the 20plus boxes and furniture arrive at the apartment our leisure time will be curtailed a bit for a while. Therefore we are happy to have used the time in the interim to further explore and investigate more of this beautiful island.

Numerous trips were taken to exciting places like Caldeira Velha, the year-round warm swimming area fed by hot-springs, admiring the geothermal power plants and hiking trips to Nordeste, the most densely forested and remote part of Sao Miguel we love very much. There have been many picnics overlooking what I have come to refer to as “nature’s eye-candy.” The boiling Caldeiras of Furnas were incredibly interesting and though the area has a smell reminding you of rotten eggs due to the sulphur, we kind of really liked it. We also took in some social events and a wonderful Jazz Concert at the Teatro Micaelense.

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Dense forest with fern palms and hiking trails
on our way to Nordeste.

The cultural highlight in May is the festival of Santo Christo dos Milagres, drawing about 15,000plus people from all over the world to Ponta Delgada. We were privileged to watch the religious procession from the balconies of the home of a friend’s mother in the centre of the city. With great interest we watched the religious fervour that was displayed, the colourful costumes and the carpets as well as tapestries hanging from balconies or terraces, the streets covered in delicate patterns of flower petals. Eventually the much anticipated arrival of the statue to which many miracles are attributed was naturally the highlight of the event. Some people followed the procession on their knees or carried large bundles of long white candles praying for the forgiveness of their sins or healing of a sick friend or relative. It is a quite extraordinary experience to witness such devotion in the year 2007 while the rest of the world seems to be “clutching each other by the throat.”

 

As I promised in my last journal entry I should like to address here the clash of generations I am observing. Because there is so much written about the history of these most interesting islands, little is being said about the present and how modern life has affected the cultural aspects of this very Catholic country. As a matter of fact, much as the cultures of northern Europe differ in many aspects from those of the Mediterranean ones. I find that the same applies to the practice and belief system of Portuguese people at large when it concerns religion. Unlike in Germany where I grew up and had religious instructions in school, here they teach ethics.

This is particularly apparent in the youth of this country. The rapidly changing value system caused by globalization is taking the Azores by storm. Even in the smallest village you encounter present and past in the form of old ladies dressed in black, middle-aged women walking with daughters or grandchildren while men gather separately at Cafes or Bars. However, the old days of courting from the distance of a balcony under the watchful eyes of parents are OVER.

A girl in her teens will be walking with cell-phone in hand, wearing the tightest jeans slung so low as to barely stay in place with tops that leave little to the imagination next to her mother who seems neither aware nor concerned about her daughter’s outfit. What was once a very sheltered female population has stepped out into the 21st century and is doing so with a vengeance as is evident in the amount of very young girls, either pregnant or carrying babies in their arms, pushing them in strollers though often a young man will be pushing the stroller or carry the bebe..

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Hiking to Lagoa do Congro

The government must be aware of the trend since I am observing many new and modern schools – most likely much to the envy of other European nations with dwindling numbers of children as more and more women opt for a career instead of motherhood. Likewise spiked hair, tattoos and body-piercing have landed, something that would have been unthinkable on these islands as little as a decade ago. Much like in the rest of the world sex is being excluded from the much touted religious devotion. Obviously the threat of HIV or the spread of venereal diseases that have no cure are not much of a deterrent either, otherwise we would not witness some of what we do.

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The most important FESTA on Sao Miguel Santo Cristo do Milagres procession

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Mind you, I am no prude and came of age in the 60s, but walking by a couple in their mid- teens in a much visited tourist area at noon sneaking a “quickie” on one of the stone benches that left no doubt as to what was taking place came as something of a surprise.
When asking some members of the older generation they simply shrugged their shoulders and blamed it all on the Brazilian Soap Operas which are very explicit and being watched on a daily basis with much gusto.
The pendulum keeps swinging and the more things change, the more they stay the same! After all, the “strict” Victorian era was followed by a period of decadence which was eventually followed by a more moderate moral code.
A simple example is to be seen in the style of current European footwear for women. When we first set foot on the Azores a little over a year ago, I could not believe the pointed shoes with the highest heels you ever saw reaching downright absurd proportions – guess what? Round flats are back!

Tumbleweed Journal" Copyright 2006-2009 Inge Perreault - All Rights Reserved

The Tumbleweed Journal Reflect the views, opinions and experiences of the author.

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