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Azores Journal 16 by Inge Perreault  e-mail Inge at ladyauthor@sapo.pt

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Clivia Lily
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OMG! Im about to get wet
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This man is planting the garden next to our condo for the fourth time this year and everything grows so quickly. The harvests are fantasticand he rotates his crops. He is totally self-sufficient!
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Our Cats
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Lonely feral kitty
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Renovation of a house that is probably 300 years old.
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This elderly man removed the old plaster from the typical Azorean chimney and gave it a new coat of plaster. There is nothing an Azorean will not do.
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My favorite place to sit and ponder
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Newer house with lawn and flowers
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My best friend and me sharing a girl's night out before Natal.
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It is so wonderful to be adopted by an Azorean family, this is the family and the neighbors who adopted us, in turn we adopted them!
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AQUAFIT - Pedro Tavares, Director
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Windy at the beach
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PSC or Palm, Sun, Clouds.

Looking back at 2015

Somehow 2O15 just flew by, nothing unusual happened on Sao Miguel and the fiscal European crisis is mostly reflected in the amount of FESTAS taking place all over the island. Crisis or not, there is always a reason for another FESTA. There have been some changes of a minor kind, the entrance fee to the botanical gardens and the huge basin to take a dip in the hot mineral waters of the Terra Nostra hotel increased another Euro. However the experience of wandering through the magnificent gardens with over 6O types of Camellias, an abundance of flowers from all over the world as well as trees which are marked by name so you know you are standing under a huge Norfolk Island pine or ancient German oak, the cleanliness and the bird song are well worth it. This year the Parque de Terra Nostra was declared a protected Biosphere, and walking slowly through this wonder of nature, admiring the variety of plants from all over the world, places you into another century, one of gentility, well attired ladies carrying guarda sols (sun umbrellas) listening to delightful bird-song while chatting in a low voice, because the Parque de Terra Nostra is in a class of it's own.

On the whole, the islanders are weathering the financial and political storms on the continent quite well. Work is hard to come by, yet the Azorean spirit is alive and well. This year gardens growing all types of vegetables, have sprung-up everywhere. It seems to me that in this climate vegetables grow an inch over night and the flowers along the roadsides or in the most unexpected hidden places fill your eyes with joy. Our balconies have the appearance of a small flower garden in the most beautiful colors, thus when sitting outside I often have trouble making-up my mind what to imprint on the “pages” of my memory. The beauty of the Atlantic ocean providing a pleasant breeze or the ancient tile roofs of the old town where a lot of remodeling has been taking place. We delight in seeing 3OO year old homes restored to their former glory in loving care no matter how long it takes,the Church of Santa Cruz is 5OO plus years old. It is a wonderful decision to make, allowing my eyes to feast on the carefully arranged medley of flowers and ivies with Yve's heart as the center-piece. Once the rainy season was over Yves came when I called to freshen-up the reds which had faded slightly, placing another fish on the wall that divides our balcony from that of the neighbors. At this time the condo is not occupied and available for rent or sale. I miss Vanessa and her sweet little girl Sahra. Vanessa moved back to Lisboa into the house of her mother, while her dear husband Pedro was given a contract to work for 3 years in Angola with the same firm that employed him here. I feel very fortunate to be surrounded by such wonderful neighbors, most of them teachers with children of all ages. Should we be in need of something like we were when the flu struck both my husband and me later in the year 2O15, here would be a knock at the door and a full meal was handed to me on a tray with get-well wishes.
Some of my husband's friends had to leave the island because they were laid-off and work is hard to come-by. A young engineer found a good job in Scotland and I hear his wife and little daughter followed and now live in Edinburgh. They miss THEIR island of course dreadfully. Azoreans speak of the places they were born as of THEIR island, laying personal claim to it with great love, something of  that order I have never experienced before. On the whole they are a resilient lot and regularly return for a vacation, while many eventually return to the island of their birth once retired. You can tell easily by the only houses that have lawns instead of vegetable gardens, surrounding beautiful newer homes. Personally, I prefer the vegetable gardens with free-range chickens strutting about. The calm of my days is often only interrupted by the crowing of a rooster or the announcement of an egg having been laid by a proud hen. They keep the gardens free of insects or vermin, practically feed themselves and it is so indicative of the people when you observe cats, dogs, chickens, cows or horses living peacefully together.

Due to financial hardships and our love of animals, we made our annual Christmas contribution to APA, the association that has many chapters with some on mainland Portugal, caring for abandoned animals, nursing them back to health so they can be adopted out, or help with food for dogs and cats owned by families who can no longer afford their pets but love them too much to give them up. Some of the families foster homeless pets until they are adopted and our wonderful veterinarians, Dr. Laura Faria e Maia and her partner Dr.Carla Costa whom we have now known for almost 10 years, have founded their own veterinary clinic called “MY PET.”Shortly they will even open a second clinic in Ponta Delgada. We love the way they have taken care of our pets, their prices are very reasonable as compared to veterinarian cost in the USA.     Shoult we ever have the experience to find an animal wioth a broken back, Dr.Laura told me to call her ANY time of day or night so she could come out with her medical case and put an end to animals suffering, should the injury prove fatal. We had such an experience a few months ago, stopped our car and some helpful neighbors came to call the police, who in turn called APA and the fatally injured cat was picked-up in the middle of the night to be given over to the care of a female member of APA, who would know what to do with the poor creature, until she could take it to “MY PET” and be treated by Dr. Laura or Dr. Carla. Since my husband and I have two indoor cats, our hearts went out to this homeless poor animal. Neutering cats and dogs would greatly help in reducing the number of strays and we hope that some of our contribution will go towards that goal. Everybody adores kittens but cats multiply rapidly, and placing an adult cat or dog for adoption is difficult. Ever so often APA arranges for events at various supermarkets, where at the entrance/exit you can make a contribution of food for dogs or cats as well as bags of litter. Volunteers man the collection stations and distribute the badly needed items. So let's hear it for APA, the President Sofia and her assistant Mena, as well as all the other volunteers. Good luck to Dr. Laura and Dr. Carla with their new Clinicos Veterinarios “MY PET.”
Later on in the season the beaches we love proved problematic during the summer of 2O15, since during the nicest weather we were invaded by a number of jelly-fish and Portuguese-Men-of-War (the latter are very dangerous and some can have tentacles as long as 3O meters). I remember seeing these jelly fish for the first time during the first spring we spent on Sao Miguel, wondering if a cruise-ship had done what they are not supposed to do and cleaned their bilges, since the beach in Caloura was covered with what I perceived to be bright blue condoms. Honestly, that is what they look like. Do NOT touch them even when dead. The poison is effective still and having been touched by a tentacle once that burns, it hurt like fire and took weeks to heal, I have gained a healthy respect for these creatures. Normally they come ashore in the very early spring, leave for the rest of the summer only to return in the fall, when the water reached a certain temperature. But 2O15 was different (climate change?) and the beaches had to be closed. Now consider that there are no dangerous animals in the Azores other than the jelly-fish. The beaches are well staffed with Guards who are equipped to handle the sting of“the blue condom-looking tentacles,” however if a swimmer meet's up with a Portuguese Man-of-War, a call for the reliable Ambulancia is required, which will get you to the hospital asap.
The summer of 2O15 will forever stick in my mind not for what I saw on TV about wars, acts of terrorism, unspeakable cruelty inflicted on innocent people to the point where I stopped watching the news, but for the amount of FESTAS that took place, the preparations for the FESTAS carried out by enthusiastic volunteers, music into the wee hours, incredible hydrangea blossoms in a profusion I had never seen as well as the renovations of old homes and painting of homes. Furnas, as usual packed with masses of Nordic, especially German tourists, hiked with their typical Nordic gusto, more cruise ships than previously spent time in Ponta Delgada since other ports of call in Europe don't seem that safe any longer, and we were pleasantly lazy. I discovered that the movies I can watch on You tube at night on my large new PC screen are so much better than what is shown on TV, apparently today's genre with cars flying through the air, wars and horror or crime subjects with art copying reality. No, not to my liking, but watching the large variety of quality movies and documentaries offered for free on You tube were a pleasant discovery.
I hardly ever got to bed before 2am, slept in the mornings getting-up for brunch.This was a total reversal of what I used to do but in my case Fibromyalgia pain is less at night. Heck, what is retirement for? I set-up the guest-bed in my office in such a fashion that my feet are elevated and so comfortable, I often fell asleep right there. My husband's inoperative Glaucoma forces him to turn in early. I did not read as much as usual but then I still learned a lot by watching historic documentaries and with my two gatos (cats) snuggling by my side I was happy as can be. The views from our Condo were as spectacular as ever, we went out to good restaurants twice a week with our Azorean friends, and my Portuguese has improved a lot. Since my husband is “linguistically challenged” and his vocabulary rather limited, our azorean friends improved their knowledge of English.The kindness, hospitality, generosity and courtesy still amazed us, as did the absence of stress. Ponta Delgada offered many concerts during the summer of 2O15 as well as theater performances free of charge in various parts of town. Unfortunately they start late at 9.3Opm, so that because of my husband's vision problems we missed most of them.
Somehow the summer went by in a flash, brought just the right amount and kind of tourists, the ones who were anxious to discover the island whether on foot, by bicycle, horse or sailboat, never too crowded but enough for the tourist industry. Yves, our artist who sows love with his painting of heart-flowers, has now reached over 3OO homes, all different, A German film crew found his works so interesting and unusual that a film was made about Yves which can be viewed at You tube 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Po7Fb7nculA


Yves, our local celebrity, yet humble and gracious, arranged several expositions selling his artwork in 2O15. He is a good friend and talking about friends, our present friends are 98% Azorean and other than one couple all in the age-group of our sons. Young minds attract young people I gather.
Halloween, taken over from America with much enthusiasm and by now we were known for dispensing the best candy, thus we were swamped in 2O15 and some youngsters made a great effort to speak English to us. The little ones were dressed in the most adorable outfits, scary ones and tried their best to imitate a cackling witch or a ghost. It was such fun.

When we came down with a terrible flu that hit both my husband and me hard, we were brought meals ready to eat and complete with everything from Emilia living above us whose friendship I cherish and we were officially introduced to be part of the entire family. Jacqueline got me in to see a physician without having to wait and the x-ray showed that I had bronchitis almost to the point of pneumonia, plus an ear-infection. I was given the mask inhalation treatment and injections of antibiotics for a week. Friends called and brought sopa (Kale or chicken soup), we were spoiled royally and before Christmas the friends from our building who were leaving for the mainland to celebrate the holiday with family, showed-up with home-made delicacies, hugs and kisses, good wishes for the new year, an outpouring of friend- ship and love that is hard to find was extended to us. Christmas itself was lovely. We celebrated with our oldest friends on the island without exchange of gifts but exchange of great conversation and friendship. For Ano Novo into 2016 I went upstairs to our adopted Azorean family to watch the fireworks over Ponta Delgada from their balcony and have a sip of Champagne.It was also the year that saw us making a significant contribution for Christmas to APA, the Association for the care of abandoned pets. Just recently we found out that veterinarians offer their service free of charge two days a year neutering cats or dogs. Old customs die hard and a lot of people don't or can't spend the money on their pets. Thus an over-population of cats and dogs pose a problem that now can be solved without the related expenses to the owners. Naturally we also made our usual contribution in surprising people in dire need with “alimentos” food items that last because the food bank was empty by then.
Another good development in 2015 was the fact, that due to the initiative of the Director of Aquafit, Pedro Tavares, a Wellness Center was created in the Acores, the only one to qualify for this type that promotes health through exercise and the inside swimming pool has become my “home away from home.” It is there that I receive hydro-therapy administered by my wonderful therapist Catia Couto in a swimming pool which maintains a temperature of 29 to 30 degrees Celsius.It does wonders for my painful disease.The staff is most friendly and helpful, Aquafit now consists of a gymnastic section equipped with the most modern exercise machinery overlooking the ocean, outside pools for the summer and the inside pool with the wonderful water temperature for diseases like mine, rehabilitation for accident victims, stroke victims, scoliosis and a number of other debilitating diseases of the nervous and/or muscular systems. I am most fortunate since Aquafit is located only 5 minutes from our condo and I can see our balconies from the pool while doing my therapy, look out over the ocean and crashing waves during the “winter months” as well as Lagoa do Fogo, a treat for the eyes as I work to remain mobile and in good spirits.

Some of the laws and conditions in obtaining a Visa have changed and I recommend to readers of this Azores Journal that questions pertaining to changes in applications be directed to Portuguese Consulados. Should you wish to obtain residence status it will have to be renewed every 2 years. It is also possible to have a Last Will Testament drawn-up here which is done by a Notario, NOT a lawyer. You can have it drawn-up here according to the laws of the country whose passport you carry. It is much simpler and significantly less expensive than a Last Will and Testament in the USA for instance. A Testamente Vitale (a living will) should you not wish to be kept alive in case of a fatal illness, or accident has to be picked-up at the Ponta Delgada Hospital, filled out as to your wishes and will be entered in their computer system so physicians on call will know what to do.
Do NOT move here if you are looking for a job, there are none and quite a few Azoreans have left the islands in search of work. Do not try to engage me as a realtor,there are numerous Real Estate Agencies and it is a wonderful place to vacation or retire, offering a better quality of life and an excellent health-care system, while enjoying fresh vegetables all year and moderate temperatures. We don't miss shoveling snow at all, not one tiny bit. It does not get too hot during the summer that you need A/C, nor does it get too cold during the winter requiring a heating system.

While during these difficult global times some stores and restaurants have closed their doors, others have opened. Azorean people take things in stride, and while when asked how things are going you may get the answer “so so,” you don't hear complaints or whining. It seems that there are constant improvements being made and that Sao Miguel is cleaner than ever before, more flowers are being planted in the center of round-abouts and cows are happy on their pastures. Azorean people and those who have come here to retire value the calm of their islands even more than when we first came here in 2OO6 as they watch from afar the problems in the EU and in the Middle East. The news from the European continent is not very positive, sometimes downright depressing, but quality of life is still number ONE in the Azores as in PEACE and hopefully here to stay.
And we marveled at a multitude of incredible sunsets in 2015!

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