Friday, July 6, 2012

2012 Azores trip - Day 15

Day 15 – Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Last night at the big meal we were discussing various aspects of life in the Azores and contrasting it with how things are in Canada.  During the conversation, I said to Antonio, “In Canada, if you want to be normal, you have to be different.”  It often seems that people are so concerned about being unique, or at the cutting edge of something or other, that they all end up doing the same things, which to me, are not normal.  For example, of all of Ana’s family here, not a single one of them has a tattoo, food allergy/intolerance, dog that sleeps with them in bed, follows some goofy diet or has made a conscious decision not to have children.  Wait, tio Luis has a few tattoos, but I’m quite sure they were home jobbies, definitely done before they were in vogue.  It’s almost as if the clock has been turned back fifty years here.  I’m certainly not afraid to say that I find this style of living normal, though I guess that might make me appear old fashioned, which I probably am.

Does it make them happier?  I’m not sure, most people here seem pretty happy, even though they are definitely less well off monetarily than a typical North American would be.  But of course, it’s hard to tell when you are only here on vacation, to really know you would have to live here for a while.  I would have a hard time living here permanently, but could certainly do so for a year or so, and I think we probably will do that at some point, hopefully on a sailboat.

Back to preaching.  I think a good test to apply for anything you want to do in life, is to imagine asking your grandmother if she thinks it’s a good idea.  Like this:

“Grandma, I’m thinking of putting these things in my earlobes which will eventually create giant, permanent, droopy holes.  What do you think?”

“Grandma, I saw this really cool Chinese symbol in a magazine and I’m thinking of getting it tattooed on my neck, do you think I should?”

“Grandma, I haven’t been feeling too good so am thinking of cutting out all foods except strawberries and soy wafers, do you think that’s a good idea?”

As usual, I’m a hypocrite and have done more than my share of stupid things over the years.  Maybe it’s just a part of growing up and getting comfortable in your skin, who knows?  But I do know that both my grandmothers have always been intelligent, resilient, practical, healthy, and role models to all their children so I have always valued their advice.

Anyway, back to our trip in the Azores.  This was our last full day and I must admit, we didn’t do much as the weather turned from hot and sunny to cool and rainy.  I was lucky to finally catch the door to door fish man, so I snapped a photo of him holding a nice conger eel.

The one administrative task we had left to do was to change the address on our bank account which we have here.  Sounds simple?  Well, turns out to change your home address, you had to provide a passport, another piece of id with your address on it, a letter from your employer confirming your employment status, and a copy of your original Portuguese tax id, which they are already have on file.  We were in the bank with a teller and managed to come up with most of this, and the ones we couldn’t, we came up with something else that may or may not meet the requirements, will have to wait and see what the head office says.  See, old fashioned is not always good!

After this, we stopped at a local pottery factory to pick up a few things then went to the cemetery to see Ana’s grandma’s grave.  On this island, they actually dig up the coffins after a certain number of years, take out the bones, then put them into a smaller box, which goes into the family crypt.  We actually noticed a bucket of human bones in the graveyard, soaking in water, and I was thinking that if I was a rock star that would certainly be great inspiration for a song.  I’m thinking there would be a lot of guitar and likely some guttural screaming.

After the bucket of bones, we drove out to the place where they grow these specialty Sao Miguel pineapples.  It took us over an hour to find it, and certainly qualifies as the worst marked tourist destination on the island.  The complex was quite simple – two rows of greenhouses filled with pineapple plants at various stages of development.  Since it’s a working farm, there was really no information displayed anywhere on the process for growing these, which I understand is quite involved.  Once you’ve tasted a sweet and juicy Sao Miguel pineapple, you’ll realize they are obviously not grown the same way others are.  There was also a gift shop on the premises selling all sorts of stuff, beyond the pineapples themselves.

We then went back to Ponta Delgada and strolled around downtown for a while then went for a beer and coffee out on the cruise ship pier.  Oh speaking of that, we found out why we hadn’t seen a cruise ship yet – they only get two or three of them per month.  I was expecting there to be a whole lot more than that, but I guess there’s just not all that many trans-Atlantic cruises.

We had our final dinner at tia Ana’s house, then played some board games with the kids, watched a Brazilian soap opera on television, then called it a night.  Tomorrow we fly home and I’m actually looking forward to our return – it feels like we’ve been gone a very, very long time.  It has been such a fun filled trip, and we’ve been so very comfortable staying with tia Ana and Joe and have pretty much been treated like royalty the whole time we’ve been here.  Can’t ask for more than that.

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