Sunday, July 1, 2012

2012 Azores trip - Day 10

Day 10 – Friday, June 29, 2012

I really struggle with Portuguese.  Even after over ten years of being around Portuguese speakers, I can still hardly say anything beyond the absolute basics.  I think my problem first started after we had visited Brazil, where I had taken Portuguese lessons for a week, intent on learning enough to be able to talk with Ana’s mom, who doesn’t speak much English.  On our first visit back to Ana’s parent’s house, I came face to face with Maria and said, “Bom dia”, which means “Good morning”.  She turned to Ana and said in Portuguese, “What did he say?”  So I said it again to her, as clearly as I could, but still nothing.  So Ana said to her, “He’s saying bom dia”.  Then Maria said, or at least what I think she said was, “Ohhh, bom dia.  Well what’s he trying to speak Portuguese for, he can’t speak Portuguese, he speaks English.  Why doesn’t he just speak English?”

I think that was the last time I made an effort.  Maria really does prefer English, she actually understands quite a bit, but just doesn’t like saying much.

So it’s mostly my fault, but I must say the language itself is pretty damn confusing, especially when surrounded by island people who have been in Canada for 40 years fully butchering both languages.  I could write a book on the craziness of Azorean “Portuguinglish”, especially the dialect invented by Ana’s dad.  As he’s gotten older, we’ve noticed he cares less and less about getting words right so if you don’t understand what he’s saying, too bad for you.

Today we had an interesting conversation about lunch.  We were telling tia Ana about ordering lunch in Terceira, and how Ana’s folks didn’t get what they were expecting.  It all hinged on the word “choulleta”.  In the Azores, choulleta seems to mean “pork chops”.  Ana’s parents use choulleta to mean “ribs”.  They call pork chops “pork chopsh”.  In the Azores, ribs are called “entrecostas”.  But considering her parents are from the Azores, I don’t know what the hell happened to this word in their 40 year absence.  This led to a conversation about the words for lunch and dinner.  They couldn’t seem to agree on the right Portuguese words for this.  C’mon folks, if three people from the same village can’t agree on what to call a pork chop or the right word for lunch, my chances of learning this strange language are slim.

We spent the morning doing laundry and relaxing around the house then took off around 1pm for Villa Franca to check out a new waterslide park.  We arrived to find a beautiful new complex built right next to an amazing beach...but they weren’t actually open for the season yet until the weekend.  So we got settled on the beach and sent the kids off exploring.  The beach was sparsely populated when we first arrived, but as the afternoon went on more and more people arrived.  One thing we’ve noticed since being here are how fit people are, in fact, there are very few obese people at all.  When you take a good look at their lifestyle, especially compared to ours, it is no mystery.  Their diet consists mainly of fresh fish, fresh bread, fresh vegetables and small amounts of fresh meat, nearly all of which could probably be considered “organic”, whatever that word means now.  The reason I know it’s organic is because they don’t use the word “organic” here – it’s not necessary.  And the apples, lemons, pears, and other fruits are not perfect round and waxed.  Also, the strawberries actually taste like strawberries.

Besides the food, most people walk everywhere, and it’s a very hilly landscape.  Also, the towns are so dense that everything you need is within walking distance so there’s no need to use a vehicle most of the time.  Besides that, even owning a vehicle is beyond the financial means of many people so it’s not even an option.  In the Azores, they have a siesta period mid day which is basically a two hour lunch break where everybody has time to go him and have a big lunch, which is the primary meal of the day.  Then they work until 6 or 7 in the evening and have a small meal when they get home.  Contrast this to our meal routine where we usually have a small, fast breakfast, if we have time, then snack on junk all day long, and get home to prepare a giant, heavy meal, right at the end of the day when your body least requires it.

So later in the afternoon, we waded through the sea of fit birds and ripped ab boys (I made sure to suck in my gut) over to the marina, which was close to the beach, and found a nice cafe to have a coffee.  Actually, I had a beer, Ana had a coffee and the kids had ice cream, which is our standard mid afternoon cafe routine.  The marina here was smaller than the others we’ve seen, but very nice, and about three quarters of the slips were occupied, mainly by smaller power boat, but also one or two larger boats and a few sailboats.  And yes, every time we are sitting at a marina-side cafe we do imagine ourselves docked there with our sailboat, living this lovely lifestyle described above.  And the best thing about this fantasy, is that it wouldn’t have to be a fantasy at all – the price to dock a boat is less than 300 euro per month, which includes everything, so beyond that the only expenses you would have is food (cheap), wine (cheap) and clothing (optional).  I am now quite sure that our future holds a sailing trip across the Atlantic with a few months spent in the Azores exploring the islands.  Now that is something to look forward to!

After our beach day, we head back to tia Ana’s house.  Oh, remember a couple days ago when I was talking about taking your kids everywhere, not dumping them off with the family, blah blah blah?  Well forget all that, not sure what I was thinking - we dumped the kids with tia Ana for the night and took off on our own for a couples night.

We were thrilled to find that our favourite restaurant, called “Beach” from our last trip five years ago was still here, located next to the beach area called “Praia das Melisias”.  And they still served our favourite meal, called “Bife no pedra” which is “beef on a rock”.  Imagine a 16 ounce piece of raw filet mignon served on a 500 degree lava rock, brought to your table where you cook it to your liking.  The rock somehow holds this intense heat long enough for you to cook the meat and enjoy a nice slow, long meal.  The waiter told us where to buy the stones so we’re planning on picking up a couple of them tomorrow so next time we invite you over for dinner, there might be an interesting meal in store for you!

After the meal, we went down to the city centre in Ponta Delgada, went for coffee and dessert, then hung around the Portas do Mare for a while.  As it was Friday night, the place was swarming with people, almost entirely locals, and all the restaurants and bars were quite busy.  It occurred to us that we still hadn’t seen a cruise ship in port yet, which seemed strange, considering the enormity of the port expansion and the impressive facilities, but maybe there still aren’t that many ships coming though?  Or maybe the peak season is July and August?
After our lovely couples night, we returned home sometime after 11 to find the kids still up watching a movie.  They had a nice time with tia Ana which was no surprise to us, so we spent a little bit of time with them then got them into bed, and followed suit shortly after that.

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