Thursday, April 4, 2024

Azores 2024 - Natercia’s Magnificent Signature, Azorean Pizza, Prawns in Caloura

The post-dinner conversation last night turned into an hours-long screaming match (as usual) and at one point Paulo thought the neighbour was going to call the cops. What was it about? Well, it was about Natercia’s name. After our experience at the bank with Ana’s surname I was curious if the people here had similar issues, as I know from experience that the Portuguese like to play fast and loose with names. In Canada it’s traditionally been quite simple – you get a first name, middle name, and last name. Everybody in the family has the same last name, which comes in quite handy for grouping and organization. “Hey, the Olsons are coming over tonight,” a neighbour might say, and the other neighbour he’s speaking to would know precisely who and how many would turn up. In recent times, this has changed with the many divorces and mixed families, plus the trend of women sometimes keeping their maiden names or hyphenating them with their husband’s surname. This has always struck me as odd, as I assume this privilege to be time fenced into one generation, two at most. For example, if Ana and I had gone double barreled and named our daughter Stella Borges-Olson, then she married a guy whose parents had done the same and named him Philip Hogsworth-Stroumboulopoulos, and the new couple wanted to keep up the tradition, then their daughter would be named Matilda Borges-Olson-Hogsworth- StroumboulopoulosAnd imagine what a tongue tangle it would be for their children if she married Thomas Aberdeen-Philippot-Sagittarious-MikelsteinThis system seems excessively wordy and impractical, but turns out I was wrong. Completely wrong.

Natercia’s full name is Natercia da Conceição Alves de Medeiros Cabral da Silva. At first I didn’t believe her, even after she told me it takes her about 90 seconds to sign her name. I even asked to her to pull out her Portuguese citizenship card for proof, and sure enough, there it was, in glorious size two New Roman font. The name is a combination of given names and surnames of her mom and dad, plus her husband’s surname, then instead of using dashes they put a bunch of “da’s” and “de’s” between the names. It’s a classy name and has a nice flow and rhythm to it unlike the hyphenated monstrosities mentioned above.

Strangely though, her three siblings all got slightly different versions. Her older sisters Carmelia and Manuela had an “Oliviera” slipped in there which was her mom’s maiden name, and technically correct, but they dropped this for her older brother Rue, apparently due to some meddling from a godmother, which seems a common occurrence. Whenever things go wrong in Portuguese family, there is always a godmother involved. When Natercia came around, the godmother must not have caught wind of it, so her parents wanted to fix the error and put the “Oliviera” back in there, but they didn’t want Rue to feel singled out so they dropped it for her too, which meant she got a shorter name than she should have.


To further complicate matters, Tio Manuel’s original surname was Cabrinha, which means “little goat” and unsurprisingly drew some ridicule from the kids on the playground. So his parents changed the surname of the new babies they were blessed with to Medeiros, which was grandma’s surname. Strangely, Ana’s uncle Joe, who is Tio Manuel’s younger brother, was always called “Joe Cabrinha” despite his surname being Medeiros. See, it’s complicated.


After rigorously documenting this whole complicated naming system on a sheet of looseleaf, I ask Natercia why she doesn’t add “da Oliviera” and “de Cabrinha” to her name just to fill it out a bit. She’s not sure if I’m serious.


This morning, I take a long, long early solo walk through winding streets, down urban trails, and to the rocky coastline where I’m nearly blown over by the strong winds, then work my way back up through a series of neighbourhoods, and to the Pingo Doce where I pick up fresh bread for breakfast.

John and Maria join us for a visit to the nearby ceramic factory and we see the staff at work crafting clay pots and bowls, painting, baking, and selling. From here we drive down to one of our favourite places on the island – the natural pools of Rosario. The place is in chaos. The strong south wind is pushing massive waves that crash and foam violently, turning the black lava stone landscape white. On calm days, in the summer, this place is magical. I am hoping that we get some calm weather next week so I can get into the water. I will not leave here without an ocean swim.

We have lunch at home then Ana and I go back out to tour the Observatorio Vulcanologico e Geotermico dos Acores – the Volcano museum, a place we have driven by a hundred times and always wondered about. We arrive just in time for a tour and are pleasantly surprised with what we find – an entertaining scientist guide who takes us through a series of exhibits, videos, and experiments.


From here we drive east and worm our way down into the port of Caloura, which has a lovely seaside restaurant in the shadows of the nearby towering cliffs. We take a walk out to the end of the pier then return to the restaurant and share a plate of giant prawns bathed in garlic and oil. We hadn’t planned on coming here, but it seems on this island you can get in a car and drive in any direction and soon come across something interesting, unique, enjoyable, wonderful, or amazing.


We make one last stop at Charlena’s and share a medium pizza and drinks. The pizza is delicious. I’m excited to see the first item on their pizza menu was one that included chorizo and pineapple. I feel like taking a picture and sending it to our Italian exchange student Dom who has an inexplicable hatred for pineapple on pizza. But I think he and his Italian brethren are fighting a losing battle. 

Back at the house we have a quick chat with the folks. There seems to be some sort of religious discussion going on and Tio Manuel cracks Ana up with something he says, which she translates for me. He said he hasn’t been to church in a while and hasn’t noticed any significant reduction in his fortunes. I guess that settles the religion issue. I still give baby Jesus a little high five before going to bed.

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