Thursday, October 20, 2016

Time Flies

Wow, time flies!!!

My last post was over four years ago. 
It's not that I have lost my desire to post or write, but that living life actually takes a lot of time.
I had hoped to "resurrect" my blog and even move it to its new platform (my own site) on my current trip. However, it has been six weeks since I left for Paris and today is the first day I am putting hands to keyboard to type this. 

I have been roaming, thinking, pondering, observing and analyzing the world around me and noticing what happens within me, but I have not felt the urge to share it on screen until now.  Even this post is just a quick statement to acknowledge just that.

I have lots to write about, now I just need to find time to take a break from living to do it.

If you have been waiting for my posts, I apologize, but hope that you have been living your life in the meantime. A far more important activity then reading my posts or scrolling through Facebook, post on Twitter or watch political debates.

Don't forget to live life while it actually happens!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Old, New and Un-noticed

Mom is standing in the driveway.  Motionless almost, she watches me angle the car just so while I wait for the gate to open.  It is a bitty eerie to see her standing there, not moving, not saying anything. It’s like this every time I arrive from the airport in my rental car. Almost as she does not recognize who it is. But to me, it means “I am home. It is sort of comforting to know that some things never change and I can count on mom standing there as all the past years before.

As my feet hit the tarmac, the same feelings always wash over me: I am grateful for a safe trip and a bit emotional as setting foot on Portuguese soil does mean that I am truly home, the country I was born in and always will feel connected to no matter how many miles away I live or travel.  The transfer bus waits as usual – idling as the passengers descend the stairs from the plane and find “their” spot on the bus. It is always a very short ride from the plane to the terminal and I always wonder why they don’t just let us walk – we have been sitting for hours after all and stretching our legs could do no harm. But then my legal mind reminds me that there is probably a safety concern and some rule or law that needs to be followed.
Getting to the passport check is always uneventful – pleasant and uneventful, although this time there was a bit of queue as several planes arrived exactly at the same time. Getting my luggage is the part where I always wonder a little if my bag actually made the transfer and I am always grateful it does arrive in one piece.
As I make my way to the rental car agency, I notice the changes around the airport – construction is everywhere. There are new giant “cement canopies” covering parts of the parking lots, new parking lots, new walkways – all in the process of being created. The walkway to the car rental agencies is now in part a semi-covered tunnel that inclines downward at first (yes, I rode my luggage cart down the hill) and then back upwards.
I will spare everyone the re-telling of the process to get my rental car, as it is dull as a doorknob.

So one of the many things that are new (to me) since I visited last year is that I see many more women, of all ages, proudly showing of tattoos. The most popular one seems to be leopard spots covering one shoulder. Men too, seem to have more tattoos in general. I don’t recall seeing so many young men with tattoos when I was living here, but then again 28 years have passed and the fads have changed. And considering that we have over 300 days of sunshine in the year and the warm weather dictates less clothing, those flesh ornaments are almost all exposed for all to see.

New also are the highway tolls. Up until now, the highways in the south of Portugal did not have any tools. The government however decided to change that this year. In of itself, tolls while annoying and having a separatist nature – most people who earn the minimum or slightly above the minimum monthly salary can barely put food on the table and pay their utility bills never mind paying for tolls – in this case are also dumb. Well, the process for paying them is dumb. If you are not registered with the traffic department, and most cars are not as it is the case for rental cars, a picture of your license plate is taken as you enter and exit the highway. The toll is then calculated and registered in their computerized system. To pay the toll one must go to the Post Office (why?) within two business days. They then look up what you owe based on the license plate you give them. Oh, the inefficiency startles me. So guess who will avoid the highway if she can help it?

Driving around town, something caught my eye. I noticed that many street signs had changed. For some odd reason all the lettering is now in lower-case letters only unless it is the proper name of a place, town or building. So the School is school and Hospital is hospital. It all looks very odd visually and makes me wonder what the purpose may be – do they save on ink by not capitalizing as many letters? I brought this to the attention of my friend, and she stated that it is indeed the new way are making the street signs, but she did not know why. While it is not technically incorrect, it just looks odd as if someone forgot to capitalize the words. And, the interesting part is that not all town and cities are at the same level of conversion their street signage, so some towns you have a mix, while others have not started the process and others yet have completely converted. 

Change is good! Most of the time it is, sometimes however one has to wonder why change was necessary or why it came about in the first place.

To me, it is all the same at the end of the day. While I can count on mom’s stone-faced expression as I pull up to the house, I know that the country as a whole must make changes to move forward. Even if those changes sometimes seem odd or dumb, they often give origin to other changes that make more sense and bring forth even more positive changes. As to the tattoo invasion, I’m indifferent. I like tattoos and while it may be something new here and now, tattoos are an ancient ritual of African, South American and many historical tribes. The right to do with our bodies what we choose should never be judged or regulated.

Ah, it is good to be home regardless of what never changes, that what must change and that which should be left unchanged.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

And I am off again...

It is that time again.  Packing my bags, checking my list and making sure the cat sitter has everything to take care of my baby Persi. Tomorrow at this time, I will be basking in the warm Algarvian sun. That is the south of Portugal for those who are Geographically challanged. :)
If you wish to keep up with my adventures, please log in and read all about them.



Friday, June 10, 2011

See You Later, Hello!!

My vacation is coming to an end. Tomorrow at this time I will be landing in Dublin on a layover back to Boston. It has been twenty-one great days away from work stress and my daily chores, but time has come to once again re-enter my routine. Being away is always contemplative for me - I tend to let my mind wander and think of ways to change the things I don't like in life. Some are rather lofty ideas, I must admit, but for the most part they are realistic and possible. The problem seems to always be putting them into practice once "real life" sets in again.

I started today with another nice one-hour hike through field and fauna with Fritz, our lovely family dog and some friends.

Fritz is by far the most fascinating dog I've ever known. We don't really know how old he is. Dad found him about five years ago wandered the valley near the house. He was well-nourished so not likely a stray, but no one came to claim him after Dad posted signs all over town. Off to the Vet for a check-up, shots and a chip implant and Fritz, as he was named, became part of the family. Like his exact age, his bread is a mystery as well. A mutt with a tad of Rottweiler is my best guess.

He sees me once a year, twice if we are both lucky, but from the moment I drive up it is like we have never been apart at all. He rolls onto his back and begs me to play. Once unchained (mom says he'll go after the chickens if he is let loose all day) he runs circles around me and licks my legs. We usually go for walks, but this year I decided to hike into the hills behind the house. One path starts just a few meters down the road from our front door. It is pretty steep for the most part on the way up. A trail of red earth winding past fields of wild lavender, mountain roses and dozens of other plants and trees I recognize but can not name. Fritz keeps up with me, or I with him - I'm not always sure who is leading who - all the way to the top where we take a break. Fritz rests under a cork tree while I marvel at the view each and every time as it was the first time. We've done this hike four times in the past week, but neither one of us finds it boring. On the way down the other side, the path is shorter, but equally steep ending up at a major road. Fritz waits patiently when I call out to him to stay put until I get his leach hooked. Until then he gets to roam free, but the road is to busy and dangerous for him, so I make sure we both stay safe along this stretch that leads past dozens of Eucalyptus trees into the little village of Alportel. From here we follow the main road for a while, sometimes stopping to say hello to someone I have not seen in a long while, sometimes because Fritz found something interesting to smell. There are a few different ways to get back home - sometimes we stay on the road, sometimes we cut across the fields and follow and old river bed and other times we mix it all up. A hundred meters or so before we reach the house I let him off his leach again. He runs up ahead, straight to the water bowl and a quick roll on his back before he is hooked back to the chain.

The weather has been mostly cooperative. Some wind and a bit of rain, but nothing to keep me from roaming about. While I did not get to do all the side excursions I had planned, I did get to do the most important part - spend time with family and friends, including a trip to the cemetery to "see my grandparents, other family and friends who left way too soon". It may sound strange, but I talk to them all. So far no one has talked back. A good thing that is too as I'm not sure how I would react if anyone did. Jump a thousand feet in the air or get out my list of questions?

I really enjoyed playing tour guide to my girlie Ilham and her friend Amina who came to visit Portugal for the weekend. I got to introduce them to my parents and they shared Dad's birthday lunch with us. It was so much fun to spend time with them, drive them around and show them "my" country. Well, a part of it as we only had a couple of days. From the mountains and medieval castles and towns to the Vincentine (West) coast and amazing beaches like Carrapateira, an unfortunately named slice of heaven (Carrapato is a flea, the bloody type you find on dogs) I tried to fit in a good sample of what the Algarve has to offer. And going back to the unfortunately named beach, come to think of it, it might be more a case of deceptiveness. Like Iceland which is not all icy and actually very diverse in its landscape and Greenland which is really icy and not green at all, I think someone was trying to keep the masses away from this idyllic beach and baptized it with an unpleasant name. Flea beach does not sound very appealing, but having been there a few times I can attest to the contrary.

I also spent a wonderful afternoon with my cousin Celia. We basked in the sun of Quarteira beach, enjoyed some espresso and got caught up on our lives. We both lived in Germany at the same time. I was there when she was born, well not literally there, I was ten. Like me, she is an only child and like me she lives life on her own terms despite a rather confusing and strict upbringing. I guess I could call her my gypsy twin.

And a trip home would never be complete without seeing Manuela. Yes, Steve you, too!! This time in stayed overnight and we got to talk like old times when we shared a one-room and a bath apartment while doing our hotel internships in Albufeira. We both can recall those days well. It was good to feel the bond we created back then. a bond that I know will be there for as long as we both are on this planet.

As I write this, I know that Monday is slowly but surely approaching. With it will come work, commuting to work, dealing with the daily routine and I will be far, far away from the bronzing rays of the Algarve sun and scent of Eucalyptus trees. In the same moment I remind myself that without that, THIS - here and now - would neither be possible nor so greatly appreciated. So, yes I am grateful for the routine I'm going back to as it comes with another great set of friends and surrogate family members who make each day special.

Monday, June 6, 2011

On Winding Roads

From the moment the plane hits the Tarmac, life takes on a different meaning altogether. As I step out onto the stairs I feel the hot sun on my skin. I take in a deep breath. Everywhere I have in been in the world is different, has a different feel, smell and vibration, but the Algarve is home in the truest meaning of the word like no other place on Earth. It has it's very unique feel, smell and energy.  My favorite part when I first arrive is the drive from the airport to my parents. I love the mostly narrow winding road that stretches from the ocean into the mountains for a little over 20 kilometers. My little rental car obeys to all the gear changes necessary to hug the curves just so and I feel a bit like a Rally driver.  I love to drive on this stretch in particular because I used to ride it daily on the bus to and from school when I attended the last two years of high school. As I kick into the gears into fifth, back to fourth and then third and back to fourth again, I always have the same thoughts - this is where came from, where life started for me and where I will always belong whether I want it or not. This land speaks to my soul and that is hard to ignore.

But coming home to Portugal is always filled with a dichotomy of experiences. In some ways it seems as time stood still - some people you knew are still living in the same exact house, doing the same exact things day in and day out and have the same close-minded view of the world.  Progress happens all around and changes the landscape. An old house gets torn down for a new apartment complex or mini mall; another field turns into a parking lot; another idyllic road becomes a busy throughway. Coming home is always bittersweet too when you have more then one place to call home. Living life on two separate continents is way less glamorous then one might think. Your always leaving your friends and family to go home to your friends and family.

As I come around the last corner before a short straight stretch I see my parents home, the house I was born in, emerge up on the right. I press the horn on my little Hyundai. Mom sticks her head out the kitchen door and presses the control to open the gate. I'm home, for now......

Friday, June 3, 2011

Truly, Madly, Deeply….. Continued

(Sorry to have been "in hidding" for a few days. As it happens, life IS what happens while you made plans to write your travel blog every day. Life happens, and the blog must wait.)

I am happy to report that the elusive pictures taken by the strange Polish photographer Adam have arrived the other day via email, as promised.
But on to the rest of my Dublin trip.
I met a few really nice people and made some new friends. I am blessed to have such good fortune and people who care about me. Thanks to I, P and D for making my trip special.
Dublin was a really nice experience even with all the rain and wind on some of the days. Definitely a city worth another trip, for the Guinness and good friends alone!
Oh yeah, why Truly, Madly, Deeply? Well, some of you may recall a song by this name, by the Australian pop band Savage Garden. When I first saw these word on a page of the in-flight magazine on my flight from Boston to Dublin that was the first thing that came to mind. However, Dublin has adopted these tree words as its slogan for the city: Truly, Madly, Deeply…. Dublin!  Pretty clever. 
As I found out, there is a movie by the same name.  Something to check out when I am back home.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Truly, Madly, Deeply

When I set out to visit a place I never been I never know what to expect. Truthfully, I'm a planner, but l some things I prefer to leave to chance and see what happens. While I usually have a list of some of the tourist attractions I want see, I like to leave lots of time and room for the unexpected and to explore the roads less travelled.

And here I was in Dublin! Since check-in time at the hotel was hours away and my luggage would be safe as it was "allowed" to check in, I decided to walk the streets and see where it would take me. First impressions are most important they say. Good thing I don't subscribe full-hearted to that believe, otherwise I might have thought I landed in a Willy Wonka dream and turbed around on my heels. Color me orange, won't you!!! This is a phenomenon overtaking woman in Ireland. The compulsive urge to slather on tree layers of orange tinted foundation. And that is not all. Add a good dose of super-black eyeliner, ounces of eye shadow and several applications of thick mascara. Super-skinny Jeans (some people should just not be allowed to wear these), the highest platform shoes or crazy leopard boots and the look is perfect! While I try not to judge, I do have to wonder how and why anyone would hide their potential natural beauty in such an extreme manner and who are the men or other women who find this attractive?

My expedition led me to Grafton Street eventually. Dublin's Newbury Sreet, for my Boston-area peeps. Nothing unusual here - chain stores mingle with unique boutiques; coffee shops, steet performers. This is where I met Juan. He was sculpting a dog out of wet sand in the middle of the pedestrian area. I stopped to watch him for a few minutes. We chatted. Juan is from Romania, but spoke several languages including German and Portuguese. Before I left, I dropped an Euro in the hat he had laid out for tips.

I seem to have good luck in meeting interesting strangers. The next day, having woken up at 1pm (too many halfpints of Guinness the night before) I decide to walk through Stephen's Green, a beautiful park just 5 minutes from my hotel, to find a nice coffee shop for breakfast. He was standing by the water fountain and looked lost. Our eyes met and I'm not sure why, but "are you lost" were the words I heard myself say. I, a tourist just a day in town was asking someone if THEY were lost. I had to attribute this to the Guinness the night before. And this is how the rest of our interaction unfolded:
Stanger, smiling: "No, I'm not lost. Are you?"
Me, smiling: "I am not sure were I'm going yet, but no, not lost. OK then, have a good day."
I started to walk away.
Stranger, walking toward me: "Wait a moment please..... Could I take your picture?"
Oh, here we go I thought.
Me: "Ummmmm......"
Stanger, still smiling: "I'm a photographer and I'm taking pictures of strangers for a project. Can I take yours?"
Photographer! That is what they all say.
Me: "I really don't like myself in pictures, but if you want to.....sure....why not."
Stranger: "Most people don't like looking at themselves in pictures. It's normal. Come, stand over here in the shade."
He started to snap away. The shutter of his camara taking frame after frame.
Stranger: "Relax! Think of something happy, something you like......ok, this is good."
Me: "May I see?"
He flipped through the images for me.
Me: "Ugh......ah, I like that one," pointing at one where I was looking down and smiling.
Stranger: "I will send them to you, if you give me your email."
He pulls out a pad and pen from his bag. I hesitated, then saw his wedding band. I exhaled, thinking "good". I was not looking for a fling, and the band is a sacred thing for me. No messing with that.
Me, as I write down my email: "What is your name?"
It just had occurred to me that we had not introduced each other.
Stranger: "Adam."
Me: "I'm Margarida. Nice to meet you Ehdam."
Adam: "Ahdam.... Nice to meet you."
Me, molding my lips: "Aaaadham..... Do you have kids?"
Adam: "No, but we have plans. Do you?"
Me: "No..... Ok, I look forward to getting the pictures. Have a nice day."
Adam: "Thank you. I will send them soon. Enjoy Dublin. "
Me, waking away: "Bye."
Adam, standing by the fountain again: "Bye."

Adam was from Poland. Dirty blond, shoulder long hair parted in the middle, brown eyes framed by round wire-rimmed glasses and had thin lips. He spoke in a soft eastern accent and was very sweet as it turned out.

I have yet to receive that email with the pictures e promised.

(more on my Dublin adventure later and I'll explain the title of this post as well)


Just me at the end of the day, enjoying the sunset.

Just me at the end of the day, enjoying the sunset.

My friend K (initial only to protect the not-so-innocent) sent me a message complaining I had not uploaded any pictures of myself. Well, like most people I am not particular fond of my own image on gelatin silver print or digital medium, but since I would like to stop the "whining" I'll post one (and maybe more later). This one is for you, K. :)

Monday, May 23, 2011


The streets of Dublin are alive with thousands of people making their way to College Green where Obama will be speaking in two hours. The Garda (police) have closed a number of streets and security and bag checks are in place.

No too far away, Lady Gaga is scheduled to appear on her "Born this Way" tour.

I'm sitting at Munchies, having my Pesto Veggie Melt and Velvet Crunch chips. From my window seat in see the herd of Obamanites passing by. I don't see any "little Monsters" (Lady Gaga fans for those of you not up to speed on the terminology). Come to think of it, it is too early for the concert, but surely the first black American President who just happens to have an Irish great, great, great grandfather on his mothers' side is bound to attract a bigger following the an Techno Pop, platform shoe-wearing, fantasy outfit clad Jewish singing sensation!?

Whatever your opinion on either one, you'll have to concur that this phenomenon of attraction to fame is very, very interesting.

What am I going to do? Well, Lady Gaga tickets might be sold out, but regardless I would have to go on my own, unless I find an Obamanite who would like to accompany me. And, to Obama - good for him that people seem to have such affection towards our President, but his presence is reason why the Dublin Castle is closed to visitors today and I won't be able to see it from the inside. I'm not a fan of huge, amped up crowds or waiting in line for anything for any amount of time. So, no I will not be joining in on the craze. While I have a certain curiosity to hear him speak, I will have to fulfill that on another occasion. For now, I'll have to just appreciate the coincidence of sharing the same square footage with a President and a Pop Queen.