This is going to be my lengthiest post. Probably. Feel free to skim through, or even just peak at the pictures.
Last day in Boston/Pre-Day one of our Portuguese Adventure:
After sitting in rush hour traffic to get to the airport, and paying some tall Eurasian to help us bring our eight bags and dog-filled crate to SATA check-in, a very nice ticketing agent helped us wheel Romeo in his crate to the appropriate TSA office. This happened to be down a ridiculously long hallway that Romeo’s crate couldn’t fit through the doorway of. After we lifted it off the crate and put in back on after rolling through the doorway, Romeo was lopsided. After the ticketing agent took a few short steps, Romeo’s crate fell off and tumbled over a few times. We rushed to upright him, but he barely noticed. After getting security clearance for him & his crate, we left him with the ticketing agent to go through security ourselves. Our flight was uneventful, in the good way.
Portugal: Day One (primeiro dia)
We arrived in Ponta Delgado 7:00am local time and it was just barely getting light. Due to the absence of jetways, we exited the plane ceremoniously down some steps and onto the tarmac. The first thing you notice, should you ever get the chance to visit the Azores, is the intense, and not-entirely unpleasant scent of cows. Cows, cows, cows. They seem to be everywhere on the island. Once we entered the aeroport we retrieved Romeo from the “oversized luggage” area and made our way to the “vet”.
There were two other dogs in front of Romeo, so we waited outside the tiny office, trying to keep Romeo out of the other dogs’ sight—they were not happy about him. Once we finally entered the “vet” office she took our forms and copied them, without so much as a glance. She told us the other dog owner did not have the right forms, and that explained our extended wait. We were in her office a total of 45 seconds, long enough for her to copy our forms and hand us back the original. No stamp, no certificate. She left us with a “bom dia!” (trans: good day) and we went to see what sort of ride awaited us outside the airport.
John had talked to the captain of his team and they were aware that we had eight bags, a large dog, and his crate. We had been assured a van would be at the airport to pick us up (the normal driver for Mira Mar, Pedro, also drove school-children during the day and wouldn’t be able to get us). As soon as we were on the sidewalk a man approached John and explained to him in a few words that he was there to get us. His name was Liandro and he went to fetch his vehicle from the parking lot.
A few minutes later he pulled up in a Mercedes SEDAN. We began to pile the bags (framed suitcases) in the trunk and tried to fit Romeo’s crate in the backseat. When we realized his crate was not going to fit, we went to work taking it apart. Once all the screws were out, we put the bottom inside the top. We filled this with the bags that wouldn’t fit in the trunk and put it in the back seat. With just about 10 inches to spare, I scooted in next to it. John (with Romeo in his lap) took the front seat. What John had told me about how people drive on Sao Miguel was true—it is typical for a driver to gain as much speed as possible in whatever space he has. Once hyper-over-drive-speed has been attained, this speed is held until there is a stop sign/yield sign/rotary, at which point the driver applies as much force as is humanly possible to the brakes. The roads are as narrow as the teeny Smart Cars that line the streets, and we’re winding through the mountains which consume the body of the island. The scenery got prettier and the foliage more colorful as we got further away from Ponta Delgado and closer to our village (Povoacao). The last village we saw before our own was Furnas (pro. Fur–nesh.) Furnas is famed for its hot springs and geysers. The fog shot into the sky as the sun was beginning to rise—it set a nice background for the vehicular death I believed was imminent.
While I tend to trust iMaps wholeheartedly, this trek only took us 45 minutes.
Without death or injury, we made it to Povoacao just before 9:00am. Many villagers were out and about getting their children to school. We finally stopped (after driving in what felt like several circles—almost every street in the village is one-way) outside a church. Opposite the church is a dentist and a nail salon, and a few other retail shops, and above these appear to be apartments. We waited on the street for about 20 minutes, for the president of the club, Betinho. Once he arrived, he gave John a nod and took a key to the door next to the nail salon. John, trying very hard to make me aware of the customs I was going to encounter, explained to me that men would kiss me on both cheeks when we met. He need not have worried; Betinho didn’t even give me a glance. We gathered our bags from the curb and walked into the apartment and straight up the stairs into the kitchen.
The place is beautiful: hardwood stairs led up to a sun-filled kitchen with glass doors leading out to a tiny back porch (where we later found a WASHER and a DRYER). Also on this floor was our sun-filled bedroom (facing the church) and a decent-sized and totally clean bathroom. At this time, we still had hot water.
Walk up the second staircase to a loft living room with leather couches and cable TV (not that I watch cable… but still a luxury, along with hot water, tweezers, and hair dryers…)
For those of you who don’t know John well, no, he doesn’t like to wear his shirt.
We got unpacked and were visited by the captain of the team, Marco. This is how we learned that our apartment was owned by the woman who owns the nail salon below us. She is in the states with her husband, Marco told us, but will come back in a few days. At this point, we didn’t know it was a nail salon as Marco kept referring to it as “the office building downstairs”.
Clearly, I didn’t take this picture upon our arrival. It does, however, show the nail salon, our front door, and our bedroom window.
After we got unpacked, we walked two blocks up the street, and let ourselves into the apartment John had been staying in with the other Americans (who aren’t all “American”, but we’ll get to that). After he excitedly and dramatically woke each of them up by jumping on their sleeping bodies (Ken, Majiid, Adam, and Bobby), we went to Pic-Nic to get a coffee. On the way to Pic-Nic, we found Pedro, Mira Mar’s driver. He had just finished driving the kids to school, and treated us to a coffee (cafe). We still didn’t know the password to our wifi, so we either had to go to Pic-Nic or the guys’ apartment when we needed it. Pedro and Marco both speak English very well, which is good for us, because our Portuguese sucks. People keep saying mine is better than John’s, but I think that is mostly because it makes him so mad. After we had galao (lattes) with Pedro, we walk back to our apartment.
After we nap for several hours (we only slept for about two hours on the plane) we got up and went to the market to get some groceries. The market is much different from what I had imagined—I was expecting farmer’s market-type places with fresh fruits and vegetables from all the surrounding farms. What there actually is are a ton of glorified mini marts full of frozen cuisine, with the occasional basket of oranges (laranja) and what look like plantains (which I tried to fry….) but are in fact bananas. See image.
Fresh bread? I don’t think so. The pastries at Pic-Nic are pre-wrapped, too. So much for my “farm-to-table, everything is fresh or homemade!” expectations.
We took our canned and frozen and pre-packaged food home and had a lanche (snack). Thank you, Leslie, at Real Deal Snacks for our protein-packed (and homemade) goodness.
Before Pedro came to pick John up for practice, we took Romeo for a walk to the beach.
Pedro picked John up and took him to train the juniors and then he stayed for his own practice. I took advantage of the time to go to Pic-Nic, have another galao, and use their wifi to catch up with some friends. After that was done, I headed home to make some rice and beans for dinner. #tryingtobeportugee
John came home from practice, he showered, we ate rice and beans, and then we headed up to the guys’ to steal some wifi. We went home and crashed around 1:30am and slept until 11:30am. Romeo slept too.