Saturday, September 22, 2001

Azores Journal: Terceira, São Jorge

9/27/2001 Rue de Jesús, Praia da Vitória, Terceira, Azores

The streets of commerce, where anything is possible, are always open for business—except in Praia da Vitória,Terceira, which is a US military base. The only thing open 24/7 is the US military base. We meet many interesting people over coffee, in the cafes, the only other establishment open during the day. Shops keep very selective hours, depending upon the whims and vagaries of the proprietor—something we will find out more about later.

Canice Santos photo

The huge black cargo planes en route  to Langley from Kuwait, are the newest model, said retired Air Force pilot and CIA agent, Jim Swain. They were called C Fives, or something like that. He said they come in empty and stop to refuel at the most strategic Air Force Base in the Atlantic, which is also the largest gas station in the Atlantic, he said. He was on a roll and told us many air force stories we could barely follow. He also said, Don't believe in half of what you hear.

Sinead Dinsmore photo

Jim's wife, Nancy Swain, from New Hampshire, who was once a Vanity Fair Cover GIrl, said the coffee was too strong. "You know why the espresso spoons are so small? Because they dissolve after the third cup. Bigger spoons are too expensive." I nearly snort my galoni (galão), a thick sludge of espresso and condensed milk. No fresh milk to be had on the islands. Or fish either. Dried bacalao, or bacalhau, takes some getting used to.

9/28 São Jorge Island. We blew into a rough port after an equally rough crossing from Terceira. Sinead is belowdecks feeding the fish vomit. Not a happy camper.

Around Sañ Jorge, stands of Japanese Cryptomeria, a kind of red cedar, reminds me of our redwoods. There is also a native juniper, Juniperus brevifolia. It's like being in Point Reyes, West Marin, so many familiar faces. Most of the ranchers are from the Azores. Many young men look like twins of John Santos with their distinctive eyebrows. The Irish-Portuguese look is in.

On a small plane headed for Terceira, late afternoon rain building, heavy rain this morning, and every day. Our hosts at the Hotel Australia were suddenly very friendly as we were leaving. It would've been better if it had happened sooner.

Sean and the little girl playing hide and seek, have no need for language in common. I tried to collect some folklore for my class with Alan Dundes, from José Sourez, but his English wasn't up to it. Um boca calada diz tudo, he said. Urbano da Silva was more adventurous. I got one bit of folklore from the taxi driver, Alberto Santo Amaro, who has an apartment to rent. Next time we come to visit, he says.

After ignoring us for almost the entire time we were here, everyone expects us to come back next year. That's the way things are done here. The Portuguese are so reserved at first, they seem hostile, but then we make such silly attempts to speak, they take pity on us and dust off their English or Spanish. I am speaking a weird form of  Portuguese-Spanglish which seems to work but it is harder to understand the Azoreans' replys. I suspect their dialect is different from that of the mainland.

9/30 So how we got to ride a twin prop plane back to Terceira instead of the ferryboat for $40 versus $25, was because the boat owner change the schedule two days early, leaving us stranded in Velas for a week. But our plane to Lisbon is on Monday so this is not an option.

Luckily we were able to get a flight out as this was off-season. Yesterday, we went to check on our return tickets, only to discover that the boat had already left an hour earlier that morning. Our Sunday crossing was canceled.

We spent much time trying to find another boat off the island with no luck I called the airport and they said the flight was full but there was space on Sunday for something like $400. We about fainted. I told the taxi driver our problems he said not to worry and he took us to the airport. And got us a ride out of Dodge. Aberto Santo Amaro, was our official living santo. He got us off island when no one else could.

Words from the Portuguese: mosquito!

Folklore collected from Urbano da Silva, Praia da Vitória, in Terceira, the Azores:
Folklore: Shopping & weekends
Folklore: Talking & Keeping silence
Folklore: Water, strength

Aberto Santo Amaro's folklore, Velas, Sañ Jorge, the Azores:

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