Friday, August 13, 2010

Aguas Vivas = Jellyfish!

A jellyfish (agua viva) from the Azores. Basically, Agua Viva translate to alive water---due the transparency---hard to see in the water if you aren't paying close attention.

Is global warming the reason of the abundant amount of Cagarros and jellyfish to the island of Terceira? Some people think that it is, or it may be the result of the last large tsuami. From where I see it, it’s less chickens and more jellyfish!

At most all of the beaches and swimming spots on the island, you will see a large flag pole located at the center easily visible. The flag pole will have either a red, a green or yellow flag waving. Red indicates: lots of jellyfish. When you see a red flag waving, it’s best to stay out of the water, because the “salvadors do mar” (lifeguards) have spotted large quantities of jellyfish, aka: “agua vivas” in the water, and most likely more than one person has already been stung. If there is a yellow flag, it usually means, there were a few sightings of jellyfish, and to use caution. If you see a green flag waving, that means, no jellyfish sightings have been reported. Bottom line, however, don’t rely on the flag too much. If it’s green, that doesn’t mean it’s free and clear.

Sometimes the “salvadors do mar” just are too lazy to change the flag. The lifeguards we saw were a band of teenagers in bright yellow swimming shirts huddled together with their jellyfish nets and surfboards. They look especially cool wearing their Ray Bans, catching the summer rays. Now and then the would get up from their chairs, and actually go into the water, floating on their surf board, or walking near the water with their jellyfish nets on hand. Most of the time however, if a jellyfish is spotted, it's usually by a swimmer or by someone who just got stung. Once the lifeguard is alerted of the situation, he will change the flag, but again, that doesn’t always happen.

No one knows this better than “our friend” Roxanne. Roxanne made a surprise visit to the island, and stayed with us for a short time. Ironically, she was in the ocean for a period of time patrolling the waters for jellyfish, with a kind stranger she had befriended in the ocean. We all thought that Roxanne was looking for more than just a random jellyfish-if you know what I mean. Of course the man thought Roxanne was serious about getting “to know him better” as well, but Roxanne proved to be only a tease. We don’t know what Roxanne was thinking, because this guy looked like a very tan, plump, bald version of Elliot Goule. Whatever the reason, she was caught off guard and got stung not once, but twice by an agua viva on the two days we took her to the beach. May be it was due to the fact that poor Roxanne was very pale and her feet looked a little too appetizing for the jellyfish (agua vivas), or perhaps they thought she was one of their own? Whatever reason, she got stung, and the salvadors were less than sympathetic. They didn’t change the flag for her, but they did direct her to the numerous aloe plants surrounding the beach.

She was not the only person who fell victim to an agua viva! On the second day of the beach, Roxanne was more cautious, and stayed out of the water a little more and enjoyed the “sights”. One of the sights she was enjoying were the two men sun bathing to her right. Little did she know that those men she was admiring were in fact my ex-brother-in-laws. My cousin pointed them out to me, and while I and my son Andrew went over to talk to them, Roxanne volunteered to watch Nicholas in the water. Little did I know, her kindness would be rewarded by another sting of a agua viva. Of course I felt badly, honest I did. I could have offered Nicholas' assistance and have him pee on her sting, but I didn't my son would like the idea.

After I sat down helping her with more aloe plants, my ex-inlaws walked by and said goodbye in a hurry. Apparently another jellyfish had stung one of them on the chest. My poor ex-brother-inlaw was not very happy to say the least. That is when Roxanne confessed that she was admiring them from a far earlier. After she said this, I really didn’t feel too sorry for Roxanne. (I’ll have to write more about Roxanne in another entry-let’s just say it was an interesting visit.)

Still, the flag was still waving green, and the “salvadors” were still looking cool looking out into the ocean…

A Salvador do Mar, "hard at work..."

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Cagarros - flying creatures that make weird noises

I'm posting this because the first video I shared didn't have sound--kind of defeats the purpose, hey? Well, make sure my music on the side is on mute as well, or you won't be able to hear the Cigarros.

This video I found on YouTube--not mine, but the lady is right, they sound like "flying frogs"...

Chickens, Roosters & Cagarros….Oh My…

Chicken and roosters are not as common as they used to be on the island. I remember distinctly there were a lot more here when I was a child. Both of my mother’s neighbors had a family of chickens, and often at times, when relatives and friends would visit us during the summer, there was always a “Tia” (aunt) of my mother’s who would either bring us a bag of sugar, or a chicken to give us fresh eggs in the morning. There was one chicken in particular that I was very fond of, I named her Jenny—but that is another story. Anyway, unfortunately, all of my mother’s Tias have since past away, and now I guess giving chickens is simply not done anymore. Whatever the reason being, they are still around, and the rooster still crows every morning starting at 4 am.

I know that the rooster crows at 4 am because I was always awakened by it every morning, at 4 am. This went on for the first two weeks of my stay. Apparently the rooster lived in the neighborhood, and it when it started crowing, the other rooster who lived on the other end of then neighborhood would then chime in afterwards. I swear these roosters were having a conversation among themselves. By 4:15 a third rooster from where I suspect was up the hill from my mom’s neighborhood would join it. The crowing would stop 10 minutes later, and then resume at 5 am. By the third week, I was so used to it, that I was able to sleep through it.

Yes it was hard to sleep sometimes at night. There were days that were so hot and humid, the kids wanted to go out at night to the beach and sit at the outdoor cafes, and grab a “galaos” “lattes”- it was our nightly ritual---galaos at midnight, sometimes later. You would be surprised how many people on the island are still out at night at that hour. We were definitely not alone. Coming home, afterwards, unable to sleep, and reading my summer reading selection: Anne Rice’s Interview With A Vampire, did not help of course. Oh yes, and don’t forget I was fighting a jet lag, of 7 hours difference from California time. Yes, I felt like a vampire, and would curse that rooster each morning at 4 am – I confess. If it wasn’t the rooster, it was my mother’s washing machine—but that is another story.

On the day we arrived to the island, my daughter and I decided to take a late night walk around my mother’s home in Vila Nova. It was a nice evening, and there weren’t very many people around, and I was kind of wondering why we were out there, but Lizzy insisted on exploring the little winding neighborhood streets, and I didn’t want her to go venturing out on her own. It was a nice, warm night under a full moon, and the sounds of the evening were soothing and a little unsettling…

We heard the dog barking madly across the street as we passed along side the tall cement wall of his backyard, and we could hear crickets, the soft clucking of hens, and the humming of the neighborhood street lights, and then out of no where we heard the strangest sound…

What was that?! I thought it was a goat at first, or may be a grunt of a pig, but it couldn’t be because it was coming from overhead. It had a strange alien like sound that I don’t remember ever hearing before! It sounded like…something saying: “Ke Hey, Ke Hey..” in a high pitched nasal voice. It kind of freaked us out, and we decided to head for home.

Later while watching fireworks on the 4th of July (there is an American military base on the island and we were able to watch fireworks) from my cousin’s porch we heard the sound again… “What is that sound?!” I asked my cousin, Adelaide. Apparently they are birds! They are called called “Cagarros”. (In Portuguese it closely resembles the word: cagado which is not a very nice word that basically means, someone who literally shit in his pants-excuse my vocabulary. They migrate to the Azores every spring and stay until winter. Like vampires, they usually only come out at night. They say that there has been more of them caused by the global warming problem. More cagarros AND more jellyfish--but that is another story I will write about next time.

I found this from YouTube, its from the RTP television station and it's taken from the neighboring island in the Azores, Sao Jorge. There was a rescue mission for "lost cagarros" and that is what the video is about. Hopefully you can see what the sound like by this video--enjoy!:

Sunday, August 8, 2010

I Saved A Bird's Life Today

A picture of Vila Nova in the early morning, from my cousin Adelaide's house.

One of the first things I noticed when arriving to Terceira were the birds. The island is full of them! They are constantly singing and chirping from early morning into the night. On any given day, close your eyes and listen to them. You would swear you were in a tropical forest. Just don't do this while walking down a steep hill. (I speak from personal experience.)

The birds are everywhere; in the trees, in the sky, perched on rock walls, telephone and electric poles, at the beach on the sand, in the park...everywhere. We are talking, pigeons, doves, seagulls, swallows, finches. I was surprised to see little birds "andorinhas" flying over in the sand. Surprisingly, I noticed there were more little birds at the beach than seagulls. I don't know if there is an over population of birds,, but we did notice an alarming rate of, "deceased" little birds on the roadways.

One pretty morning, I decided to join my daughter, Lizzy for a nice walk around Vila Nova (my mom's home village where we were staying). We went up the hill to my cousin Adelaide's house, and then past the church, and into the pastures, and then down the hill passing my aunt's house, towards my mom's. We made our trek up to the cousin's house first where we met Adelaide and her daughter, Beatriz who accompanied us on our "power walk", along with their dog, Nemo-a beautiful Dalmatian.

As we made our way around the neighborhood, we were met by various forms of farm life including chickens, goats, pigs, and horses, and of course cows. The island has an extraordinary population of cows, but that is another story that I will touch upon in another entry. They weren't all loose around the street mind you--they were all well kept in the backyards of some of the neighbors, with the larger animals grazing in the open volcanic rocked pastures. We walked past patchworks of green, squared off by decorated by blue and purple hydrenia rock walls up towards the small dairy plant at the top of the hill. During our walk I took in the fresh countryside, and got a whif of the fresh cow manured street. Despite the smell, it was a beautiful morning--one of those mornings when you find yourself wondering why in the world you forgot your camera at home, and regretting the lost opportunity all day long. Although we vowed to take these walks everyday, sadly, I think we only did this walk only a few times more. We had good intentions, but waking up early after staying up until 2 or 3 am, doesn't work very well..

As we made our way up to the dairy, and down the hill towards my aunt's house, I soon learned to walk on the left side of the road, rather than the right side. It is best to face oncoming traffic, than vice versa. Thankfully Adelaide alerted me to this early on. Motorists drive rather fast on these narrow country roads. Once we got to my aunt's house, sure enough there was my Tia Aidinha in the front yard with Uncle Manny, along with a little chirping bird standing near the side of street. It was chirping loudly and it seemed to be in distress! I have no idea how it got there because there weren't any trees around, but I knew it had to be moved from where it was standing or it would surely be ran over eventually. I couldn't just walk away and ignore it's little chirps! It may have been calling for it's mother, but it was alone, so I had to do something.

I took my dear Tia Aidinha's advice and scooped the little creature in the palms of my hands and carefully carried it into the garden of my Tia's front yard. There were flowers there, but nothing else, but there was a little ledge that I thought it might fall from, so I decided against leaving it there, so I scooped it up again and sat the little bird in the pasture next to my Tia's house, near the grape vines, and corn. It slowly made it's way downward into the pasture, and I was happy to see it's little wings fly down to where the grapes were. I don't know how safe and happy it would be down there, but at least he was away from the road, and near food. I hope it's still there, happily chirping away near the corn. I can only hope.

So I'm making note: I've added this event to my list of "Animals Saved". This little andorinha is right there under the gold fish I brought to life. Did I ever write about that? I stroked his little fin, until I saw it open it's little mouth, and put him in his clean fish bowl. Sure I forgot he was in the bath tub with no water when I was cleaning his bowl in the first place, but I did save it eventually.. Hopefully this will make up for all the baby chicks I squeezed to death as a child. (That is another story I'll write about later.)

Next time, I'll write about the chickens and the migrating birds that come here from America--who sound "like aliens".


Thursday, August 5, 2010

Flying the Friendly Skies to the Azores

Our airline to Terceira - Sata Airlines, sister to TAP Airlines

We got to the Oakland airport an hour early than what was required, which really was a good idea since we avoided the long line of passengers and over-stuffed suitcases-we were not the exception. All I can say is that we were very thankful that my daughter's boyfriend came with us to the airport to help carry my mom's overstuffed suitcase full of shoes to the terminal--if he hadn't been there, I don't know what we would have done. I just don't understand why Oakland International is set up the way it is. You have to basically park your car, and lug all your luggage with you across the street to the terminal. We looked like a band of Gypsies--I'm not exaggerating. Even Nicholas was lugging a suitcase behind him on the crosswalk, and I don't know if you have ever noticed this before, but people going to the airport are not the most courteous people. They are all anxious, and in a hurry, and aren't very patient with you at crosswalks.

Anyway, we got ourselves at the terminal and got checked in. We said our tearful goodbyes to my husband and my daughter's boyfriend. I hate saying goodbye--not a good feeling. I knew my husband would be meeting us on the island three weeks later, but it is never easy, when you are flying so far away, and you begin to think of all the bad things that could happen, but try not to, but air travel can always be a little tense. Anyway, in our state of of sadness we of course passed our gate and found ourselves going in the wrong direction, lugging our carrier bags, and my mom's three purses. (Yes my mom has a thing for purses too.) I got stuck holding my son's skateboard the whole time at the airport, and Lizzy said I looked like I was a "skater girl" from behind, and kept on singer Avril Lavigne's "Skater Boy" the whole time. I liked the idea, even though I have never skated on a actual skateboard in my whole entire life.

We decided to go to the Mexican restaurant and kill some time at the airport and eat something, because we all knew that the airline food was not going to be very appetizing. We were right.

For some odd reason, the travel agent who promised me seats for my family AND MY MOM together on the plane GOOFED once again, and she had my mom sitting by herself 5 rows ahead of me. I was a little worried about how that would work out, but by the time we got on the plane, I noticed that I had a clear view of my mom up ahead of me. I could see the top of her head, and her gold shoes, and her matching gold purse. I helped her store her other two carry ons, and I was happy to see that she was seated by a nice younger guy. She seemed safe enough, and for a moment there I was happy that she wasn't sitting next to me. I know that sounds awful, but to tell you the truth the woman had been driving me crazy the past few days, and I think we both deserved a break from each other, if you know what I mean...

The trip to the Azores was a 10 hour adventure. After 5 hours in flight, we landed in Hamilton for about a hour(somewhere in eastern Canada), the plane was re-fueled, the flight crew was changed, and the toilets were inspected and cleaned, and then another 4 hour flight until landing in Terceira, Azores. During this course of flight we had the usual characters:

Character #1: "The guy who can't stop getting out of his/her seat."

Character #2: "The guy who can't stop calling for the stewardess"

Character #3: "The guy who can't stop talking"

Character #4: "The guy who won't stop blocking the aisle"

Character #5: "The guy who can't stop hovering over the passengers"

Character #6: "The guy who can't stop drinking"

Character #7: "The rude, the bad and the smelly" (my least favorite)

I've written about this experience before, and I should know the drill by now. But every trip surprises me. When you share a plane with 150+ strangers for 10 hours, you best be polite and friendly with them. I wish everyone followed the rule, but sadly, there are still people who believe the rule should not apply to them.

Character #1: This person will constantly get in and out of their seat non-stop! This person of course sits at a window seat, or in one of the middle seats. Fortunately for me, I sat with my kids, at the end, but I was witnesses to quite a few character #1's from where I was sitting. This person will go to the bathroom constantly, and can turn into a Character #5 very quickly. They can also become Character #7-nastiest of them all!

Character #2: I had this one in front of me. This woman was constantly calling the stewardess for various reasons, from "I'm too cold" to "I need an aspirin" to, "Where I can I find a good grocery store on the island?" Although the steward was very nice to her, I could tell by the end of the flight, by thelook on his face, he was more than overjoyed to see this woman finally get off the plane. I wasn't too fond of her either, because she kept on pulling her seat down and then up during the entire flight. I was surprised however when we had landed because she suddenly turned to me and complimented Nicholas for being such a good boy on the flight. Any compliment for my son Nicholas is truly treasured--believe me--that is another story.

Character #3: Most annoying! These people talk, and talk, and talk... Unfortunately, I had a few of these surrounding me. No wonder I can never fall asleep on these flights! There is always some annoying woman or man talking non-stop for 10 hours in my ear. They have always seem to have the most annoying high pitched voices, and they cackle like chickens. Call me anti-social, but I will not start a conversation with you if I don't know you. I'm on a plane, and I'm trying to sleep, and I don't want to hear about how many cows you own in Modesto or Turlock, and I am not interested to hear about all the family members you know on the island and whether or not we may be related. I had this woman talking non-stop to the guy next to her, and then she somehow convinced the guy to move from his seat so she could have her friend sit near her so she could talk more to her..

Character #4: The guy who blocks the aisle. I could go on and on about these people. They think it's necessary to stand in the middle of the aisle for no good reason. It doesn't matter if the stewards are trying to serve breakfast, lunch or dinner, they have to stand there like a statue. This is most annoying when they are standing by the video monitor, and you are trying to watch a movie, and their stupid head is just standing there near the screen. You want to throw a pillow at their head or something, and you try to stare them down, but they won't budge.

Character #5: The hovering people--oh my God. These people get out of their seats, go search a friend and stand there to talk to them non-stop. They will stand there, over you, just hovering like a hungry seagull, as they talk and talk and talk to their friend. I wish I took the picture of one poor victim to character #5. Poor girl had an aisle seat next to this guy who had a window seat. She was surrounded by 4 different men. One was standing behind her seat, the other was directly in front of her, and there was another guy who was seated in front of her who was standing over his seat. The poor girl was surrounded. What did she do? She was working on a crossword puzzle, listening to her Ipod. I stared in disbelief waiting for this poor girl to make at least one facial expression of dissatisfaction to her plight, but nothing. What a trooper! She must have been a true veteran of such trans-Atlantic flights--Ipod in hand-she was prepared!

Character #6: Yes, character #6 likes to drink. He drinks a lot-probably to calm his in-flight nerves. Fortunately for us, we didn't see much of these, but there was one guy who liked to visit the bar at the back of the plane. He wasn't too happy to learn that there are new rules that include a limit in alcoholic beverages to be served on the plane--especially two hours before landing. He settled on 7-Up eventually after being told more than 3 times that they no longer had more wine. Yes, character #6 can also be Character #1-because he/she is constantly in line for the bathroom as well. He can also become all characters simintaneously at the same time which can be quite scary! The stewards and stewardesses tried to make everyone happy however, with their constant walks up and down the aisle offering "cha" (tea) or "cafe" (coffee) in small little plastic cups...

Character #7: The rude, the bad and the smelly.. Yes, while standing in line to use one of the 3 working toilets on the plane, one woman thought she needed to use the bathroom more than I did, and literally tried to push me aside. I told her however, that I was in line, and I haltered her before she took my toilet. It amazes me how some people act in planes sometimes. I guess being in a plane for 10 hours makes everyone less polite, and smelly.. Why don't planes carry deodorant in the bathroom? Why? I mean, it would be so much better. Some people sweat like high heaven on planes--especially the characters #1, 3, & 4.. Please someone take note! The bathroom line is the worst. People will cut in front of you, and if you are so fortunate to be sitting near the toilets, you have the "pleasure" of hearing the conversations between the people who are waiting for the toilets. You also get to be hovered. OOhh..and let me not forget the RUSH to the toilets before the plane arrives on the final destination, when all the ladies have a need to run to the mirror and "pretty up" before they see their relatives at the airport.

After 10 hours of flight, how can anyone look good? Really? I tried to sleep as much as I could, but I think I only had 45 minutes sleep if any. I was constantly interrupted by the noise of the plane, and it's people. I tried different methods to sleep--even sleeping on my elbows, only to find two enormous red spots on my cheeks. Not very attractive. On average, everyone on the plane looked like hell.

After a round of applause once we landed on the island, we all bustled out of the plane, down the stairs to the bus that awaited us at the bottom of the runway. The bus would take us to the terminal where our passports would be stamped, and where the luggage was waiting for us. The first person we see at the bottom of the stairs was my niece Joana, who is an employee of the airline. Lizzy and Andrew were not expecting to see their cousin Joana directing them towards the bus. They both did double takes, and upon realizing who they both were, starting hugging and kissing.
It was a nice hello from such a long journey.

Once we got into our bus (there were two full buses loaded by the passengers of our plane), we got to look at the people we shared the last 10 hours with, and we all looked like hell, but it didn't' seem to bother the loved ones that were waiting for us at our final destination. We all got kissed and hugged just the same...

It's always fun to arrive to your final destination--especially when you have happy, pretty people waiting for you there.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

My Island Chronicles...

Lizzy, Andrew & Beatriz in Escaleiras - a natural ocean, swimming hole on the coast of Vila Nova,_Vila_Nova,_Praia_da_Vit%C3%B3ria,_ilha_terceira,_A%C3%A7ores.jpg

I purchased a small notebook from one of the neighborhood "vendas" (small mini mart type store) in my mom's village (Vila Nova), and in it I jotted a few stories and experiences of my visit. I confess that in one day I highlighted the first two weeks of my adventure, and the rest of my two weeks are still in nestled somewhere in my brain. Sometimes there just isn't time to write; there are far too many distractions, too many streets to climb, flowers to smell, clothes to hang, and sand to hide your toes in.

So, for the next few weeks, I will be making entries about my trip in Terceira. Please note that although I'm writing about it, I'm not really there anymore--although there are some days already, I wish I was.

Don't get me wrong--it's nice to be home, but when I'm there I'm always in "vacation mode". Who doesn't like living in vacation mode all year long? I couldn't really tell you how it is actually living there outside of vacation mode because I've never really experienced it, so please keep in mind that not everyone lives there as carefree as I interpret it. There are people who actually have 9-5 office jobs, and work the land...etc. Although, some people may argue why on earth shops close at 2 pm, restaurants close mid week..and why shop keepers and business men take hourly breaks to jump in the ocean for a swim, and take a coffee break.. The roosters crow every hour on the hour starting at 4 am, and like the crows, the church bells continuously ring accordingly until 22:00 hours - (10 pm). After awhile you realize that island life is pretty awesome--I won't lie.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy reading about my little adventures on the mysterious island of Terceira. Enjoy!