Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Mother Country


It's extremely surreal to be here in Terceira, on an itty bitty Portuguese island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, an island where my mother and grandparents were born, in a house that I don't remember, a house that is littered with photos of my extended family and me. Imagine walking into a house that you don't recognize and seeing your face and your cousins' faces everywhere.  It's so strange!

It's incredible just how easy it was to get here, a place that has always seemed so far, so removed, I dare say seemingly off-limits to us all these years.  I try to imagine the stories I've heard about this place all my life, stories about bullfights and wine making and farting contests (did I just publish that on the internet?) but it's so hard without all of the people that made those stories come to life.  

I present to you Grandma's house:


She made me sopas, a bread and pot roast soup that we eat at every Portuguese festa, for my homecoming, knowing how much I love it.  So we ate sopas and alcatra like porcas until we could eat no more.

Sometimes she speaks on the phone or in the street to various friends and relatives about me.   I love hearing her explain who I am and seeing nods of recognition on people's face as she references Mariazinha and Carlos Albert.  It always makes me smile to feel so connected to it all.

The weather here is crazy, with strong winds and intermittent rain and sun.  Mom told me that one time it was so windy that Tio Johnny blew off a wall.  When it finally stopped raining for an hour Grandma took me on a tour of the property, including the gardens and the various other buildings she owns including an antique structure they used to sleep in but that is now used for "junk," as she says.  Because of the rain, everything is so beautifully green and fresh.

We went into the front garden, and I walked along the stone wall in front of the river, where Tia Diane used to play to her tomboy heart's content on the wall and in the river, inspiring Grandpa to call her a goat.

Please take note of the following mode of transportation.  See mom?  Not that much has changed!

Grandma's and my efforts at communication are often hilarious.  One week of Portuguese is keeping me afloat, but here the pronunciation is so different from Lisbon and even though Grandma hardly understands me, she's my translator to everyone else who can't even understand a word out of my lips. Here are some of my favorite exchanges.

In Praia, Grandma tells me in Portuguese, "I don't like to look at the water."  I thought maybe I didn't understand, so I confirm by asking, "You live on a tiny island and you don't like looking at water?"  "Nope, I don't like it."  Well, that's unfortunate.

Whenever we're driving, to get me to slow down, she says in English, "Take it easy, take it easy."  It makes me giggle because the English phrase is so specific and makes me feel like I should be chilling on a beach listening to Bob Marley rather than pumping the brakes.

And my favorite yet.  At breakfast, Grandma puts out a local cheese to eat.  I ask her in Portuguese, "This cheese, what is it called?"  And she replies, "Oh that?  That's cheese."  A quick laugh explodes from my lips and I try to rephrase.  "Yes, but what is it called?"  "It's called cheese!"  Ay, Jesus.

On our second afternoon we went to Praia to see the harbor and the church, as well as run some errands.  The sky was rather ominous-looking, but it was beautiful to see the water and the harbor.  I also saw some American military personnel from Lajes Base running along the beach.

We drove down to the end of Grandma's street, where there's a beautiful view of the ocean surrounded by cultivated fields.  She said my dad used to really like this area and I think it's my favorite area so far-it's just so peaceful.

I'll leave you with a joke.  Why did the cow cross the street?  To cause a ruckus, halt traffic, and make me giggle uncontrollably.

It's the highlight of every day, I assure you.

Poor Grandma has been sitting next to me so patiently as I upload all of this so I should really get going!  We're off to Quatro Riberias to try to visit an uncle.  Love to the family.  I wish you all were here with us.  More to come when I can get internet again! 


  1. Thanks for sharing Kelly! You have me laughing all my my lonesome at my desk. A cow crossing the road would make me laugh too. (In fact there have been a number of times when a herd of them gets through someones fencing and we have had to herd them back in at our place). Sounds like your having a great time. Hope to see you soon. Enjoy the rest of your trip!

  2. Ohhh I love this post! So wonderful to see your families house and the beautiful landscape. It's really gorgeous. Don't forget any funny exchanges! They're the best. Love and hugs, F.
    xo, G

  3. LOVE IT! now you get what I feel about Samsun, Turkey :) yay for connecting with your roots! and it all looks so beautiful! <3