Thursday, May 31, 2012

I Say Hello, You Say Goodbye

We have finally arrived at my last Terceira blog. I'm writing this back at the villa, enjoying my last days here but already wishing I could return to Portugal.

One evening we went to Tio Daniel's house for dinner.  Tio and Tia, their children and families, and Tia's sister and family were all there.  It took some present a while to figure out exactly how I fit into the puzzle that is our extended family, but we were all on the same page eventually.  I also challenged Tio to tell me the birth order and ages of all his if only I could remember it!

Fortunately Marco and Liz speak English so they helped me translate whenever I got stuck.  Their sweet little son Adriano loves jello and wanted to eat only that, but when Marco tricked him into eating a bite of chocolate cake along with his jello, Adriano quickly updated his preferences.

All in all it was a lovely evening, eating delicious Portuguese food and getting to know the family. 

One day was unofficially dedicated to grandpa.  We walked the land around the house and grandma showed me the various plots that belonged to the family, all tended by him.  The photo below is of the "cova," or pit, where the family used to have its vineyards.  It was one of my mom and padrinho's favorite places to go when they were little.  I think it was here where the old photos of us at the vineyards (see here) were taken.  Unfortunately, when my grandfather died, grandma had to sell almost all of the land because it was too much for her to take care of on her own.

That day, we also stopped by the cemetery to visit my grandfather's grave.  It was so sweet to see how grandma comes and tends to it, bringing flowers and scrubbing the stone clean.  I went up to kiss his picture and we both started crying, grandma repeating over and over what a good man he was.  I just wish I remembered him.

In our down time, I spent a lot of time reading, and contrary to popular expectation, I never got too bored.  I started getting into grandma's Lisbon-based telenovela, which we watched every night during dinner.  I taught grandma how to make her favorite American jello as well as new ways to tie scarves, us all the while communicating in the words and phrases of pre-schoolers.  We had a great time!

Sometimes, when grandma needs help around the yard, her friend Senhor Jose' (almost everyone in Portugal is named Jose'.  Or Maria.) comes around to work.  Here they are in her back garden, along with Senhor Jose's grandson, mowing the lawn.

On my last day in Terceira, we got alcatra (of course it wasn't as good as grandma's) in Praia and later headed to Biscoitos to look at the water.  The ocean was agitated and the waves were bigger than grandma had ever seen them.  It was fun to watch, but we were lucky we didn't see any tourists get swept away, as they kept trying to get dangerously close for better photos.  It was a scene that instilled in us an even greater respect for the ocean's power.

Departure day was a melancholy event.  Grandma and I had developed such a rhythm and had enjoyed each other's company so much that it was hard for us to part.  I think she'll miss the company, and I of course will miss being around family!  The airport was a prolonged, almost torturous event, as my flight had been delayed five hours due to a strike.  We spent those hours chatting about the family and the summer until it was finally time for me to go through security.  So many tears!  

I'm incredibly glad I was able to make this trip.  It's the sort of experience that will mean more and more to me as the years pass, as I find myself able to imagine the setting to stories that are told to me, as I can recognize towns and words and events that my family refers to.  I feel so fortunate to have been able to go, and hope that next time (and soon!) I can bring more of the family over with me.

On the flight back to Rome, I was wedged in the middle seat between a young, all-American blonde girl and a well-traveled, Lisbon-based Italian man.  I couldn't help but take it as a metaphor for my life, always finding myself emotionally stuck in the middle between my home and family in America, and my Italian friends and European roots over here.  If only the two regions were as geographically close to each other as I was to my TAP Portugal seatmates.  While I will inevitably always long for the other wherever I find myself, the decision has been made.  I finish work at the villa in one week's time and after two more weeks of travel in southern Italy, I will be back in the states on June 25!  Prepare your stomachs.

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