Surprise! One Daughter visits for a week…what do you do?

Sabrina, Mom and Tia in the Atlantic
Sabrina, Mom and Tia in the Atlantic

Sabrina surprised Mom one morning with a week-long visit; Sabrina and I had been planning it since June..tough keeping something. like that a secret! (Bridget couldn’t make this trip:() Mom was very surprised!  We took the week off from day-to-day life and had a relaxing visit with Sabrina, who hadn’t been back here for almost two years.

Retirement overseas changes some of the family dynamics. I was raised driving an hour to spend weekends and holidays with cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandmothers. Sofia was raised with her entire family less than 10 minutes away….by foot. Even though we now have near-daily video calls, nothing beats an in-person hug!

It also makes us remember some of the unique characteristics of life with “children.” Hair in the shower drain, lively discussions of which recipe is best, which kitty is the cutest, and if it’s important to sleep until 11 a.m. every day:).

Any visit to the Azores is measured in the time from one meal to the next. Three sisters making lunches, dinners, of Alcatra, Feijoada, and baking Filhoges. Then off to the beaches for a few hours punctuated by snacks of fresh Donettes and warm Corn on the Cob, then home for dinner. Lunches at Caneta and O Alambique. I just settle for the wine!



Angra Gardens under cloudy skies
After a big lunch (not too many small ones here) a pleasant walk in the centuries-old Angra do Heroismo Gardens is just the ticket

Then a leisurely walk in the rain-soaked Angra Gardens. (We met a man from California standing under a huge old tree remembering when he was five years old, collecting a few leaves from the tree to take home for family tea:))

So against the backdrop of a stress free summer on Terceira, a surprise visit by one daughter doesn’t really add interruption, but enhances each day. Now that’s relaxing!

Mom and three kitties on the veranda
Mom and three kitties on the veranda
Mommy kitty and three kitties waiting for more food
Mommy kitty and three kitties waiting for more food

Next year maybe both daughters can make it:)

The Neighborhood is Changing:)


Barn Kitties
Many visits from Mommy Kitty and we saw her 6 kitties hidden in a nearby abandoned bard. They are so cute, we had to go back in the evenings and bring them food!

Sofia has a soft spot in her heart for troubled and homeless…she married me:) So when some of the neighborhood cats are hungry, they get some food. One pregnant momma has become a regular, and we finally saw her kittens hidden in a nearby barn.

They play so cute together, and we fell in love with the little white one with grey spots (like dominos). Last night they disappeared from the barn (darn calves moved in, but they’re cute too) and we are not sure if we’ll see kitties again. But I am certain, if the they show up (especially the little white one) Sofia will roll out the red carpet and the bowls.

Now my main concern is that she will start feeding the little cows that moved into the field!


Shh honey, the Neighbors are trying to have a baby….

“Neighbors” throughout the world is a diverse term. As a child, we had Nigerian neighbors who had never seen snow (and we’re not very good at snowball fights:)); stationed in many nations I’ve enjoyed neighbors of different cultures. learned more about them, and love many of them to this day. Here in Terceira, our neighbors and friends include cows, chickens, and donkeys.  Yes, we have great American friends who have lived the world over and have great love everywhere they go for donkeys, including the two they have here living in a field nearby.  Now they want three, and after we’ve seen baby donkeys grow, we can share their excitement as they bring in a “gentleman caller” and try to get a baby donkey.

Courting is different in the Azores!  I can attest to many of the differences from before I married a magnificent woman, so the protocols must work. So we recently “peeked in” on the couple and, like everywhere, relationships seem to be a bit of a roller coaster:)

Boy and girl donkeys close
It’s a roller coaster alright. Sometimes the happy couple seems inseparable…


Donkeys separate and one braying
Ups and downs … boy and girl donkeys at odds and one is “complaining” or “bragging?”

Took 13 months, but I’m Baaack:)

Pandemmic Look
Staying away from barbers for more than a year

Wanted to spend some time with my offspring in the states. Left two days before Thanksgiving…2019. Had wonderful holidays, did some travelling (never enough), visited friends and made planes to visit more, then the world changed and we found ourselves “locked down” in the States.  So we adjusted; got a couple of part-time jobs, got an apartment in Alexandria, and spent most of our time watching Netflix from the comfort of our little futon. Occasionally I would help out in my old office in the Department of the Interior, go grocery shopping with one daughter, meander up the liquor store, and wait for the world to change back. Making calls, video chats, Zoom meetings, and the like…some local, and some long distance!

So it was a different Rat Race, but we evolved until we could return to our island paradise, family, friends (all wearing masks now)! So we’re back in Porto Martins, sitting on our couch, wearing masks, watching Netflix, occasionally going grocery shopping, and calling friends and family to see how everyone how everyone is weathering….still some calls are local and some are long distance.

Saved considerable amounts of money on this lockdown…since I’m High-Risk for the virus, I didn’t want to risk exposure to a barber when they did open things up. Some say “it’s the real you” and others say “Arghhhh, get a haircut!” Maybe when things settle down after the vaccines are out:)

Back into the race….but the rules are different:)

Anyone been tracking progress knows that we came back to America to visit family and friends, ended up getting caught in Virginia during lock down, and until the world is safer, we’re not going back to the island. Good friends and a good reputation got both of us our old jobs back, and we’re “settled” in with some camping gear we left in storage for family and what we could bring in our three suitcases. Now we’re working part-time, watching Netflix, and waiting for the situation to change. We know some people who have made it back to the island, some who were turned around at the airport. We’re in good shape, got jobs and friends, a nearby liquor store, and some work to keep our minds busy. So yes, we’re back into the “rat race,” the rules are changing almost on a daily basis, but it’s a much slower race!

Missing the Rat Race?

Scenery shot of area north of Biscoiitos
Scenery shot of area north of Biscoiitos

Hard to believe that we’d miss traffic jams and tall, cold buildings when we can look out the window every day and see this serene, pastoral setting. But a taste of the Rat Race reminds you how good it is to be away from it:)

Merry Christmas to All

We’re travelling to be with family. Our house in the Azores has had some horrendous winds and cold temperatures, but family and friends watching over it have kept it safe and keep us updated. We have resigned ourselves to not having a white Christmas or a file in our favorite wood stove this year, but we’re with family and friends, missing home and other family, but all are happy and safe. Hope you are as well. If not, please contact me and let’s see what we can do to make your Holiday Season happier and safer. We’re here for you, no matter where we are and where you are:) Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Traveling mainland Portugal lately … a little of everything

Lisboa Caparica Praia with people everywhere
Lisboa Caparica Praia – the beaches outside Lisbon are busy, hot, and have great surf. Every kind of people, young, old, gorgeous, friendly, and of many nationalities…just one of the many attractions after a short drive…traffic permitting:)

Seems like forever since I wrote, sorry. Traveled with family to mainland, just for a short trip off island. Stayed at a friend’s apartment, rented a car, and had a great time. Never enough time to see everything you want; visited shops, fantastic bakeries, beaches, landmarks, and malls.

The one greatest thing about retiring outside the U.S.A. is the unbelievable diversity. I was never raised as a “meat and potatoes” kind of guy, and traveling in mainland emphasizes that every minute. Of course, they have meat and potatoes, but also every manner of fish, cous cous, rice, pastries, and candies. One of our best meals was fire-roasted pork ribs and potatoes in a little out of the way restaurant near Sintra, run for decades by an magnificent lady called Alice — thus I dubbed it “Alice’s Restaurant.” So we sat at the Group W Bench and chatted with Alice about her history, the good times and bad, how she had stayed with the business so long, etc. (Officer Obie was long gone by then:)) She was wonderful, the food was wonderful, and there is no way I could find this place again without GPS. But I will try, believe me!

For a history buff, Lisboa has a lot. I have visited many times and only scratched the surface. I’ll keep going back as long as I can. One trek I still want to make is to walk over the Roman aqueduct built in the 1600s. You can walk from one end to the other, and it completely bisects the town so the view must be awesome. It’s not a “ruin,” it’s in perfect shape, so the folks who built it really knew what they were doing! Not to mention museums, cathedrals, gardens, narrow streets and stairways, and of course, the warm reception from nearly everyone.

So please put Lisbon on your list. It’s awesome, fun, crowded, and warm. I think you can’t help but love it. See you there!

The Sun Also Rises

Sunrise over Praia Da Vitoria
Seems like I see the sun set often here, we love the moon and the evening breeze, but usually I’m cloistered in my makeshift office on the computer when the sun comes up. Today I was making coffee and looked out the kitchen window…a really nice way to start the day:)

As a major portion of the United States battles record triple-digit heat, a slightly-warm day started with a pulse-stirring sunrise. So while I do miss the fast pace of life of the East Coast, there are some redeeming elements to life in the middle of the Atlantic.

We have had our share of excitement on Terceira this week. In the marina just below our house, authorities seized a sailboat (single mast, looks to be about 26-foot or so) and tore the boat apart to find nearly 500 kilos (a little more than one ton) of cocaine. The two sailors have been locked up. The boat has been impounded, and sources say the policia will soon burn the cocaine. None of this had any impact on the majority of the population; we sat on our beach catching some rays on the opposite side of the bay.

In all honesty, a major drug bust does not crush our idea of an island paradise. Traffic jams still consist of four or five cars and tracks and tractors waiting while a herd of cows goes down the street. We still have to wait a minute of two for a parking spot downtown. There are still long lines at the gas station…sometime three cars waiting at once.

So, with my apologies to Ernest Hemmingway, Errol Flynn, and Tyrone Power, I repeat my discovery for today…the Sun Also Rises…on another magnificent day in Terceira!

Opposite the sunrise, we had a rainbow over the Serra da Cume past our back yard.
Opposite the sunrise, we had a rainbow over the Serra da Cume past our back yard. Honestly I don’t remember ever seeing a rainbow with a sunrise before, but it was beautiful!

From the room with the view….the kitchen table:) Welcome U.S. Coast Guard!!!

USCG Cutter Eagle pulls into Praia da Vitoria for July Fourth Festivities
Today started as usual, sitting at breakfast she says “Looks what’s pulling into Port,” which I hear often, (we have truly one of the best views on Terceira of the Port). So I calmly train the telescope and a HUGE American Flag flutters into view. The three-masted, 295-foot USCG Cutter USCGC Eagle, a tall ship used to train Coast Guard Academy cadets, has joined tomorrow’s festivities!

Throughout the years as an Air Force enlisted, officer, government civil servant, and several other roles not mentionable, there have been a few defining imprints on my memory.

  1. Basic training and ROTC graduation ceremonies where friends and family came to see me take my oaths. Grandma Crall drove from Michigan to Texas to see me march and graduate at Lackland AFB. Major Don Bogue drove from Alabama to Wichita overnight to give me my commission oath.
  2. A C-130 finally (did I emphasize finally!) arrive in the uncharted parts of Honduras to lift my team out of a dirt runway where we’d spent hours wishing for Godfather’s Pizza from San Antonio, and got it…with ice cold cokes!
  3. Directing an F-15 Flyby of the Luxembourg American Cemetery for memorial Day observances and the guys from Bitburg AB executed THE PERFECT Missing Man formation.
  4. Retiring to our small island and then seeing the Stars and Stripes sail into harbor below our humble home the day before our troubled nation’s 2019 July 4th observance.

Maybe “Defining imprints” should be redefined as “things-you-never-thought-could-make-you-feel-better-and-then-you-learn-you-were-wrong.”

I’ve known some great “Coasties” in my time, top among them might be Admiral Salerno, Admiral Watson, Nick Pardi and Captain Fish, but to a guy sitting at breakfast on a small island in the Atlantic away from family and remembering many Independence Days in the far corners of the world, no one looked better today than those cadets bringing in the USCGC Eagle. None of them will ever know what I felt; and God willing, none of them will ever know where and how I’ve felt on many July Fourths, but they are absolutely the top of the United States military today. Some will be great leaders, some will lose interest, some will and leave their uniforms behind, but today, they are my greatest American Heroes.

Thank you, U.S. Coast Guard. And as Lee Greenwood sang to us in a hangar in Korea at the end a week-long combat exercise…”God Bless The U.S.A.”

Important Safety Tip…when you wake to a cruise ship in the harbor, DON’T plan on visiting the market in Praia da Vitoria!

So we woke this morning to a visit from the Ventura Cruise Ship docked in the port just below our place. It dwarfs the usual container ships and regional cruise ships. This one is out of England, has been at sea for a month, and is on their way home.

So the moral of this story is “Pay attention to your surroundings and use your head!” She says “let’s go down and visit the Electric Company’s office, get our account for the new house changed, and pick up some bread from Luis at the city Market. (Luis has known Sofia her whole life and treats us like family when we stop). So we zip downtown, split a café and sanduíche mista (ham and cheese on fresh bread) and then drive over to main street to visit the market.

Ship in the harbor…main street…didn’t put those two things together. Buses everywhere, cops giving parking tickets, literally hundreds of Brits taking photos of everything, hitting all the tourist shops, carriage tours, island tours, wine sales, little Azores souvenir stands … you name it. So I drop the missus (the cop understood me when I explained we weren’t stopping) and then circled the block…no small task on one-way cobblestone streets. But I did manage to find my bride coming back out of the market with fresh bread and fresh bananas and get her back into the truck — all without losing too much of my patience:)

So I need to heed my own advice…when you’re retired and not in a genuine rush to make an appointment, deadline or get to work…pay attention to your environment. A huge ship brings tourists…they help all our neighbor’s with livelihood and they help spread the word about how wonderful our island is. They also come ashore quickly and go everywhere. So give them a wide berth on days when the ships are in. And help them enjoy as well:)

Whatever you do, embrace the differences

Seven minutes ago, I turned a year older. Not at all what I expected when I was younger, not even what I expected ten years ago. But here I am, and believe me, there are many differences. If you’re not willing to adapt, to embrace those changes, I expect you will not be happy…in retirement…in a new land…with new new traditions and expectations.

Some of the changes are noticeable. Yesterday in my home of Michigan the temperatures were record-setting minus 25 and snow. I miss that a lot. Yesterday temperatures in my back yard were 60 degrees, the sun was out, and I was helping cook fish and clean house (not my favorite, but hell, I can survive anything:)) Today I helped a good friend (the best man at my last wedding) celebrate his birthday by climbing a mountain…and he’s older than I am. We had a wonderful time.

Some changes are more subtle. They sing “Happy Birthday” differently. They have major traffic problems (10 cars waiting to yield in a traffic circle) and we’re never sure if Paderia Juncal will have fresh buns or not after lunch. (They did today, and very few things in life are better than buns just out of the oven, buttered, with Sao Jorge cheese)!

As I age, flexibility is less my forté (so I’m told:)) But I am slowly – and sometimes painfully- learning to embrace differences. According to Darwin, if I don’t, I won’t survive. So I shall. Happy Birthday to me, or Feliz Aniversario and Muitos Parabems. The words to the song might be different, but the thought is still the same!

A warm fire in the wind and rain…

All four seasons in every day…that’s what residents say…

Winter time on Terceira is always challenging. Last week high winds (can’t tell you how high, still working on getting my weather observation system up and running…the company’s web site is not authorized for viewing in Europe yet). Some mornings clouds hang low over the mountain behind us, so low we can’t see the wind turbines. Hours later the sun shines down on Praia and the white buildings look like jewels against the blue waters of the bay. Sometimes we walk along the beautiful new boardwalk along the bay’s shoreline, and the water is smooth as glass, or surfers are out playing in the Sea State 3 and 4 conditions. Still, the daily temps are around 16 °C (about 60° F) during the day and chilly when sun sets. The decision to build in a wood stove was smart…not cold without it (vis à vis Michigan and Minnesota) but pleasant, comfortable, and romantic. Plus splitting and carrying wood makes me feel useful.

Mom lied…there is no justice!!!

Talk about unfair…after we make the break for the island life in the Azores, all of my friends in D.C. get a Christmas vacation as the government closes down yet again…and I have to work harder than ever. Still assembling furniture,putting up our Container Store closet (it looks great, BTW) and of course, hanging holly, curtains, wreaths, lights, etc. Just not fair!!!

The good news is that this Christmas season is so wonderful for Sofia. Sisters gathered in the kitchen with daughters, nieces, and neighbors creating “out-of-this-world” aromas, and of course sharing some of the local cuisine, wines, songs, and memories of Christmases past…I love hearing her laugh.

So I’m still not enjoying dependable Internet (next install dates comes up late December, and hoping for the best). Meantime, I don’t post much, but rest assured, all ye who visit, our wishes are with you for a wonderful season, and prayers for health, prosperity, and a return to work soon for my government brethern (and sisters:))

Anxious – First Daughter Coming to Visit

Several years of work, packing, unpacking, camping in apartments and a brand new house with no furnishings, unpacking furnishing, painting, planting…all coming to a head tomorrow when one daughter arrives to see our new domicile. We’ve unpacked everything, put up curtains, planted grass, washed the driveway and truck, everything we can think of to her that we’re home and we want her and her sister to feel at home here also…forever. So the planner in me goes over the list again…clean sheets, favorite drinks, mom’s got the favorite menu ready…let’s hope she feels comfortable. And of course, part of me is also watching faces, listening to voices, planning on what we can do to better prepare for the next daughter’s visit:)

Thanksgiving…an American tradition which surpasses borders

We enjoyed a wonderful traditional meal with our new friends in a foreign land. Just as Pilgrims and natives sat and broke bread (allegedly), we visited with friends, drank local wine, feasted  on turkey, potatoes and sweet potatoes, and passed hours with local residents, residents of distant lands, discussed freedom, the American dream, adjusting to challenges in local conditions (methinks the Pilgrims didn’t complain about various government bureaucracies) and reminisced about previous holidays. All in all, no football, no parades, but wonderful memories. Thanks to all friends and best wished, old friends and new.

No photos for this one…none could portray the warmth around the table:)

Halloween on Terceira

Last day of October, daughters are in the states making final adjustments to their costumes and party plans, and there is some Trick or Treat activity on the streets of Praia. Actually more emphasis on the holiday on November 1, which is a Portuguese kind of combination of Thanksgiving and Memorial Day. It’s called Dia do Pao Por Deus…The  Day of Bread for God.

So on a sunny Halloween morning, Rick and Sofia head for the beach, run, and go swimming before we start. The water was wonderful, the sun warming, and we got to meet up with several great friends!

Halloween 2018
Not at all chilly….yet:)

Sometimes the Rat Race is too much or one rat

Last week has been full of ups and downs: ups. the house is finished, the government paperwork is finished, and now it’s in the bank’s hands. The downs, still NO news on our container which got held up on mainland during a port strike and now has to find a new way to the island. Platinum Movers has assured us they are working on it, but still no container. Residency, citizenship, or in any other words, any program for Rick to stay longer than 90 days is on bureaucratic hold…my FBI check is older than 180 days and has to be redone…with fingerprints, of course. But we’ve been working every day on the house, specifically the weeds and rocks in the yard…so I expect my fingerprints are in Portugal and the FBI is still in the U.S. We’ll see, but we’ll have a great looking yard:)

Meanwhile, my multi-talented wife foiled at least one bureaucratic obstacle…we were told I had to present an authenticated birth certificate from Michigan (we got it after $95) and then my darling bride remember I had to present one to the same government 26 years ago for a wedding license…one phone call and that was solved. She is SOOOO smart:) Sadly, after our short glee, she made me go back to removing weeds and rocks… justice:)

Windy day at the Beach below Sonho da Praia

After a few days of chilly rain and high winds (interesting timing, a hurricane passed 200 miles south of here as Hurricane Michael hit Virginia) a regatta of small sail boats from several islands met here for races while we were swimming at the beach.  Peaceful, serene, and beautiful. Guess I”ll have to take up sailing:)

Praia Regatta 2018
Multi-island regatta in the bay below the house today.