Let it snow…some things the Azores can’t provide!

After months, and only weeks from returning home, Mother Nature provides us with a winter tableau, a beautiful snow storm, closures, traffic snarls, winds, power outages...ahhhh, good to see and then fly home:)
After months, and only weeks from returning home, Mother Nature provides us with a winter tableau, a beautiful snow storm, closures, traffic snarls, winds, power outages…ahhhh, good to see and then fly home:)

After a Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years with temperatures in the 50’s and 60’s, we waken to a blizzard, limited visibility, and serious snowfall. Blowing winds (nothing like in the Azores) and the park across the street looking tranquil, untouched, and downright pleasant.

It was so chilly out, I even put on shoes and socks, instead of my usual barefoot or sandals. Not sure if it’s old age, thinner blood, or old age, but it was good to listen to the snow crunch under foot and try to remember how to shield the camera under my coat:)

So I’d say the trip back to Virginia for the holidays is complete…and I must be correct (gasp) because after breakfast, the warden says “Lt’s start working on the suitcases.”

Home, here we come (COVID permitting!)

Resisting Holiday Temptations … tough no matter where you are:)

Bakery goodies provide color and temptations for the holidays. Yum!
We’ve visited bakeries around the world and nothing beats the end of year Holidays for goodies. Doctors and Personal Trainers must hate the holidays:)

Holiday travel, quality time with the family, visits with old friends (by phone and video this year), and of course shopping, coffee, holiday cheer; all of these (and more) equal many temptations. Nothing graphically depicts all of these temptations than a visit to a neighborhood bakery.

Over my many years, I have visited bakeries, backerei, paterisseria, paderia, on nearly every continent. The holidays bring out the professionalism, creativity, and literally generations of skill preparing tasty — albeit somewhat less healthy — treats.

Holiday joy also comes in many colors. Chriskindlesmarkts, snowfall in the mountains, ships decorated with holiday patterns, Christmas trees, wood stove fires, wrapping paper under the tree, these are all wonderfully colorful. Colorful scarves, hats, socks, they all liven up whatever holiday you are celebrating.

Retirement can mean fun travel to see loved ones and enjoy the holidays together. It also means plenty of excitement, some opportunities to put on a little extra weight, and colorful excitement. Which also means enjoy it while you can; and then get ready to go home and enjoy more exercise, more healthy diet, and tranquility.

Enjoy!!!

Adjustment … flexibility. Traits needed for Azorean Retirement

November dip in Praia Bay
Saying farewell to Praia Bay in November before jumping on a plane to visit family for the holidays.

“Indecision is the key to Flexibility,” has proven a mantra over these many years. I’m here to tell you, flexibility is critical to success in retired life overseas! An old adage dictates getting older often means less flexibility; I’m learning that is NOT accurate.

Tight seating on planes, masks at airports, sleeping in the den on foam pads, these are things I know I can adjust to. I plan on them, expect them, adjust to them, all so my family can spend some “quality time” together for the holidays.

I thought I could adjust to anything, and that I could plan anything. Oops! For anyone preparing for more challenging environments, here’s some of the things I failed to consider and you might want to;

  • Shopping for shoes. And boots. And candles.
  • Long walks to discuss different issues. Not one long walk with everyone, but many long walks with separate people to discuss different issues. Exercise helps me learn what’s important to different people! Never hurts me either.
  • Lengthy discussions of menu options, dining diversions, and of course, the ongoing discussions about how much “holiday spirits” are appropriate, necessary, or desired.
  • Who has the smartest, cutest, most clever cat:)
  • the list goes on… ad nauseum

So when we’re at home, lounging on the beach, grilling fresh fish, mowing the grass, or walking along the shore at sunset, retiring to the Azores is a wonderful life. And the occasional trip back to see friends and family poses new challenges, it’s also wonderful.

Basically, it’s just like everything about retiring…plan for everything good, prepare for everything not expected, and remember to smile through everything. Or drink heavily. Or both:)

What do you miss the most when you “hit the road?”

Three kittens lounging in the planter.
The three stooges, hours of endless, mindless entertainment

After you’ve built a Dream House (Casa do Sonho) and love every day of retirement in the Azores (well, not EVERY day, but damn close!), occasionally you need a road trip. A few days in mainland, a trip back to see daughters, sightseeing in Europe, etc.

As part of the planning, undoubtedly we digress to discuss “What are you going to really miss?” Over the years, some of the answers are already canned. “My bed.” “Multiple screens on a faster computer.” “My kitchen.” “My icemaker.” (Bet you can’t guess which one of these are from me and from the wife:)).

This year, the list got longer. Our neighborhood Mama Kitty (who started only understanding Portuguese directions and now ignores commands in every language) had six kittens and she would maternally drag the food we left on the porch back to the little ones to eat. We would occasionally follow mommy home and take some goodies and milk to the kittens in a nearby abandoned farm. Six kittys became four, and when the four were old enough, mommy kitty brought the gang to stay nearer us and we started putting out some food on the porch. One more disappeared about three months ago, and now mommy and the three stooges stay nearby and play in the yard, to the thrill of family and friends who come for dinner and get a free floor show.

So when we’re off on a road trip, we beg family and friends to come and drop some food on the porch for the “family,” and of course, we have to dial in and watch the antics on the surveillance camera.

If I had to prioritize the items on our list of “What will you miss most?” sisters, neighbors, shooting companions, creature comforts, favorite restaurants and menu items, but I think at the top of the list this time is “our kittens!”

Who knows, when we return, they may be all grown up and want to borrow the car keys:)

The race is on here…getting ready for the long, wet, windy, winter:)

Dodging the raindrops is more challenging for some. But these snails also making mowing the grass more challenging:)
The yard is home for many visitors, all preparing for the long, wet, windy winter. This guy is hiking across the tiled veranda to find some wet grass to hole up in:)

Fall (Autumn) is different on a sub-tropical island. Like most things, that’s good and bad.

The good is that beaches are no longer crowded, the festival season (cancelled this year) is normally drawing to a close, and folks are stacking firewood, clearing fields, and cutting weeds and lawns. City and village workers are struggling to clean and prepare the beautiful parks and gardens around the island for more wind and rain.

The bad is that my “homesickness” kicks up again. Virginia, Minnesota, Michigan, all have colorful fall seasons. Football games, tailgating on campus, picking apples, gathering around fires with neighbors on a crisp night, all of them are distant, loving memories. Falling leaves and brisk breezes (here “brisk” has a totally different meaning:)) are replaced by cleaning windows, washing the veranda, and getting the wood stove ready for another winter.

But with retirement age comes my ability to tune in to the positive side of things. Not many things in life are better than cuddling up with your best friend around a wood fire crackling in the stove or listening to the wind howl while you’re inside, safe, warm, sipping on a coffee, and enjoying some music. Especially that excitement when friends and neighbors stop in for a chat, apple pie, and a glass of Maciera. Sure, I remember raking leaves with my brother, football games at MSU with my cousin Mike, and the annual race to get our cars ready for winter, check antifreeze, dig out the snow shovels, and mark driveways and parking lots for snowplow customers. But they are memories, and at my age, I smile and know that’s what they are.

Enjoy what you have. Sometimes tough to say, but always keep things in perspective. No cheering football fans (American football) here, but a pleasant moonlit walk along the beach, walking hand-in-hand and watching surfers as waves crash on the shore; those are the the life.

Seasons are now. Life is now! Enjoy seasons, enjoy memories, and make new ones:)

Rainy season is coming…who could say ‘no’ to this face?

After nearly a year of visits from a VERY pregnant neighborhood cat, we watched the family go from six little ones housed in a nearby abandoned building to then four and now three in our backyard/garage/kitchen by the woodstove:)

Talk about warm, friendly, family entertainment. Mommy kitty and the surviving three babies are “in the house.” Currently sleeping in the garage now, we’re trying to determine how to protect them without adopting them. And how to go about getting them fixed.

Every day used to start with watching yesterday’s evening news on Youtube. Now we start by looking out the kitchen window, watching them “play” and “train” with mommy kitty, watching them stalk through the grass, ambush each other, climb on the stone walls, patio furniture, and hide behind the air conditioner. As they get more adept at semi-domestication, they line up when the patio door slides open for food and milk (we don’t run off to the store when daddy needs Gin, but when kitties need milk or food….better fire up the car)!

As the day progresses, we “whisper” through the house “Come look at this” and “You should see what they’re doing in the backyard.” These have got to be some of the most photographed kittens on earth. They are photogenic. They pose, they are “cute.” they know the value of good marketing! The day now includes a morning “Hood Check,” not to see if they are in the ‘hood, but instead to open the car hood, check to see if any eyes are staring up from the pan below the engine block, slamming the hood to encourage immediate egress, and then checking the backyard to see if all three are accounted for before starting the car and going out…often to get more doggone cat food and milk!

I find it hard to be bitter or jealous with these guys (or gals). They’re too damn cute. Playful. Energetic. Innocent.

I know nothing is free. I know there is a price for everything. Food and milk ain’t free. I know they won’t stick around forever, and I know the Vet will charge and arm and a leg for work with is really necessary on an island overpopulated with cats. But in the meantime, imagine how much money and time we would invest in social gatherings, movies (if they had any showing here) and how much stretching exercises I’d have to do instead of kneeling or laying down for photo ops?

Best part of the infatuation with the “poor little cute kittens” is the warm squeeze of our hands was we watch them silently playing. That, in itself, and the smile on her face…that’s worth more money than the U.S. national debt:)

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:)

Nature in the Azores – diversity is abundant

Bird on wire in front of blazing red sunrise
Mornings are great in retirement, a cup of coffee and watching nature.

Some things just creep up on you in the Azores (see my new friend below:)) when you have time to notice (and photograph) them. Waking up early every day is sometimes frustrating, but often rewarding. A bright red sunrise over Pico da Capitao (Captain’s Mountain) across the street greeted me the other day. While there are usually many birds (don’t know what kind) perched on the power lines, this one large guy took a moment to pose and survey his domain.

Meanwhile, as I stepped onto the patio to take this shot, I nearly squashed this little guy making his way to the lawn to get out of harm’s way. I’ve never timed them, but this Azorean caracol seemed to haul ass faster than snails in Germany (Wittlich) and in the U.S. (Mattawan). So I spent a few minutes encouraging him (or her). While cheering, it occured to me that for many years, I would be up, showered, and racing off to catch my train for Farragut West and work. Those were the Rat Race days…now I have time to cheer on snails and observe nature!

Life is good After The Rat Race:)

Snail making his (or her?) way across the patio after a night time rainstorm.
Night time rain brings out all kinds of visitors. Snails are abundant, colorful, and are actually faster than snails I’ve lived with in Germany and the U.S.A.

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!

 

Always a new awakening here

Burning Sunrise over Capitao
Waking up to “unpredictable” weather is normal here, and sometimes just downright beautiful.

When you’re retired to an island in the Atlantic, the only sure thing is that every day brings something new, and at the end of each day, you also figure out you have survived whatever new thing came your way.

Sometimes morning coffee brings a mundane view of cows in the fields, a tall ship (The Portuguese Navy Sagres) coming in for a few days, clouds, sun, rain, and sometimes, just pure majesty. Middle of July during the second year of the pandemic, a red sky greeted my coffee cup and I. Makes you feel humble, tiny, and seems to put all our troubles into a perspective that can help us deal with things, one at a time.

Summer nights also bring great stress relief. The backyard, shielded from the street lights, displays stars like I’ve not seen except at sea or in the Sahara.  Our great nighttime constitutional here … kill all the house lights, hug on the back patio, and share amazing memories about stars and reinvigorating discussions of “counting our blessings.”

At my age, friends are retiring. Remembering past friends and escapades is wonderful; so is the hope that retiring friends will be able to share the joy of retiring in peace!

Tranquility … enjoying letters from old BFFs before we had the term BFF:)

Rick Reading mail by the Ocean
What do I enjoy about retirement on the island? One is a day at the beach with family, time to read and enjoy email from a dear friend, and sit and think as the waves crash.

Life here is sometimes challenging, trying, and most often unbelievably peaceful. One of the best things of it is an email from a friend from way back in Germany, a friend who has been on my mind nearly every day for many many years, and who reports she is doing great.

I get her updates sporadically, and often have time to only digest the news and reply, but yesterday I was picnicking with family by the ocean. As they play cards and swim in the cool waters of the Atlantic, I had a chance to really sit, read and reflect on fabulous times.  Vielen Dank, Miss Mon. Muito Obrigada.

Sitting and listening to the waves, or sitting in the back yard and counting stars here happens relatively often.  I often feel guilty hearing from friends and family in the DC area or in the military as they bemoan stress, responsibilities, inadequate leadership in their jobs, etc. Then I force myself to remember many years of those same things, in uniform and working with State Department in “much less relaxing places” on every continent around the globe. (All right, I never made it to Antartica, true)! When I feel guilty, my wonderful family reminds me, I did my time — long days, radios, beepers, guns, and cell phones, short notice airplane “rides” etc.

Now I can relax and stay in touch with those who helped me survive those years. My wife, children, family and friends all thank you.

To all my dear friends, stay healthy, enjoy life, and thank you for being there when I need you!!!

 

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?”

Rain and Wind aren’t gone, but the flowers in the yard know it’s almost summer

Blooms along the front walkway
When you can’t find your wife, look across the street or next door, but most often putting loving touches on her flowers in the yard.

In the U.S.A. for almost 3 decades, house plants weren’t always her “forte,” but in the front and back yard of Casa do Sonhos, the wife makes everything outside colorful and bright. For hours, she and our wonderful neighbor talk, laugh, and dig around in the soil to make the entire end of the street glorious. (The local government is supposed to do this, but, well, I guess they haven’t gotten around to our street yet:)) No matter, these ladies absolutely love getting dirt under their nails, have fun doing it, and the many visitors here especially enjoy the beauty, aroma, and all their hard work!

Here’s just a taste, but pictures don’t do it justice!

Terceira – an island in the Portuguese Azores – Around every turn is a new view

Mira doura - Scenic View
A new scenic turnout on the western-most end of the Portuguese Island of Terceira

Even as the Regional Government of the Azores struggles to keep pandemic cases at a minimum (on Terceira we’re very conscientious and cases often are zero) more  emphasis on tourism anticipates a return of visitors.

Tourism, interrupted by the pandemic, is expected to return, both good news and bad news for the residents of this peaceful volcanic “rock.” Tourism has, and will, bring tourists by plane, yacht, and cruise ships to enjoy the tranquility and natural beauty. This beauty is enhanced by warm, wonderful people who welcome visitors. Those same welcoming residents will also cope with the influx of people, rental car drivers, and crowded beach restaurants. Such is life:)

Post-pandemic springtime encourages returns to the hiking trails for our many retirees and their family and friends. These trails, which honeycomb the island, are constantly being improved, enhanced, and safer. Last weekend under perfect skies, about a dozen friends (citizens of Portugal, U.S., United Kingdom, and Germany) all explored a new trail with added WC, campsites, parking, picnic, and a groomed path. From the picnic grounds high above crashing waves, through forests, cow pastures, down to fishing overlooks, and back to parking lots, the 5 kilometer trail was magnificent.

After a couple hours on the trail, a short drive to Altares on the north side and a favorite eatery, Caneta, with an old-world atmosphere, fantastic dishes with home-grown beef, many bottles of wine, and great friends.

Reality Check: Retirement in the Azores has some ups and downs. A weekend hike through forests and along the coast is definitely one of the highs. The scenery is great, the activity is healthy, the history is amazing, and the photography is flawless. Pandemic be damned, good friends practicing social distancing, masks, and safe dining procedures, I can’t imagine how you could ask for a better day!

Life is full of two-edged swords:)

Good news, bad news. You can defend yourself with a two-edged sword, but you can also cut yourself. With a good fire, you can heat, cook and see after dark; or you can burn yourself or burn down a home!

Weather here has been vicious. Four days straight of rain, winds to 34 knots (39 MPH or 63 Kph), winds so strong it was tough walking across the veranda for firewood for the stove. (Make no mistake; I love the Azorean weather!)

Here’s what it looked like most of the time on the trees on the far side of our little backyard (more impact if you crank up the sound!)

So you know what’s coming next: It’s an American right to complain about everything!  Now that the storm has passed, the grass is high, some poor schmuck has to go out and mow the grass, bring in more firewood, clean the ashes from the stove, and wash the truck, etc.

Good news, the grass is very very green, the ocean is very very blue, and the view from the kitchen is relaxing, tranquil, pastoral, and downright beautiful.  After four days in the house, all the cleaning is done (if you know the boss, you KNOW that will never happen:)), the laundry is done, the honey-do list is complete (I wish) and there is nothing on Netflix we haven’t watched in any language.

Yes, I’m an American first (Portuguese second) and so I complain. It’s my right, I’ve earned it (25-plus years of government service) and now I’m exercising my right. But I was raised that if you can’t something nice, don’t say anything. So, Mom and Dad, rest assured, I still follow your teachings. There are many nice things, and after most difficult times, there is a rainbow after each storm. I love my rainbows here:)

Ever wonder if your kids will appreciate your efforts?

Sunrise Miradoura Wall on Praia
The sunrise highlights the stone wall built along the beach between Praia da Vitoria and Cabo da Praia.

After a morning walk along the beach, it’s time to face the day. “Face the day” after retirement has different connotations for me; always the usual cleanup after breakfast looking out kitchen windows, and often working around the new house, which sometimes leads me to think of family back in the states. So as we tackle some “less than exciting tasks” around the house, I wonder if the next generation will appreciate our hard work?

I spent most of my adult life working in jobs where my work had an immediate impact on someone else. I’ve had to face a transitionary period when I realized no one really sees an impact on what I spend most of my energy on…or really cares about it one way or the other. That realization, for me anyway, is a significant adjustment.

So when I buckle down to tackle yet another task, I find myself wondering if future generations will appreciate our hard work. Planting trees in the yard (today it was two bright red flowering bushes which resemble bottle brushes and are aptly named something which translates loosely to  ‘bright red bottle brush bushes”); repairing wind-blown screens around the mango tree, the avocado tree, etc. Other tasks this week included greasing all of the shutters, doors, windows, and locks throughout the house; weeding, collecting rocks and moving them out of the gardens and yard (this is, after all, a volcanic island in the ocean).

As I’m struggling to get the dirt off my jeans and clean up the trowels and rakes, I’m searching for truths in my last 40 years…did I raise my daughters to appreciate what we’re building for them? When my grandchildren visit the island, will they appreciate fresh avocados, mangoes, and persimmons? Will they enjoy the fragrance of the flowers we’ve planted and nurtured? Will they even be cognizant of how much work it is to maintain all the steel and aluminium elements of the house in gale-force winds all winter, rain blowing horizontally, the sun baking down all summer?  Probably not.

So, I open a cold beer and find myself asking, are we doing this to ourselves? Investment? Battling Boredom? Keeping ‘the warden’ happy? Physical activity to combat aging? All good, selfish reasons. But under the surface, that faint vein of introspection…did we raise our children to appreciate what we’ve done so they would enjoy it? Who knows.

Such intellectual meanderings keep my brain happy while I’m pulling rocks or weeds out of the yard.

Most mornings and evenings I find myself peacefully enjoying the beautiful view and occasionally contemplating mortality.  Invariably, I refocus on reality, hoping that I’ve done all I can to raise a family that does occasionally appreciate our efforts, and then re-invigorate myself with the mantra I’ve adopted to face life and the pandemic…”It is what it is.”  Then I force my aging joints off the stone wall where I’m sitting, head into the house, kiss my darling bride, and smile to myself. It is, after all, time to get ready to “Face another day.”

 

Getting up with the sun:)

Sunrise over Pico Capitao
In a pandemic world, generations have learned that a sunrise means hope for a better day; here on Terceira, a brighter sunrise gives us even more hope for a brighter day…sunrises and coffee:)

Less chill, less dew on the grass, more invigorating sunrises, more vocal birds, the island gets ready for summer. Even as Terceira spends another month with no Covid cases, the sun rises on a diligent population working hard to meet the demands of a locked-down economy. Tourism is virtually non-existent, friends who drive taxis and run tours are putting in more hours, re-inventing themselves to take care of families, and everyone is wearing masks. Many stores have limits to the number of customers inside at once, and tables in many restaurants are taped off. Bullfights, sporting events, and festivals are cancelled or postponed.

But on a small island, generations have adjusted, made the most of whatever situation comes along, and mostly keeps their sense of humor and their faith. When you choose to retire in a different culture, you adapt; we’re helping our neighbors and keeping our sense of humor.

Traditionally, in every part of the world I’ve lived and travelled, a sunrise brings hope for a new day, a day with more opportunities, more prosperity, and more time to spend with friends and family. Our little paradise in the middle of the Atlantic is no exception…everyone does what they can to help their neighbors and look forward to yet more sunrises.

Walking through History

Historical Image of Praia
Morning walks along the boardwalk in Praia include large ceramic plaques of historical explanations…this one showing the port in 1832.

Morning constitutionals, or walks along the sunlit boardwalk in Praia Da Vitoria,  are always relaxing, healthful, stress-reducing, and educational. The government has installed numerous historical explanations of the city’s growth and contributions to the Acores, Portugal, and Europe. This 1832 illustration shows a busy port with mountains surrounding the bay…and our Casa da Sonhos is one of those mountains.

A warm sun, a slight breeze, the sounds of waves breaking slowly on the rocks and sandy beaches, the friendly neighbors walking and the heartfelt greetings of “Boa Dia” represents a great stress-reducing exercise.

Ahhhhh, the retired life in the Azores.

 

Our First Pandemic Concert after more than a Year

Pandemic Concert in Angra's 1672 Our Lady of Guidance Choir Loft
Amid masks, we ventured out with friends to hear Resident Organist Gustaf and Flutist Rodrigo perform in the Church Choir Loft.

After many months, Sunday our friend Jerry invited us to hear his friend Gustaaf play Harpsichord and the 1788 Pipe Organ built into the church in Angra do Heroismo.  Gustaff was joined by friends on the flute and cello.

The day was awesome! About 20 people (aged from about 5 years old to about 65 years old) spent an hour sitting (with masks) in the choir loft of this magnificent church which is incorporated now into the Musee da Angra do Heroismo. After the event, we had a sumptuous Chinese dinner across the street and drove home through the green mountains under a bright blue sky. The only thing that could have improved this magnificent day was…well, nothing!

I’ve always loved harpsichord music, and Gustaaf was fantastic. He is also the resident organist at Igreja de Nossa a Senhora da Guia, the church built in 1672, nearly destroyed by the 1980 earthquake, and now restored; so Gustaaf played some Bach just to give us a thrill. He also played several selections on the harpsichord, (in my humble opinion one of the most underrated musical instruments of the world). The flute and cello accompaniments were excellent and added even greater depth.

Following the concert and some pleasant visits with old friends (still in masks) we ventured across the street to a Chinese restaurant (you have to know it’s there, no signs on the streets of this UNESCO Heritage City). The last time we had dined here was several years ago with Sofia’s father and his wife after Mass at the Angra Cathedral. Since he passed last month, the dinner was a bittersweet memory, but the food was great. (Yes, I ate too much!)

Just to be clear, there are some challenges to life in the Azores, life in retirement, life in a country you’re not used to yet, and life in a pandemic.  Challenges have always attracted me. But last Sunday’s challenges were easy to overcome, and more importantly, just about heavenly! Great friends, great  food, great music, and fantastic history…all enjoyed with social distance, masks, and appropriate safety. I just don’t see how it can get much better than this!

On Terceira, we have more than just cows and fish…Goats Abound!

Goats on Parade
Stopped at the shooting range and while leaving I had to wait in traffic…hundreds of goats moving from the fields to graze on the highway cloverleaf.

Nancy asked me if we had goats on the island. We’ve seen a few here, a few there. One “herd” even grazes on the shooting range while we’re sighting in air rifles. “Yes,” I explain, “we have a few.”

Monday the weather was beautiful, a spring-like day (between days of rain and winter winds) and we stopped at the shooting range to check some measurements.  After I closed the gate, we waited in traffic as hundreds of goats, old ones, baby kids (they are the really cute ones), dogs, and shepherds (?) brought them from the fields in the woods and mountains to graze on the grass along the highway. On Terceira, most things have a basis in nature (when you’re thousands of miles from either mainland, cohabitating with nature is a watchword for everything before any technology is applied). Thus hours of mowing grass, fuel, pollution, and noise are avoided while keeping local goats and farmers employed and happy.

Yes, Nancy, we have goats! They are cute, harmless (unless you call traffic delays harmful – we’re retired!) and natural. So we put the truck in neutral, wait patiently, enjoy the dogs working, the goats exhibiting their individual (and herd) mentalities, and wait for the road to clear.

By the way, natural selection includes a food chain. Goats (Cabritos) is on many menus as well:) They are cute, abundant, and tasty!