Sunday, June 21, 2009

Queriamos voltar

Leaving Madeira was not fun.  Having been off the island for about two weeks, the thought of never returning seems an impossibility.  To go through a list of people and places and activities and routines that we miss would be boring for you and depressing for me, so I'll simply put some photos up, most of which we took while saying goodbye to someone or doing something for the last time.

The last Laranjada:

The last evening at our neighborhood pizzeria with our favorite waiters:

The last time hanging out with our friends from the basketball team:

The last dinner with friends from University.  I am wearing my gift, a peasant hat, in front of painting featuring same:

The first (and last) visit to Porto Santo; a long beach, but we still prefer the rocks around Funchal:

and Farrar's last shandy there:

The last walk to the CAB gym:

Bishop's last practice:

The last coffee with friends:

The last swim:

with the sound of those rocks:

The last dog:

The last park bench:

The last photo:

I have to believe that all of these "lasts" should include the qualifier, "for now" because there will be another time, a "next" as it were.

Saudade, y'all.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Last Flowers

Well, today marked a particularly sad moment when Zelle and I purchased our last flower arrangement in Madeira.   We took our sassy little white vase, my very first Madeiran purchase, to our neighborhood Loja de Flores and put together this pink number.


We are taking it tonight to our language teacher's house (yes we passed our exam thank goodness) where we will enjoy dinner with her family.   I am glad to be passing on such sentiment even though it makes me melancholy to think of days back home without that vase.  Why not ship it home to have it as a reminder of your time in Madeira you might ask? Well, thanks for asking because what a loaded question that has become.  

If you are trying to figure out these numbers, weights, and how that translates to duffle bags, then welcome to my next few days.  Now, Alex and I did not come here with the intentions of acquiring.  In fact, we have done everything in our power over the last two years to set things free.  Even here, we have found a connection to an organization for children in need and have passed on many clothes that our children have outgrown over the past few months.  The fact that our children have simultaneously experienced the largest growth spurts of their lives while living away from home and closets full of handed down clothes waiting for them to grow into would only happen to us.  Zelle, of course, has enjoyed this situation.  

While we have resisted such frivolous items like a coffee maker, a vegetable peeler, a baking dish to actually cook in, towels to take to the sea so we don't use our bath towels, a convenient grocery porter, regular sized soap (we are still working through mom's hotel supply), and two bottles of shampoo and conditioner instead of one that goes back and forth between each shower, there have been several purchases that we simply could not rough it any longer this collection of fine European school supplies.

Those of you who know me well will not be surprised that pencils, notebooks, dividers, and all things small and bright that elicit organizational karma win me over every time. The idea that just one new little notebook or pencil pouch could possibly be the missing link to order and stability....well, we are going to have to make room.  Speaking of which, what does one do with this fantastic clay sculpture made by Bishop when he needed a toy and so industriously made his own fun?  Now this, I am really going to miss.

"Don't worry, he said (Zelle's missing headband and all) we can pack this one because it is in a book and doesn't take up much room."  Sweet little guy.

Just this week, the kids and I got a warning from Alex to stop making unnecessary and extravagant purchases so I am really glad that those pencils were already mine. It was also timely that the softest and most beautiful leather vest I have ever seen in my life was spotted just days before the curfew.


Okay, back to the shipping dilemma.  You see, we don't want to lug four hundred pencils and notebooks all over Italy.  To ship a small box of books is roughly forty euros.  To ship over 30 kilos, is around 300 euros.  Initially, I wasn't at all worried.  I told Alex that I didn't think we could possibly have much more than that to ship and that he would be surprised at how well we had done with not packing too much in the first place.  Look sweetheart, I'll start putting together all of the stuff we need to ship, and I bet it won't end up being more than just one of our duffles. You'll see.


Well, because we are fairly creative folks and engage in practical decision making at least once or twice a year, we looked into alternative shipping options.  Guess what?  There are these things called containers that one can purchase, and fill with whatever one wishes for a set price, and ship.  They are a bit pricey but not a whole lot more than what we are probably going to end up paying given that there is more than what you see featured in above photo.  The thing is that the containers are big enough to fit a car into.  Really, a CAR we asked? you see where I am going with this?  Remember that little Renault I keep chasing? 

I'm not getting too excited as the deal is far from closed and will likely not play out, but Mr. No Extravagance himself actually thought up this crazy plan. Madeira has been really good for him.


Monday, May 25, 2009

Dog Days

While we are trying to get used to the fact that our days here are numbered, we have been fairly busy enjoying all there is to do in Madeira.  On several occasions we have forgotten to bring the camera along, so unfortunately I do not have any photographs of the only bowling alley on the island.  I guess it means we are starting to feel more at home, more accustomed to our routines, and every outing doesn't feel like something we need to document.  Still, there are plenty of images piling up on the computer and I will try to get as many as I can into this post.

We continue to visit the rocks, where there has been a nice addition to the landscape.

And sometimes we see people of industry, not merely idling by the sea (like us), but working, like this guy who was collecting lapas, which are clam-like (and quite delicious) creatures attached to the rocks in the shallows.

While these rocks are for us often a destination, they are only one small area of the sea promenade that stretches along the western side of Funchal.  Just around the corner is a nice wharf for fishing.

Please note the noble and attentive dog.  They seem to be everywhere, like this other one relaxing at a nearby cafe.

A little further along the promenade there is access to a winding trail 

that provides additional sea views, this one including the seemingly ever-present Santa Maria.

Another familiar walk is the one from the flat to the CAB Madeira gym.  We found another great dog, who lives in a very nice house.

He kept a watchful eye on us as we passed; perhaps our accent confused him.

We also gaze at the futebol field everytime we walk home from the gym, and sometimes they are playing games.

Bishop's practice was recently rewarded with a little basketball tournament in Santana, which is on the north side of the island, and quite an expensive taxi. So, a friend loaned me his car, obviously against his better judgment, or maybe my wife's better judgment.  Whatever the case, I got behind the wheel for the first time in 4 months and zoomed along the via rapida.  And I do mean rapida.

The event in Santana was an outdoor venue that had a number of small courts on a brick patio.

It was truly a court designed (and laid out with masking tape) for the young and daring.

Bishop had a great time.

And then we cleaned up for an afternoon and evening with friends near Machico.  Zelle went to a birthday party and the rest of us knocked around the neighborhood while that was going on.  After visiting the sports park under the airport runway (sorry I left the camera in the car), we wound up in a tiny little bar and the kids decided to take a load off,

while we huddled around the cozy bar.

We were careful not to disturb the proprietor any more than we had to.  He was engaged in a game of Dominoes.

I could have stayed there all night I think,

because, the proprietor, when we disturbed him, was happy to share his home brew.  I have found that everywhere outside Funchal has vinho seco and other home made treats.  This one was made of fire water, honey and other herbs that I can't recall the names.  It tasted a bit like licorice.

But we had a daughter to catch up with and a party to make.  So after we slipped past the guard dog, we were on our way.

I like the way they do birthdays.  The kids have their time in the afternoon, and then the extended family joins in around dinner to continue the party.  I knew we were in good shape when we were welcomed in by an impressive and aged Basset Hound.

The after-party, so to speak, included a Portuguese version of "Happy Birthday."

Of course, kids are kids everywhere, and they played lots of games in the yard.

Notice the view, which includes the airport runway, quite the thrill for the little ones.  The sport of volley is also quite the thrill in Madeira, among the children.

A good time was had by all, and late in the evening, the music came out and some singing of traditional music ensued. 

Everyone slept in the next day.  No pictures.  I mentioned the party was near Machico, which is the 2nd largest city on the island.  It is east of Funchal and a legend has it that it was the first place that people reached.  It is a very nice spot, and we have been there a couple of times to relax.  There is a sea side park with exercise opportunities, for those so inclined.

Like many places on the island it is very scenic and easy going.  It is a nice place to hang out and enjoy friends,

and even make plans,

or just play in the sand (which is imported from northern Africa, I'm told).

The last time we were there, we also saw Farrar's favorite car.  Perhaps we will buy one when we come back to Madeira for longer than a semester.  One can dream.

The other familiar walk is that to our language school.

We find out Tuesday if we passed to the 2nd level.  Again, when we come back. The people at the language school are very nice, and I know we will miss the cafe on the top floor.  This is what I call a "teacher's lounge," for those of you paying attention to how we treat our educators.

Here's to a few more dog days of summer.