Madeira, island of dreams, part 3 – soul warmers
(Listen to the music while reading blog post.)
Reg:They’ve bled us white, the bastards. They’ve taken everything we had, not just from us, from our fathers and from our fathers’ fathers.
Stan:And from our fathers’ fathers’ fathers.
Stan:And from our fathers’ fathers’ fathers’ fathers.
Reg:All right, Stan. Don’t labour the point. And what have they ever given us in return?
Reg:Oh yeah, yeah they gave us that. Yeah. That’s true.
Masked Activist:And the sanitation!
Stan:Oh yes… sanitation, Reg, you remember what the city used to be like.
Reg:All right, I’ll grant you that the aqueduct and the sanitation are two things that the Romans have done…
Matthias:And the roads…
Reg:(sharply) Well yes obviously the roads… the roads go without saying. But apart from the aqueduct, the sanitation and the roads…
Another Masked Activist:Irrigation…
Other Masked Voices:Medicine… Education… Health…
Reg:Yes… all right, fair enough…
Activist Near Front:And the wine…
Omnes:Oh yes! True!
Francis:Yeah. That’s something we’d really miss if the Romans left, Reg.
Masked Activist at Back:Public baths!
Stan:And it’s safe to walk in the streets at night now.
Francis:Yes, they certainly know how to keep order… let’s face it, they’re the only ones who could in a place like this.
Reg:All right… all right… but apart from better sanitation and medicine and education and irrigation and public health and roads and a freshwater system and baths and public order… what have the Romans done for us?
Reg:(very angry, he’s not having a good meeting at all) What!? Oh… (scornfully) Peace, yes… shut up!
This short story from Life of Brian came to my mind when I started to collect the different experiences that I was lucky to have during my stay in Madeira. There is definitely some connection.
According to a saying, if you don’t have expectations, you can not be disappointed. I think this is a wonderful saying, just way too hard to make it happen. But when you succeed…
I arrived in Madeira without expectations and particular plans, opened myself for adventures and this time I allowed life to sit in the driver’s seat – which I don’t do often and when I do, I probably look like somebody sitting at the dentist.
Because when you are a planner, you need time to accept the fact that you simply can not plan your most memorable moments, so the best you can do is to let life happen and try to follow good vibes. And Madeira is a good teacher on this subject, particularly when you are paying attention.
And how could I possibly have planned to meet those people who I met and to have those amazing experiences we had together?!
Now without attempting to be comprehensive, I’d like to introduce you the most important protegonists and the relating stories of my one-month stay, in order of appearance. Because I have to admit, meeting with these people was the best part of my adventure!
She was the first woman I met in the island, the owner of the guesthouse where I volunteered. In the same time she has one of the most complex personality I’ve ever seen. When two strong women spend much time together it is obvious that they have some conflicts, and this happened to us as well. It didn’t help that we were uneven, because in fact she was my boss and this would have been messing up our story even if I haven’t been a freelancer without any bosses or commitments for seven years.
Let’s say we didn’t make friends for the first sight, and it could have remained this way, but I felt like scratching the outer layer and looking under it. Then I found a lot of other layers inside like I would peel an onion. I found an independent, tough woman running her own business persistently. An excellent cook. A mother who cares for her daughter. A girl who misses her father. An artist who paint little flower decorations on towels. A tattoo saying “good wind always comes”.
No, we didn’t make friends. But I learned a lot, we had tons of great moments together and I’ll be always grateful for her that I could spend one of my nicest months at her place.
My Moldavian fellow volunteer, friend, partner in crime. A young and beautiful woman, one of the most optimistic and kindest persons I know. At the age of 24 she knows a lot of things about life, things that I needed 35 years to discover, and this is why I really respect her.
From the first smile we made friends. And I started to love her even more when she made the first delicious salad for lunch.
She travels a lot and has a surprisingly open personality. She adores dogs, it was a pleasure to see her cuddling them.
We knew each other for a while, when she once said she heard that every person has to hug somebody at least three times a day to be completely happy. So from this time on we hugged a lot and laughed even more, because every time we hugged, someone arrived in the bar for a drink. Well, to be honest, we were planning to give some extra buzz to the business.
We had endless conversations staring at the sunset on the beach, were laughing while drinking excellent red wines, did long levada walks and I am so grateful for her that she didn’t laugh at my face when a giant wave once hit me from top to bottom. I am pretty sure we’ll meet again, sometimes, somewhere.
The always calm, always cheerful French guy, my other fellow volunteer. When we were having our first conversation longer than a minute, I told him that the night before a lesbian couple had sex on the neighbouring bed and I was a bit pissed off because I couldn’t sleep. What he asked me with an innocent face? ‘And? Did you join them?’ French. I told you.
Jérôme loves snowboarding and surfing, but there is no evidence for these. We tried to sneak him surfing, but all we saw was some swimming. He makes excellent carioca (Portuguese version of espresso, less strong), and during my one month I didn’t manage to capture a serious photo of him. Well, after a while I just gave it up.
He said he didn’t have a thing called home, he’s been travelling the globe for a couple of years having great adventures. Good life.
But maybe, just maybe, I like most in him his fabulous French accent. I’ll never forget him saying ‘keep in tuuuch’ not that he told me once he needed to change his shit. I forgot to breath. (He meant sheet, of course, but with the French accent the mistake was pretty funny.)
Martha és Max
This Polish-German couple came from Berlin for a short holiday. After a short time spent together we said goodbye on a morning and they left for the eastern parts of the island for camping. In the afternoon then, returning to the guesthouse to my greatest surprise I saw them playing UNO sipping a glass of wine. Having seen my puzzled face, they explained with a smile that it was cold on the east. And windy. And nobody in the camping besides them. So they had a somewhat postapocalyptic feeling and decided to come back to sunny south paradise.
We were so happy about this as next day we went to do a levada walk together (levadas are channels for transporting water throughout the island). We sank in mud, took long and (as to me) frightening dark tunnels and laughed a lot. On the way back home then, I witnessed one of the cutest fight ever heard. Max was driving the car, we arrived at a roundabout and another driver just didn’t give way. Max remained totally calm like men usually do, then Martha from the passenger seat started honking passionately and gave an educational lecture about honking, sistematically switching two or three different languages. I was quite entertrained on the back seat.
Magda és Dorota
I am pretty sure I met these two Polish girls to fill the emptiness of Martha and Max after they left. Magda and Dorota came, smiled, and we got along at once. They are nurses in Switzerland, making incredibly hard shifts in hospital and even if this is really tough, they are still optimistic and thinking positive. Not to mention, they left me the nicest note on the bedside table, because they knew that I would make your room afterwards.
With them we made an excursion to the eastern part of the Island, to Sao Lourenco peninsula which is a unique place to go. We went there for a short walk, because Dorota had some pain in the knee, so decided not to have any serious hiking. Then we hiked for three and a half hours, hills up, hills down, well, so this is how when Dorota has pain and doesn’t want to hike.
After hiking, we got hungry of course, and it was me who was the weakest link in the chain of course, so we sat in the restaurand, and with my last breath I managed to tell the waiter something like this ‘Please give me foooooood! I really don’t care what it is, but I am begging you to be quick.’
I met Hartmut because of paragliding (more here) and like with the others, we shared pretty much the same vibes. And maybe not just because of the common interest, though our first conversations were about paragliding, no matter what.
He is German, decided to move to Madeira sixteen years ago which really didn’t help him to maintain the famous German angularity. He lives a free life, has the freedom like not many of us. Living on the top of a hill, with a private take-off place for paragliding, surrounded by other pilots and like-minded friends, in perfect harmony with nature. And when good wind comes, he lifts his feet in the air, no matter if it’s summer or winter. I’d say he has the dream job, but it’s me who has it, so I just don’t feel sorry for him.
The only thing I found weird in this freedom, that with this spontaneous lifestyle he wears a watch. I asked him why and it turned out that he had got it from his father and this is how he feels him closer.
He says, life for him is either white or black, but yet he finds the last rays of setting sun green.
Once when he took me for a tandem flight, he asked whether to do some mambo-jumbo in the air and I immediately said ‘of course, stupid question!’ and then added in bit more uncertain tone ‘just be careful, OK?’
What happened next I could describe best as a series of screams so loud as that I visualized ambulance coming to save me. So much for being careful.
Unfortunately I don’t have any picture of him, more sadly, I don’t even remember his name, though one of my most memorable stories is connected to him. So I think I can tell the story without a picture or a name.
In the island of Madeira, the one and only means of transportation is hitchhiking, considering that the bus lines are not so reliable. Somehow it happened that in the first 35 years of my life I never tried to hitchhike, but here it didn’t seem outstanding or dangerous so we tried it with Xenia and I started to love it at once. Yes, surprisingly, because of the connection with people.
I met many different types, some elderly women with missing teeth, Portuguese old boys desperately wanting to communicate in their own language, all-the-way silent guys, once even a complete junior team of football players.
But the funniest story of mine was hitchhiking a police car. I was standing at the roundabout, a police car came into sight and I was not really sure it was legal to hitchhike in Madeira, so I let my hand down, but too late, because the car already stopped. The policeman was smiling wide.
‘Where you want to go to?’
‘To Arco da Calheta.’
‘Well, you can sit in, I might as well drive you there. But first I have to arrest you’ – showing me the cuffs with and evil smile.
‘Wow, really?! Awesome, let’s go! I’ve never been arrested before!’
Finally the cuffs remained untouched and we had a great conversation during the ride. At the end, the guy went out of the car, asked my name, shaked my hand and he told me he was glad to meet me. And in this case I felt for sure, it was not just an empty phrase.
So I tell you, if you have the opportunity once in the lifetime to hitchhike a police car, don’t hesitate for a single moment!
Last, but not least, big thanks to all of you who I met during my stay: Jan, Lucy and Paul, Katou, Brendt and Cornelius, Becky, Jochen, Massimo and Isabella and to those whose name I forgot to ask impolitely, and to the woman without teeth and the dogs with funny teeth.
You made my month spent in Madeira really happy!