By admin on February 23, 2012 in Blogs

This will likely be my last post before returning to Toronto. I’ve walked through the city taking last peeks at familiar corners, down streets that go to places that I know and trying to recall my first impressions of this city. It seemed so big the first day when I walked towards the centre from my landlady’s home. I had feared being away from it all. Now I can only smile at the naivete of that young visitor to the island. I could be anywhere on Sao Miguel and I would be in the centre of it all, at least that is what the rest of the Azores says about the largest island (not always kindly). It’s hard walking down to the harbor knowing that in a couple of days there will be no more swimming in the Atlantic under a bright, warmish sun. But more than the swimming pool, I’ll miss the quiet of the municipal library and public archives where without question a stranger is given space to work and to read. The public library, well managed and open, is the single greatest gift to a newcomer, a reader, a writer, a person.

There are many fond memories to take home along with bottles of honey, jams, tarts, chocolate, notes, stories and kilobytes of manuscript space in the hard drive of my laptop. Not as sexy as a sheaf of typewritten pages perhaps, but hopefully just as worthwhile. Toronto will be cold, but I am looking forward to the warmth of family and old friends and when winter turns to spring, I am hoping that some newer friends from the islands will visit so I can reciprocate their kindness in taking a stranger into their lives for three months.

November 8 , 2010, Ponta Delgada

Change is in the air. My time on the islands is winding down and in two weeks I will be back in Ontario. The summer ferries have left the Azores and returned to Greece where they will spend the winter between islands with names like Santorini and Rhodes. Meanwhile Nordic cruise ships arrive daily in Ponta Delgada. Ships with names “Celebrity Eclipse” and “Norwegian Gem” are putting into port for a day in their two-week transatlantic trip to New York. Then they head to the Caribbean for its tourist season.

These ships are huge, and from the outside one sees are lines of balconies rising like modern skyscrapers, all metal and glass. But their inhabitants are not young professionals. The fall cruise passenger is the North American retiree. The old folk are unfailingly polite, slow moving, and almost always lost. I gave an American couple directions to the Church of Santa Ana and went for my swim. When I returned, they were at the harbor having given up the uphill trek at the mere sight of the cobbled stone street. Then there’s the couple from Vancouver, spry and walking up and down the empty Sunday streets. I suggest they visit the Gardens, but they had already peeked in through the gate (the attendant charges a 2 euro admission). The man from Van hoped the cruise ship had stocked up on some of the island’s famous pineapples.

The problem with all-you-can-eat and everything-included is that some people turn into penny pinchers because they’ve become used not to pay for the small pleasures in life. What’s the point of coming to Sao Miguel for a day if you can’t bring yourself to spend 3 euros to see centuries-old rubber and incense trees drooping over you, to look at a medieval manuscript of liturgical hymns in the nave of Ponta Delgada’s main church, to eat chunks of fresh, ripe pineapple in the city square? Forget talking to the people and discovering our shared stories, these passengers are not even scratching the surface of this island.

My disappointment stems perhaps also from the fact that I was selling the island in my conversations. In many ways, I find myself at home here, and though I am looking forward to returning to family and friends, I will miss the blue skies, the warm waters, the steady presence of the islanders in my days – the librarian with the blonde hair like an astronaut’s wife, the short, stocky lifeguard laughing among the old men who sun themselves daily at the harbor pool, the woman at the supermarket checkout who tells me every time to get a Sol-Mar card so I can get a discount on my groceries, Gami whose story is too close for me to share on this blog, my landlady who keeps introducing me to characters on the island and even Francisco, who now teaches cooking classes to grade 8 kids. I’ll miss the fresh produce, the smells of tropical flowers, the heady warmth of a humid night, the sweep of Cory Shearwaters over my head…you get the point. Longs lists don’t make for great reading, so I’ll stop here. But the list is testament to time well spent I think.

Good times must also come to a close.

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