Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Little treasures

After by chance observing a fish otter I found this little Undines bathing in the river.

Yes, I ventured having a cold shower in this bath - but only when I really, really needed it!...

"Hey, what's going on there?"

Stencil talk

What is it?
You use ready made sentences and expressions for a usually superficial conversation, so you do not need to use your inteligence or reveal any emotions. You can also use common knowledge or a distanced scientific approach to talk about things in an uninvolved way. At the same time you can pretend you care or are involved, when in fact the conversation and the topic are completely indifferent to you.

When is it used?
Some people use it always. It's such a handy thing, allowing conversations to happen without any real exposure. It is the best way not to come close or get to know anyone and not to be known as well.

Giving an unsolicited lecture to an acquaintant.
Small talk about the weather or "How are you? Well, thanks, fine."
Saying one had the emotions the listener would expect you to have, e.g. "When my daughter was born it was the most amazing thing in my life!" instead of talking about the real thing.
Using a lot of local expressions and easy jokes, e.g. "I hate you"; "estou noutra onda"; "é a vida"/ "such is life"...

Monday, 28 April 2008

Immigrant livelihood strategy example

On a marginal farm along the Mondego river I met a couple from England. The man was born in Chelmsford and lived in Maldon for a while; finally I got to know some locals from Essex - where I least expected them.

How do they secure their livelihood?
1. They have a piece of land where they grow some vegetables for the home;
2. They help their neighbours out working as day labourers;
3. They hand-build yurts;
4. The woman works in a Swiss Alp during the summer months, taking care of the cows and making cheese!
I was very impressed with this diverse, risky, complex strategy and with the mix of countries where they live and work. Walking in the Alps, I had never expected to meet there, in the traditional huts, foreigners herding the cows. What might grown-up Heidi be doing now?

One of the yurts they made for Luzku-Fuzku; after sleeping there some nights I started to wonder why people prefer to live in cement houses.

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Portugal: El Dorado for 'Aussies'*?

* Aussie is a German abbreviation for "Aussteiger", which means people who leave the mainstream cultural lifestyle and try to become autarchic.

Already in the 1980's immigration into Portugal from people from central Europe started; so to say, the hippie generation that wanted to live its ideals. This movement seems to have intensified ever since. Now there is a whole sub-culture of ecologically minded immigrants in Portugal. This opens up a series of intriguing questions regarding the effects of this process.

What is the relationship between the immigrants and the local population? How do they interact? With what consequences?

What does attract the immigrants in the first place?

Certainly the image of a relatively unspoilt environment (not completely true, appart from the fact that industrialization is not so intense as elsewhere in Europe) and relatively low land prices.
Immigrants generally tend to complain about the highly bureacratic, time consuming and dis-organized way things work (or not) in Portugal. On the other hand, the reduced and sometimes chaotic enforcement of laws and kinship-based strategies to circumvent the law (not to call it corruption), together with huge abandoned areas gives foreigners a special sense of freedom: here their dreams can come true. This is the Far-West of Europe.

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Duna Művészegyüttes - Tavaszi szél

One version of one of the prettiest and best known Hungarian folksongs. Virágom, virágom :)

Monday, 21 April 2008

How to waste a day

Go to the health centre and ask for a paper saying you're fit for work.
But no: that's not something taking a day: the whole week will be spent on it, in Kafka-like fashion & happenings. And when you finally get the paper you will be completely mad and unfit for any work. At least that's what happening with me.

Friday, 18 April 2008

EU recovers unduly spent CAP expenditure

A total of EUR 83 million of EU farm money unduly spent by Member States is claimed back as a result of a decision adopted by the European Commission. The money returns to the Community budget because of inadequate control procedures or non-compliance with EU rules on agricultural expenditure. Member States are responsible for paying out and checking expenditure under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), and the Commission is required to ensure that Member States have made correct use of the funds.
Under this latest decision, the 27th since the 1995 reform of the system for recovering unduly spent CAP money, funds will be recovered from Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Spain, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Austria and Portugal.

Portugal has to pay back 270.000€, not too bad...

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

STILL STILL STILL weils Kindlein schlafen willl

That's the sort of things I use to sing for Timo...

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

More weird stories

The neighbour's son is a policemen of the higher ranks. During working hours sometimes he drives with his chauffeur in the police Jeep to his fathers' house and both of them, the chauffeur and the police officer help the father digging and planting in his backyard garden.

The replies I receive when I ask why people are working in farming are usually "because I like it - for money? No! I don't earn a penny!" or they say they are attached to the land and have been doing farmwork since their childhood. But today I received a different answer, by mail: "I'm in farming because I'm a fool."

A farmer who sells in a nearby market replied to my interview and then I did some shopping at her stand. She has strawberries freshly harvested the day before the market and sells them for only 2£ a Kg (compare with Tesco's age old 500g for 4£). So I bought a lot of strawberries and was a moment vaccilating if I should buy a lettuce as well. Then I decided no, and bought something else instead. The lovely lady noticed all that, and after I paid she put a lettuce for free in my bag!

A shepherd told me she sends food from domestic production to her children in Luxembourg every fortnight! Apparently there are some people driving fortnightly between the countries and taking home made food to the emigrants. How much work that must be for the locals to nourish their loved ones abroad, and how this subsidizes those abroad, maybe allowing them to live on unthinkable wages!...

Monday, 14 April 2008


By Jorge Sanz Cardona

Sunday, 13 April 2008


I bought onion seedlings on the market in Lousã to plant them in my sisters' garden. After I had my bag with the onion seedlings I had the impression I became much more interesting for the locals. Several people stopped me to ask how much I had paid for it and an elderly lady treated me right away as a friend.
But suddenly there were about 5 peasant women around me, all talking at the same time about me and my onions. One of them took the lead and asked me if I didn't knew that the moon is waning. Then they all discussed that that the onions would go into flowers instead of forming proper bulbs and that I couldn't store them for long if I planted them at the waning moon.
I felt ashamed, I've read about the scientific experiments and the validity of the influence of the moon on plant growth, and here were these women who haven't heard about any of those experiments but knowing it inside out and practising it - on the contrary to me, who just likes to read and talk about these things!...

Thursday, 10 April 2008

Bela pernaça

...esta abelha inspira me ternura.

Old fury

I called a farm I've found on the internet as having wine production and agrotourism. It seemed there was a "successful farmer" out there, exactly what I was looking for to do an interview. First a lady from eastern Europe picked up the phone. People from Romania, Moldovia and Ukraine are out there in thousands in Portugal doing the "lesser" jobs for a minimum wage... By the way, Russian is the second most spoken language here in Portugal nowadays.
The phone was passed to a superior of that lady. The woman who answered the phone was exactly the sort of authoritarian primary school teacher of times gone by. I told her that I was looking for farmers for my study and she immediately informed me that her farm was not the sort of farm I was interested in. I asked her why, what sort of farm is it? Then I told her: "that's interesting, that's what I'm looking for". But she knew better: "no, because we are different from what you think". (Could you please inform me what I'm thinking?!) I'm sure this farm belongs to the old aristocracy in Portugal, those people who wish the monarchy would be reestablished, because they mourn every day for the privileges they lost since... I know what I'm talking about: I've interviewed bankrupt Lords before.
Writing this up is my vengance. :*)


"Ah! when one with such love of study's haunted,
And scarcely sees the world on holidays,
And takes a spy-glass, as it were, to read it,
How can one by persuasion hope to lead it?"

Goethe, Faust I

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Páginas amarelas

"Ó minha mãezinha querida! Sofri muito hoje! Ai meu Deus, por minha honra que é verdade!"
Tudo por causa das Páginas Amarelas.
Precisava de fazer uma lista de contactos a telefonar. Felizmente há o "My PAi" onde no computador se pode registar os contactos todos etc e tal. Surpresa a minha quando finalmente tinha os contactos todos e aparecia tudo, tudinho no My PAi, excepto os números de telefone. Estava tudo ultra-modernizado e podia-se ligar directamente pelo Skype, "à distância de um click". Mas eu precisava dos números de telefone e não de ligar já pelo Skype que não está carregado se quer. Então fiz uma série de experências do tipo "copy paste" e "propriedades", a ver se conseguia ver os números de telefone de toda a minha lista de contactos em vez de abrir um a um no Skype e passar... Entretanto a minha lista perdeu-se inúmeras vezes. Entretanto o site encravou. E...finalmente descobri uma maneira de exportar tudo para Excell; mas nunca mais de 20 contactos de uma vez, senão Meu PAizinho querido não aguenta.

Why does nobody tell us?

This is quite a metaphysical question. Why do we sometimes have to struggle so much in the dark when there are people around who could easily tell us how to proceed? Many times, with trials and errors, things are done by muddling through and at a later stage I see: "Oh, it would have been so easy if I had only known XY!". Why does nobody tell us?!

Saturday, 5 April 2008

Mixed thoughts around Azêvo

Today I went to Azêvo in Pinhel. As I'm such an unskilled driver it was a matter of life and death; but I survived. Pinhel is far, far, far away and Azêvo is even farther away. The road is full of holes and when 2 cars come in different directions, one of them has to jump into the shrubs to let the other pass.

I came across another almost abandoned village called "Aldeia" (i.e. "village"). I was told that only "one young man" (58 years old) still lives there; he was born there and is...well, let's call it the polite British way; "he has mental health issues". Imagine that. A village with no one, you think, and then someone strange lurks around the corner. The man is called Isidoro and some days, when he feels awful, he closes himself in his hut. Then, when he is on his heights, he takes out his accordion and plays in the village streets. In Aldeia there is also a "french man" (an emigrant) who sometimes comes over on holidays.
Aldeia, an almost abandoned village, on top of the hill.

In Azêvo everyone farms for subsistence needs, and all wait that one day someone will pass by the village and offer to buy the excess production for a good price. They wait in vain.

This is sometimes a bit irritating for me, how the people expect that someone ought to come and solve their problems, but they do not make any move. Maybe they did many moves and it did never work out and that's why they stopped struggling. Still, I think if they would pull efforts together and work as a group they could be far better off. But, of course, we are humans, and we can't or won't work in groups, right?

On my walk around Azêvo I realized that donkeys are still very much in use here.
The donkey equipped with the self-made transportation device.

Around Azêvo the white broom is in flower. As it is in flower it's distribution becomes very clear: it is maybe the dominant species in all the abandoned and burned lands with granitic soils. It is everywhere! From Santa Comba Dão to Vilar Formoso - the "interior" starts right 50m after the sea (Litoral)...

Friday, 4 April 2008

White heather

The woman sitting next to me

I had to wait a while in the Health centre for my turn. Since I'm on fieldwork I use every opportunity to know the opinion of people and can't leave the "ethnographic approach" behind in any circumstance. My basically misanthropic outlook is being transmuted into the ethnographic mode. Summing up: I found out a lot regarding the worldview of the woman sitting next to me while we were waiting for our turn.

She said "I know the numbers", but she doesn't like to travel with the lift because then she gets really confused and doesn't know which button to press. With other words: she isn't confident enough with her capacity of reading and understanding numbers for being able to travel with the lift. I had never thought about this before: as an analphabet everything is so difficult!...

Some English people were sitting in the room as well and talking English. The woman turned to me to say "When these people talk it sounds like barking dogs". What should I say to this sympathic point?! "But you are a foreigner as well, right?" she proceeded. "...Well yes." (It's really comforting to be called foreigner in the country where you've been growing up!). Then she wanted to know where I came from and when she knew, she very produly said 2 German words which I barely recognized. But I made a huge effort to recognize them and tell her the meaning in Portuguese. She was so proud when I asked her if she had been to Germany... But no. She has no intentions to go abroad, she has no interest at all in other countries or other towns because the only good place to be is her hometown anyways.

Suddenly she turned to me and asked me whether I had a Portuguese passport. I don't; I have the allowance of residence and since we are in the EU I wouldn't need it anyways. But she knew better: "they will jail you" she said. "They will jail you!" she said with a triumphant smile ...and I turned my face and continued reading.

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

My happiness at stake

I phoned a farmer to ask if she could take part in my study, answering to my interview. She replied: "...well, if it contributes to your happiness if I answer, why not?"
No illusions that research could be of any good.
However, I wish to think she is wrong; that would contribute to my happiness.