Blogging from the middle of the Atlantic!

Writing you from the middle of the atlantic tonight - it's 9pm here and in the midst of the worst storm since I've gotten here. It's rainy and windy so much so that you can hear it inside the house. I am currently staying with my grandmother (in portuguese: "Avo" sounds like Ah-Vo) and my aunt and uncle who live with her. It's been a good/bittersweet trip since I've been here. It's been great to be here with family I haven't seen for years, but difficult. It's hard to see my Avo in pain and seeing her age on her face. The last time I was here, her age did not catch up with her - this time you can tell that she has lived life (she's looking great never the less). It's also hard in the fact that I'm pretty sure her short-term memory from day-to-day is going. I find myself repeating things everyday that she has already asked me. 

So far I've been given a few pearls of wisdom, mostly regarding marriage and men. "Make sure you find a good man, who will always appreciate you - and when you find him, marry him! Make sure he works hard, and believes in God!" - Avo Rita. I'm not going to lie, her pearls of wisdom are great - and I completely agree (with a few additions of qualities). 

I came for a sole reason - to see her, and ask her questions. She doesn't remember a lot of things now, and I find her struggling to answer my questions about the old days. It's been helpful though being here, because my one aunt remembers everything. Today I managed to film my grandmother, mother, and my aunt (secretly mwuaha camera on the table, sneaky) -- all singing child hood songs - songs that my mother now sings to Aliza (my niece). I'm filling up a legacy book with questions and answers from this trip but sometimes I blank on what questions I could ask -- I'd love for YOU to tell me what you wish or are glad that you have asked your grandparents about?

This is along the marina and near the boat dock.
 left: view down the street from my grandmothers - featuring a VW "Polo"

 one of the main streets in Villa Franca do Compo (the village my grandmother lives in on the island)
 architecture that is taken for granted, that gives Europe it's unique feel
 the boat dock/marina -- where the fishermen work
 While walking throughout the village, it's currently Lent and I had the pleasure of seeing the Romeiros. 20-40 men singing "Ave Maria" down the street give away to the romeiros (pilgrims) of the island of Sao Miguel coming up the street. The bright colors of their scarfs, which symbolize Christ's crown of thorns.On their backs, they have food in hand-made back packs, covered by hand homespun woolen shawls. They look like hunchback as they walk by. They carry this as a sacrifice much like Christ carried the cross and is only taken off when they stop on the side of the road to eat. The shawls represent Christ's royal tunic. 

In 1522 there was a terrible earthquake that completely levelled the village my family is from (Vila Franca do Campo) killing most of the towns residents. This religious practice of walking the entire island since the disaster is a pilgrimage of prayer. Each Saturday during lent, for a week - groups of men walk the island. They pray the Rosaries, and Ave Maria the whole walk around the island. They stop at all the churches and chapels praying at each, more than 100. The men each take a wooden staff, representing Christ's scepter. When it comes to night time, these men take shelter in the villages they get to at night and the community takes them in and shelters them and feeds them.

This is Jose - my cousin Nelia's brother.
I had the pleasure of going to a mass for the Romeiros, and it was so lively and full of faith. The tiny stone church was jam packed shoulder to shoulder of villagers and family members of the men. My cousin Nelia, her brother Jose was one of the many men making the pilgrimage. The mass was so emotional, that it was hard to hold tears back from the faith that was felt in one room. There was one song that stuck out more than the others in the mass:

"Abençoa senhor a família amém...
Abençoa senhor a minha também
Abençoa senhor a família amém...
Abençoa senhor a minha também"

such a beautiful song played on acoustic guitar.
after the mass we ate with the men in an empty farmer's garage, some ate on blankets on the floor - others made tables and we all ate together.

 Road blockage - on account of cows.
 Farmer coming home from his land with milk from his cows.
 Left: old school truck heh, Right: my grandmother's door

This is the church called "Matrez" in Villa Franca, this is where my grandparents were married and my parents. One day I would like to say my vows in this church.

The hotspring's entrance - we went there this past weekend. It's heated water from underground volcanic activity. "Posas de a Beijia"

I gave my cousin my camera and a mini camera lesson so I could get a few photos :)

"My Boat Makes Bread" aka Bread winner!

The reason I'm here - Avo Rita