Time stopped here

Back in Portugal, we paid and secured another flight to get back home and then we just waited alone for our departure day. Family visits didn’t happen – we could have contracted the virus and be carrying it unknowingly, we had been in so many public places and airports that it was a possibility. Not wanting to be negative and think the worst but knowing that we had family with sensitive health putting them at high risk, we spent the last days there with no visits or contact. This was the worst and saddest part. Leaving with no goodbyes, hugs or kisses. It felt like we were running away …. On the flight back I cried and the rule of no face touching was ignored because how do you cry and not touch your eyes and face and nose?!

It was March and the world had frozen. In Europe spring was arriving, the days were getting longer and warmer, the daffodils were everywhere coloring the pavements and gardens. It was spring the sun was shining bright and the swallows were returning. But the world was frozen in time, the roads were empty the stores were closed and you couldn’t hear or see people on the streets. The children were quiet there was no soccer playing in the parking lots near apartments. It was spring the season of renewal and people were resting and waiting indoors for a virus to disappear.

We stopped at Obidos on our way to the airport. A Moorish castle with a real little village inside its walls. There is a maze of narrow cobbled streets with colorful window boxes and flower pots. But the village is frozen and silent. Some geraniums are starting to flower but there are no tourists, the shops are closed and my footsteps echo in the streets with the colorful houses. It’s so still and then … a little lady looks out her window and her cat joins her. They are as surprised to see me as I am in seeing them, we spoke softly about the empty streets and the lack of tourists. It’s so painfully beautiful; clear blue sky with fluffy clouds floating by. For once you can photograph everything without having to wait for people to move out of your frame, you have the whole castle to yourself but it doesn’t seem the same, I miss the busy touristy place this usually is.

I felt like I was walking in a cemetery alone, the last survivor, wondering who lives here, what is behind that beautiful blue door…

The airports are empty and the planes are parked on the runways waiting to fly. We arrived home on Monday the 23rd and that Thursday our president announced a national lock-down.

Its autumn here by us now and the leaves on the trees are turning beautiful colors of browns, reds and yellows and we are home waiting for the end of this virus. Missing out on the colors, the cool breeze and walking and feeling the dried leaves crunching under our shoes.  Our streets are quiet, the malls are closed. We try to be normal and work from home. But waking up and checking the numbers of infected people and deaths that occurred overnight is not normal.

It’s Good Friday today, there would have been a family lunch at one of three places, we would have had a lot of food and even more cake and sweet things, love, laughter and coffee on lazy sunny chairs, instead we all ate alone. None of this normal.

It’s March 2020 and people are not allowed out but autumn does not know this. The seasons are changing, they don’t wait for us. Autumn and spring don’t know that we have to wait for the virus to stop before we can go out and see it all change around us ♥

I miss my family, the ones here and the ones in the northern hemisphere, the feeling is very strong this month.

Ireland is a pop-up picture book

We arrived in Ireland on the 11th of March. It was windy and raining, walking out of the airport in my new K-Way jacket I thought, I got this, it’s not so bad. What are people going on about this place being cold?

It was OK for the rest of that day, we got our car and took a long drive to the Airbnb in Malahide (little city just north of Dublin). We walked into a very warm house and room and it was dinner time. Time to hit a pub!

Just two minutes away from our accommodation, dinner for me was; soup and beer bread and hubby chose a vegetarian curry. We shared both. After a bit of chatting I escaped and walked down the road for my first shopping exhibition.                                I chose Tesco, it was also all we had right there at our doorstep, so I bought some things for breakfast and went back to the pub …. Conversation continued, but being visibly tired we called it a night and went ‘home’ to sleep.

Morning! We were greeted by a beautiful sunshiny day. Breakfast in bed alla me, courtesy of my Tesco shopping and we were finally ready to explore Ireland.

The first stop was the beach, and I just want to laugh at the thought of the wind, it was blowing so strong that holding the cell phone for a pic was a real blast!!!                    Next visit was the Malahide Castle and Gardens, and by now the weather had changed on us like four times. No lies!

We both bought a what I call Irish jackets, something proper for the rain and wind, and that was the last day I wore the K-Way.

From here on I don’t need to mention the cold anymore, protected and dressed for an Irish adventure I adapted by zipping up and putting on the hoodie or removing it just as quickly.

Ireland is beautiful. The road users are well mannered. People are friendly. There are lots of South Africans and Brazilians living there. Vegetarian and vegan options are available almost everywhere you go. People walking everywhere all the time! Anytime of the day, they walk, and you can see they love it. They eat potatoes with everything, which probably explains why they are happy and mostly friendly.

The accent is sexy and even I know how to say yeah, yeah. And that park and garden is actually pronounced with a smile and more open mouth so that the R sound is well … there but not there.

Parks, castles, gardens, green grass everywhere you look, it rains everyday so it’s not a surprise that everything is so green. I loved it all.

The impact of the virus was visible everywhere. Overnight stores had placed hand sanitiser at entrances for customers and there were lines at till queues indicating distancing. It’s as if they were all on the same WhatsApp group, it all changed instantly.

Places were starting to close up, either behind us or ahead of us. Schools closed and a day later all public and touristic places started closing too. It was almost time to go back to Portugal, we left on the 19th of March. I still looked at the e-ticket on my phone that we had booked for Bergamo, Italy and cried a little.

It was time to leave and we were getting nervous about places shutting down around us and our airline cancelling our flight back home. I was sad to be leaving like this, as if we were not saying goodbye properly, we didn’t do and see everything we had planned to. Still I loved my time there.

Ireland was like walking into a pop-up picture history book and that is the best way to describe it. ♥

Corona update on this day – Italy now had 41,035 confirmed cases, Ireland 557. Portugal would be in state of emergency and everything would be closed.

Today I am grateful for…

We survived one week of lock-down, it’s almost Monday and we have almost reached our 14 days of self-isolation. On Monday we can declare ourselves safe!

I could hear how people asked me; “how are you feeling?” and they didn’t mean how I was feeling about the weather or lock-down or work from home thing. They really wanted to know if I was in the slightest bit sick. Then they always asked about hubby, how is he feeling? Is he also OK?

I was always too scared to mention that sometimes I had a cough. That’s the thing nowadays you can’t cough or sneeze without getting some kind of panicked reaction….nope it’s not always corona.

We are fine, we really are! I am so grateful for God’s protection so many airports, places, things and people that we touched.

One week of lock-down and I am grateful for our holiday even when everything was shutting down behind us or ahead of us. I am grateful that we managed to get on a flight back home before all airlines parked their planes on runways, and airports became large creepy empty spaces.

Grateful for my family, the comfort of my home, that I was able to stay home and work in my PJ’s and slippers. That I can take a break to make lunch (not just eat at my desk) well actually the kitchen might be a problem, I spend way too much time there and I fear I’ll get out of this fatter than I came in! Just this week I baked two cakes (one flopped) I made bread and my own pizza from scratch!! See what I mean? Fat!

But I am grateful for the comforts and freedom of working from home and having a salary at the end of the month.

I am grateful for nature, the joy of the birds and the loud hadeda, that inspire love in some and hate in others. Has anyone noticed that they are louder now that we are home? Maybe I hear them as louder because I am not rushing to do something or to go somewhere. Grateful for the slow days, no traffic, no crowds, no business. Grateful for the generous amount of rain we have had, it has reminded me of Ireland and also, no one wants water restrictions in winter.

Grateful for the gift of prayer, we can all pray and I have been praying and thinking of my family spread all over the world, if we need to comfort one another we are so far even for that…I miss them so much it hurts.

And then I have to say I am grateful for technology – for this nonsense called Facebook and Twitter and Instagram, because although it is not always a good distraction, and it consumes us, and teaches our children things we don’t like if we did not have this crazy distraction and connection right now how would we “talk” to each other when we are on lock-down and social distancing?

You know that I am friends with my cousins’ children that I had never met in real life. But because of this thing called Instagram, we connect and chat to each other occasionally and we stay in touch. If it wasn’t for that we would be complete strangers, but I arrived in Portugal and meeting and hugging them for real for the first time was like ♥ I don’t know how to explain it, it was magical and wonderful and emotional and all things fuzzy and warm.

As churches are closed all over the country and in other parts of the world I see pastors of our churches posting videos of themselves doing devotionals. Little messages of encouragement from others, as they learn to use their cell phones and become more and more comfortable with the camera and posting their videos. I love them and they have brought me peace over the past week.

My sister and her family have been locked up and cooped up in a two bedroom apartment for much much longer than us, oh Itlay ☹ your numbers are still so high. I hear the pain in her voice sometimes.

So tonight when everything was silent and the rain was softly falling we received a special message from our own pastor on WhatsApp.

We can’t go to church tomorrow but no one and nothing is stopping us from worshiping together. And so we received his message; something inspirational and uplifting as some of us will be fasting tomorrow and praying. Yip worshiping with our phones in our hands, who would’ve thought this could ever happen!?

Ah I am grateful that this technology can keep us connected for now. And I am especially grateful for the soft confident voice saying that we are to put our complete trust in Him. He will give us courage to face this crisis, Be still and put your trust in Him.

Happy Sabbath all ♥

Slow drive south

From the north of the country we traveled slowly to the south, making our way through beautiful towns where my family lives. Stopping in different cities and spending time with family along the way. After 25 years everything is new and different and I’m enjoying everything I see. Although we had rain along the way we managed to do some sightseeing on our drives, what a beautiful country. You have to see it for yourself.

Long dinners with late nights ending in softly talking in the kitchen or the dining room until 2 A.M. no one noticed the time….

Every visit with family was filled with so much love, hugs and kisses and a lot of tears. Happy tears, we cried, or maybe I did most of the crying. On Saturday we were in church (that was probably the last or second last service before church closed down due to the virus) we were celebrating one of my cousins’ baby dedication.

This was the first announcement of the possibility of churches closing temporarily. On this day there were only 13 reported cases in Portugal, you kind of think that this is still a China problem and that everything is OK and people are just being paranoid.

So far I had been with two of my aunts, there was one missing, and then she walked into church! I was emotional and cried at every hymn and then when she walked in….well the tears were uncontrollable.

We had such an awesome reunion that day, we could not fit everyone in one photo the apartment was too small for all of us, there were people bursting from every crack in the apartment. It was beautiful, the long talks and continued laughing and old stories told by some of the best characters in the family.

I went to Portugal to experience this…this is what I longed for and missed.

It was especially rewarding to also meet some family members for the first time, cousins that have over the years married and had children that I had never met. The embraces were given as if we’d known each other all this time….I miss them all already.

We traveled south to the beautiful Algarve where hubby’s family lives. I though he had hardly any family left that we just had to see a few people and would have time for more sightseeing but it turns out there are aunts and cousins in every corner of Algarve. It was something so special, to see everyone again, every photo is a reminder of that. Just by the way, on my cell phone I have over 2 000 photos, I imagine its double on my photographers camera!

Every visit was a photo shoot and we spent the days there literally going from one table to the next – for breakfast, lunches and dinners – it was insane but so enjoyable and I loved connecting with old friends and family again.

On the 11th of March we left for Ireland.

Corona update on this day – Italy now had over 12 000 confirmed cases, Ireland 43 and Portugal 35. Some people were starting to panic just a little.

At least I got to hug her

We arrived in the north with the first visit and nights sleep in a cute little town called Joane, oh there was so much excitement at the dinner table. So much noise, the TV going, a noisy extractor fan (my cousin kept switching off but mysteriously found its way back on) the frying of bacalhau and chips and kids talking loudly while playing on their iPads. The continuous talking you hardly had time to answer one question and the next one was being asked. This is exactly what I longed for and why I wanted to be there I wanted to experience this again. I get emotional just thinking about it.

One very exciting thing was going to happen the next morning, we were picking someone up form the airport. That someone special was my sister!!! We have not seen each other since Dec 2014. We speak to each other daily, but wow, to actually see each other again after so long….I was beyond excited. Also we had a surprise for her, that’s the day we told her we coming to Italy to spend a few days with her & GC and the boys. We arrive on the 19th  ask your husband about the plans, he knows everything, we are coming to see you all in Italy.

The reason for her quick visit is a complicated thing around her driver’s license….filled with lots of bureaucracy.

Well that little bit of excitement was very short lived. Because on that very day our airline sent an email saying that flights to Italy had to be postponed or cancelled. Sadly we had to opt for the cancellation and a refund.

Corona virus was now spreading quite a bit in Italy they were not on lock-down yet, but the country was starting to suffer under this virus. Countries were not flying in to Italy to avoid the spread.

We spent a day with my sister and then she had to leave and go back home to full lock-down. To the uncertainty of what was going on back home with the number of reported cases escalating daily. The day she left, Italy had just over 3000 confirmed cases.

Our dream mini holiday in Italy was cancelled and we made plans to just come back to Portugal for more time with family after our trip to Ireland. At this point things were still pretty normal in the places we visited and we still had some touristic sightings and visits and lots of family catch ups with long lunches and dinners. Anything that involved lots of food, laughter and love.

At least I got to hug her ♥