Written by: Diogo Mello
Anticipation is one of those things that can lead you to complete success or absolute failure. After an entire year’s wait we boarded Sata Airlines and began our voyage to Açores. No Harbordite could fathom the series of events that would happen next. Air so crisp one could take a bite out of it, fresh enough to clear all sinus irritations. Driving to the Pousada Hostel we felt at home, as though each of us had been there before and knew every secret the island held.
Each morning a view of the sun rising glittered over the ocean’s horizon and painted a pink tone on every bit of skin it touched. Have you ever been awoken by a school of Tunas? No, you have not. Rather than a large fish flopping on the bedroom floor, in Portugal Tunas is a fraternity of students who sing in competitions. We were graced with balcony seats (literally from our balcony) to one of these concerts.
Throughout the city of Ponte Delgada there’s a faint smell of marina: each break of tide releases wholesomeness. There is a higher chance of being struck by lightning twice than finding someone who won’t smile and wish you a good morning on this island. From day one, no matter where we went, we were watched like zoo animals, rare exotic creatures who may have smelt like maple syrup. Walking on the cobblestoned roads is when it completely sunk in for us that we were no longer on the streets of Toronto. In that moment we were European. Within one day’s travel we experienced a new culture to its absolute fullest.
Frequent travelers say being ill on a trip is the worst-case scenario. I disagree. Within three days a majority of the group had some type of sickness, varying from sore throats, sniffles, and/or sad boy syndrome. From these illnesses we all became vulnerable to one another and became a “Family” and even began referring to the Pousada as home.
Every inch of this island offers a breathtaking view. Our schedule was more packed than the 401 at five o’clock. We went from exotic gardens, including one with the oldest tree in Sao Miguel imported from Australia, riding a whale watching boat, and eating the greatest Bar-B-Q chicken ever with hand cut-fries. Despite the lack of sleep, and a constant need for a Gallon (latte – which cost a euro) and weird tasting milk, dull moments didn’t exist. Have you stood on top of an old clock tower and watched the sunset? Climbed the side of a waterfall? Or dipped your feet into a black sand beach? What about Magnum ice cream bars that don’t cost your entire paycheck? Or drank Kima – or as I refer to it, “A saints tears”?
We found ourselves forgetting our city roots and willingly milking cows, drinking milk straight out the utter, climbing mountains and hills with ease, and navigating our way through farm yards. Even the least religious person was left speechless by the gold leafed detail and beauty of each church on the island.
Anticipation is one of those things that can cause misery or take us to joy. There came a point when I looked at the people on the trip and I no longer saw just another face in the halls, I saw friends; yes, it’s the biggest cliché man has discovered but no other word compares.
As I write these words down I find it more difficult to explain to those who didn’t come how the island stole a piece of our hearts, how we saw each other at our absolute worst and best, how we managed to fall asleep anywhere and everywhere, and find the simplest of moments the best. Sitting beside a little boy on the plane, I asked how he liked his trip. He answered “I met my family for the first time.”
I replied, “ I think I made one.”