Well what an adventure the last four weeks have been at the home stay. After my two past experiences I really didn't know what to expect from this one, but as it turned out it was the cultural experience that I was expecting all along. I worked hard in the mornings doing anything from weeding to pruning to feeding the animals, water blasting, digging, raking and planting, and I managed to have a pretty good time as there was another helper here who happened to also be from New Zealand so we got along well. I managed to slip down a small bank into a stream, scratch my leg open with a piece of wire and generally get myself fitly on a regular basis. But all in the aid of hard work and good fun, up until the point that it got to 40 degrees then my work ethic did seem to slip a bit!
We had some damn good social occasions, birthday parties, leaving parties, dinner parties, watching the footie, lunches... ok so most occasions seemed to involve food and beer but that's all you need! I did make sure about three days before I left to have a dry day so I couldn't be accused of drinking for a whole month straight, so I think that makes it kind of ok, right, right??
I think I would be here all day if I was to recite all the happenings of the last month so I will note the highlights... oh where to start......
1. Some of the neighbours 'down the lane' had their brother over to stay and they were all of the 'good sort' variety, so we had hung out with them a bit and it came to the day before Brian went back home to Scotland so Kim and I decided to walk down the lane to go and say good bye on the Sunday (possibly I should have noted that the night before we were at a party till 4am and were feeling worse for wear). So we headed out in the afternoon when it was a bit cooler for the 20 minute walk down the lane, and this lane was not a well travelled country lane but more of an overgrown cattle track. This was not a vehicle access track but just a link between properties which I thought Kim had walked before, 5 mins into it she told me she hadn't - I don't know where I got that from then? But Kerren and Brian did walk up it a week ago to see us so we knew it was passable. So we were away and soon after starting we found a fork in the track where a fence was broken, but greater sense told us to follow the track track not the track into the paddock track, and on we went with our 'snake sticks' as it was pretty over grown and we were hitting the ground as we went to deter the snakes. On and on we went until we were bashing our way through 2m high broom bush and brambles swearing and getting scratched and totally pissed off and hung over and well over it, and wondered were or 20min stroll had gone terribly wrong??We were standing on the rock walls and trying to see over the paddocks to see if there was a house in sight but we saw nothing so we eventually admitted defeat and turned back, we retraced our steps up the lane then decided to go into the paddock and up a big hill littered with huge boulders (the scenery was really spectacular there) and tried once again to see if we could see anything ANYTHING?? We were also lucky as there are natural water springs all over the place in farms and on the side of the road where many, many years ago they have been directed into a pipe into a trough, and there was one we passed in that paddock so we gratefully got a drink of fresh water as we were parched! On our accent up the hill Kim spotted a man and he spotted us and started yelling at us, or to us, we weren't really sure, so we kept going and tried to yell back no comprendo and that we needed to go to the top to find our friends house, Kim was doing so impressive charades which had me in hysterics. When we got to the top and found nothing again we went back down and while doing do heard a cacophony of bells so we waited and tons of goats wandered past(all the goats have bells here along with the dogs and sheep). So we sat and waited and while doing so the guy came back and we thought we might be in for a k*** ing, but long story semi short with Kims limited understanding of a Portuguese and some more great charades we found out that we were talking to Francesco the goat farmer and we were trying to tell him we were lost and tiring to find our amigo Kerren, and he was like sim sim, yes yes, Professor Kerren (as he is a teacher) and we were YES YES Kerren where?(with the universal motion for looking with hand as a visor over your eyes scanning the horizon) and he pointed in a direction over the farm land and we were kind of confused but thought we would give it a go and set off cross country. Five minutes later he spotted us from another paddock and yelled at us to go around the other side of the hill and we felt like complete dorks once again, then we eventually arrived at a grassy overgrown path that looked familiar and then their house appeared from behind the trees!! But we couldn't see anyone so we approached with trepidation TWO f***ING HOURS after we had left our place and knocked pleadingly at the door, Kim was actually on her knees and we just waited and thank god they emerged!!! The wondered what the hell had happened to us, as we looked all dishevelled and scratched up and asked why we were there, and we said to say good bye to Brian, and they said why, he's not leaving till the day after tomorrow! Arghghghghghghghgh what a f***ing debarkle that we could have undertaken the next day when we were actually feeling alive!! (And we were meant to cut cross country where Francesco told us to go, but it was never mentioned to us before that point even though Karen was sure he had told us!) sigh..... They had a good laugh at our expense!
2. Another day we went out to watch one of the world cup football matches to see Portugal play and we went down to the local old school hall turned pub and had a few beers and watched the game, funnily enough I can't even remember the score but once the game ended we went outside and sat at a table under a tree and imbibed one or two or twenty more and what started as a couple of hour outing turned into a 6 hour event! By the time 9pm rolled around we really thought we should be getting home and since the guy that gave us a ride was drunk as a skunk we thought it was probably best to make our own way home. The place we were at was probably only a 10min drive away from our home but was going to be a damn long walk but we set off with enthusiasmas we weren't very sober ourselves. Fifteen minutes later with enthusiasm suddenly starting to decline and a despite need to pee I though it would be a great idea to hitch, which Kim thought was very funny as we live in the back of beyond and we would be lucky to see anyone on our walk home. So after a quick pee behind a rock wall and some very elegant scaling of a fence - there was a serious possibility of a face plant whilst scaling it! I was back on the road with my thumb ready, and as luck would have it there was a car......... and it drove straight past us haha, so on we went but within five minutes along came another and he stopped and I was very pleased with my effort (yes I know not much effort required but it was still a small victory!) So in we hopped and showed him the address of Yolandes and he said si, si and off we went all the while he was trying to talk to us in Spanish. With Kim and my minimal understanding we were trying to chat back but really had no idea! Once we were within 10mins walk of our house we said aki aki, here here, so he didn't have to drive down our bumpy narrow track and he stopped and we got out and he then proceeded to get his wallet out and show us pictures of his kids and wife and try and tell us about them, it was all very funny, especially as we were half cut and thought everything was hilarious. But thanked him very much and of we stumbled and got home sometime around 10 in the pitch black but we made it! Haha what a day!
3. For one of the weeks I was there Yolande went back to London and left the place in Kim and my capable hands....queue evil laughter..... no no it actually all went pretty well. However one day when Kim went out I was feeding the animals in the afternoon (5 dogs, 2 cats, 2 sheep, 4 pigs, 3 guinea fowl, 13 chickens) and I noticed one of the chickens had got out, and as the dogs were out at the same time I shooed them back into the garage and went over and put it back over the gate, so I then turned around and let the dogs go back out to have a run while I went and cut some grape vines for the pigs and sheep, and as I did I turned back around to see 8 chickens looking at me from this side of the fence, freaking sneaky ninja chickens! I did not hear them get over, and they did it so fast, I turned only for a moment!? So you could imagine the dogs thought this was great so I quickly shooed them into the dog run paddock and shut the gate behind us and took them into the vineyard and thought I would deal with the chickens in a bit. So I came back with the vines and dogs and let them back into their run where they promptly ran to the other end and out the second gate the workmen had left open (and no, I had no freaking idea it was open!) just the exact moment Kim came home. She opened the gate to see the carnage unfold where dog verses chicken was happening on every front and I was running around screaming at them all and shooing and yelling and prising excited dogs off terrified chickens! So after the help of Kim who thought I had gone mad and let everything free-range we had all animals where they should be apart from one chicken that had kamikazed itself in the brambles and we had to cut the poor sucker free.... sigh.... what a sight!(Several days later we saw the little suckers squeeze under the gate which is why I never heard them fly over! Damn ninja chickens)
4. Oh then there was the day of the fire. We went out to go for a swim at a guys stream and we went over to the camp site to pick up another helper and we were to set off for the river but the fire service was blocking the road, and then we saw a small forest fire about 2km away where the firemen were fighting it, so we doubled back and went to go swimming at the dam but couldn't find the correct entrance so we asked a guy working there who promptly told us it was illegal to do so, so we thought it was best not to push out luck and get arrested. So back to the campsite we went and we thought we would just swim there in the pool, and when we looked over the small fire had turned into a huge fire and was coming towards us. Everyone was on tender hooks, we were waiting to see if we could help to take anything from the house or help drive any elderly away from the place as there are helps of old dears living around there, so we waited and watched the fire service and two helicopters with monsoon buckets and guys going in on tractors ploughing fire breaks. It was scary but exciting at the same time, and we were very lucky as the wind changed and the house was spared but we could feel the heat of the flames and were waiting for word from the fire service that were at the end of the drive so if we had to go we were going to be out of there asap. The fire got up to 200m of the house, man what an experience, and damn good job by the fire fighters too!
Oh so many stories....Well I suppose I should wrap it up with the most memorable.
5.On my last day we were finishing off odd jobs and also dressing the gazebo for the dinner party we were having that night as our farewell dinner and I heard Yolande yell out 'we have escapee sheep!' and they had managed to get free while they were being moved intoanother paddock. So I saw them run up past me and into the garage, that being a bad place for sheep with dog and chicken food, and paints and fertilizers and many odds and sods. Kim at this point was letting the workmen in the front gate so I ran in after them and shooed them which they promptly ignored so I grabbed one and pushed it with my legs towards the door where I felt a sharp sting and thought I had got another prickle form out of their wool so I brushed my leg and felt another, where I looked down to see a scorpion hanging off my hand! I screamed and flicked it to the floor and stood there in shock. The bloody cat was there right beside where I flicked it and just stayed sitting there, so I got a lid and covered the scorpion and went to the door and yelled at Kim that I had been stung, trying not to freak out too much. She couldn't hear me and yelled something back about the sheep and I couldn't hear her and I yelled back that I got stung and she yelled back something about the sheep..... Anyway you get the point so when she came back down the drive with the workman she found me hobbling around and shaking my hand and yelling I HAVE BEEN STUNG BY A SCORPION!! I never saw some run so fast in jandals, off she went to find Yolande and then back and tried to converse with the Portuguese work men and figured out they were recommending ice so got me some ice for my leg and hand and Yolande came running up and rung some people to find out where to take me as we are in a small town and the closest hospital is 45mins away. We were all pretty sure it wasn't fatal or anything but there apparently are a heap of different types and the bigger black ones are apparently more dangerous than the smaller brown ones that got me, but you never really know how someone is going to react to the venom. Yolande couldn't get hold of anyone so off we zipped to the closest chemist for advice and they sent us to the medical centre around the corner which we were promptly sent away from the go to the next town 10mins away. So once there we went into the A&E and Yolande said in her best Portuguese, scorpion sting, twice, and they said they would see me straight away. She also said that they must see this all the time where she just answered no. Trust me to get stung when all the locals seem to be able to avoid them! The whole thing was actually pretty amusing - I mean minus the searing pain, I think Yolande was in a worse state than me! They asked at reception for my passport number and of course I hadn't even thought of picking that up before coming so had to ring Kim to find it in my bag, she had to go deep into a bag within a bag and she finally found it and started to recite the numbers where the phone promptly died. Of course right? So I lay there and got an antivenom injection in my leg and another in my hand (that was the worst bit as there isn't much on your little finger for an injection!) and then another as a painkiller, and then was given some icepacks and a prescription for 8 days of antibiotics. At the counter we couldn't give them any passport number so they decided my drivers license was going to be ok then gave me the bill, can you believe it..... It was 2.4Euro! Now that's a bargain! I expected it would be 50 or more!! So all good and back home again (the others suggested it was quite a big ploy to have the last day off - Yolande said it would have just been easier to ask than to go to all of this trouble!!) haha
So yes that ended my home stay in Marvao. So many little things that would take forever to recite, but it was just all in all a great experience and great fun. Now it's back to civilisation for me for a while and a whole new maze of trains, busses, metros and hostels, wish me luck!