Portuguese SAGAS – How can I help?

22549659_1080519445384988_633701982221338649_n24th of October 2017

This summer and many other summers the last 7 years there have been huge fires in my land.

Although this summer has been the worst, some of the others have also been really horrible. What had been added this year is the draught. The horrible lack of rain.

We are morning in my land. We are afraid in my land. We are on the verge of despair.

The devastation is immense.



Looking out of my window and seeing the beauty in the morning and in the afternoon the horror has taken over. People have lost their homes. People have lost their lives. People have lost everything. Companies have burned down to ashes. Animals have been sacrificed by the fires. I cry when I watch the news. Is it never going to end? I ask.

What can I do to help?

Where is the help?

What will the government do?

These questions have been struggling in my mind for some months. During this summer and particularly the latter part of it I have realised how deep my roots are in my little land. The land has taken me under its wings. Here I have friends, true friends, that are supporting me through thick and thin. Here I will bear my bones and here is my final destination on this earth.

I am not going anywhere soon, but eventually I will cross over and become a famous opera singer in my next life.

Now is the time to ask myself what I can do for my little land. For the land that not many decades ago was under dictatorship and is trying to become a modern democracy.

There are some things that need improvement but there are also other things that are perfect. The people and the friendships I have enjoyed are like diamonds and I appreciate each and everyone that has helped me, supported me, taken care of me when I needed and been there for me, always. Those are the people of my little land. Those are my friends. Now they need my help. What can I do?

I know what I can do. It came to me while I was driving through the beauty from Penela to Condeixa and the horror appeared. The wood has disappeared and there is just empty hollow black reality.

We need trees. We need to plant trees. We need to rebuild the woods that have burned this summer like no other summer.

It is easy to say; We need!

It is important to say; I can help and I can do something!

I am going to help.

I know what to do but not how to do it. I need help to be able to help.

I called my friend when I came home from the gym today. I asked her if she would help me. She said YES. She always does when I ask her.

I am going to plant a tree for every year of my living. I am 72 years old. That means 72 trees at least and one more every year until I leave this earth. I am going to plant the trees in my little land and help to rebuild the destruction.

I am not crying anymore. Now it is time to take action. There are rules and regulations that have to be respected. I don´t know anything about trees. I don´t know how to buy them or how or when to plant them. I don´t know what kind of trees would be proper, how big they should be and what species. Should there be oaks or pines or olive trees or some others. I don´t know. That is where I need help. I also need help to apply to the rules and regulations. This is where my friend and her family are going to step in. They are going to help me to do the right thing. I know where I want to plant. I want to plant in Molelos, which is a freguecia in Tondela. Tondela is in the north. My friends live there. My Portuguese family lives there and I want to plant my trees close to them.

I am excited today. This will be great. There will be an adventure every year for the rest of my live where I and my friends will plant trees in the name of love, love for our country and our environment.

Hulda Björnsdóttir


The Outcast – chapter 3 – the coin

The sun was shining and it put kisses on her cheeks.

She was 3 years old.

The mother gave her a coin and the little girl got permission to go to the shop on the corner to buy a candy.

This was a fortune and not often that the little one got a shining coin for treats.

She ran out of the house, towards the shop, which was just a few meters away.

She fell.

She hurt her knee. There was a lot a blood.

She was almost at the shop.

The coin, that she kept in her tiny palm, bounced away, far away.

She was just a little girl and now her world collapsed. She saw a lot of blood. A lot of blood.

She made it home, crying, and the mother took her in her arms, scolded her a bit but when she saw the blood she said:

We need your father now!

The father was just next door; his house was a few meters away. Yes heard the girl screaming. His little girl, and he came over.

He smelled of cigars and medicine.

They put her on the kitchen table. She screamed. He looked at the knee. Some stiches needed here, he said. The little one did not know what that meant, but she knew that when the father came over she was always put to bed and the door closed. He  closed the door. She did not like the  door closed. She was afraid of the dark and she did not like here father who let her stay alone in the dark, while he was talking to the mother.

The mother never closed the door.

Sometimes the mother was working when the little girl went to bed but she never, never closed the door. The door was always open and she could hear her mother using the sowing machine and she could see the light.

It was just the father that closed the door, when he came over, most of the time in the evening when she was already in bed, and he always, always, closed the door.

Now the little girl just wanted to be in her mothers arms and cry. Why did the father have to come when she was in so much pain and there was so much blood? So much red blood.

The problem was that the father and the doctor were the same man.

Now it was not dark outside.

Maybe it would not be dark in the room if he closed the door.

The doctor made the stiches and left.

He did not have to talk to the mother this time.

That was good.

She was safe.

The little one got another coin and went to the shop, now with the mother. They bought 2 candies, one for the mother and one for herself.

The sun was shining again.











Portuguese SAGAS – Rocking the boat

22.october 2017

In my land there are regulations about how to behave in a condominium.

Those regulations are, I recon, to be followed.

Well, there are regulations and there are customs. They don´t always walk hand in hand.

As a foreigner I tried to follow the law just to make sure the neighbours would not kill me, the bloody foreigner that rocked the boat.

Every week I wash my clothes and try to dry them outside, when the weather is good. I have a huge balcony, which was at the beginning, and not until last year, open. Last year I put up a glass wall so now everything is closed if I like to, which I  quite often do.


My neighbours, upstairs, have 2 days per week where the cleaner comes and among other things she does is washing the laundry. Unlike me she hangs the laundry outside the balcony.

This is understandable in a way, she gets more wind and the laundry dries faster. The problem though is that this is not allowed according to the Portuguese law. You can not hang your laundry further down than your balcony floor.

As you can see in the pictures above this is a bit, a BIT beneath their balcony floor and stretches down to my view from my balcony. I just have to reach up and can touch the linnen, which of course I don´t. I am a well behaved woman!

I discussed this problem with a friend of mine in Iceland. He suggested I cut the laundry, the cutting should be from my balcony ceiling and those upstairs would get the message.

Of course I did not cut anything. If had I would not be writing this, for sure I would either be in prison or dead. No doubt in my mind.

Even though I did think about it. I thought about cutting the bead sheet, I thought about it every week. I visualized  it. It was real in my mind, but I did not act on, I did not dare.

Maybe you can spray a paint on it, said my friend.

I did not have any paint in my house and was definitely not going to spend money on the horrible, annoying clothes. No way.

One day, when I came home, this was on Friday, the sheets washing day, I heard a loud discussion above me. The mistress of the house was home and she was furious. What had happened? I was a bit scared.   I had not done anything, I was sure of that. I had thought about it but thoughts don´t materialize, or do they? No, they don´t. I’m not that powerful.

Anyway, the lady upstairs was talking to the people living in next condominium. She was hanging her sheets out and making sure they got as far down to my balcony as possible.

She was telling the lady that I had put a red paint on their  sheets!


This was too much. There was no red paint in my apartment and had never been. I did not have ANY paint at all. The painters had finished painting 2 years ago and my apartment was whitish.

Well, she was convinced that there was read paint on her sheets. I could not do anything about that. For several weeks the sheets you see in the pictures above, the yellow ones, she patted like a baby and hung again and again and again, always making sure it went as far as possible down to block my view.

She hated me, there was no doubt bout that. When I came home and she was leaving with her daughters she made sure the front door was closed. Closed in my nose. What a wonderful upbringing that was. I took out my keys and made sure that if I was leaving and she was coming home I left the front door open for her and even stood there until she had entered. I tried to be polite. That was my revenge.


The laundry does not go quite as far down as before, but now I have got a glass wall and her laundry washes the upper part of my glass. Does she hate me? I don´t think so, not anymore, but there is no lost love between us. The holy ones are nice and considerate, there is no doubt about that! There is no way that I am going take the blame when the laundry upstairs gets dirty while washing my windows. It is not my responsibility, not at all.

Isn,t life wonderful?

Hulda Björnsdóttir




Chinese SAGAS – The Generations

20th of October 2017

On my walks through Fuzhou I often came across interesting people.

I am interested in people and there are always adventures meeting new ones.

One day I was there and came across those two.


Here is a father with his son on the scooter. The son strapped so he won´t fall off. The father with a helmet but not strapped. Just an ordinary day in the Chinese traffic in Fuzhou!

They are the younger generation. I asked if I could take a photo and that was ok and they happy to please the foreigner. These 2 live in the city and always have. They don´t know about the struggle that comes with poverty. That is good. The little one will be spoiled and then he goes to school and the hardship arrives. In school he will have to obey rules. He will have to study hard and make his parents proud. The parents will see the headmaster and the teachers and they will tell how the little one is doing. Sometimes it is difficult to leave home and not see your family every day. Those who live in the dormitory, those who come from faraway, sometimes suffer from loneliness and are home sick. There is nothing to do about it. This is Chinese life. Those who live nearby are lucky. The parents pick them up every night and bring them back to school in the morning.  How will it be for the little on in the picture above? I wonder, but now he is happily enjoying sitting on his fathers scooter, driving through Fuzhou.

Then I came across these 2, the women with their story written on their faces.

Have you ever thought about how beautiful wrinkles are? They tell the story no one will tell you. The mother and daughter in these photos have a story to tell. They have been living in the land for decades. They have experienced the change and they have been part of the growth.

The mother was a farmer but now she has moved to her daughter in Fuzhou and lives with her the last part of her being on this earth. When the daughter gets old her children will take care of her. The circle goes on and on.

The mothers wrinkles tell the story of hardship. The story of struggling to have food on the table and to be able to send her children to school.  She did not go to school but her child did. This is the story of so many families. Then came the time when the farmers had to give way to the newly rich and their buildings. The farmers moved to the cities and the government made new houses, new islands, new condominiums, all for the rich ones.

In Min Hou I got6 to know one farmer who did not want to move. He was in his little cottage in the middle of the school premises. There was no way he was going to leave. The government was going to pay him for his land. No, that was not it. This was his land, his home, his living was there and no one going to convince him that a better life was waiting in the city. Eventually he had to give in and one day the little cottage and the farmer were not there anymore. It was sad. It was sad to see first hand how the luxury of the rich ones affected the poorer.

That evening, when I drove to my house, I thought about who and how many farmers had to be moved so I could live in my luxury house? Where did they go? Did they still live in the neighbourhood? Had they found work?

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My beautiful district is  handmade islands. Islands made on the farmers land.  Islands that make my life beautiful and serene but what about the farmers that left? Are the ones I see when I leave my area those who had to sacrifice their homes for me? They are all friendly when I meet them. I have not asked where they come from. I don´t dare to.

Hulda Björnsdóttir

Chinese Sagas – My life in China – The dog

20th of October 2017

One of my neighbours had a dog.

Dogs are not allowed in the are. At least not walking free. If there are dogs allowed they have to be small, the owners have to carry them on their arms, they can not walk on the road and they can not be running around like this one did.

These neighbours did not live in their house all the time. They came sometimes during weekends, and sometimes during holidays. I’m sure they worked somewhere, at least the man. The woman was the boss. She was the boss and  the workers had to obey her command.

She was the one who shouted at the workers if they did not do what she told them to do. She was definitely the boss and the husband perhaps the provider. Interesting couple and they had a daughter. She was maybe 20 something. At least  not a teenager. She came sometimes with the parents, after the house was decorated, and she even spent some days in the island.

With her came the dog.

The white dog.

The big dog.

The dog that everyone was afraid of.

In the morning the daughter let out the white one to pee. She just opened the door and he sprang out. After a while she came out in her pyjamas, trying to get the naughty one inside. She begged, she threatened, she was nice, she was mad, she was everything, but the dog had a blast and wrapped her around his finger. No problem there. Usually she went inside without him.

When the security guards came on their scooters the dog had a blast. He barked at them and jumped at them, he bit their heals and was having a blast. The guards were afraid of him. He followed them everywhere.

This was the dog that one morning stood at my front door barking.

Oh no, you are not going to stand barking at my door, at my house, and think you can intimidate me.

No way. Now you are going to see where David bought the ale, stupid dog, I said inside my door, contemplating what to do.

Well, something needed to be done about this. The workers were afraid of the dog, they could not come to the area  on their scooters. Even on their scouters they were attacked. Well, not attacked but barked at and intimidated and nipped at.

Now he was standing at my door, barking like hell, and I decided to feed him!

I opened the door and gave him an apple. An apple!

He looked at me, I looked at him, he looked at the apple and I looked mad.

Oh, she is mean, he must have thought. She just thinks I am going to eat an apple in the morning, an apple, seriously!

Yes you ugly stupid dog, you are going to eat this apple. I have got more and that is all you get. You are mean and I am meaner. I am not afraid of you and you better stop barking at my door.

He looked at me, and ate the apple.

I went outside, to take a walk.

You can come with me if you behave, I said.

He followed me. We took a long walk, a really long one. He got tired and went home ahead of me.

He never barked at my door, not anymore. I won the staring.

I am not saying we became best friends but I spoke to him in Icelandic that sounds quite harsh and he was used to Chinese begging. There was no begging at my part and he just waited outside my door the next morning for his apple and a walk.

Hulda Björnsdóttir



Portuguese SAGAS – the devastation

19th of October 2017

Last weekend was horrible.

The country was on fire.

The tiny country, my country, my little and in many ways primitive land was on fire.

47 deaths are confirmed today, or that number are the last one I heard the authorities tell on TV yesterday. Today I have not opened the TV. I can’t.

My heart is broken.

When I drove to Coimbra yesterday and saw the devastation around the national highway the feeling was like something ugly was crushing my heart.

The beautiful robust green trees that looked like broccolis, were dead. They were all black. Just on the left side of the road. The right side did not catch the fire. Because one side is safe the devastation is even more visual.

I have driven this road almost every day, these 7 years I have lived in my tiny country. I know every twist and turn. I know every hole, and I know where the hookers are. I have watched the farmers pick their crops, their grapes and the olives. I have seen the happiness and joy when there is a good crop and I have seen the farmers traveling in their tractors and their friends and family sitting or standing on the trailer. I have seen life and joy on this road, but today it was death I saw.

My first year here in my land I went to Viera De Leiria and there is a beautiful beach. On the road to the Leiria there is a huge pine forest. A huge one. Evergreen, and always full of pines. I picked up pines to use in my home to light the fire. Every year I picked up pines there, filled my car with bags who held the fresh wonderful pines. It took abut half an hour to fill up the bags. The pines were everywhere. Then I went to the beach and spent the day there in the sunshine and listened to the sound of the waves and watched the fishermen landing their catch. This was my heaven during the summer.


Now there is no pine forest. The devastation is complete. Nothing left.

Today Portugal is in morning.

Today is rain and we praise the higher power for answering our prayers. The drought had been complete this year. Everything is dry. The rain is not too heavy, if it was there might be land slights all around. In my tiny land there is not much lowland and the houses and the villages are built on the mountain side.

When I drove to Coimbra today I noticed that some of the trees are leaning more to the side than they did last week. They are sad and heartbroken just like me.

In one of the villages 50 houses destroyed. In another one a 90 year old woman was rescued and moved to a shelter. She had been picking up her cabbage but was told she needed to come. She left with her rescuers. When she came back her house was gone. Nothing but burned ruins. She is 90 years old.

Today we share this beautiful white bird of peace.

Today we remember the victims.


We are grateful for the cold and rain. The government says they did not expect fires in October. I have been here 7 summers and 7 Octobers. Every October there has been a fire. Not as terrible as this year, but always some. The excuses are lame.

We are morning the victims. Their lives cut short in a moment of madness.

Hulda Björnsdóttir


Chinese SAGAS – My birthday

19th of October 2017

What made me happy during this birthday, the 65th of them, because the weeding was more a feeling about being used, was that 5 minutes before midnight a friend of mine here in Quanzhou called to tell me that his wife had given birth to a son just a minute ago.

I met this wonderful couple soon after I moved to the city and when I was told that the baby  was supposed to be due on the 25th of May I said that maybe I would get the little one as a birthday present on my 65th birthday the 22.of May. That little boy came to this world just before midnight and we have the same birthday.

The parents asked me to give him an English name and the little one is now Peter. Peter is someone strong and like a rock for those who need him, that is why I chose this name. The little Peter would grow up and take care of his parents, just as they would care for the new borne and the young one and the teenager and the grown up one. That is how it´s done in China.

This is a wonderful family and what an honour to get a phone call immediately after the birth.

There are some peculiar customs around the birth. Peculiar according to our western customs but normal here in China.

The mothers have to be in bed for a month. They can not take a shower, the water is considered to be dangerous for them and the mothers in love make sure that everything is according to the traditions. I have heard that the fathers sometimes try to circle around the rules, when no one sees, and help the mother to take a shower and wash. Of course this tradition is terrifying and many mothers dread this, but having a baby is vital.

The baby is introduced to those closest to him about a month after birth. There is a party, not a big one, just the closest friends, and I was invited. Being invited was another great honour for me and showed me how close my friendship with this young family was. We met in a restaurant, the baby and the parents with few others. We had dinner together and held the baby. He was tiny, tiny, as the children I have seen is this country are. Everyone was delighted. This little one would be the jewel of the family. He would be the only child and spoiled like they all are but that is ok. Everyone was happy and he knows about the foreign woman that is his grandmother, just as his real one in China.

I met the family when I was looking for a place to wash my car. Their company was just around the corner from the dormitory.

As always, in small companies I was  offered tea and  the owner and the boss sat down with me and the friendship began.

The husband showed me around the city, took me to the temple and other wonderful places and explained. He also introduced me to some of his friends. Among others there was a owner of a huge hotel. People like my friend and his friends are just like normal people. They don´t walk with their noses up in the air. They are simply wonderful.

He had a factory that made beautiful things of iron. I went there with him and got an insight into how the work is in a Chinese factory. He gave me those two wall candlesticks and they decorate my home and remind me of my dear friends.

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Now, all these years later, he has sold the factory and has another business. What has not changed is our friendship. When you make friends with the Chinese it lasts forever. Not just while you are around. That is at least my experience.

Hulda Björnsdóttir