Just a thought – Can I take a NO for an answer?

3rd of October 2017

This morning there was a thick fog all over my village.

I opened my kitchen door and looked out. What a sight ! Everything grey and mystic. The magic in the fog is something that never ceases to surprise me. My imagination takes the flight and goes into the ghost world where everything is different. What is behind the fog? Where does it go? Where does it come from? Will it last? Sailing into it can be dangerous not to mention driving into a foggy wall.

This morning, on my way to the gym in Coimbra, which is 45 kilometres away, I saw the wonders of the fog. I left Penela in sunshine and drove for about 20 minutes. Then the miracle happened. Over one of the mountains there was sunshine but the middle of the slope was covered in a grey, dark grey, cloud sailing like a slow fox dancer moving gracefully like only slow fox dancers can do.

Driving a bit further there was a wonderful blue clear sky with a thick grey fog beneath, just like a carpet, covering the mountains. Driving into the unknown, the ghost cloud, turning on the parking lights, taking down the sunglasses, was something. Nothing in front, just this thick grey carpet.

When arriving in Santa Clara, where my gym  is, the fog had disappeared and the sun shone. This was a cold morning but would be up to 30 later in the afternoon. Just an ordinary morning. A glorious day ahead. Or so you would assume.

Only few months ago I began a recovery after 2 years of serious illness. The gym was vital for my recovery. I would have preferred to go to Condeixa gym, but its a small one and during the winter its really cold there so I decided to go to Santa Clara, even though it takes about 45 minutes to get there. At the beginning I was not happy in my new gym. It was not a friendly environment for me who did not have a personal trainer, by choice. I complained and it changed. Now the coaches do bid good morning which is all I wanted, just to feel a tiny bit welcome. This is not cheap place, I can tell you that. What looks to me is that the upper class is attending this place, which is ok.

In the beginning I was evaluated and had to tell the history of my health which is normal in a place like this. The coach made a plan for me, an exercise plan, which was in my mind rather useless. I followed the plan for a little while but then just gave up and used my knowledge to make my own. Of course there are machines I don´t know and have to make acquaintance with. We managed with the help of some good people, me and the machines managed, I mean.

The coach that evaluated me has been trying to help me and guide me. She was friendly and I was happy. She asked many times if I would like her to teach me the new program and even one day she took 30 minutes and made me do something different. Little did I know. This looked quite nice. At the end she asked if I wanted her to be my personal trainer? I asked about the price and  said no.  I told her I could not afford to. She tried to convince me and I told her it was impossible for me. I explained a bit about how my money these months go to the taxman, which I am happy about. I am happy to be able to contribute to the society that takes good care of me when I need help.

She continued to “help” me when it was her sift to look after those training on their own. I still thought she was just being friendly.

One day she told me it was impossible for her to continue “helping” me and she did not want to get some crap from the others about paying to much attention to me. Now she sat down with me and explained once again, how important it would be for me to have a personal trainer! I explained again, I did not want a personal trainer and I could not afford it. Then it came.

She told me, there was a customer of her, that earned 500 euros per month. He prioritised ! He smokes 2 packs of cigarettes per day. He pays 174 EUR per month for personal training. He has to take a lot of medicine, because of his health. HIS PRIORITY is the personal training, she said.

I asked her, as a stupid woman, how he could live? How could he pay for electricity, rent, food, medicine, health care, clothes and so on?  At that time I did not know the price of cigarettes here in my land, but now I know. Her reply was, he values his health more than anything!

Right. I went home. I thought about the situation. Most of all I thought about how annoying this endlessly business trying was. I already pay 200 euros per month for the gym, 50 for the gym, and 150 for diesel on my car. Am I going to spend more on the Gym? No.

If you smoke 2 packs of cigarettes per day it is 300 euros per month. If you earn 500 per month and spend 300 on cigarettes what’s left  is 200 euros. If you pay 174 for personal training and 50 for the gym you are in minus. Makes sense to me.

I came to the conclusion the either the coach thought I was an idiot or she was obsessed with getting more private clients and could not take a no for an answer.

This morning I just said good morning to her and nothing more. I was not happy about her approach and just wanted to be left alone.

Did that happen? O no! She came to the machine I was working on, stopped my training and asked why this long face today? I got pissed off. Told her to leave me alone. She was not going to give up. We are going to talk about what’s wrong next day, she told me.

No, we are not going to talk about anything, my reply was.

When going to the shower I noticed she was talking to her fellow coaches about me and my peculiar mood!

So, when I left I asked the receptionists to talk to her and tell her to leave me alone. I don´t need her degrading help. If she does not leave me alone I will complain to the boss, the receptionists know that, and if nothing works I will just leave and find another gym. There are plenty of them in Coimbra.

My point is this. I have said no, more than once. I have explained my choice. The argument, that she just does want to help me, is fine. That is business. If I don´t want to buy what I am being offered a NO should be enough. I should not be harassed because someone is desperate to get clients.

When driving home from the gym this morning I was quite happy. The sky was bluer than blue, the autumn colours shone like never before. Everything was perfect. I had stood up for myself, which was a victory in itself.  The fog had disappeared until tomorrow morning and it was warm. Tomorrow is another summer clothes day and what more can I wish for? The next 7 days we will most likely have a wonderful weather and it is October. The grapevine gets more beautiful every day. The grapes are already gone into huge barrels and will make the people happy and drunk. The olives are next. Soon I will see the farmers on their way to pick the olives. It will be grate if they can do it in a warm weather. Usually they are freezing but it could be different this year.

Everything is changing in the nature. One thing does not change. We need to be able to take a NO for a answer.

Hulda Björnsdóttir

 

Portuguese sagas – My first days in Portugal – I was freezing to death

30th of September 2017

I came to Portugal in January 2011 and it was very cold.

There was no heating in the snake house and during the night I could not sleep. I was paying 600 euros per month for this tiny house and it was not even warm.

Something had to be done. My dun quilt  was traveling by post from China to Portugal and it could take some more days. I had put on several clothes during the night but nothing helped.

I needed to find warm pyjamas and the landlord needed to do something. I had been complaining but nothing happened.

One day, after traveling from Podentes to Penela by taxi, I found a shop in the main road that sold all kinds of everything. In this road, which is the Rua de Coimbra, there were many shops in the year 2011. Nowadays many of them have disappeared. Sadly my little village is slowly changing.

I went into this wonderful tiny shop with all kinds of everything. The woman spoke English. These were my first days in the country and of course I did not know much of the language. Almost nothing, to tell the truth.

Did she have warm pyjamas? I asked.

No, she did not have anything big enough for me, I am tall. But she could order them and in 2 days they would be in Penela. Wonderful, I would not freeze to death, just as long as I could survive these 2 days.

This was my beginning. I was in the main road, where all the shops were and the people. During the day, when the sun came out, the shop keepers stood outside. Inside the shops was cold but outside it was wonderful. The sun is amazing.

Anyway, my new friends taught me some words in Portuguese, at least so I could ask politely. I tried and we had fun. Some words the strange tall woman could not pronounce, there was no way she could say Portuguese J. I think that sound is the most difficult in the world. Even Chinese is easier. We had a good laugh and everyone was nice. I told them how much I was paying for the house in Podentes, renting, and they lost their breath.

I was being robbed, they told me.

Well, I needed to find an apartment to buy, as quickly as possible. And I did. Of course I did, but I also needed a car. From Podentes to Penela there was hardly any public transportation and I needed my freedom.  I could not leave at 6 in the morning and spend the whole day in the village until the bus travelled to my home late in the afternoon. I needed a car.

When in Podentes there was no way out except by taxi and it was expensive and inconvenient. When in Penela I could keep warm, at least while sitting in the library using their computer. In the snake house there was no internet and no phone. In the snake house I just saw the next door neighbours windows and I came from a beautiful area in China where I could see the mountains and the lake and the trees and the beauty.

And I was even freezing to death in Podentes and the landlord told me to put on more clothes and more blankets on me during the night.

Seriously, there is a limit how much weight you can tolerate around you when in bed.

One day, when I came home, there was a heater, a really small one, just inside the door. The landlord had brought it. Did it help? Not much, it was tiny and the bathroom, oh, the bathroom had a huge round hole in it where the wind blew through like mad. I did not see any snakes going through the hole but the could have. Did the landlord do something about the hole, when I pointed it out to him that I could not survive taking a shower in there and needed to go to the bar to pee? Well, he told me to put some papers in the hole!!!

Yes, it was wonderful living in the snake house in Podentes, something I will most likely never forget, but now, being warm, I can laugh. At the time I could not even cry, the tears would have frozen on my cheeks.

Hulda Björnsdóttir

Portuguese Sagas – The monastery of Santa Cruz (Coimbra)

30th of September

Last Wednesday I went with a dear friend to Coimbra. We had lunch together at an Indian restaurant. She had chicken and I fish. I love this restaurant. It is in centre close to the Tourist Bureau. A beautiful restaurant which reminds me of India. Since I have been there many times the waitress and the cooks have become friends. The food is cooked on the spot. Nothing buffet there. Just wonderful fresh food. Just as it should be.

The pity about the Chinese restaurants here is that they all adjust. Maybe everyone adjusts, I don´t know. But this is such a shame because Chinese food is wonderful but when they have added fried potatoes and fried chicken it is not Chinese anymore. At least I don´t want food like that when I go to a Chinese restaurant.

So, going through the centre of Coimbra there is a huge  church which I usually visit if on foot there. I like to play a tourist in this area.

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The picture above is from Wikipedia, I hope it is ok for me to put it here. If not I will change it the next time I go to Coimbra and take a new one.

Inside the church there are tiles, blue ones, who tell a story. Every one is unique.  I wonder how the builders could make buildings like this in the year 1131? How did they manage to get to the top?

The tiles are not the only historic phenomenon. Just look at the door. Who has been inside? What is inside? Is there anything?

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Who has walked through this door? The trap is used like everything else in the wonderful building. The steps, the floors, the stones, everything is marked with the steps those who lived there centuries ago, took.

Two kings are buried in the church. This was the most important monastic house outside the walls of Coimbra during the early days of the Portuguese monarchy. The monastery and the church were erected between 1132 and 1223. The monastery was granted numerous papal privileges and royal grants, which allowed the accumulation of considerable wealth, at the same time as it consolidated its position on the politico-institutional and cultural scene. Its school, with its vast library, was highly respected in medieval times and was a  meeting point for the intellectual and power elites.

King Alfonso Henriques is buried in the church. I think he is there watching over those who visit.

Nothing remains of the early Romanesque monastery.

In the first half of the 16th century, the Monastery was completely renovated by King Manuel’s order.

The whole monastic complex, the church and the tombs of King Alfonso Henriques and of King Sancho I, were rearranged and transferred to the main chapel in 1530, where they still lie in a sculptural work by Nicolau Chanterene.

I find it amazing that I can go to a church, now in the year of 2017 and visit the graves of kings from the 11th century.  I can sit there and contemplate of eternity. This is part of life. Just sitting and letting your imagination wander with the help of the beautiful blue tiles that cover every wall.

The altar, the Pipe organ which is from the 18th century, the steps, the floor, the doors, the font, everything is full of history. And the outside. My oh my, the outside is something.

After sitting for a while, wandering around, discovering something you have not seen before in this amazing church, you walk through thick wooden doors into the sunshine and from the silence into the ordinary day. Your life will never be the same if you have taken in the history you just witnessed.

Hulda Björnsdóttir

 

 

The autumn has arrived

24th of September 2017

The autumn has arrived here in Penela in Portugal, with all its glory.

I love this time of the year. After a hot summer the cold breeze is soothing like a healing hand.

The clear sky is covered with pictures. Blue and grey is dominating. What wonders are there? Who lives in the sky? Where do they come from? Why do they go away?

When sitting at my computer, writing, I look up and out through my door. What a beauty. I have to share this with you . The beauty can not be put into words. You have to see it for yourself.

This is autumn in all its grace and glory. The autumn in my home town and the clock is almost half past six and the evening gliding in.

Yesterday I drove to Taveiro. I needed to get a big ball to sit on. My body is needing some pampering. I had already bought a blue one but my legs are terrible long and the blue one was not big enough. I needed the orange one, and off I went.

While driving through the highway I noticed the trees. There are trees everywhere here in my country. They are ever green and they are grapevine and olive trees and just ordinary trees. Here in the centre of the tiny country, where I live, the trucks are slim and I sometimes wonder how they can survive the storms, but they do. They somehow sway back and forth. I have seen it when looking from my balcony. In the north the trucks are bold and strong, protecting themselves and the branches from the cold winter. Different in the south also. There the trees are smaller. The cork is there. A beautiful tree which takes ages to grow but when it is there it´s of great value. I love the cork. Nowadays we make all kinds of things from the cork. Bags, purses, shoes and even umbrellas.

When I was in Taveiro yesterday I took some photos of the trees around the retail park. Some are colourful, some are just tired and want to rest, some need water, the truth is they all need water. I love them all. They make me happy. Those trees are safe. They will not be burned down by arsenics. Their beauty will still be there next year.

While driving yesterday I noticed that cleaning was over. There were huge gaps but no black horror. Next year we will find some new tiny tiny shoots. They are strong and the roots are deep.

Here in Penela there were big fires 5 years ago (or maybe 6 years ago). Yesterday I noticed that the new grow is already a meter high and smiling happily. This years disaster is still black and sad but during the winter we will burn the wood that is left and everything will be clean for the coming spring.

But now it is autumn. My favourite season with the colours and beauty that no other season has.

The winters are cold here in my land. Very cold. We think that Portugal is  always warm but that is before we move here. Just as in my beloved Chine. The summers are extremely hot and the winters extremely cold.

Is this maybe something like life. Sometimes very happy and other times really sad? Could it be?

It crossed my mind while driving yesterday and contemplating on the beauty in front of me, how miserable those who make life take a turn to the worse for others, are. How the guilty feeling must be eating them up and they try to justify their actions by blaming the others.

Taking responsibility for ones actions is freedom. Freedom that includes the gift of beauty and ability to enjoy the life ahead.

Hulda Björnsdóttir

 

 

 

The Outcast – The doctor has arrived –

Chapter 1.  The doctor

 

A young boy lies in his bed. He is seriously ill. He lives at the countryside in a tiny country close to the North Pole. The country of fire and ice.

Outside the storm rages, with heavy snow. The children can not get back from the schools on their own. They have to be picked up. The wind is such that grown ups are struggling. The children need to be carried on shoulders that have seen much worse. This is just a typical winter day.

The doctor lives in the village. He needs to get to the boy. The snow is knee deep. The farm is far away. The boys live is at stake.

What is there to do?

The doctor does not hesitate. There is someone in need and he can help. He puts on his  skis. He is going skiing. There is no other way.

After the long journey the saviour arrives. He is cold, vet and his clothes have drops of frost like a decoration. The beard is white with snow and the face frostbitten. He takes of the coat and steps into the room where the little boy is half conscious. The mother is sitting beside the bed, holding the boys hand. This is not a wealthy home. They are poor. They will not be able to pay for the visit.

“Mother, now I will get well, the doctor is here”, sais the little one. He knows the doctor can do miracles.

He is right. He does get well and the parents are grateful. The country is lucky to have doctors like this one. A doctor that does not hesitate to put his life at risk to safe others. The people don´t have to fret about not being able to pay. They know the healing hands are there for them, no matter what social class they belong to. Everyone is equal in this doctors eyes.

This doctor is successful, he has healing hands. He is not just an amazing doctor. He is also an amazing person.  He is not tall. He is shortish.  He smells of cigars and medicine. His eyes are mild and his smile happy. Some say that when he smiles the world lights up. People either love him or they don´t. There is nothing in between. Great men are often like that, and this man is great, there is no doubt about it, but he is also human, and he is not perfect.

One day he is on his way back from  sick call riding on his bicycle.  This is a beautiful summer day and the boys playing football, enjoying the simple life, where there are no worries, just the joy of being.

The football lands in front of the doctors bike. Ups. Not good. The boys are quiet and look at the man.

He steps of his bike, kicks the ball back to the boys and joins them in the game. He gives them some good tips about how to be successful in playing football.

After playing a bit they need to go home. They walk with the man. He tells them about life and how to be a good person. He emphasise the importance of being kind to each other and show respect. He tells them about healthy life and how important it is to take care of the body and the soul.

His voice is mild and his eyes look at them with bit of humour. The humour is never far away, even though the conversation is grave.

He bids them farewell. They go home to have dinner and he has one more call to make. The day is long for a country side doctor, but he has enjoyed the company.

The boys will remember this moment for as long as they live.  The little boy had faith, he knew he would be well because the doctor came through the screaming winter weather. The young boys have  good provisions. The philosophy they learned one beautiful summer day, when the football landed in front of the doctors bike.

Hulda Björnsdóttir

 

The outcast – Fiction

Intro

The outcast is about life. For those who like to write and have a vivid imagination there are no limits.

When I was a child I wanted to be an artist. I wanted to be able to paint the sky, the beauty of the clouds running and dancing through the blue. I lay on the grass following the people in the sky. They were free. They could travel so fast. I wanted to be there. I wanted to show the world what I saw.

I never managed to get the hang of painting but I did write, always.

Writing makes me free.

I can go wherever I like and enjoy life even though it is not always a dance on the purple clouds.

I want to make the most of the time I have left on this earth and part of it is to write my stories.

I asked myself: Who do I write for?

When I realised it was just for me, I got my freedom. Freedom of enjoying what I experience in my fantasy.  What more is there to wish for?

The freedom of being my own independent company can not be put in words. It has to be felt.

This fiction will be dedicated to my mother. She taught me how to read when I was just a tiny 4 year old girl. She read for me and I sat opposite and learned the words one by one and suddenly I could read the book myself. What a glorious day that was. My brother came home from the sea and his reaction was: What? The child is reading! I looked up at him, beaming with pride. Yes, I know how to read, I whispered.

My brother was my hero and he saved me when he came home and I was stuck in the mud. He lifted me up and carried me through the door. My boots did not stay on my feet. They were left in the mud, but my hero picked them up and my mother scolded me for cavorting in the dirt.

Those were good days. Innocent child protected from evil.

My mother rests in heaven. She is free from the suffering. I hope she can enjoy my fiction with me.

This will not be shared on Facebook. This is just for me and my friends on WordPress.

There is a way to follow my fiction. You can follow me on WordPress.

Just remember when you read my fiction, that it is a fiction. It is something in making and I hope one day I might even be able to share it with my wonderful students in China. They can not see blogs but there is always a way. I just have to find it.

Thank you for reading this and maybe I will see you again.

Hulda Björnsdóttir

 

 

 

The hardworking Chinese people (More about my life in China)

11. September 2017

Have you ever thought about why the roads in China are clean?

Have you ever thought about the taxi drivers in China or the people who make your shoes shine?

When talking to people in Europe about the Chinese I find their ideas often strange and even ignorant. The other day I sat with a couple, an educated one, he is a doctor and she is teacher. They were asking about my life and I told them how much I love my China and how I miss it every day. They found it very strange and looked at me with disbelieve in their eyes.

Most of my time in China I lived in my own house and was protected every day and night by a closed gate and guards watching it, but I was lucky and worked outside the sheltered island.  Because I had a car and drove myself I could go wherever I wanted to and I experienced more than many foreigners do.

On the picture below you can many things. The traffic is heavy. This is in Fuzhou and the traffic is always heavy there. Most of the cars, this time, are in a row, but that was not always the case. The truth is that if you are Chinese and see a tiny empty spot between cars you make sure it is filled up with your car! Of course, why should there be empty spaces when they could be used? Everyone must understand this !

The green cars you see are taxies. I learned quickly that you give them space. You yield. They are in a hurry. Their salary is very low and they are hard working. Every Chinese person knows this and we respect them.

If you are trying to find a taxi at 5 o’clock in the afternoon, forget it.

You will see lot of them. They are in a hurry. None available though. Why? Because this is when they change shift. Those who have been working the whole day are going home to their families and the nightshift is taking over. It does not take long, about an hour or even less.

At the front in the photo you see a man with his trailer. Can you imagine how heavy this is and how strong the man has to be? I admire them. They are amazing and it is even more amazing to see them carrying heavy loads on their bicycles.

Yes the Chinese are hard working. We don´t see any cleaners in this photo but under the tree there is a group of men playing cards. I was sometimes invited to sit down with them but never did. To tell you the truth. I don´t know anything about cards and was afraid they would let me pay and I might even loose all my money while trying to learn the complicated game.

Another part of this photo that I want to mention is the trees. There are trees everywhere in Fuzhou. They shield from the terrible hot sun and make it possible to walk the streets without an air-condition hanging at your side. Can you imagine me walking with a heavy air-condition by my side, he he he.

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Another hard working group is those who polish your shoes.

They are everywhere. You sit down and they make your shoes shine like never before. They don´t talk much but they are friendly. When you smile to them they often have no teeth or maybe one or two, but their eyes are shining.

I remember when I walked the last day of the year and ahead of me was a father with his son, maybe 5 years old. The father was explaining to his son why the year ended and a new one began. He also told his son that when the new year came everything needed to be clean, even their shoes and that was why they would have their shoes polished. This was a moment I will never forget. The love for the son and the admiration in the child’s look was something I can´t forget.

 

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

There are bikes and scooters everywhere in China. Not that long ago there were almost no cars, but now they are many. I often thought that they were adjusting and moving from the cycling trend but not quite sure how to do it. It is so much easier to control your bike in the traffic.

I had a private student who came to my home. He was from a very, VERY rich family and they wanted him to learn English. He was 6 years old and was supposed to have everything he wanted. There would never be any lack or an unmet wish in his live. His grandfather sometimes brought him in a beautiful black car. The first time they came the secretary was with them and he was obviously teaching the grandfather to drive. Hm. I was not sure when he picked up his grandson if they would be safe. There was something lacking when the old man left his car, automatic car, in drive and came to my door to pick up his child. My heart sank and skipped a beat, at least one if not two beats. If I have ever asked God to help anyone, it was at that moment.

Everything went well and they arrived home safely. Of course I called to make sure. After this I had my doubts verified about some drivers licenses in my beloved country.

Another day more stories about why I love China.

Hulda Björnsdóttir