Portugal is on fire

14th of August 2017

Once again Portugal is on fire.

This is my 7th summer in the country and fires have roared every summer and even into the autumn when October has been warm, which it sometimes is.

Portugal is a small country. Long and narrow. I live in the centre. Exactly in the centre.

Luckily for  me I did not buy a house in the woods, when I moved from China. I bought a wonderful apartment with a view to die for. It was the space and the view that captured my heart when I chose the apartment. I see the mountains and the apartment is big. Just what I needed after my grand life in China.

Every summer I have thanked those who protect me, wherever they are, for making sure I did not fall into the temptation to buy a house in the woods, far from everyone. I did not want isolation from the natives. I wanted to live with the natives, to learn about the culture, to make native friends. That was what I did.

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From my balcony I see over to Esphinal, which belongs to Penela Municipal but is not Penela. It´s a wonderful small place, not many houses there but just few minutes drive from my home. I could even walk over there, maybe half an hour. Here it is on a clear fire free day.

My first experience of the fires in Portugal was when I drove through them on my way back form Leiria. The police was ahead and I knew it would be safe. They told me so. Driving through a wood on fire is an experience you never forget. It lives in the memory but it is like living in a country of fire and ice. You can always expect the mountains to erupt but you don´t think about it all the time. One day there might be a huge earthquake and everything moves. This happened in Iceland when I lived there but it did not control my life. The same goes for the fires. We know they are likely to be active during the summer months but we survive through the year without worrying all the time. I am not afraid of them, just really angry.

These 3 pictures above are from 2012 and the fires are in Esphinal, just around the corner, seen from my balcony. The animals, the trees, the farmers crops all destroyed.

This summer, 2017, is my 7th in Portugal. I moved to the country in January 2011 and came from China. Every year there are fires during the summer months. Every year we ask WHY?

We know why. The arsenics love the fires and light them. They become famous. They are on the TV. The TV goes on and on and on and on all day long about the horror. The government does not have solutions. The courts say the people are mad and just let them go. They can not go to prison because they are sick. Seriously! This is madness. They should be behind bars. There is a petition now to make those people stay in jail at least 25 years.

Some of the foreigners think the reason is the Eucalyptus. Some of them even believe it is the heat.

This year we have had very little rain and there is drought around the corner. That does not help. In  2012 there was a lot of rain, a lot. I know because the living room walls in my apartment began to change from dry into wet ones. Now the government has made a committee to talk about the problem, the fire problem. They will talk. We talk a lot here in my land. A lot. Will they find solutions? I doubt it.

When I came home today from my Gym there were  no fire clouds, at least none that I saw from my balcony. 15 minutes later it was there. When I drove to the Gym in the morning the air was thick with ashes.  That was at half past nine in the morning. I don´t go out in the afternoon. The air is full of smoke and the ashes are all over. We have still got at least 2  hot months. The fires continue. The houses burn down. The people loose everything. Lives are lost. Something has to change but WHAT? The mentality? The culture? The punishment?

I don´t know how, but this has to stop.

The army is helping, the EU is helping, Spain is helping, France is helping, but that does not stop the horror.  Help is wonderful but we need to change the culture.

Hulda Björnsdóttir

 

What was happening to my new house in China?

10th of August 2017

I had already gone to China twice.  I had found a place where I wanted to spend the rest of my life.  I had bought the house and it was under construction. Now I needed to find an interior designer and a company to take care of the next step.

I asked the house company if they knew any? They did. We could not reach those in charge so I just forgot the whole thing and went looking on my own, not quite on my own, I did have help! So, there I was with a wonderful designer who understood what I wanted. He made a rough design in 24 hours, after going with me to Min Hou and measured everything. I had to take care of this before I left and we had only 2 weeks.  Everything was fine and I liked my designer. Mr Chen was my man. He would take care of everything and my house would be ready in January, when I left Iceland for good.

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We, me and Mr, Chen, went sight seeing. Sight seeing furniture companies, and I found my future. Beautiful and everything matched. The whole house was in harmony. The bedrooms, the living room, the dining room. All the furniture from the same company and just like a dream. I loved my sofas, they were big and comfy. Perfect. After choosing furniture for the living room the bedroom was next. The Chinese are small. I am tall. My friends are tall. The beds were made for Chinese size. I lay down in one. No, it was definitely too short. I explained to my friend and the ladies in the shop that I might have guests that were 1,90, really tall. They looked at me, looked at each other, and again at me.

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Was I serious? 1,90 is huge! Yes, I told them and we could not let my guests sleep on a bed with their legs hanging outside, or  like a baby in a mothers womb. No, that was not good. We decided to make the beds extra long. I would be able to stretch my toes and my guests would not have to sleep with half of the body outside. That took care of the furniture.

Now we had to find a bathtub for the lady. Right, the lady is tall, really tall, compared to the Chinese and this finding a bathtub, big enough, was a problem. Luckily we were in a huge building and there had to be at least one shop selling extra long bathtubs. There had to be! I took of my shoes and went into the tubes. Many tubes.  No, nothing big enough, until…….we came across one with massage and everything.

I saw immediately this would be my future. Laying in a huge tube enjoying massage from all sides.

I want this one, I told my designer.

This one? He looked at the price. This one is very expensive, he told me. I know, but its the only one long enough for me, I replied.

My dear Mr Chen did the bargaining and I drank tea. Before I left China this time we had ordered all the equipment needed for a new house. Everything from furniture to the tiniest screws,  or so to speak.

Everything would be ready and I would move in before the Chinese new year. Now I just needed to take care of what was left to take care of in Iceland and my new life was around the corner.

I went back and booked the flight and a hotel. A hotel for one week. My house would be ready but I needed a week before moving in ! Little did I know what lay ahead!

Hulda Björnsdóttir

 

 

 

 

þar sem Chen er að skoða og ég stend fyrir utan með manninum

 

A lot to look at

 

 

What is Yoga for me?

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What is Yoga? Sometimes this question pops up in my mind, even though I am a qualified Yoga teacher.

Why? It happens, and I have to convince me that I have still got the meaning, when I see all the different Yoga offers.

There is a Hatha Yoga, a power Yoga, asana Yoga, and even a facial Yoga. It was the facial Yoga that made me laugh and I was convinced I had not lost the meaning of some of my reality.

Facial Yoga is one more quick solution for the problems of getting older. The wrinkles can go away in few days with this wonderful Yoga. Why can´t we age normally and be happy about the wrinkles. If we don´t have wrinkles around the eyes we have most likely not been spreading smiles around us. Wrinkles are beautiful. They tell a story, a story of a life lived.

Then there is power Yoga. That is something I have never understood. Of course there are many things in life I don´t understand, unfortunately.

The last 2 years I have been struggling with serious illness. I had to stop going to the gym but now, finally, I have started again. I love my gym. The people are great and the customers are interesting. Some are young and some are old, perhaps not old but elderly. Some are men and some are women. Some are friendly and others are not. Just normal gathering.

During the 2 years brake I could walk and I could do some Yoga. I would not have dreamed of doing facial Yoga. That is just isometric exercises and does not deserve to be called Yoga.

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Le me then tell you what I think Yoga really is.

Yoga is a way of life, an integrated system of education for the body, mind and inner spirit. This art of right living was perfected and practised in India thousands of years ago but since Yoga deals with universal truths, its teachings are as valid today as they were in ancient times. Yoga is a practical aid, not a religion, and its techniques may be practised by Buddhists, Jews, Christians, Muslims, Hindus, and atheists alike. Yoga is union with all.

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When practising Yoga we are nourishing our mind, body and soul. We nourish our mind by meditating, our body by Asanas – steady poses, and our soul by way of living. We eat healthy and we breathe. Yes we breath. Everyone does that, at least if we are not dead. How often do we pause and listen to our breathing? Is it deep and nourishing or shallow and difficult?

We might think that meditation is something fancy and difficult, just for the special ones. We could even think that Asanas are just for flexible young people. No, meditation is simple, you pause, breath in and out and allow the thoughts to flow. 10 minutes meditation refreshes and invigorates you. The Asanas as for everyone. They can be practised in the morning, during the day or in the evening. By using this holistic way, life becomes easier.  The daily tasks bearable and the joy of life more joyful.

Today I saw a young man doing something that might be in his mind Yoga. He was extremely flexible. I watched him for about 40 minutes. Yes he was flexible.  No doubt about that. But, some things he did to accomplish his flexibility made me swallow hard. There was nothing flowing and beautiful in what I saw. There was stress and sometimes it looked like he forgot to breath. When he put extra weight on his knees, to relieve tension in his lumbar, I gulped.

During my 2 years brake from my wonderful gym, Yoga saved me. I meditated, a lot, I did breath, also a lot and I ate healthy. I did very little of the Asanas. Very little. In my mind the Asanas were not the priority. They would come when I got better. Now they are slowly appearing in my daily routine. I am grateful for my Yoga teacher, who taught us the true Yoga.  Why do we have to adjust everything and dilute the ancient philosophy?

My wonderful happy Buddha smiles at me every morning. He reminds me of the beautiful Chinese art, made from roots. The trees have to give way to the new fancy houses in the new districts in Chinese cities. The farmers move but they bring with them the ancient knowledge. The art of  wood carving. No one can take that away.  The Chinese art has not been diluted.

Hulda Björnsdóttir

 

 

 

Learning about tea in China is something!

8th of August 2017

My doctor in London, a Chinese friend, asked me to buy tea for him when I went to China to see if my house was really being built!

I love Chinese tea. On my first trip to the country I had figured out that it was really worth investing in. You could not find good summer quality in the shops in Iceland and I brought a lot with me, to enjoy until I moved.

Wherever you come there is a beautiful tea table. Wonderful hand cut tree table. It does not matter if you are just in a tiny shop with a mechanic or an even smaller shop that sells yarn. The tea table is there and you are invited to sit down and have a cup. A very small cup and you have to learn how to drink the tea. There is a Chinese way to do it.

You can also be in a big shop or a company, but rest assure, the tea is there, waiting for you.

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I found a beautiful teashop not far from my hotel and went in. Was on my own. Asked for  tea and the price. The manager gave me a price and the girls almost choked. I was a foreigner and they don´t get Chinese prices!

Eventually we agreed on the price. That was after many cups of tea and a translator on the phone! Did I get a good price? Not going to tell you anything about that !

The tea culture is everywhere in the land.

I lived for a while in Quanzhou, not far from the wonderful factories. Outside the workers are sitting, collecting the leaves, separating them from the branches. There is something wonderfully peaceful about this. I went inside and looked around. Different packages. Different brands. But the same atmosphere in all the rooms. A fresh crop of tea. The summer crop.

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The above picture is from Min Hou. I found this group by pure coincident. One evening I was walking around one of the universities in my neighbourhood, watching a fashion show there. The Chinese are always celebrating something and the show was a celebration. 2 of the young men approached me and after talking to them I offered to teach them English for free until I left in January. They talked to their friends and we had a wonderful time working together. No classroom. Just outside, sitting on the grass, learning to speak English. Can you imagine! This photo was taken at our last meeting just before Christmas, and I got gifts. A wonderful book made by my group with personal notes from everyone, and a big box of quality tea. Wonderful tea.

It is common to give tea when foreigners are leaving. This group made me happy. Some of them had not been able to use their English and we managed to get it out. When we finished everyone spoke fluently. We have kept in touch and they are still friends. Now they are grown up and their lives have changed, but the bond is still there. If your students like you they love you forever and they keep in touch.

Hulda Björnsdóttir

 

 

I was in the hospital – the idiots called !

7th of August 2017

In October last year I broke my shoulder and had an operation.

My car had been a bit sick for some time. He made those strange sounds, like someone was trying to break into it. He had been to the car doctor but nothing seemed to be broken. My mechanics told me to observe when the poor thing made those sounds.

One morning when the last debate was between Hillary and Trump, I woke up at 6 in the morning. I wanted to see the debate. Went to the bathroom, brushed my teeth and did what you do in the morning. On my way from the bathroom I feel and broke my shoulder.

My shoes were to blame for me falling and of course Trump. I was wearing MBT shoes and somehow  stepped back and lost my balance. Since I have got osteoporosis, this was what I could expect. Anyway, I got up and called my vegetable man. He comes once a week and brings organic vegetables. I told him I would not need them this week because I was most likely going to spend some time in the hospital, because I had likely broken something. At that moment I was not sure how bad it was.

Just a normal day.

He called the ambulance for me and the wonderful ambulance people came and took me to the emergency.

It is the shoulder and the upper arm, said the doctor.  I was not happy. The plan was to go to Germany in November and to China early next year. You are not going anywhere, said the doctor. You need to have an operation.

Next day I called my friend and told her what had happened and asked her to bring me some pyjamas and a bit of this and that, things you need if you stay in a hospital. She is a wonderful friend and took care of me during this all.

Well, my car was not happy. I had left it alone and it started screaming. The neighbour called and told me the car was making a terrible noise. A terrible noise and no one could sleep.

My friend went to Penela, took care of the car and everything was ok! To make a long story short, the police took care of the screaming car and they had the keys until I got home from the hospital.

Few hours after I woke up from the operation my phone rang. The neighbour was there. The car is making sound, horrible sounds, he said, and everyone is complaining. Everyone!

I got pissed off. really pissed off. I knew who those EVERYONs were. You can see them in the pictures below.

 

I could see them, in my mind of course, since I was far away in a hospital bed, full of medicine after an operation. I got mad.

What do you want me to do? I asked. Do you want me to come to Penela and fix the car? I just woke up from the operation as you well know.

No, he said, but everyone is complaining!

Hah. Now I lost it. I told him to call the police, not to call me again, ever, and I hung up.

My rom mates, 7 elderly ladies, and their guests just looked at me like I was from another planet when I started to laugh heartily . I suddenly saw the rumourmongers in Penela not knowing what to do, looking at each other in despair.  One of the guests gave me a banana to calm me down. They thought I had lost it completely and a banana was the solution. They were sweet.

When I came home, 10 days later, one of the wonderful complainers, my wonderful neighbour, who knows everything about everyone, the head rumourmonger, came running out of her house, trying to take my things away from my friend, who had picked me up from the hospital.

I turned to her, the neighbour, and told her in a very CLEAR English, which she does not understand, TO GO AWAY.

My dear friend, she is Portuguese, told the idiot, in Portuguese, that I did not want help!

Few days later I heard a loud discussion outside my window. There was the idiot, trying to get news from one of the neighbours in my condominium, who did not know anything and was not happy about being asked, and did not want to know anything about the foreigners situation.

The idiot has been trying for 6 years to get into my apartment. She is dying to see how I live. How everything is inside. What kind of furniture I have. I have managed to keep her away and she will never enter my house.

The old couple in the photo, the man is the one who called to the hospital, came across me some weeks after I began going  for a walk and stopped me. She grabbed my arm, the one that had been operated. I thought she was going to kill me, it hurt so terribly.  I did not talk to them. I had told the man I did not want to talk to them EVER.  I managed to get free and walked on. The lady stood screaming after me: WE DID NOT CALL THE POLICE.

Idiots. They think I was angry because they called the police.  I told them to call the police. I have no idea who did it, but that was what I wanted them to do. My friend had spoken to the police and left the keys with them so, if my car began to miss me again and cry, they could fix the problem and just disconnect everything.

Some people can not be saved. They are idiots and will always be idiots. During these 10 days, in the hospital, I learned a lot and there are many funny stories to be told, but that’s for another day.

Hulda Björnsdóttir

 

The quick solutions !

6th of August 2017

We read about all kinds of quick solutions for everything these days.

There is a quick solution for cancer, for overweight, for high blood pressure and it goes on and on and on.

If all those solutions worked we would all be healthy, wouldn’t we?

What makes me furious about all those quick solutions is that they nver talk about side affects.

You can take turmeric or ginger or nuts and other wonderful things, even lemons or oranges but they can have serious side affects.

I’m not going to talk about my health problems but if I eat turmeric I could die. Simple as that.

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To keep healthy you can do a lot, but it takes time. You can exercise and you can make sure the food you eat is healthy.

You can sit down and meditated. Meditation is relaxing and many of our problems nowadays are stress related. I asked my doctor why I have the problems I have? He said it might be hidden stress. I have thought about this and maybe he is right. There are things I never talk about but they are part of my life. My new family doctor asked me if I wanted to talk about my life in Iceland and I said NO. He looked at me and I asked: Do you think I should? He told me it would be good for him to know where I came from so he could figure out the course of what was happening. Well, even though I did not want to, I told him bits and pieces.

When we don´t want to talk about something, but need to get it out, we can write. I have managed to write in my diary, which is just for me, much of the top of iceberg. As in many icebergs there is a huge  clump under the surface. A clump we don´t see but is there. When we are ready a bit of the clump surfaces and it might be time to sit down and write or just meditate.

Writing either by hand or on the computer is a good way. My advise is to write everything that comes to your mind and not read it. Just leave it and move on. Don´t make any corrections. Everything that pops up is what you need and should not be changed. If you write like this for about 30 minutes every day, a miracle happens. You will feel the burdens lifted, slowly but steadily.

Life is not perfect. It won’t ever be perfect. We can move it closer to perfection by enjoying what we have got and  make the most of the moment. We will never be able to please everyone. There will always be people who don´t like you or would like you to be different. Ignore them. Their guilt might be hunting them. Don´t let other peoples guilt, no matter how close they are, control your life.  Remember that you are always doing your best.

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I am  a woman of my own. I make my life worth living. I don´t depend on anybody but I love my friends. My friends have stood by me through thick and thin and never let me down.

Hulda Björnsdóttir

 

Building a house in China

6th of August 2017

Building a house in China can be complicated. It can also be fun.

You find the place where you want to live, and then you find a house, which most likely is still under construction.

The Chinese move mountains. Literally they do. They make islands and lakes around them, all by hand. Well, there are also heavy machines but a lot is done by hand.

My first visit to China was to find a place where I wanted to spend the rest of my life. I chose Fuzhou and found some local people who could help me. When you are a foreigner in China you need help. The system is complicated and the language is not easy. There are things only the locals know about, and you need someone you can trust. I was lucky, I found a family that helped me.

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It was mostly the man in the house that helped. The ladies were occupied and anyway it is a mans job to take care of business.

I was invited to their house for lunch and there was a lot of food. A lot of it, as you can see. Fish, shrimps, big shrimps and of course lot of vegetables. I love Chinese food but the fish is full of antibiotics. They swim like kings in the aquariums and you buy one. You have no idea why they look so healthy but the truth is, they are swimming in antibiotics. My stomach was not too happy about this and usually I did not eat fish in my wonderful country. I knew the secret.

What I wanted from the area, which would be my future home, was to be able to see the mountains and a lake would be good as well. I found both. There were 6 islands, manmade of course. Several mountains and the lake just outside my property. Could not be better.

This was a new area, close to the university city that was also being built from scratch.  My house was on island number 6, the smallest one. The bigger ones have houses about 400 square meters big or more. They do show you one of those fully furnished and they are beautiful, but I wanted something smaller, and got it.

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During the construction I came for a visit.

I needed to see my house would not collapse in the next typhoon!

The view was amazing. Clear sky, mountains and the water just outside my garden. What more could I wish for? Nothing, except permanent residence. I was told it would not be a problem. I could teach in the university and everything would be perfect.

Little did I know.

My wonderful Miss Jiang, took care of me. She was my real estate manager. She had my interest at heart. She worried that the builders would cheat on me. Had it not been for my dear Miss Jiang everything could have been a catastrophic situation.

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But she was there by my side all the way, until she got pregnant and left her job for one year, to take care of the baby.

In China we are clever. The sun is hot, really hot, and we use umbrellas for protection. Hats are not common, except of course on the caddies and the golf players. Even though everything is a mess, the golfers are out. The golf course is partly around my house and I saw them every day.

Chinese golf is for the rich ones. The really rich ones. Perhaps it is like that everywhere. I did not play golf but watching my country men was fun. They were all men. I have never seen golf like the one they  practised. If the ball ended up in the water it was just left there. The caddies, the ladies in pink, took care of everything.  During the afternoon brake, swimmers went into the water, diving for the little white ones. The same happened in the evening, before dark. There is no golf after 5. I don´t know if the divers could sell the balls or if they just gave them back to the company. I never asked.

If the golfers want to cross the road and you are driving, guess what. You have to stop. The golfers are the lucky ones and you wait.

Hulda Björnsdóttir