For me there are many differences between life in my village here and in my favourite Dutch city of The Hague in Holland. Although I have spent the first years of my life in the countryside of Sicily and Turkey, I grew into a city girl; that of course under the influence of my mother. She loved the city and found everything that was remote and lonely absolutely unsuitable for living. She thought it boring and dangerous. She would never have ventured into a solitary walk in the woods, not even in the Haagse Bos, a quiet park in The Hague around the king’s palace. And me? As a super obedient child? Me neither. Until my oldest son bought a dog and was often traveling himself. That nice dog stayed with us for weeks on end. She was used to a free life in the forest and on the beach. Reluctantly, I put myself over my imminent fear, and after that first walk I did not stop walking in the woods afterwards.
I have since discovered that I love the peace, quiet, space and beauty of the country and nature. I would not want to live anywhere else. Maybe I’ll move one more time when I’m 120 years or so. To the village which is a 5-minute drive from our farm. So we don’t live that lonely and remote. We even have “front neighbors” and “back neighbors”. The country life brings village life with it, with all aspects of city life only more sober. There is a shop, a pharmacy, a bar, a church, a restaurant, a retirement home and a nursing home. There are two family doctors and a gas pump. We have a true bullfight ring that is in use once a year, a large fire station and even a facility-sharing building. And all that for the Marvão region with around 3,000 inhabitants. My yoga studio is located in that facility-sharing building in my village named Santo António das Areias, part of the municipality of Marvão.
The 3,000 inhabitants have the same needs and concerns as city people. Things like health, family life, love, socializing and good food play a major role and the concerns are always about lack of health and / or money.
The difference with city life can be felt in the time that people take for each other and is visible in the entourage, like a television on the wall and fluorescent light. Take at look at the photo.
One of my friends Susana Maridalho organized a dinner for the participants of the yoga evening classes in restaurant Pau de Canela in the village. As entree we had petiscos like delicious olives, stuffed mushrooms and warm cheese with herbs straight out off the oven. Then a delicious traditional arroz de pato, duck with rice. Owner Conceição cooks – for local standards – at a high level. And the desserts were more than sweet.
Look around the table and see who I am having dinner with!
With left front: Ana Pomba, finance assistent at the agency who ensures the reintegration of long-term unemployed. She lives in Portalegre. Next to her Maria do Carmo Carilho. She is the owner of the famous sausage producing company from Apelhão (about a 45-minute drive from my studio). Then Carla Martins. She works for a large water company and is responsible for the purity of the water in the North Alentejo region, which is half the size of The Netherlands. Carla drives in the car for days, from Portalegre to Lisbon and further and back. Next to her you see Fernanda Mateus. She lives in the village and works at the Museum in Marvão. With the beautiful red hair is Elisabete Reis who not so long ago opened a hairdresser’s shop in Castelo de Vide. She works with natural products. Then thare is a glimps of Tânia Ramos (with glasses). She is a beautician and has her salon on the ground floor right below my yoga studio. Heidi Dyer is the next one. Fresh from America, yoga and dance teacher. Heidi is settling here. A powerful young woman, dedicated to make her new life in Portugal a success. Next to her sits Zé Paulo Ramalo, also a yoga student and like me also from the big city. He now has a large farm where he works in his vegetable garden according to the principles of permaculture. He sells his products together with Heidi, who also works hard in his garden, at the local markets. Something is flourishing between the two.
On the other side of the table you can dedect the face of Jacqui Hogan, English. She has been living here for some years and teaches English in Portalegre. She speaks Portuguese well and is originally a shiatsu therapist.
Next to her Susana Maridalho, the driving force behind everything and everyone. I wrote about her some years ago. She has a large store in the village called Casa Moura, Susana has an enormous amount of energy and represents with great success the Thermomix brand (here it is called Bimby) a magnificent kitchen robot. Then follows Isabel Pires. She is an employee, receptionist at the town hall of Marvão. The empty chair next to me is from Lina da Paz also from big city to countryside. She just got up. Lina has the Trainspot Guesthouse in Beirã. Marília Ribeiro is on my other side. She works just like Ana Pomba at the reintegration office of the municipality of Portalegre and guides people to a new life. A few weeks ago she published a book with the title: Mulheres, Trabalho e Alentejo. Life stories of the hard-working women of this region. Women with whom you can “steal horses”. Impressive.
Helena Pinadas sits next to Marília. Born and raised in Santo António das Areias. Her parents have a bar in the village and she herself works as an administrative assistant in the nursing home. Who you also don’t see is the photographer Paula Cristina Costa. Another one from big city to countryside. She and her husband Nuno have a large naturist campsite, Quinta do Maral, very popular amongst the Dutch naturist community. It is beautifully situated at the foot of Marvão.
Not all yoga participants could attend. And there will certainly be a next time. I have a great life and am thankful for everything that surrounds me. Nature as well as people. They let me know who I am.