Land of free men

Portugal is a country of strong contrasts. It’s, today, a country with a vast over urbanized sea-coast, and with a mostly inhabited interior.

But, and that what I find more interesting, iit’s a country with villages very closed (every house is built next to another house), and villages where every house have it’s own space.

Even for those who know Portugal, this may be one aspect that get’s unnoticed for a long time. And for those few who notice this, most don’t really know/understand why there are this difference between villages anatomy. It’s even more interesting when you notice that two villages close by – across a small river one from the other, for instance – can have this curious difference in construction.

Campos Agricolas no Minho, Portugal

Campos Agricolas no Minho, Portugal

But, when you notice that the villages are different, you may as well start noticing that the way the terrain around the villages are split is also different. Usually you will find the closed villages surrounded by a small number of large properties, usually two or three properties at most. Now, with time, you may find some more properties, but still large ones. On the spaced villages, on the other hand, you will find a large number of very small and smallish properties. On this smaller properties you will not even had most time physical divisions between the properties. You just notice they are different properties because the type of plants growing there are different, or the direction used when plating/seed the fields are different and the height on the plants are different (because they were seeded in different weeks, or are watered with different frequencies).

And then you start to notice that the bigger properties and the closer villages are on more plane terrains than the smaller properties and spaced villages. And when you remember that Portugal is the older country in Europe, with fixed frontiers for more than 750 years now, and with only 4 dynasties for more than 800 years (this last 100 years we have living in mostly unstable governments), you finally understand where this topology comes from.

The close villages where villages of people who worked for a landlord, a noble, who owned the land, and that allowed the land workers to create their own houses in a specific location inside the property. On the other hand, the spaced villages were villages of freemen, who had their own lands, that they were authorized to buy and sell between them, and that they could let to their children.

But, the main difference is that while nobles would transmit all their lands to their first male son, the freemen would give their lands to all their children, male and female. And that’s why the properties are so small. That’s why most people would have several small(ish) pieces of land in different places around the village – most of the time side by side with a brother/sister’ piece of land.

And, in these villages there were usually a few men that would travel a lot, buy and selling everything the village did produce and didn’t need, and buy what the village weren’t able to produce enough for they needs. And that’s why families stayed together most of the time – making houses side by side whenever possible, so that the wifes and children that were left alone would have the help from the family.

That’s why, in those spaced villages of freemen you don’t only find some isolated houses, but most of the time you find what seems to be like large and unplanned houses, but are really several small houses built together in different time and with different dimensions – depending on the family building it.

I did grow in one of those villages of freemen. My grandmother – my father’s mother was the really owner of the house, her house was built over her parents house, and next door her sister was the matriarch. Not all my uncles lived there, but most did at some time. My grandmother and grandfather lived in one of the house in the agglomerate, my parent – with me and my sister – lived in another of the houses, one of my uncles, his wife and daughter lived in the top floor of a third house, under which we had a space connecting the three houses and used as a straw barn and cellar.

The common backyard of this three houses was also were the chicken (ducks and turkeys at time also)  were most of the time, and how we had access to the animals corrals. Another of my uncles were studding in a near by city and would come home most weekends. From those closed backyard (created, I think, because of the kids – us) you would get access to a larger backyard where some of the daily food would come from – green beans, some potatoes, peas, sprouts and some other things. That and meat from the pigs, sheep, chicken, duck and turkeys were most of our food supply.

The larger backyard was shared with my grandmother’ sister – well, they were two different properties, one in each side of a line starting in the well shared by both properties. And it was one of the ways we used to go from one house to the other – most of the time my cousins – the grandchildren of my grandmother’s sister – coming to our side, don’t ask me way, I’m not really sure, but I guess that’s because we had more space where we could play in our side.

We were, I guess, just a poor happy big family. And that is my bless, and that is my curse. Those times are long gone, and I don’t really believe I will ever again have a big happy family like that! And that’s why I’ll never really miss anything else!

On Nationalism, Support groups and self respect

One friend post today, in Portuguese, in Facebook a note that he called "IMIGRA ou MIGRA?", asking if once once we get out of Portugal we forget about what it mean to be Portuguese. I’ll not link his note, because his profile is protected and the link would take most people nowhere. But I think the subject is important. So, here are my thoughts…

First of all, I don’t understand the need of being proud of belonging above being themselves. Most people aren’t proud of themselves, but they are still loudly proud of being part of some specific group – that group is for most people living outside of their country their nationality, as it is sometimes the sports club, the sexual orientation support group, … It’s usually something that make them different from everyone else, but similar to a sufficient number of people that make them recognizable, aknowledgable.

That kind of behaviour makes it simple to justify and validate their behaviour. Make it easier to explain why they join in the club and don’t go to the street barbeque. It make for simpler explanations for almost everything. But if people can be simple, persons never are. Even when part of group and with a lot of similarities with everyone on that groups, every single person is also very different from everyone else on that groups.

But groups are, mostly labels. They make easier to other to make you part of their group or part of the "others" group. For every single person, "Us" is usually the union of all the group that person belongs to. But there is no "US" that works for two single person, it doesn’t matter how you choose those two person. Even for two twin brothers "US" will include all the twins there’s a group that includes one of them and not the other (those who were born first).

I’m also part of groups. Some of them are obvious – I’m Portuguese, I’m a Perl Webdevel (that is a small subgroup of a bigger group – WebDevel – that is part of at least two different groups – Web workers, including designers, content managers, web editors and a lot of other people who work for web, and Computer Programmers). Do I identify with those groups? Yah, sure. By the core of the group. Do I identify with the people who belong to the group? Yah, sure, some.

But groups are not all created equal. In most cases Nationality is not a choice. It’s a core part of everyones personality. We can choose a lot of things in live, but where we are born is not one of those things. And it doesnt matter if we latter choose to change our nationality. We only have a birth, and the first years of our life have a very wide impact on our personality. They define which language we speak best, which types of food our taste most apreciate, which type of social interaction we get used to.

And most groups – sports club, nationality and religion on the top of this lists – come with filtering glasses, that exist in two types, the pro and the against. In the "Portuguese" group there are an aditional filter, the called Sebastianismo.

But, Am I proud of being Portuguese? Who in the earth would be proud of a country with the history Portugal have? Yes, we have a very unique history. Portugal is the country in Europe with their main land frontiers fixed for more time (and few in the world have older frontier than Portugal). Portugal had a very important contribute to the world see nagivation – as Empire, we followed the Roman – that we were the first to successfully fight. Spain, to find America, needed Portuguese Navigators (and it’s told, maps). We divide the world with Spain (our neighbor) while the rest of europe were still fishing in their own backyard. We’re a peaceful, charming, caring society. Yes, I love the Portuguese history. But I hate the Dom Sebastião Portuguese way of wait for the future.

The legend says that in 1578, in the Alcarcer-Quibir Battle (also known as the Three Kind Battle), Dom Sebastião, the then young king of Portugal, were able to survive the battle that Portugal lost, and that he would return to Portugal and that the old Portuguese power and prestige would be restaured. Well, that may had make sense at the time. But three spanish kings rulled in Portugal, and five hundred years (ok, four and a half hundred) are gone now. the prodig king will not return! It’s time to look around and find the big stone that need to be moved and start moving them.

Yes, Portugal have fantastic weather, fantastic food, fantastic people, fantastic views. But it also have severe problems in Education, a gigantic trust issue with the political class, a lot of opaque business stratigies, an awful resource distribution, strange work laws and pratices – over protective law and under protective pratice.

But to me, live is not in fault. I’ve had good and bad things and growed with both. A lot more with the later ones. I lived in Portugal for more than 30 years. I studied there, I have several jobs there and I was given the oportunity to grow there. And it come a time when I had a choice between continue in Portugal and come to Amsterdam. I made a choice, and I’m living with it. I choosed the one that I believed at the time that would give me more changes to provide a better life for myself and my family. I still believe that I made the correct option.

But it’sn’t not because I’m live aboard that I stopped calling my mother frequently (in Portuguese, obviously) and my family. even if I changed the idiom of my blog (and even most posts on my twitter and facebook).

Most of all, I respect myself. The groups I’m part of are also part of me. And I keep asking myself how do those groups change me and how can I change those groups! So, how can we change what means to be Portuguese?

Daily live – Gratefulness

I walk slowly from home to the work in the morning, and do the same path in the oposite direction most days. Somedays my steps take a detour from this usual path, getting me to the coffee across the street from the office and I stay there for a couple hours after work, other days I walk to the supermarket or to some other place that the pratical things of the daily live don’t allow me to avoid.

I usually walk slowly. And I usually like to see what is around me – the places, the plants, the things, but the people most of all. Amsterdam is a city specially good to look around. Not only the city is very beautiful – I think, at least – as it is always full of tourists and non-native people, looking around for places. And even those who are here for longer – or native – are very interesting to observe.

For me, it’s mostly about the differences, specially the differences on simple, usual settings. For instance, the way people sit on a coffee terrace… Usually, in Portugal, people sits in oposite sides of the table, facing each other – In Amsterdam, on the other hand, you mostly see people sitted side-by-side facing the place where more people walk by.

It’s even fun to see how people look at maps all the time, and the corner of building, looking for street names, always trying to find out here they are, which path they should use to get somewhere.

And even fall. This is the first time for me where I really see leaves falling.

I don’t have everything I would like to have, and I don’t have everything most people would want. There are things in my live that are not as I would like to be, there are some that I don’t know how I want them to progress. It’s, I think, a consequency of the fact that no man is an island. I think that includes me.

But, most of all, I usually remind myself that live is still my lover, that live keeps providing me with what I really need. And that is my most profund wish – to have the opportunity to do a job I like, have the things I really need, and keep doing some of the things I really love to do.

And, for all that I’m grateful.

Blogs, Blogs and still more blogs

I have a lot of blogs. And I’m really lazy.

And when the task I’m doing is migrate blogs from one platform to another, I start asking myself…

  • Should I migrate them all?
  • Should I kill some of them?
  • Should I keep them in the current platform until I have time to migrate them? In this case I still need to migrate them from the current servers to the new one.
  • Which ones do I keep, which ones should I kill?

Well, three of them (four if Catarina’s blog counts) are already on the new server, using WordPress. It’s not completly fair, because in this one and Catarina’s we just started from post zero. And the InfoDump only have a small part of the content of the previous version.

The fourth is already being migrated – I’m coping the content to the new version, but it’s a lot of content – 45 pages of 13 posts…

Well, tomorrow is another day. For now it’s time to sleep!

Random things about me

Tonight, while listening to Rui Veloso – Do meu vagar some random things about me come to mind:

  • I love Portuguese music,  Rui Veloso, Luis Represas, Mafalda Veiga and Xutos & Pontapés above them all.
  • I love to read and like to write.
  • I have to much blogs.
  • I live now in Amsterdam, but I’m Portuguese.
  • I’m almost always eating.
  • I’m my best friend.
  • I like to spend time alone and never get bored only by myself. That is specially true if I have internet access.
  • My two favorite writers are Robert Heinlein and Paulo Coelho.
  • I believe in a very special concept of magic(k) and reading Brida (from Paulo Coelho, the first book from him I did read) was the first time I thought about the subject.
  • I believe in Polyamory and the first time I got in contact with the subject was while reading Friday by Heinlein (no, not Strange man from a strange land – I did read Friday first, and only later Strange man from a strange land).
  • My favorite book so far is not from one of those authors. It’s “A Lua de Joana”, a portuguese book for teenagers, that is intended as a diary of an adolescent girl (Joana) who get into drugs and dies of overdose. It’s an intense book, that I recommend to any Portuguese reader – I don’t think the book was ever published in any other language.
  • I only go to cinema to see “Entertainment movies”. Cinema, for me, it’s time to turn the brain off and relax. Don’t make me think.
  • My favorite TV Show type is SciFi Series. I love StarTrek, as much as it is possible to love it without being a trekkie. I don’t like the original series, but I like Picard a lot and love Voyager, my favorite one. I like Entreprise (the serie about the first Entrepise Star Ship, but don’t like the last episode at all).