Wow. I have been charmed off of my feet. This country is THE most gorgeous have EVER seen. Around every corner beauty awaits. It is like being in a real life fairy tale. We find ourselves walking around with our jaws open, camera lenses shuttering.
Our little corner of Portugal is the town of Amarante. Our village is about a 20 minute drive on winding roads that head into the hills with switchbacks the likes of which I’ve not often seen. “Oh really, your build is in Portugal?” most people would say with surprise when I told them I’d be going to eastern Europe this time. But Portugal is still newly democratic – with our lifetime democratic. Until 1974 they were under a harsh dictatorship and many people lived in poverty unaware of what life could be like, having never observed the lifestyle of many of their European brother and sisters.
Meet Celeste Carvalho, our homeowner. A 52-year-old recent widow and mother of six children, the youngest Diana is 17 and still lives with her. She lives off of her husband’s meager pension and she does not know how to read and write. Life in the village, we learned, can be lonely. Many of the some 200 people who live in the village have gone to other countries to work and simply lock up their houses for extended periods of time. It’s hard to imagine people wanting to leave a place so picturesque, but my point of view is just that – mine.
Celeste’s house has several problems. Water gets into the kitchen where it rains. They have no running water in the house, which is made of unfinished cement and there is no bathroom.
Although none of us speak Portuguese, we enjoy listening to Celeste’s stories about her family. She seems to be totally undaunted by the fact that we have no idea (well, perhaps you can get an idea) of what she is saying. And frankly, it doesn’t matter!
Our jobs were varied and many today. Deconstructing and constructing scaffolding, mixing concrete and cement for plastering and to pour a back patio. Prepping exterior walls and installing styrofoam insulation. And listening to Celeste, one of the most important jobs of all.