Monthly Archives: January 2015

Faro days III

Most people who read this blog are people that have jobs. They arrive at work, turn on their computers, get coffee and say goodmorning to their colleagues. At some point they may check my blog, just to know where I am and what I am doing. And that’s the problem: I am still here and I am not doing anything.

Not good.

But it is what it is. Anyway, since the doctors cautioned me to rest, I have a lot of time on my hands. After a short spell of less cheerful atmospheric conditions, the weather has improved again, and now I find myself spending much time on the rooftop terrace where my favourite pastimes are reading and, to a lesser degree, writing. I do this sitting in the sun, with my feet up on some cushions, while sipping coffee or some other stimulating drink.

I know, life can be hard.


Rooftop terrace of the hostel

In the small book exchange of the hostel, I was lucky to find works of two Nobel laureates, and so I am presently reading Daniel Kahnemans Thinking, Fast and Slow and Cien años de Soledad, written by Gabriel García Márquez.
The first book is very interesting and tries to explain common flaws in human judgement and I hope it will help me improve my decision making, which I think is practical in my pursuit of happiness. The Spanish novel is surprisingly slow going, as I have to look up a lot of Spanish words. According to Wikipedia, it is translated into 37 languages, but that is not helping much.

For reasons of economy I cook my own meals and these days, electric induction cooktops are de rigueur in modern hostels. Every hosteI I have been in so far, seemed to have purchased a unique system which means that every time you want to cook a meal in a particular hostel,  you somehow first have to decode the controls. That is because, naturally, each model has its own set of touch controls that has to be operated  in its own incomprehensible way just to get the ingredients of your food appreciably warmer than they were before. The designers of these appliances obviously had the control room of some alien spaceship in mind.

In the evening I spend most of my time in the common area where more often than not a television is blaring away. Televisions are easier to operate than induction plates and only slightly more entertaining . One thing I’ve found out is that’s easier to read a book if the language spoken on the television is Portuguese. I think it is because my brain just decides it’s random noise. If it’s English I get distracted.

Of the several medications that were prescribed to me, I found Diclofenac the most useful. It seems to work very effectively and, in an attempt to learn more, I discovered an interesting story about this drug. Diclofenac was, as it turned out, the cause of the infamous Indian Vulture Crisis, a crisis widely ignored in the West because people had other things to worry about than Indian vultures.

Diclofenac was introduced in India for verterinarian use in the 1990s.  Because Hindus don’t eat beef, they traditionally leave the dead bodies of their cows to be eaten by vultures. The Diclofenac in the carrion proved highly toxic to Indian vultures and about 99% of these birds died, and thus creating an environmental disaster. Their ecological niche was taken by feral dogs which resulted in a marked increase of rabiës on the subcontinent. Another result was the sharp rise of the leopard population in the country, because these big cats prey on dogs. And so, eventually, a lesser known, but undesirable side effect of Diclofenac was an increase in leopard attacks on children.

Even more remarkable was the effect on the Zoroastrian community in India, who traditionally leave their dead to be eaten by vultures. Understandably, they aren’t particularly keen on letting their loved ones being eaten by dogs instead… Apparently, they are now considering breeding vultures in capitivity for funerary applications. Needless to say, special care has to been taken with recently deceased patients who suffered from osteoarthritis or any other condition that is treated with Diclofenac…


Stinking fish in the supermarket



Faro days II

Life is like riding a bicycle.
To keep your balance you must keep moving

This is a quotation of Albert Einstein, widely regarded for his intellect.


Einstein on the move

Otherwise, there is not much to write about but as Epictetus said:

If you wish to be a writer, write.

The hospital revisited.
There are many patients. A sign high on the wall reads silêncio, but nobody pays attention. People are sick and dying, they don’t want to read signs. They shout across the waiting room and speak loudly in mobile phones. On the tv screen the same anchorman as on my previous visit is reading the news. Emotionless, mute. This time I came prepared and brought a book, Contemporary Irish Fiction.  I drink espresso from a machine and try to understand Samuel Beckett’s short story – For to end yet again. I deem it unintelligible and am glad to hear my name over the loudspeaker.

Does this hurt?
Does this hurt?
Does this hurt?
Yes, OWW, you found it, stop it, please…

The doctors prescribe me more medications. Different medications. One of them is Tramadol and, inquisitive as I am, I google the internet and find an interesting Wikipedia article. It mentions one serious side effect as an ‘increased risk of suicide’. Curiously, a few paragraphs later, the same medication is listed as a possible ‘antidepressant’.

I buy a very cheap smartphone, because of the gps functionality. When I get back to the hostel I use it and, with the help of at least four satellites, I find the supermarket, which is across the street from my hostel. It works beautifully. Other things I like about it, are the interesting bleeps it makes and the front camera which enables me to take selfies.

First selfie, look serious.

Selfie taken with my new phone.

I tried to transfer the picture (shown above) from my phone to my laptop using Bluetooth, but though I had just before successfully sent a file from my laptop to my phone using this technology, the other way around appeared more difficult. So I gave up and stored it in Google Drive.

I also decided to move to another hostel for a change of atmosphere and because I had read all the books in the little book exchange of my previous lodgings. It turned out to be a good move. The different environment seemed to lift my spirits. Or maybe it’s just the antidepressant effect of the Tramadol I am taking.

At least I am moving…

The pursuit of happiness

I cycle in the pursuit of happiness, but I seem to get lost a lot.

I wanted to make an excursion to Estoi, about ten kilometres north of Faro. It looked easy enough, just heading north, but for no reason at all I took the wrong road. There was a lot of traffic and I didn’t enjoy my ride so I decided to go back. Just as I had turned around, I got a flat tyre, the first since I left home. Since I had no repair-kit with me, I had to walk back to the hostel in my pursuit of happiness.

The next day I took the wheel out and when examining the tube I found that I had torn a hole in it, around the valve. I replaced the tube with a spare one and since I had the wheel out, I changed the brake-pads as well. The pursuit of happiness could continue.

My next try for Estoi was more successful. Before I left,  I had had a good look at the map and found the right route. It was a small road flanked with orange groves. Estoi was a charming little village, with a picturesque church. The Palácio was closed but the garden looked beautiful as I peered throuh the fence.


Statue in the garden of the Palacio in Estoi

Looking at the statue (photograph above) made me happy. Most statues I have ever seen, appear to have rather bland features, but this one had a pretty face. I don’t know what happened to her left arm. All too soon the happiness faded and I had to get on my bicycle again.

I cycled to the Roman ruins, but they would only open at 2 pm. They had been there for two thousand years, but now they were closed. So I cycled back and bought a sandwich to sustain myself. I sat on a bench and looked at the church, This is what the church looked like:


After I finished the sandwich I rode back to the ruins where now were present two men who were ready to receive my payment and gave me permission to access the grounds. There was not much to see, as they were ruins  after all, and everything that was in them was looted a long time ago or shipped to museums. When I walked around, I noticed an almond tree and I was able to pick some of the nuts and crack them open with a stone on the Roman ruin.

The day after I cycled to Olhão. which proved to be a waste of time and didn’t noticeably help me in my pursuit of happiness.




Faro days

The day after Christmas I fell ill and didn’t leave my bed for several days. Looking at it from a positive perspective I could say that my knees definitely got some rest. Having no appetite meant I didn’t eat anything for a few days, so I got as thin as a stick. Some people say I was already thin as a stick, but that only shows there are different kinds of sticks. Not eating anything was also good for my budget.

Every supermarket in Portugal has a section dried fish, mostly bacalhau (cod) that exudes a very typical and instantly recognisable smell.


Typical Algarve chimney

I meet a Frenchman who doesn’t speak English. I don’t speak French very well, but that doesn’t matter, he only wants to speak to me. I am the only one in this hostel who understands any French at all. He is indignant. Thirty years ago, everybody speaks French in Portugal, he says, now, no one speaks French anymore. He’s 63 years old and a pensioner. The first day he tries to find out how to travel to Seville in Spain. Every time we meet he tells me about bus-schedules and train timetables. The second day he’s found out the train only goes to the border, but doesn’t continue because there’s no bridge. And there are only two direct buses to Spain per day. He points at a map of Portugal. Look at the Algarve. It’s a poor region and no good transport links to Spain. You know why? I have no idea, but I fear a conspiracy theory and I want to go away.



Some building in Faro

In the new year I go to the hospital. The receptionist doesn’t speak English. He asks if anyone speaks English and a feeble, old man steps forward to translate. I have to wait. The waiting room is full of old people and there’s a television with the sound turned off. I try to  follow the news but it’s difficult to decipher the headlines. It appears a lot of people have died. Mainly everywhere. After the news, a Brazilian soap is shown and, bereft of my only distraction, I hope I don’t have to wait much longer. About three hours later I hear my name over the loudspeaker. I have my knees X-rayed and it seems I got Baker’s Cyst. I get a lot of prescriptions.
I ask if I can ride my bicycle.
Better not if you have pain, she says.
It seems I have to stay a bit longer in Faro. When I leave the hospital the sun has almost gone.