July 19, 2014

Day 18: Lajes das Flores

One of the signature sounds I've become obsessed with here is the sound of waves interacting with rocks. There are countless different gurgling, glugging sounds, and you only have to move a few yards to hear something quite different. I find it endlessly fascinating, and it really reinforces the feeling of being on a hunk of volcanic rock in the middle of the ocean, miles from nowhere and surrounded by the sea on all sides. So I've been making a point of recording the sounds of waves and rocks whenever I can. This is not always easy, given the geological situation, with cliffs dropping right into the water. Today I managed to climb down and scramble over a bunch of large boulders to get to a place far from the noise of the harbor and the town.

When I climbed back up to the port, they were getting ready to put in three of the old whale boats. I've really come to love these boats, which are a huge source of local pride, a way for people to stay connected with the heritage of whaling and the ways of their ancestors. The old whalers really are revered here, and it's so tied in with the history of emigration. At the regatta I attended on Pico, I was impressed with how many women were involved, and here it was great to see that one of the boats had an all-female crew. I'm pretty sure there were no women whalers back in the day, and I wonder when they started to participate in whale boats for sport. I'll bet there's an interesting story there.

Sadly, I haven't really been able to make good recordings of these boats due to so much other noise going on around them. For example, while I was watching this there was a guy cruising nearby on a jet-ski and a bunch of machinery noise from the port, all of which would have drowned out the sounds of the oars, etc. One of the best sounds was when they brought out the oar locks, which seemed to be all tied together and rang like bells when they carried them. Still trying to figure out how I might be able to get a decent recording of that.

It was fairly hot and humid, and by now I was getting tired and hungry. Fortunately the supply ship had come in the night before, so I knew there would be groceries. I went to the local supermercado and sure enough, it was all a-buzz. The people who worked there were busy, furiously filling the shelves with goods that had just been unloaded, and there were a lot of customers stocking up. It's a big deal here when the ship comes. By the end of that two-week period, the shelves are nearly empty. So it's a real symbol of the important connection to and dependence on the outside world.

In the evening I headed back down to the festa, which by now has grown considerably. I'd say there were at least twice as many people in the street as the night before, maybe more. Tonight's main entertainment was the marcha, dance groups that parade through the street accompanied by marching bands. It's "folkloric" in the invented tradition sense, but festive and fun and it makes people happy.

There were two dance groups, which seemed to be accompanied by the same band. First one group marched down the street to the plaza, then all the band members walked back up the street and a while later came down again with a different dance group. I saw Regina on the street and she invited me to have lunch with her family tomorrow. How could I refuse?