Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Neighbourhood

 “Number 24” is not an apartment in a tourist resort, it is a regular apartment in a nice new building on the edge of the old section of the town. Let me describe for you the neighborhood.

Looking out over the front balcony, there is a train track, and beyond that old section of Olhao. You would think that living beside the train track would be noisy, but in fact you never hear it at all. The train runs through a man-made concrete valley, and unless you are outside on the balcony or sitting in the kitchen with the window open you can not even notice the train.
Bringing in a coffin

I noticed right away the people coming and going from the building to the right of the apartment. They were always dressed up, the men in suits and women in dresses, and they all carried little briefcases, or what looked like day-timers. These folk were coming and going all day, but I did not really know what it was about. Finally one day a big silver blue van pulled up, and I could hear a lot of animated conversation. Looking over the balcony, I watched them open a big glass door on the back of the van, and extract a coffin. Was this a funeral home? Questioning Suzanne about this mystery, I was told it was a Jehovah Witness Temple, and there must have been a funeral of one of the members. Fortunately, the balcony out front is three stories up, and although providing me an excellent spot to watch the population of Olhao go by, folk on the ground would have to really crane their necks to notice me watching them up there, so I have yet to have the knock on the door for the religious conversion speech.

Plants Everywhere
Across the railway track is the start of the old part of Olhao. For about five or six blocks it is narrow streets with single family houses. The houses are built of concrete, and are all attached together for the entire length of the block. From the street side these look very similar. There are a few with brightly coloured tiled surfaces, but most are white or beige painted concrete. Looking down at them from the apartment balcony, you see them from the back and there are not two with the same design in the entire block. They are all narrow and usually at least two stories, often with elaborate roof top extensions. Some of the roofs are tiled and some simply concrete, but most have a room on the roof of some sort. Stairs go in all directions to various levels. Everyone has a clothes line on the roof, and some have gardens. One house across from me is decorated in shades of tan and brown, and another down the way is brilliant white all the way down to the train tracks, where another directly across is simply aged and mottled, unpainted concrete, but every flat surface has a potted plant waiting for the rain that I am told is not expected until November . . . . .

So you see . . . . . it is way more interesting than being an apartment in a “resort”.

More on the neighbourhood to come.

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