Tag Archives: volunteer

Volunteer Raquelli Pirelli

“I will check the train again, okay?” I say, while going out the door, “pretty sure that we can find everything on www.cp.pt. It’s quite easy!”

She’s going to the south, it’s too cold here now. If you’re coming from Gran’ Canaria, a tropical island, than you’re not used to cold.

It’s winter now. When they came 6 weeks ago, it was still summer

A sunny winter with almost no rain. During the day it’s wonderful, but when the sun goes down, you have to find your sweater and your vest. Still, always laughing, always positive, although she wears almost all her clothes at the same time.


A few days later, I get a phone call. A spanish number. Could it be volunteer … ?

“Hey Ellen!”, a woman’s voice cheers through the speaker, “how are you doing?” Ah! I thought so, it’s Raquel. It’s not such a big succes, over there, and she tells me about it. She thought it was a couple, but it appears to be a man alone. “He’s a nice man, but he does such strange things! He wants to control everything, I have to eat when he says so, even if I’m not hungry, but I have to make my own food. He works long hours, and expects that from me as well. There’s no internet, so that’s why I called. I tried for a week now, but I don’t like it here very much.”

Now she’s almost in tears, so I tell her, that if necessary, she’s always welcome here. “He’s not a bad guy, you know, but he is so … so rude, so insensitive. He wants that I follow him like a dog, and do everything he says. And he takes a bath with the door open. No, no, it’s not like that …I feel completely safe …  he just wants to be in control. So weird.”

Yes, that is quite weird, and quite insensitive

This is not the first weird volunteer experience. The first one, only 2 months ago, was superweird, on a quinta where you were expected to work 12 hours a day – as a volunteer. And hard work as well, digging and wood chopping.

That’s not how it’s meant to be. The second host was very nice, an adorable older english woman, but she talked very much and very fast, all day long. Raquels travelling partner didn’t understand english, only spanish, so all the talking was directed to her.

She was exhausted at the end of the day, because of all the conversation

Yes, I can imagine. Also: admirable. How do you do that, talking all day long? Then they landed here, and stayed for 6 weeks. We built a lovely routine very fast. They preferred to work from 8 till 3, fine with me. We had dinner every night, and for the rest it was harmonious and agreeable.

“I loved that so much, Ellen. I’m going to see if I find something here in the south, but if not, I’m coming to you”, she says, “I’ll let you know tomorrow.”

Her travelling partner Desi, went to another place, because there are not so many hosts accepting volunteers now. It’s december, people are warming up for Christmas, and on the farms is not so much to do. As in the holidayhouses-bussiness.

The next day I pick her up from the nearby trainstation. There was nothing to be found, everybody is relaxing, preparing for Christmas, so: “I came back! I’m going to be a volunteer again, and to search for a place here. You have a steady connection at least!” she says radiantly, full of good intentions.

But there is nothing to be found as a volunteer

It seems as if the whole world slows down a notch in December.

“I found a cheap ticket”, she says the next morning, “I’ll go home, to Gran’ Canaria. My mother is soooo happy! And my brother as well!”

Good decision. Not only you will celebrate Christmas in the sun, but also in the warm presence of your family.


Merry Christmas to you all! And for the ones who don’t “do” Christmas: Happy Holidays!


We moved here in 2000 from Rotterdam, Holland to the Termas da Azenha, Portugal. A big step, especially with two small children. We are busy to rebuild one of portugal’s cultural heirlooms. Termas da Azenha, a old spa which has been turned into several holiday homes, rooms and camping ground, there’s also a swimming pool. You’ll find mosaics and paintings everywhere. The old bathhouse is a museum, where you can see how things have changed.

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Portuguese poo sandwich

Next week there’ll be a volunteer arriving. He has been here before with his girlfriend.
Last November. Then he made a beautiful mural in Casa Pomarinho.


He had a good time, so now he’s be back for a week or three. Nice to be here in spring, Nice to work in the garden. This time his adult son comes along. A nice way to be together for a while.

The new painting project already fell at of the sky. A niche in the wall next to the entrance of hotel room 2 will have a guardian angel. We’ll keep you posted. Look at our Facebookpage the coming weeks!

If the son looks like his father …

Bruno has a very good name for cycling around in Portugal. He likes to ride his bike and regularly goes out on his own. His son can repair bicycles, so – even though I do not know him yet – I assume that they will go out together. There are 4 bikes ready to use.

But Coco better not mention his name to a talkative Portuguese in a cafe, because that portuguese will not understand that anyone can be called “coconut” or “poop”. That what coco means in Portuguese.
If it’s one or the other depends on how you pronounce it.
We have also had a Connie here, she learned it the hard way. Everybody frowned when she introduced herself, because it means “cunt” in portuguese. Quite awkward … and her full name was Cornelia, which she hated, but which is a totally normal name here.

Lots of people wondering

I myself had quite a difficult time with the difference in pronunciation between some Portuguese words. I still don’t know the difference between avó and avô – grandpa and grandmother. Now that’s not a problem, because I rarely use that. Only to inform about the health of the grandmother of my foster son João Pedro – and than hope I picked the right one.
The challenge of coco or cocô was much bigger, because I love coconut and in all the pastelarias they have delicious bolos with coco.

One you pronounce like cocu, the other as cocò

I just could not remember.
How often I’d order a poop sandwich, I don’t know, but the women behind the counter always stayed polite.
Difficult language, Portuguese. I think that’s a very beautiful language, so that motivates wanting to learn. It will never be the same level as my mother tongue though. I have to improvise some time and talk around things a bit. And in the case of my coconut bolo I nailed it.
I just always ask for my “favorite” – and then I point.

No poo sandwiches anymore