Too forward for Monchique

Today started badly.

Last night I invited 4 of the girls from our house to go on a research trip around the handicraft shops. The task was to find the best souvenirs/crafts out there to go into our special map of the producers in and around Monchique. I was all enthusiastic, saying we could go for lunch together. When we woke up it was sunny and crisp and pretty much perfect.

Then I spoke to the first artesanato maker on our route – a shoemaker. Huddled in a dark, damp room off the street, glasses perched on his nose and surrounded by insoles, leather scraps, a sewing machine and piles of boots, he was a reportage photographer’s dream. In terrible, but chirpy, Portuguese, I told him we were making a map with all the local producers on it, so tourists would know where to come and buy local products.Was he happy to be on the map?

Immediately, he waved me away. ‘No quero nada’ he grumbled. I don’t want anything,don’t want to be involved in anything.

Any chance I can take a photo

No, I don’t want to be involved in anything. Go, go.

This pretty much sums up the attitude of the people here. They don’t want to be helped. And they don’t want to help themselves either. Their country is going down the pan but everyone seems happy just sitting talking about it, not doing anything about it. When I speak to people about business ideas, obvious ways to make money through tourism, people just shrug. What is the point when the economy is so bad?

Where is the fight, the dynamism? Where is the passion?

That shoe maker can sit there all day and make his shoes but if there is noone to buy them then what?

People seem content just earning enough money to survive, not to turn their hobbies into their job, not to see opportunities and fill them, not to make a little more money from what they are already doing. All the campaign groups protesting against the mine consist of resident foreigners. This is no surprise.

It dawned on me, speaking to that shoemaker, that this is not the place for me. I want to go where there is a need and people want to find solutions to address the need. Where external help is considered helpful.

I had a drink with David, a local guy of 25 last night, a young dad. You are too forward to work here, he said. Maybe I am. I want things to happen, to make things happen, This is what I am used to and what I most miss. Although being in a place without zest is probably the best antidote to stress I could have found. Destiny, huh.

After the encounter with the shoe maker I left the girls and just did my own thing. I had a good hug from our donkey. I ate some melted camembert and some Jamaican patties and some lentil soup all on one plate. I drew a couple of pictures of Monchique.

‘Where are all the young people’ my last one shouted.

There is so much opportunity here, but it is so frustrating!


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