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Caught in the Liminal Spaces

Sao Miguel, Portugal Pixabay.com CC0

On airports and awaiting the next adventure. 

Lisbon Airport is as busy as it gets. People are pushing piles of luggage on their stainless steel trolleys, rushing across the main entrance eager to secure a spot in line a few metres in front of me. A man squeezes into the press of meat; his luggage rolling over my feet, he doesn't stop, neither to apologize nor to shout "get out of the way."

I feel dazed and sleep-deprived due to the early alarm to catch a bus from Porto to Lisbon. The dozens of bars scattered across the building sell sandwiches three time the price of regular Portuguese businesses. For the same amount you can have a full meal of caldo verde (cabbage soup) followed by a feijoada or piri-piri chicken in any town away enough from the most tourist areas. I eat a sandwich brought from home on a seat in the corridor. No one pays attention to me, beside a man in his 60s who is waiting for his wife at the check-in desk. He noticed my backpack and the plastic bag I carry with me, printed in bold characters with the name of the largest supermarket chain of the country, Continente. I let the breadcrumbs fall on my lap—the older man is looking over me with a nostalgic eye, as if he misses having the audacity to ditch everything and get on a flight with a carrier bag. Our eyes don’t meet, but I can sense him smiling. I dispose the bag in the bin and cram the contents into my 40-litre backpack.

Airports are good places for writing. I see them as an in-between space, where people prepare for what is coming next. The appeal lies in the motion—not exclusively in its physical sense—but in the whole concept of movement and preparation to change. It’s when I’m elbow-to-elbow with a stranger waiting at the gate, when I’m under the feeble reading lamp of a night train that writing comes as a natural way to put things in order. I write and breathe out. And as I write I line up my thoughts, looking at the next few months awaiting me.

This time is the island of São Miguel.

I will be staying six months in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, in the lush forests of black volcanic rocks and lakes. Half of the year volunteering in a co-living, looking after the place while the owner is away; exploring and reporting my life on the Island.

I note down a few thoughts on the yellow-covered Italian notebook I carry with me. I open it on a random page. It says 8th of February – S. Girolamo. I write a few lines about my trip so far, the same lines reported and expanded here. I write how going through security required completing a one-kilometre-long maze. How a young Portuguese woman tried to cut through it passing underneath the belt barrier. She fell over and laughed as if it was just a joke, after all. Someone else attempted to do the same, but the imposing voice of the woman at the other end of the room put them back in their place. In an appendix, I note that she might be one of the few modern shepherds, a human shepherd. Just like traffic officers and accountants. At her yell, those attempting to trespass stumbled. Someone tripped over, someone else found excuses in that universal apologetic voice.

I gather my thoughts about the reasons behind all of this.

Why would anyone go to a subtropical island in the middle of the winter? With a blue crayon I highlight the words community and nature. Hiking in the rain might not be what most people picture as an idyllic way to discover the Azores, but I’m a firm believer in the beauty of diversity. Seeing a tropical paradise in its harshest form definitely has its charm. I want to see it changing through the seasons, before the hordes of tourists arrive, in its most intimate and private state. And I want to do it at my own pace, travelling on my own, but within an international community of like-minded people.

I look out of the window for most of the two hours and a half that separates São Miguel to the continent. The sky blends in with the ocean, with white clouds suspended mid air in what looks like the deepest chasm an aircraft has ever crossed. I stay on the lookout for approaching land—perhaps a mangrove island, a plastic waste continent or a raft of long-lost shipwreck survivors. But out there is still, nothing but a blue abyss.

I try to recover my energy. I close my eyes while the aircraft cradles me, moving everything around. It shakes the clouds, stone still otherwise, the migrant birds, the billions of fish also floating into the abyss, miles and miles below me.

Still in a half oneiric state, blue turns to white fog as I make my first steps on the island.

We got stuck in a cloud—this is what I would write on my agenda if I wasn’t rushing out of the airport, breathing in warm air charged with humidity.

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Published in Volunteer Abroad Blogs
Enrico Belcore

Enrico Belcore is a freelance writer, currently volunteering in the Portuguese Islands of the Azores. He deals with culture-related journalism, alternative lifestyles and travel. His work has been featured in Bridge, The Trip Magazine, Melograno and Fortelier.

Website: https://www.clippings.me/users/enricobelcore

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