Zur deutschen Fassung dieser Episode.
June 9th, the end of the involuntary Robinsonade, a date which I had been longing for after three months. I had begun to miss the mainland. I had read all the books I brought. I had finished the cigars months ago, and none of the ships brought any reinforcements. In the last week alone, I had dreamt about cigars three times, so you can imagine the withdrawal symptoms.
But yesterday the flight to Lisbon finally took off. Traveling is rather bleak at the moment, because there are restrictions and bans everywhere. No hand luggage, no food at the airport, nobody sitting next to me, a bit like on a prisoner transport.
I looked at the ocean, at Faial, at Pico, São Jorge, at the islands I was leaving behind.
And soon, I dozed off. What else was there to do? Until a sharp turn to the left and the voice of one of the guys steering the plane woke me up:
“Ladies and gentlemen, we are sorry, but the Portuguese government has banned all flights from the Azores.”
Oh shit, that means we’ll have to turn back again.
“We don’t have enough fuel to return to Faial.”
Well, maybe the trip would be fun after all. Luckily the planes here can land on water. And then we would be drifting until a ship comes along. The sea looked calm, so I wasn’t too worried.
But the navigator had another solution:
“The nearest island we can reach is São Miguel.”
Never heard of that before. But I’m sure people live there, so it can’t be that bad.
As I was getting off the plane, I asked the pilot when we would continue to Lisbon.
“We’re grounded for at least another week. We’ll know more by June 15th.”
One week. Stranded again on an island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. And because I had been dumb enough to spend all my savings for the onward journey from Lisbon to Vienna (it was the cheapest flight) and from there to Germany, I was so short of money that I had to decide: cigars or a bed?
It felt quite warm. For one week, I should be able to sleep in the forest and wash in the sea, I thought. Maybe there are as many empty houses here as on the other islands, then I can easily hide.
I am telling you again: Don’t travel this year! Things won’t go as planned.
With these gloomy thoughts I was walking through the city, apparently looking a bit depressed, because a lady ran out of a beauty salon, all excited:
“Excuse me, do you speak English?” she asked, as if she was looking for help urgently. But on the contrary, she wanted to offer her help: “You look a little lost. Can I help you?”
I explained the predicament. She was sympathetic, maybe because she usually lives in the USA (like so many Azoreans) and had planned to stay on São Miguel for only a month. But now she has been stuck here for several months herself.
She was so typically American-optimistic that she really infected me with her “Don’t worry!” She took her phone and called a friend: “Hey Marcos Flavius, how are you? Listen, there’s a young man here, he’s stranded on the island. You have rooms available, right?”
The man with the name of a plebeian tribune didn’t dare to say no to the effusive-resolute lady. I was extremely uncomfortable about this until it turned out that he was not at home (probably stranded on the mainland involuntarily) and I would therefore not be a burden to him. The house was conveniently just across the road, and the key was under the flowerpot.
Marcos (“you can call me Flave”) said I should just go inside and see if I liked it and then decide if I would stay. (A very generous offer to someone whose alternative is sleeping outside.)
I liked it very much, and thus, completely unexpected, I will be staying in a small palace in Ponta Delgada, which by the way is not such a small town after all. Exploring the neighborhood that night, I even discovered two cigar factories in the immediate vicinity.
Well, as far as I’m concerned, the flights can remain suspended for a few months. Because once I get to Lisbon, having lost all the booked flights and trains and stuff, I will have to hitchhike home to Germany. In case you don’t have a map on hand: that’s really far.