Nora (30s), Recent move to the Azores from Hungary
Interview conducted aboard the R Heritage Too
I have been living in the Azores now for the better part of a year and I must admit I continue to be enamored with this place. The Azores seem to sing a strong Siren’s song and I continue to meet sailors that have arrived here and never left. Life just seems more relaxed here. People seem content to live a simple life and consistently place a higher value on free time then overworking themselves to enable excess consumption. Ricardo, whom I interviewed last year on my most favorite of the islands Sao Jorge stated we have time to live life by its natural rhythm. I see this every day, perhaps not so much today in Horta where people are zipping around in cars and honking horns but definitely on the smaller islands.
Elections are going on back home and I was able to vote my conscience online in the colorful harbor of Horta. The volcanic mountain of Pico looming off in the distance reminded me of Colorado and of my civil responsibility. Living aboard a boat it is easy to forget the problems of the world, yet few sailors do. Many seem to have ended up on the seas a way to escape the perhaps unhealthy pressures of modern day living. It is a frequent topic of discussion. I can remember sitting alone on the R Heritage Too in March and the entire Azores archipelago was in lockdown a 2 month long Covid-19 quarantine. People back home were baking bread, preparing raised garden beds, swearing off purchasing Chinese made goods. I smiled when people promoted purchasing Canadian and American made products and swore off purchasing unneeded stuff. Unfortunately it does not seem to have lasted. Amazon and Walmart are doing better than ever and I saw an article about “Prime Day” and comparing 50 inch TV deals between the two mega vendors. It is easy to not accumulate living on a boat, there is simply no room, and certainly no room for an extra large TV.
Maybe the reason the Azores calls so strongly to sailors is that they tend to live simply, but the call of the Azores is not limited to just sailors. Certain people who visit here end up staying. One of these people is Nora, whom I had the great pleasure of meeting on the magical island of Flores. While I did not know it at the time, she was snorkeling and practicing her freediving when we were anchoring in the hurricane battered harbor of Lajes. She was far from shore and spent a long time in the water. Clearly the ocean was speaking to her. It did not seem like chance when we met later through a mutual acquaintance, and perhaps the fates were weaving when she hitched a ride on the R Heritage Too from Flores to Faial. The sea and even sailing upon her blue waters has been calling to Nora. Her words follow.
What is your favorite part of living in Flores?
I love the water and I swim in the ocean every day, sometimes twice. I love learning new things, especially when nature is involved and now I am focused on learning to free dive and snorkel. I studied medicine in Hungary and obtained my license as a general practitioner. Living in the capital city of Budapest was too confining. People were so caught up in living a lifestyle based on consumption and I felt so disconnected. Here on Flores I have much more freedom. The government doesn’t interfere in your day to day activities. People have an immense amount of respect for nature and take great care of their island. It is rare to see litter on land.
I have lived on other islands in the Azores but Flores seems the most untouched. There is a focus on renewable energy in the Azores. Windmills, solar and hydropower can be seen around the islands. It is easy to find time to be by myself in nature. I do like people and the people here are high quality. Upon moving to Flores I quickly became part of a sisterhood. There are quite a few strong, free soul women here. All people who live here love nature and are a part of a community focused on helping each other. Trading is a big part of life in the Azores. I often trade therapies for garden grown foods, fresh caught fish or seeds for my garden. There is a different way of living in the Azores that harkens back to the days of old. It is very easy to forget about the troubles in the world here.
I also love marine mammals and you can often see them here. When I lived in Sao miguel I worked with a whale watching company (Seacolorsazores). I see them from shore here sometime. I even found 2 sperm whale teeth one day when I was camping on the beach. I like to sing to whales and they can clearly hear me. They are powerful animals and I can feel their presence when they are nearby. They sing beautiful songs and help people connect with their heart too. I feel I have an ability to mediate their messages through improvisational singing.
What is your least favorite part of living on the island of Flores?
It is difficult to see all the plastic waste on the beaches. The people here are very careful to take care of their island but it does little to stop litter from accumulating on the edges of the island brought from afar by the sea. There are also no hot springs on the island. In Budapest, where I was born and lived before moving to Azores, there are many and soaking in warm water has long been a part of my life. I am looking into creating a wood fired hot pool here so I can share this therapeutic strategy with the people of Flores. I was trained as a family doctor in Hungary, but already started to learn during the medical university year’s alternative medicines such as classical homeopathy, bodywork therapies (Bowen, Biodynamic craniosacral therapy) and aquatic therapies in hot springs. My main wish was to find an integrative approach that can help people to find their inner balance and higher purpose of life. I lived and worked as a therapist in the last few years in South India (Auroville, Tiruvannamalai) and in Portugal, Algarve. I discovered also that through free, authentic movements and dance, expressive arts can connect more easily with our natural resources, be able to live in the present moment fully, without mental concepts, ideas.
Do you see the changes to the world where you have lived?
I feel what is most evident here in the Azores is the amount of plastic waste that collects on the beaches. On all of the islands there is so much. One day I was so overwhelmed by the amount on a beautiful beach I sang a song to the whales about it. It was a sad song. There is a link to it here to my song.
In Hungary the changes to the weather were obvious. Springtime is disappearing and it seems to change from winter to summer in a few weeks. It rarely snows and becomes very hot in the summer. The weather there has definitely become more extreme. I have also live or visited Algarve in southern Portugal for 9 years now. In that time it seems to have become much more dry and windy, Water is become scarce and there is less for plants.
How will this impact your community?
In many places in the world farmers and food producers will have a more difficult time consistently producing food for the world’s peoples. Especially in regions that are drying out rapidly like southern Portugal. I moved to the Azores because of the dolphins and whales and I feel these islands will be somewhat insulated from the impacts of climate change. They have fertile lands and water. I don’t feel the Azores will be immune from climate change as there have been some years where it doesn’t rain for long periods of the summer and aquifers dry out. Sea level rise is also fouling the wells in the low lying fajas where many of the people live. Tropical sorts and hurricanes are also becoming more common. However I do feel that these island will take longer to be impacted by climate change than many places around the globe.
Can you give me an example of something you are doing to reduce your impact on the planet?
There is a long history of subsistence living here on these isolated islands. It was not long ago, maybe 20-40 years where the peoples of Flores produced everything they needed. There is a movement here to return to that simple and sufficient lifestyle. It is a way of life that speaks to my soul. I feel like I belong here and connected to the world around me. I no longer want to build a career or collect a lot of possessions. Living a life of consumption is of little interest to me. Here I grow, forage or trade for much of the food I consume. I do drive a car put it is tiny and fuel efficient. My next car will be electric and even in a remote and isolated place like Flores there is infrastructure to support electric cars. I also compost everything and bicycle around whenever possible.
I want to work with people, and especially children to help them reconnect to the earth. Everywhere I have been people seem to long for that connection. Often the people who are most lost are very far from the natural world. These lost individuals accumulate in cities where mother nature’s wonders are not as obvious. I am starting a business called “Whale Tales” offering different activities on land and water with sailing boat or kayak. I want to use sailing boats, kayaks to allow people to interact with dolphins and whales in a quiet and peaceful environment. The focus during these activities is to slow down, be in the present! Reconnect with your inner child, awaken your senses, body wisdom, creativity and joyfulness! Strengthen the relationship with nature and see the simplicity and beauty of life. Whales and dolphins are like pure mirrors, helping us to reconnect with our soul essence embracing and loving life, revealing the passion and beauty of our existence! They radiate the love of the Earth and all living beings, deep peace, the Breath of life. As children we were full of curiosity, aliveness and inspiration. We lived with open hearts. You will rediscover that world through heart communication with dolphins and whales reconnecting with the creativity and self-healing powers within yourself.
Is there anything you would like to ask or tell me?
Nora asked, “Why are you doing this?”
I took pause and thought for a while before I answered. The current state of affairs in much of the world seems to make the project even more important. I very much would like to make some sort of difference in the later half of my life. Sailing around the world and experiencing the wonders of nature is certainly good for my soul and I have received positive comments from people who follow me on social media, but it doesn’t seem like enough to make the impact I desire. The climate change literature is boring and difficult for even a scientist to understand. Sharing people’s stories, feelings and experiences seem more likely to initiate change in our fellow humans. People seem to like learning from others and hearing their stories and I continue to learn from the people I interview. I hope by sharing these views the world becomes a tiny bit better in some way.
I believe that climate change will be the greatest challenges that humans will face in our relative brief existence as a species. So many individuals seem doubtful of climate science and lately very skeptical science in general. This seems especially true lately. Science seems to be under attack in many countries around the work. People readily include the products science has enabled in their lives but so many people are reluctant to believe the words of scientists or even embrace their recommendations. I believe my conversations with people from around the world are starting to help me understand that the true cause of this dismissal of science is not politics but that the distrust of science is a reaction to the empty out of balance life that climbing corporate ladders and collecting disposable products creates.
One often learns most when you reflect upon your own experience. I do feel that teaching Biochemistry in college and development antibody based tests for animal health was meaningful work. I’m grateful for the life that this career path enabled, however I was more fulfilled by working with my hands to improve houses and the edible landscapes around them. The times I truly feel happy is when I am experiencing the natural world, and the most special moments are when I see qualities most often associated with humans in our animal relatives. The natural world is still so full of mysteries. Much of the craziness that goes on in this world seems to be because people have lost their connection with the planet.
One of my heroes who has long been a champion of the natural world is David Attenborough. In a recent article he was quoted as saying that a deeper appreciation for nature “lifts the spirits to an extraordinary degree” and that “ordinary people worldwide, are beginning to realize that greed does not actually lead to joy.” These same ideals are being echoed by religious leaders around the world.
Many individuals I have met are try to do their part, but as a society we are making little to no progress. I am starting to fret that until the impacts of climate change begin to hurt the majority of peoples in first world nations that no progress will be made. Pain seems to be one of the best teachers. As a scientist I want to believe that man will innovate its way out of the impending climate crisis but on the sea the absolute power of nature to have the final say is strongly evident and within my heart I know that mother earth will have it her way.