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The volunteer who came in a Volkswagen van

Her son Olle is sitting on a stool in the kitchen, radiant and at ease, and chewing a chocolate easter egg. Sixteen years ago, when his mother was sitting here in the kitchen just as radiantly and at ease, he didn’t yet exist.

When she came here with her Volkswagen, she did exactly the same

They arrived late in the afternoon. It was still early in the year, or it wasn’t such nice weather (also occurs here), anyway – she ended up in the kitchen on a stool and met the other volunteers who had been there for a while.

I felt responsible for her well-being, but I had to do something else as well. “Go on, it’s fine,” Arlene said cheerfully, and immediately chatted on with Connie, an older woman who was also here as a volunteer.

She came with an old Volkswagen van, together with a friend-from-Kindergarten. Yesyesyes, such a van:


It had been a nice trip, together with her Kindergarten-buddy “Wubbe” whom she had named that way long time ago. Wubbe’s real name is Miriam, but of course everyone immediately took her nickname. Wubbe needed a little more time to get used to, like “normal” people. I say “normal” ´cause I’ve always wondered about the lightning speed in which Arlene gained a place in the group.




As easily as she sat down on that stool; as easily as she talked with everyone (a lot about the Volkswagen) who’d been there for a while, as easily she got a place in group dynamics

The Volkswagen van had some problems, it rattled a little, didn’t pull well – in short, trouble with old age. I offered to go to the nearest garage to see if they could do something about it. No matter how easily Arlene chatted with everyone, to explain in Portuguese what’s wrong with your old van is a completely different story. That becomes “charades” at the highest level.

My portuguese wasn’t so great at the time, and certainly not my technical portuguese, but helped by my youngest of 8, I managed to make it clear that he did a bub-bub-bub at times when he shouldn’t. And that you heard “screeeech!” when you had to put on the handbrake. Up to the ceiling. And that he was wiggling in the bends and did fjutfjutfjutfjut when it really wasn’t appropriate.

Well, that was a serious problem, but they ensured me that they were going to do their best with this Volkswagen van

In the early days in Termas-da-Azenha it was different than now. Logical.

We were playing a little, playing “Catan” in real life, and trying the weirdest things. The FancyDressingRoom was created in that time, and Arlene has been a driving factor in this. Funny, isn’t it, how can things go?

She saw the small room, an idea fell on her head, and given her nature, she immediately came up with it. I already wrote about it in a previous blog – “Red wall, purple wall” and when I apparently pulled a face, she quickly followed up with: “and if you don’t like it, I’ll paint it white again at my expense.”

One thing led to another, and then there was the mosaic floor of the upcoming FancyDressingRoom 1.0 in the hallway. I had once scored boxes full of pre-cut triangles at one of the tile factories in the area, and they now came in handy for the geometric pattern that Arlene was working out with Wubbe.

It’s a little bad weather now. Just like in the north, April is an unstable month, freeze-sunshine-rain-heatwave, and this year it’s rain

Oh yeah. It was necessary. In the north you also noticed last year that the drought gives a chance of forest fires, so you now understand better that rain is necessary. But it’s a pity to have rain during your week of holidays. Especially this kind of nostalgic holidays.

Even more especially if you’re in a house with 3 teenagers. The Volkswagen van has been sold – maybe she’s still driving around somewhere. Who knows?

Despite the weather, still very nice to catch up again, to recall memories, to treat well-known people and to sit by the campfire as usual. (not just rain, but also beautiful evenings!)