06 July 2017

WiLd fiRe iN pEdRogAo gRandE 17-24 June 2017 :-(

This was a post on Facebook...but I want to include it here ...
it´s been 20 days since the 17th of June. the day we started our Natural Building Course at Lisbeth Herz s place in Pedrogao Grande, and the tragic day of the big fire that desolated this country for 7 days. 50.000 hectares of land burned down to ashes, 64 people died, countless animals, houses, and much more...This is still what I have in my mind and why I´ve been avoiding going online.I´m still blocked to what I want to say or share, not sure if I share about the week which was a mix of good moments on the building course together with really sad news from our good friends Liedewij Schieving and Joey.

 Joey was with us on the first day, together with 2 of the participants, Neil (Ireland) and Amy (USA) who would stay at their Agro-turismo place. We were having a lovely time during siesta down at the River Zezere, swiming and kayaking, when we saw the fisrt smoke...we went back to Lisbeth´s and continue the workshop...the fire continue and in a few hours it went from our far right (south-east) to our far left (north-west)... planes and helicopters kept on flying over us as we were quite near the Barragem do Cabril (big dam)...it was already feeling like a war zone...Joey kept checking with Liedewij Schieving, who convinced her to stay over with Neil and Amy for dinner...Only latter on we were thankful for this decision, as Joey could have been trapped on the road with the smoke, like unfortunately many people were at that time...They end up staying at an hotel in Pedrogao that night and Joey drove in the morning (she was allowed on the IC8 because she said she would go home to Figueiró dos VInhos... And we know what happened there :-( ... I kept on checking the news with Liede, but then there was no more phone reception, so communication was hard...I had a chance to send an sms to my mum (who just arrived from Angola and would obviously see the news) and Emma Cowan, to say we were ok where we were... we were not far from the centre of Pedrogao and the fire brigade, and in front of us we could not see any fire, thankfully, only behind us, we could see the smoke and the planes coming in and out... News came from friends who would arrive sharing who had to evacuate their lands, who is still missing, who lost everything, etc...sad, sad, sad... At all times I just thought about LIede and Joey and hoping for their safety and the safety of all the animals and their place... In the midst of all this I had to keep the participants focused. The group was great I have to say. We would not leave, as we were sure we were safe there. Neil and Amy still had all their things at Quinta da Fonte, including Amy´s passport, but they were quite chilled about it (as much as they could)...So we did manage to keep our energy on building, while most places arround us were being destroyed... It was hard to get the news from Liede that they had to evacuate, and that they almost drove into the fire following intructions from the local firebrigade...there was a lot of frustration, anger and pain in the midst of all... but I got equally relieved with the news a day later knowing that they didn´t loose everything...yes, the fire came by the valley, all eucalyptus burnt , but their houses were safe, the goats and chickens were safe, most trees and even the garden were safe...2 caravans totally melted and the bell tents are not suitable for using anymore. Obviously, as a tourist place, they had to cancell all the bookings and they will not have any more for this year... they are thankful for being alive, for their animals being alive, for all the help and support they have been offered, but very sad for all the friends who lost everything, and specially for those who lost their lives...I went there to spend the night on tuesday, it was also their first night after the fire (they were hosted with friends in Figueiro with their dogs and cats)...the drive was dreadfull...the south part of Pedrogao was green, but as soon as I entered the IC8 and passed the industrial area, ALL was black... I was driving really slow, as everyone else on the road... I have no words to describe...driving to Figueiró, it was interesting to notice the green bits , chestnuts, oaks, fig trees, strawberry trees... what an obvious message. All the eucalyptus and pine were burnt... My hope is that this message remains in people´s minds forever, as it is so easy to forget... just briefly scrolling on the news today, I can see that many voices are being raised, and I hope they can sound louder and louder, not only to the politicians in Portugal, but also in Europe...As far as I know (and this for more than 20 years), the eucalyptus plantations and paper industry in Portugal is part of the EU plan for Portugal... Anyway...driving down to Liedewij Schieving at Quinta da Fonte was hard...I tried to hold on my tears when I saw Liede,but I couldn´t. It was a mix of sadness for them, but also joy for seeing her alive...Even Joey got a hug (she doesn´t hug), I was so gald to see them alive, as they are such special people and friends... I know it will take a long time for things to heal and get back into place, but I´m sure they will be fine and their beautiful place will be even more beautiful, with more trees, more wildlife, more colour and joy... now it´s time to rebuilt, it´s time to work together, to help eachother, to support, to comfort, to hug, to cry together, to hear the same stories over and over until we´re sick of it...and we also need to find the time to play, to have fun, to laugh, to keep on with our lives, to hope and see things as an opportunity for change, an opportunity to make things differently... my silence and my words go to all those who suffered, directly or undirectly this massive national and international tragedy...yes international as well , as this area has a lot of foreign people who came to live here... People who are reviving places that are being abandoned and forgotten...LET S NOT FORGET PLEASE.Much Love, Peace, Comfort and Hope.

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