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“Building Bridges 4 a Better Future”


Chapter 1

The Citânia of Briteiros Our story begins on a beautiful autumn day, when the trees were dressed with leaves in shades of red and brown and the wind breeze was just embracing the branches. From the top of the old oak, I saw a boy who, with great determination, insisted on climbing Mount São Romão on his bicycle. Afonso was a young boy with sixteen years and an average height. His hair was dark brown and his eyes were green like the leaves of the oak in early spring. It was a nice boy, happy and responsible. Her godmother had chosen the name "Afonso" because the character from the history of Portugal that she most admired was D. Afonso Henriques, the first king of Portugal. His victories and conquests had always aroused great admiration. Maybe having the name as important and powerful was a good omen for the future of his godson. After having traveled several miles, Afonso decided to stop to rest, realizing that he was near the Citânia of Briteiros. Taken by a sudden desire, he decided to visit it, as it had been a long time since the last time he was there. He visited many places such as the aqueducts, the baths, the houses, the Council and suddenly he noticed that he was on the Acropolis, the highest point of the Citânia. He was amazed and fascinated by the beauty of the surrounding landscape, the richness of plants and trees that stood there. In fact, I am never tired of those wonderful views. To the north we have Serra do Gerês, to the northeast the tops of the hills of Cabreira and Alturas. From the east, we can see the chain of mountains that separates the river Ave and the river Vizela. To the west, there are the mountain ridges separating the basins of the rivers Cávado and Ave. I was told by my ancestors, old swallows, that in the Citânia once lived around 2500 to 3000 people. The houses of different shapes, round or rectangular, served several functions: they were used to store food or animals, to serve meals, and were mainly used to sleep. When the weather was good, many of the other activities were carried out in the courtyards. The people, who lived there, before the Roman conquest, had Celtic cultural traits. No one could know so much about the history of this place, if it was not the exploitation of the archaeologist Martins Sarmento, who discovered this wonderful site in the late nineteenth century. The Citânia consists of 24 hectares but, up to now, only 7 have been excavated. I am not sure if Afonso knew all this. What I know is that he was enjoying the visit, when suddenly he heard a strange noise that frightened him. Afonso turned and surrounded the entire place with his look, he tried to identify where that noise came from. He ran and saw a great movement of machines along the wall that surrounded the site. Some were digging, others were cutting trees and the busy trucks didn´t stop collecting the land. Afonso was very alarmed about what was happening without the knowledge of local people.


As it was getting late he decided to get on his way back home. It was Sunday, so lunch would be at his grandmother’s. Afonso’s grandmother was known for making the best Portuguese stew and the best codfish of the neighbourhood. These typical meals were cooked every Sunday for her children and grandchildren. She was proud of using in her Portuguese stew, the best meat in the area: pork, beef and chicken. The smoked sausages came directly from Mirandela. The potato and the cabbage were harvested in her own kitchen garden behind her house. The dried and salted codfish was ordered at Mr. Antonio’s grocery store and had to be from Norway. With this codfish she cooks delicious snacks to eat and beg for more, especially when using the magnificent Portuguese olive oil. At the end of the meal, there is always one of her most appreciated drinks, the famous Port wine, drunk in small cups to follow the dessert. What cannot be missed is the usual duo of Cavaquinho, an instrument that Afonso learned to play with his grandfather in his childhood. I decided to follow him to his grandmother's house. They were already at the table when Afonso came in. I immediately heard his mother asking “Afonso, where were you and why are you so pale?”. He hesitated in the answer, but he decided to tell everything that had happened. It took over a week and I knew nothing of him. Maybe he was busy with tests and his studies, or he had simply forgotten what had happened that day in the Citânia. I was in the middle of these thoughts, when I came across Afonso, sitting on a rock next to the Acropolis. He was looking carefully at the place where once stood a great cork tree. He also noticed that the old oak had disappeared and with it my nest, too. In the eyes of those men these things had no value. However, like me and the rest of the swallows, many other species were losing their habitat as the work progressed. I saw this happening day after day. Afonso found himself alone on the top of the Citânia, in the middle of a strong wind, which brought a nauseating smell. He became frightened by the deafening noise of the machines working and animals running away. He saw the river Febras polluted and its bottom full of waste. He saw the fish floating and others in agony and running out of water. A plantation of cork trees, protected by the population, had been devastated, like many other species, including the oak. Suddenly he opened his eyes and realized that he had fallen asleep and it was just a dream. Not a dream, a nightmare! The days went by and Afonso was still very worried with the idea of doing a dump on Mount São Romão. He knew that he could not prevent this from happening if he was alone, so he made a decision! He would tell everything to his best friend and listen to her opinion. After all, Leonor had always good ideas and she was extremely dynamic. Leonor was a girl of the same age as Afonso, and she was also of average height. Her long wavy light brown hair was what highlighted her elegant figure. She was a very smart and practical girl. The next day, he met Leonor in the school lobby, right after the maths class and he told her “Leonor, I want to tell you something, I am very worried about the dump that is being built on Mount São Romão”. “What? It can not be, we must do something to prevent it“, she quickly replied. Leonor was terrified as she listened to Afonso. It wasn't possible that the adults had the


courage to put at risk a historic and such important place for the region. They would not sit back and do nothing. They had to find a solution. But what? An idea immediately occurred to her: what about doing a campaign to stop the work of the machines? As two people were not enough to carry out such a complex task, they decided to tell what happened to the school headmaster. That very day, the headmaster received them and listened to their concerns with the utmost attention and finally said to them “I will call out a meeting with all teachers to tell them what is happening and try to solve this problem.” At the meeting, the teachers were shocked by what was told. Some of them agreed to help them because they also felt that a dump in the Citânia could lead to habitat destruction, deforestation and also cause unpleasant smells, soil contamination, increase fire hazards, disease transmission and could contribute to the worsening of the greenhouse effect. The two friends thought this would not be enough and decided to go to the dump and talk with the person in charge of the work. Once they got there, they asked “Who is the person in charge here?”. One of the workers replied “It is the gentleman next to the concrete mixer”. They went towards him and asked “What is the reason for this work?”. He immediately answered “We are building this because the other dump, in Gondomar, is full”. “Why don´t you build it elsewhere?” they asked in a persistent way. He replied “We do not do it elsewhere because this is a high spot and not near the population”. “But this is a historical site, can´t you build it anywhere else?” they said, almost simultaneously. “Yes we could, but there is not a better place than this!” the man replied sarcastically. After writing the letter, they began planning a campaign. This started with the help and guidance of some teachers. They did a survey and collected data with interesting information on the subject. The whole class helped. They did some invitation cards to a lecture and distributed by all the relatives and neighbours, acquaintances and strangers. The lecture took place on a Friday evening. Many people attended it because they felt curiosity on the subject. The speaker, invited by the students and collaborator in an environmental organization, started with the following sentence: - "The waste production is a reality in our world that has been growing at a dazzling pace. The state of our planet depends on us and our lives depend on it totally. Only with the preservation of our planet we can ensure the necessary conditions to keep life on earth." He talked about this problem and everyone realized that the development and mass production have improved the quality of life but simultaneously brought excessive consumption and the consequent increase in waste. They also discussed the actions that can prevent this situation. They were told that reducing the amount of waste produced begins in the supermarket, when we make smart shopping choices. Thus, we can reduce the production of solid waste and save money if we :buy packages with higher capacity and products with little packaging, recyclable whenever possible; avoid wine bottles that have plastic stoppers, choose green products or green tag or labels; reuse shopping bags; buy, whenever possible, locally produced products because they consume less fuel in their transport , produce fewer gas emissions and contribute to keep jobs and development of regional economy; use the containers for selective waste and avoid putting in the garbage the potentially toxic products such as batteries. The Speaker made the conversation very interesting and in order to make people understand it better he gave some examples, for instance that: on average each person produces about 1 kg of waste per day and at the beginning of the century the production did not reach 20 g; each person throws away, in the course of one year, the equivalent to two trees in paper; it is possible to manufacture a wide variety of products using recycled plastic, from pots, brooms to clothing ; with five bottles of coke one can obtain sufficient polyester to produce a size XL T-shirt; each ton of clean glass gives rise to a ton of new glass; one ton of glass takes 4000 years to decompose but if it is recycled avoids the extraction of 1300 kg of sand!


The session ended with another advice, this time to encourage people to use the practice of composting organic material, as this allows to reduce the amount of waste thrown to the dumps. A large number of people in the audience had a yard or a garden so the compound will be very useful to them if they use it as fertilizer. Another way to reduce organic waste is to use them in the feeding of domestic animals: chickens, pigs, rabbits, etc... Christmas holidays had arrived and Afonso was planning to spend them with his uncle and aunt, from his mother’s side of the family, in France. This time the trip would take longer, he would not travel by plane as he used to. But he did not care about that, in fact it had been his choice. With his bags packed and ready to go, Leonor arrived in a hurry crying out “Stop, Afonso! Do not go yet. I bring good news”. “News! What is the good news?” he asked full of curiosity. “The Mayor answered to our letter. He called to the school and spoke with the headmaster. He told him they would stop with the construction of the dump and then they would carry out an environmental impact study, to minimize the environmental problems, and he also said that they would study the possibility of building a dump in another place” she told him almost breathless. “Great! We did it! After all it is worth not sitting back but fighting for our future” Afonso remarked. “Now I must go otherwise I will miss the train”. “Have a good trip, do not forget to send me a postcard from Compiègne.” She told . From the window of the train, I saw Afonso satisfied and with a big smile. I also decided to follow him on this trip. There is nothing better than travelling. During a trip the senses are more keen and eager to experience new sensations, to meet new cultures, meet other people, other countries and other customs. That was exactly what I and Afonso needed: inspiration to change and improve our lives.

To be continued…

Authors (Portuguese Version): Students of the Vocational Course of Education English Version: Students of the Language Club


Chapter 2

Find another adventure in Compiègne



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