The Portugal Years – Year Four: Tia

 

"Tia" at her house with Bethy

“Tia” with Bethy

The best parts of Portugal are the Portuguese people. Knowing them has made my life richer. I met Tia (tee-ya) when we moved into our second home in Loures. She was a childless widow who lived in a couple of rooms added on to her niece’s home. When she learned that we were going to the states for a spell, she kept asking me if we were coming back. When she saw how much Bethy had grown while we were away, she exclaimed over her for a long time..

Bethy and I had been on our way to buy our daily bread when Tia emerged from her little cottage and welcomed us home. Bethy did not really remember Tia, but she responded to Tia’s greeting with a smile.

Tia was a good friend and my door into “Old Portugal.” She lived under Salazar‘s dictatorship in her youth. (If you are a history buff, the link has a good bio of Antonio Salazar.) He ruled with a hand of iron. From Tia, I learned that Salazar passed a law that no one could walk in the street barefoot. That was so that any foreigner who might  visit the country would not know how poor the Portuguese were. It would make him lose face. Littering in the streets was illegal. He enforced laws in unpleasant ways. Like jail time – and Portuguese prisons make the worst American ones look like a week at the Ritz.

When she was growing up, Tia’s family seldom saw meat except for the occasional chicken on a Sunday. When they did have chicken, children gave way to the working men and women in the family, and the kids got to gnaw on whatever was left. The gnawed bones were then boiled to make canja (chicken soup). As one of my American friends over there said, “First it was (grilled) chicken on the spit, then it was the spit on the chicken” that went into the soup.Tia loved to cook, and she amazed me bythe things she made from the little that she had.

One day in early spring, I found Tia in her house taking down a very hard roll of bread, a small coin and something I can’t remember from her door and replacing them with new. She told me that the coin was to keep her from poverty, the bread was to keep her from hunger and the other was to keep her in good health through the year.

(Any of my Portuguese or other readers who can correct me on that please do.)

I think that the best thing that she gave me was unconditional love. I was a foreigner in her country (and Americans are notorious for being obnoxious when they are out of their own country) but she accepted us as we were. And in doing that, she enriched our lives.

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14 comments

  1. How great it was to meet someone like that. Are Americans really that bad?

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    1. Some are. Really that bad. Hard to believe, but true. Often they visit a foreign country with a superiority complex.

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      1. Aha! Well, foreigners are mean to the professor, I hear.

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        1. That is possible. But not nice

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  2. Tia sounds amazing, Susan. I think you were very blessed to have had time with her. I think I would have sat with her for hours every day. (I love the idea of going out for daily bread.)

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  3. It was amazing on so many levels. We got to talk to neighbors and it was a much slower pace of life.

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  4. Aww, that’s so sweet! Such a lovely memory. I also hope your sick kitty got her miracle! <3

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    1. He seems to be recovering. I have made the guest bathroom into his hospital. I am keeping him there until his meds are done. He’s a sweet-tempted fur baby, so I get away with a lot.

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      1. Aww, that’s so sad. Please keep us posted. What’s wrong with him? A couple of years ago, I adopted a new cat from the SPCA and as soon as I brought her home, she got all my other ones so sick I was afraid we were going to lose two of them. Then I suggested to the vet that they might be allergic to the antibiotics and the vet said she hadn’t thought of that and tried a new one, and lo and behold, they both started getting better immediately. Good luck! <3

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        1. He is a special needs cat. I didn’t know that when we brought him in the house. He seemed all right for awhile then then http://theinquisitiveintrovert.wordpress.com/2013/09/06/our-georgie-cat/

          So, after that we thought we were home free. Then almost a month ago he started having urinary tract infections. I read up on them on the net and got freaked out and took him to a vet I said I would never take an animal to again because my other vet was closed.

          George was not doing well, and some of the things that vet told me just didn’t sound right to me. When he got plugged up again, I took him to the good vet and he gave him different meds and told me how to take care of him. He was peeing blood for a few days, but that seems to have stopped, and I am watching him carefully.

          Catching him to give him his meds was wearing me out, so that is why he is in the bathroom, plus it is easier to clean up messes in there than on the carpet. He needs to stay hydrated, so I give him water with a few drops of raw apple cider vinegar in it to help clear up the infection and prevent a relapse.

          He’s been through a lot, and he’s not yet three years old, but he is the sweetest tempered cat I’ve ever known.

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          1. Aww, he sounds like such a sweetie! And he’s a handsome guy, too! I used to use a vet that was overpriced and I wasn’t very happy with him. Then when I started donating photography to the SPCA, I learned that they have a full veterinary clinic there. (I don’t know if all of them do, but I assume so??) The cost was MUCH cheaper than the regular vet, they are open 7 days a week, and the doctors there are SO nice and genuinely concerned with your pets’ care. If you have to take him back any time soon, I highly recommend checking out your local SPCA to see if they have a clinic. I can’t say enough good things about them. I’ll pray for George. Please give him a big hug for me. <3

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            1. George is a sweetie indeed. We have a Humane Society here in Ocala. The surgery was pretty tricky from what I’ve read – not sure many of the vets in horse country would be up to it. I gave George your hug. I think he would like you if he saw you in person. In any case, I disregarded even the second vet’s recommendation of food for George and for about the same amount got some cat food that will help with his uti’s for about the same amount and that he actually likes a lot. Thanks for praying for my buddy. He’s definitely my happy place.

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              1. Aww, I love cats so much. I’m only about 2 hours from you down in Lakeland. If you want, I can contact some of my SPCA friends and see if they have any preferred clinics they would recommend near you.

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