I grew up in Fall River, Massachusetts. My background was modest, and I worked at a Portuguese bakery in town. – Emeril Lagasse
The day after we moved into our apartment, Harry handed me a pocket sized English-Portuguese dictionary and a 1000 escudo bill (about $20.00 U.S.) and encouraged me to go to the store and to get some groceries. Then he ran off to catch the bus. My Portuguese at the time consisted mostly of sounds and a few words. I could say “good morning, ” “good evening,” “good night” and “I don’t speak Portuguese.” However, when I said it, I discovered that it immediately set off a long monologue entirely in Portuguese.
I sat and studied the money. I cast wary glances at the dictionary in my other hand. And I pondered the plethora of mishaps that might lie before me. I looked up hamburger and discovered it is the same word in Portuguese. Harry loves hamburgers and I figured I couldn’t go wrong.
I set out on the cobblestone pavement, and paused outside of the butcher shop. The window was full of meat. Hanging on hooks. Dripping into puddles of blood on the floor. I decided that there had to be meat somewhere that didn’t look like a blood sacrifice.
I had been in the small market with Harry the previous year. Would that I had paid more attention. The small market carried a lot of packaged foods. They even carried two brands of corn flakes (Kellogg’s and the National brand). But the fresh meat cuts did not look familiar, and my Portuguese did not stretch far enough to ask questions. If that were not enough, the meat was sold in Metric measures. I didn’t speak that yet, either.
Up and down the aisles I trolled until I found a small freezer. I peered at the contents. I couldn’t read the labels except for one package: “hamburger”. Bingo. I picked up some bread, potatoes (two things Harry told me he could not live without) and some milk and cookies. (The milk came in a plastic bag.)
At the check out, anxiety hit again. Was there enough money? How would I know how much money I should give them? What would I do if they talked to me? At the register, they took my purchases, rang them up and then said something. I handed them the thousand escudos. The cashier asked me something. I shrugged. He gave me change.
The hamburgers were almost a hit. They were heavily seasoned, mostly with garlic and salt. I could foresee that eventually, I was going to have to make friends with the butcher shop.
Next episode: Transportation
“Portugal is a high hill with a white watch tower on it flying signal flags.
It is apparently inhabited by one man who lives in
a long row of yellow houses with red roofs,
and populated by sheep who do grand acts of balancing on the side of the hill.” – – Richard H. Davis
Coimbra is the city where the first Portuguese university was founded.
ADIEU TO COÏMBRA
by: Luis Vas de Camões (1524-1580)
- WEET lucent waters of Mondego’s stream,
- Of my Remembrance restful jouissance,
- Where far-fet, lingering, traitorous Esperance,
- Longwhile misled me in a blinding Dream;
- From you I part, yea, still I’ll ne’er misdeem
- That long-drawn Memories which your charms enhance
- Forbid me changing and, in every chance,
- E’en as I farther speed I nearer seem.
- Well may my Fortunes hale this instrument
- Of Soul o’er new strange regions wide and side,
- Offered to winds and watery element;
- But hence my Spirit, by you ‘companied,
- Borne on the nimble wings that Reverie lent,
- Flies home and bathes her, Waters, in your tide.
–Translated by R.F. Burton
I have just finished exporting all of the general blog posts I’ve written to The Curious Introvert http://theinquisitiveintrovert.wordpress.com/ and am keeping this blog solely for all things Portuguese. This will make it easier to find the sequence of the posts for those who would like to keep up with them.
We exited the airport building, and hailed a taxi. The driver put our suitcases in the trunk and drove us to Queijas where Harry had rented an apartment.
A little history, if I may. It was 1979 when I moved to Portugal with my husband, and five years or so before on April 25 the military overturned the government and the dictatorship. It was a bloodless revolution called the Carnation Revolution because the soldiers carried carnations in their rifles. Harry first went to Portugal in 1976, and the country was still rumbling in the wake. In fact, the airport was covered with military personnel.
One of the outcomes was the emancipation of Portugal’s African colonies. Public utilities were, to put it mildly, in a state of disrepair. At times, a couple of weeks went by with no water. The Communist Party tried to take over the country at that time, but in the end the Socialist Party took the government under the leadership of Mário Soares.The Portuguese colonists were vacating the African colonies, and some arrived in Portugal with nothing but the clothes on their backs.
Harry told me about the apartment on the ride to our new home. He added that he had left another couple from our organization to rent it from him until we arrived. His request was that they make sure the house was tidy for his bride. They reassured him.
We walked up the stairs to the first floor apartment. Harry unlocked the door and then carried me across the threshold. Inside, we shared our first (but not the last) kiss in our new home. It appeared that the couple who had been there had vacated the place in haste. Harry grabbed a broom and started to make up for their lack.
He walked me through the house. The kitchen was roomy and foreign looking to me. There was no stove or refrigerator in the place. But, it was cheerful. The window opened onto a pulley that I would use to hang out our laundry. We had a 220 washer and dryer on the way, but it would be at least a month before they would get through customs and to our home. And we were young and able so it didn’t become an issue to wash the laundry by hand in the bathtub. It did, however, take some time to dry. (The Portuguese had concrete washtubs outside on their veranda that they used to do their laundry, which was probably nicer than the old ways.)
We had three bedrooms – a huge apartment in fact. There was a cupboard in the hallway where we would later put our firstborn to sleep while we packed to move to another house.
Then, there was the living room. The landlady had painted it especially for us. My American eyes could not adjust to the result of her thoughtfulness. It was dark teal paint and she had taken a paint roller with a floral pattern on it and carefully painted it in vertical strips around the room.
Next installment: food shopping, or what exactly is that?
I’m back from my week at the beach (a working vacation, I might add where I wrote a 7000 word eBook for a client), and this is the third post of my Portugal series.
Any hesitation in making a decision to fly to Portugal in the summer of 1978 lay in the necessary financial commitment on my end. VISA credit cards were still somewhat of a novelty, and I was certain that the airline would not accept my Strawbridge’s credit card. When you make around $6000 per year (before taxes), even in 1978 the necessary expenditure was an impossible commitment. I nearly had to say “No.” Then, my dad stepped in and offered to lend me enough to supplement my budget. He said that I could pay him back…
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