The Portugal Chronicles, Year 1 Over the Threshold

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. revolution

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 washingdidn’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?

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