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