The Portugal Years – Year One: Life is Very Daily

It may have been Laura Ingalls Wilder who wrote in one of her stories that the the ordinary days give little about which to write, and so was the first half of 1980. The first baby in our organization was born during that first year, and was the darling of us all. (We were all young couples.)

In addition, I began to understand about 30% of the Portuguese language when people talked to me – and what to ask if I didn’t understand. I became accustomed to the church services where people were on time when they arrived 10 minutes past the appointed hour to begin and continued to be on time when they arrived up to 45 minutes late. (And it is a form of being “on time” that I continue to treasure.) Toddlers and young children were permitted to wander around during the service with impunity. Unless they went too far, in which case a parent would grab them by the ear.

I took the bus to my weekly tutoring session at Dona Isabel’s home and learned how to wrestle with Portuguese verbs and win. I insisted to Harry that if we traveled on a double-decker bus, we must ride on the top. That rule lasted until the time we nearly missed our exit due to crowding.

Some days we just wandered around the Baixa (“by-sha” the area of Lisbon that was destroyed by the Great Earthquake of 1755). There were stores and other places to explore. We never left our money where it could be easily snatched, and our eyes were always open.

It was normal for a man to sidle up to Harry and offer us a Rolex watch for the unbelievably low price of $5. This is when you do not make eye contact and just kept on going. Another time, we came across some women (who may or may not have been Romanies) hawking hand embroidered tablecloths. Harry stepped up and treated me to a masterful lesson on haggling.

Spring turned into summer and my Portuguese lessons were over. I had hoped for another year studying the language, but the money was wanted for expanding the ministry of the organization. That being the case, Harry and I began to turn our thoughts to another shared dream, a dream of hearing the patter of little feet in our home.

tablecloth

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21 thoughts on “The Portugal Years – Year One: Life is Very Daily

  1. Love reading these. The professor especially liked the last line. Splendid. I’m still amazed that you speak a different language. How cool it must be. I say, the professor would be quite naughty if he could speak another language!

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      1. It’s not a bad kind of naughty, Professor. Not the kind that earns you a lump of coal in your stocking. More like the mischievous sort that are lots of fun.

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  2. Time: A nonspatial continuum in which events occur in apparently irreversible succession from the past through the present to the future.

    I love the Portuguese casting off the enslaving chains of punctuality. Yes, yes, I know this modern world we’ve created requires the regular flipping of the hourglass. But what is the first thing we discard on vacation, or even weekends? Time. We get up when we wake-up, not to the alarm. We eat when we’re hungry, not on our designated lunch hour. But I digress….

    Another beautifully written installment. I can see Harry ‘negotiating’, It’s easy to see how his particular skill set would excel at that.

    And I’d love to ride the top half of a double decker bus.

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    1. Tiempo latino.

      Riding on the top of the double decker bus was definitely fun. The steps up to the top are narrow, and make for interesting scaling of the heights.

      I’m glad you enjoyed it. Thank you for reading and commenting, Mr.Spencer.

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  3. Fascinating entry. And btw, I love that embroidery/applique work.

    One of the things I like about the stable is it defintely has it’s own time. Kind of like when people say “Navajo time”. LIke that. And similar to what you described here.

    Really enjoy your blog. Someone said to me recently “Wow, you must spend a LOT of time writing your blog.” Actually, I don’t (which is why I’m always having to correct errors after publishing). I spend most of my time on WordPress reading *other* blogs!

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    1. I sympathize with you about the balance of reading blogs and writing them. I have to be intentional about writing. I won’t try to write every day at this point, but aim for two or three posts a week. My other blog gets neglected, I am afraid.

      Navajo time sounds a lot like tiempo latino. I think that we rush around too much and are too, too busy. You don’t find this level of busyness in most of Europe.

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  4. I took a little memory trip back to Bolivia as I read your post. Nicely down hankies a specialty there too, haggling over prices was just normal for them. I must say I don’t miss searching through my stored up Spanish words to speak. Some are great at learning a language, some are not.

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    1. Thanks for stopping by, Betty. I love languages – that makes a different. And I have a lot of Portuguese friends on Facebook who keep me on my toes.

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  5. Ten minutes late is on time? All right!

    I so admire you for wanting to learn the Portuguese language. I’m taking Arabic right now, in order to get enough credits for my Assoc degree major, but am really struggling with it. I chose it due to my other choices being Environmental Studies and the like (bleh, ugh).

    Funny about the $5 Rolex cuz I had bought one also from a friend who got it during her trip to Hong Kong. Of course we all knew we were buying a sham, but it was fun to go fake-blinging, ya know? Well, that $5 watch lasted me about a month. How rude. Cuz a $10 watch from Kmart had lasted me several months.

    That’s so cool that Harry has a talent with haggling. You always need someone like that when you go street or flea market shopping. I’m really lousy with that, so I really wish I had that talent. It happened twice to me that I was actually charge MORE than what the seller had originally told me the item had cost. This was in Korea. The sellers told me an item would cost a certain amount, but then raised the price when he/she knew I was going to buy it. How rude! Terrible! A travesty! I of course would have just dropped the item and would have left pronto, except that I was with my Mom who made me buy them. What were they that my Mother MADE me buy them, you ask? A pair of shoes and jeans. We were on our way to go see her relatives, but she really was so annoyed by the way I was dressed. So I practically had to buy and change my clothes and shoes on the way to her relatives’ home!

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    1. sf, I’m glad you enjoyed the posts. There are a lot of posts on the Portugal blog, so feel free to browse whenever you like. Thanks for the reblog, too.

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  6. Reblogged this on untitled press and commented:
    My favorite part of Susan’s post is about how being ten minutes late is considered to being on time. Yeah! That’s my kind of meeting/get-together/gathering!

    It was also cool to read about how there are $5 Rolex sellers on the streets of Portugal as well, because I had bought one from a friend years ago, who had gotten it during her trip to Hong Kong. Of course everyone who had bought a $5 Rolex from her all knew that we were buying a sham, but it was pretty fun to go fake-blinging for a short time. A very short time though, cuz that watch lasted me only about a month. How rude. Cuz a $10 watch from Kmart had lasted me several months.

    Wish I had Susan’s husband’s talent in haggling. One certainly needs that when going street or flea market shopping. I’m really lousy with that, so I definitely need more confidence in staying firm with the price I’m willing to pay for something. I can still remember when lack in confidence in the gift of haggling had caused me not only to pay more than I was willing to pay, but higher than the sellers originally said the things had cost. It was like this, which had happened twice (argh). This was in Korea and a couple of sellers (at separate times) that an item would cost a certain amount. But once I told them to bag the items up, cuz I was gonna buy ’em, then they raised the price! Oh, how rude! Terrible! A travesty! I of course would have just dropped the items and left there pronto, but I couldn’t because I was with my Mom, who made me buy them. What were they that my Mother MADE me buy them, you ask? A pair of shoes and jeans. We were on our way to go see her relatives, but she really was sooooooo annoyed by the way I was dressed (as my sis is often also; they claim I look like a fugitive/homeless/chump). So I practically had to buy and change my clothes and shoes as we were on the way to my Mom’s relatives’ home! Ah, can’t believe I lost bucks to scammers in person! Humph! >.<

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