The Portugal Years – Year One: On the Road Again

Portugal-CIA_WFB_Map_(2004)We did not plant churches. Our ministry was to support  local churches; we held evangelistic meetings,  taught teen Bible studies and did summer camp for teens. We also had a musical ensemble.  

Occasionally, Harry and I borrowed transportation and set out to participate  in some of the events, or just to meet with and visit with our Portuguese colleagues.  There is a map with the with a mileage counter on the right for your convenience as you follow us around Portugal. All trips began from our home near Lisbon. (For the sake of clarity, Lisbon is approximately on the same parallel as New York City but with a milder climate due to the Jet Stream.)

One late fall trip took us all the way to Porto. It isn’t the most northern town, but it is one of the oldest. The River Douro runs through the town, and on one visit there I saw women doing their laundry in the river. Other areas had wash-a-terias where women took their laundry and washed it in concrete washtubs.

Washer Women 02

this time, we were visiting the Centro Bíblical, another group that had summer camp for kids. When we arrived we were greeted warmly as only the Portuguese can greet. We were further north, and the little Portuguese language that I had learned did not sound exactly the way that it had in Lisbon. (Some of the Portuguese in the north sounds closer to Spanish.) But I did not need any translation for the love with which they greeted me. Harry was a favorite, and everyone wanted to meet his new wife.

It was much colder in Porto area than it was in Lisbon, and I was glad that Harry had given me a heads up on bringing warm clothes. We sat in the kitchen as the sun disappeared over the horizon and the cold invaded. They had a brazier on the floor to heat that room. Harry was applied to frequently for his mad translating skills.

At bedtime, I was escorted upstairs to where the campers bunked in the summer. I began to wish that I had brought more warm clothes; it was cold in there. I was in the girls’ dormitory and Harry was over in the boys’ dorm. The bunks were short and narrow, but there was no fear of falling out of bed. The ladies came and lovingly tucked me in by wrapping numerous woolen blankets around me. I couldn’t move.

In the morning, I wondered what was next when one of the ladies came and with words and gestures signified that I should get up and get my clothes on. I did and went downstairs. Everyone crowded around me and kept asking a question I did not understand: Dormiste bem? Harry was not in sight. Finally he showed up and told me they wanted to know if I had slept well. That was the beginning of understanding that Portuguese manners are more formal than those of my homeland. Eventually, I discovered that the formal manners also make it easier to have healthy intimacy in friendships.

On that same trip, we visited a Portuguese family who lived on the Atlantic coast. I don’t believe I ever met an inhospitable Portuguese (though I suppose there may have been some). The family we visited was so happy that we were coming that they prepared a special delicacy for us. They had gathered a large amount of sea snails, then seasoned and cooked them just for us. My word, I hoped I could get them down. All I could think of was the story about the missionary who was invited to dinner in an African village where he was fed some sort of white grubs.

They handed us a plate and a toothpick to pick the snails out of the shell. I looked at them for a minute, and watched others eat. Then I took the plunge. To my delight, they were delicious and eminently edible.










Have you ever eaten snails? How do you feel about formal manners?

12 thoughts on “The Portugal Years – Year One: On the Road Again

  1. I have indeed had sea snails. They were good. Just another seafood. Curiously enough I liked the Caramujos much better than Escargot. It might have been the preparation, or just the fact they came from the sea. I have never had a salt water food I did not like.

    The South’s formal manners and expectations of hospitality I expect are similar to Portugal, but of course I don’t know for sure.

    All in all, a fascinating installment. Gotta love that Harry. 😀


  2. 😆 The professor laughed! I can only imagine being tucked in like that. 😀

    Now snails… I don’t know. The professor would be really scared. What did they taste like? Earthy?

    I think formal manners are great. We should practice them here, for sure.


  3. Having visited Spain when I was in high school I totally relate about the importance of formal manners. Not being familiar with the language has its Inherent problems and not knowing customs and manners multiplies it. I learned by from our Spanish teacher to not put my hands under the table because it was rude and might imply one was playing under the table. To this day I never put my hands under the table.
    As for the snails I would have been absolutely horrified. I don’t have a poker face so I would have been trouble. Glad you enjoyed them.


    1. In Portugal you don’t push the chair under the table when you get up after a meal. To push the chair in indicates to the hostess that you did not like the meal.The snails were not objectionable. Probably not something I would have volunteered for, but they were tasty.


      1. Wow. And to think I would have thought I was being curteous. I remember doing research @ grad level and how executives who are going to reside in foreign countries should do diligent research on the culture where they will live because the assigned guide can only help one transition but so much.


        1. The Portuguese people overall are tolerant to people new to their country. It all made sense to me once I got going. It got to the point where I stopped going to events that were overall Americans because at one I went to there was a lot of putting down of Portuguese culture and customs and I found it both ironic and incredibly sad.


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