The Portugal Adventure – The Rain in Spain if you’d like to map the trip.

On the road - Harry conferring with Tó Figueira. Tó was  one of the young adults who worked with the Americans.
On the road – Harry conferring with Tó Figueira. Tó was one of the young adults who worked with the Americans.


On the Road

Ebullient teens crammed  the vans with suitcases and bodies.  The astonished sun blinked  as he peered  over the horizon. Vigorous activity at this early hour seemed indecent.  The babbling of Portuguese language assaulted my sleepy ears.   One year of Spanish in high school did not begin to cover the differences between the countries.

The hot desert held little charm. With the of sunrise it had turned into a sauna. But the heat did not deter the teens. Our boys thrust their heads out of the window and bellowed cat-calls to the girl of each town. Then we stopped at a café for lunch. There was no menu.

I should have ordered whatever every else had. What was meant to be a short stop ended nearly two hours. The rest rooms were the worst  I had ever walked into. I managed to enter and exit without touching anything. I was not sorry to say “adios” to the café.

Tó’s English was good, and he had declared that he would translate the conversations for me. I put too much faith in that promise. The translating began well, but it is exhausting to sustain a conversation in a sometime language.   More frequently, Tó  and Harry were involved in other conversations.Without translations. I found myself listening to a lot of Portuguese.


We arrived in Madrid about 9:30 that evening tired and hungry. As I was wondering where we would  find a place that was open. We walked up to a restaurant, and the place was closed. My stomach kind of rumbled. It was a long time since lunch. with the management, they agreed to open early for us. Yes, in Spain, 10 p.m. is an early supper.

The waiter seated us and gave us menus. I now had three languages to field. I recognized “pollo.” Yes, chicken! I jumped on it. Orders made, the Portuguese asked me what I was eating, and that was how I learned that  Portuguese chickens  are “frangos.”  And we waited. A long time.

During the long interval between ordering and the eating,  the Portuguese tried valiantly to converse with the exhausted Americana. They were indefatigable. Finally, someone asked me, “How are you?” slowly, and in Portuguese. I dredged up  my high school Spanish and responded, “Estoy cansada.” (I am tired.”) My interrogator instantly came back with something that the folks around us found hysterically funny. She repeated it again slowly in Portuguese: “Estás cansada, ou casada?” I thought that I was getting a Portuguese language lesson.  But, from the tone of the laughter it occasioned, it had nothing to do with a vocabulary malfunction. It was more like they were laughing at a joke.  And and it was contagious.

I looked to Harry in my best damsel in distress expression. Would you believe that man was still laughing hysterically at this  joke that I did not understand? Finally, he caught his breath, and told me:  “She asked you if you were tired, or married.” A few explanations, and I got the word play: casada =  married and cansada = tired. I laughed again, this time with them. I recognized that  the humor was the right hand of fellowship. I knew then that I could fall with love these people. Who else did I know who could make me laugh even when the joke was on me?


16 thoughts on “The Portugal Adventure – The Rain in Spain

  1. Eating in a foreign language is always fraught with peril! My system is to learn the words for ‘more wine’ at an early point – somehow that makes everything else seem easier… 😉

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    1. That wasn’t going to happen. The organization required being a teetotaler. In any case, I still smile when I remember that evening. I fell in love with the Portuguese people.

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  2. Your story is adorable, Susan, yet I am sure not a whole lot of fun for you. I have experience being in a country that spoke another language other then English, and to be surrounded by people speaking rapid fire in Italian, me not knowing a single word, was quite intimating. When someone did stop to help me understand, it was sporadic, for that someone was too involved in the conversation to stop and explain to me. Next time I go to a foreign country I shall bring a translation book with me. Loved your going down memory lane story, Susan. (((HUGS))) Amy ❤

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    1. Thank you, Amester. It wasn’t terribly horrible. The Portuguese are wonderfully hospitable folk.

      They loved me after that night. And still do. I had a lot of fun on that trip and most of it had to do with the Portuguese people.

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    1. Ah! That is a good question. After the first six months, (after we got married and settled) I could understand a lot more than I could speak. Mostly, I was afraid to make a mistake and so I did not talk a lot in the beginning. It took me close to four years to feel comfortable praying in Portuguese. I could understand prayers, but praying is an intensely personal thing, and for a long time I hesitated. Consider also that we had two versions of Portuguese. Some were Portuguese, and others were Brazilian. The director and his wife were raised in Brazil, and that version of the is the one I had the best grasp on because I heard it often.

      How is that for an answer that wasn’t really an answer?


        1. Usually at home, we did…and occasionally we speak Portuguese at home here. But when we were out we always spoke in Portuguese.


    1. Perhaps obesity is not a problem because (at least when we were there) there was not a lot of food that isn’t really food. It isn’t butter that makes people fat. It’s fake butter that causes the problems.

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  3. I so enjoy your blog, Susan. The food sounds fantastic, and I also enjoy the photos (like of the Ford – amazing!). “Pollo” indeed! 🙂

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  4. Great story! I remember in German speaking Switzerland, a friend (who spoke German) asking, on my behalf (I didn’t) whether I could have a portion of the delicious grated potato cakes (rosti) which only came as a part of the meat dishes, because ‘she is vegetarian’ Only unfortunately he ended up asking if his friend could have a portion of little horse (rostli) because she is vegetarian. Thankfully they didn’t serve horse (of any size) on the menu, so the confusion was painlessly sorted and I got the rosti!


    1. It is only too easy to trip over the languages of other countries. There was an American gentleman was teaching Portuguese teenagers in a Bible study. He got into the study and tried a word that was bent on mischief that day. In English, the word was “penalized.” The word that kept coming out of his brain into his mouth was one very similar but had a very different meaning. About the fifth try the teens (and I) were roaring with laughter. Naughty me.

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