The Portugal Adventure – To Sleep, Perhap to Dream

Harry drank his accidental beverage that morning! And I learned two things: He was fully as stubborn and I am, and  I should be cautious about challenging him to take a dare!

To sleep, perhaps to dream – Shakespeare
The field director’s wife saw me fading quickly and led me to the flat beneath hers. The family who lived there were in the states, and had graciously offered me their home while I was in Portugal.  It all seemed surreal. I was 3,511 plus miles away from home with only one person I knew in sight. And the last time I had seen him, he had just broken a date with me because he wanted to go to a picnic instead.

I was tired but wired. My internal clock was ticking when I was tocking. The events of the past few days skipped and jumped like a kaleidoscope in my brain. Eventually, I drifted off into a light sleep.

When I woke up, I decided that a shower was in order. Though I’d given the bathroom a glance before I crashed, I didn’t remember seeing that peculiar bit of furnishing earlier. I examined it. Then, I turned the faucet on and off. I looked around in the vicinity. It was less than an arm’s length from the fixture with which I was more familiar. I wasn’t going to ask. Resolutely, I turned my energy toward getting ready to go out to dinner in Lisbon.   The Portugal Adventure - The Rain in Spain Falls Mainly

Putting on the Ritz

Harry arrived a little early, of course, and to his surprise, I was ready. The man who sent me roses was armed with the loaned car, and gentlemanly attentions. He held the doors, and made sure I was comfortable. I totally admired the way he held his own with the other drivers; I was certain were in training for the Daytona 500.
Harry drove by  more landmarks like the statue of “Cristo Rei” (Christ the King) near the 25th of April Bridge (identical to the monument found near Rio de Janeiro, Brazil).

The bridge was originally called Salazar Bridge, named for Prime Minister António de Oliveira Salazar, who served  from 1932 to 1968. Though Life Magazine called him the greatest Portuguese since Prince Henry the Navigator, many of the Portuguese had seen him quite differently. Dictator might have been a better title.

On the 25th of April, 1974 the military initiated a coup, which eventually returned democracy to Portugal, and the bridge was given change of name.
Soon, Harry pulled up at the the Lisbon Four Seasons Ritz. where he treated me to a bitoque. A bitoque (bee-tok) consists of a grilled or fried tenderized steak topped with a fried egg. It came with both a helping of rice, and French fries.

The next day, we would be pointing our noses toward Spain.

Have you ever mixed tea and coffee in the same cup?

The Portugal Adventure - The Rain in Spain Falls Mainly

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The Portugal Years – Year Four: Tia

 

"Tia" at her house with Bethy
“Tia” with Bethy

The best parts of Portugal are the Portuguese people. Knowing them has made my life richer. I met Tia (tee-ya) when we moved into our second home in Loures. She was a childless widow who lived in a couple of rooms added on to her niece’s home. When she learned that we were going to the states for a spell, she kept asking me if we were coming back. When she saw how much Bethy had grown while we were away, she exclaimed over her for a long time..

Bethy and I had been on our way to buy our daily bread when Tia emerged from her little cottage and welcomed us home. Bethy did not really remember Tia, but she responded to Tia’s greeting with a smile.

Tia was a good friend and my door into “Old Portugal.” She lived under Salazar‘s dictatorship in her youth. (If you are a history buff, the link has a good bio of Antonio Salazar.) He ruled with a hand of iron. From Tia, I learned that Salazar passed a law that no one could walk in the street barefoot. That was so that any foreigner who might  visit the country would not know how poor the Portuguese were. It would make him lose face. Littering in the streets was illegal. He enforced laws in unpleasant ways. Like jail time – and Portuguese prisons make the worst American ones look like a week at the Ritz.

When she was growing up, Tia’s family seldom saw meat except for the occasional chicken on a Sunday. When they did have chicken, children gave way to the working men and women in the family, and the kids got to gnaw on whatever was left. The gnawed bones were then boiled to make canja (chicken soup). As one of my American friends over there said, “First it was (grilled) chicken on the spit, then it was the spit on the chicken” that went into the soup.Tia loved to cook, and she amazed me bythe things she made from the little that she had.

One day in early spring, I found Tia in her house taking down a very hard roll of bread, a small coin and something I can’t remember from her door and replacing them with new. She told me that the coin was to keep her from poverty, the bread was to keep her from hunger and the other was to keep her in good health through the year.

(Any of my Portuguese or other readers who can correct me on that please do.)

I think that the best thing that she gave me was unconditional love. I was a foreigner in her country (and Americans are notorious for being obnoxious when they are out of their own country) but she accepted us as we were. And in doing that, she enriched our lives.