The Portugal Adventure – Bienvenido a España

On the Road Again

At last my lunch arrived, and since everyone else had already been served, I ate hurriedly. In addition to the everlasting lunch wait, the rest rooms were the worst  I had ever seen. I was not sorry to say “adios” to the café.

That first day was long. One of the young Portuguese, Tó, spoke English relatively well, and he rode in the same van with Harry and me, ostensibly so that I would not feel completely cut off  by the rapid Portuguese conversations. The teens’ discourses were almost constantly flowing and ebbing in the vehicle.

The translating began well, but when you don’t use a language on a regular basis, it is exhausting to sustain a conversation in it. Tó did valiantly, but as he and Harry became involved in some of the other interactions, I found myself listening to a lot of Portuguese. They translated in short hand from time to time, which was just enough to frustrate me because I wanted to be able to join in the conversations, and could not.


The next stretch of driving ended around 9:30 p.m. in Madrid. We stopped at a restaurant for supper where we exited the vehicles, stretched our legs, and waited to see if the place was open. After some “conversating” with the management, they agreed to open early for us. Yes, in Spain 10 p.m. is an early supper.

We were seated, and the waiter gave us menus. I was determined to avoid another omelet situation, so I kept away from the “tortillas,” which is what they are called in Spain. (If you feel confused, imagine how how this morning lark [me] was handling supper at that hour – and dealing with three languages.) I found something on the menu that I recognized: pollo. Yes, chicken! I ordered it. Orders made, the Portuguese asked me what I was eating, and that was how I learned that they say, “frango” (frahn’ goo) for chicken. Two languages so similar to each other had two wildly different words for chicken!

In the long interval between ordering, and eating, the Portuguese tried valiantly (and successfully) to converse with me. 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, and that in Portuguese “casada” = “cansada” in Spanish. 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 kind of hilarity, and it was contagious.

I looked to Harry for help, but would you believe the man was still laughing his head off 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 more words of explanation, and I got the word play: casada =  married and cansada = tired. I laughed again with them. After some thought, I realized the humor was the right hand of fellowship. I knew then that I could love these people. Who else did I know who could make me laugh even when I didn’t know
what was so funny?

We finished eating around midnight, and went outside. I was amazed at all of the people milling around downtown Madrid – including even very young children. Harry told me that is because they take a three-hour siesta from 1 p.m. till 4 p.m.That is a cultural idea I could seriously get into. Except, maybe, the part about being up till midnight.

On to Barcelona

It was quieter on the ride to Barcelona. We stopped there at the Spanish branch of the mission, and they put us up for the night. I don’t remember much that happened after dinner, but I do remember how grateful I was for the growing friendships, and that I had a bed and a pillow at the end of that long, long day.


The Portugal Adventure – Willkommen in Deutschland

Welcome to my new followers and readers. This blog is about our life in Portugal. During the month of December, I am going to re-post some of the earlier stories. The one took place the summer before we got married when I was visiting and enjoyed a road trip from Lisbon to Bavaria.
The Bible Institute in Barcelona, Spain

It was late when we arrived at the Bible Institute in Barcelona, and it was a short visit. The next morning we piled into the vans and cars and headed for France. From Barcelona, Spain to Lyon, France it is about 500 Kilometers. With the differences in culture between those two countries, it might have been more like 5000 miles – with no shared border. It takes time, crossing the borders in Europe. I got a taste of what the United States may have been like if some of our Founding Fathers had gotten their way. Those would be the ones that wanted each state to be an independent country the way the European countries

The street in front of our hotel in Lyon.
Portuguese at sunrise by the river in Lyon.
We stayed in Lyon overnight, and enjoyed our continental breakfast in the morning. If you are used to the “continental breakfasts” that are served in American motels, you cannot compare them with the European style breakfasts. There was none of that bland, made in a factory white fluff. Not even any of that square stuff allegedly made with whole wheat flour. The freshly baked bread and pastries served with café au lait was a “feast of fat things.”

Our next stop was at the border of Switzerland. The Swiss are punctilious about any official duty, and there was a long wait while they made sure everything was in order. After all, it isn’t every day that an army of Portuguese, Americans, and Canadians travel all together. Aside from that, Switzerland looked exactly as I expected.

I think that the Swiss must get up before breakfast each morning to sweep their front steps, they were so clean. There was no trash on the ground, and every neatly appointed home boasted colorful flowers in the windows. The Alps. I have lived in Colorado, and Wyoming, and have hiked up in the Rocky Mountains. Out there we customarily dismissed the Appalachian Range as “not real mountains.” But the majesty and beauty of those snow capped giants looming in the distance left me bereft of words. I nearly expected to see Heidi and the Grandfather walk into town at any moment.

The Alps.

Once through Switzerland, we took a quick “hop” across Austria, then into Bavaria, the largest, and most southern of the German states. The population is made up of mostly original settlers rather than people who have emigrated to Germany.  According to one source, Bavaria “is basically a free state.” The cleanliness of Switzerland and Austria carried through into Germany. I was convinced that it would have been safe to eat off of the ground.

The folks who started the German branch of the mission organization we were part of had a beautiful place for camp. Located near Munich on a lake, they had a 99-year lease on two castles that they used as dormitories for the campers. If the trip across Europe had not been enough of a dream fulfilled, I slept in a castle during our time in Bavaria. In a room otherwise filled with Portuguese women. Most of whom spoke very little, if any English. But, we got along fine by pooling our English, Portuguese, and Spanish. I can’t remember ever enjoying camp more. There was only one thing I wanted to know, and the only person who could tell me wasn’t talking.

One of the dormitories in Bavaria
What strikes you about this story? Have you ever visited abroad?