The Portugal Adventure – The Rain in Spain Falls Mainly

Harry had borrowed a car for the occasion and showed me some of the sights as I watched the traffic fly by.

We were due at the director’s home for breakfasts and Harry did not want to be late. I had not slept on the plane and was ready for a nap. Instead, I was confronted with more people I was ready for.

The Continental breakfast was a novelty and I mostly listened and answered questions. Apparently, no one expected Harry to show up with a woman on his arm. Harry was trying to play it cool. Until he poured coffee into his tea cup.

.

To sleep, perhaps to dream – Shakespeare

After breakfast, the field director’s wife led me past the puppies to the apartment beneath hers. It belonged to a family who were missionaries with TEAM. They were on leave in the states, and had agreed to let me sleep, perhaps to dream, in their apartment. I was tired but wired. My internal clock was ticking when I was tocking. the events of the past few days skipped and jumped on a kaleidoscope in my brain. Eventually, I drifted off into a light sleep for about six or seven hours.

The bidet: every home should have one.

 

Putting on the Ritz

Harry arrived a little early to take me to dinner, of course, and to his surprise, I was ready. (It was a rare event. My dad spent quite a few years of my life telling me, “Hurry up, Susan.”). 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 admired the way he held his own with the other drivers that I was certain were in training for the Daytona 500.

Cristo Rei, Lisboa

We drove around Lisbon a little before we went to eat. Harry pointed out more landmarks such as 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 name of the bridge in itself is a monument of sorts. It 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 differed. He was, in fact if not in title, a dictator. On the 25th of April, 1974 the military initiated a coup, which eventually returned democracy to Portugal, and the bridge got a change of name.

Soon, Harry pulled into a parking space outside of a large building. It was the Lisbon Four Seasons Ritz, where he took me inside for dinner. He helped me order from the Portuguese menu. We each had a bitoque. A bitoque (prounounced bee-tok) consists of a grilled or fried tenderized steak topped with a fried egg. They serve it with a helping of rice, and French fries. Fortunately, I am an adventurous eater (especially if someone else is buying). I liked it.


We sat there talking for a long time before Harry took me back to the apartment where he dropped me off. He told me what time to be ready in the morning, and I really did sleep this time. Jet lag is for real.

Harry talking through the window to António Figueira (Tó) on the trip.
Mañana

On the morning that we left for camp in Germany, everyone met together to caravan in several vans. We pointed our noses east and began to roll. It was a short trip to the border of Spain, but the next leg of the journey would be much longer. 


We stopped at a Spanish café around 1 p.m.for some lunch. Since time was of the essence, I ordered an omelet for my meal. It took over an hour and a half for all of us to get our meals, and mine was one of the last. Who knew that making a simple omelet could be so complicated?

 

The Portugal Years – Year Two: Winter

chuva

New York City is on the same parallel as Portugal, but the Jet Stream moderates Portugal’s climate. Summer is less humid and hot, and except in the north of Portugal, winter seldom pulls the freezing card. Nevertheless, the cold we did get was a force that drove us to layer on clothing and blankets, and to make as many oven meals as we possibly could.

We had no central heating (or cooling). There was no insulation in our home. It was cold and humid during the rainy season. We seldom saw snow except in photos of the mountains in the north of Portugal. What we got plenty of was rain.  frio_2

The rain arrived some time in October, and took its good old time leaving in April. Usually. Umbrellas were our daily accessories as we waited at bus stops and walked on the wet, cobbled sidewalks. That year, I tried to remember the sun, but by January it seemed like an old wives’ tale.

The weather brooded over my emotions. Seven months before we had committed to parenthood, but parenthood had stood us up. Granted, it had not been a really long wait as waiting goes, but it was a painful one for us.

Twice during those seven months I walked to the pharmacy to verify what I thought was a pregnancy. Twice I walked home with my hopes dashed. I wondered why it seemed that some women had only to think a pregnancy into being. Every pregnant woman that I saw stirred my envy and I dreaded the well meant but frequent question, “Are you pregnant yet?”

On January 20, 1981 Harry thought I should go to the pharmacy yet again. I decided that I was too fragile to do that. So when he got home from work, he borrowed a car and took the little jar to have the contents analyzed. Half an hour later, he burst in the door grinning from ear to ear; Harry had lassoed the stork.

cowboy-lasso

Have you ever waited a long time for something? What was it?

When I Get Homesick for Lisbon…

Today I am posting the link to the Lisbon Live Webcam. It broadcasts panoramic view of many of the places I’ve featured on this blog. These include the monument in the Baixa to the Marques de Pombal, the April 25th Bridge and many other places in the city. Try coming back several times to get a rounded picture. Lisbon is six hours ahead of EST, so if you check it about 6 p.m. Lisbon time, you will see the city at night.

Lisbon Live Webcam

Did you see anything that looked interesting? What was it?

The Portugal Years – Year One: The Summer and the Winter Were the First Year

sunset

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And suddenly, or so it seemed, the year had rolled around to June 30th once again. It had been two eventful years from the time I visited Portugal until our first anniversary. I was comfortably settled with the culture, and could speak well enough to go on with, but my ears…well, the Portuguese words ran past my ears much more quickly than my ears were able to catch them.

Harry, in spite of the landlady’s consternation, had painted the living room. We went to the store to pick a color. I was looking for a very pale peach to lighten up the room. Someone should have warned me. What looked like pale peach on the paint chip became pumpkin pudding on the wall. We lived with it. It made a great conversation starter.

I had become a competent food shopper by listening to and watching the Portuguese women shop. There was fresh produce all year ’round, but winter time was the time for broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage – and Harry didn’t care much for them. We got through it with a little cheese sauce poured over them and sometimes a hollandaise sauce.

Soccer barged into my life. I learned that Portuguese boys often learned to kick a soccer ball (futebol in Portuguese) before they could walk. And the aficionados of soccer are even more passionate about the sport than baseball fans in America are about going out to the ball game. I did find it much easier to watch than baseball.

My formal language lessons ended, but learning to speak Portuguese would be an ongoing project. Writing in Portuguese is fraught with its own pitfalls. Written Portuguese is much more formally expressed than in conversation, and requires great care in the writing. Another challenge was that two people in our organization were raised in Brazil. Brazilian Portuguese is less formal. Is it any wonder that people who didn’t know me thought I was Brazilian?

And, of course, Harry and I continued to hold a hope in our hearts that our dream would come to pass. We were ready, but the dream was not. We still had Sammi cat and I wasn’t lonely during the day.

Harry took me to a seafood restaurant in Lisbon to celebrate the first anniversary of our wedding. He had been saving up for quite some time so he could give me a lobster dinner. It was delicious, and we finished the meal with a performance of Cherries Jubilee.

cherries jubilee

The summer and the winter were the first year. And President Jimmy Carter was finishing his last year in office.

 

 

 

 

Have you ever eaten a flaming dessert?  What do you think you would like about Portugal?

 

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.

Cooked_Sea_snails

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

The Lisbon Zoo !

1989, Lisbon Zoo in Front of the white peacocks.

1989, Lisbon Zoo in Front of the white peacocks.

One of the family things we loved to do, especially after we had children, was to visit the zoo in Lisbon. We visited the monkeys, the giraffes, lions and tigers and bears! Oh my! One year when we went, they had added a pool with dolphins,  billed as “The Miami Dolphins”. We liked to sit close to the pool so we could catch some of the splashes! Well, not all the “kids” liked the splashing, but I thought it was fun. Sometimes the trainers invited some of the children to participate. Not all of the children liked that, either.

The star of the zoo, at least for us, was an elephant. The elephant’s name has been lost in the mists of time, but his talent has not been. You had to have a token, which you purchased at the kiosk. Then you held it out to the elephant. He plucked the token from your hand with his trunk. Next he deposited the token in the designated container and rang a bell.

One of the features of the zoo was the pet cemetery. Nothing like one you may have read about elsewhere, it fascinated us. There were some chairs nearby and we often stopped to rest there. It would be difficult to describe, so I found a short YouTube video featuring the cemetery.

Would you want to bury your pets there? What do you think of the names of the pets?

Pão por Deus (Bread for God or Bread in the Name of God)

One of the fun things about living in a country in which you did not grow up is discovering how much alike and yet how different your birth country is in comparison others. Holidays are no exception.

Pão por Deus almost mirrors what Americans call Halloween. However in Portugal, October 31 is Dia de Finados (Day of the Dead). This is the day that they pray for the souls of all of the dead to rest. In the old days, they processed to the graveyards and took food to eat at the graves of their dead.

In 1755, The Great Lisbon Earthquake (8.7 on the Richter Scale) destroyed a good portion of the city. The ruined section is now known as the Baixa Pombalina for the Marques de Pombal who was responsible for the task of reconstruction. People lost their homes and had no food in this disaster. Many of them walked the streets of Lisbon asking for bread in the name of God. Sixty thousand people died as a result of that earthquake and it created a tsunami about ten meters high. There was no discernible tectonic activity in the area at that time. (Want to know more?)

A new custom that began that day that has passed the test of time. Although it may vary from region to region, on November first children replay the aftermath of the earthquake. They take bags and go around to their neighbors’ homes early in the morning asking for “Pão por Deus.” Although originally the people were looking for bread, it is not uncommon now for people to give children cookies, candy, fruit and maybe even a coin.

Fun fact: In our second home in Portugal, one afternoon everything that was loose in our home was rattling or jangling. I thought at first that it was a big truck rumbling by the house, but soon realized it was an earth tremor. Before I could lose it, it was over.

What do you think about the custom of Pão por Deus? If you were going to begin a new holiday, what do you think you might like to do?

Pão por Deus
Pão por Deus

The Portugal Years – Year One: Price’s Pensão Residencial

pensao
Portuguese Hostel

When you live in a beautiful place with a delightful climate  and if it is in Europe you can depend on having visitors. If you have extra bedrooms as we did in our first home, you never know to whom you may be offering hospitality next.

Portugal fulfills all of those criteria, and the visitors did come. Family members came, friends came and people we’d never met came.  Occasionally, Harry and I considered naming our home Price’s Pensão Residencial (Price’s Hostel).

One of our first visitors was a young woman who had come to Portugal to do some art work for one of the mission organizations. She bunked on a mattress on the floor in one of the spare bedrooms. She did not want to share meals with us – asked us for to a shelf in our refrigerator so she could prepare her own meals.

A distant relative, Les Stouffer, came to visit us during our first year. He was our family’s perpetual bachelor, and had traveled all over the world but had not seen Portugal. He was an outstanding house guest and we enjoyed having him there.

One summer some basketball players came over from the states to do a basketball evangelism thing with the Portuguese teens. They slept on mattresses on the floor and I had to find my robe for the duration of their visit. It was the hottest summer we had while we were there.

One of our favorite visitors was a former student of mine. He was one of those unforgettable students that all teachers have in the course of their careers. He was smart, and had a great sense of humor (without which you really suffered in my classroom).

One Thursday I gave the students a social studies test on material we had spent three days reviewing. This student failed the test miserably. School policy was D and F grades required a parental signature on the offending test within three days.

On Monday afternoon, I got a phone call from his mother. She was greatly distressed, but I could not understand what she was saying. It sounded like, “We studied for the test all weekend.” I was terribly confused myself because I never administered a test to my students on Mondays and I told her so. She insisted.

When I realized she was talking about the social studies test, I tried to explain. She insisted that it was a test he took that day. When she finally heard me say, “He took that test on Thursday,” she still could not take it in. It took several  repetitions for her (and for me)  to understand that her fourth grade son had tried to scam us.

The Portugal Chronicles – Year One: Of the Learning of the Language

faculdade de letras
Faculdade de Letras (The College of Languages or Letters)
My diploma
My diploma

My husband still likes to tell his story about his first day in Portuguese language

English-Portuguese Dictionary
English-Portuguese Dictionary

school in Lisbon. The University of Lisbon offered  a course of Portuguese for Foreigners (Português para Estrangeiros) taught by a native speaker of the language. There were people from many countries in the class. Harry fortified himself with two words and a phrase that he was certain would keep him out of trouble: Sim (yes) Não (No) and Eu não sei. (I don’t know.)

The first day in class he learned that the teacher spoke only Portuguese and French. Imagine learning a second language from a teacher that did not speak your first language! She began by asking each student a question. Harry was flummoxed. When his turn came, he went with “Eu não sei.” The teacher’s angry response needed little translation. Afterward, the Dutch woman sitting next to him leaned over and said, “She asked you what your name is.”

Harry’s error helped me be prepared.  However, trying to learn a language from someone who knew no English, and whose language you don’t speak, is challenging at best. Learning the words is easy. Picking up on all of the nuances, idioms and slang may take years. You haven’t really arrived until you stop translating in your head before you talk, you dream in the second language and you are able to understand the puns.

Textbook
Textbook

Fortunately, I also had a private tutor during that first year, Dona Isabel. Her mother was English, and she spoke both languages fluently. I spent an hour each week with her. My only fear was of her terrifying Chihuahua, “Sniff” whose stentorian barking began when I buzzed my teacher’s apartment, and subsided into disgruntled growls for the duration of the hour. Agatha Christy’s books that were translated into Portuguese were my other “tutors.”

 I was speaking basic, simple Portuguese well at the end of six months, but I still had a hard time hearing when someone spoke to me. Harry had no trouble hearing the language at first, but struggled with correct pronunciation.  The first year was the most difficult, especially because I knew how to ask the right questions but had to ask over and over to understand the answers. It was four years before I felt comfortable praying in Portuguese. And, oddly enough,  sometimes I still use Portuguese when it expresses my thoughts better than English. 

Learning a new language, and immersing yourself in a new culture is a humbling experience. It will change who you are – and how you see the world – probably forever.

Portuguese verbs
Portuguese verbs