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.

Madrid

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.

Advertisements

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 Adventure – Into the Wild Blue Yonder

I looked at the thin envelope. Good news or bad? Was he going to dump me? Then I tore it open.

That undersized missive felt ominous as I opened the letter. Then I saw the rest of the story. The Portugal team was taking a group of teens to Germany for camp. Adult would driving the teens in vans and all of us would do some sightseeing along the way. Then he asked me the life changing question: would I come along on the road trip? Harry  would pay for my food and lodging.  If I could buy my airline tickets. It was my turn to have no words. I had a feeling, though, that we might be getting closer to the answers to my questions.

But now I had another question. Could I pay for the flight? Christian schools do not, on the whole, have money to throw about and I was certain that the airline would not take my word that I would pay when I had the money.  Reluctantly, I prepared to write a letter to tell Harry the sad news.

Then, my dad with puppy eyes in place, offered to buy my ticket. I was to pay him back when school started back up in the fall. So, I was left without excuse.

A travel agency in town took care of my passport photo and my travel arrangements. I had never flown anywhere on my own, and was all in a dither getting things together. No one wanted to drive me  to New York City, so I reserved an airport limo. Suitcases were procured and a good friend helped me shop for the gaps in my wardrobe.

Somehow I managed to keep both feet on the ground. At least until the day of departure. When the airport limo arrived it looked suspiciously like a van. But, we arrived at Kennedy Airport with time to spare. The direct flight to Portugal left in the early evening and I had adequate time to ponder Harry’s last letter.

The detailed information he had painstakingly written was astonishing. Customs had been carefully detailed. He could not come in to the airport and help me get through, but his directions lacked nothing. He added that I should try to sleep on the plane, because it would be a long day after I landed. Right. He signed the note simply, “I love you.” Given our history, I wasn’t sure what that meant.

The flight was about seven hours, and we were circling over Lisbon by 7 a.m. I peered out the window. The sun slipped over the horizon and bathed the city in red-gold beams.

Harry’s instructions were perfect. I passed through customs like a seasoned traveler. Before I could panic, he walked in the door. He beamed as he walked over to me, reached out his arm, and shook my hand.

Lisbon sunrise

The Portugal Adventure: My Laddie Lies Over the Ocean

This is where I stopped some time ago on The Portugal Adventure, so I will repeat it and will begin with the next installment next time. I had just received flowers. Red roses.

Those beautiful red roses perfumed the house. Mom fidgeted and kept the roses watered. My dad took to sulking in the lounger in the corner and got out his whipped puppy expression. I wrote a brief “bread and butter note.” And I added that they have come on April Fool’s Day and waited.

Monday I took a rose or two and put them in a vase on my desk. The students noticed and asked questions, of course. But there was little to say at the time. And teaching requires one’s full attention.

Harry’s reply came in short order. With an explanation. He explained that he had asked that they be delivered for Easter. On March twenty-fifth. It was an explanation that didn’t answer my real question. But, then, I hadn’t asked my real question. He had signed the letter, “Love, Harry” And now I had another unanswered question.

Then, Harry began writing with all of the words that he had never used when we dated seven years before. Letters came often, always signed “Love, Harry.” They were filled with anecdotes of life in Portugal. Stories about no electricity and no water for weeks on end abounded. Even a few tales of his co-workers found their way to Pennsylvania.

I started thinking of what to do over the summer. The year before I had driven across the United States with my sister and a friend. That was going to be tough to top!

In early June, Harry’s missive was extraordinarily thin.

The Portugal Adventure – I Love Coffee, I Love Tea

It may have been the seven-hour flight over the Atlantic. Perhaps the loss of seven hours of my life added to it. I was in a place where my ability to speak English fluently was of minimal benefit. Or it could have been the shock of a handshake instead of the expected kiss factored into it.

My senses went on overdrive. It went beyond the whiff of diesel fumes. It was just something for which I had no olfactory memories. To this day, if you were to blindfold me, and open a jar full of Portuguese air under my nose, I would immediately iria começar a falar Português. The language reverberated in my ears. Sounding like a merging of Spanish and French. I kept trying to hear the conversation. Unsuccessfully! The golden orb in the azure sky gently warmed the morning without the harsh summer blast to which I was accustomed in the states.

Harry interrupted my reverie to ask if those two suitcases were all there was of my luggage. When I admitted that they were, he grinned and said, “I’ve never known a woman to travel with so little luggage.” Score? I thought I had brought a lot. It had seemed more than enough as I had dragged it through the airport. Was it meant as a compliment?

We stopped in front of a white car where Harry deposited my bags in the trunk.  As he put the key in the ignition, I noticed the flow of the traffic. The cars were small, and zipping around like they were practicing for Grand Prix of Monaco.  Suddenly, we were in the flow. Harry took me on a roundabout but short sightseeing excursion of which I remember little apart from my white knuckles. Then he announced that we needed to get moving. He was taking me to eat breakfast with some of the Portugal team.

We arrived in good time. As we stepped out of car, the door opened to a warm welcome. The field director’s wife had prepared an attractive continental breakfast which was reposing on the table.

I was the novelty of the month. Harry had a woman in tow, a wonder that no one had ever expected of Harry. And they expected me to talk. Now, nothing renders an introvert more incapable of conversation than a room full of new acquaintances whose curiosity is killing them. But Harry came to my rescue with a diversionary tactic. He asked for a teabag, then picked up the coffee pot and poured coffee it over his teabag.

 

The Portugal Adventure – Prologue

 

(I am in the process of editing the first of my Portugal stories. I needed to get up to speed and hope it will help. Feel free to offer positive suggestions.)

 

In 1978, April First fell on a Saturday. The balmy day was thrice welcomed after a winter of serial snowstorms, blizzards, and multiple school closing days. The sun was singing our song. My sister Mary and I shared but one thought: beach!

Mary and I had packed what we needed for the trip, and were ready for some fun in the sun. Then the doorbell rang. My dad attended to the door, came back to me and handed me a florist box. I was stunned. I wasn’t seeing anyone, and anyway who sends flowers on April Fool’s day?

I opened the box to find a dozen long-stemmed red roses. I dug through the paper looking for a card. They were from Harry (an old flame whom I had not seen for seven years following a bitter disagreement). He had wired them from Portugal where he was the business manager for an organization that worked with teens. I was stunned.

Some time had passed. We both had graduated from college, and I moved to Denver to work as an assistant editor. I dated a couple of men on and off and was engaged to one for a short time. I had heard that Harry had gone to Portugal and we picked up an intermittent correspondence as old friends sometimes do. I moved back to Pennsylvania in 1976 to teach at a church school.

Harry was still in Portugal, and I was in my second year of teaching when the roses arrived. As I arranged the roses in a vase, I tried to make sense of the whole thing. But, the day was fine, and I had no patience for puzzles. I shrugged, and my sister and I climbed into the car and spent a glorious day enjoying the sun and surf.

 Atlantic City

The Marquês de Pombal

 Marquês de Pombal
Marquês de Pombal

“The Marquês de Pombal was born in 1699.The Portuguese statesman Sebastião Joséde Carvalho e Mello, Marquês de Pombal (1699-1782), one of the most important men in the history of Portugal, became virtual dictator of his country during the reign of King Joseph I. He used his powers to introduce much-needed reforms.” (http://biography.yourdictionary.com/marques-de-pombal)

Pombal became a consummate statesman and had his fingers in every pie he could reach. He is most appreciated and best known for his work after the The Great Lisbon Earthquake. He was a far thinking man and  way ahead of his time which was clearly seen the process of rebuilding Lisbon. During that time, he became virtual dictator. Though  He tried to curb the British from having so much to say in Portuguese economics. In that effort, he was largely unsuccessful.

Eventually, he was put out of office and banished to the town of Pombal. Eventually he received pardon. He died May 8, 1782 at 82 years old.

If you would like to read a little more about this interesting man, follow the link.

What do you think? Was he a patriot or a glory grubber?

The Praça de Pombal
The Praça de Pombal in downtown Lisbon