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.

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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 Chronicles – Year One: Food Shopping or What Exactly IS That?

The day after we moved into our apartment, Harry handed me a pocket sized English-Portuguese dictionary and a 1000 escudo bill (about $20.00 U.S.) and encouraged me to go to the mil-escudos-d-pedro-v-1980store and to get some groceries. Then he ran off to catch the bus.  My Portuguese at the time consisted mostly of sounds and a few words.  I could say “good morning, ” “good evening,” “good night” and “I don’t speak Portuguese.” However, when I said it, I discovered that it immediately set off a long monologue entirely in Portuguese.

I sat and studied the money.  I cast wary glances at the dictionary in my other hand. And I pondered the plethora of mishaps that might lie before me. I looked up hamburger and discovered it is the same word in Portuguese.  Harry loves hamburgers and I figured I couldn’t go wrong.

cobbleI set out on the cobblestone pavement, and paused outside of the butcher shop. The window was full of meat. Hanging on hooks.  Dripping into puddles of blood on the floor. I decided that there had to be  meat somewhere that didn’t look like a blood sacrifice.

I had been in the small market with Harry the previous year. Would that I had paid more attention. The small market carried a lot butcher shopof packaged foods. They even carried two brands of corn flakes (Kellogg’s and the National brand). But the fresh meat cuts did not look familiar, and my Portuguese did not stretch far enough to ask questions. If that were not enough, the meat was sold in Metric measures. I didn’t speak that yet, either.

Up and down the aisles I trolled until I found a small freezer. I peered at the contents. I couldn’t read the labels except for one package: “hamburger”. Bingo. I picked up some bread, potatoes (two things Harry told me he could not live without) and some milk and cookies. (The milk came in a plastic bag.)

At the check out, anxiety hit again. Was there enough money? How would I know how much money I should give them? What would I do if they talked to me?   At the register, they took my purchases, rang them up and then said something. I handed them the thousand escudos. The cashier asked me something. I shrugged. He gave me change.

The hamburgers were almost a hit. They were heavily seasoned, mostly with garlic and salt. I could foresee that eventually, I was going to have to make friends with the butcher shop.

Next episode: Transportation

The Portugal Adventure – the Long Year Part 5 The Money Mystery

Twenty-Dollar-BillMy teaching salary during the ’78-’79 school year was $6000 before taxes. The average salary nationwide in 1979 was $17,500.00. Yes, I was teaching in a Christian school, and it was considered ministry. Ministry jobs seldom come even close to national averages at the best of times. I chose to live  at home, and paid my parents room and board as well as helping out with odds and ends of things. My mom and I had a deal where I did the cooking and she did the cleaning according to our gifts.

I never really worried much about money in my life. Even on that salary, I had enough for my needs and some to share. I also knew that my wedding would have to happen on a shoestring budget.

Also, I was pretty clueless about wedding planning. Enter, my friend, Karen. She asked me how my wedding plans were coming along. She suggested that now that we had our attendants, we might look for a wedding gown, tuxedos, plan menus, and other mundane details like reserving the church. Karen had known me for at least six years, and so she brought along an appropriate gift: two bridal magazines. My rose colored glasses changed to a more practical color: strictly business blue.

Karen knew then, (as my daughters know now), that I only get into the mood for clothes shopping about every other blue moon. Karen had talked me into buying some clothes before my trip to Portugal the summer of ’78, so she knew she would have to put some muscle into getting me to go wedding shopping. She wouldn’t leave me alone until I set a date with her to go look at and try on wedding gowns. She left me a list of things to do. (sigh)

The next day I grabbed my purse and got ready to go purchase some food to cook a treat for dinner. I made a list of ingredients and put it into my wallet. When I opened my wallet, the $20 that I had put in there after depositing my paycheck was gone. That twenty was approximately a quarter of my income for a week. I made a loud and noisy fuss, but no one owned up.

A few days later, I found a twenty-dollar bill in a shoe under my bed. About that time, my parents found the personal safe in their bedroom closet had been robbed, and the money they had saved up to buy Christmas presents was gone. Dad called the police, and they picked up fingerprints on the penny-loaferssafe. They belonged to  a family member who was living in the house at the time.

Charges were not pressed, and the money was not recovered. My parents were devastated. I was shaken to the core. Before the day was out, I had bought and installed a padlock on my bedroom door. I knew it wouldn’t keep out anyone who was determined to get in, but it might slow them down.

Harry was such a faithful correspondent during this time we were apart. This man who spoke only about ten words on our first date in 1970 now filled pages of words in weekly letters. He took all of my family’s quirks and spasms in his stride, and reassured me that they made no difference to him in our relationship nor in our future marriage together. I knew then that he was a keeper for sure.