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 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 – The Rain in Spain

http://www.greece-map.net/europe.htm if you’d like to map the trip.

On the road - Harry conferring with Tó Figueira. Tó was  one of the young adults who worked with the Americans.
On the road – Harry conferring with Tó Figueira. Tó was one of the young adults who worked with the Americans.

 

On the Road

Ebullient teens crammed  the vans with suitcases and bodies.  The astonished sun blinked  as he peered  over the horizon. Vigorous activity at this early hour seemed indecent.  The babbling of Portuguese language assaulted my sleepy ears.   One year of Spanish in high school did not begin to cover the differences between the countries.


The hot desert held little charm. With the of sunrise it had turned into a sauna. But the heat did not deter the teens. Our boys thrust their heads out of the window and bellowed cat-calls to the girl of each town. Then we stopped at a café for lunch. There was no menu.

I should have ordered whatever every else had. What was meant to be a short stop ended nearly two hours. The rest rooms were the worst  I had ever walked into. I managed to enter and exit without touching anything. I was not sorry to say “adios” to the café.

Tó’s English was good, and he had declared that he would translate the conversations for me. I put too much faith in that promise. The translating began well, but it is exhausting to sustain a conversation in a sometime language.   More frequently, Tó  and Harry were involved in other conversations.Without translations. I found myself listening to a lot of Portuguese.

Madrid

We arrived in Madrid about 9:30 that evening tired and hungry. As I was wondering where we would  find a place that was open. We walked up to a restaurant, and the place was closed. My stomach kind of rumbled. It was a long time since lunch. with the management, they agreed to open early for us. Yes, in Spain, 10 p.m. is an early supper.

The waiter seated us and gave us menus. I now had three languages to field. I recognized “pollo.” Yes, chicken! I jumped on it. Orders made, the Portuguese asked me what I was eating, and that was how I learned that  Portuguese chickens  are “frangos.”  And we waited. A long time.

During the long interval between ordering and the eating,  the Portuguese tried valiantly to converse with the exhausted Americana. 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.  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.  And and it was contagious.

I looked to Harry in my best damsel in distress expression. Would you believe that man was still laughing hysterically 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 explanations, and I got the word play: casada =  married and cansada = tired. I laughed again, this time with them. I recognized that  the humor was the right hand of fellowship. I knew then that I could fall with love these people. Who else did I know who could make me laugh even when the joke was on me?

 

The Portugal Years – On the Collecting of Cats

You know how a few small things can create a landslide? That’s how my cat collection began. I had no idea of collecting cats. It never ever crossed my mind. My dad had given me a Garfield pencil eraser. Later it was a pewter kitty playing with yarn. But let’s face it: two decorative cats do not a collection make. Oh, and if I had ever collected cats, I gave it up at least a decade ago.

The little fellows should be displayed with dignity, and in order for that to happen, I’d have to take up dusting. So, no more cats unless they actually use a litter box. I enjoyed and appreciated every little knick-knack from each loving person who gave them to me, but enough is enough. And just as a warning to my children, I’m putting your names on every one of them and you will have to deal with them after I am gone. 😆 Anyway, here they are: the cats of the world.

garfield
Garfield – feeling his age, I’m afraid, but still here.
This is the pewter yarn kitty. She stole my heart from the start because I liked to hold her in my hand. I still do.
This is the pewter yarn kitty. She stole my heart from the start because I liked to hold her in my hand. I still do.
One of my fourth graders gave this to me back in probably 1977-78 school year.
One of my fourth graders gave this to me back in probably 1977-78 school year.
My friend, Cindi, gave this to me after we got our Samantha cat. I think it was a birthday present. She gave me a whole family of cats.
My friend, Cindi, gave this to me after we got our Samantha cat. I think it was a birthday present. She gave me a whole family of cats.
Having a set of siamese, they seemed to attract more.
Having a set of siamese, they seemed to attract more.
And more...
And more…
Portuguese cats...
Portuguese cats…
...Spanish cats...
…Spanish cats…
...German cats
…German cats
Novelty cats
Novelty cats
Useful cats
Useful cats
Cats
Cats
A gift from my daughter's godmother when we left Porttugal
A gift from my daughter’s godmother when we left Portugal
Cats from friends.
Cats from friends.
So many cats, so many happy memories that came with them...
So many cats, so many happy memories that came with them…
Cats of all kinds.
Cats of all kinds.

I love cats

Do you have any collections (intentional or otherwise)?

 

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
Barcelona

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.
France
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.”
Switzerland

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.
 Germany

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
“My”dormitory
What strikes you about this story? Have you ever visited abroad?

The Portugal Adventure – Inquiring Minds Want to Know !

Stopped on the Autobahn

I’m fairly certain that the German chickens were still asleep the day we boarded our vehicles and turned southward to the Iberian Peninsula. We were heading right out of Germany on the Autobahn. You can go pretty doggone fast on the Autobahn, and it’s legal. The only thing holding you back is how fast your car can go. Or, whether or not your vehicle gets a flat tire.

Yep, it’s a flat tire!

Stopping on the Autobahn is discouraged by law. (See the link above,) But, driving with a flat tire on a road that has a top speed of 240 Kilometers per hour (150 mph) would be frowned upon.

How long will it take?

Everyone exited the van and removed all of the luggage so they could access the spare tire Then, we waited. And, waited.

When we got back on the road again, we headed for the Swiss border. We began to zip through Switzerland on a toll road. The trouble began when we arrived at the first toll booth where the legal tender was the Swiss franc. The toll collector spoke French, Italian, and German. Harry spoke English, Portuguese, and had studied (and forgotten) French and Latin in high school. Since we came in from Germany, the collector tried talking to us in German. Harry then tried English, and Portuguese without success. As seems to be the custom in these situations, both parties tried speaking his native language with increasing volume in the vain hope that louder will be more comprehensible.

Then, Harry remembered that I had studied German in high school, and asked if I could help. Put on the spot like that, I was certain I would not remember anything useful. I mean, I remembered a song about Augustine and the chorus had a lot of ja, ja, ja, ja! in it. But, then it happened. A couple of German phrases came running to our rescue, and were modified for the occasion. “Wir haben keine Schweizer Franken. Wir haben Deutsch Mark.” (We have no Swiss francs. We have German Marks.) That proved to be a negotiable proposition, and we were soon back on the road.

We arrived at the Bible Institute in Barcelona late at night and spent the night there. I stayed again with one of the American missionary families. I was so tired, I forgot to lock the bathroom door when I was bathing. Suddenly, the doorknob rattled, and the missionaries’ two-year-old son came wandering in to have a conversation with me. I ducked down below “see” level, asked him to stay in the doorway, and enjoyed a lovely (loud) chat with him until his mother heard us and fetched him out.

Sunbathing on the Mediterranean Sea
By the sea

The next day we went to the beach. The one on the Mediterranean Sea. It’s funny, you know? You study about all of these things in school, but it’s an imaginary excursion at the time. When you are standing in front of, and swimming in the sea that has touched so many nations down through history, the reality of it is almost overwhelming. One of our Portuguese chaperones proposed taking a picture of Harry and me together in that historic location. We stood, side by side, smiling and waiting for him to snap it. Then he looked over the top of the camera, and told us to stand closer. He checked the camera, and  looked over again. This time he instructed Harry to put his arm around me. Isn’t he adorable? Does he look bashful to you?

The next morning my hostess grabbed my arm as we were getting ready to leave. She took me aside, and asked me, “What is going on with you and Harry?” I told her, “I have NO idea what is going on.”

Next week: the plains in Spain again.

If you are reading this story for the first time, you will find the first post here, and there are links from each post to the next. The next post is here.