Living In Portugal
Having spent a lot of time in Lisbon, Portugal since the summer of 2008, I have to say it’s been a very wild ride. And when I say wild I mean it. Unfortunately my love affair with this wonderful Iberian country must come to a temporary end.
Which is a shame – because Portugal will suffer the loss of the One True Frog ... and damn but I’m going to miss the place.
Living In Portugal
Whilst living in Portugal, I've had the opportunity to experience some truly wonderful moments. I’ve met some of the warmest, friendliest and down right quirky people on the face of the planet.
I’ve experienced some of the most cringe making moments in my life. I’ve also had some of the funniest. And I’ve certainly had some of my drunkest. The floor and I have have been known to meet in Bairro Alto on more than one occasion.
I’ve learned how to communicate in a different language. It’s called Porturades. A 50/50 mix of the Portuguese language and the game of charades. I’m proud of my ability to invent a whole new form of communication. It never ceases to aamze me how resourceful I am. As well as idiotic.
I’ve got it down to a fine art. I can point, mime and verb hop with wild abandon. I’ve taken the art of foreign communication to new levels. Mostly the floor - but I did have the odd moment of slight elevation.
Like the time I became aware of just how many curse words there are in Portuguese. All courtesy of one wild ride through the backstreets of Lisbon with a maniacal taxi driver. Trust me ... he really did own the road.
Which brings me to those I’ve lived among, the Portuguese themselves.
The Portuguese are a wonderful people. They’re idiosyncratic, generous and bursting with pride for this little known and undervalued Western European country. They’re passionate about who and what they are – and boy they sure know how to drink.
Their history is rich and littered with great conquests and exploits, triumph and tragedy. They have their own unique music, Fado, which represents the heart, soul and history of Portugal. The cuisine is particular to the people and the country and there's no doubt that the Portuguese know how to party.
Did you know that they’d adopted the US fall holiday of Halloween? They most definitely have *nods* but would you believe ... they don’t really know what it’s about or why it exists. But hey! This is Portugal! Who needs details?
And so they approach Halloween with gusto. Cakes, gifts and costumes abound, people buy them. Pumpkin pictures appear everywhere. There are witches abroad. But no one goes or even understands trick or treating. No. The Portuguese bypass that aspect ... and just party instead.
And that’s the Portuguese in a nutshell. If it’s fun, something they can enjoy as a family or as a community then hey! They’re having some. And providing they have an idea of who you are, you’re welcome to join in – you’ve just got to be able to keep up.
Although I’ve spent most of my time in Lisbon, I’ve been up and down the country. And I’ve yet to discover an area or a town that isn’t easy on the eye or makes me want to turn away and not return. I’ve lost count of the times that I’ve thought ‘ohhhhh I could live here’. ‘And here’
I love the West coast, the rolling sandy beaches, the surf, the small, little known coves and myriad of medieval towns and villages. The South, the stunning Mount Gordo, almost toe to toe with Spain. The lush green stunning vistas of the North. Coimbra and the bright lights, and the spectacular architecture and history of Portugal that’s apparent in so many places.
Lisbon itself is almost a breed apart. Technology abounds, life is busy and fast paced. The roads are full of crazy drivers and the streets awash with Lisboettas living life with gusto. And usually a beer or two for good measure.
The weather is divine and unbelievably good. The food is relatively cheap and soooo damn tasty. I’ve discovered green wine and how to really appreciate good food. I’ve experienced coffee heaven on a daily basis. I’ve found out that whilst I still don’t like seafood, I kinda sorta don’t mind it quite so much any more.
I’ve come to truly realise what it feels like to be the foreigner, to be the immigrant. I have a new found understanding of how hard it is to be the odd one out, to be in a strange country, lacking the ability to even speak two words. And yet ... with time and effort, what a little adaptation can offer.
The positives far outweigh the negatives. I’m struck by how far I’ve come since I arrived. In truth, I can speak an understandable level of Portuguese, I can understand quite a lot that’s said to me. I can comfortably communicate at least what I want, or respond when I’m spoken to. And there’s a certain pride in that.
When I landed I didn’t understand yes from no, good day from goodbye. After a lot of listening and murderous attempts at Portuguese, I’m now someway towards becoming fluent. And it’s not easy learning a language when there’s a distinct lack of lessons on the horizon. But at least I can say I made progress.
And of course I know rather a broad collection of curse words. Though truth be known ... I don’t always know which is appropriate as a given response to something I disagree with.
Today I leave for the UK, personal circumstance dictate my exit. And I can honestly say that for the main, I’ve had the time of my life. Which is why I’ll return. I consider Lisbon and Portugal my home now. Not least because I’ve shared much of what I spoken of with a wondeful, hard living, life loving Portuguese man that has somehow managed to adapt to my eccentricities and chaotic and disorderly conduct.
Which is not easy for a Portuguese. They appear to prefer rhythm and habit to disorder and disarray. Still ... I was born gauche and impulsive and the harder I’ve tried to control myself, the worse the ensuing chaos. To my café owners downstairs, my butcher’s, the bank, those that I’ve worked with, come to know and spent time with, I thankyou – agradeço a sua ajuda, vocês foi muito gentil.
To (meu) Sargento-Ajudante Simões – muito obrigado meu querido, eu amo-te e até breve.