When I woke up an hour and a half after my alarm went off, I imagined the “Meat, it’s what’s for dinner” song was playing in my mind as I rushed around my room like a tiny tornado, a la Home Alone. I originally planned on taking a leisurely stroll on my first day of school, an opportunity to discover my new city. Instead, it was more of a speed-walk with my host couple as they showed me the way and I frantically took mental notes that felt like they were transcribed in chicken scratch. I had little faith I would remember the numerous turns, roundabouts, shortcuts and crosswalks they showed me.
I arrived to school five minutes late. The staff was gracious and friendly. I could tell my tardiness was not a rare event. We had a brief introduction and orientation. I met my 3 classmates for the week – Marie, a German girl; Michel, an Austrian man and James, a Scottish man (whose English was hardest for me to understand). We began our linguistic journey together with our trusty leader – Professora Lurdes, an adorable Portuguese woman. She is a short woman and has straight, gray hair that reaches her chin. She is a spunky woman, with a great sense of humor. I could hardly contain my excitement during class, sporting a big cheesy grin. I couldn’t believe I was actually here in Portugal, learning Portuguese from a Portuguese native, surrounded by not one single American. I tried hard to focus, while thoughts bubbled to the surface. I never want to leave. How can I do this forever? I don’t want today to end.
During the morning break, the students and teachers went in a group to the cafe across the street, a daily tradition. I ordered a latte. I have not had coffee in years, but I decided I might just have to make it part of my daily routine. When the break was meant to be over, everyone took their time heading back. I stood up to pay at the counter, “Should we pay?” Michel the Austrian chuckled, “No need to rush, we are on vacation.” I laughed and sat down, “True. I’m from America, we rush over there.” Especially me. This trip was going to be good for me, in more ways then I realized. Marie, the German girl, and bought some pastries to split. A savory roll filled with some delicious meat (fish or chicken?) and a mini orange tart. This was the perfect meal to cure my hunger pangs from skipping breakfast.
After class, Marie and I explored the city together, walking the winding cobble-stoned streets with their low arch-ways and cute cafe’s around every corner. We walked to the harbor and settled into another cafe overlooking the water, reading our Portugal books and taking a selfie with my selfie-stick before our departure.
During the walk back, a nice drizzle filled the air. Like Los Angeles, it did not rain hard and I rarely saw anyone holding an umbrella. Nao, faz problema! In addition, my visual memory and sense of direction had stayed in tact. I periodically would turn around to see if I recognized the turns from the opposite direction, as I had walked them earlier that morning. There was no way I would have left bread crumbs, as Portugal’s bread is delicious!