Portugal

How would you walk, if you didn’t feel pain? 

About two weeks ago, I noticed that I had really “broken in” my feet, here in Faro. My heals began to become cracked and dry. In my left foot, there was a deep cut about the length of my thumb nail that had developed on the corner edge of my heal. I used the foot cream I brought in my first-aid kit, and it began to get better. However when I finished the cream, it had not fully healed. And it wasn’t going to stop me from walking at least 3 miles a day around this beautiful city, Faro.

Today I walked to school for the last time. I listened to my favorite “walking to school” music, and took in my surroundings. I tried to take as many mental photos as possible. During which I noticed that I was applying more pressure on my right leg, to compensate for the pain on my left foot. I tried to apply equal pressure while walking, as if I had no pain. It took some focus, but it was possible. I just had to “look past” the pain.  

It got me thinking – How would I live my life if I didn’t feel pain?

One of things I have realized during this trip is that I have defined the present, by my past pains/hurts/negative situations. The loss of my best friend, the pain of ending a long and invested relationship, etc. Being the sentimental person I am, I want to always keep people close to me, this includes the pain, which does not allow me to fully heal.

This does not mean I cannot miss people when the moments arise. I can completely experience these feelings in the moment, and let them pass as they will, not as I will them. Those from past relationships will always be with me of course, in the most beautiful ways. But through acknowledgement, not attachment, I can heal and grow.

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Which way the winds blow, and the blood-lines flow.  

I guess I’m about to get my period – I just want to eat chocolate and I’m very needy. Today I actually cried to the school administrator and asked, “How can I stay here? Is it possible to teach English in Portugal?” 

I thought that I would be immune to PMS during this trip. Oh well, guess not. I feel emotional, and I can’t tell if it’s because I’m about to ride the “crimson wave” (Thank you, Clueless), I’m solely & 100% sad about leaving, or if I’ve become a little more Portuguese (They have a flair for drama. Overhear a conversation at lunch, or watch a futbol game – you’ll see). It’s probably a combination of all three. It’s okay, I surrender to the journey. 

This past weekend I spent in Lagos. While I was there I discovered that I’m in-trouble. I became completely certain that I do not want to go home. Lagos is the place you read about in Peter Pan. It is Neverland for the soul.  I truly was not expecting to fall in love; not with a city, an ocean, a country. I traveled to Lagos alone, and was elated the entire time. I did not need a companion. I was more then delighted to hike and explore by myself. The ocean was my friend, my very good friend. Don’t get me wrong, I met some great locals, had great conversations and meals with them, and received great recommendations of places to go and sites to see.

Lagos is a huge tourist destination, so I can’t say that I was speaking much Portuguese this past weekend.  With one more week of learning Portuguese, it is more clear then ever that I need to stay if I want to become conversational, let alone fluent! I am learning just enough of the language to get around, but it is still very difficult for me to understand those that speak it. Apparently the Algarve regions speaks ‘muito rapido’ compared to other regions of Portugal. I would love to stay longer and get better at this language that I am falling in love with, however I already signed a lease for an apartment upon my return and paid the first month’s rent and security deposit. If I hadn’t, I would have extended my trip in a heartbeat! Oh well, we can’t always control the circumstances in our lives.

Now, I haven’t spoken about the awesome couple I am staying with. Initially, I was unsure of what was going on and have been waiting for positive news. I still don’t fully understand the situation. Nuno had a scheduled and routine surgery on a blood-clot in a vein in his leg two weeks ago. Something went wrong with the procedure and there were complications. He was sent up to Lisbon after a few days, and he and his girlfriend Teresa have been gone ever since. Occasionally I get updates via a phone call, text or Whatsapp message. I am happy to report he is recovering and doing better, however they will most likely not be back before I leave Faro. This makes me sad, not just for me, but for them. It is hard to become uprooted with no warning, and for a reason such as this! 

Sometimes life takes a different course then we plan.  Veins, bloodlines, circumstances are routed and rerouted for us.  The wind can surpise us and pick up at a moments notice. And yes, PMS happens.  All I can control is how I respond to the circumstances – my breath (which can at least slow my beating heart). Of course thinking of other people’s stories, puts my little sob-session in perspective. I truly am grateful for every moment of this experience.  And at the very least I can always take my school administrators advice – save my money and come back.  Sounds like a plan Cristina!

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Portugal

Sunday Morning.

Today was a nice, relaxing day.  I slept in, did 2 loads of laundry, went grocery shopping, performed in a kids concert, and made a nice dinner at home.
You read correctly.  I performed in a kids concert, and it was so random how it happened.  My friend Filipe is a singer and musician, as well as a dancer.  A group of friends and I went to see him perform a show at a bar this past Friday night.  Today, he invited me to a kids concert that he was performing in.  I was uncertain of what he meant, but wanting more music in my Portugal experience, I said yes.

He picked me up with a group of guys, all but one I had met last weekend.  They were the band, and tour around the area performing children’s events.  Joao, the front man, started doing these events after stopping his career as a mechanical engineer.  So of course now he makes a living teaching guitar and performing.  On the way to Loule, the city they were to perform in, Joao taught mesome of the songs they were going to sing.  They convinced me to sing along in a song or two.  I went along with it thinking they couldn’t be serious; I can hardly speak Portuguese, let alone English.

We arrived in Loule´, parked the car and entered through a side-stage door and brought the instruments right onto the stage – it was then I realized what I had gotten myself into.  I was picturing a birthday party, or a rec room somewhere.  No, this was a full blown theatre.

The sound engineer began working with them immediately upon our arrival, setting up and beginning sound check.  There were only 4 mics and 4 chairs, so I concluded they must have been joking in the car – I was not going to be performing.  Still, they kept making comments, saying they needed a woman in the mix.  They produced another chair to the stage, and I realized there was no turning back.  They decided not to mic me since I couldn’t speak Portuguese well enough (me, not have a mic on stage!? Well that was humbling!).  They gave me 2 bags of percussion instruments to choose from through the concert, to use as I pleased:  maraca’s, tambourines, xylophones, blocks of wood, hollowed sticks, a triangle, egg shakers, shakers in the shapes of fruits and vegetables – the cucumber was my favorite.  I started to get nervous, I need to rehearse! I can’t wing it, I don’t know these songs, and I never play percussion!!

We waited in the wings, listening to the sounds of children fill the theatre.  Joao decided I should go on first, before the four.  After we were announced, I skipped onto the stage masking my nerves and took my place.  The crowd was silent.  There were about 50+ people in the audience, kids and parents – my nerves settled, and the show began.  It was truly adorable.  These kids knew many of the songs, and joined in dancing, clapping and singing.  Halfway through the show, Joao invited the kids to come up on stage and play with the slew of instruments he had brought.  It was so cute to see so many kids get excited about performing, being on stage and making music.

This trip has brought me back to my first love (at the age of 4), singing.  I wonder where it will lead me next.    I felt so lucky to have had this experience today.  Talk about going with the flow and being in the moment!  Now I can say I performed in Portugal, on stage, in a theatre no less!


Post-show high, dancing in front of Loule´s city fountain.

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Saudade, Legacy; all this I am discovering. 

I was born at the wrong place time, in the wrong time.  
Last week I discovered that Deborah, our school’s tour guide who takes us out on excursions every week, has the exact birthdate as me.  We were born about 9 hours apart, taking the time difference into account.  Portugal is 5 hours ahead of Eastern Standard time, so it makes sense to me that she would arrive first.  🙂  Sisters, separated at birth. 

This weekend I was supposed to meet three girlfriends from my school to take a day trip.  I missed the train by one minute, and saw it pull away from the station.  If there is one lesson I learn from this trip, it’s DON’T BE LATE, because the next train was 2 hours later!  I was very tired from only 4 hours of sleep the night before.  The Portuguese don’t sleep, so when in Faro….  

It turned out to be a lovely day, with non-stop walking, but was ironically very relaxing.  I took in a flurry of markets by the marina in Olhao.  I walked to the end of the pier and found refuge under an awning from the 90+/30+ (F/C) degree weather and scorching sun, while absorbing the salty wind.  Most of the day I spent finding the shady parts of the street or sidewalks.  I concluded it was best I did not make the train to accompany my friends.  They wanted to head out to an island for the day and soak up more sun; I was satisfied from my sunburn the previous weekend.  I would much rather take in the environment with all my senses: the city streets, the people, the culture, all the hubbub.  Plus, living in Southern California, I do not crave the ocean or hot sun; I can get it when I want it. Lucky me, I know.  

In the afternoon, I took another train to Tavira.  It is an old town mostly consisting of old people, and many of them tourists.  I had not experienced enough music up until this point.  Only by chance at a restaurant and bar last weekend, and also at the beach last Saturday, but I heard mostly American cover songs.  I had made plans to meet up with a fellow student from my school – Rob, an older British gentleman along with his wife, and their friends in town for the weekend.  Rob recommended coming to a concert at an old church in Tavira; this weekend was Portuguese guitar.  It was just what I needed to satisfy my cravings!

I had time to kill before meeting them, and I took a self-guided walking tour that was led by my trusty steed and guidebook – “Rick Stevens: Portugal.”  It gave me a good idea of the layout of the tiny, old city.  Next to the church was a man by the name of Luis, selling tickets for a Fado concert right before the Portuguese Guitar concert. Of course I attended that concert as well.

The short 30-minute show explained the history of Fado, followed by a live performance.  I was completely moved by the music. The woman’s voice was hauntingly beautiful.  The men were very skilled on the guitar and swept up in the music also, one of the men habitually closed his eyes.  I could not fully comprehend the lyrics, but I understood the heart and soul of the pieces.  My heart fathoms Fado!  With tears in my eyes, I determined everything was as it should be. I was in the right place, at the right time today.  

Following the guitar concert, Rob and his friends invited me out for a drink by the river – the ladies drank a glass of vinho verde (Portugese wine), while the men drank cerveja (beer).  We discussed the concert, my journey, their professions, quasi-retirements and traveling.  I love older people, I love British people, I love old cities, and I love traveling!

I feel a great Saudade, for what, only my hearts understands!! 

(Saudade is a Portuguese word that does not have a direct translation.  It is in part, a deep sense of longing or melancholy, nostalgia.  Some relate it to homesickness.)

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BACK to reality. 

My dad had two pieces of advice for me before my trip: 1. “Don’t get cocky”  2. Check your reflection whenever you pass store windows, car windows, side mirrors, etc.  See the irony here?  If  I am safe in Portugal, I might appear a bit cocky. 😉

My dad gave me my first bit of advice when I told him I was confident in my ‘street-smarts.’  He quickly retorted, out of his protective nature.  He believes you can never be too careful, or prepared. He has a saying, “never not prepared”, which he normally recites in Latin. Yes, that’s my father.  

In my first week here, I was told my Portuguese was very good and I was picking it up quickly in class.  I was courageously saying hello to people I met, asking them simple questions, and ordering food.  I felt good about my progress.  Now in my second week, we are learning much more, and quickly.  I feel a bit uncertain, as though I don’t have solid footing.  I am apprehensive to move forward, especially at the rate that we are going.  

I got sunburn on my back this past weekend.  I applied sunscreen when my friends and I first arrived at the beach.  However 5 hours, a swim in the ocean and a spontaneous nap on my stomach later, my back was a lovely shade of lobster.  I do not feel so pretty in pink.  The Portuguese people I have been hanging out with say now I look like a real tourist.  

“E´ verdade!” I say,  as we fade out to the sound of the famous Portugal cock, crowing in the the background.  

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A funny thing happened on the way to the….museum. 

“I’m popular, I’ve got my own car, I’m popular….”  Ah, Nada Surf – proving I’m a child of the 80’s.  This chorus still sings in my head when I think about anyone being popular.  Yesterday a funny thing happened, that reminded me of the days when I came home to Carson Daly.  

I brought a small lunch to school, with plans to eat at the harbor.  After class, I took my walk to the water and followed a route I was familiar with from class excursions.  As I walked down the marbled-streets, I heard behind me, “Ana!” (as is my Portuguese name).  I turned around to find my host, Nuno, peeking his head out of the Bike Lounge (a cafe that also sells, rents, and repairs bicycles).  Nuno was wearing a bike-racing outfit, and had stopped for lunch at the cafe.  

“Come!”  I followed, tickled that I knew someone in town.    

Inside the cafe, he introduced me to Alberto and Susana.  Susana owns the cafe, Alberto repairs and sells the bikes.  They both spoke English well, but spoke Portuguese as I requested.  Susana said I asked funny questions.  Alberto invited me to come riding with him and his friends, Nuno included, on Sundays.  We had a nice chat, and then I went off to find a good bench with a view.  

After lunch, I went back to school for another excursion with the students.  This time, to Faro’s historical and cultural museum.  As we walked to the museum we passed the Bike Lounge, and my classmate Miguel was curious how much it cost to rent a bike from them.  I quickly went inside, “Hola Alberto!  Quanto custa to rent a bike para uma semana?” (I speak Portuglish right now).  I joined the group outside and showed Miguel the rates.  The students and tour guide were a little surprised at my familiarity with Alberto and the cafe.  As we continued on toward the museum in conversation, we heard “Hola Ana!”  I looked toward the voice in surprise, who could be calling my name now!?  It was Susana, walking back to her cafe, waving and smiling at me.  The tour guide Deborah looked at me in disbelief.  I blushed, as I explained how these events came to happen.  “That is the best way to learn,” she said. “Make conversations with the people!”  I chuckled to myself, a funny thing indeed.  

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Zumba com meu bum-bum!

I am so tired today. I decided to take the advice of my friend Josh, who recently returned from a 6 week trip to Asia right before I left for Portugal.  He said, “you can sleep when you come home.”  I was jet-lagged the first two nights and had a hard time adjusting to the 8 hour time difference.  However yesterday, I said yes to every invitation.  Our school sponsored a tour of the city; a lovely young lady Deborah showed us around.  She had the most beautiful style!  I wanted everything she was wearing.  She loves Faro, and sharing it with people.  I can’t speak enough about the old(est) part of the city.  It is surrounded by high stone walls, and filled with many narrow winding-roads, some allowing cars to drive through.  It is so romantic and inspiring!  I could walk down these street every day with jazz music in my mind’s ear.  
Afterwards Leslie, a British businessman on holiday, invited us to a beer.  Veronic and I accompanied him, and being the gentleman that he is he insisted on paying.  At home, my host-couple invited me to have dinner with them at 10pm.  Teresa also invited me to come to her Zumba class at 8:15 before dinner.  Sim e Sim, obrigada!
For those of you who know me, I am rhythmically challenged.  I have two left feet.  But I want to experience all that Portugal has to offer, so I needed to try.  I am so glad that I did!  I have never had so much fun in a dance class!  The dance classes I have had in the past, have always stressed proper form and I found them to be very intimidating.  Not this one.  I couldn’t stop smiling and laughing.  I loved the high energy.  And Teresa, she is a blast!  She is so inspiring.  So now I plan to go to her class as much as I am able.  I was planning on trying to find a yoga studio while I am here.  This has been hard to find, and now I know why.  Why do yoga, when you can Zumba!? 

P.S. And dinner was muito delicioso!  Baked beans with chicken and rice, and spices.  Nuno loves to cook and he has a machine called Bimby, in America it’s called Thermomix.  It can make any recipe you want.  He is obsessed with and after a few days I understand why.  It’s one of the best man gadgets.  If I could afford one I would buy one for my dad, for a mere $1,600 USD.  

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