They say all good things must come to an end and in this case, it is sad, but true. My three year love affair has come to a close. But I will never forget you and all that you have done for me. Living here has made me a better person. I can say that without a doubt. I have been surrounded by the most generous, humbling, amazing, and wonderful people. In fact, I am truly lucky to have been able to come out here and put myself into the worlds of people around me and be accepted as one of them. Lovingly I am always referred to as the “Americana” but I have never felt like an outsider. I was able to share their laughter, their tears, their trials and tribulations. To be able to help in my own way and also accept help from them.
Wrapped in the warm blanket of the sun and smiling, happy, people around me, I feel safe here. I walk around my neighborhood and have a plethora of people to say hi to and visit with. I have spent plenty of days alone but have never felt lonely. Whether it was a stop at one of the many cafés, a trip to the fish market, the butcher, or even the supermarket, a familiar face is never too far away.
Living here has taught me to appreciate my life more. Appreciate what I have and not be envious of what I don’t have. I have literally had to learn how to make a $1.00 out of .15 cents more than once. Living at that line, that very thin line between not knowing how to get through the rest of the week, let alone the month. But being able to make the best out of it and laugh and not let it negatively affect the relationships around me. That is not something you learn at university. Living here has made me more tolerant and understanding. It’s not about what the person can do for you or what they have. It’s about the person themselves and getting to know them for them. And trust me, you lose these values schlepping around the city trying to win the rat race on a daily basis.
And now it’s time to talk about my in-laws, the patient, sweet, generous, and loving in-laws to whom I owe a great deal of gratitude and thanks. I have to say my mother-in- law and I now get along wonderfully but it was a long time coming. She wasn’t as patient with the language barrier and to her, my strange ways of doing things. For a long time she would just waive me off with, “Ela não percebes nada” (she doesn’t understand anything) and move on. But I refused to give up. I kept trying and trying and trying and eventually my hard work paid off. Now we shop, cook, bake, and gossip together. I do not always understand her and she does not always understand me, but somehow we make it work. My father in law was a bit easier. He is a man that likes to sit and chat and has the patience of a saint. He never gave up trying to explain something to me. He just found different words until I got it! It took a long time to get to where I am with them but all of that hard work has paid off. I truly love spending time with them and listening to their stories. I will definitely miss our long lunches in the kitchen drinking wine, and talking about the way things used to be and how different they are today. Afterwards taking the short stroll to the local café where friends greet up with the upmost excitement and kindness. Sometimes my father in law reads the paper to me and we discuss the day’s stories. Sometimes my mother in law and I will gossip about the local weirdo hanging out in the café. And sometimes I just sit there quietly drinking my espresso and aguardente, listening to the locals bust each other’s balls. It’s a quiet, simple, safe life I have grown quite accustomed to. One that I will also deeply miss and probably never know again and one that I have been forever changed and humbled by.
Learning a new language is one hell of a challenge, especially at my age. It’s one thing to learn in school and take a test. It’s another thing when your husband walks out the door to go to work and leaves you with your in laws who do not speak a lick of English. Honestly, looking back, I have not effing idea how I did it. And my Portuguese is still far from perfect but I understand a whole hell of a lot. Even my husband looks at me sometimes with complete awe when he goes to translate and I say, “Oh, they’re talking about this, that, and the other thing…” That is a GREAT feeling. It’s wonderful to be able to “get the joke” and let me tell you that does not happen all the time. But in the rare instance when it does, I am loving life for that moment. To be in on the joke, to really get it, and not to have everyone stop and wait for the translation is TRULY amazing! Also when you learn a language by being thrown into it not only do you learn how people really speak but you learn dialects and accents. When you learn in school you will be taught the “proper” way to speak which is great. I am not taking anything away from that. But when you learn from friends and or family you learn their way. Because of this I can now detect certain accents. People from Alentejo have a more melodic way of speaking. For example when they say, “Boa Tarde” (BO Tard) it sounds like, “BO-A Tard-ee” The sound lingers a bit longer than when someone from Lisbon says it. People from Algrave (my family) are like people from the south in the states. They tend to compact all the words and syllables together which makes learning this language THAT MUCH HARDER! Let me give an example. I kept hearing what sound like people saying, “ma …., ma…..” One day I said out loud, “What is this ma everyone keeps saying?” My sister in law who understands English and my husband just looked at me and laughed. “It’s not ‘ma’, it’s ‘uma’. As in the feminine version of ONE. For example you would say I need one more chair. Eu preciso mais uma cadeira.” That’s when you have an OOOOOOO moment. And I have had plenty of those. But when you don’t know the dialect and you don’t know the language, these things can be very picky.
Luckily my sister in law speaks with a more Lisboetta accent and taught me to properly pronounce and understand words. Otherwise I would sound like a constant mush mouth. No offense to my in laws but you sort of need to learn how to say things properly before using the slang. Otherwise you sound like the Russian dude in Clerks saying something like, “You wanna make fuck with me?” Not good.
Anyway I will miss all of it. Of course there were plenty of things that were hard to adjust to but I am not going to get into that. Better to focus on the positive.
Some little things that I will miss are the weather. Oh man. I have not had to deal with winter for three years. I was pretty much able to throw out my old winter jacket. Maybe I shouldn’t have done that though because now I am coming back before winter sans jacket. Oh well. I will miss listening to my mother in law humming and or singing Old Portuguese songs while doing her daily chores. There was always something very calming and soothing to me about this. I will miss the loud, crazy, boisterous family lunches and dinners on the weekends. There were nine of us on a normal day. Add wine and good food, and forget it. Hilarity ensues. I will miss that closeness you feel to everyone in your neck of the woods. It’s nice to talk to your neighbors and know just about everyone when you are walking down the street. You never feel very alone which was important to me because I did spend quite a bit of time alone here. I will miss seeing my youngest niece grow up. She is so darling and cute. She was so incredibly shy when we first arrived. It took her literally three weeks to start talking to me, and four to talk to my husband. And that’s her godfather! But once she started, she never stopped. She is quite a character and always makes me laugh. She also had a hand in helping me learn Portuguese. She would come home from school and teach me what she learned that day! Priceless! I was looking forward to seeing her grow into herself and seeing her become a young lady. Now I have to do that from afar.
I will miss the sheer beauty of this country. I have never taken it for granted. I am still amazed when I see a castle in the horizon, or some Roman ruins, old houses, and hand crafted sidewalks. I will miss all of the palm trees, birds of paradise, and other beautiful fauna and flora of Portugal. I will miss the green of Alentejo and the dark, old beauty of the north.
I am definitely going to miss the food. Jesus Christ the food is amazing here. I am going to miss being able to go to the vineyard with my 5 liter jug and be fill it up. And fill it up cheaply, to boot! I will miss the beaches here. This side of the Atlantic is so beautiful. Every beach has a personality all to its own. I will miss the long, windy, curvy roads that take you up and down mountains overlooking the sea. Quite a spectacle.
Well I could go on for days but I think those of you reading this will get the point. And so with that said, I will bid not goodbye, but até logo (so long) to Portugal. I hope we will once meet again.
Beijinhos e Obrigado