Where have I been?

I’m still in Portugal. We made it. We’ve also been here for 23 days. The dollar is shit to the euro, and that’s that. Dog food is pretty good though.

Wine is super cheap as it’s produced here. A glass of wine is like anywhere from .60 to 1.60. A bottle is like 2.50, 5 euros for better quality.

One of the things I think you’ll notice as a stark difference between here and the US, is that we have squeezed the youth from our older community with television and force-feeding them the idea that they will not and can not take care of themselves, and need a “home.”

Women of seventy to ninety walk to the bakery every morning to get their bread. It used to come to them, but that was years ago. It is delicious bread, and I only put the connection together a couple of days ago that in the states, when I ordered a sandwich it was preferably on a Portuguese roll.

People of all ages do this morning ritual, most on foot and no one has a cane. No one has a hunchback. But, because of this, pharmacies sell shoes. They have a whole section with women’s and men’s orthopedic shoes, sneakers, and sandals. This is where you can by Birkenstocks.

The streets are mosaic’ed with cobblestones set in amazingly tedious designs that invariably describe something about Portugal’s history and all is felt in the architecture.

It’s Arabic by design, falling to ruin because of improper maintenance and age of course. Their economic situation and general disposition is one of valiant effort, an aggravated and self conscious pride, one that always tries to bring the conversation back to Benfica, (their amazing futbol team) Portuguese cuisine, (their specific recipes and way of curing ham) And their very famous Douro region’s wine. Yet, after everything they’ve been through, they are not large enough to spill out of Spain’s shadow, and so much of what holds them back as a country is tied to the aftermath of the much talked about revolution from their dictator. I couldn’t even give you a microscopic scope of what their dictator was like. Other than Lisbon is riddled with street graffiti remarking on those horrific grey times as compared to the colorful and expressive now.

But, they are an extremely polite, chivalrous laid back people that take rest and relaxation very seriously. In fact, keeping this easy breezy attitude is the only thing they are adamantly consistent with. The majority of people wake between 8 and 9am. They are never in a rush and usually don’t get out of their house before ten. (This doesn’t include the walk to get bread)

They do not like to be interrupted by daylight or light at all and so most apartment buildings have gates that are pulled down over the windows or terrace doors. They look exactly like when summer homes are boarded up out of season. The pull system is indoors and rarely do you see them lifted, and this isn’t because apartments are vacant.

Despite the regions that partition Portugal on a map, they talk a lot about the difference between north and south and I think you have to be a native to feel this subtlety as they explain it. Sure they are different but just in the way people are different.

If you make plans with a Portuguese for a dinner let’s say, around nine pm because that’s the proper time to eat dinner. No one is at a restaurant at seven. Do not expect them to be on time. They will phone you several times to say they are on the way, but they only started getting ready at nine, the same time you arrived to the restaurant.

They are jokingly called “pork and cheese” in the US, and it’s for good reason. Ham and cheese are God here. They drive tiny cars to fit their tiny streets, but nothing is sterile here. Every tree is fruit or flower bearing and you can always see bees. There is a pulse and it’s lovely.

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