We didn’t do a whole lot yesterday, other than to finally pick up our Metro cards (and let me tell you, I have used the heck out of that thing already — why walk when I stood in line for 2 and a half hours?!) and then use them to try to find some home furnishing stores.

We started out in a large Macy’s-like department store we’d seen on one of our meanderings, which included a mega supermarket in the basement. (I’m already so used to shopping in small stores here that the size and selection in this one completely overwhelmed me, even though it was no bigger than our Safeway at home! How things change!) We found very expensive versions of everything we were looking for (toaster, coffee pot, microwave), but nothing worth spending that much money on when we’ll have it for less than a year.

So we kept looking, after stopping for lunch near Gabe’s uni, and eventually stumbled upon a store selling all sorts of cheaply-made Chinese junk, ranging from clothing to storage bins to — yes indeed — toasters and coffee pots. The prices, while far from the range we’d seen at the other store, were still not good enough to compel us to risk burning down the house with bad wiring. But even though we came away empty-handed, and I still can’t heat up leftovers or have a decent cup of coffee in the morning, at least we’ve established an upper and a lower end to our search.

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At one point, I remarked that this is a fascinating and totally backward way of getting to know a city. The usual way of traveling is to spend a few days or maybe a week in one place, and to pick out all the biggest, most famous sites to see, fitting as many into the time you have as possible. Barring that, you stay in one place and lounge the whole time, as in Hawaii or other beach locations.

Exploring a city through its apartment rentals and home furnishing stores is a totally different experience, and one that sheds new light on living in your own hometown. At home, we automatically know where to go to buy a toaster, ranging from really nice ones to really crappy cheap ones. Barring that, we rely on Craig’s List for almost everything (including our flat here in Lisbon, by the way), but they don’t use it outside of the States. So how would someone from another country know where to go?

As for the whole Metro card debacle, which we had to learn as we went along — what completely incomprehensible and illogical bureaucracy do we have at home that we just take for granted? The DMV? It really makes you wonder how people do it at all —  through a lot of trial and error, apparently, and saying repeatedly, “If only we’d known…!”

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Later in the evening, after I had spent the afternoon nesting and made my own version of feijoada for dinner, we ventured out again to find the other Portuguese class I wanted to try out. Big marks were already against it for starting so late in the day, because A) evening is not my best time in terms of brain power, and B) why would I take a class at night, when Gabe is home, instead of giving myself something to do during the day while he’s at Uni? But I went anyway, just to check it out.

Instead of sitting across a small table from the instructor and jotting down notes on a pad of paper, this turned out to be an actual class, with two other people in it and the instructor writing things on a whiteboard mounted on the wall. I was initially drawn to the social nature of it, simply because I am lacking that right now, but then I realized that my knowledge of Spanish plus the Portuguese I’ve already absorbed from Gabe put me at a distinct advantage over the other students.

Soon, I was having flashbacks to my school years: the teacher would ask a question, then look around the class, expecting an answer. Even though I knew it, I would sit there mutely, since I’d had the last 3 answers in a row and wanted to give the others a chance. Given the choice between that and a one-on-one interaction with the other teacher, I know which one I prefer, especially since the schedule of the other class is more flexible.

The only reason I would choose this second class instead would be to cultivate a friendship with the teacher, who is close to my age and — judging from my conversation with her on the way to the Metro afterwards — also a perennial student like myself. But that’s not a good enough reason to slow myself down in learning the language.

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So there you go, another terribly normal day in the life of these two expats. I hope you guys aren’t getting bored yet. Even worse — I don’t have any pictures for you! Hopefully I’ll do better tomorrow, although they may just be shots of our new kitchen appliances, since that quest will continue today.

AND most exciting of all, for us anyway — the landlord has threatened to install the shower stall today! Yaay! A proper shower after a week of cowering in the corner and trying not to spray water all over the place… bliss.

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