Our most rewarding bureaucratic transaction yet took place yesterday: I finally signed up for a gym! It took us longer than expected — shocking, I know — because we hadn’t expected them to need quite as many official documents as they required, and had to run back up the hill to our house in order to complete the transaction. But complete it we did, and I now officially have a gym in Lisbon, which has great amenities and is very close to our house. (Plus this ultra sleek, modern gym is placed in fabulous juxtaposition to an old church right next door — see pictures below. Who can resist that?!)

We are both hoping that it will provide me with a community and social interaction, which my gym at home certainly does. I am a little nervous about taking classes when I don’t understand what they’re saying, but I’m sure I’ll catch on quickly. Or look like a fool in the meantime. But hey, I’m an American — that’s what’s expected of us. Right?

After that mission was accomplished, we set out for the Thieves Market, a famous flea market up in the historic district of Alfama that has taken place every Tuesday and Saturday since 1881 (and in other locations for much longer than that.) Although the nature of the junk they sell there may have changed slightly in the past 200 years, I doubt that the nature of the market itself has changed much — handmade jewelry and dresses by aspiring designers rub elbows with ancient antiques, pure junk, and goods lifted from people’s cars and purses. We held our valuables close by and walked around looking at all the wonderful assortment of crap. We didn’t buy much, nor do I think we will return any time soon, but it was well worth a visit, just for the experience alone.

We then wandered down through the twisting streets of Alfama, aiming generally at the area to the south of our house called Baixa, where we hoped to buy some more household stuff as well as some groceries. Just as we were thinking of sitting down somewhere for a refreshment, we quite literally ran into one of the guys we’d met while looking for apartments — the architect that Gabe had helped with some equations for a project he was designing. He was wild-eyed and clearly hung over, on a hunt in search of cigarettes, but he agreed to join us for a quick soda somewhere.

We found a nearby cafe and perched at their one table out on the sidewalk, with our friend’s chair placed at just such an angle that no one could possibly get by without walking into the street. He was completely oblivious to this inconvenience, however, and proceeded to drink his Coke, smoke cigarettes, chat on his mobile, and discuss Portuguese cinema with us at a mile a minute while people picked their way around him.

At one point a tram came to a grinding halt across the street and would move no further, causing traffic to build up around it. A bus decided to pass the stalled tram, and and I observed mildly to our friend that he was about to get taken out if he continued to sit where he was. This at last caused him to move, and the bus indeed came up on the sidewalk, narrowly missing us and the awning overhead while it ran up and over the curb where we sat. In fact, we see some crazy traffic negotiation like this almost every day — trucks getting stuck in narrow streets, traffic jams caused by someone parking too far over, etc.

This, my friends, is Portugal. As our friend very aptly said, it feels more like an African country that’s pretending to be a part of Europe. I couldn’t think of a better description.

After parting ways with our buddy, we visited the department store he’d pointed us to, which was just down the street. It had nine stories full of everything we were looking for by way of household goods, and then some — I’m not sure how we’ve managed to miss it before now, but hey. There it was. So we got a new pillow, and lightbulbs, and cooking utensils, and new bowls and cups… and that was just scratching the surface. My capacity to make decisions (as well as our capacity to carry purchases) were quickly maxed out, so we left, promising to return with more energy at a later date.

Unfortunately, I had unknowingly reached my limits, so when a sudden blood sugar low hit me after a day of shopping and walking up and down hot, crowded streets, I completely bonked. Luckily we were fairly close to home, so I went back with our purchases while Gabe continued on to get food for dinner. I soon felt better, but we still laid low for the rest of the night — a second weekend night at home! This is getting ridiculous. Luckily we have dinner plans with a colleague of Gabe’s tonight, so we will break our introverted streak at last.

But first… I get to go to the gym! Woohoo!

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