The high point of an otherwise lazy and relaxing Sunday (besides going to the gym, of course!) was dinner at the house of a former student of Gabe’s. He did his graduate degree in the department where Gabe is now working, and did a three-month stint at UCSC when Gabe and I were first together.

We hopped the Metro up to their small and impeccably decorated flat in the north of the city, and were rewarded with a wonderful, very typical Portuguese dinner, full of good company, good wine, and excellent food. We started with whole shrimp, cheeses, and amazing bread made with corn flour, followed by cabbage soup and then grilled salty cod (bacalhau) with chard — all of which are very traditional. Dessert was large, pitted grapes, which we washed in a little bowl of water as we ate them, and home-made lemon cookies. Yum! It was amazing.

To my delight, his wife, who is four months pregnant with their first child, writes and researches books on Portuguese history when she’s not at her day job as a travel agent. So we had a lot to talk about, even though her English was limited and my Portuguese is non-existent. Even so, it was a relief to have a kindred spirit to roll my eyes with when the boys’ talk inevitably turned to engineering!

At the outset, I urged everyone to speak Portuguese as much as possible, because I won’t learn if all I hear is English. In fact, this was my first extended social interaction that took place largely in Portuguese, and I am happy to report that I understood most of the conversation. Even though I had to participate in English, the conversation flowed quite naturally from one language to the other, and I definitely did not feel left out in the slightest. In fact a couple times I didn’t even notice that we’d switched back to English, which I realized only as I was congratulating myself on understanding so well. Whoops. Oh well.

Being able to follow a dinner conversation bodes well for my growing language abilities — now I just need to jump in and start speaking. To that end, I’m going to my first real Portuguese lesson this morning, and hope that things will progress rapidly from here.

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