So far, this week is off to a much better start. So far.

The day started off with my decidedly un-triumphant and in fact rather hesitant return to the gym. Gabe went with me to complain about my treatment on Friday, but being the coward that I am, I left him at the front desk to defend my honor and scampered off downstairs to do my workout. Thankfully it went off without a hitch, and I managed to complete my workout without violating either any rules or anyone’s antiquated concept of modesty. Thank goodness.

(It turned out that the rule about bikinis was in fact posted on a sign near the front desk with a whole bunch of other rules, all in Portuguese of course. Not very helpful, but they did promise to get someone who speaks English or to call Gabe directly if there were any further problems. Which I very much hope there won’t be.)

At one point during my short workout, the trainer who does the rounds in the exercise room, checking on people and offering oh so helpful hints, came up and started talking to me as I was sweating away. He asked my name, and when I told him, he exclaimed, “Oh you’re Zoe! I’ve been trying to call you all week!” Turns out this was the guy who’d been harassing me with twice-daily phone calls for the past week to set up my “wellness check.” So we both had cause to say, “Oh, it’s you!” — me with dismay, him with glee.

It turned out to be OK though, as he was actually quite friendly and spoke English very well — aside from a small faux pas when he said he would measure my “fatness” during said wellness check. I think he meant to say body fat, but I pretended to be offended, giving both him and his trainee trainer a laugh. (God it felt good to actually be able to express myself enough to make people laugh!) Turns out the guy is a runner, and in the afternoons he teaches primary school kids, presumably physical education. He also used to train the Cascais rugby club, which in a small world twist of fate is the very same club where our large disco-dancing friend from the Sintra restaurant plays. Go figure.

So finally I have my wellness check set for later this morning, and although I resent the hour it’ll take out of my day, I’m intrigued as to what a trainer has to offer by way of tips for improving my running and continuing to rehab my injuries. Plus it gave me an opportunity to laugh and joke with someone, which is never a bad thing — especially not here, where such interactions are few and far between.

Later in the afternoon, I had even more social interaction when I went to my Portuguese lesson. Talking to two people! Who aren’t Gabriel! In a single day! I know, crazy, right?!? My head almost exploded with the unaccustomed taxation on my social skills. But I recovered, and had a long and fascinating pidgin conversation about Portuguese history, society, and literature with my tutor.

These lessons are unlike any language class I’ve had before — instead of sitting there and memorizing verb conjugations, instead we launch into relatively advanced discussions and I do my best to learn the necessary verbs and vocabulary as we go along. Granted, it is mostly her doing the talking, but she definitely doesn’t hold back or slow down to accommodate me, which I appreciate. Occasionally I interject a question, usually fairly simple ones involving dates and eras, not only because of my limited conversational skills but also because I’m a historian, and dates are important.

Launching from our visit to Sintra, our conversation then turned to the Portuguese king who fled to Brazil for fear of the French Revolution spreading to his country, which led to a discussion of controversial Portuguese Nobel winning author Jose Saramago and his books (one of which formed the basis for the film “Blindness”). That then led to a discussion of religion and society in general, which somehow segued into a conversation about how I was kicked out of the pool, and then on to topless sunbathing and the petition to ban the practice in France because the younger generations are no longer exercising that particular freedom. Definitely not your typical language lesson.

Apparently it’s paying off though, because when I stopped at the fruiteria on my way home, I found that I could not only ask the man to choose some grapes for me, but also which kind of apples were best (the Fuji, of course) and whether the pears were any good (and yes, they are extremely good.) He did give me a couple of blank looks due to my strange pronunciation, but for the first time, he didn’t try to speak English to me or give me any preferential treatment for being a foreigner.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what I call sweet success.

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