This week’s improvement trend continues. I started the day with my much-vaunted “wellness check,” which turned out to be quite helpful and informational. It was in fact the most comprehensive physical exam I’ve ever had, with not only a BMI calculation but also body fat and muscle percentage, a full heart scan, an evaluation of my eating habits — the full nine yards.

Turns out I’m doing pretty well, on all fronts. His only suggestion for improvement was to work on increasing my muscle mass, which he used to make a half-hearted attempt to sell me on further personal training sessions (imagine spending another 250 euros a month on the gym! ha!) I quickly rid him of that idea, but he didn’t seem to mind, and let it drop without too much fuss.

We have another session set for Thursday morning in which he will actually give me a set of exercises to do, so in the end, it’ll be a Good Thing. At the very least, if I ever violate another of their cryptic rules with my wanton behavior, I now know someone at the gym who speaks English!

After spending an hour at the gym without even working out, the last thing I wanted to do was spend more time there. So I headed out for a walk instead, aiming to meet Gabe for lunch at uni. It was a good 40 minute stroll, including a stop at the post office to mail off a bunch of reimbursement requests to our insurance company (yeah, good luck there!)

Typical of Portugal, even though I was the only person in line or even in the entire lobby, nonetheless I was forced to take a number — which was of course the next number after the one currently being served. They are obsessed with those little number tag machines here, demonstrating just how often one is forced to wait in line while living in Lisbon. But I once again managed to ingratiate myself into the good graces of the staff person enough to have a rudimentary conversation and accomplish what I set out to do. Progress, people, progress!

With a new spring in my step, I made it to uni in time to meet Gabe and his colleagues for lunch at the faculty cafe in the basement of their building. Despite its institutional location and appearance, the place had a full menu and pasteleria inside, and the places were set with tablecloths and real napkins. Very fancy! We had a good lunch there, and I managed to make my dining companions laugh a couple of times, which again served to remind me that I am not just a half-retarded American unable to communicate anything other than the most basic of needs, but rather a fully evolved adult capable of complex thought and expression. What a nice change.

As I do pretty much every time we go out to lunch here, I had to marvel at what people were eating. I stuck with soup and salad, but everyone else ordered from the menu of the day, which as far as I could tell featured only dishes that were fried, breaded, or battered — and steak. The sides they came with were Russian salad (potato salad thick with mayonnaise), fries, or bean salad drenched in olive oil and garlic. I just don’t understand how they can eat such a big meal half way through the day and not A) fall asleep when they get back to their desks (although the espresso afterwards helps with that), or B) get extremely fat (although the cigarettes might help with that as well.) It’s amazing.

After lunch, we all trooped back to the lab, where Gabe and I sat at his desk and worked in companionable silence for an hour or so. His desk is in the corner of a room full of grad students’ work stations, but that’s compensated by the fact that it’s surrounded by huge windows on two sides. The lab is on the 8th floor of a tall tower, which is on top of a tall hill (just for a change.) So from Gabe’s desk you can see all the way down to river, including the Golden Gate-like bridge and the statue of Christ on the other side. Here’s a shot I took when we stopped by en route to the airport and Venice:

Yesterday was a particularly beautiful fall day, crisp and clear, with the layers of clouds overhead mirroring the tumble of buildings below. I was constantly distracted by this amazing vista, and wondered at the grad students around me who didn’t even look up from their computers. Given that all the shades were drawn (as above), it wouldn’t have done them much good even if they had! But I guess you can get used to anything — look at where I did my undergrad. I didn’t spend a whole lot of time staring at the view then, either.

We soon made our way home for more work and dinner, with a short break to take in the sunset from our miradouro. A good balance of work and play, solitude and companionship, exercise and rest… that’s what we’re aiming for here. And this week, so far so good.