Getting a late, sleepy start this morning. Ahhh, Saturday. And only 24 days til home now. Woohoo! And yes, I most blatantly am counting now. No more pretenses. When you’re below a month, you’re allowed to count, dammit.

Yesterday’s big excitement was having lunch with Gabe and his colleagues again. I know, I know — you can barely contain yourselves at the thought. But when your social interaction is as limited as mine has been here, it really doesn’t take much.

Instead of dealing with the Metro, I decided to walk in to meet Gabe, which takes about 40 minutes. In terms of distance, it’s actually much shorter than that, but as usual, it’s those uphills that get you! This time, we went to yet another of the uni cafes, this one slightly less fancy but with a whole lot more bang for your buck — 4 euros for a main course, soup, a big salad bar (yaay!), a drink, and dessert. Wow.

Food aside though, the real delight of the meal was to sit with people and talk in English. I sat next to an Italian postdoc, who has been here for 4 months and speaks about as much Portuguese as I do. As we discussed the similarities and differences between our home countries and Lisbon, Gabe talked to another professor newly arrived from Colorado, whom he has been giving tips on how to negotiate the bureaucracy of getting settled here. It was so wonderful to have a normal lunchtime conversation, to feel like I had more to contribute than a special needs five year old (which is about the level of my Portuguese conversational abilities), to be able to communicate and appreciate complex thought and even humor instead of being limited to a few stock phrases and embarrassingly simple questions.

I guess that’s the flip side of the language barrier: when you can actually speak in your own language, you suddenly find yourself to be a font of scintillating wit and wisdom. So it both destroys and inflates your self-esteem, all at the same time. Good times!

I really don’t know what I’m going to do when I get home next month — probably carry on lengthy conversations with the checkers at Trader Joe’s, simply because I CAN. They’ll think I’m a crazy lady, but oh! It will be worth it.

And then I will take my multiple bags of groceries, full of a wide variety of wonderful delicious items, such as cottage cheese and Luna Bars and Better ‘n’ Peanut Butter spread, and gasp — I won’t have to choose what I can or can’t buy that day based on weight, because I don’t have to carry them all the way home! Instead, I will put them in my car, and I will drive home, and I will carry them for ten feet to my door. Bliss! And then I will do a load of laundry… and put it in the DRIER. And my clothes will not be crispy and crunchy! They will be soft and keep their shape! Wow. What a concept.

Nothing like living in another country to make you appreciate the luxuries we take for granted in the States. And we’re even living in a first-world country that’s a member of the European Union — go figure!

Anyway. All fantasizing aside, it was a true pleasure to have a conversation in English, to feel included and like I had something valuable to contribute. Ironically, whenever I talk with Gabe’s colleagues or students at home, they make me feel like I’m from a different country… and now that I’m in a different country, they make me feel at home. I guess all it takes is a change in context.

The rest of the day was largely uneventful, spent working in Gabe’s office (or rather, trying not to stare out the window at the view!) and then at home. We stayed in last night and attempted to watch “Blindness,” a movie based on a book by Jose Saramago, the author that my Portuguese tutor recommended I check out the other day. However since we were watching it on Netflix watch instantly, we were at the mercies of our sporadic internet connection, which kept slowing down every ten minutes or so and causing the movie to reload… which took about five minutes every time. After it had taken over an hour to watch about 40 minutes of the movie, we gave up, and watched the Crocodile Hunter movie on TV instead. Definitely a step down in terms of cultural enrichment. Sigh.

But in the end, I’m happy to report that we wrapped up a good, productive, normal week here in Lisbon. And now, here’s to the weekend!