Yesterday I emerged from my hobbit hole at last, and went out into the world, blinking and trembling at all those bright lights and people. Only kidding. Sort of.

I did go in to the university with Gabe, for lunch and an afternoon of working, theoretically. I was reminded first and foremost of why I don’t do that more often — between writing in the morning, then getting ready, going in on the metro, and eating lunch with Gabe’s colleagues, we didn’t sit down at his desk til past 2 PM. And then left for home again around 5. Highly productive, no?

Luckily, the point of the exercise was not to be productive, but rather to be social. We had a great meal at the student cafeteria we had been to before, where you get bread, soup, one of five main dishes on hand, a drink, a dessert, and a salad bar… all for 4 euros. Wow. And it’s actually pretty good, believe it or not. Not nearly as refreshing as the company, which was very welcome after a week of solitude, but still good.

We then headed back up to the lab and drank coffees out of the dispensing machine in the lounge, which is one of those things where you feed money in and then push various buttons for decaf, no sugar (because strongly sugared is of course the default setting around here), and then choose what type of espresso drink you want — plain, with milk, with chocolate, “latte,” etc. I have a feeling they all taste much the same, but again, it wasn’t terrible, considering the source. And again, it was the conversation that accompanied the plastic cup of coffee that mattered, not the substance itself.

After working for a short while, nothing too strenuous, we walked home as the sun set, enjoying clearer skies and milder temperatures than we’ve had in a while. Our plan was to drop our stuff off, eat dinner at home along with one of Gabe’s colleagues, who was on his way over, then head back out again to see some live blues music our friends had told us about. However, we soon looked at each other and decided that all the fresh air and company had been far too exhausting for all that, so when our friend showed up slightly later than planned, it wasn’t too difficult to convince him of a different plan.

Instead, we had a leisurely dinner at home, and then went out to our favorite local wine bar again, where the owner and waitress now recognize us. We proceeded to have another evening full of excellent wine and a spectrum of desserts, which they bring in from the vegetarian restaurant next door. Our friend had chocolate mousse and a dark red Spanish wine; I had apple and plum cobbler with a dry Madeira (or so I’m told); and Gabe had the passionfruit (maracuja, in Portuguese) cheesecake that they’d been out of last time, paired with a sweet tawny port that was rather yummy.

While our friend chose his own wine, our recommendations were made by the owner, who is beautiful, dark, and very, very pregnant. She answered all our questions in excellent English, spoken in a deep, husky voice, and spent the rest of the time perched on various stools and chairs, talking quietly with her friends and customers. Every time someone she knew came in, which was often, her face lit up and she greeted them in that lovely voice — which only made me want to go there even more so that we can earn the same greeting.

Meanwhile, the quiet, efficient Brazilian waitress bustled about, serving us and the people seated at the table next to us. (There are only four tables in the whole place, two bigger ones and a two-seater in the front, and another two-seater in the back, plus bar stools.) Every time we go in there, I am impressed by how she makes even the most casual of clothing look amazing — last night she was wearing a big oversized turtleneck sweater with black leggings and slouchy boots, her hair twisted up out of her face, no makeup to speak of. But still, her grace as she negotiated the tiny seating area and her gentle, laid-back nature make her quite simply beautiful. Oh, to be Brazilian!

So in the end, we didn’t see live blues, but we did have good conversation, good wine, and yummy desserts. Along with the lunch and an afternoon working around other people, yesterday was a much-welcome dose of human company in my otherwise quiet and introverted week.

An excellent combination, all around.

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