Yesterday turned out to be not only another rainy day, but also damn cold. When we walked home last night, one of the green neon pharmacy signs said it was 4 degrees centigrade, and another said 6. That’s around 40 degrees fahrenheit! Good Lord! Where is our warm southern European spring already?!

Even so, I braved the outside world yet again, and went in to uni to meet Gabe just as he was finishing lunch with a whole table of people. I sat at his desk and read while he finished up his work for the day, and then we went… to the mall. How thrilling, I know.

It was a necessary evil though, as I had finally decided that my knee could no longer withstand these hills without better walking shoes — and my vanity dictated that those could no longer be my bright white “Hello, I’m an American!” running shoes. I had it on excellent authority from a young friend of mine, a shopping connaiseuse, if you will, that the big Amorerias mall had a Timberland store in it, and that it carried just what I needed.

So off we went to Amoreiras. Unfortunately there is no tube stop there, so we had to hike it from the closest one, which was about a ten minute walk. We did so briskly, as it was already quite cold in the mid-afternoon, and gratefully wandered around the over-warm mall til we found the relevant shop. Which was having a sale! Even better. I tried on shoe after shoe, but again discovered that my feet are too big by Portuguese standards. In women’s sizes, they had nothing bigger than a 37 or 38, so I had to go for men’s. Fabulous. Once again, I’m a big foot.

Unable to decide, we put two pairs on hold and went to see a movie, because of course all malls here have cinemas in them. We walked into the darkened theater just as the movie was starting, and precariously made our way to what looked like acceptable seats. We saw Invictus — coincidentally, the day after the 20th anniversary of Mandela’s release and the end of apartheid. How fitting.

The movie was amazing, despite the efforts of everyone in the audience to distract my attention from it: the couple loudly making out behind us, the teenage boys being rowdy up front, and the old man hacking up a lung in the back. Not to mention the intermission right in the middle, for which I was grateful since I hadn’t had time to find the bathroom before the movie started, but didn’t do much by way of plot continuity.

Nonetheless, I managed to become fully absorbed in the film, and even found myself crying at a couple of points. Yes, it was intentionally tear-jerking, and yes, it was a feel-good ending to a story that in reality was not anywhere near that simple. But it got to me, both as a person and as an historian, and it moved me deeply. In another world, another life, I had hoped to do my PhD thesis on South Africa, examining the wide disparity in US attitudes and policies towards apartheid in the 1970s. Seeing this movie gave me a small wistful twinge, with the scholar in me still wanting to know more, more! But the twinge soon subsided, and I contented myself with looking up the poem “Invictus” as well as the history of apartheid on Wikipedia when we got home.

We got there on foot, since the tube would have been warmer but also longer and less direct. So we scurried home through the cold night, carrying my newly purchased hybrid sneaker/hiking shoes, grateful for our lives, our freedom, and the ability to buy new shoes and see good movies on a Friday night… then go home to a warm apartment and hot food. Life is good.

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