Last night, we decided to do something different and go see a jazz and poetry performance at the Casa da Fernando Pessoa. But, since it was sandwiched between Gabe’s weekly meetings with his students, we left late and would’ve had to return early. When we realized that it was much further than we’d thought, we ended up just walking around the neighborhood instead. Oh well. I did take some great pictures of the walls and graffiti we saw though, just to prove the point of yesterday’s post:

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Had we not come home early though, we would not have been treated to the privilege of meeting two of our downstairs neighbors. Our building is set up kind of oddly — there are four flats in the main building, of which we are at the bottom. A flight of old, bowed stone stairs runs under our flat (taking out a large chunk out of our square footage) down to a number of small studio apartments below, which were once the prayer cells for the nuns who lived here.

Since we can see the studio roofs from our back windows, I thought they were all out behind our building, and hadn’t realized that there was anyone underneath us. I have in fact been grateful that there wasn’t, since the person upstairs from us sounds like an elephant, and I wouldn’t want to inflict that on anyone. (I can hear him getting up now, in fact.)

However, as it turns out, we too have been elephants dancing on somebody’s ceiling. As we were chilling out with more recorded Olympics last night, someone buzzed our doorbell. When Gabe went to get it, he was greeted by what was clearly a well-rehearsed and long pent-up tirade from the French woman that lives in the flat below. Whoops. She said she can hear everything we do, including shutting the door and turning on the light switch, so could we please be a little more mindful?

Gabe, being the friendly, easy-going guy that he is, said sure, no problem, and then tried his best to be friendly to her, asking her which flat she lived in, where she was from, etc. She was having none of it though, as she had clearly been working herself up into making this confrontation for quite some time, and was totally unprepared to be greeted with amiability. Instead she just said, “You stay up very late and get up very early, no?” Gabe admitted that well yes, he stays up late and I get up early. Again… whoops.

In our defense though, Gabe makes a huge effort to be quiet at night so as not to wake me up, and I do the same for him when I get up in the morning. So I’m not exactly sure what we can do to improve the situation, other than maybe switch the lights off more quietly. But we can try our best. Poor French lady.

About an hour later, Gabe was in his second meeting of the day when the doorbell rang again. Convinced it was the same lady, I sighed and went to the door. No, this time it was a different downstairs neighbor, or at least one of their landlords, who needed to ask us a question about our flat. I chatted with him for a while, and it turned out he was from South Africa. He also told me that there are a total of thirteen flats in our building — and only four of them are in the main building that we live in. So how many tiny studios are there downstairs?! You do the math! Holy crap. No wonder she’s unhappy with our loud light switching and door closing.

So after five months of living here, we have finally met two people from downstairs, less than an hour apart. And we now know that out of all the people who own or rent in our building, there are at least two French people, a South African, a family of Anglicized Portuguese (our landlords), a regular Portuguese guy (who is our own elephant), and of course us, the two Americans. What an international community, all crammed into this one small building!

And to think — had we made it to the jazz and poetry performance, we would’ve missed these fascinating revelations, and the lady downstairs would’ve had to keep her tirade pent up for another day. What a shame that would’ve been.

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