A quick word of explanation about the new header here, since a gentle reader inquired about it.

This photo was taken in a small alleyway in Belem, one wall of which was covered with a whole flock of ceramic sparrows. They are a folk symbol of Portugal, an image of spring, warmth, and family. Since swallows return to their home from the south every year, bringing with them spring and warmer weather, people put these ceramic swallows on their walls in the hopes that they will bring good weather all year round. (Apparently this winter the swallows didn’t work hard enough!)

I’d seen them for sale at a nearby store, and even bought some stick-on sparrow decals for some good friends’ new baby, but I’d never seen them displayed like this before. I had to snap a shot of it!

Yesterday was another quiet day. I went to class in the afternoon, where I was rewarded for my progress with a four-page test taken in part from the language certification test in Portuguese. Guess she thinks I’m progressing quickly! Luckily I could take it home and do it for homework. Thank God.

After class, I walked up the street to meet Gabe at our favorite cinema (now that we’ve been to a few more here, it’s clear that this one really is the best.) We saw Valentine’s Day, a cheezy romantic comedy, which as our Princetonian friend pointed out, succeeded in being neither romantic nor comedic. It was mildly entertaining and occasionally touching, but that’s the highest praise I can give it. (There’s a new genre for you: instead of a romantic comedy, try a mildly touching entertainment!) The plot points were contrived, and the characters had no chemistry whatsoever, so the romance they tried for felt forced and unconvincing. That said, I did laugh and even cry at a few points, so I guess it wasn’t a total loss. We have limited cinematic options here, so you take what you can get.

What I enjoyed most about the movie was that it was set in California — well, LA, which to my mind counts as a different state (world? dimension?) entirely, but still. As when my family and I saw Clueless while living in England fifteen years ago, there were many cultural references that you just wouldn’t get if you weren’t from California. Ditto with that wine movie that came out while I was living in London, which I absolutely hated — except for the scenery shots of Napa, which my fellow homesick Californian expat and I drooled over.

During last night’s movie, there were a number of small cultural references that made me laugh as only a California girl could — i.e. when Ashton Kutcher has to borrow a souped-up “hybrid” lowrider, and goes bouncing down the freeway in all its pink and purple glory. Yeah, it’s funny, but all the more so when you grew up seeing those on the street.

So ended another Lisboan day without incident. Still, I spent most of the afternoon feeling slightly stifled, cooped up in the flat and needing to get out. The pendulum has again swung from needing solitude to feeling isolated — oh it happens so quickly! So today I will go in to university for lunch, and then out with some friends this evening… after which I’ll feel overstimulated and in need of solitude. And so the cycle continues…!