Well, suddenly both of us are sick. Again.

I’m relatively sure I picked it up from my tutor last week, as she was just getting over something when I returned from our week long hiatus. But really it could’ve been either of us, as there isn’t exactly a great awareness of germs here: yesterday I saw someone coughing directly over the display of baked goods at the grocery store while waiting in line at the register. Oh jeez.

Whoever it was that introduced this particular virus into our little ecosystem, Gabe was the first to get it, and sneezed his way explosively through Saturday. Sunday, his nose was running, and by yesterday, it had bloomed into a full blown head congestion.

Mine is slightly behind schedule, so yesterday I was sniffly, and this morning I feel pretty crappy. Luckily, I don’t think it’s going to be a bad one for either of us, and this is probably the best time for us to get sick — before guests and travel arrives. So all is well.

Especially because — drum roll please — it actually did not rain yesterday! OK well it did in the morning, and the clouds looked dark and threatening all day, but still. There was sunlight! For multiple hours! Amazing!

After hurrying through the inside work I had to do, I went up to one of our favorite parks, which I have stared at longingly from my office window during many a day of storm and rain. It was nearly 4 PM by the time I got up there, so any warmth the sun may have held earlier in the day was long gone, but I didn’t care. As long as it wasn’t actually raining, I was damn well going to sit outside.

So I sat, and I worked, I read, and of course, I nibbled. I even did a bit of Portuguese. I added layers as my body cooled down from the gym and the hike up the hill, but I didn’t mind — I was sitting outside! Fresh air! People! Sounds! Smells! I felt like one of the many dogs I saw running around me: Oh boy! Everything is so new and exciting! Woof!

From this perspective, both literally and mentally, it seemed like there was an ever-changing diorama of Portuguese life laid out just for my benefit. I could see the bright yellow trams making their way up and down the hill opposite, and the roofs of abandoned buildings yawned all around, many of them in the process of being gutted and rebuilt.

A stout bulldog bullied a young spaniel into raising his ruff and making a half-hearted puppy growl before the bulldog’s owners (and his leash) finally caught up with him. Another dog ran by on only three legs, wearing both a dapper coat and a bell around his neck. His elderly owner, equally well-appointed, trailed more sedately behind.

A trio of young Portuguese men laughed and talked loudly somewhere behind me, while a blond pimply tourist sat quietly on a bench and perused his guide to “Lissabon.” Bells chimed the hour, kid’s shrieks and laughter rose up from the school on the hillside below the park, and birds sang joyfully in the trees, giving voice to the massive contentment I felt.

Gabe came to find me there on his walk back from the university, and together we made our way home. On the way, I spotted a dark, bare cherry tree with a few pink petals lightly tracing its branches. Strange how such a simple thing can fill me with such joy and hope — it’s a primeval response, I suppose, proof that the world has once again made it through the winter.

As we rounded the second to last corner from home, I was struck by how many people I could see walking along this one little side street near our house. I remarked on it to Gabe, saying that this is one of the things I like best about living here: the streets are so much more active than in America. Gabe attributed it to the small apartments, while I thought it was due to the cost and hassle of owning a car in Europe. Regardless, there is a much stronger sense of community here, of a life lived outside of the home and the car, which I am coming to recognize and appreciate.

Back in our flat, I gladly dove back into the reading I had left behind earlier. This year is starting to feel like a second Master’s degree — I am learning once again how to read, how to think, and how to write. This time though, it’s on whatever topic strikes my fancy.

In one afternoon, I can download and read on my Kindle sample chapters from two or three nutrition books, a sci fi novel, and the latest book everyone’s talking about. I may even buy one of them. Or instead, I might move on to the medical history book I’ve been reading, or a delightful 1920s travelogue of Morocco, which I downloaded for free. Perhaps I’ll continue with the copy of In Cold Blood that my French friend lent me, as I’ve never read it before. Or maybe I will catch up on the many blogs I follow, and read about publishing, books, and all kinds of trivia therein. It all depends on which mood I’m in.

When I walk or am at the gym, I listen to This American Life or the BBC news, or I try to parse my way through the political lingo of Rachel Maddow’s show. My head practically swells with all the input and knowledge I’m absorbing — and there’s no tests, papers, or debt to pay off once I’m done. It’s fantastic.

Just like the cherry blossoms, I know this time can’t last forever. They are beautiful while they last, but eventually the cherry tree — and my life — will move on to other things. Even so, the knowledge that they are only temporary makes them all the more lovely while they are here. And so I will stare, and stare, and drink my fill of the spring time.

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