We had a pretty regular day yesterday, if you can call any day here “regular.” Something about going about your every day life surrounded by crumbling old buildings and red terra cotta roofs, or passing restaurants with window displays full of gaping fish mouths, or seeing entire cured pigs for sale at the deli counter makes such a thing seem impossible. And yet, we try.

We both worked yesterday, although again, the definition of that term is a loose one here. For Gabe, work means going in to uni around 11:30, settling in and chatting with his colleagues for a bit, then going for a two hour lunch and coffee break, working for a few hours in the afternoon, chatting some more, then coming home.

For me, work involves setting up the external monitor and keyboard after Gabe leaves for uni, as this physical transition to working mode helps me focus. It’s like saying, “Now I am in my office,” even if I am actually still in my pajamas. I then spend an hour or so catching up on email and work that came in over the weekend, reading a couple articles about books or publishing, and checking Facebook a few hundred times.

I get up to make lunch, hang up the laundry, unload the dishwasher, and check out what the restoration guy is working on across the street. Right now he’s replacing the tail and horns on a large, mottled brown ceramic bull, and has been sharpening the new horns with sandpaper for days. As he showed us last week, the bull is actually a large decanter for alcohol, with a spigot on the bottom and a hole in the top to refill it. Very clever in their drinking, these Portuguese.

Yesterday I had the additional bonus of watching his wife sitting on the doorstep with their grandson, feeding the pigeons in the street. Not sure who was more entertained by this exercise — the little boy or me.

Next came more work, a snack, and then a quick trip to the gym before picking up some groceries at the corner store on my way home. The lady there was watching The Daily Show on her little TV, and despite our total lack of a language in common, we both laughed as Jon Stewart interviewed his latest victim, er, guest. Some things transcend all boundaries.

Back home for a couple more hours of work, this time on the phone, as by then the West Coast was starting to wake up. After finishing my calls, I went out again, this time with the intention of meeting Gabe on his way home from uni so that we could do yet more grocery shopping. Here, no day is complete without visiting at least two different stores, because inevitably there was something you forgot or couldn’t find or couldn’t carry at the first.

At this point, our routine deviated from the norm in a most pleasant and unexpected manner. Gabe had walked home with his colleague, J, who lives at the top of the Torel park opposite our house. In fact I can see his flat as I write this — hi J! We all met up at the top of the park, and when we reached J’s house, he invited us in for some wine. Well, why not? Grocery shopping can wait. Wine cannot.

So passed a lovely hour or so on the balcony of J’s flat, drinking excellent red wine, eating cheese and crackers, and watching the sun set over the city. I was enchanted by a whole new panorama of neighbors to spy on, including a pregnant lady who was standing out on her balcony next door. I counted at least five cats wandering in and out of her flat, one of whom spent quite a while sitting contentedly in one of the planters on the railing. There was also a saggy-faced Sharpei puppy in the house below, who noticed us watching him and intently returned our attention, his eyes peeking out from under their fat furry rolls of skin.

The last vestiges of light didn’t leave the sky until almost 7:30 — spring is definitely on its way. (Also evidenced by the sunshine that woke me up before 7 this morning. We don’t start Daylight Savings here for another two weeks. Grumble.)

Much later and tipsier than planned, we finally made it to the store, where all three of us did our shopping very cheerfully and mostly without incident (although I did get slightly carried away with the apples. Oh well.) Gabe and I tripped our way home and ate a late dinner before falling into bed. Not quite the evening we’d planned, but vastly more enjoyable.

As I said, life here is anything but routine, even on the most regular of days.


On a related note, I recently discovered a book about Lisbon that you really should be reading instead of messing about with my blog. The author also lived here for a year, and many of  his adventures are eerily similar to our own. I am portioning out his stories one at a time, reading them before bed, laughing over his all too familiar mishaps and reading the funniest bits out loud to Gabe. There are a lot of funny bits. Great book.