My cousin left early this morning, so our house is now completely empty of visitors for the first time in nearly a month. Crazy.

What’s even weirder is that I’ve actually gotten used to having people here. Instead of being relieved as I usually am after company leaves, this morning I am feeling kind of let down and lonely, especially as the reality of our final ten days is now unavoidable. All that remains is packing, cleaning, and a few goodbyes, then it’s bye bye to Lisbon.

As we are getting ready to leave, Gabe and I have been talking more and more about our year here as a whole, what we’ve learned, what we’ll miss, what we’re looking forward to about getting home. The other day, Gabe surprised me by asking, “What about this year has been different than you expected?”

My immediate gut answer was: the gym. I know that’s sad, but it’s true. I joined the gym here in hopes that it would provide me with the kind of friendship and community my gym at home has given me for many years. There, I know many familiar faces. Even if we’re not the most intimate of friends, people know me and chat with me in the locker room. I know what sports they’re into, how many kids they have, that kind of thing. I have even made a couple of really good friends there, people that I love and admire and have spent a lot of time with outside of that one sweaty venue.

Here though, whether it’s the difference in gym culture or just language, the gym has not been the community builder I had hoped for. It was a place of retreat and release, somewhere other than the flat where I could go and still feel safe (except when they were kicking me out of the pool!), but not a social space. By now most of the trainers and staff recognize me and ask how I’m doing, but that’s as far as it goes. I really have been disappointed by its non-social nature, and have realized how spoiled I am by my gym at home.

That’s on a superficial level though. On a related but much deeper level, I have realized during our time here that I am not, as I’ve written before, a rock, nor am I an island. I spent so long thinking of myself as an introvert, as someone who relishes their alone time above all else, that I failed to recognize how sociable I really am. Coming here and being alone for long stretches of time has made me see just how busy I am at home, how big a network of friends and family I have there, and I have missed them acutely.

At the same time though, I have also relished my solitude this year, and the closeness Gabe and I have enjoyed during our time abroad. External circumstances made the first few years of our relationship very difficult, and this was a much-needed honeymoon break from all of that, a year to do our own thing and really enjoy each other’s company as we never could before. I feel very privileged to have had such a year, as I know most people never get such a chance.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. We still have ten days left to enjoy here, and I plan on making the most both of our host city and of the fact that this is probably the last downtime I’m going to have for quite some time to come. So I’ll try to focus on that, despite my usual tendency towards anticipation, and in the meantime leave you with some photos from our recent meanderings with my cousin, as well as last night’s World Cup win, which we spent in a Spanish bar surrounded by mad, smoking Spaniards. Most of these were taken shortly after Spain’s winning goal in the second quarter of overtime.

We were also hugely entertained by the performers from the fado club across the way, who came out to have a cigarette and watch the game between sets, still dressed in their traditional garb. My cousin’s friend was convinced there was actually a time machine across the way…

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