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It’s an indicator of just how busy I’ve been that I haven’t even commented on the fact that this week was the one-year anniversary of our arrival in Lisbon. I’ve had other things on my mind, I guess.

Looking back at my entries from that week, I can see that a year ago today we explored what was to become our neighborhood. We introduced ourselves to the restoration guy across the street from our flat, whose red-spattered smock turned out to be covered with paint, not blood, as I’d originally thought. We also discovered our mirador that day, and ate lunch at a carpaccio place that took an hour to produce one salad. Needless to say, we never went back there.

Although my initial impressions of our adopted city were not the most favorable (“I wanna go hoooooome!”), I remember that as the day my opinion started to change (click on the photo to enlarge):

Now that I’m safely ensconced and embroiled back in my life here, that world seems even more foreign than it did at the time. Already, I am grateful to have kept such a detailed account of the year, with so many pictures. Eventually, I might even print a few and hang them on the walls — see again that post-project time frame, which I am anticipating with great relish.

In the much more mundane but no less exciting here and now, I’ve discovered that Bola’s favorite toy is a pair of my plush furry duck slippers. He has eyed them with trepidation every time I’ve worn them, as if he were deciding whether to attack them or run away from them.

Last night the former impulse won out, and he spent a good fifteen minutes disemboweling first one, then the other, with enormous gusto. My slippers have now been thoroughly killed, although now I can effectively never wear them again, as Bola will always think they’re to play with. Oh well, it’s worth the sacrifice to see him that happy. Hard to believe he’s already been here a week…!


Progress continues, at what feels like a slow pace but is actually much faster than we packed the house last summer. After a week, we still have boxes lying all around, but the basic infrastructure of the house is set up: the kitchen is equipped, our clothes are hung up, the bathroom drawers are full and organized.

We even have couches to sit on and a TV to watch, although borrowing our neighbors’ internet while waiting for ours to be set up makes life somewhat difficult. (We decided not to get cable when we got back, and instead bought a little black box that streams Netflix and other on-demand channels directly to our TV. Fancy, convenient, and without ads, but sadly, completely dependent on having fast internet access.)

In fact, the internet and phone have been one of the more annoying sagas of our return. We signed up for a new service (with a provider who will remain unnamed, although I will say that it begins with A and ends with T) the weekend we returned, with the promise that it would be active prior to this Monday the 16th at 8 PM. That deadline came and went without either internet or phone being active, so after many hours on the phone, Gabe finally produced a technician to come and repair one of our three phone jacks. Why he didn’t do all of them is unclear, but at least we had a phone working, which Gabe could then use to spend more time figuring out why our DSL wasn’t working.

As it turned out, the modem wasn’t working because — ready for it? They sent us the wrong one. The phone company — which will remain unnamed, but includes an ampersand in their title — sent us hardware that will not work with their system. What’s more, this is not an uncommon mistake. Wow. Are we still in Portugal here people? I expect more efficiency from the US of A!

Speaking of, it’s taking me some time to get used to living here again, and it seems to be the little things that trip me up more than the big ones. For example, I went to Cost Plus yesterday to pick up some shower curtains I’d seen there last week, which of course involved wandering around gazing at all the stuff there for a good half hour. When I finally walked up to the register, the cashier was already ringing up another person in front of me. Unfazed, I got ready to wait in line.

The cashier, however, looked up at me, smiled and greeted me (I nearly fell over just at that), and picked up the intercom to call for a second cashier. I laughed and said, “I don’t mind waiting, it’s OK!” To which she replied, “Well there’s another person, oh, two people behind you, so…” I looked behind me, and indeed saw two other people behind me. Still, in Portuguese terms, that hardly even qualified as a line, much less one worthy of opening a whole other register.

Nonetheless, I was shortly whisked over to said register, where I told the new cashier why I was mystified by this behavior. She acted dutifully amazed by my tales of lines stretching back into the aisles, and how your usual waiting time at the grocery store is about ten minutes, but I really don’t think an American can fully grasp the concept of long lines. We get restless when we have to wait for longer than five minutes, and that really only happens when you insist on going shopping the day before Thanksgiving or Christmas. We are so spoiled!

My wonderment grew when my shopping trip continued on to Trader Joes, which I have missed lo these many months of absence. Ready-made yummy food! Good cereals! Whole grain everything! The sheer variety and volume was positively overwhelming, and I made absolutely no effort to resist temptation. In fact the cashier there claimed to have never seen a cart so full, although I think he says that to all the girls.

Later in the day, I again had to laugh at myself when I got in the car to drive to the newest branch of my gym, which opened up just ten minutes’ drive away from our house. In Portugal, I walked ten minutes to my gym. Here, I drive for ten minutes, and think that is excellent. I always forget just how much of our lives we spend in the car here, but really, this is a car-oriented culture.

All other differences aside, the best one was yet to come. After I returned from my first spin class in many months, Gabe and I ate dinner sitting outside on our patio, surrounded by our wild and overgrown garden. Other than TJs, this is one of the things I missed the most: having our own outside space. In Lisbon, if I wanted to go outside, I had to go out in public. But here, I can just walk outside in my fluffy slippers, hair awry, and sit without a care.

Just a few of the many differences I notice every day that we’re back. Better to record them now before I forget there was ever any other way of doing things.

And now… back to unpacking.

Well, here it is: our last day in Lisbon. This is the last morning I’ll lie in bed and watch the swallows dance above the rooftops, or eat my breakfast with only the sound of the cranes outside and the incessantly yapping dog to keep me company. (OK him I won’t miss.)

And so this whole crazy experience, truly a once in a lifetime event, draws to a close. As you’ve seen from my posts over the past weeks, it is certainly a bittersweet goodbye, no more so than today, when we’ll go in to uni to have a farewell lunch with Gabe’s colleagues.

For both of us, this year has truly been what a sabbatical is intended to be. For Gabe, it has been not only a mental and physical break from the routine of teaching and research, but also a time to expand his horizons professionally, to make new connections and do things differently than he would’ve done at home.

For me, it was more of the mental and physical break type of year. This was a year of solitude and introspection, of working on my body at the gym and my mind in our office, a time to sit by myself and read, write, think, feel, to recover from the past few years and get ready for what is to come.

In some senses, this year hasn’t gone the way I thought it would, in that I expected to use my spare time to build up my publicity business, design a website for myself, get business cards made, etc. Instead I’ve realized that I’m perfectly content with my business the way it is, and have focused on my writing, which has given me unexpected joy and much-needed stability this year.

To that end, I submitted my first piece for publication in an online journal yesterday. I have no idea if it will be accepted, but even the sending of it was a big step. I feel like I’ve come full circle this year, and yet I know it is just the beginning.


Here are some pictures from our last walkabout yesterday — thought I’d give you a tour of our neighborhood, street by street, square by square, snack by snack. (Description is below the photos, so keep reading.)

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First we take you to Praca das Flores, which is kind of cheating because I forgot to take pictures on the way there from our house. But you get the idea. Then we walk up through the streets to Barrio Alto, past a little fruiteria and some old men playing cards outside of a cafe.

Once through Barrio Alto, we come to the mirador of Santa Catarina, where we stop at one of the first cafes we ever went to here, overlooking the bridge and the docks. Moving along, past a bollard that Gabe had to ride up and a mini-sized delivery truck, we get to Praca de Camoes, where you see two 28 trams and three churches, all in a row.

That leads us into Chiado, the fancy shopping district. We stop in a store selling sweet little espresso cups with the 28 tram on them, which to our relief were completely out of stock (as is our baggage allowance.) She wouldn’t even sell us the display model. But look at them! So cute.

Nearby, we take a picture of the tourists taking pictures of themselves in front of A Brasileira, the famous cafe where Fernando Pessoa spent so much time writing that he now has a statue outside. I turn around to take a shot of my favorite old bookstore, Bertrand, which takes up half a linear block and has been there since time immemorial.

Then on to my favorite place of all, the coffee shop, where we go in to take a whiff of the air. Gabe asks the guy about the various fancy coffeemakers on display, which leads to a lesson on the difference between all of them. Meanwhile I eye the candy, and inhale deeply, trying to absorb the old-world essence of that little store.

Onwards, down through the Chiado mall and out onto the streets below, where we look up towards the Santa Justa elevator. We turn right, through the end of Rossio square, where once the Inquisition burnt people for kicks; past the streets of Baixa, looking towards the arc at the end; and on into the Praca de Figueroa, where the tram for Belem leaves. On that corner is our second favorite place to get pasteis, the Confeiteria Nacional, which has been making Lisboans fat since before our country was a country.

There we order pasteis, and since they could be our last, we ask for them to be heated up. She leaves them in for too long, which has the strange effect of separating the butter from the dough, making the plate yellow and greasy and the whole thing taste like salty butter. Slightly anticlimactic. Nonetheless, we eat them so quickly we both burn our mouths on the hot custard inside.

Next stop, our nearby grocery store to pick up a roasted chicken for dinner, then past the ornate front of Rossio train station and back up through Restauradores square. We walk along the path of the elevador da Gloria, which took off just as we came along, and up onto our street, where many scary alley cats live. I took a picture of my favorite, the scariest by far, who barely has any ears left and is always haunted by a younger, more ear-endowed, and equally black companion.

That takes us past the local restaurant where we had my birthday dinner, although the waitress who usually says hi was nowhere to be seen last night. And finally, to our block and our red building, where we take our chicken and eat our dinner, trying not to think of how few hours of relative peace remain to us here.

So there you go — that’s our ‘hood. Hope you enjoyed our last excursion as much as we did…

Late last night, it finally hit both of us how sad we are to be leaving. We’ve both been so future-focused — trying to get our stuff ready, looking forward to getting home — that we hadn’t really focused on how much we’re going to miss this place. But finally, I realized that we only have two days left here in our little flat, on these narrow stony streets, with these crazy, warm, ebullient people. Two days.

Today we’ll go for a last walk around our favorite places in our ‘hood. I know we will come back here again in the future, but not for a while. So for now, this will be the last time I see the fantastic old cedar in Principe Real, or the oddly familiar view from Santa Catarina. Today I will walk into my favorite coffee and candy store and inhale their pungent air for the last time, and look at the ruins of the Carmo convent, then walk to the top of the Santa Justa elevator and take in the view.

Two days.

Last week’s stretch hurry up and wait inactivity is finally over, and we’re now getting much closer to go-time. We packed up most of our remaining stuff yesterday, including one giant bag full of stuff we won’t need til we get home. After much packing, weighing, repacking, and reweighing, that brings us to two big bags at exactly 23 kilos each, along with two very heavy carry-ons, which we will pack on Thursday.

We also got the flat cleaned last night, after some small miscommunication with the owner of the flat upstairs, whose cleaner and cleaning products we were hoping to use. He thought he was just introducing us to the cleaner, to be scheduled later this week, whereas we thought she was doing the cleaning then and there. Luckily she had the time to do both his flat and ours, although I did feel bad when we got home from our movie at 10 PM and she was still there, after having told us she had to leave at 9:30. But the place is now immaculate, and with all our personal trappings taken down, it now looks very sterile, almost like a hotel.

Most important of all, we were able to wrest most of our security deposit out of our landlord, who had been incommunicado all weekend. After sending him a series of increasingly frantic texts and emails over the past few days, we got a text on our way home from the movie telling us to “Relax!” It’s all being taken care of. Um yeah, it’s a little difficult to relax when you owe us a significant chunk of money and we’re closing out our bank account and leaving the country in three days.

He did come by with most of the money late last night, and said he’d send the rest to us in the States after figuring out expenses on house repairs we’ve incurred while living here. I won’t hold my breath, but at least that’s more or less settled now.

So what remains? Today, a day of work, at Uni for Gabe and at home for me. Tomorrow, probably a bit more work and a last stroll around our neighborhood, as Thursday will be busy with last-minute packing and cleaning. Add in a few goodbyes and a final dinner at a new restaurant we’ve been wanting to try, then we’re out of here, giant bags in hand, on Friday morning. Still so hard to believe…

Our final Sunday excursion turned out to be much longer and far hotter than either of us had bargained for, but it was well worth it in the end.

Our goal was to see the Palacio da Ajuda, which was the royal palace for many centuries, up until the last king of Portugal was overthrown in 1910. Since that palace is conveniently located near Belem, our real motivation was to end the day with a final trip to the much-adored Pasteis de Belem. It’s a good thing we had that carrot dangling in front of us, too, or else I probably would’ve given up long before the day was over.

We decided once again to brave the Lisboan bus system, as it looked like the best way to get up the hill to Ajuda. After some confusion over which buses went where on Sundays, we finally found and boarded the correct bus. We asked the bus driver where we should get off for the palace, and he said, “Don’t worry, I’ll tell you when we get there.” Great! That’s real nice of you, senhor.

So we embarked on our rickety old bus, whose shocks had long ago been ruined by the cobblestones and potholes of Lisbon’s streets, making it feel more like riding a jackhammer than a bus. About half way through, we stopped to switch drivers. I said, “Oh that’s nice, so much for us now!” but Gabe said he’d heard the old driver telling the new one that we wanted to go to the palace. I said, “That’s impressive — you’d never see that in the States!”

Famous last words. After we had been winding up the hilly streets above Belem for quite a while, Gabe got up to remind the bus driver that we were going to the palace. “Oh yes,” he said, “Keep going forward. I’ll tell you when to get off.” Reassured, we sat down and waited some more… and kept waiting… and kept waiting, long after we’d passed the stop that we’d originally thought would be the closest one.

As we did so, I looked up the street and saw the corner of the palace just a block uphill from where we were. “Shouldn’t we get off?” I said, with an all too familiar sinking sensation in my stomach. I could already feel one of those “This is Portugal” moments coming on.

Ever the optimist, Gabe replied, “No, he said he’d let us know. Maybe there’s somewhere even closer that we don’t know about, and he was saving us the hike up that hill.”

OK… so we continued waiting, even though the bus was now clearly heading away from the castle. Even Gabe was dubious by this point, but still put his faith in the driver, saying, “Maybe we’re going to turn around and head back in the other direction.” Sure enough, at one point the bus did take a turn back towards the castle, but it didn’t go far enough.

Eventually, the bus driver pulled over to the side of the road and said, “The castle is back that way. Just walk straight ahead and you’ll get there.” He let us off right there, at the side of a roundabout in the middle of nowhere, where there wasn’t even a stop! As we walked to the door, I saw that the entire back of the bus was empty. The only other person on the bus was the little old lady sitting in front of us, and yet somehow still the driver had very clearly forgotten that we were there, or where we were going.

Cursing the day he was born, we set out in the direction he’d pointed us, which was along an abandoned, littered, and very sketchy stretch of sunbeaten sidewalk without an inch of shade on it. It took us about fifteen minutes of walking before we even spotted the palace, by which point I was fuming and more convinced than ever that he’d forgotten about his promise to tell us where the palace was.

I was right: it had become another definitive This is Portugal moment. Hiking half a mile in the hot sun after congratulating ourselves for not only figuring out the bus system but also getting a driver friendly enough to tell us where to go — and then believing that he would actually do such a thing? Only in Portugal. I guess we needed one last reminder of the reality of this place, just in case we were getting too sad about leaving.

When we finally did reach the palace, it was of course well worth it. Only a fraction of the rooms were open to the public, and many were under renovation, as you can see from the first pictures in the set below. The rooms we did see, however, were every bit as ornate and over the top as we’d expected. They were also quite sad, especially when compared to the Palacio da Pena in Sintra, which is immaculately preserved and climate controlled. This place was musty and smelled of rot, which you just knew was coming out of those beautiful satin-covered walls and priceless tapestries.

Also unlike Pena, we had the entire place to ourselves, and only came across two other sets of visitors during our entire tour. And this on a Sunday, when it’s free, in the height of summer. Very sad.

Still, it was pretty cool to have the royal palace to stroll around on our own, and we had a great time laughing over the strange royal paraphernalia (e.g. a pair of silver-capped deer hooves, given to the queen to commemorate a hunt), admiring the impressive collection of Ming vases, and marveling at the size of the throne room. The banquet room, the final stop on the tour, was the most impressive by far, with room for at least 100 people. Life is good when you’re king.

All that oohing and ahhing (and walking in the hot sun) worked up an appetite, so we wandered down the hill (via some more botanical gardens) to Pasteis de Belem, where we gratefully grabbed a table and ate our fill of delicious cream-filled pastry goodness. For the last time — alas! There is really nothing like it in the world. So sad.

Much replenished, we made our tired, warm way home, where we spent the rest of the evening resting and doing some preliminary packing, which somehow hadn’t happened earlier in the weekend. An excellent final Sunday, in the end, if only because it gave me one more great — and very very Portuguese — story to tell.

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So we continue our string of Lasts in Lisbon. Sundays are a special thing here in Portugal, at least for an American accustomed to the all-out pace of modern life, which stops for no man, God, or weekend. Here they actually believe in taking a day of rest. Everything is shut down on Sundays, the streets are empty, people go to their family’s house to have long, leisurely lunches with their loved ones (that’s how I’ve imagined it anyway — perhaps they just sit by themselves all day and watch TV.)

We arrived on a Sunday, which in hindsight was bad timing on our part, since it meant that we (or at least I) got a very skewed sense of the town when we first landed. The streets looked desolate and deserted, the trash hadn’t been picked up since Friday night, the bathrooms in our temporary grad student housing hadn’t been cleaned in two days, and no restaurants or stores were open. I was none too happy about all of this.

Since that unfortunate first Sunday, we have come to cherish our domingos as a day off, when we have the streets to ourselves and the museums are free til 2 PM.  Every other day of the week, the frenetic pace of the city bears down on you as if to say “Look how busy we all are, rushing to and fro! What are you getting done today?” But from the minute I wake up on a Sunday, I feel relaxed, as there’s no pressure for me to accomplish anything because no one else is doing anything either. Everything seems slower, more chilled out. Sundays are a good thing in Portugal.

To make the most of our last one here, we plan on going to a museum we haven’t been to before, and then stopping to eat our final pasteis de Belem — which will be a very difficult goodbye indeed.

In that same category, we said goodbye a couple of our Portuguese friends last night, J and A, those with the new baby. They invited us out to A’s birthday party, which was held at J’s mother’s house in a beachfront town called Costa de Caparica, across the river to the south of Lisbon. Even though the town itself is only about a fifteen minute drive away, to get there without a car required a metro ride to the bus stop, then a very crowded and noisy 45 minute bus ride to Costa. All of which served to completely ruin the good mood I was in earlier in the day.

I soon cheered up again when we got to our friends’ house, with their young son in my arms and their beautiful backyard blocking out all thought of busy buses and city streets. We spent an hour or so with our friends before the rest of the guests started showing up, including both of their families and a few of their other friends. It was wonderful to meet everyone in our friends’ lives, and even more so to be included in such an intimate and warm gathering.

Of course everyone was speaking Portuguese, but as soon as Gabe explained to people that I understood it, they had no qualms with including me in the conversation and letting me respond in English, which everyone more or less understood. In this manner, I managed to get through an entire party without once making an ass of myself, or even feeling left out at all.

If we’d gone to a party like that when we first arrived, I would’ve felt hugely uncomfortable, and probably wouldn’t even have wanted to go. But yesterday, I didn’t even give it a second thought — I was far more concerned with how long it would take to get there, and didn’t care at all that I’d be surrounded by people with whom I didn’t share a language. Goes to show how far my comfort zone has expanded this year.

In fact I felt more comfortable than I do at most English-speaking parties, because at least I had an excuse for being my usual introverted self. Every time Gabe explained to someone that I don’t speak very well, I thought to myself, “Wow I wish he could do that for me at every party — just tell people I don’t like to talk! It works like a charm!” Alas, it’s a little antisocial when there’s no language barrier. Perhaps we can just pretend I’m Russian or something…

After bidding a very sad adios (or ate breve, I hope) to our friends, we got a ride back to Lisbon with A’s sister, her boyfriend, and a whole freeway full of Lisboans returning from a day at the beach. I didn’t mind the traffic though, as anything beat being in the bus again. As we crossed the April 25 bridge, we had an amazing view of the sunset over Cascais and Belem to our left, and the twinkling, sparkling city with the castle presiding over it to the right.

That first Sunday, all I wanted to do was go home. Last night, looking out at the city putting on her sparkles for a big Saturday night, I caught myself wondering what it would be like to stay, to make a real life with these people, this place. I know it could never happen, but just like when you’re a house guest, it’s always better to leave while you still wish you didn’t have to.

In my opinion, that’s an excellent note to leave on.

Forgive the break in regularly scheduled programming this morning, friends, but my head got lost in a paint bucket — or at least a virtual one. Turns out trying to choose paint colors from thousands of miles away when you haven’t set foot in your house for nearly a year is ever so slightly difficult.

We wanted to stick with white because we thought it’d be simpler and safer than trying to choose a color from far away, but oh no, simple is one thing it has not been. Creamy white, yellowy white, grayish white, pure cream, taupe, beige — I even looked at one called “Mayonnaise,” although I much preferred the names “Mouse Back” and “Timid White.” I think we have finally settled on “Moonlight White,” which has all the right calm, peaceful vibes that I need. (You can’t tell me names don’t matter in the house of someone as enamored with words as I am.)

That means the painting can start this week, which in turn means the construction work is already done… and that leaves only the cleaning lady to come in the week we get back. I don’t think we’ll even recognize our house when we return! How exciting. Of course the state of the garden will bring the overall effect waaaay down, but hey, it’ll be a challenge.

Today: a trip to the gym, perhaps some packing (or maybe not, since it’s already noon), and a friend’s birthday party on a coastal town south of Lisbon. Good times.

Exactly one week from now, we will be taking off for London, saying goodbye to the red roofs and green trees of our adopted city as we gradually leave it behind. It will be ten months almost to the day since we first landed here, looking at those same roofs and trees and wondering which one we would live under (preferably the former and not the latter,) who we would meet, what stories we’d have to tell. As you can attest, there have been many many stories this year, and I thank you for sticking around to read them.

I’m not finished making them just yet though. Yesterday I decided that faffing about the apartment wasn’t doing me any good, so I went out for a touristy day on my own. I started with a museum called the Mae d’Agua, or mother of water, which is set in the cavernous cistern where the aqueduct ended, the center from which all the city’s water came. We had explored the other end of the water system with Gabe’s family when they were here, but I had to stay home and work when they visited the Mae D’Agua.

Just as they’d said, it was really something to behold, all lofty marble ceilings and still, dark water, with a constant stream coming out on top of a fountain made gruesome by centuries of bulbous calcium accumulation. I also walked back through the long channel of the aqueduct, and up onto the roof of the cistern, which afforded magnificent views over the city: to the bridge and the Cristo Rei on one side, and the castle on the other. I always forget how small this city actually is, since the hills mean that it takes forever to get anywhere!

I continued on my way through the small park outside of the Mae d’Agua, which is one of my favorites, and walked up the street to the Estrela park, which might be my all-time favorite. (Really, they’re all my favorites.)  There I had a nice quiet lunch sitting by the duck pond, remembering all the times I’d been there before — with Gabe’s family, with my mom, with my half-brother and his wife back in February. It was kind of a goodbye tour at this point, revisiting the memories I’ve made here, as I know I won’t be going back to these places before we leave.

For similar reasons, I hopped on the 28 tram to take me back down to Chiado, the shopping district. There I window shopped and strolled, then bought groceries — one task I definitely won’t miss doing! — and wandered home. It was a great outing, and I enjoyed playing the tourist on my own, saying goodbye to some of my favorite places.

It made me sad to do so, but then a friend on Facebook reminded me of all that is waiting for me at home: her new daughter, whom I’ve only met a handful of times; running with my brother; having barbecues with my family and Shabbat dinner with my in-laws; cottage cheese and peanut butter Puffins; the ocean, the redwoods, spin class… the list goes on and on. It’s nice to have people who know me so well and can bring me back down from my nostalgic reverie when I need it!

It’s a good thing, too, as tomorrow, the final pack begins. Onwards and upwards!

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When I called Gabe’s niece yesterday afternoon to wish her a happy birthday, I ended by telling her that we’d be seeing her again in just three weeks. “REALLY???” she squeaked. “I can’t wait!” That piece of news elicited far more excitement from her than anything else in our conversation, including the description  of what she had planned for her birthday dinner (dinner at a French restaurant that celebrates Bastille Day, naturally.)

Sadly, even her wonderful reaction made it no more real for me. I still can’t conceive of that fact: Three. More. Weeks. And we’re not just going back for a visit this time, either, counting down the precious days til we have to leave again. This time, it’s for good, or at least for the next seven years.

When we had drinks with our friends the other day, they asked what we were looking forward to the most. We gave our pat answers — family, the ocean, cottage cheese, sausages without pork, etc — but I didn’t feel like our hearts were really in it. When we went home in December, all I could think about was what I was looking forward to. Now, I’m more focused on the flip side of that question: what I’ll miss about Lisbon when we leave.

My brief lull in activity continues, which I’m not finding restful as much as frustrating. I always hate this part before you leave somewhere, when the anticipation of leaving builds and builds til you just want to get on that plane and get it over with already. I went through the same thing last summer, albeit stretched out over multiple months.

So yesterday, after I got tired of reading and writing in the flat, I went out for a walk to continue doing those things outside for a while. I didn’t go for a long walk, just up the hill (always up the hill!) to Principe Real, the park with an ancient spreading cedar tree and a lovely cafe in it. I sat at the cafe until the noisy Portuguese guys behind me drove me out, then I sat under the cedar until some noisy and rather smelly non-Portuguese people sat down behind me.

I did some shopping, mostly of the window sort, and generally was a flaneur, with all the time and not a care in the world. I soaked up the sunshine (not too hot, thank God) and the tiles, the little shops and the noisy people, the buses and the cars and the views… all of it. That’s what I want to remember about this place, just the day to day life of it all, not the museums or churches or any of the rest of that.

As I walked home, I was greeted by the waitress at the restaurant on our corner, who had also said hello on my way out. The wife of the restoration guy across the street greeted me as she left his workshop, and asked how Gabe was doing. This is what I will miss the most: the community. We know our neighbors at home, but we can go weeks without even seeing or saying hello to them. Here, our neighbors greet us every single day. They know our routines, and we know theirs — I know the restoration man takes lunch from 2 to 3 PM every day, and his little grandson gets dropped off around 8, then picked up again around 6. This I will miss.

There are many things I will not miss — the constant low din that surrounds our flat, from dogs barking to construction noises; the effort it takes to get groceries; the solitude of the language barrier; the long lines and inefficiency. But the community, I will miss.

Three more weeks. Surreal.

“Treat history as a springboard, not as an anchor.”

- General John G. Medaris

When I Wrote It

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