Kevin 12 String was at work entertaining the tourists under a full moon. I was sitting on the couch listening to the festa happening at the community center below. Another MasterChef Australia was about to start on cable. It hit me like a ton of bricks, “What the hell was I doing watching television when I could be in Portugal?
Threw on a demure summer dress that covered everything that needed covering and grabbed a few euros. Blend in Constance (I told myself) park your feminista at the gate just this once. Wrote a quick note to the rock star and skipped down to join my neighbors for some mad accordion and a cup of vinho verde.
Under the paper flowers and white twinkle lights I found my Portugal, again. I could feel a smile as big as the Tagus light up my face. Couples of all ages circled the floor; tables were filled with generations of families and friends. Bottles, beers, bifanas (Portuguese sliders) all going down easy.
Winding my way through giddy children I found a nice corner to watch the festa. Occasion? It was Wednesday, National Tequila Day in the States, but in Portugal the drink of choice is Beirão, a licorice tasting knock you on your ass before you know it beverage. Every Fadista I know swears by the stuff. Maybe just a hump day celebration?
From my corner I see familiar faces of people I recognize from the bus I ride most days, people I think of as my “bus amigos and amigas”. They have become my imaginary friends since we haven’t really met. I held up my plastic cup in a toast, they smiled a warm welcome and I relax, they are real now.
Then I spot my landlord, this was not good. He had just popped by the house earlier in the evening and said (in Portuguese which I don’t understand very well yet) something about doing work on the house. He “pops” in every day, he thinks he still lives here. I was terribly irritated, went off on him in my “Con-tuguese”. This has been his home for many years and I am the outsider, silently I curse my genetic mood swings and hope for the best.
He was trying to decide if he should make eye contact. Brave man, he took the high road, bought me a drink and we took a couple of spins on the dance floor. I kept encouraging him to lead by saying “forte, forte”, which means strong, strong. We danced, we laughed and I think we are OK now. Nods and smiles followed me back to my corner. I suppose it’s a Chinicato version of a condo board approval.
Since summer began, each Sunday the sound of music and laughter floats up and I have stayed inside my own private America. What have I been thinking? I never gave Chinicato a chance. Hey, it’s only the end of July, I still have August to party like I’m living here. I did not change my life to stay the same! Even now, after three years as an expat I feel like I am still bungee jumping off bridges. It is still that scary.
As a child, I loved the view from the top of a bridge, a couch is comfy but the view is very limited. Adventure stops when limits begin…and so I begin, again.