Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Nao Falo Portuguese

Recalling Lisbon is only strange because it seems like a dream. After my eighth hour on the bus from Sevilla, we crossed what looked like (in the dark) the San Francisco Bay, and I thought that I had magically bussed home. It was exciting and relieving until we entered the city, and I snapped out of it. At 10:00 PM I took on the Lisbon Metro system (which is incredibly clean, I should mention) and found myself in an incredibly perfect hostel for the night, being as they couldn´t recommend anywhere for me to buy food (Lisbon closes much earlier than Spain) and so they gave me a bowl of paella for free.

This is the hostel where I met the 5 Slovenians, though not so much met as heard. While unpacking in my room, I took a glance around at the remaining 5 beds. Boys, definitely boys. Then one entered in clothing limited to a towel. ¨Are you staying here?¨ I was asked, ¨Because we are five Slovenians.¨ Excellent. And what I learned? Slovenians drink a lot, and then come back to their lodgings singing loud Slovenian tunes at oh, four in the morning. Even theear plugs couldn´t drown out the revelrie. (Which, as a side note, is why I just couldn´t bring myself to book a bed in a 40 bed room in Munich, even if it was the cheapest thing.)

In Lisbon, I walked. I walked up and down the San-Francisco-esque streets (too late discovering that sometimes you could take shortcuts, like ducking into the Metro station to skip some particularly bad hills downtown. I went to a free museum at the top of the city where a man named Gulbenkian had spent his life collecting incredibly diverse pieces of global art (and you can walk end to end in an hour and a half!) I walked from the top of the city to the sea. I walked from the sea to the top of the Moorish district, and back down again.

Portugal is the half-brother of Spain that was unfortunately despised by its parents and locked in a closet for a couple hundred years. It is rustic, and it is ¨behind.¨ The buildings are all marked by a dripping conrete feeling, like the paint just can´t stand to be attached to buildings anymore. It feels just the tiniest bit like Havana, a bit smelly, a bit dirty, and the people cruise the streets oblivious to their slight disadvantage to the rest of the world. At least, this is what I saw.

I also saw a crazy possibly Russian man chase awful American tourist men who had supposedly taken pictures of Portuguese children and the Russian man was chasing them with a giant branch of peppers (?), calling them horrible things that I cannot bring myself to repeat here, eventually swinging his branch/sword at the horrible men and spraying dried peppers eveywhere, including on my lunch table.

There is a distinct type of music in Portugal called Fado, and Fado is about remembering and mourning the loss of the time in the past where prosperity and glory were to be had by the Portuguese peple, thought they will never have it again. I went with a hostel friend to listen to Fado in an incredibly crowded club (its poopular for tourists and locals alike), and though I couldn´t understand what they were saying, it was incredibly beautiful. An old man rose from the crowd and began to tell stories of Fado (in song, of course), and I nearly felt like I could understand, only from intonation and feeling. Portugal is stuck in the past, via their music, their streets, their clothing, their food, their traditions, but my God, do they love to tell the world about it.

In a park in Lisbon, in a part called Belem (the site where the Portuguese explorers set forth to colonize Brazil) another old man decided to piss me off. He told me it wasn´t safe to be alone in the park - in a park full of people, young old, families, groups of college students, etc. In the sunlight, surrounded by tourists. This was apparently not safe. He only spoke Portuguese, so I managed to tell him in Spanish (because he would not leave me alone until I answered his questions) that I was Teresa, from Madrid, I was having lunch alone because I got to have some time away from my family, who was staying in a hotel very close to the park and I would go see very soon. I´m getting better at explaining my fake self to awful old men.

I ate great food at one of my hostels in Lisbon, which had this great idea to serve cheap dinner right there at the hostel, just like being at home. And this is how I met a German girl and two young Australian girls. I say this because my ability to approach people I don´t knwo has greatly improved, especially girls. Exclusively girls. If I can´t speak the language, there is not a chance in Hell I will approach you if you are a man between 15 and 80. That´s just how the world works.

Oh yes, one more thing about Lisbon. They take great pride in a ¨Flea Market¨theyhold twice a week. It´s on the tourist map as a must see, so I set out with my German friend to go find it. The Lisbon flea market is this: a giant garage sale. At this garage sale, the good peddlers of Lisbon bring random crap they have sitting in their homes, like metal pipes, packaged toothbrushes, leather wallets, beaded jewelry, third or fourth hand books, underwear, pins, silverware, half-empty bottles of hairspray, and the like. It was terrific. It was like reading a book about Portugal in one experience. Here´s what we find valuable, here´s what we present to tourists, here´s what we possess as valuable. Here´s what we think of recycling, and so on and so forth. I liked Portugal for this reason: it wasn´t trying to impress anyone, ever, and thus, I didn´t have to either.

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