As we acclimate to life in Portugal most things are easy, some things are hard.
Like simply finding a tape measure. OK, so its going to be in centimeters. No worries. So are all of the dimensions on everything for which you’d need to measure. But just finding one proved challenging. “Hardware store” does not translate on a Google search. So, we found ourselves in Lisbon, on other business, roaming the streets of the Mouraria, Santa Cruz and Chiado neighborhoods without a sign of a hammer, nail, screwdriver or tape measure to be found.
Happen upon a store I could only describe as a “shop of miscellania” near the Tagus river, we did. Melissa was done with our wanderings and ready to bag our search and call it a day. “Let’s just check this place out”, I said, ignoring her as I do when I’m on a mission, and forged ahead inside. The aisles were packed and crammed with snacks, cigarettes, dolls, toys, paint brushes and paint cans and boxes full of gadgets.
“Do you have measuring tapes?” I said to the Indian man behind the register. “Of course”, he says as if this were where all of the Portuguese bought their tape measures. He wandered back into a randomly organized aisle filled with paint cans, brushes, pipe fittings, cold sodas, nuts and chips. “Would you like 3 meters or 5 meters?” he asked. “10”, I replied, laying bare my naivete of the metric system for all to see. “Well we don’t have that.” he replied. “5 it is then. Sold”, procuring a tape as though we’d beelined here with purpose and intent.
But that’s not the most interesting part of this story, though a good seek and find magical quest tale is always riveting, the Holy Grail this was tape measure was not. We went on to have a great discussion with the aforementioned Indian man’s wife, who had assumed responsibility for the register while he dug through paint brushes and cans he wished I would purchase, beckoning from the back room all the while (was it possible we were the only customers of the afternoon? Pretty likely). She was interested to know from where we hailed and how we found our way into their shop. She regaled us with her stories of traveling the world, leaving India, moving to Africa (she Zambia, he Zanzibar), southeast Asia and London and landing in Portugal by mistake and as an afterthought when her father mentioned that they should stop here on their way home. And they stayed. Stayed for 27 years. Stayed to open this odd, random store by the marina on the river which sells nothing and everything you need all at the same time.
They stayed because the people of this country are welcoming unlike other places they had been and had lived. They stayed because of the warm climate. They stayed because many of his childhood friends live here. They stayed and they stay. They acclimated as we acclimate. And with our random encounter, they provided good measure for why we came.