I wrote the following in my journal right after arriving in Portugal:
“David and I have now been in Portugal for a little less than a week. It is going very well but is not without its hiccups. For starters, I wish we spoke at least some of the language. Many of the people speak English and are gracious about doing so, but the fact that we’re not even trying to speak Portuguese makes me feel more like a tourist than someone trying to integrate into a community. I knew before getting here that it was a goal to eventually learn the language, but now I feel like it needs to be a priority. I also knew from trying to navigate the websites from Colorado that it wasn’t going to be a simple task to furnish our new place and man has that proven to be true. We’re making progress but still don’t really know where to go to find stuff. The bed we bought is weird and I can’t find spatulas or pots and pans anywhere. There are no Pottery Barns or Williams Sonomas or Targets which is fantastic but we can’t seem to crack the code. Where do they buy all these things? In addition, we can’t really figure out how to get things delivered to our apartment. I think Amazon would be a solution for some of this but right now we’re just trying to get our couch delivered which is turning out to be tricky. We’ve also discovered, shall we say, quirks to our apartment. The dishwasher is not hooked up or not even attached. It comes completely out of the wall when we open the door. The washer and dryer are also not connected and there doesn’t appear to be any drainage off the deck. When we run the sink in the kitchen, it also runs in the bathroom which I think is kind of cute but David less so. Finally, no vodka anywhere. Seriously.”
I went on to say many wonderful things about the town of Cascias and the Portuguese people. I read this now though and realize that you can never really prepare yourself for a life change this big. We really did try. But there is only so much you can learn about a place from afar. I’m such a cautious person by nature that I lack experience at putting myself in truly foreign environments and my plan to research and prepare for every contingency failed utterly. That said, we have now been here for almost two months and I’m happy to report that we’ve made tremendous progress. It turns out that there are stores that sell things like pots and pans and a plumber helped us screw in the dishwasher and resolve all the other little quirks.
David and I are preparing to head back to the US for a few months and I’m feeling really good about everything. Our apartment is officially furnished. (However we are still waiting for delivery of the weird bed. It’s weird btw because the mattress is like an inch thick on top of two box springs. It’s this crazy Norwegian number. I think we were just exhausted from trying to find anything. Maybe it will be lifechangingly great. I’ll report back). I’m still struggling with the language but we’ve come up with a good plan to learn it and I’m excited to get cracking. It’s definitely starting to feel more like home. We have a little local bar that is dangerously great and are really learning the area.
The comedian Louis CK (I know, I know) has a hilarious bit about how dramatically people complain about airline travel. His point is that people are so focused on the small frustrations that they’ve totally lost the wonder of the experience. He reminds us, “You’re in a seat in the sky.” David and I have taken to saying that to each other when we run into the continuing challenges of adapting to a foreign country. Currently, we are struggling with delivery and repair people that promise to deliver by very specific dates, then seem to lose all memory and urgency. It is frustrating, but, we’re in a seat in the sky and really are appreciating the incredibleness of it all.
One final note- the lack of vodka has proven true. You can find it but only in small quantities and be prepared to pay. Fortunately, the wine is fantastic.