25 October 2011

Soup of the day

I got pumpkin soup. It had alphabets in it.

I thought that was super weird until a friend said the most famous soup in Portugal that usually comes with alphabet noodles has chicken hearts and kidneys in it.

19 October 2011

Faulty clothespin

I was taking in my laundry from the line outside my window. I was thinking how disgusting it was that the girl downstairs was smoking on the balcony right under all my clean clothes. But when I looked down at her (figuratively and literally), to my horror I noticed that a pair of my underwear had fallen from the line onto her balcony! Not just on the balcony, but it miraculously landed directly on the small side table next to her. It looked like it was some kind of doily on the center of her table that she should set her ashtray on.

I apologized profusely and told her to throw it down to the ground so I could get it later but she insisted on the most awkward stairway-underwear-exchange ever. Lesson learned. No more unmentionables on the clothesline. And judging the neighbors brings bad karma.

10 October 2011


I've been building up the courage to try to ask for different meats at my butcher shop even though I don't know what they are called or how to specify the cut. This week, however, I noticed a mural of grazing animals painted on the tiling. Now I literally point at the lovely artist's rendition of grazing sheep and I get mutton. At least I haven't had to resort to actually making animal noises . . .

05 October 2011


I mostly wanted to go to see this ridiculously 'metal' cathedral made of bones. I'm pretty sure no one died in the making of this cathedral. I think they were all already dead. Seems someone took the bones of the people that had died in the village and used them as a reminder that we all croak so we should value our lives while we have them.

Cute city! Although I almost had my computer run over by a car. I think the car was proving a point, and that point is: don't take selfies that require you to balance your camera on your computer bag in the middle of an intersection unless you want me to run over your stuff.

In my defense, I was done with the selfie and was standing right by my giant BRIGHT RED bag. A passing old woman was on my side too--she was quite complimentary of my bravery since I yelped and jumped in front of the car. She agreed: red bag = car probably saw it = what a jerk.

03 October 2011

Tearful goodbyes at the bus station

I found a kindred spirit in a bus driver.

After running around the metro station trying to find where the distance buses are located, I finally run breathless up to the bus to Evora with 8 minutes to spare before departure. I see people with printed tickets and really hope I can buy a ticket on the bus. I start the game of charades with the driver--
"ticket! (pant pant pant) bus! (pant pant pant) uhhh money!" . . . pointing at tickets, pulling out money . . .
"No . . . ticket. . . uhhh. . . blah Portuguese blah blah" . . . points at ticket office. We both mumble what seems like encouraging words to each other and I think I'm to go quickly and he'll wait if it is just a few minutes.

Damn. I literally run over to the office to find lines of 10 or so people for every window. With two minutes to spare I get to the window ("round trip please! what time will I return? I don't know! I don't have time for this. . . just one way then. . . for what time? quite obviously right exactly now!")

Hoping the bus driver remembers I'm coming, I run back to the bus and triumphantly present him the ticket. He looks at me with a look of despair and says "Oh no, problem!" I'm crushed. How could I have gotten the wrong ticket?

He points to the bus next to his. Oh! Not my bus driver! He's going to Fatima! Even funnier, the whole time "Evora" was printed in huge letters on the front of the next bus.

We laughed and then both said long silly lamentations with our hands on our hearts! "Oh No! I'm not going with you?! That's terrible!" "Ahh you won't be on my bus! So sad!" I waved goodbye to him sadly out the bus window as my much-less-friendly bus driver started our trip to Evora.

24 September 2011

Law and Literature

I am not sure if I should or should not feel proud that I have decided to actually re-read "To Kill a Mockingbird" for this course instead of watching the movie.

The dramatically lowered bar might usurp my feeling of accomplishment.


I apologize ahead of time for the mild profanity. I just figured this out and I found it so hilarious that I had to share the features of my Euro bathroom.

Hand-towel rack----->

Butt-towel rack?--------->


I accomplished my second goal this week. A tourist took a secret candid picture of me thinking I was local. It didn't happen at my window, as I expected, but rather at a friend's apartment. I was standing on the first floor balcony (see how I slipped in the Euro-first-floor-not-ground-floor-educational-reference there) of an 18th century building. A group passed and one woman, wearing a sweater tied around her neck fidgeted with her digital camera. I pretended I didn't notice her while screaming of excitement on the inside. She did a terrible job of pretending to not take my picture, which included a "look left, look right" and some fancy quick snapping.

Little does she know she got a picture of an American. I hope she's German. Better yet, I hope she's from Wisconsin and thinks she got a picturesque shot of Portuguese in the wild.

In talking with people that live here, taking pictures of people without their consent is an assault-worthy offense. They'd like to be asked first. I wanted to argue that perhaps we don't ask because there is an equivalent guilt of not speaking the language. We are in a lose-lose. But instead I feigned shock despite feeling proud someone snapped one of me. What?! Just taking pictures of you without asking!? Then nerve!

20 September 2011

Not breaking the fourth wall--for once

I had an experience today that wasn't particularly fun, but gave me an idea about the difference between 'traveling' and 'living' somewhere. I pride myself on having lived in other countries instead of the usual checkmark one gives themselves for crossing the border. I have a hard time expressing the difference.

I often get bored in situations where I'm with locals and the conversation is in a language I don't understand.

I was sitting with locals today. They were speaking a language I didn't understand.

As I sat, I thought about the fact that this was a guy meeting up with his brother and his brother's girlfriend. He had to pass along laundry because his washer was broken. It occurred to me: this exact situation would have happened with our without me.

In travel, or even long-term stays, most of your activities are focused on you, your travel needs, and your entertainment. A guide takes you to a great site! (Wouldn't have happened without you visiting). A waiter at a cafe tells you the specials. (You are instigating behaviour). You ask an awesome local about where the best lookout is. (Not a conversation he'd have with himself). There is an entire world that you don't access. At this particular cafe with brothers, despite the lack of attention and the foreign language (filled, of course, with laughter that you'll never know wasn't directed at you, you paranoid idiot) this is a real, actual experience. You don't know what they are saying, but you are implanted in a Portuguese scene. Like a green 3D interactive green screen.

Oddly, the stand-alone Portuguese activities are not fun. It's much more exciting to have people catering to you, asking you where you are from, enjoying your silly American culture moments. It's boring to sit and wait for a conversation to finish. But something to appreciate nonetheless.

Ok fine.

Wait, there is actually something worse than regular party noise coming from my neighbor's apartment. It is the repeated blasting of "I believe" by Blessed Union of Souls for the past hour.

I give up. Return to yelling out the window.

Ignore the French?

US professors: Don't use italics. Don't bold any words. It just reveals that your writing is so unclear that you have to use artificial methods to point out what you find important.

French professor today: When you back up your ideas, don't just quote the whole paragraph. Write just the phrase and bold the important words. This way you prove to the judge that you understand the passage.

US professors: Your exams don't have straightforward answers. You have to discuss if the issue could be decided in more than one way and state how you believe the court should conclude.

French professor today: When you write an exam you have to add quotes from the text. No one cares what you think. Who are you? Nobody. Write where the argument is in the text.

US professors: Avoid Latin phrases. It makes you look like an elitist asshole.

French professor today: We are lawyers and well educated so if you can, use the Latin to show your competence.

18 September 2011

Pleasant Commute

I almost heard myself complain about my commute to school this week. I walk about 10 minutes to the Baixa-Chiado metro station, wait maybe 8 minutes for a train, ride for about 15, and walk another 15 to the school. Have yet to see a dead person (Russia), drunk homeless person sleeping in my car (Russia again), or get punched by an old woman (definitely Russia). The commute here is extremely . . . pleasant. I read on the way there and all of the stations are clean, uncrowded, and full of art. Just doesn't make for interesting stories.

16 September 2011

Everything is relative.

Every night I wish my window panes were thicker, or there were fewer freaking birthdays celebrated at exactly midnight at my local bar (with really a spirited version of our 'happy birthday' with some Portuguese words. . . . I'm quite sure they also wish a 'happy birthday' to _______).

But here officially ends my complaints about my neighborhood. A couple of students from the program arranged an apartment in what I, in my newly acquired mildly snobby attitude about my surroundings, I would call the suburbs. It's not. But calling it that give me a little bit of satisfaction since they live, oh, one stop outside of the center by metro. Still, to me (see above snobbery) that is out of the center.

At any rate, I was having lunch with two Americans in my Quantitative Methods class (best class ever). As happens abroad, they are both great dudes. There is a certain phenomenon about meeting people in long-term living abroad. They are always quality people. They told me about their pretty sizable (whoa), apartment in a nice neighborhood (ooooh) where they share the rent (aaaaaah).

Later they revealed that they hadn't been getting any sleep. . . because they found out they live above a nightclub.

Yelling down the street muffled by shutting my windows > bass so loud your house vibrates.

Now I must invite them over to brag. NO. Shit. I mean. . . . check out my neighborhood.

12 September 2011

Fingers crossed for the mail service

Due to some miscalculations on my part I didn't get my student visa in time to start the semester so I hopped over as a tourist and figured everything would work itself out. Turns out the solution is to send my passport to America for the visa and have them send it back! Off it went today, through the regular Portuguese postal service (for a bargain price of 6$).

Good thing the Portuguese don't seem to be itching to find foreigners and check their documents. Hope it makes it or I'll be heading to the embassy with a photocopy and a checkbook.

School starts

First day of class. Mild disappointment. I got the reading at the last minute from the university and spent much of Sunday trying to learn about the levels of EU bureaucracy. Unfortunately, not only was the level of the first class on the light side, I was asked by other students during the break if I think Americans are fatter than Europeans and why we eat dinner at 5:00 p.m. And yet again, the average age of students floats around 23.

Should I have been surprised? Probably not. Then again, this course was part of the Global Studies masters, and my Thursday class is in the "Advanced" International Business masters. Maybe advanced students will have more to say. Some of them wore suits to the orientation (hopefully because they have jobs, not because they wanted to make an impression). Or maybe I should just relax . . . (says the Portuguese to the American).

One thing I enjoyed during the 3 hour class. Our professor calls people from Luxembourg: Luxembourgeois! And here I thought they were Luxemburgers.