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Category Archives: My Lusophone Journey

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, PL’s!!

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Years ago, I went to Portugal for Christmas while I was an exchange student in Toulouse, France.  At the time, Lisbon had a giant Pizza Hut on the Avenida de Liberdade, but no Mc Donalds.  Now it has plenty of Mc Donald’s, and the Avenida de Liberdade has been bestowed with new Burberry’s.  But twenty years ago, when you went to Portugal, you left American things like the Golden Arches behind.

So my cousin (well, really my mother’s cousin) João asked me about his recent sojourn to Mc Donald’s in New York.  Apparently he went there and drank something primordially disgusting.  It was green, and minty and quite thick and just oh, so wrong.

He very much wanted to know if I had consumed one with each Mc Donald’s meal I’d ever had.

Um, no.  I’ve never had a Shamrock Shake.

There are reasons for that.  Like it sounds primordially disgusting.  Plus, ew, Mc Donalds!!

He carefully pronounced “Shamrock Shake” several times, committing it to memory, sounding very much like my recently deceased grandfather.  Knowing someone so similar still walked the earth was a huge comfort.

Now, João himself is a memory.  Going to Portugal without him being there two years ago left me with an emptiness.  Something was missing.  So many, many people were missing.   But I’ll never forget being interrogated about Shamrock Shakes.

It’s the simple moments that stay with you, that warm your heart, that fill the void.

(AND BTW, as a Savage, João, my mother, my grandfather, and just about any of the people I mention on here are all a teensy bit Irish.  So happy St. Patrick’s Day!)



Slow And Low, That Is The Tempo

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In America, I’m different.  I didn’t  grow up the way everybody else did because my mother was not like everybody else.  In Portugal, you’d expect it to be more like a homecoming, where I’d have these things in common with others.  Um…. no. For one, all of those things about my childhood had to do with a Portugal that hasn’t existed since 1958, but that is another post.  Two, everyone thinks I am completely deficient by default and that the US is basically the moon populated by crack whores with no long-term memories who freebase burger patties.  During my trip to Portugal, I was asked:

If I knew what cough syrup was and if we had it in America.

If I knew what a delivery driver was.  When I remarked that pizza delivery drivers rode motorbikes instead of cars, my cousin spent about a full five minutes mansplaining pizza transport in shaky English.  One, I’d have understood the Portuguese.  Two, I realize pizza isn’t from Hogwarts.

I was asked if I knew what “faldas” were.  They’re diapers.  My Portuguese grandmother died at 94.  You bet your incontinent relative’s ass I know what a falda is.

If I’d seen a Lamborghini.  My cousin got in a car accident (A CAR ACCIDENT!!) while pointing out a Lamborghini at about 40 mph.  I went to college in La Jolla.  There is a dealership there.  I nervously sidled up to many a Lamborghini in my half-unpainted 1991 Dodge Shadow.

If I could possibly know anything in Portuguese to begin with. My cousin and her mother were shocked I could read the inter titles in the news on Portuguese TV.  Um… Hello.  Those words are almost identical in English and French; “primeiro-ministro” isn’t a huge challenge to understand with someone with any sort of brain activity.

If I figured out how to feed myself.  One cousin declared, with some grave concern, that I must be so fat because I eat rissois for breakfast.  Dude, I haven’t had a real rissol in 18 years, so I’m not holding back.  And despite shoving rissois in my mouth at all hours, Portugal is a giant stair master where I dropped ten whole pounds while eating dessert for breakfast.  BTW, folks, he’s in his 345th trimester.

If I had ever seen fish.  I was asked numerous times if I had seen any dish you can imagine eating in Portugal.  Um… yeah…  the LAST time I came to Portugal, the sardines and cod were not hiding.

Someone asked me once if I’d ever had broth.  Seriously.   America, no soup for you!!!

If I understood the function of the suburbs.  Several cousins seriously thought that because I went to stay with a cousin in Oeiras, I would never venture into Lisbon again.  Let’s review the reasons why Oeiras exists in the first place….

If I knew basic stories about my family.  You should have seen the shock on my 83 year old cousin’s face when I spouted off names of peripheral relatives.  Um… I’ve met these people!!

If I could handle watching international television.  I was perusing the channels and stumbled on a version of the Golden Girls’ episode where Blanche dates the younger jazzercise instructor reenacted by a Spanish cast.  They made comments the ENTIRE time I watched it as to why I would do so if I was not a Spanish speaker.  Come on, transposed Golden Girls?  HOW COULD I NOT WATCH THAT IN ANY LANGUAGE?!?!?

If I ate anything else but hamburgers.  This was because they saw Americans only eat hamburgers on a cruise.  Because I was on that cruise?  If only they knew what I spend on cheese at Whole Foods.

If I could figure out my own reproductive system.  One cousin gave me a speech about the dangers of giving birth after 40.  Someone should tell him that the most dangerous thing about motherhood after 40 is repeating that speech to someone facing down that illustrious birthday.

IF I COULD REGULATE MY OWN MEMORIES.  I was there because I wrote about my memories of Portugal and of stories about my family.  But many relatives said to me and to my mother “OH  HOW COULD SHE REMEMBER, SHE WAS SO LITTLE!!”  The last time I was in Portugal, I was almost 21.  I went there also at age 8, and remember it like it was yesterday.

And of course, it was assumed I have 392,384,298 guns in my house.  Obviously.  In America, I am an anachronistic freak.  In Portugal, it is assumed that I am Ted Nugent.


I have no suggestions as to why people believe such silly things.  I don’t remember having conversations like this when I was a student in France.  And you would think that people who know and speak to my mother on a regular basis would realize that if she is intelligent, her daughter might not be stupid.  And they know my mother is a damn brain trust.  Some of them even make fun of her for it.   But some of them are shocked I can remember being 21.  I don’t get it.



Everyone crank the AC!!

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A pic of a building with an ac unit on every window!!

I thought the weather would be like the Bay Area; it’s so not!!

Olá Issac!,

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My foray into Lisbon boutique hostels!!

My foray into Lisbon boutique hostels!!

I’m here!!!!

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A bica and a pastel de nata.  So perfect!!

On The Plane

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On my way to Lisbon. An Easyjet miracle!!


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A facade of the anticipated TJ Maxx debut in the UK, only it's spelled TJ Maxx.  Why????

Really? What difference does it make?

I passed this in Balham, near London, England, where my good friends Helen and John live.  Helen was very excited at the possibility of high-end brands at sensible prices.  John could not care less.  BUT neither could tell me why TJ Maxx had to become TK Maxx.  The consensus was whatever the second consonant in the name was, you still should go.