(from March 10, 2013)
It is 7:35 in the morning. As we start the 30 minute walk to the metro, we practice our Portuguese with one another. The walk isn't so bad, really. Even the cobblestones beneath our feet look interesting. That's how I would describe Portugal. Interesting. Around every corner, there seems to be just one more thing that catches our interest... The aged buildings, the people, the numerous fruit stands, the alters at seemingly random places which include statues of saints or an agonized-looking Jesus, the pastry shop windows full of deliciousness. Even the fields of grass and weeds look interesting. Walking, we pass numerous coffee shops that I promise myself to stop in one day. As we get closer to the metro, we pass the same old man who tips his hat to us and responds likewise, as we say, "Bom Dia!"
While waiting for the metro, we make simple conversation in Portuguese and English to Sergio (our friend who works at the metro stop). We then board, find seats, and study until we hear the lady on the intercom announce our stop. Before going to class, we stop by a cafe that we have been frequenting. The lady behind the counter recognizes us now and anticipates our order. The same thing almost everyday... Croissant misto and meia de leite for me, carioca com leite for Hodge. I smile as she gets the order ready because I only used to dream about becoming a "regular". And now in Portugal.
The rest of the morning and early afternoon are spent in language class. Our teachers instruct us in grammar as well as give us the low-down on Portuguese culture and ways. Classes are quite enjoyable, but by the end, we are drained of just about every ounce of energy that we had when the class started. After class, we stop in a mall because we have time before the next metro back to Vila do Conde. This stop often includes visiting "The American Store" (a small shop that carries food products from the states)... where we have also become regulars. No shame... I guess the appropriate phrase here would be, "Proud to be Americans". There, we talk with Sara, the girl who is always behind the counter. Because she speaks no English, our conversations usually end in laughter once we get to that point where we can't understand each other, and we just kind of give up until the next time.
Soon after that, we find ourselves on the metro. Metro rides are mostly quiet with many eyes staring in our direction as we are clearly not from around here. We settle in for the hour ride home, and eventually as the steady movement of the back and forth rocks us, my eyes become increasingly heavy. A ten minute snooze is just enough to give enough energy for the walk that awaits us once we get off the metro. The afternoon walk is generally more pleasant and relaxed, especially when the sun has made an appearance. And this is when we explore. We go into shops we haven't before, while stopping into many of the ones we have to say hello to people we have met. Several of them have agreed to help us with the language, so we take advantage of that.
The afternoons prove themselves low-key, if plans have not been made. We rest our minds from Portuguese for a bit, and at some point, our feet make their way to the beach with an anxious dog. Standing on the sand, breathing in the fresh, salty air, watching the waves crash with the vast ocean behind them. In that moment, it is difficult not to marvel at where God has brought us, both spiritually and physically. A type of spiritual renewal that is desperately needed.
As for evenings, they vary. A couple of nights each week, we go out to one of the restaurants in our little town. Anything to meet people and try new food. And as we return to the places we (and our pockets) enjoy, the people working there recognize us. It is kind of easy to with our light hair, light skin, and English tongues. Plus, we normally arrive about an hour or two before normal Portuguese dinner hour, which is closer to 9 or 10. The people working allow us to practice Portugese with them as we stumble over words and take several minutes to say simple phrases. But it is always a good time, and we are thankful for their patience.
A few evenings have been spent with new friends, and still others have been spent inside with a cozy fire and a cup of tea. And of course, most nights consist of studying. We crawl into bed late, and our eyes close on yet another day. Days that are sometimes tough, days that are often full of lessons on humility, but days that God has given us for a purpose.