(from December 14, 2014)
The Portuguese have a word that is said to have no direct translation in the English language. This word, "saudade", is often used to describe a deep longing for something that once was. It originated from the time when men went out to sea (many of whom died and never returned), and the wives left behind had these feelings that went beyond simply missing their husbands.
I can say that outside of a few cultural things that still bogle us, we have adjusted quite nicely to life here. But there are still some things that we have "saudades" for. And as we prepare to make a trip back to the states for vacation, I find it rather appropriate to recollect these things.
While our language is continually improving, every day we experience some kind of difficulty in communicating with others. We can say something to one person, and we are understood. We say the exact same thing to a different person, and they have no idea what we are saying. And man, do people speak fast! Even after asking them to repeat themselves and speak more slowly, they begin again with the same speed and gusto, if not with more speed and gusto. And while we have passed the point of becoming embarrassed, sometimes, we still get snickers from those around us when we speak Portuguese, whether we did so perfectly or sloppily. All of this can make it difficult at times to talk to strangers, especially those who have no patience for our attempts at speaking a foreign language or those who overestimate our understanding of the language. Sometimes, it can be difficult to hold even the simplest of conversations, which is something we did quite often in the states. Small talk conversations with people at the dog park, with the person standing in line next to us, with the baristas at Starbucks, etc. You can actually get to know a lot about a person in a short amount of time. So, while we will continue to study Portuguese on our vacation so as to not fall behind, the residents of Florida and Tennessee better be ready for some hardcore small talk!
Outside of close family and very close friends who I consider family, I have never been one who is fond of giving or receiving hugs. Physical touch is definitely not my love language. But hugging is a cultural thing where I grew up. As such, often times, you are expected to hug those people you know or have met, if even just once. So, I would give hugs to meet cultural expectation, but I didn't always enjoy it. Because of my discomfort with physical touch, moving over to Portugal and adjusting to the kisses was a big deal for me. But honestly, after two years, I can say that I have adapted to the norm here. And because I consider many of my Portuguese friends like family, I enjoy showing my affection in this way. However, because my body was trained for so many years to hug in order to show affection, sometimes I just want to give my friends here a well-deserved hug. Heck, I would hug a stranger if it meant I could just give someone a big ole' bear hug! (O you know the kind that I am talking about.) So, I say this to all the friends and family that I will be seeing soon, prepare your arms and your necks!
Smiling and Eye Contact
When we first moved here, we immediately noticed how most people generally turn their eyes towards the ground when passing someone on the street. To us, it seemed strange and just plain cold. Growing up in the south of the US, we would smile and say "hi!" to everyone we passed. For awhile, I was determined to stick to my southern roots and continue to greet those around me in this manner. Because, to quote Buddy the Elf, "Smiling is my favorite!" I love smiling, especially at strangers. A smile can have a powerful effect, not only helping to make someone just feel good, but also making them feel noticed. Well, I think my bubble burst shortly after when my repeated attempts to catch the eyes of those passing failed, Of course, not everyone is like this. We are often pleasantly surprised when a smile or a greeting is returned by a stranger. And I do know that it is a cultural phenomenon, so I don't blame anyone. But it will be nice to interact in this way with strangers once again while we are in the States for three weeks.
Our guilty pleasures for the good, the fatty, and the greasy. While our diets have changed for the better here in Portugal (opting for fresh fruits and veggies as well as freshly cut meats from the butcher), for awhile, it was difficult not being able to satisfy a craving quite like we used to. For us, it was truly an amazing thing to discover an American store in Porto where we could find and purchase a few American items that we missed. But even at that, for many of our favorite foods and restaurants, we went cold turkey making the transition to Portugal. Don't get me wrong, we really do enjoy Portuguese food and the two fast-food chains in our city that we used to frequent quite often (Burger King and Subway) have now become obsolete in our dietary life. However, admittedly, we have already prepared a mental list of restaurants that we want to hit up when we are back. While we do anticipate some weight gain and repercussions introducing certain things back into our diet temporarily, we also anticipate it being worth it!
While I'm sure there are far more things that could be said here, these are just a few that stick out in my mind. It does go without saying that we miss family and friends and being able to gather with them regularly, but with technology these days, we are thankful for the opportunity to stay in touch.