“Eu falo português” means, ‘I speak Portuguese.’
I don’t really. But I’m learning.
Acting “as if,” I’m learning Portuguese on Duolingo, expecting to not only travel there someday, but maybe spend winters in its mild climate.
Portugal is Europe’s most affordable country, offers breathtaking scenery, and, despite its conservative religious bent (Roman Catholic), it offers some of the world’s most progressive politics.
—Portugal is the world leader in renewable energy.
—Portugal offers its LGBTx citizens full rights and protections.
—Portugal turned itself around from one of Europe’s most heroin addicted countries to one of the cleanest, though decriminalization and treating addiction as a medical issue, not a criminal one.
—Portugal recently mandated that all catering, restaurants, schools, universities, prisons, hospitals, etc., offer at least one strict vegan option. The mandate stated: “[The law] will promote diversity of eating habits and encourage more people to choose the veggie option as it become more widely available. This of course is predicted to have a significant impact on the population health foremost, but also on animals and the environment in the long run. Promoting the rights of the vegan population is as important as campaigning and informing people to adopt veganism, in our perspective. This law seems to be an important first step on the political level.”
Not only is the country forward thinking, it’s breathtakingly beautiful. Much like my beloved Wales, it’s a buried gem that few [Americans] think of when they think of Europe.
And then there are The Azores. The Azores are often called the ‘Hawaii of Portugal’ (see bottom insert, map). Like Hawaii, The Azores are far from the country’s mainland, but I think the comparison stops there, based on my reading. What I have read treats a visit to The Azores as an experience unto itself. One travel writer suggests picking only one island to visit, as each island is so diverse, beautiful, and rich, it’s a waste to spend time commuting from one island to another. Pick one then lose yourself to its natural splendors, this travel expert recommended.
Portugal is as inexpensive as it is beautiful, even in Lisbon, its largest city.
What American city could offer resplendent beauty with such affordability?
We had Portuguese neighbors for several years when I was a teen — an elderly couple, who were the sweetest, hardest working folks in the neighborhood. Their home and yard were gardened and groomed like a picture book, with flowers and trees and tender care as if from some other time and place, which I’m guessing it was.
My father’s mother’s family were Portuguese immigrants. The first generation were also some of the hardest working, cleanest, and most charming people one could hope to meet.
I remember visiting Auntie Alice and “Honey” (his name was Sal, but I heard Auntie Alice call him Honey, and so I called him Honey until he died, when I was three) and loving how neat and simple and well cared for everything in their home seemed.
And their garden — lush and bountiful. Their home was high on the big hill in Crockett, California overlooking the bay. Crockett was the C and H sugar hub, boats came in from Hawaii with sugar cane. The C and H plant in Crockett was a major American sugar supplier. Sal worked for C and H his entire life. The family was devastated when he died a few months after retiring.
Auntie and Honey’s home overlooked the waters of the Carquinez Straight, and to the side of the house, on a deep terraced slope, they grew vegetables, herbs, flowers. There was usually something growing, as the winters are brief and mild in the Bay Area. And there was usually something fresh that could be thrown in the soup pot.
The kitchen always smelled like soup and home cooked comforts, and 4 foot 11 crippled Auntie Alice never missed a beat when throwing something together for us to snack on while the adults gossiped and talked family politics. Portuguese linguiça was my favorite, before I gave up meat. And I loved her good cheese on saltine crackers — Auntie’s cheeses were always sharp and crumbly, or creamy and rich. Not Velveeta.
Auntie Alice, her sister, the woman I called Grandma Mary, and Honey were old world gems, models of thrift, hard work, and devotion to the family (working class Corleone strangely comes to mind) — I never connected much to my Portuguese quarter (my father’s father was Hungarian, German Jew) because my mother’s stories were rooted almost exclusively in her father’s family. She was a Daddy’s girl, and while I have a trove of Guthrie – Chappelle history, not much else. Not even her mother’s family tree provided her with too many stories. Tidbits here and there. I know that from the Portuguese I have Madeira blood (see map above), but I think that’s like telling someone they are a Jones.
Click here for 30 surprising facts about Portugal, including a true shocker: Japan did not invent tempura, it’s a Portuguese colonial invention..
And if you’re really curious, 78 Cool, Hidden, and Unusual Things to Do in Portugal
There’s an emerging confluence going on in my newly developing yearning, no doubt — blood, politics, and the mysterious pull of wanderlust that always leads to magic.
The Camino de Santiago can be walked in Portugal; boats from Lisbon to Morocco (Morocco!), The Azores, or Maidera are inexpensive. It’s 1,000 miles from Lisbon to Paris, a beautiful train trip through Spain. The Pyrenees are at the back door. And transport to Scotland (!) is inexpensive and fast . . . Though we’ll have to see what happens with Brexit.
I don’t know where life will lead. Most Portuguese in Lisbon are bilingual and speak English — but learning a country’s language is a sign of curiosity and respect.
More important, learning a language is a very practical way to dream.
On a side note: I love Duolingo. It can be used for free, though it’s slower. To fast skip levels you must have a subscription. It is feasible to get your foot into a different language every year — you may not master it, but what a resource for memory and learning. So many folks play app games, but on Duolingo you can join others if you want (I haven’t, yet), while language learning.
This level of easy to use, even free, skill building and language learning gives me pause: how many millions of people can benefit from something so simple as learning a second, third, or fourth language by practicing a little everyday? We live in a wealth of resources.
Until next week, “Obrigado por se inscrever” (Thank you for subscribing)!
Images in this entry used with license from Adobe PhotoStock; map is Encyclopedia Britannica public domain.