The Daily Grind

I have been in Portugal (Cascais) for about 10 days. I have two more days of my Intro to Counseling course; we have busted out six days so far. As I enter the last couple class sessions, I have become more and more convinced that every person on the planet, particularly world leaders, should have to take this course. It is all about investigating your own biases, values, and expectations so you can do a better job of helping others. (I suspect many people would have to take it twice.)

I have established a bit of a routine: Class goes 9am-2pm every weekday. It is about a 30-minute walk to the train station (I could take the bus, but I like walking), and then about a 15-minute ride to the class location, in a town called Carcavelos. (I can take the same train further and get to various stops in Lisbon, which I have done once or twice so far.) So, I walk and then ride, go to school where we role play counselors and clients, and actually study, which I have not done in many years.

After class, I head back with my roommates to our beautiful house, where I do  homework, work on my own jobs, blog, and get ready for the next day. My roommates and I have taken to having a “family dinner” each night, which is lovely. You’d think we are a motley crew, but we all get along great and are enjoying each other’s company.

I try to have at least one adventure a day, which in my book is some situation where I must speak Portuguese, and up until today, I had a perfect record. Mostly this involves me feeling vaguely embarrassed, asking to practice Portuguese with Uber drivers, servers, and grocery store attendants and then understanding about 20% of their responses. My latest gaffe was when I told a driver that I like to eat Brazilians (Eu gusto de comer os Brazileiros). I was trying to say I like to eat LIKE Brazilians (Eu gusto de comer como os Brazileiros, I think.) I tried to tell another driver that his English was probably better than my Portuguese, only I could not for the life of me pronounce the word for probably (“provavelmente.”) He agreed, in English. Not everyone is patient, and I do not blame them. But most people are.

Meanwhile, I keep getting messages on my phone from Duolingo, which is the app I used to try to cram as much Portuguese into my brain as I could before I got here. It is super fun; they make it like a game, which means it is very engaging, but now it is feeling neglected because I am spending the time I would normally spend on it out in the world in Portugal speaking Portuguese with actual Portuguese people.

I have a few stock phrases memorized to start conversations, including the one that contains the word “provavelmente.” (I can say it now, after repeating it about a dozen times.) These include:

  • I have many friends from Brazil (“Eu tenho muito amigos de Brasil.”)
  • Are you from Cascais? (“Voce (or o senhor/a senhora) e de Cascais?”)
  • Do you like your work? (“Voce (or o senhor/a senhora) gosta de sua trabalho?”)
  • I want to try the pasteis de Belem. (“Eu quero tentar os pasteis de Belem.”)
  • Do you have suggestions for good food? (“Voce (or o senhor/a senhora) tenha sugestaos para comida boa?”)

Let me know if you have other ideas.

I say I had a perfect record until today, because I am in for the night and I did not really have a conversation with anyone. It was kind of a draining day in class; we practiced counseling each other for over two hours and have more to do tomorrow. It is very rewarding, but it also takes a lot of processing. So I have decided to count the encounter at the supermarket the other day toward my tally today.

That day after class, my roommates and I stocked up on groceries at Jumbo, which appears to be Portugal’s answer to Wal-Mart or Target. We did not realize that day that when you purchase produce, you have to weigh and sticker it yourself. The cashier who checked us out was not happy. Understandably so. After our long ordeal was over, I said to her, “Desculpe pela inconveniencia,” which you can probably figure out the translation of. She gave a halfhearted smile and turned her attention to the very long line that had formed while someone went and weighed all our produce for us. I felt really clumsy for that one, so I am going to count it twice. And then tomorrow it will be back to spitting out those sentences like a would-be rapper whose friends really should have said something by now.

More soon. The days have been busy, so it has been difficult to make the time to blog. But I have tons of ideas and tons of pictures, and after Wednesday, I will have 10 days of no class. So that should give me more time to get into more stuff.

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