Expat Life in Portugal Two Years In

“It is wiser to find out than to suppose.”

— Mark Twain

 

 

 

It’s been close to two years since I acquired my residential visa and boarded a plane to Faro, Portugal. Three bags containing all that I chose to keep and my furball companion, Giorgio. I had no idea what awaited me, but what I did know is this:  I knew that life in Portugal would be extremely different in just about every way, I knew there would be challenges to overcome, I knew that it might at times be lonely, I knew that because I was too young to “officially” retire,  I would be living on savings for quite a while, I knew that good friends would come to visit, and I hoped that I would never experience another snowstorm or see my nextdoor neighbors in Portland — the ones I shared a condo wall with. There is nothing worse than bitter, unpleasant, holier than thou, neighbors.

What I didn’t know:

  • that the weather in the Algarve is near perfect.
  • that fish straight from the ocean could be that good and so affordable.
  • that Portuguese wine is delicious and a true value
  • I didn’t know what social democracy looked like.
  • that if you look hard enough you can find just about anything you “really” need.
  • that your neighbors could be so kind and caring.
  • that out of despair can come truth.
  • that people in your life who truly love you will be there for you no matter how far away you are.
  • that you can live on a whole lot less than you ever thought possible.
  • that there are toxic people who will make their way into your life no matter where you live or how hard you try to keep them away.
  • that you can do just about anything you put your mind to.
  • that forgiveness is the best medicine.
  • that it is okay to miss what you once had so long as you embrace what you currently have.

 

The Best Parts of Living in Portugal

One of the things I didn’t realize before I moved to Faro was how perfect the location is for travel. Portugal is your first stop in Europe and from here, you can travel to many different places. There are several budget airlines flying in and out of Faro to different parts of Europe. I hate connecting flights, so I try my best to visit places where I can take a direct flight. I’ve been to some beautiful cities in France, Great Britain, Germany, and the Netherlands. It’s quick and easy and my cell phone still works in all of these places. Apparently, there are some pluses to being a part of the European Union. I’ll be traveling to Manchester soon and I’m not quite sure if Brexit has spoiled my cell service there. I’m sad about Brexit for reasons I won’t go into here. I’ve enjoyed conversations about British and EU politics with my British expat friends in Faro. The United States is not the only place on earth — I wish I had been more aware of global politics in the past. Our influence is vast and more significant than I had ever realized.

I knew that the cost of living would less in Faro than it was in Maine; however, I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered that certain taxes were very reasonable. For example:  my property taxes on my 1100 square foot, two bedroom, three bathroom condo, are 350 Euros a year. I paid more than that per month in Maine and my apartment was smaller. I cannot help but wonder why that is. What does your money pay for in the U.S.? Taxes are automatically added in at the grocery store, restaurants, department stores, etc.; therefore, you don’t really feel it as much. Groceries are usually about a third lower than what I paid in the U.S. even with the added taxes and in some cases, food cost even less. Fresh fish is inexpensive; therefore, my diet is much healthier and tastier. Fresh vegetables are, for the most part, local and free of toxins. It’s great not having to break the bank on organic food. Laws prohibit antibiotics in animals raised for food and green growing methods produce grapes used for winemaking that is far better for you.

The weather in the Algarve is absolutely phenomenal; 300 days a year of sunshine phenomenal. Even when the weather is bad, it’s good. Summers are warm, but there is a wonderful breeze off of the Ria Formosa (the body of water near my home), with fall comes relief from the warm temperatures; a bit of rain; when it comes you want more, winter is cooler, but a sweater is more than enough to warm you, and spring (now) is glorious:  birds chirping, warm sunshine and a sense of renewal. When we do have humidity, it’s during the cooler months so you welcome and embrace it. I cannot overstress the power of all of this vitamin D and the joy of not having to shovel snow. No wonder Portugal has been the #1 place to retire for a few years running.

The warmth and sincerity of the people is not to be taken for granted. There is a reason there is so little crime and and virtually no homeless people in the Algarve:  people here take care of one another. I think that this pretty much sums-up social democracy:  people take care of people; they don’t gripe about it or show any signs of regret, they genuinely care about humanity. Sure doctors make less money and people in general pay more taxes, but the quality of life is so much better for a greater number of people. That is not to say that they don’t care about humanity elsewhere; I can only speak to what I have experienced here in Portugal.

Portugal is not a wealthy country. There are pockets of wealth, but I chose to live in Faro, a working class, mostly Portuguese city. I have never for a second regretted this decision. When I want a bit of luxury:  Quinta do Lago, Vilamoura, Porto, I go to those towns. For the most part, it’s the gastronomy that might draw me to these places. This is not to say that Faro isn’t a beautiful city with great food; plainly speaking, it is special in its authenticity — there is no pretense or putting on of airs. There is history and culture in Faro and it is preserved, however, not widely promoted. The food is fresh and fairly priced, and as I mentioned earlier, the location is ideal for travel. In so many ways, that is just about all I need.

The morning has been glorious for me in Faro. Early morning has always been my favorite part of the day. I find it to be peaceful and hopeful. Every day is a new day after all. Aside from the ability to sit out on my terrace with a cup of Joe in the morning almost year-round, there is the fact that the United States is five hours behind and I rarely, if ever, hear from anyone from back home until noon at the earliest (except for my brother Leo who calls at any hour). It’s almost like being in a state of meditation; I can breathe, think, and enjoy the quiet with little interruption. I feel so much healthier not having frantic morning telephone calls due to work or family issues. Then there is the morning walk with Paco in the park across the street from my apartment; I rarely see another soul as the sky goes from fiery red to bright blue — it’s poetic and sublimely peaceful.

 

The Challenges

Language remains a bit of a challenge for me. I have learned a great deal from Memrise (a language app), a tutor at my home, and Portuguese subtitles, but I still have so much to learn. Although many people speak English well, I believe strongly, that if I am going to reside here, that I should speak the language as much as and as often as possible. I’m at a place where I get by with my limited Portuguese. I’d like to be able to watch the news in Portuguese and have a clearer picture of what is happening in Portugal. I’ll get there; however, getting over my shyness about pronunciation is essential. I need to realize that when I say something and someone laughs, they are not laughing at me; they are more than likely laughing at the meaning of the word I just uttered by mistake and there is a big difference. And if they are laughing at me, so what. My neighbors and friends are delighted that I have committed to learning Portuguese and most people are helpful.

I have to be careful about how I talk about middle aged men in the Algarve. Careful, because the last thing I want to do is offend the people I am living among. Generalizations can be unkind and unfair; therefore, I want to express my thoughts without prejudice. What I have noticed are merely my own observations — they should not be regarded as fact. Some men have a difficult time with me; questioning who I am and why I am here. I am careful in how I approach men I do not know. The gym has become the easiest place for me to learn more about the culture and why I am sometimes misunderstood.

Women here are very open, friendly and genuine. They have been gracious toward me and helpful in so many ways. Of course there have been exceptions. As a sociologist, what I have observed is mainly cultural. Men here seem to be very masculine and reserved; women seem to be more progressive and open to societal changes. I believe that behind the scenes they are quietly persuading men to be more tolerant and modern. By seeing it through this lens, it helps me to understand that when I sense a barrier or resistance, it is probably not due to anything I have said or done.

Older and younger men are similar in their dealings with me; however, I have less interaction with these two groups. I have often complained (when blogging) that young men smoke too much and overuse cologne and I stand by these thoughts. I live next to a high school where my sample group gathers daily.

[This is one of those times when I have to tell myself not to be judgmental.]

You know how much I love to complain about food; please, please, please bring more ethnic (world) cuisine to Faro. I just keep telling myself it will come. Too few countries are represented here. However, I have noticed things are changing in a more positive direction.

Pastry is sublime. It’s not quite as decadent as it is in France, but I love it just the same. What I like most is that a good deal of the baked goods here are not terribly sweet. It’s dangerous to be around so many bakeries. I have blogged about the bread so I won’t belabour the point. What I will mention is that I love French bread and it’s not that easy to come by in the Algarve. I have to go out-of-my-way to snag it and I do — in fact I’m going to Loulé today and I intend to pick up a baguette. This bread freezes well, which makes having it when I want it fairly easy. I’ll be in Toulouse in two weeks and I’ll load up on some good bread before I leave France. Portuguese people love their bread; I respect their opinion and I have found some Portuguese breads that I do like. This one will definitely get me in trouble.

Portuguese people are proud and stubborn and often refuse to admit that they might be wrong. I was at a self-checkout counter at the grocery store recently and the machine flashed a “printer not-working message.” I left the machine and walked to another. A staff member came over to me and said, “Please use the machine where you started.” I told her that the printer was not working and she said it was. Sure enough when it was time to get the receipt, which you have to show before you leave, the printer was not working. When I went over to her to inform her, she shrugged and went to the machine to fix the roll of paper for the printer; offering no apologies. I know this kind of thing happens everywhere, but I noticed it happens a lot in the Algarve. There is some expat resentment.

 

The Surprises

I had no idea that Portuguese cotton was so cool and soft. One of my three suitcases when I arrived had two sets of cotton sheets; one set for my bed and one set for my guest bed. I have been searching for the perfect set of sheets my entire adult life. Egyptian cotton is usually a good bet; however, this bedding can be very experience and sometimes a higher thread count doesn’t necessarily translate to comfort.

Giving up having a car in Portugal was a big, scary decision. It was the one thing I was truly concerned about. Using public transportation has been easier than expected. It’s certainly not perfect, but neither is being in a car. Reducing my contribution to the carbon crisis is rewarding and fiscally smarter; although Uber has benefited greatly. The walking and cycling are also beneficial to my overall wellbeing. There is a fairly long and steep incline when returning to my building from shopping or walking. I consider the health benefits as I climb; the sweets in my bag seem less threatening. Still, there will always be guilt.

I will not lie and say that I do not miss the city. Cluttered sidewalks, honking horns, packed public transportation, and the odors of an ethnically rich urban city, remains one of the great loves of my life. When I’m feeling the loss of grit and sirens, I board a train for Lisbon and I am at once returned to my city roots. I have learned how to mitigate any yearning that rears its head — feed the beast and it will simmer down.

Gay life has been a bit challenging, it gives me a reason to travel and I know that it will improve in time — Portuguese men in my part of Portugal are more closeted than what I’m used to.

There’s more . . . but there are some things that I prefer to keep to myself.

 

To Sum Up

I am hoping that I have conveyed that the pluses far outweigh the minuses. Living in Europe was a dream I never imagined possible. My friends and family often remind me that I took a risk and they are proud of me for it. When my visitors walk out onto my terrace and light up, I know that I made the right decision to be in Faro. I also know that I can leave whenever I choose to do so. On my walk with Paco this morning, I noticed how fresh and fragrant the air was. I took in the light, the sounds, and the scents and I embraced my good fortune. I’m not sure how long I will remain in Faro, but I know that for the first time in my life, I am at peace.

 

What Happens When Your World Expands

Travel to faraway places expands your mind; how could it not. You see and experience things that you might never have imagined possible. The impact this has on your thoughts and beliefs should not be underestimated. We are the sum total of our experiences. You can read it and hear about it your entire life, but until you see it up close and touch it, you cannot appreciate its effects.

 

 

 

 

Looking Ahead

I need a hobby. It used to be poker and now it’s not — and not because I don’t want to play either. I refuse to play online, I need to look into the eyes of my fellow players. Paco is helping to fill my day in wonderful ways:  walks, playtime, training. I’ve always been a voracious reader and the ability to sit with a good book for hours at a time has been a true gift. Then there’s the improving of my cooking skills:  24 Kitchen is a 24 hour cooking channel here in Portugal and I love it for so many reasons. I especially like the Portuguese shows, they don’t have all that yelling and screaming I used to experience. They’re quiet, instructional programs. It’s a great way to learn Portuguese because the chefs and home cooks speak slowly and it’s fairly easy to follow. When the say “faca,” they pick up a knife, so you learn that faca means knife.

A part of me believes I still have another big move left in me. I have dreamed of waking up to the sound of ocean waves and I believe I can make that dream come true. I guess I need to see how life plays out; so much can happen between now and whatever lies ahead.

A crazy world full of languages — “panda’s holiday” is a series of posts for when...

 

Paco Update

Paco has now had three visits to the Vet in less than two months. He is up to six pounds, but still way too thin. His immune system is so badly compromised, there is not much he tolerates.

The vet recently informed me that the Portuguese government has to be sure no one is looking for him before I can officially register him as mine. This angers me because he was clearly abused as a puppy. No dog who had love, kindness, food, disease prevention, etc. would have been found in his condition. I was told that if someone did come forward, I’d have to battle it out in court and I would.

Paco is one of the sweetest, most appreciative pets I’ve ever encountered. He wants to shower me with love and kisses whenever I allow it — his wet nose is very cold. He’s super smart:  he’ll learn a trick on the second try and repeat it the next day without review. He’s never once made a mistake in the house and he doesn’t mess with my things. He knows his toys and loves sunning on the terrace. I sense his loving gratitude. I know that he wants to stick around for awhile and he’s trying his best to recover . . . I’m convinced he will.

A good article on why yelling at your dog is a bad thing:

http://www.you.co.uk/never-shout-at-your-dog/

We’re in the training phase of our relationship. Paco was clearly traumatized early on in his young life. The best thing I can do is show him lots of love and patience. Gaining his trust is essential for good behavior. Learning tricks is good for dogs; they want. to please you and they love treats. He’s testing me right now — he’s exploring how far he can push me and how much he can manipulate me. When I show him that I make the rules, he becomes passive and loses his alpha male persona. In my world, there is no other way. Fortunately for Paco, he’s 100% on board.

0525557a-e263-48f6-9646-5fcc356857ce

May 21:  Paco is fully recovered, weighs almost nine pounds, has been neutered, and he couldn’t be happier and of course, that makes me happy.

Why I Chose to Move to Portugal (reblog)

I will be rewriting an update for my almost two years living in Portugal for next week’s blog.

img_1810

Magnificent architecture in Faro:  Moorish, Roman & Gothic throughout the city.

When you make a big and unexpected decision in your life, people are curious about why you went in a particular direction; it’s a reasonable curiosity. I’ve spent a bit of time on why I moved to Portugal in previous blogs; however, I thought since I am frequently asked this question, I would answer it thoroughly.

One of the most important things I learned throughout my career is to question “why” before you do anything. You want to start a business? Why? You want to get married? Why? You want to move overseas? Why? Asking this important question and answering it thoroughly and honestly, will help to insure that you are doing whatever you are doing for the right reasons — well most of the time.

So when I started to feel that U.S. politics were the cause of a good deal of my anxiety, I asked myself why I was wallowing in pity rather than working to change my situation. I had done some letter writing and personal campaigning for Hilary and then of course, I blamed myself for not doing enough. After a lot of soul-searching, it occurred to me that it wasn’t just that Hilary lost the election, it is the direction politics in general is going in, in the States. I’m not going to do a deep dive into politics; however, the big issues for me are gun control, healthcare, taxation, greed in Washington, and the negative perception Americans have of democratic socialism, www.dsausa.org/what_is_democratic_socialism. The conclusion that I came to was that I had to move to a country where the values of the government and the people more closely matched my own. In other words, why stay in a country where values will not be changing anytime soon.

Some “Why” Questions:

  1. Why am I leaning in this direction?
  2. Why is now the right time?
  3. Why is my heart telling me to do this?
  4. Why am I struggling with this decision?
  5. Why not?
  6. Why am I questioning the status quo?

 

Why Overseas?

Politics in the U.S. has become more conservative over the past few years. Some say it happens whenever you have a power base in office that leans in a particular direction (surprise, I lean left), the majority will tend to swing in the opposite direction the next election — that certainly is what happened in November 2016. This is likely to occur in any democratic society; however, in many European countries liberal policies and attitudes have a strong foundation, therefore, the bar is set higher.

The other reason I decided to move overseas is that I have never resided outside of the United States. I tend to agree with those who believe that life is not a dress rehearsal; this was an opportunity I may not have had again.

 

Why Portugal?

I have considered many other countries over the past few years. At one point I was certain I’d end up in Concon, Chile. I had been there a couple of times and fell in love with the coast and the lifestyle. Well then they had a big earthquake and read that there would be others. Sure enough, a short time later they were hit with a second large earthquake. I thought I had tempted fate far too many times to buy a condo in a high-rise there. I’ve thought about Italy because it is my father’s birthplace. I love visiting Italy; however, the instability of Italy’s government and economy concerns me. The Caribbean is too humid and has those pesky, life-threatening hurricanes; Norway, Sweden, and Denmark make it very difficult to reside there; and frankly other places were too expensive or too risky.

I had read a good deal about Portugal and decided to check it out. I’ve been told that it is dangerous to decide on relocating to a place having only visited once. Knowing that some advice is sound advice, I decided to do my homework. I read articles about retiring in Portugal, I joined a couple of expat groups on Facebook, I had several conversations with individuals who have made the move, and I returned to spend more time here.

 

Why Faro?

Most expats who decide to live in the Algarve DO NOT choose Faro. I discovered on several trips prior to moving to Faro that there are expat communities in many towns all along the coast; however, most people see Faro as a place to land or switch trains. I do not mean this in a disparaging way, so I hope no one takes it that way:  I did not want to be in the center of a tourist destination. Don’t get me wrong, tourists visit Faro; however, compared to other towns in the Algarve, Faro is not overrun. In fact, there are very few Americans in Faro.

The following are some of the wonderful things that drew me to this beautiful city:

Culture — music (Fado), theatre, festivals, food, ceramic tiles, history and art.

Portuguese — A majority of the people living in Faro are Portuguese or immigrants from struggling countries. I recently learned that when the European Union decided how many migrants each country should take based on their population, Portugal said, “We’ll take double that number.”

Faro is not as much a tourist city as say Lisbon, Porto or other parts of the Algarve. I’m happy about that.

Restaurants — I can find traditional Portuguese, Japanese, Chinese, Italian, Turkish, Indian and several other ethnic foods and the quality and value is outstanding.

The Market (Mercado Municipal) — in a huge open space (indoor) close to my apartment, it is probably the gift I will never take for granted.

Walking city — I can walk to just about every place I need to go.

Access to everywhere else — Faro is the capital of the Algarve; therefore, the airport, trains, buses, and highways, can get you just about everywhere and quickly.

Architecture — Preserved, historic, eclectic, and beautiful. Everything is understated.

Government offices — all of the Portuguese government offices I need to deal with are here in Faro.

What more can I ask of a city?

Image result for faro portugal

Catholic Cathedral in Old Town — a short walk from my apartment and where the outdoor market is on Sundays (stock photo)

 

I took these photos when I was walking to the ferry yesterday — beside Faro Castle. This is Old Town, Faro and it dates back centuries. It’s a 15 minute walk from my apartment. I come here often to read, walk and eat. Some of the remains are from the 9th century.

And by the way . . . that blue sky is real (no touching up or color added). There is no smog to speak of here.

Image result for faro portugal

There are several islands off the coast of Faro that offer spectacular beaches.

Image result for faro portugal

Farol Island’s lighthouse is just a ferry ride through the Ria Formosa. A 5 Euro round trip ferry ride is a great way to go to the beach.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Did I Do the Right Thing?

Time to Check In

 

img_2183-e1534524915354.jpg

This is usually where I sit with my morning coffee (sometimes breakfast). The Ria Formosa looks different depending on the tide, time of day, and season. In other words, it looks different every day.

 

I thought this might be a good time to step back and consider my decision to relocate overseas. I’m going to ask myself some tough questions:

  1. Is Faro everything I hoped it would be?
  2. Did the move cost me more than expected?
  3. Have I made friends?
  4. Do I miss the States?
  5. Are there things I did not consider?
  6. Have I learned anything about myself?
  7. Would I do it again and would I choose the same place?
  8. Where do I go from here?

When I left New York City and moved to Maine a little over five years ago, I was fairly certain it would be the last time I was to move in my life. I’m still not sure why I felt that way, perhaps I was just tired. One of the biggest lessons this recent move has taught me is this:

Most decisions are not etched in stone and you’re allowed to change your mind.

When I make a decision now, it’s for today, tomorrow, and maybe next month. I no longer think about years from now. I’ve learned that living in the moment is much more satisfying and that whatever lies ahead, will somehow sort itself out. All the great philosophers talk about being present; experiencing the moment you are in. Until now, it seemed rather trite and esoteric. These words were meant for others, not for me. I knew what I was doing, where I was going and how I was going to get there, no? The truth is I spent much too much time in the future — planning, always planning. And it’s not that I don’t plan now; I plan, but I plan a lot less. When you’re enjoying the moment, thoughts pass through your mind with less urgency. What you find interesting and worthwhile will stick and the rest will fade.

Now is as good a time as any to look back and learn from the past so that the present will be that much more fulfilling.

  1. Is Faro what I hoped it would be? In a word, no; Faro is far more than I ever imagined. My mind did not have the capacity to extend that far; the unknown was frightening. I had never lived outside of the States, so in truth, I could not imagine what it would be like. I had an idea, I had hopes, and I had people telling me, but none of it was a true picture of reality and that’s a good thing. Why is it so important for us to know the future? Why can’t we just let the future unfold before us? Some of what I could not have anticipated:
  • The light:  I loved the light in Maine, the sky was often so blue, I didn’t know a blue so deep existed. The light in Portugal is different; it’s very bright and your skin reacts to it differently. I realize this probably has more to do with my own growth and awareness. Still, I am dazzled by and grateful for the light.
  • The environment:  taking care of Earth is paramount. It seems to be a consideration for nearly every decision.
  • The youth of Faro:  I’m seeing a lot of cigarette smoking and rudeness. Older people get on the bus and the young people on the bus rarely, if ever, get up to allow them to be seated. I see young people sitting at cafés drinking coffee and smoking — they’re mimicking their role models and that’s not good. This concerns me.
  • Food:  I’m just beginning to see a change in the food scene here. Most of the restaurants are either small bistro style restaurants that are very plain and unappealing (but cheap) or a lot of very traditional Portuguese food. Don’t get me wrong, the Portuguese food is delicious and except for at festivals and fairs, you unfortunately, don’t see street food or food trucks. I admittedly loved the food scene in the States and I miss the variety. The upside is that my diet is more stable and healthier — not a bad thing.
  • The absence of crime:  you do not see drug addicts passed out on the street, police cars everywhere and there is no talk of crime. This is a very pleasant surprise. I’ve written about the decriminalization of drugs here and very low crime rates. Makes you wonder why this is not the case elsewhere.
  • Money:  your money goes a lot further. Whether it’s the grocery store, restaurants, public transportation, etc. your Euro goes a lot further than your dollar did in the States. I’m sure it has a lot to do with annual salaries and government regulations. I saw a bit of this in Maine as well:  when an item is overpriced, people will not buy it.
  • The weather:  it is absolutely perfect nearly every day. I had to get used to the dry heat, but it’s a small price to pay for paradise. Keeping in mind I have only been here for five months. I did visit in October and February and it was beautiful then as well.

2. Did the move cost me more than expected? Not at all. I did a good deal of research on what my expenses would be and I would say that I ended up spending exactly what I anticipated I’d spend. I couldn’t bring a whole lot of my things with me and I’ve been careful not to buy things I don’t need. When I was selling and giving away stuff in Portland, I realized I often had two or three sets of certain household things. We buy more than we need these days and I’m trying my best to avoid doing that. I like being a minimalist; it feels less burdensome and it will make life simpler if I move again.

3. Have I made friends? Friendship is something that happens over a period of time. You can know someone for a very long time and never consider them a friend and you can know someone a very short period of time and call them a good friend. I have met a handful of people who will be lifelong friends. Portuguese people are very private and not easy to get to know; however, the woman who runs my gym is social, funny, and very warm. She has welcomed me to Faro and introduced me to several wonderful potential friends. I’ve also met a few people through friends in the States. In addition, I have had a few people reach out to me through my blog. I have to say I didn’t expect that to happen. I have been very fortunate about having rich friendships my entire life; it’s been pretty much the same here.

I’ve been dating more than I did in Portland or New York. I think there is a simple explanation for that:  I am open to meeting someone.

4. Do I miss the States? I miss my family, my friends and the food. I do not miss the politics, the cost of living, and/or the climate.

5. Are there things I didn’t consider? I did not consider how the change in environment would affect Giorgio’s health. The new bacteria and the climate change, did a number on Giorgio. We’ve had to visit the vet several times. I have also had allergies resurface. I have learned that all of this is normal and I guess I just didn’t think about it or anticipate it.

 6. Have I learned anything about myself? If you stop to think about it and you are willing to access your life, you come to realize that there is always something to learn about yourself. Maine revealed things related to ego and the leaving of New York City, my career and birthplace. In Portugal, I rarely if ever talk about the past. I’m writing about it in my blog, but what I discuss more than anything these days is the present; the now.

b86c82c3-2131-41fa-a677-d5670be40a2a

Acceptance of my age, my wrinkles, and my many imperfections. Someday soon I hope to recognize that some might consider me an attractive 59-year-old. In truth, that reality seems far away.

 

7. Would I do it again and would I choose the same place? Yes and definitely. The same country, the same city and the same condominium.

8. Where do I go from here? Well . . . I’m going to just wait and see (that’s the new me). Two moves ago I said, “This is my last move.” I don’t say this or think this anymore. Property value is going up, up, up in Faro. Maybe in a few years I’ll buy an Italian villa on the Amalfi coast or a place right on the ocean in the Algarve. Or maybe I’ll just use Faro as my home-base and go to all the places I’ve dreamed about visiting.

A side note:  It’s not necessarily better here, it’s just a welcome change. Change is good, right?

Blogging has been an excellent way to let family and friends know how I’m doing. I’ve been keeping a journal for 35 years and blogging has sort of taken the place of journaling. It’s very intimate and freeing. I highly recommend either or both.

 

Coming up:

Lisbon this week for a few days

Catania, Sicily, October 1 to 7

Morocco in December (with friends from Maine)

 

 

 

 

 

Coming to Terms With Aging

 

 

*See note below

 

You Can Run, But You Can’t Hide

When I made the decision to leave the States:  my friends, my family, and my home; I also made the decision to leave some baggage behind as well. I’m not ashamed to say I have baggage; I’m fairly certain that all adults have baggage and lots of it. Coming to terms with getting older and losing my youth, has been one of the most difficult challenges of my life. As with so many other things I write about, I know others, many others, share my angst.

I decided awhile back, that rather than ignore the inner turmoil about aging, I would face those feelings head on. I challenged myself to look in the mirror when I didn’t want to, to tug on that sagging skin under my chin, to grab and hold onto my growing love handles; by doing this, I am fully embracing every imperfection. In truth, they are only imperfections because I identify them as such. I am learning that it is much healthier to just accept my aging body. To admire every line and to see the aches and brown spots as a reminder that I am alive. Not so easy this. Often I take two steps forward and three steps back. I know that it’s a process and I am determined to conquer this challenge. I welcome your thoughts on the subject.

 

Men are from Mars . . .

I don’t think it is sexist or stereotyping to state that this aging gracefully challenge is greater for women and gay men. Western society places a great deal of pressure on these two groups to stay young; the goal is to remain desirable. You have an inner desire to walk into a room and be noticed. When this stops happening, and it stopped for me over 20 years ago, you begin to feel less than.

There are things I have done to convince myself that I am still young and vital. One of them is something many men do, gay or straight, and that is to buy a shiny new sports car. I’ve done this more than once and although it does actually help make you believe you are young and fetching, trust me, it doesn’t last. Another thing I have done is to shop and purchase clothing that is suited for a younger customer. I actually wore skinny jeans for a few months last year, a truth I am not proud to admit. Thank goodness I came to my senses by summer. Why didn’t anyone tell me that it was very wrong. I know that my friends and family members are reluctant to share their thoughts in fear of hurting my feelings or facing a defensive me — I assure you that I’d rather be gently slapped into a more appropriate conscious state.

 

When I Started Feeling the Effects of Aging

I’m getting very close to being 60, so it may be difficult to recall when I started to feel the effects of aging. I remember when my hair started thinning and receding in college, I became very concerned about baldness. Although, embracing baldness seems to more prevalent these days, clearly society and the media place a huge emphasis on a full head of hair. When a person is described as someone who is getting older and letting themselves go, “fat and bald” are usually adjectives used in that description. If you yourself are bald, that seems somewhat derogatory. Now I know there are women out there that will say that they find baldness in men attractive. I believe that to be true because woman are much less concerned with physical attractiveness and more concerned with character and other attributes — sorry for the generalization, but that’s been my experience (it’s what women tell me). And you gay men know what I’m talking about. Just go to a gay resort and you’ll see what I mean. Many men cover up their bald heads in shame or surround themselves with eye candy in order to feel better.

Then there is the “fat” part of that “fat and bald” description. We all know that it is more difficult to keep weight off when you’re older. You reach a point in your life when you could afford a nicer bottle of wine and a thick steak and then you find yourself having to cut back on these foods because they negatively affect your health; not just your appearance, but your overall health. I don’t have to tell you about heart attacks rates, stroke, diabetes and other weight related illnesses. At a certain age you begin to think about the future and your quality of life.

 

 

*See note below

 

Dating Sites

I hate dating sites and I refuse to revisit this painful way of meeting people. Not all, but many people on dating sites have no regard whatsoever for your feelings. They send you flattering emails and attractive photos with promises of meeting up for a cocktail and then, poof, they’re gone! You haven’t said or done anything at all to warrant such rude behavior and you’re left wondering if it was you. Why put yourself through that kind of torture. For those of you out there who have been successful . . . good on you!

Of course there is always the meeting someone at a club option; however, in my world, you have to stay awake until 1:00 a.m. and that is no longer even a possibility.

 

Slowing Down or Halting the Process

There are a number of people in my life who believe they have discovered the formula for keeping aging at bay. They take 23 supplements at various times of the day, they eat only fresh vegetables they themselves witnessed being plucked from the ground, no bread, no carbs, no meat, no alcohol, no life! And then of course it is essential that they share their secret with you and convince you that they know better . . . well the experts said so. I have always said that if I learned today that I would live five years longer if I never ate bread again, I would eat bread and die a happier fella. True, I am only 59 years old, if you share the same truth when I’m 80, my answer may be different.

 

Golden Hawn said it best:

“What helps with aging is serious cognition – thinking and understanding. You have to truly grasp that everybody ages. Everybody dies. There is no turning back the clock. So the question in life becomes: What are you going to do while you’re here?”

 

8ccd11a9-afa7-4e17-9dae-607e39774b9f

Pria de Faro this week. I wouldn’t use this photo for a dating site (if I were to ever go on one again). My big nose, double chin, big bald head; show prominently.

cpforgr

But I might use this one. The graininess makes it even artsier (like a Renoir).

*stock photos

Strange Not to be Chasing the Next Opening

The culinary scene in the United States has been pretentious and ever-changing for many years; however, the last 20 years has been explosive; not only in the States, but all over the world. While working at the French Culinary Institute in New York City, I felt obligated to stay on top of the restaurant industry; knowing everything I could possibly know about the latest and greatest chefs and places to dine. Everyone in my work circle was an expert. If you were unaware of the last Michelin star winners or had no idea who was nominated for a James Beard Award, you were considered unambitious and not very highly regarded by your peers and superiors.

When I moved to Maine and started a restaurant consulting business, nothing changed for me. In fact, it was only amplified a notch or two. Portland has a very competitive culinary scene, and boasts the second highest number of restaurants, per capita, in the country; second only to San Francisco. I’m certain there are other cities in the States that would dispute these numbers. The number of monthly openings and closings in the restaurant business was staggering for a small city. This known fact, kept writers and critics scrambling for the next scoop. I did not like how pretentious and cut throat it felt. Some writers thrive in that environment and others, like me, are repulsed by it.

I made a decision to leave all of that toxicity behind when I moved to Portugal. Faro has a good many terrific restaurants and some of them are exceptional, but for the most part, what you find here is delicious, fresh and reasonable. Perhaps because I spent so many years eating at the best restaurants in the world, all I want now, is good, honest food.

img_16003

This is a simple mozzarella, tomato, basil, and olive oil dish from L’Osteria in Faro. I could have done without the bread sticks, but the chef used them to hold the layers together — oh well.

Faro restaurants are easy to like. There are many traditional Portuguese eateries everywhere. I’m finding the food fresh, inexpensive, and delicious. There is nothing fancy about it. It’s more about traditional cooking and eating with friends. Lots of thin paper napkins, but I assume this is meant to keep the cost down.

I have tried several restaurants in Lisbon, Sintra and more than a dozen in Faro and so far, I have not paid more than I thought I should for a meal. I did splurge, more than once, at a seafood restaurant in Lisbon in the Chiado district. Sea Me had the most beautiful local shrimp I had ever seen and they were not cheap — still, less than you would pay for lobster in the U.S. I’d do again in a minute.

There have been a few disappointments:

  • I have not been crazy about the beef. With the exception of a steak I had at a small restaurant in Tavira a few weeks ago. It was Brazilian and the meat was tender and flavorful. I also had lunch at a gaucho style restaurant at the mall here in Faro and that beef was pretty tasty. Must be the hormones they inject in the cattle back home.
  • They tend to serve french fries with many of the dishes. You can often ask for boiled potatoes and these are delicious and better for you. I drizzle them with olive oil, and a little salt and pepper.
  • They often have dishes they call soup and they arrive without broth. Still not sure what that’s about.
  • Why do I have to ask for no carrots in my salad wherever I go. I had the same problem when I lived in North Carolina and South Carolina. Just not my thing.
  • Meat is often pulverized (flattened out). I assume this is done to tenderize it, but again, I prefer they not beat it to death (you know what I mean).

Wine in the U.S. is often marked-up way up. Wine lists in the States are more complicated than my college economics class. What I find here are beautiful Portuguese wines that are very reasonable and delicious. I can order a nice bottle for under 10 euros and bring home what I don’t drink. In the supermarket, I can buy good everyday whites and reds for three or four euros. Nothing like the repulsive two buck chuck you could once buy at Trader Joe’s. And cocktails at restaurants and bars are also priced well. The café at the base of my buildings serves cocktails for a little over two euros.

I’ll save my critique of the pastry in Portugal for another post. I still have a lot of research to do.

shrimps

My favorite shrimp in Portugal are very large and very red. I cooked some a few weeks ago and turned a white cloth napkin, pink. Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

img_1827

Stuffed squid, frites, salad, and a beer a few hours before dental surgery. I discovered this place while walking around my still newish neighborhood. The entire meal with chocolate cake for dessert was eight euros. I’m still shaking my head.

 

Edinburgh, Scotland on Friday . . . stay tuned. Reservation at Angels With Bagpipes in Old Town.

Image result for old town edinburgh

visitscotland.com

When in Portugal . . .

How a Change in Routine, Can Lead to Greater Self-awareness

Yesterday I misplaced my wallet and today I spilled a cup of coffee; careless and frustrating. These are the things that happen when your daily routine changes and you’re not paying attention. There is danger in trying to recreate your old life in a new environment. It’s like trying to put up a tent when the wind is blowing at 50 mph; it just doesn’t work.

Portugal is a beautiful country with wonderful people, but it is not the United States. It’s land boundaries have not changed since the 13th century (Portugal has a fascinating history); that’s a lot of time to establish yourself. Still, in many ways, it feels like a young country.  I’m sure that has a great deal to do with independence, the European Union, difficult economic times, sharing the Iberian Peninsula with Spain, its size, and a host of other considerations.  It is the country I chose to reside in and now it is time embrace its riches.

I have noticed some things about the Portuguese culture that I love and admire (these are generalizations I’m willing to defend):

  • People are extremely quiet in restaurants. A crowded restaurant in the States is loud; very loud. It almost appears as if people are trying to be louder than the next table. The Portuguese people are aware of the volume of their voices and they are very considerate. I’ve also noticed that background music is just that, it’s in the background. Eating in restaurants is very pleasant.
  • Your neighbors are very private and do not try to get in your business. This was something I loved about New York City; however, I did not find it to be true in Maine, North Carolina or South Carolina.
  • Public festivals are very calm, clean and the people are happy to be there.
  • I have been noticing that older people (70 and up) are out and about and that many of them are impeccably dressed. Women wearing skirts and jackets and men in sports coats and often wearing a tie. Lots of smart hats and interesting walking sticks. I guess that I’m paying more attention to the older population as I approach 60 (rapidly).
  • People still use cash!
  • Patience seems to run rampant here.
  • Items are well-priced. I have not seen any price gouging; I don’t think the Portuguese would tolerate it.
  • Whenever you ask, “Fala Inglês? the Portuguese reply, “A little bit,” and then they often speak beautiful English and they are extremely helpful. Very gracious people.
  • The streets are clean wherever I go.
  • I was never exposed to Portuguese olive oil in the States; there are many varieties and it is as good here as it is in Italy and Spain.

The point is, I am adjusting to my new surroundings and I am falling in love with Faro. I have had to abandon some of my old practices and ways of thinking. If you would have asked me a year ago, I would have told you that I was going to spend the rest of my life in Maine. Funny how life is, you never, ever know where it’s going to take you. Still, we live our lives as if we know what the future will bring — strange that. I have a better understanding of what was meant (click for more info) by the old adage, “When in Rome, do as the Roman’s do.”

img_1812

A food festival in Faro at a beautiful public park. I was struck by how calm it was despite the many people. The food was local, delicious and cheap! Note the tile on the ground — it’s everywhere!

img_1810

Beautiful architecture throughout Faro. I would have loved to have seen it in its heyday.

 

img_1811

Beautiful and quiet beach in Almancil. A bit of a walk to get there, but very much worth the effort. It’s a short bike and train ride away (20 minutes).

 

A day in the beautiful town of Loulé, where there is a whole lot more worth experiencing than IKEA and an outlet mall.

 

 

Far Away From American Politics

IMG_1609.jpg

Student Protest on Avenida 5 de Outubro, Faro. There were hundreds marching on Monday afternoon.

I thought I would leave the U.S. and stick my head in the sand — well that’s not happening.

BBC World news is a great source of global news for this expat. On one hand what is happening back home is extremely important to me, on the other hand I don’t appreciate news outlets like MSNBC or CNN because they focus almost exclusively on American leadership.  The United State’s influence on the world is vast and substantial; however, there are other governments, economies, climate changes and so on, making news. Covering Donald J. Trump all day, every day, is fueling the divide all over the world and an hour with Stormy Daniels is just one hour too much.

There are a few other reasons I enjoy BBC world:  The commentators don’t usually get into pissing matches — they tend to listen to one another and remain professional. I love the way they cover weather all over the world; sometimes pointing out even the most remote locations. And the graphics are phenomenal. It also feels less political; this may be because everything seems over-the-top political in the States these days. The humor feels authentic and the British accent is easy on the ears. Admittedly, the countdown for the Royal wedding is slightly annoying.

The point I’m making is that cultural differences usually show up in the media. I can’t say much about Portugal’s news networks because I’m not yet at a point with the language where I can comfortably watch the news. It is however, my intention to watch the news here in Portugal sometime in the near future and it is actually a good way to learn Portuguese. From the little I have seen here, soccer dominates. The following are some of my observations based on “real life” situations:

I have been meeting Portuguese natives nearly every day and none of them ask me why I moved to Portugal. It was the first question anyone I met in Maine five years ago, would ask me, “Why Maine?” It almost made me feel that now matter how I answered the question, I’d be offensive or say the wrong thing. I remember deciding just to say that I was ready to leave New York (my sense from living in Maine was that many did not appreciate New Yorkers). The Portuguese don’t really seem to care why I came here, they’re just glad I did. I never get the sense that I am not welcome here. There may be some expats, however, that would disagree.

I have read comments on expat Facebook sites about government workers who are dealing with visa applications. There have been numerous comments having to do with resentment toward foreigners. Individuals stating that they are being treated poorly in government offices. I cannot say I have had this experience personally, but I can say, like most governments, there seems to be a great deal of red tape — I’m not sure that’s related in any way, to expats.

 

Photos:  The town of Tavira, about 30 miles east of Faro not too far from the Spanish border, artists, bars, and a great place to walk, pop. 25,000

 

I recorded his video for a media company in the U.S. It’s rough around the edges and I sound like Kermit the frog, but I’m including it for those of you I haven’t met and for my American family members who believe I have been taken hostage:

 

Keep the comments coming; they are much appreciated.

This Will Take Some Time and Patience

 

IMG_1547-PANO.jpg

The view from the Hotel Faro, my favorite watering hole

Whoever said, “Don’t sweat the small stuff,” did not live in Portugal. I knew some things would be different and in fact, I looked forward to change. In truth, I haven’t even been here three weeks and I hesitate to start complaining, but heck, it’s my nature to piss and moan so why wait.

I purposely decided not to purchase a vehicle for several reasons:  1) I wanted to reduce my carbon footprint, 2) I was hoping I’d get more exercise by walking, and finally, 3) I figured I could save a little money (more in the bank for food). I’ve spent quite a bit of time studying the Faro bus schedule. It’s complicated, convoluted and I have no idea where buses end up in the city. There are at least 10 different bus lines very close to my building, but I can’t figure out how to get from A to B. So I decided to go to the mall Saturday. The schedule clearly said that the number 5 goes to Forum every 30 minutes on Saturday. I took my time and meandered over to the bus stop; there I sat for over an hour. You guessed it, no bus. The good news is that Uber is cheap and a car arrived in minutes to whisk me off to the mall.

Intervalo is intermission in Portuguese and if you love film, be prepared. I recall now that this same thing did happen to me in Spain a number of years ago, but frankly, I wasn’t expecting it and I was startled. I was watching a dumb American film at the mall last week and the film stopped mid-scene for an “interval.” Although it is clearly a minor issue, I have several problems with it:

  1. If you’re going to have an intermission, why do it in the middle of a scene?
  2. Part of the excitement of a film is anticipating what is coming next and I’d rather not have interruptions. Holding it in because the film is that good, is a good thing. It’s two hours and easy to prepare for, no?
  3. Because I had time to kill, I felt compelled to purchase a snack and although candy at the movies is a lot less expensive in Portugal (1.25 Euros or $1.55 for a pack of M & Ms), I don’t need the calories.
  4. I’d rather not be thinking, “I like the way we do it in the States better.”

I guess I needed the comfort of an American film as part of my adjustment to a new home abroad. It worked, I felt better, and I don’t see it happening again anytime soon.

The good people of Portugal do not pick up their dog’s poop! I’m serious, I have to look down everywhere I go. After living in Maine where you rarely see poop on the ground, this has been difficult to deal with. Poop bags are on every other lamp-post and they still don’t pick it up. What makes this insane is that the Portuguese recycle everything. There is a bin for just about every kind of trash and people are psychotic about sorting it, but they leave the dog shit right there on the sidewalk. If it kills me I’m going to be THAT guy that calls out every pet owner in Faro who doesn’t pick up their dog’s poop.

Gyms don’t open until 9:00 a.m. and they’re closed on weekends; now how silly is that? People here do not workout before work. Back home, gyms were full by 6:00 a.m., and how can they be closed on weekends? Isn’t that when you catch up on workouts you may have missed during the week? Perhaps it’s when you extend your workout a bit? I’m a big believer is providing employees a good quality of life, but as far as I’m concerned, if choose to be employed in a gym, you should expect to work weekends; sort of like restaurants and grocery stores.

Shocked, stunned, bewildered, and frustrated, that I have not received a single piece of Portuguese mail in my mailbox. I’m getting packages from Amazon and even a couple of forwarded pieces of mail from the U.S.; however, no Portuguese mail. Perhaps the post office knows I can’t read the mail anyway. My bank here will not allow me to change my U.S. address until I show them an official piece of mail with my new Portugal address. Considering I have owned my condo for over four months, it doesn’t seem likely to happen anytime soon. I never thought I’d say this, but I miss my AARP junk mail. And by the way, I don’t have a U.S. address Mr. Banker.

So what I am about to share is very embarrassing:  my attorney contacted me and said, “Have you checked your mailbox?”

I was extremely insulted and fired back, “Yes I checked my mailbox.”

I was shown my mailbox on move-in day and used my key and the mailbox opened. I thought, “Good the key works,” and I have been checking the mailbox everyday since; as I shared earlier, no mail. Last night I met the head of the condo association in the lobby.

She said, “I  will put all this in your mailbox,” and looked to her right. I thought that was odd because my mailbox was on the left. Well, today I went to the mailbox she sort of turned to and alas, it was my mailbox. I have been checking the wrong mailbox for three weeks. How my key worked on another person’s mailbox, I haven’t a clue. Further, how is it that my neighbor has not gotten any mail? So now you know what it might be like living overseas.

My quest to find San Marzano tomatoes has begun. I started cooking with these delicious Italian canned tomatoes over 25 years ago after taking a cooking class with Grace Balducci in New York City. They’ve been readily available to me throughout the years — that is until I moved to Portugal. It doesn’t make sense being that I am so much closer to Italy than I have ever been. I’m sure it has something to do with Italian migration to the United States and other countries. I know that I am fussy about ingredients, but if I have to take a train to Italy to find my tomatoes, then that’s what I’ll do. If you’re reading this and you know a place in or around Faro (75 kilometer radius) that sells these tomatoes, I’d be happy to end my search. Better yet, it’s a good excuse to travel to Italy soon.

There are no Walmart stores in Portugal, however, we do have Chinese discount stores. You can expect to find just about anything other than food (save for American candy) at these stores and they are everywhere — like Rite Aid in the U.S.. You have to be a discerning shopper, because no doubt, some products will fall apart before you take them out of your shopping bag. If I’m going to be honest, most products I have purchased at these stores are a great value. For example aluminum foil:  most of it is crap no matter where you buy it — the brand I always purchased in the States is not available here — our local grocery store has a decent size roll for a little over four euros. Four euros is a lot of cash for foil and that’s why a one euro roll of foil at the Chinese dime store works for me. I double it up and still save money. And this is how I spend my time.

Martinis are hands down my favorite cocktail. It’s the combination of the amount of alcohol, the three olive garnish (considered a snack), and the classic martini glass it’s served in. I’ve been ordering martinis since it was legal for me to imbibe. Well, it’s a bit of a problem in my new home country. The Portuguese drink an aperitif bottled by Martini, Martini is a brand of Italian vermouth, named after the Martini & Rossi Distilleria Nazionale di Spirito di Vino, in Turin.  I ordered a Martini straight up on two occasions and I was served this vermouth chilled — not what I wanted. I have found a couple of places that serve it just the way I like it; however, I’m still looking for a bar with the glassware I prefer. These are the things in life that truly matter and I am not above bringing my own glass to a bar.

martini.jpg

Pictured: the perfect martini!

Finally, life in Portugal has far exceeded all of my expectations. I will probably mention this often, but the people are welcoming and wonderful, the weather would be hard to beat and the food is in some ways, almost too good. I love knowing the differences one experiences when living somewhere abroad; hence my reason for sharing.

 

IMG_1546.jpg

IMG_1578.jpg

IMG_1290.jpg

The shrimp here are really THAT BIG

IMG_1600.jpg

 

IMG_1567.jpgIMG_1569.jpg

Photos:

  1. Sitting on the roof deck of Hotel Faro in the marina (Old Town). It has become my favorite watering hole.
  2.  The view from the bus stop outside my apartment — Avenida 5 de Outubro. Strangely there is a good deal of exotic vegetation on this avenue, but you don’t see any of it in this photo. Palm trees, succulents, etc.
  3. The back of a ceramic tile shop in Olhao. I met the ceramic artist after purchasing a tile wall piece I’m excited to have plastered to one of my walls. I’ll post a photo when it’s done.
  4. Shrimp and octopus right out of the Algarve Atlantic (click for Chefe Branco). Dinner with Brenda Athanus; I need to go back soon
  5. Caprese salad at L’Osteria, an Italian restaurant way too close to home.
  6. The foliage outside my building that I referred to in #2.

I know that last week I wrote that I might have some exciting news . . . It’s getting closer. Patience please. Your feedback has been much appreciated; keep it coming.

 

 

 

Papagni Pages Launch

IMG_1532.jpg

Expat Defined

I am most comfortable with the word “immigrant:  a person who comes to live permanently in a foreign country.” My father immigrated to the United States from Italy and now I have emigrated to Portugal. Why Portugal? Simple answer:  finances. There probably are parts of Italy where I could enjoy the same lifestyle, but there were quite a few boxes to check off and Portugal offered me the best value for my retirement dollars. Most of my ancestry are rooted in Europe; Western and Eastern Europe, so as long as I am in Europe, I am content.

Deciding on a specific location requires a complicated answer. I will simplify my response by naming my top eleven criteria (it would have been ten, but Giorgio was a big part of my decision):

  1. The weather — at this point in my live being in a warmer, not-so-humid, environment was a must.
  2. Food — fresh seafood was a must. It was essential to be located in a place where local food is readily available and accessible.
  3. Water — My bucket list has long included seeing the ocean from my terrace. I was fortunate to look out over the East River in New York City for a short period of time. The Atlantic is right beyond the Ria Formosa (a river leading to the ocean) and I can see it clearly from my terrace.
  4. People — I want to be around progressive, liberal-minded people; who care about the planet, one another and preserving their culture.
  5. Accessibility — the ability to easily travel from my location without a vehicle is important to me. I have worked toward a smaller carbon footprint for a long time. There is no need to own a vehicle if you can easily get from point A to B.
  6. Affordability — I need to rely on my savings. That is not to say that I will not earn money while living overseas; however, depending on future income is an easy way to get into trouble. I am assuming nothing; Maine taught me that much.
  7. Healthcare — quality and affordability
  8. Safety — Crime stats and safe for older folks
  9. The Environment — where does the country stand on global warming, regulations, philosophical posturing, etc.
  10. The People and Culture — Are people friendly and welcoming? Do they like Americans or resent them? Do they hold onto and observe tradition? Are the arts celebrated?
  11. Taking a Pet — quarantine would be a deal breaker.

I would have to say that most, if not all, of the above were non-negotiable. I did not list them in order of importance, although some criteria are a bit more important to me. Several were easy to research and others required a visit and a gut feeling. I would imagine that everyone’s list is different and that is completely understandable. I was able to make this decision independently; add others to the mix and it becomes slightly more complicated.

Keeping in mind that few things in life are permanent helped me make the decision to leave the U.S. I have moved a dozen or more times, and therefore I know that moving once more would be manageable. Better to sort all of this out before I’m unable to. One of the many lessons I learned is the satisfaction one is provided when shedding material “things.” We accumulate so much that we do not need and it does nothing more than burden us; bog us down.

And then of course there is the great unknown:  What if I don’t make friends? What if the anticipated earthquake happens while I’m living in Portugal? What if my money runs out? And on and on . . . A have a wise friend, John Mclaughlin, who often says, “Palms up to the universe.” I have been far too concerned with every “what if” for far too long. Allowing life to be more organic and spontaneous is a lesson we can all learn.

It’s been two weeks today and I have made a couple of friends, the earthquake hasn’t happened, and most of my fears have remained silly notions. No doubt that I have a lot to discover and learn. But in the meantime, I’ve eaten well, enjoyed a jazz concert, started spinning (cycle exercise) again, sharpened up my awful Portuguese, had a visitor from Ireland (Alison), partly furnished my condo, helped Giorgio settle in, went to see an American film (not dubbed; they don’t do that here) and started a blog. Not a bad start to the next chapter.

Future blogs will be all about adventures, observations, strange but candid thoughts, and whatever you the reader might request. There may be big news coming. I won’t know for a week or so; therefore, you will have to wait.

Link to a piece I wrote about my dad a few years ago for The Phoenix in Portland, Maine is at the bottom of the page. Formatting will improve as I get better at this. It’s sort of like learning a new language — oy vey.

Is the red background with white text too difficult to read? Weigh in please. Other thoughts?

IMG_1534.jpgIMG_1525.jpg

 

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Pastel de nata
MargaretCafe PasteisDeNata.JPG

The typical appearance of the pastel de nata, in this case, produced in Macau
Alternative names Pastel de Belém
Course Dessert
Place of origin Portugal
Region or state Santa Maria de BelémLisbon(originally); produced worldwide within the Lusosphere
Created by Religious of the Monastery of the Hieronymites
Serving temperature Fresh from oven, with cinnamon and icing sugar
Main ingredients Egg yolks
Variations Regional
Food energy
(per serving)
298 per 100 grams (3.5 oz) kcal
 Cookbook: Pastel de nata   Media: Pastel de nata

Pastel de nata (Portuguese pronunciation: [pɐʃˈtɛɫ dɨ ˈnatɐ]; plural: pastéis de nata), is a Portuguese egg tart pastry, originally from Portugal which can also be found in Brazil and other countries with significant Portuguese immigrant populations

Photos: 

1-Jazz on a Saturday night very close to home

2-A sample of the famous Portuguese tile work you see throughout the country

3-Pastel da nata–a delicious pastry/custard dessert you quickly learn you cannot live without

 

The Phoenix piece I wrote about my father: about