Once you cut your toenails in a new country, you actually feel like you live there. When I finished there was a strange shift in my feeling – this is home. This is normal.
We were kinda “frenetic” at the start – every time we wake up, we’d ask: where are we going, what are we doing. Now we occasionally will have a ‘slug day’ where we hang out and watch TV and do nothing. And that’s fine. We live here now. Not every day needs to be running around and doing stuff all the time.
It’s definitely starting to feel like home. I walk my dogs – Moxie is a big hit with the Spanish tourists especially, who apparently have not gotten the memo that you’re supposed to ask “can I pet your dog?” A senhora (a portuguese honorific, “the lady” – an older lady who goes to our local bar every now and then) was also able to pet Moxie. “To pet a dog” in Portuguese, hilariously, is “fazer festas” – “to make a party.”
We originally wanted to have a rule where we were mostly friends with Portuguese people, and not as much with ex-pats. I think that was a dumb rule. We don’t want to exclude people, especially cool ones. I think what we really meant was “we don’t only want to be friends with ex-pats.” We don’t actually have any American friends here and I’m fine with that. But we did meet a wonderful couple from Alabama here on vacation – and when I heard the accent, I rolled my eyes. But once I actually talked to them, they turned out to be just lovely and wonderful. We do also have a few Portuguese friends and they are super-duper warm and friendly and I always look forward to seeing them.
We’ve shifted around our work schedule, and it seems to be effective for work but man does it really mess up what our weekdays look like. We get up at 8 or 9 or so, work two-ish hours – this helps us cover European customers a bit better on the helpdesk. Then we stop work around noon-ish and get a nice lazy lunch. Continue to hang out for a few hours, and then pick back up around 4pm until 10pm. Then rush out to grab dinner at any place that’s still serving late. Much easier than in California, but it still requires you to know your spots (and we are definitely learning where those spots are).
You can tell a restaurant is actually Portuguese and serves Portuguese people (not just tourists) when their kitchen stays open until 11pm or later, and you never know if they’re going to be open or not. We’ve gone to Alfama Rio, one of our favorite places here, and seen that it was closed (it feels like) more often than not. But, still, one of the finest burgers I’ve ever eaten. I was surprised to be able to find a URL for them, as most restaurants here don’t have a website. That’s weird for me, but that’s how it is here.
We love going to the local coffee stand – Noca’s, (another active website!) which has these simple, clean, delicious sandwiches. We get a couple of café pingados there – “dotted coffee” – an espresso with a little dollop of milk foam (most of the time the cafés here are lazy and just put in a little sploosh of milk instead, which is fine). Three cafés makes us a little jittery, but we drink three anyways because we’re stupid. (Getting a “regular coffee” is hard here, except at Starbucks, but I prefer the espressos anyways. You can get an ‘Americano’ which is espresso with some hot water in it).
While we do love our trips to the coffee stand, sometimes when we get started first thing in the morning, we need a boost, so we’ve bought our own machine – it hopefully shows up tomorrow. It makes regular espresso, and has a foamer. In addition to ground coffee, it will also accept ‘pods.’ Apparently there’s an EU standard for capsule-based coffees called the “ESE” – easy-serving espresso. Nespresso also exists here, but that’s not on the same standard. I bought a pack of ESE pods (I hope?!) for when we’re feeling lazy 😊, but I also bought the real stuff.
I saw that there are Taco Bells here in Portugal and thought – hey, let me give that a try, maybe a little ‘taste of home’ might be nice. Massive mistake, it was absolutely awful. Usually, fast food in Europe is quite nice, so I was pretty surprised. They put some kind of barbecue sauce in my burrito (UGH). My quesadilla was vaguely edible, but had ground beef instead of steak. Generally, just gross. It’s okay, we have a really nice Mexican restaurant up, Carnal, in the Misericórdia area that is excellent. It’s just a bit of a haul and sometimes you just want junky Mexican food delivered, not the fancy stuff, right?
It’s little things – friends, food, habits, work, and the animals – that really make the difference between a place that you’re visiting and a place that you live. And Lisbon is definitely starting to feel like home. Once we get our residence cards (still don’t have them yet, argh!), then it will really be our home.