Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Portugal Et Cetera


I can’t help but notice that it’s been a few days since my last post. My apologies to anyone who thought I might’ve gotten lost, eaten, or worse, expelled (shout out here to my 21 year old friend, Sarah Bumgarner). I’m fully prepared to now suffer the consequences and try to condense my last few weeks of life into one blog. Here we go.

Several weekends ago, I went with a group consisting of myself and seven others to Lisbon, Portugal. To date, it’s one of the most fun trips I have ever taken. There was a period of time, though, that it didn’t look like I’d make it. Due to my tendency to forget things like money, cameras, and passports when attempting to travel, I was privileged enough to try out the Sevici Bike Company mode of transport prior to departure—thanks to my friend Marc, who lent me his card. I hadn’t yet experienced the heavy, oversized bike rental system, but it proved to be a lovely enterprise and I’m still going back and forth on whether or not I want to purchase a membership for myself. The only downside is that I found hurried rides to be less than ideal for anyone planning to ever be on the quarterback end of childbearing, so to speak. Anyway, all eight of us eventually made it onto the bus, which was already packed with people and required us to sit with random strangers. I, myself, sat with an eighty-some Portuguese woman who spoke little to no English, but by the end, she wished me a bon voyage and told me I was very nice and sweet. Like most of my friends, she was clearly a lousy judge of character. We walked up to our hostel just in time to see the sun rising over the Tagus River, and the staff was nice enough to let us check in early and have a free continental breakfast. The absolute rock star-status of this hostel would become a theme throughout the trip, and I’m quite proud to say we booked it at my suggestion. The first day, we walked around and hit most of what our guidebooks said were the must-see spots, particularly around Belém. We went to a small restaurant for dinner, where I ordered fried scallop. I include this to warn future travelers that “scallop” may also refer to a certain way to prepare fried pork. Rats! That night, David and I were the only ones foolish enough to muster the strength to check out the nightlife after going nonstop since 6:00 in the morning. We opted not to stay out for too long, but it was still fun to see.

The next day, we went on another free walking tour provided by the hostel, which ended at a huge flea market. It was a bit overwhelming — basically hundreds of people selling their lives and/or junk collections on the ground. I briefly thought about sending a small number of $5 full-sized carousel horses to my roommates just for shock value but figured the shipping would be outrageous. We went for river-front lunch after the market, and I was finally able to treat myself to some seafood (which my reading had told me was a must-try). My life savings and a sea bass later, our group split up and Rebecca, David, Marc, and I began a 4 mile uphill hike to the top of the park overlooking the city. The view was incredible and certainly one of the highlights of the trip. After returning to the hostel, we had a dinner prepared by the owner’s mother and then did a pub crawl, which was also organized by the hostel (I’m telling you, this hostel was legit). We started out at a bar with a reggae band whose set included a mix of Bob Marley, Kings of Leon, Eagle-Eye Cherry, and “Valerie.” Not quite the authentic Portuguese experience I had anticipated, but fun nonetheless. Next was a salsa bar, and the night concluded with two different clubs that featured some wild laser shows. Everyone seemed to have a great time, and at one point I found my roommate on stage requesting the quality sounds of Skrillex.

Which, speaking of— I heard that the guy received Grammy nominations? Seriously?

The next morning, we packed up and left. The following week was pretty anticlimactic in comparison. However, there was one semi-amusing afternoon in Spanish Conversation. Our homework was to write down a problem to send off to a hypothetical love doctor. The day of, I was pretty bored on the 20 minute metro ride and decided to add onto mine, thinking that we were just getting completion credit. In fact, we were not supposed to write our names down on our love problems and instead had our papers traded with those of our classmates, who then read their respective problem aloud and offered their own advice. Realizing the error of my ways, I scribbled out my name as best I could in a last-ditch effort to conceal my identity and was then forced to listen as the poor girl on row 2, whose name escapes me, struggled to read about a woman who eloped with a man her parents didn’t approve of, fell asleep on the train ride out of the country, woke up in a remote area of the world, and was refused the information of her whereabouts by her new husband—that is, the husband who she just found out is a polygamist also married to the train conductor, a gorgeous ex-Soviet spy. In other news, I am still struggling to make friends.

Morocco is coming up in a few days, although I admit that lately I’ve just been saying I’m going to Africa for the weekend on the off chance that someone will assume I have philanthropic motivations. School is really starting to pick up, too. I have 50 minutes worth of presentations to give in the coming weeks, and my third paper is due Thursday. It’s like they expect me to learn at a time like this.

This has been a very long post, and I have learned my lesson. Updates coming soon to a blog near you, assuming I live to tell about the monkeys.


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