Portugal

Surprise! I didn’t think I’d need to write again for a while, but after teaching one day in London, I packed my bags and went on a much needed holiday – to Portugal!

I spent a week in London. Despite grand promises of lots of teaching work back in Australia, their English side of the company failed to deliver. I recognise it’s also the beginning of the school year so work is slow. But I managed to fill my time easily – shopping in Oxford Street, catching up with old work colleagues, watching Peter Pan the theatrical production in Hyde Park, attending some swanky parties in Fulham and Chelsea, and meeting members of my *soon to be* new rowing club at Hammersmith…

My only day of teaching was a Friday, and it was seriously, the most horrible experience of my life. I had a year 3 class, and I didn’t teach them a thing, rather tried to stop them from literally killing each other the entire time. I was sworn at in the first 5 minutes of the day, dragged children off each other as they brawled, tried in vain to explain why boys should not bash girls up…”but my dad hits my mum so it’s ok” … I had 2 students removed from my class, and had the principal come in at the end of the day to see if I was alright, because the kids are a known rotten group. Their normal home teacher is a big African guy, and as all but two little girls in my class were of African decent, I felt I had no chance of respect from the beginning.

So Portugal… I travelled with Nat, a colleague from 2HD/NEWFM, who later became my boss at NX/KO.

In general the country confused me as I tried to interpret it. Then I came to the conclusion it is Portugal that is suffering an identity crisis. Its culture has been so diluted by other influences, that it’s hard to know what the true Portugal is meant to be. The main cities are hilly, and it’s like someone came in, and paved the hills with small, shiny tile-like cobblestones, lined the streets with either cheap Asian imitation junk stores, or hippy Indian shops, dumped a couple of hundred healthy stray dogs, and inserted poky windows one street level up, so middle-aged Portuguese women can sit there all day long and overtly spy on the world…

The buildings are mostly rundown, with their pastel paint tearing off to reveal last century’s dodgy paint job. Undies are hung on makeshift clothes lines strung between windows for all the world to see, and almost every building had a singing yellow canary confined to a tiny cage, fixed onto the street-side walls.

We arrived in Lisbon and were utterly exhausted from no sleep the night before, but we still managed to drag our weary bodies around the Old Town of Lisbon. Being a Sunday, the streets were completely deserted, except for the beggars, of course. I found Lisbon dirty, but it did have some good architectural examples. We were only there one night before heading north to Porto – World’s port capital! Porto had a charm… the Douro River that cuts the city in two is lined on one side with seafood restaurants, the other with port distilleries. In between, are grand bridges, every 100-200 metres, that cross the heavily polluted waters. We went on a traditional boat ride up the river, sampled the delights of Croft Port, climbed a bell tower, and I had Portuguese chicken, every single day of my Portugal stay J

Next stop was south, to the Algarve region, famous for its stunning beaches and 12-Apostle-like rock formations… (and also for where Maddy McCann went missing). We stayed just out of Lagos on what is touted ‘Europe’s best beach’ (I beg to differ – the day we went, the wind rubbed me raw like sandpaper).

Lagos is much more suited to the tourist.. in fact, I don’t know if anyone actually even lives there.. no one works at least! And I’m fairly confident half of England were on holidays there.. Anyway, it was a nice place. We ate some really good food (the best Portuguese chicken in the world! Followed by the best salmon in the world!!), drank sangria in the sun, and sampled the delights of Portuguese pastries. One night, we were at a restaurant (the best salmon in the world restaurant), when a young Belgium guy took an interest in us, and convinced us to follow him and his friends to a grungy bar down the road. I like Belgiums. They are quirky and excentric, and I feel at home with them. They were the nicest group I’ve met on my travels. Admittedly, it was a farewell to the youngest of them, as he was on Uni exchange in Spain and got a girl pregnant, and next month he was going to be a dad, so this was his final “freedom tour”.

We stayed in Lagos 3 nights, then returned to Lisbon to fly home. Nat flies back to Aus on Monday, but then Leah and Liss are coming to stay on Thursday. I’m amazed by how many people I actually know here! I’ve been thinking hard about my next step – finding a new home (this one won’t do – there’s not even a lounge room, so I have to hang out in my bedroom, and everyone has a closed-door policy here except me), and what I will do about work. I’ve been offered work back with FrontRange in London, (my old company in Sydney), on the days I don’t get teaching. It’s the same set up as what I had in Sydney, just I’m on the other side of the world! London’s weather hasn’t been dreary yet, but I’ve been putting off admitting that in case I jinx it.. I’m trying to make friends here by making roasts, and so far, success!

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