Tuesday, November 29, 2011

On Twilight

A few days ago someone wrote an article (that, might I add, I haven't read yet) and that, according to my boyfriend sent the following message: "All right, granted, the Twilight series sucks, but in a world of male heroes, what else is out there for teenage girls? If not Twilight, then what?". And when I then provided a considerable list of strong female characters the reply I got was that nowadays teenagers are lazy, that unless something falls on their lap they won't pick it up. Well, that settles it then! If teenage girls are too lazy to look for books that suit them, if they're that dependant on the media telling them what to read or if they won't pick up a book unless there's loads of publicity about it and a movie being made out of it, then I think they do deserve to be stuck with Bella Swan! And even though the character is not as horrid as most people who never read the books think she is (people seem to be stuck with the "jumping off a cliff" bit even though that's about a dozen pages out of hundreds), personally I'm very happy that I got to grow up with female characters such as Hermione Granger, Elizabeth Bennet or Buffy instead. Actually I'm happy I got to grow up with ALL sorts of characters, good, bad and in between. And that's really what this is about (for me at least).

Mind you, I'm not even against Twilight per se. It's the reading only Twilight that gets to me. Like I usually say (and I say it as an example so please don't extrapolate) I'm not against reading trashy novels - heck I do it from time to time! - but I don't think people should stick to them and not explore further. Actually, there is nothing wrong with you if you only read Stephenie Meyers or Nicholas Sparks or whoever author you decide to read, I just think there's more to life. I would probably nag someone who only reads Tolkien (who is a literary God) almost as much as I would a Twilighter (or whatever they call themselves) to get out of their shell.

Bottom line here is: variety. Read, read a lot and read more than just Twilight. Heck, Stephenie Meyer has a degree in English literature, I'm sure she'd be pleased to see her followers pick up all sorts of books after Twilight. So go, people. Go and discover the world one book at a time.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Welcome to the library, young man*

Can anyone remember this movie? As I recall, it's not a great one, but it did struck something deep in my heart. It spoke to me. Basically, it's about a cowardly boy who - in trying to escape some sort of storm or other natural  phenomenom - ends up locked for the night in a library. The boy then is then somehow sucked into some sort magical dimension and has to find the exit with the help of three animated books (Adventure, Horror and Fantasy) whilst living through episodes of a lot of literary classics (Gullivers Travels, Treasure Island, The strange case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde, etc). Oh, and there's a huge dragon (for some people this is a huge selling point). As I said, it's not a great movie. But what makes it so important is that it tells of the wonders of reading. I love books. Always have and hope I always will. Books can take you on such wondrous journeys through space and time, they can enlighten you, brighten up your days and help you turn the most dull moments into perfect little escapades with the help of the voices of some the most ingenious and unique people in the world. And there's so much out there! More than you could ever hope to read in only one lifetime. In fact, I'm gonna stop typing right now and go grab a new one...

*Christopher Lloyd, The Pagemaster

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The life you left behind

When you move to a foreign country, life in your native country goes on. This might sound very obvious (and it is!), but sometimes it still catches you by surprise. The jokes and comments people make start making less and less sense. Because you don't know what's on the news anymore or how the weather is. People talk about all sorts of tv shows you no longer know about. Your friends keep having dinner parties and all you can do is see the pictures they post online. And that's normal, that's what's supposed to happen. But it's still hard to take, especially when your life is still taking off where you are now living. Until you have a proper job, have new friends of your own and learn how to navigate through the new spaces and customs you won't feel like you're truly home. And so sometimes you will look back and feel a bit jealous of what you left behind. Because now you're neither here nor there. You no longer understand your fellow natives at home but you don't feel like a native where you are either. You're a foreigner wherever you are. And so sometimes you wish you were back home. You wish you could go to dinner with your friends (because you miss them and because you crave the company, since you don't have many friends here yet), you wish you could adjust to the Winter here as you did back home (but you can't because this place is still new and your body needs time) and you wish you had the little things you can't find in your new home (like the good old bread from Alentejo, or the smell of roasted chestnuts being sold on the street).

I love my new home. The people are all lovely and nice and overall this country suits me. Plus I have the love of my life by my side every day, which certainly makes things a lot easier and much more pleasant! But still I've gotten to the point where I can't wait to be back home again. To breathe the same air, to know instintively where to go for what without having to stop and think or look at some sign or board. To be with the people I love. And most of all, to finish the MA so that I can come back here, to my new home, and start living my life for good!

Or in my case, chocolate and books

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Traditioooooooooon, tradition!*

I'm a great fan of traditions. From big celebrations (like the way we celebrate Christmas as a family) to the smaller, insignificant ones (like keeping on the family superstition of never throwing eggshells away before we finish baking). Traditions keep us together and, paraphrasing Saint-Exupéry, they give us something to look forward to. And so it is with a giddy heart that I'm thrilled to start our own traditions, the two of us, since this is, for all intents and purposes, our first Christmas living together. Yay!

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas*

I'm a sucker for Christmas. I really am. The cold outside, the hot mugs of tea or hot chocolate, the corny Christmas cds, the Christmas trees, wrapping up presents, being with the people you love, baking filhoses (the way grandma used to do), watching Home Alone 1 and 2 again and again, you name it! And I know it's still early to start talking about it (as if we could ignore the stores and the decorations everywhere!), but this year I decided to do it now anyway. I'm going back to Lisbon at the beginning of December and I wanted to still be able to enjoy our Christmas decorations and feel the Christmas spirit here at home. And so here I am, listening to a Bing Crosby cd I bought for 1 pound whilst wearing an elf hat. I got us a 3 feet long tree with lights that I intend to decorate with tiny red decorarions and candy canes as soon as he gets home (I've had a thing for having a tree decorated with candy canes ever since I was a little child, so hooray!!! on that department!). There's some colour changing Santas to light the kitchen and some window decorations I brought from Portugal. All I need now is to find mistletoe and hang it on every door (the more excuses for extra kisses the better! Not that we need it though...). I even dug up some Christmas movies from his humongous dvd collection. And there! I think we're set! Hooray! let's start jingling then!

*Bing Crosby

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Even brighter than the moon, moon, moon*

So today's the 5th of November and for people living in the UK that means fireworks. A lot of them. I won't bother with the explanation (loads of information on google if you're curious!). Now, as the few people ever to be around me during fireworks can tell, I'm a bit of a hot mess when it comes to loud noises creeping up on me. So you can see that the whole prospect of an entire night (and here night fell at around five) with all sorts of fireworks (most of them purchased in stores and supermarkets) exploding all over the place and most of them being handled by people with no sort of training to do so was kind of petrifying. And so I'm happy to report that - apart from a few scares now and then - the night went on pretty smoothly. We went to his school, he smashed some plates (there was a proper booth for it, he didn't just lose his marbles!), we had some samosas and a hot dog (from a set of booths from where emanated the most delicious smell of meat on hot coals, almost bringing me back to Santos Populares back home), we won some prizes, we stayed for a while, and then headed back home again for a cozy night in, hearing the fireworks in the distance. I loved it. And I guess I've lived through another English experience. Hooray! What's next?

*Fireworks, Katy Perry

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Grandma's food

Today in cooking class we did a chicken and vegetable plait and a pastie. And the whole thing - making the stuffing and spreading and cutting the dough reminded me of her. My grandma. My uncle used to say that my grandma was one of the finest cooks that ever lived. I was a child at the time, and so I simply shrugged my shoulders and kept eating whatever was on my plate. But now, as I recall the flavours, the smells, the taste of it all I must say I agree one hundred per cent. As time passed I grew into a broody teenager and, despite having a more refined palate that could tell how delicious everything she made was, I never said a word. I planned on asking her for some of her recipes, learning from her how to do it and then record it all on a notebook or something. But our relationship wasn't the greastest and I kept dragging it on, not wanting to admit her food was good that she actually had something to teach me. Maybe next year..., I'd say to myself. Time was on my side, or so I thought. And then she died. And I was left with nothing more than regret. That and one recipe. Filhoses (traditional fried dessert for Christmas) that she'd learned from her mum and that she insisted to pass on to me, since I was the only woman left able to carry on making them. That's it. I miss my grandma. I think she'd be really proud of how my life is turning up. But also, I miss what I was too stuborn to ask for. For all I could've learned and shared with her. But I guess that's just something I'll have to learn how to live with.