Tuesday, April 24, 2012


Whenever I listen to this I think of my dad and me. Of this new turn in my life that has turned out to be so bittersweet. I'm sure he's happy I found someone I love so completely and that loves me back just as much. I'm sure he's happy that I decided to invest in a better future in a land that has so much more to offer and where my life will certainly be brighter. I'm sure he's proud I left the nest and am making it on my own. But then I'm also sure that the distance all of this implies is taking its toll. It breaks my heart every time I think of him getting home late every night and not having a soul to talk to. I'm sure it hurts to walk by my empty bedroom every day. And the sudden speed at which all of this happened probably doesn't help either.

I guess it's safe to say that my father took me for granted. I was never what you'd call a wild child. I don't drink, I don't smoke, I never did drugs, I don't like concerts or parties and I never even had a boyfriend. Not that I'm a hermit or anything, I do have friends and go out and have fun. It's just that I never caused much trouble. And most times I did his bidding, even if it ruined my plans.

I was at the end of my MA and, just like with most young adults in Portugal, all things pointed towards me staying at my dad's for a few years more and getting some sort of relatively crappy job that had nothing to do with my MA whatsoever. Even if - a few years later - I decided to move out it would clearly be somewhere within driving distance.

And then the bomb hit. Within two days - how little it takes to change a life - I was in love and making plans to change my life around. Granted, I'd been fiddling with the idea of going abroad for a few years, but never really thought I'd have the guts to actually go through with it. Try and imagine it. You get home after another day's work, just like any other and without any warning - just like that - your daughter tells you she's in love with some guy 11 years older than her that lives 1000 miles away. And in that same breath she adds that within a year she's planning to move in with him and start a life in a foreign country. It can't be easy.

Speaking for myself, I did what I had to do. I love my boyfriend and the distance between us was killing me (and him). Also, professionally I saw nothing back home that was worth staying for. And here there was a country that has fascinated me for most of my life and where I was sure I could be happy. So, for all these reasons, I moved. I don't regret my actions one bit. Sure it pains me being away from my country, my family and my friends. But what I can glimpse ahead is so much bigger and brighter that it makes it all worth it. Even if it is bittersweet. For the both of us.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The list freak

Growing up I spent most of my free time alone. And what's a little girl to do when there's no one around to play with? (And please bear in mind this was the early 90s, so computer games and video games were things unknown to me at the time). Well, in my case the answer was making lists and overall competing with myself. It might sound sad now, but what was I to do at the time? This was the best my seven year-old brain could come up with! So I made lists of everything I could think of. Books. Movies. To-do lists. Christmas presents. How many cafes were there in a certain street. Pretty much anything would do. And then when lists got boring I would race myself with things like naming five movies with Tom Hanks in less than 30 seconds (and, incidentally, this is pretty much how I got to be the little movie whiz some people think I am, by repeatedly testing my memory on the subject for over ten years). And this for me was entertainment. I could do it (and in fact I did) for years, way into my late teens. And of course to this day part of this stuck with me.

Now I'm 26 and I live with my boyfriend. Now, when you live with someone else you start to notice aspects of your own behaviour in a completely different way. You become - at least during the first few months - a bit self-conscious. (And even if you don't, if you behave oddly enough you'll be sure to have it pointed out to you, anyway.) And so it has come to my attention that I'm a bit OCD when it comes to books. I keep counting how many have I read during the current year, how many do I still have to read on the shelves, how many pages do I still have to finish the one I'm reading, how many pages till the next chapter, how many pages I've read so far, and so on, and so on. And honestly, after all these years of list-making frenzy, I think I got off easy. In many aspects of my life I'm lucky I didn't turn up to be as troubled as I could've been, considering all I've been through. Still, I understand that to someone unaware of my previous history I might seem like a freak. More than that, I might look like a mixture of Leonardo DiCaprio at the end of The Aviator, Miko Hughes in Mercury Rising and Steve Buscemi in Con Air. Put them all together and it's a pretty creepy result, I must say. Still, I don't really care much. This is the way I am, I've worked hard to keep it all down to a few freaky behaviours. So, when I'm counting pages or making lists just look the other way. I'm not hurting anyone by doing it, and I see no point in changing myself just to the amusement of others.

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Recipes with love

When I moved to the UK I decided to forget the majority of my recipes and start fresh. Trying to recreate my Portuguese recipes proved to be very hard when there was always at least one ingredient or utensil that I couldn't find. So I started to rely on my boyfriends recipes and on whatever I could think of doing with the local produce. Then came the cooking classes and pretty soon I was set! I had a comfortable amount of recipes that I could easily make, enough to allow a variety of dishes throughout the week.

After a while had passed I started to succeed in my attempts of replicating my local cuisine. I wasn't the confused person who had just moved in. I knew my way around now! I knew how to work with what I had. As it is with many things in life, the trick is to start small and not think too much about it. The big traditional recipes are still off limits, for the simple reason that - alas! - there are still a lot of ingredients missing. Now I found something better and far simpler. I collect recipes from the people I love. And I can't help thinking of them from start to finish. I think of his parents when I make salmon with orange sauce. I smile whenever I make the pear milkshake I learnt from S. Out of all the different ways to make spaghetti bolognese I always make it the way L. used to make it ever since I was a kid. And it warms my heart and my day. Because I feel them closer, and it helps to shorten the distance. And it's a piece of home brought to my new home.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

No more almonds for Easter

Every Easter I remember her. My grandma. It pains me to talk about how I miss her because, truth be told, I never really paid her much attention when she was living. Granted, there were reasons for it. But still. It sounds a little fake when I say I miss her. But it's the honest truth. I do. And I always miss her the most around Easter. As she got older my grandma had trouble moving about, her joints and bones ached constantly and she got tired after a few steps. She had a heart condition. And yet every year she found the strength to drag herself downtown to Chiado to Manuel Tavares, Lda (one of the oldest cafes in Chiado, opened 152 years ago), just to buy a few packs of Easter almonds. One for me, one for my brother and another for L. Year after year she never failed. And it saddens me that this year there'll be no Easter almonds. Not for the almonds, mind you. I miss her. I miss seeing her sitting by the lift talking to L. waiting for me and my brother. I don't know how different things could've been between us, but one thing is true. I never guessed I'd miss her this much.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

"When you are out there on the road"*

When I moved in I brought some of the cds from my old car with me. I knew, as I packed them along with the few possessions I was able to bring with me, that they'd be important, I just didn't fully realise how much. Today I drove our car for the third time. I took the cds out and inserted the one that has been my soundtrack ever since I've been driving on my own in the cd player. As Such great heights from The Postal Service started to play I could feel myself relaxing and breathing more easily, and actually having fun whilst driving (which is not a random event, though it is a first since I started driving here). In fact, apart from one minor injury on my left shoulder and the fact that I don't actually know my way around and thus have to rely on a GPS to get anywhere it was as if I've been doing this for ages. And the music just makes everything right. Listening to the same cd that was always (and I mean ALWAYS) playing on my old car back in Portugal makes me feel like I've gone full circle. I'm back to where I started, and yet I'm someplace far far ahead. And it makes me feel home, even if I'm somewhere new. And that's unbelievably good! And so it seems I have conquered the roads! I got back this piece of my old life and I feel so much better for it. I feel more like me than I did before. And that can only be good!

*Such great heights, The Postal Service