Sempre Em Frente ⇨

Wow has it been almost two years already? Still feels like summer 2013 for me. I had a few posts I wanted to start last summer but never quite got around to– which is ironic considering I was in the country for a quarter of the year (a little over three months).

My name is Marielena Dias, for all new subscribers. I began this blog in summer 2012 as a “University of Florida Global Gator Blogger” when I studied abroad with the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth in Lisbon. That summer, I traveled all over Lisbon and south / central Portugal. I visited Evora and Monsaraz to learn about Portuguese southern agriculture, attended lectures in hot classrooms at ISEG– a gorgeous university that used to be a convent located directly across from Parliament–, witnessed protests on the economic crisis, got lost walking EVERYWHERE, and even had the pleasure of listening to aspiring fado artists in tiny, crowded cafes along the Bairro Alto (the Upper District, essentially a well known neighborhood in Lisbon home to all kinds of cultures– doesn’t that name sound so edgy though?)

Last summer was monumental for me. I visited quite a few new places and learned their stories, see some pictures below: blogFrom top left clockwise: I am sitting on a gôndola in Aveiro, considered the “Venice” of Portugal. I discovered a new, charming city– Mafra– home to the Palácio Nacional de Mafra, once considered one of the seven wonders of Portugal (a secondary hunting residence built during the reign of Dom João V [King John V] the Magnificent that holds the Rococo Library and consequentially one of the largest collections of Western knowledge [36000+ volumes] from the 14th to 19th centuries). I finally visited the Algarve for a few days, Praia Olhos de Água (Beach of “Water Eyes” because there are little oval shaped pockets of fresh water strewn among the sand in this famous fishing town in the region of Albufeira). And I finally had some more time to fully appreciate the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos or Jeronimos Monastery which, if you don’t get to read some of my other posts, is right by the birthplace of the pastel de nata (egg custard stuffed in a puff pastry shell with caramelized sugar on top)– a pastry shop called Pasteis de Belém. Fun fact: As legend tells it, this pastry was invented partly to help cope with the region’s excess of egg yolks since Franciscan monks used to use the egg whites to starch their clothes!

All in all, it was a successful summer (2014). I traveled a bit, like I said, but mostly I really connected to my roots via my family and I took a lot of time to figure myself out. I was anticipating beginning my doctoral degree in 2015 (although I later accepted a job at the Consulate of Portugal in Florida and will eventually go into my degree program) so I wanted to know who I was and what I really wanted beforehand. I am soon beginning a new blog on my musings of self and life and the meaning of it all, thesemidnightmusings.wordpress.com, and I post a lot of my thoughts on my instagram: https://instagram.com/marielenadias/. I biked through countless towns and neighborhoods last summer in an attempt to get fit, and coming back home this summer (2015) and going on my first bike ride made me come to a lot of conclusions about life.

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Photo credit: Google images

Ask any Portuguese person for directions and they will usually somehow include the phrase “sempre em frente” (which roughly means “keep moving forward”) in the instructions. Either you have to “keep going ahead” after the roundabout or when you turn left at the fork ahead… whatever way its said, its something that I have found so endearing about “Portuguese driving directions.”

In a way, I find it reflective of the Portuguese in general. They may be facing the hardest of times but somehow they keep moving, they keep on the path ahead. Of course life can be difficult and I often hear about these difficulties from family and friends, but the people I have met have never stopped appreciating the beauty of a sunny day, a treasured trip to the beach with family, or a lovingly prepared meal at the end of a hard day.

Two days ago, on my first bike ride, I became extremely lost. Normally I love getting lost in the small towns surrounding the city my father grew up in. But for some reason, I got scared. I was in the middle of the woods, the sun had gone down, and I had traveled down a huge hill which I feared having to walk back up if the road I was on didn’t end up in the place I needed to be. Furthermore, at one point it felt like I was walking in circles in the woods after I tried several directions and the woods never seemed to come to an end at the start of a regular road. I returned yesterday to photograph what I had experienced:

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Essentially, I went from visiting my grandparents’ graves in a region called Currelos to Casal Mendo, rode around that town for 30 min, and then turned onto a street that happened to go down a hill, lead to various paths in the woods, and bring me to a section of woods I had visited before on my way to a town in Vila Meã (which according to a friend who had two Norwegian neighbors that were formerly meteorologists, is home to some of the purest air in all of Europe– how delightful!)

What I came to learn from this ride, and in retrospect from the Portuguese and their favorite directional phrase:

There is no other way to live life other than by moving forward… sempre em frente. We can’t feel bad about our stories because they have made us who we are. You have lived through every bad day (think about that!)… through every day when you felt like your heart had taken too much and you simply could not go on, and regardless of the current conditions of our life, time WILL go on and the conditions will eventually change. Even when I couldn’t find my way, by peddling it kept me moving in some kind of direction. You don’t have to always be proactive in every situation, sometimes it’s ok to just sit quietly and breathe mindfully. But if you find yourself extremely unsatisfied with your story, write a new chapter! You have it within you to be the hero of your own life, instead of making yourself a victim of your circumstances. We can only fully understand a situation when it ends and that chapter closes, there is no way around the fact that we will never have the full facts, knowledge, or awareness of what is currently going on. That’s part of the fun! Instead of challenges around the corner we should be anticipating potential adventures and new perspectives!

– If we live in regret, remorse, or painful nostalgia (as in, when it causes negativity and sadness versus a feeling of happiness at a memory that has come to pass) then we are living too much in the future. If we are constantly worrying about the future, we live too much in a state of anxiety. A quiet mind lives in the present… a quiet mind is able to understand and hear our desires, wants, needs, and most importantly able to distinguish intuition over fear. Our task is to focus on our human journey, the paths we started… to focus on being present, being mindful, and simply loving. Love is the ultimate task we are called to do. If you think about it, it motivates our every step… from what we choose as a career to who we surround ourselves with. When we love, we leave the physical realm that our bodies are limited to and we dive into the infinite… and through loving we ultimately encounter gratitude as well. At one point I became extremely agitated at how I had let myself get so lost when I had been given such simple directions by a local resident… but then I realized how lucky I was to have this problem. I realized I was blessed enough to be in Portugal, on an adventure, with the ability to get around on some form of transportation– even if I was lost on some Godforsaken gravel path in the middle of nowhere. When I started looking at the journey with gratitude, I started to notice how bright it actually was outside thanks to a sky full of stars, or the fragrance of some nearby jasmine in their full summer blooms. When we look at life like a blessing, it becomes one.

FEAR, as I read once, can be defined in two ways: Forget Everything And Run or Face Everything And Rise. At one point towards the end of my ride, I became so disoriented that I couldn’t bring myself to take another step because I was certain that I would only be faced with more endless dark clumps of unrecognizable trees. Instead, thank goodness that I did because in about 20 paces I was met by a clearing and the main road which I had been longing to stumble upon.

– Finally, I learned the importance of perspective. Here and there, the path I was on would lead to a run down building or crumbling wall. (I stumble upon those a lot more often than you think when out and about, see picture below.) Naturally, at first these run ins heightened my anxiety in the dark. It made me think about how we seem to crash into or are forced to face our own ruins, our emotional pasts, insecurities, and anxieties… seemingly during some of the darkest times of our lives when we are already in a rough patch. But these ruins are not meant to provoke fear or even a reaction. They are a emblem of our past that we must lovingly embrace as our own, not an indication of where we are destined to go or even where we are meant to stay in the present moment. We must embrace these ruins, acknowledge them, and continue on our way… sempre em frente.

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*****

I apologize for the length of all my thoughts, but being here really challenges everything I think I know about life. New scenery has the power to do so. But aside from a change of scenery, Portugal is my “perfect fit” for reflection. One of the most important things I have learned so far is that the right place, people, and setting can change your life. Your fit is wherever you most easily are able to love, and can love at your best capacity.

There is a quiet, understated, and powerful spirit of optimism and determination in this country. On the outside, I think it’s easy and valid to say that the Portuguese have truly been affected by everything that has come their way economically, socially, etc… but while their determination to carry on may not be as boldly present in every aspect of what they do, it has nevertheless allowed the culture, the tradition, and the people to prevail and stay present in the face of this chaotic world.

While this blog began as a journal of my cultural discoveries as a student and later researcher here, I can’t help but include my reflections now because these years in Portugal and last summers in particular have been the foundation of discovering who I am. Here, my capacity to love, cherish, give thanks, be mindful, and find peace is amplified. This is my perfect fit. This is what home is meant to be.

And when you’re in the right place, even if you get lost in the woods… you might just end up finding yourself.

With that, boa noite (goodnight). More to come soon. Starting this summer’s posts on a sentimental note. Beijos e abraços, meus amigoskissy (Hugs and kisses, my friends.)

New Blog!

While I intend to begin posting regularly again on this travel blog (lot’s of goods coming soon!) I thought I would share with my readers that I have a new WordPress: thesemidnightmusings.wordpress.com.

We all have those thoughts and dreams that seem to inundate our minds in the early morning hours that we hold in for lack of being able to express them in the entirely fulfilling manner that we might desire. Well as a lover of stories, I plan on doing my best to share mine with you. We all have a story and mine might be valuable to some capacity for a reader out there, therefore I no longer intend on holding in the musings of my “second brain.”

Enjoy & I will be back soon. Love from this Portuguese-American girl.

M

ℒℴѵε ♡ makes the Meal … ➢<((<((°)

Here is a story I wrote a while back, but never thought to share until today… I entered this story in a competition and won a partial scholarship to attend a literary conference in Lisbon, Disquiet International, but sadly I couldn’t attend. I wanted to share it with those who read my blog. Enjoy! P.S. I am sad to be leaving so soon! 11 days. </3

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Love Makes the Meal

A story on growing up Portuguese…

Late in the afternoon, on hot, scorching days after working all morning in the farm that has been in our family for generations, my Portuguese relatives like to have a large lunch and gather together to talk about what they did all morning. Before my 13th birthday, over the summer, my parents and I took a 10 hour flight to reach Portugal and were able to join one of their busy afternoon meal preparation scrambles a few days after we got settled in Portugal. Cries of “Tio Carlos, onde estão as pinhas?” (Uncle Carlos, where are the pine cones?) and “Estou  a acender o fogo já!” (I’m lighting the fire already!) filled the air, while my dad and cousins lit two pine cones and a few charcoal bits under a meat grill top, which had been suspended above the cement patio floor by two metal prongs. That particular afternoon, we were roasting and feasting on sardinhas.

For as long as I could remember, seafood had never appealed to me. Once, when I tried sardines at the age of six, its taste was so unappetizing that after that day their salty, fleshy smell made me gag. The minute I learned what was on the menu that afternoon, my appetite was instantly curbed. However, watching the men in my family prepare the sardines was a sight to see, and thus I was entertained watching the spectacle. They all took turns flipping the sardines with such ease, and the flames were dancing about, licking the sides of the sardines until their skin was flaky.

In the house of my cousin we were staying with, the outside walls lay adjacent to the houses on either side. Yet from the garage, there is a path that connects the house to my uncle’s, which is next door. Along this cement path, which is obscured by the houses behind ours and by fruit trees from my neighbor’s farm, a patio lies between the house and my uncle’s house. The cement path then slopes upward, in the form of narrow, winding steps. Those steps have been tread upon by many relatives, and were probably only comfortable for my deceased grandmother, whose dainty feet carried her up and down on those sweltering evenings decades ago, when she would hand wash her garments on the wash board and hang them to dry outside her window. It was in the patio that the men congregated to roast their tasty sea treasures, their conversations based on how well the fish were biting and how tall the children had gotten.

Over the centuries, the Portuguese culture has been generally known as one that relishes in the art of fishing and preparing seafood. From birth, boys are aware that at some point in their lives they will fish for a meal, much like our ancestors did thousands of years ago. Upon reaching an age where they can stand, the boys are taken on long fishing trips with their fathers, and taught the art of catching a fish, whose scales glitter in the sun like a million silver coins when they are pulled from the murky depths where they lurk. The women and girls, on the other hand, prefer staying indoors and making bread than being sprayed by the salty waves inside a small, cramped fishing vessel.

It was indeed this task that my aunts were performing that afternoon. Underneath the cement steps, in a hidden room designed to be a summer kitchen, I found my aunts huddled around the oven, baking broa (cornbread). The whole scene was rather comical; a pear shaped clay oven, which was tall enough to reach the ceiling, was spewing wispy white smoke while my aunts, all of them decked in yellowed, traditional aprons, fed it thick, square chunks of traditional corn bread (made from the corn they had grown that season).

“Já acabaram as sardinhas filha?” (Did they finish the sardines already daughter?) was my greeting as I entered the door from Aunt Margarida. Shaking my head no, I sat in one of the many tan wood chairs, all of which complimented the wood table, where a festive blue and white checkered, plastic tablecloth covered the surface. My aunts all went back to baking their bread, sharing stories of their morning and of breakfast as they molded the dough. Their conversations were a flutter of Portuguese, full of tidbits and gossip they had heard that day. As they pressed the golden-brown corn cubes together, my older female cousin Dulce sat stirring deep cauldrons full of boiling potatoes that would later be drizzled with oil to accompany the sardines. Every now and then she would push her haphazard curls out of her face. Occasionally, she would pause to rest her arms, smile at the other women, and wink at me.

The salty smell of the greasy sardines drifted into the kitchen, a sign that the salting of the sardines was taking place and that they would be done soon. Eager to leave before the meal started, I darted out of the kitchen and up the cement steps into the top floor of my uncle’s house. On this floor, my grandmother used to spend quite a lot of time. From the top floor a kitchen door led me to the final bit of the cement path, which wraps around the top of the house like an old, unprotected stone path that once wound around a castle tower. After working my way well around the outside of the top floor, the cement path stopped suddenly and I found myself suspended several feet above the patio, which was directly beneath me. Here, I sat down, my legs dangling above the activity involved in preparing the sardinhas. My family moved like ants, darting here and there, crying out occasionally when the bread had burnt or when a gust of wind filled the fire with life, and it softly roared, showering the sardines with orange and yellow sparks.

For decades, the three adjacent houses on the end of the street, Rua de Estação (literally meaning “Road of Station” because there is an old train station at the end of our street) have been part of our family history. Countless guests, relatives and Portuguese people have been born, visited and passed on in these houses. My father, for example, and his siblings were all born in the big house to the right of the one we were staying in (which used to be a hotel back in its day), while my older male cousins grew up in the house to the left. In fact, the house we were staying in was once the outdoor kitchen and patio area from the hotel that belonged to my grandmother, but my father and his brothers knocked it down to build a small breezy home where family members come and go.

I sat on the cement ledge and watched the sun hide behind the top floor of the house. I thought about my grandmother. Avosinha (grandma) Herminia died years ago from Alzheimer’s disease, before I met her. Many of my relatives tell me I remind them of her, whenever we get the chance to visit Portugal and see them. My grandmother put love into all her meals, and into everything she did. At times my father remembers her docile, forgiving ways and how she was stern, yet wise in all of her decisions. She loved having the family together for meals, when the love she put into her food would nourish the souls of her family, and the food itself would help her family members grow stronger.

“Oh Lenita, onde foste?” (Lenita [my childhood nickname], where did you go?) I ran back around the path, down the steps and made a flying leap onto the patio. My brawny, sweet tempered older cousin, Nuno, ruffled my hair and playfully pulled me by my collar into the kitchen under the steps. All of my relatives, proud of the meal they had created, sat at the table. They passed each other dishes of food and began loading their plates with the fruits of their labor. Looking around me, I saw the beautiful faces of my Portuguese relatives, all bearing a resemblance in some way. Ten tanned faces, with dark eyebrows and brown or hazel eyes looked back. They all knew what was coming in a few seconds.

A chipped, ceramic dish was placed in front of me, where a single sardine lay staring at me with its dead, cold, fishy eye. All of my relatives watched me with curiosity and humor as a piece of the flesh was sliced from the sardine and exhibited on a fork in front of my nose. I carefully put the sardine in my mouth and found, much to the satisfaction of my family members, that it was not as disgusting as I had imagined it would be.

Perhaps it was the fact that earlier, when the men had set up the fire, they let me light the pine cones and charcoal. Or the fact that I had helped prepare the salad (Portuguese style, with nothing but olive oil and salt). It could have even been the after-lunch dessert, which consisted of fresh fruit that we had picked earlier that had been cleverly cut up and served with fruit juice for a cool treat. At some point that afternoon, I learned that while food may be prepared with a multitude of spices, vegetables or sugars, the key ingredient is love, and family. That afternoon, the sardinhas didn’t make me want to retch, and I had enjoyed the presence of my family preparing a meal together. Surrounded by the love of my relatives and the harmony of our family, I didn’t mind what was being served, so long as we had an interesting conversation going.

It was for this reason that my grandmother put so much effort into her meals. She knew that while ingredients make food, togetherness makes a meal. Her tradition was one that I one day will be proud to carry on. Be it a Portuguese, Chinese or African custom, what’s true is that I tried to proudly eat a sardine not too long ago at a Portuguese-American restaurant here in the U.S., and it made me gag.

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Just a side note, I found the beautiful sardine graphic from Google Images. Sardine designs become popular around the time of the St. Anthony festival in Lisbon (see previous post). Many sardines are drawn with things that represent Portuguese culture, such as these others I liked below:

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This one is my favorite (above) because it has Fernando Pessoa and the trolley and fado musicians, very Lisbon-ish!

I also loved these:

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Beijos e abraços, meus amigos. kissy

♫ Festas & Rediscovering Religion ✞

Greetings! I want to take this time to kill two birds with one stone- covering the tradition of festas along with my musings on the Portuguese religious culture.

So, to start, what exactly are the festas? To countless people, festa is synonymous with sopas (particularly caldo verde), and beyond that- rancho, rifas (read more), family, eating and good music. But the tradition has been more than 700 years in the making and holds a deeper significance. They usually commence on a weekend with a church service and town procissão or procession honoring the Holy Ghost.

The Holy Ghost? To better explain it, I will use the miraculous and enchanting story of St. Isabel, former queen of Portugal. (By the way, I was confirmed a Catholic when I was younger, and I chose Isabel after I heard this story! Plus she was Portuguese 😉 )

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St. Isabel’s Blessings and the Origin of the Festas

The festas all began hundreds of years ago in 1296 when Queen Isabel of Agagao, wife of King Dinis of Portugal, saw her subjects suffering from the effects of a devastating drought followed by a long famine. Thousands of people died during those years. Wells ran dry, and food began to get scarce. Portugal’s Queen Isabel did all she could for her people during that time. There is a tradition that shows her, always with red roses in one hand and a small loaf of bread in the other. This stems from her habit of taking bread from the palace and secretly passing it to the poor and hungry. One day the king found out about it and confronted her. When she opened her apron to reveal the stolen bread, a miracle had occurred. For instead of bread, a bunch of red roses fell to the floor. Her generosity and love for her people had been honored by God.

Masses were said continuously during a nine-day novena until the day of Pentecost when the people witnessed three ships sail up the harbor and docked in Lisbon. These ships were filled with grain. Their hunger was finally at an end. It also began to rain, after several years of drought. This was considered to be a major miracle. In thanksgiving to the Holy Spirit for this miraculous deliverance, the day of the Pentecost was declared to be a national holiday. This holiday persisted in Portugal for several centuries before being exported to the Azores Islands, and when Portuguese people migrated to California and the East Coast, they brought the Holy Ghost Celebration with them, introducing it to their American neighbors.

Queen Isabel was canonized by Pope Urban the Eighth in 1625. Her devotion to her people was symbolized by the promise she made to the Holy Spirit that if her people were delivered from the famine and drought, she would lay her jeweled crown on the altar as a gift to the church. Replicas of her crown adorned with the dove, the Holy Spirit’s symbol, were made. The tradition of the festa has survived nearly 700 years of tumultuous worldly change and may very well survive another 700 years, for its inception is deep-rooted in religion, but more importantly, in faith.

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Festas usually are therefore tied to a prominent figure in the faith. For instance, when my hometown (Carregal do Sal) has their festa, they have a procession honoring the Virgin Mother Mary. Several firetrucks drive between two long straight lines of people with speakers on the tops of their roofs that project the voice of the priest at the head of the line praying the rosary. As the people walk, several women pull out their rosaries and pray along with the father. The celebrated Saint or figure usually is carried throughout the street by several church servers, and when spectators see the Blessed figure pass they shower it with rose petals.

Here is the Virgin Mother entering the church in my town at the end of the procession. She is being showered in rose petals:

Procissao for blog

Sometimes, if enough students are in town, they participate in the festivities wearing their traje academico (see previous post) or academic uniform complete with the black cape. They lay their capes down on the ground in front of the church before the Saint or Virgin Mother returns home.

During the procession, everyone carries a candle that burns for the length of the walk. At the end, people place their candles in an outside alter with a prayer.

Procissao for blog2

Before I continue covering the more cultural and non-religious aspects of the festas, I want to make a point about Portuguese religious culture. It’s funny because I am no longer Catholic in the United States (I am now Christian), but when I come in the summers I instantly transition back to the way I grew up. I can still even recite all the prayers and songs, except I am the only one who does so in English at the small church in my town.

Catholicism is all about that tradition… traditions that date back centuries are the life force and unifying thread to the religion. What I notice about Portuguese Catholicism or piety in general is that many religious customs are thoroughly ingrained in the society as cultural norms. And they are given substantial respect. I was impressed because, as with every town, Carregal do Sal has its “troubled youth” (as older people refer to them when complaining about society today), but I saw many of those same “trouble makers” quietly revering the passing Virgin Mother, joining the walk or just overall showing respect to the “processioners,” if you will, that passed. I expected many to scoff at the spectacle as they would probably do back home where the youth is more vocal and where, even though the U.S. is perceived as a “Christian nation,” the diversity of cultures and religions makes it hard for one set of religious customs to become the norm (that is if you exclude something like Christmas, but even that has really become two holidays rolled into one).

Catholicism is different here. It’s relaxed (low church attendance and participation for the most part during the year) yet it’s not since many of its practices have found their mark as national norms. Festas are a great example! They started out with a religious significance, but now they have just become a fun time for families and friends. Even the procession is more of a community thing than a faith walk or prayer time, for instance. Interesting.

Nevertheless, moving on! What can be expected at a festa? Lots of activities! In the past, Carregal do Sal festas had this event based around a large wooden beam and a bag of codfish (bacalhau) at the top. The beam would be greased and men would try to climb it to reach the prize at the top. Today, that kind of stuff still occurs but it’s mixed in with a more carnival type environment. In bigger cities, festas resemble big carnivals with lots of rides and cotton candy, popcorn, games, burgers and french fries, concerts, street vendors, churros, etc. Carregal do Sal and other small aldeãs (small towns) have smaller scale carnivals.

I attended one near Lisbon and here is a picture of things you would find…

Top left to right: entrance with the typical lit up festa archways, a place to get waffles with ice cream (very popular here), and a churraria or churro stand. Churros are also called farturas here. Middle left to right: ice cream booth, sweets booth, a place to buy chichas quentes or cachorros (hot dogs), the hot dogs are really strange here- they come with crushed chips on top!, some women selling goods and toys. Bottom left to right: It’s popular here to have jantar or dinner at the festas for the length of the week. The first picture is one of the barracas or dinner barracks. You can get some hot soup from the top or some bread with cheese and sausage, and later take some home for the family. The next picture is what the dinner barracks look like next to one another. During the night, people will go from one to another depending on the prices of drinks or to find a booth still serving hot soup at 3 AM. The last two pictures are my favorite. Often at the festas people will pay for small samples of drinks. These pictures show one of those tastings, of ginjinhaGinjinha is a cherry liquor, and a shot of it is served in a little chocolate cup! So cute.

Lisbon festa

The festas in Lisbon were very exciting. I went out with the entire UMass Summer in Lisbon crew and we had a blast! The festas were held in Lisbon in honor of St. Anthony, the Saint of relationships, love, matchmaking and marriages. His feast day, the 12th of June, is a special day. Many weddings are held on this day, and single girls carry out all sorts of rituals to implore Anthony to help them find a worthy husband. The girl might fill her mouth with water until she hears a man’s name mentioned, or write her suitors’ names on pieces of paper, roll them up and place them in a bowl of water under her bed. In the morning, the piece of paper that has unfurled the most indicates the lucky man. If girls are really sick of being single, they stand a small statue of Anthony upside down and bury its head, returning it to its proper position only when the hard-working saint has placed their case at the top of his long list of lonely hearts.

For more on this day, read here: http://www.lonelyplanet.com/portugal/lisbon/travel-tips-and-articles/77201

The UMass students and I had a lot of fun, here is a picture from that day:

Marchas Populares, festas, Alfama with the group! (4)

To the right, you have a sardine vendor! It’s a tradition here to have the tasty grilled snacks for the Saint’s feast day. And we also watched the Marchas Populares this year. This time, as opposed to last year, I had us sit in the Restauradores area where the parade ends and we got to interact with the groups and were so much closer to them! Here is a dancer from the Macau (Portuguese colony in China) group:

Marchas Populares, festas, Alfama with the group! (30)

In terms of what is left of the old traditions, traveling rancho groups still perform at the festas every year. Rancho Folclórico groups basically dance traditional dances to folkloric tunes and wear the customary dress from different regions of the country.

Rancho completo

They spin and waltz around one another in pairs, and usually with their arms in the air. Here are some awesome pictures of what they look like up close: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=60VYhcotMew and a clip of them dancing to give you an idea: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yKjD–wDndc

The costumes are meant to represent all the different types of people in the town, and each group is dressed according to what those different people would wear in that region of Portugal. Literally all walks of life are represented in the group, from the sassy wives of fishmongers to a viúva or the widow (dressed in black, bottom center). The musicians and singers typically sit in the back, and guitars, accordions and drums are the common instruments for the show.

I used to do rancho and I absolutely loved it! The shoes that the girls wear are like slippers that are hand embroidered on the front. The shoes are worn with slippery socks and have no backs, so that was always problematic when you are trying to move around!

Another fun tradition is the rifas! or bazaar. I have loved the rifas for as long as I can remember! What you do is go up to the booth or quermesse

Rancho & rifas (39)

pay for a set of rolled up pieces of paper…

Rancho & rifas (38)

and then you unroll all the papers you were handed to see if one of them has a number in it. If you find one with a number in it, the man looks it up in his book and you take home a prize! When I was little, I once won a beautiful china doll that I still have at home!

All in all, the festa is one of the main elements of Portuguese culture that I love the most. This year it was interesting to learn the deeper religious significance behind it. I grew up knowing the story of Isabel but I had no idea she was one of the main participants in executing the festival! No wonder I chose such a dynamic lady for my Catholic confirmation name 😉

Before I go, I want to share a funny story that occurred at home. The day of the first festas-related church service, if my relatives and parents are all around, we gather and have a family reunion lunch to celebrate the growth of the Dias family clan! This year, my aunt celebrated 50 years of marriage and so my mom bought some 50€ napkins for us to use.

Family Reunion Lunch (1)

My cousin dropped some champagne on her foot and used the napkin to wipe it up. My other cousin shouts from across the room: “Cousin! Washing your feet with champagne and wiping them dry with notes of 50€? How shameful! We are in a crisis!” LOL. It was awesome.

Well, time for sleep…

As always,

Beijos e abraços, meus amigos. kissy ❤

The benefits of a Portuguese university degree

So one of the things that I have been dying to write about is very near and dear to my heart. I apologize in advance for the lack of pictures, but this is a super important blog to me!

I have been working at ISEG all summer- the Instituto Superior de Economia e Gestão or the Superior Institute for Economics and Management. At ISEG, I have used some of my down time to check out some of the academic programs they offer, and I am very impressed! For example, I am very interested in development studies within political science. They have a Master’s program in Development that takes one year to complete and the total cost of tuition (propina) is less than $6000! What?!

I read an article recently on how Portuguese universities are some of the best in Europe. Check it out here ✏ http://marketeer.pt/2013/05/13/universidades-portuguesas-entre-as-melhores-do-mundo/. 3 universities in Portugal made it in the top world-wide rankings of professional schools!

There are many benefits to attending programs in Portugal, especially for students that are Luso-Americans with Portuguese heritage! To start off with…

1. COSTS!!!! It’s all about the money, honey! Dinero, moolah, the big bucks… I cannot stress this enough. Here are some examples of Master’s programs at ISEG: http://aquila.iseg.utl.pt/aquila/instituicao/ISEG/cursos/mestrados. If those prices are not ultra seductive to prospective students everywhere, I don’t know what is! Think of the costs that are incurred for the average Master’s program in the U.S. $40,000 a year at a school with low chances for a scholarship? No thank you! Can you imagine a Master’s program in Portugal for only $5970? And with the economic downturn, housing is also relatively affordable here and available almost anywhere. I have found living here in the summers extremely doable. The prices for food, travel and fun are very fair in my opinion! As a university student in the summer, the school cafes still offer great meal deals- 4€ (about $6) at ISEG will get me some bacalhau (codfish) with a side dish, salad, flan and drink! Or, a close to $17 bus ticket can get me to the other side of Portugal to visit my family in 3.5 hours (thank goodness Portugal is so small!)

Which brings me to #2…

2. LOCATION! Location is everything for education. Here I will admit that I lied to you in the beginning of the blog, because I do have some pictures to share after all.

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Do you see this amazing, splendiferous, luminous city? I am presently inside its bounds and loving every single second! Yes classes and school are important, but location means everything! The surroundings to your university are where you’ll spend more than 50% of your time! And Portugal is such a richly diverse space, all within compact borders! The culture changes part to part… North and South Portugal are different from one another, island and mainland Portugal differ immensely, and so forth… it doesn’t take more than a day long trip to be in a completely new region.

You have lush, green landscapes and strong traditions in the Northern mountain regions, crystal blue waters and gorgeous beaches in the South, the small town, “farmsy” feel of the Alentejo, the traditional and academically rich university city of Coimbra, and more!

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And so much history! On the left you have the region of Douro, one of Portugal’s national treasures, where grapes are grown on cascading hillsides to be made into zesty Porto wine… in the fall, you can take a train along the river and see the hills dressed in splendid robes of gold and brown leaves! In the middle you have the beautiful city of Agueda and it’s yearly umbrella spectacle. And on the right, the hidden castle pieces from within the valley of Sintra.

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Don’t forget, fun! I have two words for this part: Music… festivals! Like I said in a past post, I saw AVICII and Martin Solveig here last summer for 20 euros! Like… what?! Portuguese people love their music, so you can bet on lots of cheap and exciting shows. Not into music festivals? There is so much more to do here- attend lectures, watch sport matches, visit nearby countries, watch a live bull fight, hear some great fado with a glass of wine. Portugal is your oyster.

Affordable schooling and affordable travel? Count me IN!

3. Quality of education and mobility, academic environment… I personally feel that the Master’s and Doctorate programs here are quite challenging! University of Coimbra, for example, has some really diverse and unique Ph.D. programs that I would like to look into for the future. ISEG, my current research home, has a lot of affiliations and ties to major think tanks or research institutes in the world. Many universities here also pair up with big name universities back in the States for programs. Harvard Medical School has a research program it does with a Portuguese university, for example. For those who want to become professors in the U.S. or in other countries, a U.S. Ph.D. would probably offer more mobility. But for a Master’s to be used as a step for a future career, Portuguese universities offer great academic environments.

As for the academic environment

4. Tradition. I love Portuguese universities because they are so rich in tradition. Last year I wrote about one of my most favorite universities, Universidade de Coimbra. There, the students still use all of their robes (see previous post on the academic traje or suit), they win “fox trophies” (a scratch on one of the school’s decorative wall tiles that has a fox design on it) if they fail tests, etc.

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Schools here are swimming in tradition. Given Portugal’s very Catholic past, many were once monasteries or convents so that always adds a bit of spice when you get to take your classes in a centuries old classroom with azulejo lined walls such as the one below at the Universidade de Evora…

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or when you hear the local Tuna Económica playing (student orchestral groups)…

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5. Global position. You’re probably thinking… global position? Da heck?

Portugal and the U.S. have a very strategic relationship as they both border the Atlantic and directly face each other. Portugal is very well situated… it’s just close enough to be Europe but not Europe at a great distance. It is literally the door to the rest of Europe. It’s not only an open doorway to Europe; is also boasts close ties with Africa and Brazil. For my Luso-American friends of Portuguese descent, claim that heritage and gain access to many other states that make up the European Union!

Plus, did you know that Portuguese is the third most widely-spoken European language?! Studying in Portugal will give you the chance to learn the language and explore the culture, economy, and history of the nearly 200 million people in the Far East, South America, Africa, and Europe who use one of the most important languages of the 21st century.

Not to mention that Portuguese people are extremely nice and accommodating! 😉

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So there you have it. I advocate studying here immensely! There are so many benefits to a Portuguese university education. However, with every good thing comes the bad… so here are just a few cons to an education in Portugal.

1. There are too many beaches to visit and not enough time… I mean, come on! What kind of country has this many stunning beaches? Does Portugal just expect me to have all this free time on my hands as a hard-working and focused university student? (P.S. Three beaches here were named among the best in the WORLD! http://inteligenciaeconomica.com.pt/?p=16014) Heck yes…  ☼ ☁

2. Too many good looking foreigners. With Portugal’s membership to the European Union and participation in Europe-wide ERASMUS exchange programs, there are just too many foreigners to meet here! Polish students, Hungarian students, Belgian students… too many new friends to make from other countries!

3. Peanut butter and Nutella are ridiculously expensive here. Like, close to $6! Ain’t nobody got euros for that. Plus the jars are always 1/3 of the size at home.

and more…

But seriously, if you are interested in a possible university education here, check out this fantabulous link below!

✎ http://www.studyinportugal.net/pt

This ^ is a website created by FLAD- Fundação Luso-Americana de Desenvolvimento. On the website they have listed the top 10 reasons to study in Portugal, http://www.studyinportugal.net/pt/articles/1-quality-education/1-quality-education, along with a listing of programs in Portugal TAUGHT IN ENGLISHhttp://www.studyinportugal.net/pt/articles/portuguese-university-network/portuguese-university-network37

Also, don’t hesitate to contact me at mdias2011@ufl.edu

More posts to come on religious traditions, small towns, monuments, and more.

As always,

Beijos e abraços, meus amigos. kissy

Where in the world am I?

So this blog is a little late, as usual. I have a boatload set to come out this week to catch up on what I have missed in the last few weeks. Last year, I did a month of study abroad with UMass Dartmouth Summer in Lisbon. This year, I was blessed to spend the month with the new cohort and play a role in helping to orient them to the city. However, that left little time for blogging 😉

Moving on, where the heck am I spending the summer?! This summer, I arrived in Lisbon in the beginning of June and I am living near the suburbs (Odivelas) … about 2-3 metro stops away into the city. It is a bit of a commute to the school where I am working but I don’t mind! I am living at a good friend’s house… here is my room!

My room

Isn’t it très chic? Every morning I get to wake up to this view:

view

Plus, my roommate’s cat has thumbs! Here she is:

Kitty

She is darling. Her name is Luna!

The school I am researching at is ISEG- the same school that hosts the UMass Dartmouth program I attended last summer and hung out with this year. My mentor or the professor I am researching with is Dr. Prof. Eduardo Sousa Ferreira. He is an African Studies specialist who was exiled during the Salazar period for his work in helping the revolutions in Africa! He has been incredibly inspirational throughout this fellowship so far and has helped me access many different African Studies libraries in Lisbon.

I love ISEG. It is seriously one of the nicest universities in Lisbon. The main campus is beautiful with two large white buildings surrounding a courtyard and then two huge flights of stairs on either side of the 4 story library- one leading to the old convent that used to exist there (much of the original azulejo remains intact there!) and the other leading to the big office buildings that the professors use. It’s there that I do my research. This is the view from my professor’s window- it overlooks the Rio Tejo! Beautiful!

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To get to work, I like to get off at the Rato metro stop and walk down Rua de São Bento. It’s a charming old road full of antique shops and this amazing genuine gelato place called Santini! 2 euros for a delicious cone with two scoops- super dangerous. I’ve only been there twice though.

Best part of the road to work? Passing by the house of my idol, Amalia Rodrigues- fado extraordinaire!

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Rua de São Bento is truly charming. Here are some other views I have along the street: Beautiful azulejo lined homes in the top pics, a view of Parliament right across the street from the school, many foundations that host free cultural and academic events, stores that sell “antiguidades” or antiques (middle right picture), and some delicious places to have lunch or dinner (Casa Macau Indian Restaurant- not sure why it’s called Casa Macau but oh well) or a snack (tea house on the bottom right picure).

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One thing is for sure, the effects of the economic crisis can be experienced everywhere in the city. Graffiti has become increasingly political, for example. Another thing I noticed is the incredibly large amount of empty apartments I see everywhere… really makes me wonder where everyone went. Many local graffiti artists have incorporated the same sentiment into some of their work (top left picture: graffiti says “Aqui podia viver gente” or “Here people could live,” top middle picture: “Criar emprego” or “Make new jobs,” and top right picture: “Baixar as rendas” or “lower rent rates”). I particularly liked the bottom graffiti, which poses the question: “Até quando vais ser ovelha?” or “How long are you going to be a sheep?”

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I did notice some other popular topics in the graffiti, such as this complex one that is promoting green feelings: The corporate businessman is drinking out the oil from the Earth through a straw and his crown has the logos for several gas and oil corporations.

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As for the economic crisis, conditions here are only worsening. The austerity measures have many people on edge and they are certainly not making anything better. http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2013/jul/11/how-austerity-has-failed/?pagination=false#.UcjLCuFQiVQ.twitter

(P.S. Greece is just as bad, if not worse http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/11/opinion/global/greece-at-the-boiling-point.html?smid=fb-share&_r=0

Actually, many people don’t know which country is at its worst at this point, some even predict that Portugal might end up in a more dire situation than Greece. It’s chillingly frightening.)

But I am rather shocked at the low levels of protest I see here. I attended the greve geral or strike on Thursday, June 27th and honestly I was not impressed. This was during the time of the protests in Brazil and they were making great strides in their efforts, http://www.bostonreview.net/blog/pardon-inconvenience-we-are-changing-country , and then there were the protests in Turkey and the Turkish journalists risking their lives by covering the demonstrations when they had been told not to do so.

Here, during the greve geral, everyone was supposed to meet at the Rossio plaza at 2 or 2:30, and then I am assuming that they walked the 30 min journey to Parliament. I arrived at the Parliament building at 4:30 and this was all that was left:

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SERIOUSLY? I didn’t know what to think. I heard that the strike had moved, and the police were pretty tight that day. But for a country with such serious economic problems, I don’t know if the people are just too preoccupied with their fight for survival or if the rowdy Portuguese flame that overthrew Salazar has just been beaten down by Europe and the Troika.

Anyways, there are more posts to come.. just playing catch up! I have loved being in Lisbon again. I feel that every time you learn more about a city or spend more time in it, it becomes smaller. I visited the suburbs of Lisbon for the first time a few weeks into my visit and it was really an eye opener. I don’t know how to explain it, but for miles and miles it just looks like a pop-up storybook full of white and yellow apartment buildings built onto these massive hills. Many commute into the city, but it looks really confusing to get to some of the apartments!

Suburbs for second post

I also felt like I was driving through Brazil because some of those hills looked like favela communities. It was a very new and eye opening experience. More blogs to come on some religious customs and musings I had, my research, Portuguese historical monuments, and more…

Beijos e abraços, meus amigos. kissy

I’m baaaccckkk!

So, it has been quite some time since I re-started the blog, but here is my first post! I arrived in Lisbon May 31st, and the first couple of weeks I met with my research mentor and worked on an introductory PowerPoint for the new UMass summer cohort. Therefore, not much time for blogging!

It is so wonderful to be back. I will tell you about my roommate, research mentor, school and room in another post. I am looking forward to next week where I will be meeting with a development agency in Lisbon that interacts with former Portuguese colonies (my current research topic!)

I have missed Portugal too too much. I miss the culture here when I am away. For instance, the other day I was at a cafe and this woman started reading another woman’s journal over her shoulder, and the one with the journal happily gave it away after asking if she wanted it. Everyone is in everyone else’s business; the whole country is arguably just one huge, friendly and happy family! However the climate is different right now. Both meteorologically and societally. It is one of the coldest summers in history, since the 1800s if I am not mistaken. Hope here is also dwindling, and some of the Portuguese fire I used to love so much is now lost. People are making minimum salaries that aren’t enough to pay for rent or even groceries. They are so concerned with making ends meet that they don’t even have time to protest against the government! The metro will be on strike sometimes or other services. Last summer, I dealt with a trash strike for two weeks- P.U.! Here is a snapshot of what the country looks like at the moment:

“In Portugal today practically 1 million people are unemployed. Of those 60% are long-term unemployed. 55% receive no unemployment subsidy. 45% of young women (aged 18 to 24?) are unemployed, the respective figure for young men is 40%. Many young people are now emigrating… The demographic pyramid (inversion) continues to get worse. These and other depressing data are in the Publico newspaper today. More than 2 million retirees, many of whom live alone, live on a pension which is less than the national minimum wage (about €470 a month). The mean income of Portuguese families has suffered tremendously, and large numbers of families have more than one unemployed person within them. If we include those who are off of the official unemployment rolls because they have been unemployed for too long, the real unemployment figure is probably about 1.2 million, even higher than the official unemployment rate of 18%… It’s a deeply unsettling picture of the price of austerity here in Portugal.”

Here is an article link on what’s going on as well: http://mobile.nytimes.com/blogs/krugman/2013/05/27/nightmare-in-portugal/

Nevertheless, I intend to make the best out of what is going on. The country is still as beautiful as ever and the food is also how I remember it! (I made the mistake of shopping on an empty stomach my first day here- not the prettiest grocery bill but what can I say!)

There is a lot of fun stuff ahead such as the Festas de Lisboa tonight celebrating St. Anthony. I, along with the new UMass cohort, will be watching the parades on the Avenida de Liberdade and then trekking up to Alfama for some sardines and beer! (Not a beer person, I’ll be going more for the sardines!) I will try to attend many festas and musical festivals this summer as well. I already found a great site listing many of them: http://www.festivaisverao.com/Festivais-2013/index.html not to mention many Facebook pages I subscribe to like: https://www.facebook.com/LISBOALive.PT or https://www.facebook.com/AllyouneedisPORTUGAL?fref=ts. Also, I will be meeting a creator of Portuguese Azulejo jewelry very soon. I am obsessed with her stuff! Check it out here: https://www.facebook.com/o.Atrio

I am excited to be in Europe at such a crucial time. Signs everywhere are advertising the Ano Europeu dos Cidadãos 2013 (Year of the Citizens) and telling people to participate in the debate! http://europa.eu/citizens-2013/pt/home

I didn’t make this blog to talk about a vacation spot I like. At this point, I have been in Portugal 3 summers in a row for 3 months or 1/4 of a year. It has become a partial home for me during the year so it hurts to see so much pain and suffering going on here. But it still has the same amount of love as when I leave. They say that there is nothing like coming home to a place where nothing has changed to see how much you have. It has been interesting to return to my beloved country every year and see it through fresh eyes. Hopefully this blog has allowed you to see some of the passion I have for this wonderful place. Here’s to the next post! (Don’t miss one on Portuguese universities coming this week!)

 

As always,

Beijos e abraços, meus amigos. kissy

 

P.S. I saw a funny item on a McDonald’s menu I passed yesterday at the mall. The McBifana. LOL

P.P.S. A Bifana (or Prego) is a traditional Portuguese sandwich and popular snack that consists of a small beef or pork steak in a roll, often served at beer halls with a large mug of beer.

Summer 2013

So I am INCREDIBLY excited for my upcoming summer adventure! I am taking my research project on colonial missionary education to Portugal! I will be a researcher at the Instituto Superior de Economia e Gestão working with a professor who wrote one of the books I used for my project! Ahhhh! Can you imagine anything more magnificent?

In the meantime, here is a snapshot of my first conference presentation of my research:

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Get excited because this summer I am bringing this blog back and making it better than ever! I plan on traveling to more places, trying new foods and updating you on the political climate of Portugal as it continues to struggle with the economic crisis. Furthermore, I plan on attending a whole BUNCH of music festivals and I will have some pretty cool stories to share from those.

(Side note: I forgot to put this in last summer’s blogs, but I got to see Martin Solveig and AVICII in concert at the Nova Era Beach Party! It was super fun and crazy… I almost got squished to death trying to get on the bus back home, I stood & danced for 12 STRAIGHT HOURS and was about 300 feet away from the performers! Woo! Here is a picture ☟)

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(Second side note: If you have never done a study abroad before, you should definitely visit PORTUGAL with UMass Dartmouth! Their summer program is AMAZING and very cost effective! I had the best time of my life last summer [check out my previous blogs] and you can too! It is too late to apply for this summer, but you should check it out for the future!)

https://umassd-horizons.symplicity.com/index.php?s=programs&mode=form&id=becdef111b439b8d803d41a74ad952bd&au=&ck=

(Third and final side note: I am currently heading a project/campaign to bring more youths to Portugal! If you are a young Portuguese-American or a person of Portuguese descent living in the U.S., check out some of the great organizations we have in the U.S. (PALCUS, NOPA, etc.) that are looking to help increase interest in returning to Portugal and that provide a lot of great tools for young folks! For any questions about anything on this blog or opportunities you may benefit from, email me at marielena.dias@hotmail.com)

See ya’ll real soon!

Beijos e abraços, meus amigos. kissy

Research Abstract

For those still following my work, I have finalized my thesis topic and my research abstract for the project I intend to work on in Portugal when I return!

Here is is:

Abstract:

This study aims to examine the effects of adopting the euro and undergoing the euro zone crisis on Portugal’s identity in a national and supranational context. Identity, for the purpose of this study, is comprised of how members of a state identify with or support their national political regime along with the supranational political regime they belong to. Identity also includes how connected members of a state feel to one another within their state and states part of the larger, supranational political regime. The study measures the impact the crisis has on the balance of how Portuguese citizens identify themselves – at the supranational or national level. It measures the impact through the following variables: (a) pride in being Portuguese, (b) pride in being European, (c) satisfaction with national political regime, (d) satisfaction with EU membership or larger European political regime. Finally, it draws its roots from the work of Michael Baum and Miguel Glatzer in their piece “Incomplete Modernity or Typically Modern? Portuguese National Identity in an Era of Rapid Transition” for their overview of Portuguese national identity in four distinctive periods – the late nineteenth century, the First Republic, the Salazar dictatorship, and the current democratic regime. The historical overview of how Portuguese identity evolved before the period of the study sets the precedent for the subsequent study and allows the impact of the euro crisis to be examined within a broader context of time.

My contact information can be found on this blog. Any resources or ideas that can be contributed are appreciated! Or if you would like to see my LinkedIn and keep up with my work, click here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/marielenadias

 

Thought I would also share a nice article I read about Lisbon: Enjoy!

http://www.lisbonlux.com/magazine/10-reasons-why-you-want-to-live-and-invest-in-lisbon/

 

Beijos e abraços, meus amigos. kissy

Ƹ̴Ӂ̴Ʒ Farewell post… final adventures and goodbye to the summer! ☼

I am so sad to be writing this final post! I flew back to the U.S. two days ago and I am prepared for another absolutely fantastic, fun-filled (yet stressful) year!

I had my “festa de despedida” or “goodbye party” on August 11th at midnight, two days before I left. It was in my small hometown at my aunt’s house. She has this cozy little summer kitchen under the stone steps leading to her house with a traditional wood oven in it that she uses to make bread every Saturday before making her weekly sardine feast for the family.

Just as I did the last time I visited Portugal, I made s’mores for my friends! In the picture on the left, I have a glimpse of some of the desserts and treats we devoured that night. We had a really sweet orange soda I like in Portugal- Sumol. They have Sumol in the U.S. for anyone who wants to try the orange or pineapple flavor. I had baked a delicious chocolate cake drizzled in chocolate sauce and bought some candies (Smarties- they are like Portuguese M&Ms) and nuts. I don’t know if you can see the little tray of cookies I had picked up at the store- they were graham cookies with attached pieces of chocolate… perfect to make s’mores! Marshmallows in Portugal are called “gomas” or “gummies” and they change to a grayish color when burned which is quite odd. Other than that, the s’mores actually turned out to be very tasty. 🙂

I love making American treats or sharing my Americanisms with my Portuguese friends and family. When you live in a country for so long, you forget the little unique aspects of your culture. Being among international students or friends, you realize the characteristics of your culture that are typically taken for granted and you begin to appreciate them in a new light. In fact, this was one of the main reasons why I enjoyed my time in the group NaviGATORS at the University of Florida this past spring semester. For those of you Gators unfamiliar with the NaviGATORS group, it’s basically a chance for you to be paired up with an international student to help them assimilate to American culture for whatever semester they are visiting. Here is the group website: http://navigatorsintl.com/. I am looking forward to another great year with NaviGATORS- especially now that I am back after an exciting summer in Europe!

This summer was truly interesting. Not only did I have the chance to share my American culture with new Portuguese friends through nights like the s’mores night or through the July 4 celebration I took part in with my friends from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth program, but I also realized the unique aspects of my Portuguese culture when my best friend from America paid me a visit.

I have been meaning to tell you about the beach visits/weekend I had with my best friend in Portugal. It was her first time in Portugal or Europe and she loved it! We visited the beaches of Carcavelos, Estoril and Cascais.

Visiting the beaches is a popular thing for Lisbon city dwellers or visitors in the summertime. It is so easy to reach any of the beaches from the main train/metro/bus/ferry area of Cais do Sodre in Lisbon. You simply take the metro to Cais do Sodre for 2,50€ and then from there you get on the train round trip for about 4,50€ and you get off at whatever beach you like. The train goes all the way to Cascais, the last beach… but it stops at the Carcavelos and Estoril beaches. See the map below:

Personally, my favorite beaches were in Cascais and Carcavelos, but Estoril was nice too. If you look at the map, there is a road called the “Avenida Marginal” or “Av. Marginal” that goes from Cais do Sodre all the way through the area of Belem (remember the Portuguese White House and Pasteis de Belem area I visited), the beaches, the train areas, the Lisbon docks, etc. My best friend and I had the opportunity of driving down this entire road. I cannot even begin to describe to you how many gorgeous buildings line this avenue. We went through beachy/touristy areas, rich areas with huge shopping malls full of pricey department stores, passed mansions and futuristic looking apartment buildings, drove by a huge casino and always had a picturesque view of the ocean. See the top middle picture.

In the top left picture, we are standing on the golden sands of Carcavelos beach. The top right picture was taken when we were driving along the Avenida Marginal… we saw a beautiful lookout spot and took a picture! One really great place we visited when driving near Cascais was “Boca do Inferno” or “Mouth of Hell” (bottom middle picture). It is a deep abyss that has crashing waves and a little bridge you can walk on to stand over the water and look down. The place is now a tourist area (middle long picture) with little cafes with red roofs and whitewashed stairs leading to different overlook areas of the abyss. There was a huge section of tents with souvenirs that we spent hours in (bottom left picture). Later, we drove near Estoril (bottom right picture) before spending the rest of the weekend suntanning in Carcavelos and eating juicy strawberries from a vendor we met at the beach.

One fun and simple feature of Portuguese student life I got to share with her was going to the grocery store and picking up our dinner. I know it sounds like something you might do in America, and I don’t know how to explain the difference between what we do in Portugal and the U.S. but a lot of my friends and I like to pick up dinner at the grocery store after going out all day or hanging out at the beach for the afternoon. On this day, my best friend and I were with another friend of mine from Lisbon and we picked up a ready-made roasted chicken from the supermarket along with the usual side items from the aisles- toast crackers, chips, fruit, soda, and a dessert. We then sat outside of the supermarket at a table in the shopping mall and had dinner. It’s not like in the U.S. where you go eat at Wendy’s or somewhere relatively inexpensive… near the beaches it’s almost impossible to find a cost friendly place to eat. To conclude, there were other fun parts to Portuguese culture that I got to share with her and it made me appreciate my heritage that much more. 🙂 This is why I love traveling and meeting new cultures so much, it adds flavor to life!

Going on, I also want to share my last big adventure in Portugal before leaving. I spent a weekend in a town called Leiria- it is known for it’s roasted piglets or leitões. During my time in Leiria, I visited the Castelo de Leiria, Batalha Monastery, Alcobaca Monastery, beaches of Nazare and went to the festas of Leiria. I mentioned the festas once before, where each town holds a week of celebration for one particular saint or religious figure. Large Portuguese communities in the U.S. also host their own versions of the festas- here is an upcoming one in Fall River, MA: http://portuguese-american-journal.com/grandes-festas-26th-holy-ghost-festival-of-new-england-fall-river-ma/. I ended my mini-vacation visiting friends in Lisbon, riding another couple of Lisbon sightseeing buses and going to the wonderful village of SINTRA!!!! 😀

The top picture is of the beach at Nazare. The top picture on the right hand side is a fountain at the Alcobaca Monastery. The bottom picture on the right hand side is in front of the Batalha Monastery. We visited the old dormitory for the young men and the military history museum inside the monastery. Also inside was a lit torch over a tomb of an unknown soldier to honor those who have died in battle. The bottom middle picture is the outside of the Alcobaca Monastery. Alcobaca is known for its glass blowing, so there were beautiful windows, lamps and glass figures everywhere around the monastery. The bottom left picture is of me at the Castelo de Leiria. The photo above it is also at the Nazare beach. The center photo is me running through the fields where the religious procession took place in Leiria during the festas. The townspeople had used painted wood chips and fresh flowers everywhere to make the streets look so ornate! To the left of the picture is a picture of the saint being honored in the festas on a pedestal. The final picture is that of a house- one of Figo’s vacation homes! I’m not sure if you are familiar with the famous (now retired) soccer player, but it turns out that he has a vacation home in Leiria!

Sintra was my favorite part of my mini vacation.

Sintra is known for a few things: its nature trails and winding paths through the parks and trees, the old city center with the two towers (see panoramic shot), its walkways through the village area where artists and budding fashionistas display their crafts, the cute and unique items you can buy walking along the main road (I met a man who sold mini versions of his photography- he liked to photograph cityscapes reflected in puddles, lakes or other bodies of water. I bought my mother a handmade mother of pearl jewelry set that was individually carved out of a larger piece that had designs chewed into it from sea creatures.), the home of Lord Byron (bottom left picture), the view of a larger fort overlooking Sintra (bottom picture 2nd from the left), its city hall (bottom 2nd from the right), and a well known pastry.

The pastries are called Travesseiros da Sintra from the Casa Piriquita bakery. They have a filling made with pumpkin, squash, egg yolks, and other spices. They were scrumptious! The queijadas de leite or mini-cheesecakes are also well known in Sintra. I spent a glorious afternoon walking around the small, quaint, quiet town of Sintra.

Time for the sad part…

All things eventually come to an end, and I am really sad to have left Portugal. It was a magnificent summer full of enchanting sights, travel, adventures, fun, friends, family, delicious foods, work, studying, learning, fado, history, culture and more.

Studying abroad is such a worthwhile experience. I read this intriguing article recently on how my generation is the “global generation” (http://www.npr.org/2012/07/10/156463825/globals-generation-focuses-on-experience) and it is so true! Being a member of a larger, global community is such an incredible feeling! You learn so much about yourself and come to appreciate your culture (and possibly heritage) in ways unimaginable. Furthermore, my study abroad experience shaped my future research project by allowing me to immerse in the environment of my project.

One thing is for certain. No matter where I go in this world, I will always be a GATOR!

LONG LIVE THE GATOR NATION!

Beijos e abraços, meus amigos. kissy Hope you enjoyed my blog! Good luck to everyone starting a new school year this semester!

P.S. If you want to try some of the Portuguese delicacies I ate this summer, there is a NPR post I found with recipes for traditional Portuguese meals: http://www.npr.org/2012/08/14/158775530/travel-the-world-through-portuguese-cooking

& here is a great article I came across as well: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/travel/article-2177333/Portugal-city-breaks-Lively-Lisbon-Europes-capital-romance.html?ito=feeds-newsxml

For those of you wanting to see more opportunities to study or participate in Portuguese student life, a group I am a member of- PALCUS (the Portuguese American Leadership Council to the U.S.)- recently partnered with MultiWay to provide student exchange opportunities. (http://www.multiway.org/) MultiWay is an organization that helps students achieve their goal of studying abroad. Through this partnership, Portuguese-American high school and college students now have the opportunity to spend a year in Portugal going to school and living with a host family. Students from Portugal also now have an opportunity to study and live in the United States with an American host family. If you are interested in hosting a student, please browse the profiles below and contact MultiWay directly by sending an email to multiway@multiway.org.

Finally, if you want to join the fun with a UMass yearly or semester program, check out this FANTASTIC scholarship opportunity: http://www1.umassd.edu/communications/articles/showarticles.cfm?a_key=2985