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!)
Beijos e abraços, meus amigos.
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.