Hello, dear abandoned readers. I think I’m going to take advantage of this perfectly beautiful morning to go for a little stroll around the city, but I thought I’d say “hello” first.
Yesterday, I zombie walked at 4:30 am from my house to Plaça Catalunya. It took 21 minutes. I hopped on the VERY packed Aerobus, checked in with no line at the airport (I wanted to get there early since they said I couldn’t do my check in online, which to me, smelled like over-booking), and then grabbed a coffee. Then, it sunk in: I’m going to Portugal, for a conference, NBD. I’ve booked my hostel. I’ve written down how to get there. I know how to do this. It’s funny to think that I am suddenly…sort of…an adult. It seems like not that long ago that my parents were calling to make appointments for me at the pediatrician’s office or signing my homework. Pinch me! (or bring me chocolate? Either one would bring me back to reality.)
(Brief aside: they’re playing Maria Gadú right now in the breakfast/bar room right now. Holy cow. She’s my favorite)
In other news, conferences can be more or less social. I’ve been to one that felt big and impersonal, one that felt small and impersonal, and you know, this one is like the conference equivalent of the bowl of porridge Goldilocks finally decides on: just right. The people have been very nice…mostly a mix of Spanish and Portuguese speakers (still haven’t met another native English-speaker). When one of the guys was speaking Portuguese yesterday, I thought, “I understand almost all of it!” And then I realized he was a Spaniard…most likely speaking portunhol…which is why I could understand him. I met a young woman from the Canary Islands and we ducked out of the first session (all Portuguese) together and walked around, chatting up and down the hilly streets of Lisbon, and even ended up having lunch together at what Rick Steves’ would call a “work-a-day,” authentic local lunch spot (90% of the tables were full of locals).
Later in the evening, I went back to the conference locale, (a convenient 5 minute walk from my hostel…didn’t even do that on purpose!), I got a-chattin’ with another group of Spaniards (from Murcia) and it was like we had known each other for more than the 5 minutes we actually had. We got free entrance to the important, but disturbing, Museo Aljube and got to read up on the Portuguese dictatorship + political prisons. (Let’s put it lightly: This was not a high point in history.) As we were walking around, one of the girls told me, “You speak really well. You have no accent”….at which point her friend coughed a bit and said “Hombre!” (as if to say, “Okay, be nice, but don’t exaggerate.” Ha. So, jury’s still out on my Spanish among the Spaniards.
In the evening, I opted for the home cooked dinner at the hostel. Over Portuguese [boxed] wine and feijoada, we all got to cycle through the typical hostel conversations (where are you from/why are you here/what other countries are you visiting?) and some less typical ones (surrounding the “Thug Kitchen” cookbook, laser beams, etc.) Though I won’t do this dinner every night (because you have to pay cash and I’d rather swipe in Europe where cash costs me extra), it was a really nice way to dine in company. Plus, the walk home was just two flights of stairs.
A few snaps from day one:
Feel the Atlantic breeze through your BVDs.
I’m a sucker for blue tiles!
Sharing a plate of Portuguese cozido and a pastel de bacalhau with K., my new conference amiga, for lunch. Sum total, per person: 6.35€.
The gorgeous evening view from the Fundaçao Saramago. (Make me want to read his novel “Essay on blindess” again!)
I’m giving my talk today and feeling far less mediocre about it than this point in time a week ago (thanks to a handy second pair of eyes on it! Gracias, A.!)