Returning “home” (Portugal #3)

My bosses at work were kind enough to allow me a couple of days off at the tail end of this week so that I could travel to visit a dear friend studying in Paris this summer. When I left on a plane, so many of which I hear day and night passing over the city, I thought that I would have new memories in baggage claim on my return. I didn’t expect to have a new sense of Lisbon as well. Paris was a beautiful city of gardens and cafes and window shopping, so much more relaxed and classical than I expected, given the glitz of the Eiffel tower and other famous Parisian fables. But it was also very stressful to navigate–the metro was crowded and confusing, pickpockets were everywhere, and the elementary French I’d memorized off of google translate was immediately picked up as false. I had a great time with my friend in the city, and managed to score a couple of books in English for some reading while I’m here. It was not without relief, though, that I returned to the Lisbon airport, seeing immediately a cafe with the local pastries, pastel de natas, and a sign for the exit, saidas, which I knew would take me to the blissfully familiar subway system. I was able to keep my phone openly in my pocket, not worrying that it would be grabbed and stolen. I didn’t have to ask directions (if I had, I would’ve been able to find the words to do so). My neighborhood was warm and quiet, much as I’d left it, but I’d now come to appreciate how much I valued the sort of quiet safety of Alvalade. When I texted my parents to say I’d gotten back to my apartment, I told them I’d come “home.” And then I realized that yes, Lisbon is now a home to me. I may not speak all of its language (just this morning my landlady and I broke out google translate to have a discussion about the rent), and I may struggle sometimes with its food or its maps, but I am fully living here–and after being a tourist in Paris for a few days, I’ve come to appreciate just what that means.

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