De Insulares a Peninsulares

In Philippine history we learned all about the insulares, or people of the islands, as the Spanish colonial masters categorised the people of the Philippines. The Spaniards themselves were referred to as the peninsulares, i.e. coming from the peninsula which in this case referred to the Iberian peninsula. Portugal being at the outermost region of the Iberian peninsula is automatically included in this reference so it is curious that I have transcended from being an island dweller to a peninsula resident now, without really intending it. Funny how life works out and it makes we wonder whether this was what it was all about after all.

As far as first days go, today was intense. I barely got any sleep in the multi-occupancy room last night. When turned off my light, there were three of us in the room, but at some point there were two other people who crept in much later and occupied the beds, which was rather disconcerting. I got up before my alarm went off, wanting to grab one of the bathrooms before the rush hour, since I had all these first day jitters anyway somebodys stupid mobile kept buzzing the entire night. Then off I went to the office in a cab, not having the presence of mind to figure out the local bus system before infusing any coffee in my veins. The first shock of the day was the fare. The 20-minute ride from my hostel to the office would have easily cost me EUR 20-24 in Berlin. All the guidebooks said that cabs and Ubers are very affordable in Lisbon, but it only hit me this morning how affordable! I paid a grand total of EUR 11, and with the Uber that I took home in the evening, it was barely EUR 6, and I was taken on the scenic route at that. Holy guacamole!

The first day at the office went fine as far as orientations go. There is a lot of information to process, and the magnitude of my actual work is just beginning to sink in. The real training begins tomorrow, so that should be a real whomper as it is heavy on the technical side, but I knew that going in. Nevertheless, I like the corporate culture thus far, and this is indeed a place I can see myself feeling very much at home with on a medium and long term basis. It is such a relief to finally have some perspective. Conversing in several languages comes natural to everyone I met today, so it was very much like finding my herd for the first time.

In every city that I have lived in there has always been that one taxi driver that stood out, the one who goes out of the way to be more that just a driver, exudes charm, wit and incredible pride in his city, thereby putting in the effort to get to know the passenger and strike up a worthwhile conversation. After all, this is how the Taxi series in this blog came about. Lisbon bestowed the driver today, albeit he was the Uber driver. Phenomenal fellow with a great life story and marvelous sense of humour! We got along like a house on fire, conversing in a hilarious mix of Spanish and Portuguese, all the while making me feel as though I was back in Italy. So I am going on a photo tour this weekend to discover his Lisbon, far from the madding crowd and hit golden hour at the coast . Yup, this is definitely my city.

When I reached the hostel in the evening I discovered that my suitcases had been transfered to my new dwellings. Ah, my private room is finally mine, all mine. It was a joy to unpack my things and make the little space my own. It reminds me very much of the monks cell I stayed in during one of retreats in Tamil Nadu and I am revelling in the serenity of it all. Once my unpacking was done, I crossed the road again and visited the little minimart I discovered last night, and chatted up the storekeeper. It turns out he is Bangladeshi and he was delighted when I greeted and thanked him in Bangla. I ended up with four complimentary oranges just for that! I made my second friend of the day.

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