My word of the day is laranja, which is the Portuguese word for orange. It’s Monday, and the start of a long week, meaning, this week I began working at 08:00. It is a huge adjustment coming from almost two years of starting much later, but truth be told, I really don’t mind at all. It means being among people, getting out and about, and doing something very interesting. Not to mention the added bonus of sitting in an Uber with a chatty driver. Yes, I got lucky today and landed a fellow who was not only proud of being Portuguese, but proud of Portuguese hospitality. He regaled me with tales of his family that had gone abroad to work but landed in cold countries that affected the moods of the people who lived there. I agreed wholeheartedly and said that ever since arriving in Lisbon, I understand the Brazilian culture much better. When it comes to welcoming people from distant shores to their land, nothing quite measures up to Portugal, not even Rome.

When I got off at my stop the first thing that caught my eye was a pot of birds of paradise. My goodness did I stop and stare. The last time I saw such an abundant collection was in India. I can’t even recall seeing them in Thailand, although they were in almost every flower market. This instantly brought me back to my childhood in Kenya, because Mommy always had them in her garden, and seeing the flowers today was like receiving a little love note from here – not to mention that today is also my Lola Floring’s 116th birthday, so powerful messages all around from the venerable ancestors! There is something about this plant that grounds me, reminding me of my journey through many countries. So after a prolonged absence from my life, I was thrilled to see them again.

The day flew by and before I knew it I found myself at the bus stop on the way home. After my experience last Friday, I now have a new favourite route back to the hostel which begins with a row of orange trees. I will always associate Portugal with the scent of orange blossoms until the day I die.

There was something magical and mythical about standing under an old orange tree in full bloom, and my mind conjured up images of dimly lit rooms, candlelight, wine, grilled fish, and the soulful music of the fado. (Bettina, this one is for you!)

There is large mounted poster in my room that intrigued me from the very beginning. When I first saw it I promised myself that I would one day translate it on my own. Well, that day has come and I combine it with this blog entry because of the fado.

Four whitewashed walls,
The scent of rosemary,
a bunch of golden grapes,
Two roses in a garden,
A mosaic of St. Joseph
Plus the spring sun,
A promise of kisses
Of arms waiting for me
And a Portuguese house for sure!
And for sure,
a Portuguese house!
– Amalia*

Amalia Rodrigues was a legendary fado singer in Portugal, also known as the Queen of Fado. (sorry, the wikipedia page does not have an English version). It may be a bit arrogant on my part, but there is something fitting about the queen watching over the diva isn’t it?

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