My third week in Lisbon and my head is spinning from everything that is going on. Yesterday I had a major learning curve in terms of inculturation here in Portugal, and it had everything to do with opening a local bank account. Oh boy, what that an experience! I´ve been through some pretty harrowing experiences in my life in terms of banking, ranging from having to submit “proof of relationship” (for a joint account with a spouse) to having to provide documentation for my maiden name. I honestly thought the days of explaining and and justifying my middle name were long over, but it reared its ugly head back in 2019 when I became a German citizen, and yesterday.
Portugal may be a pretty acommodating country in many ways, with its charming hospitality and flair variety in every walk of life, but when it comes to legal procedure, it can be very nitpicky. Now there´s a word I haven´t used in a long time! I keep forgetting I am in the Iberian Peninsula now, and as such, all legal names contain the maiden name or mother´s last name. I dropped the maiden name when I got married in Germany back in 1993 and never needed it until I filed for a driver´s license and bank account in the Philippines. I had to scramble for all the documentation back then and found it strange to see both my last names on my documents. Almost 20 years later, here I am again. Everything I´ve filed for here mandated my maiden name, so I am back to carrying the double name again. Strange but true, although this time all my German documents carry the double name now, so it´s less convoluted.
It took me two hours, yes, TWO hours to open an account yesterday. I was under the mistaken impression that I could quickly run over during my lunch break, take care of business and then run back. I couldn´t have been more wrong. First there were the required documents I had to hand in, then there was the arduously long process, and then came all the signatures. OK, everything was digital, and in the end my email inbox was flooded with documents, but still, it felt as though I was mortgaging a house and all my worldly belongings. The icing on the cake was when I tried to activate the account and deposit the required initial amount – the machine rejected my money because it was too full already. So I have to trudge back today and hope it doesn´t take me an entire hour to deposit. Geez.
It is the Indian festival of colours today, or Holi, and as always, I am very nostalgic about it, wishing I could celebrate it back in Delhi again. My daughter was born during this festival and I will forever associate the two events and celebrate the wonderful expression of colour in my life. For the past five years I was stuck in a box of predominantly blacks, greys, dark blues, browns, – all very somber and subdued tones. Now life seems as though I was yanked out of this dull box of prolonged existential crisis and catapulted into an open market of scintillating colours and I don´t know where to start looking.
It is truly a pity that my first weeks in Portugal have been marked by rain and more recently, the clay rain, a peculiar phenomenon that prevailed over the Iberian Peninsula the past days. Basically it is when sand from the Sahara blows over into the peninsula and creates a strange dark effect as though we were in the solar eclipse of the millenium. As a photographer I described it to my daughter as being in a constant state of sepia.
My life has changed so much in the past three weeks, and it is no wonder that my brain is stuggling to keep up with my feet. But I can´t slow down, as all these milestones have to be reached before the end of the month in order for the rest of the journey to run smoothly. I face the healthcare system and tax advisor next week, so that should be another interesting adventure… boring life? I couldn´t give you a working definition at the moment, even under duress. However, I can confirm that in spite of the rain, the spirit of colours that celebrate life, or rather, the renewed covenant of life, is alive and kicking in an around me.