When The Strike Hits The Fan

The title will make more sense once you read my story…

Where do I even begin with this convoluted Portuguese – German – Filipino tale? I thought I had it all mapped out in my head, but now that I am tapping away at the keyboard, it really is a hyterical mess. As Julie Andrews sang so beautifully in The Sound of Music… Let’s start at the very beginning

Travel back in time to March 2022 with me, when I first openned my Portuguese bank account. I never received my debit cart from that event, neither did it arrive at my first hostel. It didn’t bother me too much because I had the app and the virtual card to do all my transactions. But after a while, just relying on the app even for cash withdrawals seemed too stupid. So I applied for a replacement card. Well guess what, since nobody bothered to call me and ask any pertinent questions, my new card has been sent to the default address on file, which is … wait for it…. Berlin. So sometime this week, my brand new debit card will make a totally pointless arrival in my old stomping ground. Hold that thought… so now I have the ridiculous situation of not being able to withdraw from my Portuguese account for lack of a card, but have to use my German debit card in the meantime.

Fast forward to Sunday when I pulled a muscle on my lower back while doing the laundry, just when my migraine was tappering off. So sleep that night was neither deep nor restful. Moving around in bed triggered excruciating pain and I just about gave up on sleep. I thought to myself, well this is what I get for having a relatively mild and harmless Friday the 13th last week. I wonder what Manic Monday will bring… sure enough.

Manic doesn’t begin to cover it. For starters, it was a miracle I even made it work because the train line that I take to and from Vila Franca went on 24-hour strike at midnight. Hells bells! I skip reading the news one blasted day and get caught unawares! Well they were compassionate enough have a skeletal fleet run the morning commute, before 95% of the employees of Comboios do Portugal pulled the brakes and effectively paralyzed their routes all over the country. Only selected long-distance trains ran, but most of the regional ones stopped.

The trains from the other companies still ran the regular schedules, but some of those routes were so over-crowded that it was pandemonium after 17:00. For once I was glad not to live on the other side of the river, or I would have had a panic attack.

I discovered the extent of the train shortage going my way when I headed to my platform to wait. And wait. And wait. After 90 minutes waiting, I was tired, cold and hungry, and decided this was not going to get me any closer to home and my bed. My usual back-up route was of no use either because the connecting trains I need also belong to the same company. I debated what to do for about ten minutes before heading back down to hunt for an ATM that takes international debit cards. Well that entailed a nice little walk out of the station and practically back to the office. Ommmmm. On the plus side, I am getting a lot of walking done these days!

So, armed with a few more Euros, I did the FrogDiva thing and headed back to the station but skirted around the building and marched over to the taxi stand. I got the next cab lined up, had a chat with the driver who had a good laugh with his colleagues when I told him where I was going. The others had dismissed me, pointing me to the fellow who ended being my driver, and when they all heard Vila Franca de Xira, they turned green with envy, knowing how much that ride would rake in. Smug as bug in the rug, I sighed with relief, happy to finally be heading home.

Much to my delight, the driver spoke a hilarious version of Portuñol and I had a chance to interview him during the long drive. A Brazilian who moved here eight years ago with his family and has been a taxi driver for the past four, the man was adorable as he was curious, the perfect taxi driver. It was a fair exchange of information, with him answering all of my questions and in turn he wanted to know more about Goa, the Philippines, and Macao, wondering how on earth the Philippines ended up being a Spanish colony and not Portuguese. At first he thought I was Venezuelan based on the accent of my Spanish. I’ve been mistaken for a lot of things over the years, but never a Venezuelan! and he was thoroughly amused to find out about my Mexican roots.

Long story short, it was a wonderful drive in a rickety old jalopy that shook, rattled and rolled along a pictureque highway. I had a blast and really didn’t mind arrriving in Vila Franca at 20:30. The coup de grace of the evening was a hysterical miscommunication resulting from both of us meaning well. He parked, stopped the meter and explained that he was giving me a discount for being a nice passenger and not charging the toll fees or for crossing the state lines. I countered by giving the man a generous tip for being a wonderful driver and paid the German way, handing over the cash and saying thank you, implying that he should keep the change, and got out. He hollered at me, waving my change in the air, and I explained again that it was his tip. He pulled his mask down, grinned broadly and shouted Viva las Filipinas! at the top of his voice.

The calm before the storm ©FrogDiva Photography

I tell you, humour goes a long way, and the willingness to enter into a genuine dialogue has never failed me, not even on Manic Mondays. My photo of the day was taken this morning, right before the shit hit the fan and I discovered the train chaos. So it is a celebration and a reminder to always keep cool despite the chaos that might ensue. Know where your place in the world is, and embrace it; treasure it.

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