Another Week, Another Public Holiday?!

At least it isn’t another strike! The last country I lived in with an inordinate amount of public holidays was India, and I already questioned the wisdom of that back then. I am discovering that the Portuguese bank holidays would give India a run for their money any day. If it is not a public transportation strike that re-routes me through the city, it is a damn bank holiday with staggered train schedules. I’ve learned to plan accordingly, and have figured out the least obnoxious route to and from work on such days, but it doesn’t make things any easier. Oh well, that’s the way the cookie crumbles, oh sorry, this is Portugal, so it is the pasteis

Summers in Europe are when you begin to see a lot of skin again. Now, I am definitely no prude, but I do question some people’s fashion choices, especially when going to work. I suppose it depends on the employer and the dress code, and I am all for liberal and relaxed dress codes that allow jeans, t-shirts and bermudas, but I draw the line at cut-off jeans that show part of the butt cheeks.

As I sit at the cafe this morning, there is a table outside occupied by five people. I’ve seen them before, but it wasn’t summer quite yet, so everyone was bundled up in coats. Today, however, I had to stop myself from staring aghast. One woman is wearing slacks, a matching blazer, and a bra, nothing else. I looked twice to check whether I had perhaps mistaken the “top” for a bustier, but no, it was a regular bra. Her companion is wearting a trench coat over lycra cycling shorts that end two inches above the hem of the trench coat, and there is no top to be seen or hinted at. The third woman is struggling to keep her dress below her butt.

You are probably asking how I managed to pick up so many details on their attire, well the have been taking turns placing orders at the counter. First it was a second (third, perhaps) round of pingados, then it was another round of pigs in a blanket (I don’t know the Portuguese name of these sausages wrapped in pastry), and then it was around of orange juice. GG is very busy – not to mention flustered – this morning, but he stopped everything when I walked in and prepared my cappuccino. I don’t even want to speculate what service branch this bunch works for, but it wouldn’t be that difficult.

The lively conversation reminds me of my lunch group at work. One of things I missed most during the pandemic was lunch break with the colleagues. I’ve always had trouble eating alone, and it is a very recent thing for me to summon up the courage to sit in a cafe or restaurant and eat alone. Some people have absolutely no trouble doing this, but I struggled with it for the longest time, feeling even lonelier. Now, several shades of maturity later, I don’t mind it and have learned to relax.

These days I am blessed with a lovely group that sits together and shoots the breeze in a valiant effort to shut work out for a few minutes. In the Philippine college culture this could have been referred to as a tambayan, or a hangout, since we tend to occupy the same table, and are basically the same group that converges each time. I can’t even begin to explain how much this means to me, to belong and to be part of a social group again. It is one thing to talk to people, but quite another of experience that wonderful sense of feeling at home, of having finally arrived. There is no awkwardness, no uncomfortable silence, and definitely no hesitation when it comes to comments, opinions, laughter and cursing. It almost feels like family.

The shot of the day is literally an odd duck. Every morning on my way to the station I meet this bird and a duck, who seem to be on patrol around the boat at the same time everyday. The little imprints in the sand were what I was after and reminded me of the classic Footprints in the Sand

One night I dreamed a dream.
As I was walking along the beach with my Lord.
Across the dark sky flashed scenes from my life.
For each scene, I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand,
One belonging to me and one to my Lord.

After the last scene of my life flashed before me,
I looked back at the footprints in the sand.
I noticed that at many times along the path of my life,
especially at the very lowest and saddest times,
there was only one set of footprints.

This really troubled me, so I asked the Lord about it.
“Lord, you said once I decided to follow you,
You’d walk with me all the way.
But I noticed that during the saddest and most troublesome times of my life,
there was only one set of footprints.
I don’t understand why, when I needed You the most, You would leave me.”

He whispered, “My precious child, I love you and will never leave you
Never, ever, during your trials and testings.
When you saw only one set of footprints,
It was then that I carried you.”

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