Revival & Celebration

Guess who’s back!

Ever since I started blogging in 2006, this is the first time I took an extended leave of absence, a much needed break to focus on things closer to the heart and home. Once upon a time I found myself churning out blog entries up to three times a day, and was under the delusion that daily blogs were a must.

No. They. Are. Not.

Not Anymore.

Where have I been and what have I been up to? Let me no count the ways nor bore you with insignificant trifles of recollections. Let’s skip all that shall we? Instead, I invite you to take a very special trip with me and look back to a place in time exactly 12 months ago. You see, today is my Portuversary, a word I have coined to mark my leap of faith one year ago, a fateful arrival in Portugal, not having the faintest idea what I was getting into, and trusting blindly in faith and the universe for leading me to a country I had never been to, had no support network, nor did I speak the language. I had absolutely no time to brush up on the history of Portugal, and the extent of my Portuguese was Obrigada and sim.

I arrived in the late afternoon of February 27, 2022 and found myself in front of an ancient hostel in the Graça district, my life and destiny packed into three red suitcases, and symbolically, no elevator. It was back-breaking work to get the luggage up to the second floor, only to discover that the single private room I had booked was not ready, and would not be ready until two days later. Horrified, I accepted the bed space in one of the common rooms that I ended up sharing with four other people, with only a sliding door between my bunk bed and the next one in the adjoining room. That evening, I found myself questioning my sanity more than once and thinking I was at least 20 years too old for hostel life. I was tired, frustrated, close to tears, and hungry, but it being Sunday evening, there was little choice left and I was in no mood to get lost in the dark in a place where I had no sense of direction or orientation. So I did the next best thing and crossed the road to the little Bangladeshi grocery store, and found bread, fruit and cookies. Ah, gourmet dinner!

The war in the Ukraine had just begun, and I remember standing in the tiny hostel kitchen embroiled in a conversation with the other guests and speaking in Spanish, English and Italian, thinking to myself, gosh, maybe this is why I had to start here, to revive that polyglot side of my brain and make it an active part of my life. That evening, while munching on oranges and bananas, I remember getting into a discussion with one of my roommates, a Hungarian photojournalist based in Spain on his way to Ukraine, and predicting that this whole mess would go away in a month’s time. In retrospect, I don’t I have ever been so off the mark with my political predictions as that evening. Then again, I don’t think anyone could have foreseen then how the situation would unravel and would remain unresolved one year later.

I stayed a month in that hostel, and came to terms with the daily commute to work that was highlighted every evening by the heady scent of orange blossoms when I alighted from the bus after work. But living in the hostel, where I had to trudge up a flight of stairs to use the bathroom, (and if Lady Luck was not on my side, wait in line for my turn), was not sustainable and was distinctly claustrophobic.

So it was that I moved to Vila Franca de Xira at the beginning of April and settled there for the next five months. I savoured the daily commute to work, except for the days when the trains went on strike, and there were many of those, but I slowly discovered the charm of small town life in Portugal, and was completely and irreversibly enchanted. However, this life in a shared flat where I never knew who I was going to run into in the kitchen of whether the bathrooms were free when I needed to use them, was not the ideal spot either. It was visually idyllic but since the building was located directly in front of the train tracks, the whole street shook, rattled and practically rolled every 20 minutes when the train passed by. This was surely a one-way ticket to madness!

I have been blessed in many ways here in Portugal, with the kindness and generosity of people whom I consider as my adopted Portuguese family. Strangers who became colleagues and evolved into friends and elected family, have been my source of strength and inspiration. Without them I would not have found my way through the past 12 months, nor found the wonderful home I live in now. So to all of you, Agradeço-vos do fundo do meu coração o amor e a amizade.

Initially I thought I might throw a huge party to celebrate this milestone, but then I realised that would go against the very fibre of who I have become and my current lifestyle. So I celebrated by going for a walk in my beloved Shire, and capturing what a friend in Berlin called, God’s message. I came home with a bouquet of wild daisies and then ventured into the garden to pick some lilies.

Twelve months after a leap of faith, I have found my peace and joy in the countryside, far away from the metropolitan areas. The Shire is my haven, and the Frobbit House my sanctuary. Even Cherry has settled in beautifully and has actually learned to socialise and be adventurous! I bake my own bread on Saturdays, have several jars of homemade jam in the pantry, and even churned out a carrot cake yesterday to mark the occasion! It has been a magical journey of revival and rediscovery, getting in touch with the essence of my authentic self, the core of my soul.

I am home.

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