Connecting with a New Country

I’ve been in Portugal for about 6 days now and while I settled into my accommodations immediately, it’s taken me a while to get a feel for the country itself.

Remote Year has us in student housing – aka a dorm community – which I am right at home with.  It’s bringing back lots of memories from Bucknell University, my alma mater.  My current room may contain less textbooks and cheap vodka than my 2005 freshman dorm, but it’s just as cozy, minimalistic, and private.  We have shared kitchens on each floor and a big kitchen, common area, and rooftop terrace on the 6th floor.  Being an extrovert, I gain energy from being around other people so I am particularly loving this set-up.

But Lisbon itself had me a little … wonky.  It’s not in-your-face beautiful like Valencia, but still has an allure and charm. We’re living and working north of the city center/downtown which has a bit more flavor, but it’s only a 20 minute trudge up and down hills to get there.  (I’m being sarcastic – walking is the way to go!  Work those glutes.)  I’ve had plenty of fun moments so far this week — watching the Euro 2016 win in a crowded plaza was incredible — but a lot of them had more to do with my RY family and less with our new home.  Minus the grandma at a local restaurant dancing around with a potted plant on her head.  That was all Portugal.

Anyway, I missed out on the Remote Year city orientation (attending a sweet wedding) which may explain a bit of my Lisbon acclimation difficulty, or maybe that’s just an excuse.  I spent most of my first weekend in Portugal sleeping (wake up at noon, get food, back to sleep)  or working random hours, and started to become a little worried that (A) I was sick, or (B) that I’d never find routine here.  Happily, I ended up with option (C) give yourself a break and adjust in your own way, Casey.

So that’s what I did.

I spent yesterday afternoon on the back of a scooter, winding around Sintra, driving past castles and along the coast with some adventurous friends.  Wind whipping, bright sun, crashing waves, accidental horn honks, and wet labyrinth tunnels got me appreciative of just being there.  No pressure to see every landmark, climb every castle or summit, or to eat in every restaurant or find the best cafe.  I’m not here as a tourist, after all.  I’m here to be a part of the local culture, to live and work and go out and see exactly what I want to see, nothing more and nothing less.

My To-Dos for the month:

  • Take a surf lesson (my high school short board skills are definitely gone)
  • Eat my weight in Pasteis de Nata, an egg custard pastry
  • Head to Porto this weekend
  • Spend more time downtown
  • Find lightweight pants for Morocco (next stop)

 

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Repacking the Suitcase

I went home at the start of July for a bomb wedding and had the opportunity to evaluate the possessions that will stay with me for the rest of my Remote Year journey – unless of course I lose it, break it, or share it.

What I Have Not Used So Far:

  • Sweater
  • Jackets
  • Cold weather clothing of any kind
  • Wedge heels (only wore twice)

What I Rely On:

  • Black maxi dress
  • All of my other shoes
  • Shorts
  • Jeans
  • Patterned tops

My theory in packing was to rely on neutral colors and styles for tops and bottoms.  This, as a theory, makes sense.  I’m wearing the same clothes every other week, so no need to stand out.  However, in practice this does not make me feel cute, attractive, stylish, or fun.  So I’ve swapped my gray, black, and white tops for things with a bit more flair to make me feel GOOD about what I’m wearing.  Because that’s what dressing is all about – to make you feel like a rockstar.

Plus, everyone on this trip is wearing the same clothes over and over.  It’s a non-judgemental group here with Remote Year Magellan, so there is absolutely no reason to be self-conscious about wearing my Oh My God Becky tank top every two weeks.

So, I went through every item in my suitcase (clothes, electronics, tchotchkes) and made hard and fast decisions while holding them a la “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up” (a great read by the way, if you’re into that sort of thing).  Other items I ditched included my iPad which I never used, the wedge heels, and my hair dryer, curling iron, and straightener.  For those last three, I realized I was wearing my hair wavy every day which is (1) easy, (2) quick, and (3) comfortable — it’s dang hot in a lot of the places I’m going and blasting my face with heat is about the last thing I want to do.  And I reasoned that if I were to ever want to do my hair differently, I have friends who share.

 
Side note: I’ve used both my spork AND my headlamp in Portugal. I’ll call that a win.

 

Pile of items left behind. Why did I think I would use a resistance band?!