When I first arrived, my intent was only to enjoy a week of vacation, the first real one in nearly a decade. At the time I was living in Germany, where I had been since 1999 and where I expected to remain until my spare parts were harvested by the organ banks. Although I have nearly a 40 year history of close contact with the German language, come from a family of predominantly German heritage and always preferred to speak German at home in the US, and many of my friends in Germany are among the best people I am privileged to know, I never felt at home in the culture there, particularly away from the university environments. Many are concerned today about PEGIDA and other anti-social movements, but as one who usually flew under the cultural radar and passed for German, I find none of this new or surprising. So many things there which are accepted as normal, like the constant police guard on every synagogue, simply do not feel normal to me, and I could never stop taking it personally when imperfect strangers would try to engage me in conversations about how foreigners were ruining the country. Of course, such ugliness is not a majority characteristic there or in my country of origin, the US, but the minority is large and assertive enough in both countries that I prefer to live with a bit more tolerant quiet and hope for pleasant visits from like-minded German and American friends.
I used to think of Portugal as The End of the Earth, a place so far removed from the centers of activity that it was unlikely I would ever visit. Certainly, when I did decide to spend a little quiet time here looking at megaliths and old churches, and a friend spent some 9 hours and 5 bottles of wine trying to convince me not to visit this place where he believed the people were in a deep state of depression over the bad economy and the loss of their colonies (!!!), I did not expect Portugal to be The Journey's End. The sort of place where, after wandering too long on stony paths, you can put your feet up by a fire, like the one behind my office desk, and know you are at home.
|Some like it hot!|
|Quinta Branca do Quartel ao Louredo|
It's been 16 years since I've lived on a farm, and it's slow going to figure out how to do what I want to with the land when the conditions are so different from what I knew before and I struggle to find the right words for conversations with neighbors about chickens and manure. Most of my attempts at a vegetable garden so far have been greeted with enthusiasm by legions of snails, who may someday adorn my dinner plate as penance for their voracious crimes. I've taken only a few random, neglected fruits from the land so far; a lot of careful thought and rehabilitation will be required, but this is a welcome break from the daily challenges of German translation, technology consulting and teaching for clients and colleagues at the other ends of the Earth. However, I was fortunate to find guidance for what to do with the crop of the dozen olive trees scattered about my six acres:
|Home-cured olives and Alentejan white bread to fuel the next memoQ tutorial|
Life here is good, but unpredictable, even less predictable than the changing tides of translation in the past half decade. But where the general environment is a healthy one and the culture is tolerant, friendly and mostly flexible, unpredictability often means nice, or at least amusing surprises. When I wake each morning, I am not certain what to expect from the day aside from my usual work routine. Most days are uneventful - a visit by the husky bitch from a neighboring farm, who plays with my dog and hopes for a handout, a few pleasantries exchanged with neighbors about potatoes or rain, um galão at the taberna, conversations with my dog to convince him that the neighbor's sheep are not to be hunted - the usual. But anything could happen, and I always look forward to that here.