Monsoons Bring Unsettled Times to the Beco
Thirty-fourth Week of a New Life
As I prepared to move to Lisbon, I imagined my life here full of sunny days. It would be mild in the winter and pleasant in the summer. While for the most part that has been true, lately the weather has thrown me a curveball. Incessant rains have descended upon Portugal and dampened my mood along with them.
This unexpected weather has thrown me off balance. I don’t have proper shoes for wading through the rivers of water. A simple solution would be to buy rain boots but given that I hate shopping so much, global warming will put the coastal town of Lisbon under water before that happens. My quick-fix has been to carry a spare pair of shoes with me along with a change of clothes. Practical, right?
One day as I was working with my French doors shut tight against the rains, suddenly the skies cleared and the sun came out. I decided to make a break for my beloved Green Café. En route, the heavens opened up, deciding they were not done showering the city that day. These rains are the kinds against which umbrellas are a joke. I arrived at the café soaked and freezing. I immediately went into the bathroom and changed not only my shoes but into a new dress.
As I walked out of the bathroom ready for a nice lunch, I felt a bit of a draft as I passed in front of the two unfortunate guys working near the register. I reached back to find my dress tucked in my underwear. Poor guys. The weather has been enough to drown anyone’s spirit and now they have to get flashed on the job. Oh well it is a café. Within a few months they will likely be working somewhere new and I’ll be allowed back.
One day, the rains were giving us a break and the sun had been out most of the day. I took the opportunity to head over to the supermarket to grab some sandwich stuff for lunch. I was in such a good mood after finally seeing the sun for more than a brief tease, that I decided to avoid the walk home with my many bags, and catch one of the numerous buses nearby. There are so many that pass the train station where my market is located, that it’s a bit overwhelming to find the ones that will take me home. It’s only a 10-minute walk so I’ve been avoiding this particular challenge in my new life.
Today I was prepared to tackle the task! I consulted my local bus app, input my destination and chose the next one headed in my direction. My bus arrived and I climbed on with my numerous bags. As we headed away from the station, the driver made an unexpected turn and headed out of town and up the hill in the opposite direction of my home. This was not a neighborhood I was familiar with so I jumped off at the next stop as if the bus was on fire.
Fabulous. If I had just walked, I would be home by now eating a turkey sandwich. Instead, I headed to catch the same bus going in the opposite direction so I could get back to the train station. Of course one was just pulling away so I would have to wait for the next one.
As I sat my groceries on the sidewalk and took a seat on the curb, I drew the attention of a local lady. She came over and stood looking down on me. She started talking to me so I stood up, as if that would make me more fluent in Portuguese. All her motioning and chatting made me think I was in the wrong spot. I checked and double-checked to confirm that I was in the right spot for the bus.
She apologized a couple of times, apparently for my lack of understanding. Then I thought, maybe she’s hungry. I had all the fixings required for a turkey sandwich so perhaps I should break open the grocery bag and offer her lunch. I even had a nice yogurt for dessert. As I was considering that solution, people started assembling at the bus stop. I did not have enough to feed everyone so I abandoned that line of thinking.
As I was squirming under her gaze and nonstop Portuguese chatter, the bus pulled up and I jumped on. When we arrived back at the station, I walked home and made my turkey sandwich in a total of 14 minutes.
The Changing Tune of the Chain-Smoking Ginja Seller
When I first arrived on the beco, the chain smoking ginja seller, who is not the friendliest of locals, would not speak to me no matter how I tried. When I greeted her with a hearty “Bom dia!” she ignored me if she could. She’s not much nicer to her target customers to whom she simply shouts “Ginjinha!” as they pass, barely looking at them. One day, I had enough of her snubs and said, ever so slightly under my breath, “You might sell more of that if you were a touch nicer” and kept going, not even giving her a slight glance.
Lately, she is rarely seen as with the monsoon, her ginja sales have tanked. It’s hard to get tourists to stop at your table in the middle of a monsoon and do shots of your unknown cherry liquor even with the delightful addition of a chocolate cup from which to drink. When the weather finally cleared one day, the chain smoking ginja seller rushed to her corner, eager to make some sales.
As I was sitting at the top at my table with the French doors open, enjoying the long-awaited sunshine, I heard a delightful sound wafting up from Rua São Miguel below. I recognized the voice producing a happy, singsong “Ginjinha! Cherry Liquor!” OMG. The chain smoking ginja lady had flipped her script and was actually being friendly to passersby! Perhaps the change was based on a combination of my negative feedback and the need to boost sales. Now instead of shouting “GINJINHA!” at passing tourists, she greets them with a smile on her face and a song on her lips.
Sunshine in all forms is slowly returning to the Beco.