One of the hardest pieces of my day is resisting the urge to run downstairs to the bakery and get something delicious. I am trying to lose the weight I gained during COVID lockdown (and pre-lockdown, to be honest) and the bakery is not helping. It sits there, like a spider in a web, just waiting for me to wander in…
Ah, the dangers of Portugal! Too many good pastries available on every corner. At some point, I will have gathered up enough pictures and tried enough different pastries to write an entire post on them. For now, know that your sweet tooth will be well satisfied here.
Articles on the expat life focus on all the benefits, all the good things and fun stuff. You might think from reading glossy magazines on international life that we spend our days eating in quaint, out-of-the-way and incredibly inexpensive restaurants, drinking bottles of amazingly good wine from family wineries, and exploring castles. (Well, I was hanging out at a castle on Saturday…)
But there are frustrations and setbacks that come with the life—things you need to adjust to and very little immediate gratification. My test run with Amazon Spain let me know that I will not be able to order something and have it show up at my door the next day. (At least not until I meet my postal person and introduce myself.)
This past weekend and yesterday I did a lot more walking than I wanted to. I suspect that my Portugal phone needed “topping off.” It’s a pay-as-you-go type phone and I get a certain number of talk and data minutes for ten or twenty Euros. I hadn’t topped it off for a while because I was still getting WhatsApp messages, never thinking it was running off the wifi in my apartment.
So, when I couldn’t get the Uber app to work Saturday night when I arrived at the local train station, I thought it might be a signal problem and hiked it into town. (I was already at 17,000 steps for the day.) And I did somehow get signal long enough to start the Uber process, but my GPS put me in the wrong place and the driver couldn’t find me. I finally flagged down a taxi to get my sore and tired ass home.
Yesterday was a bit of a repeat from Saturday. Uber to the mall and then I couldn’t get an Uber back. I hiked over to the train station with my bag of groceries where I knew I would find a taxi during the day. Basically, I walked halfway home. Many, many steps. (You’d think I would be thin by now.)
I topped off my phone and I’ll set a reminder to do it monthly. Since then, I figured out that sometimes I just need to restart my phone to get the data plan working. But I still top off my phone minutes if I’m going anywhere, even if it’s just into town. I will NOT be Ubering far without knowing this. My feet are sore.
And so it is with most things here. It’s a matter of learning how things work and testing various methods and seeing what happens.
- I have wifi. It’s not as strong as I need it to be and so, I will have to try something else out.
- Electricity is included in my rent. Apparently you “order” a certain amount of electricity each month based on your usage. I might need to pay more than €50 a month. I may not. I’ll find out.
- I have yet to receive delivered mail here. I need to go and mail something to myself to see if CTT (the post office) knows I’m here and how that all works.
- Eventually, I will exchange my US license for a Portuguese license. I already know it’s a process. I expect it to be. The same with lining up my (better) health insurance, perhaps buying or leasing a car, figuring out how to report my income and pay taxes here.
But it all gets figured out. The expat groups on Facebook are a wealth of information. One in particular (Americans and Friends Portugal) has well-organized files on just about every part of the process, from applying for your visa to where to find furniture to Portuguese road traffic signs. They are awesome.
So yes, there are frustrations and a learning curve to the expat life. There are frustrations to life back in the US. Life is a continuous learning curve. (“Well, we won’t do THAT again!”)
But you know what I like? (Besides the pastries…)
I like that my brain has to work a bit harder here. I imagine I am building new neuro pathways as I attempt to learn the language. I have to figure something out almost every day. There’s a lot to be said for living in your comfort zone. I mean, hey, it’s a COMFORT zone. I get it. But there’s also a point where comfort is stagnation. For many people, that’s okay. But I’ve always been that kid who wanted to see what was going on outside of wherever I am.
There’s so much stuff in this world. So many things to learn. And so much fun to be had. A few blisters on my toes are a small price to pay.