Letting go in Lisbon

Letting go in Lisbon

The hilltop church bell rings 11 times, echoing throughout Lisbon's seven hills, bouncing off the red roof tiles that adorn pastel pink, yellow, and blue buildings. Breakfast is served until 10:30, but in true Portuguese fashion nothing is accomplished on time. My second cup of free drip coffee cools off quickly in the chilly but still comfortable November morning air. I sit in a black wicker chair on the guesthouse terrace, sharing social breathing room with three other travelers, one of whom is also writing.

A pigeon lands on the terrace, pecking at supposed crumbs that turn out to be wads of gum or specks of paint. She bravely propels herself through the French doors of chipped white paint, stretching her head toward the aroma of food, cat food, unbeknownst to her. But the cat has disappeared, having launched onto the brick-colored roof tiles of the building next door when the bells were only chiming 10 times.

Sounds of hammers, jackhammers, electric saws are faint, and a green metal crane swings through the air about a half-mile away, symbolic of an expanding and improving Portuguese capital.

I try to remove myself from my constant at least once a month, or every other month, allowing myself to become engrossed in a new life, the life of a wanderer, a curious soul prime for distraction. Asking questions, speaking new phrases, uttering pronunciations that have never graced my lips before. Choosing unknown routes, constantly making decisions, applauding myself for actually making decisions. Remaining flexible and allowing myself to be calm, as uncomfortable as it may be.

Stillness is a learned trait, one that although I try to practice often, still greets me with a side of nausea and hyper-awareness.

The church bell ding-dongs again. 11:15. I wonder if there is any breakfast left.

What expat life is NOT

What expat life is NOT

Cultural cues

Cultural cues