WARNING: I am sure it is no surprise at this point, but this post is a little long and rambling. For those of you that don’t have the time/patience to read these, things are stated very briefly and concisely in my monthly newsletters. You are under no obligation to read these (although you might now do so well on the annual test I send out. Just kidding!)
I will start by apologizing for the long silence on my part. I have let busyness and homework distract me from how quickly time was flying past.I have had a good two weeks though. They have been busy but very blessed.
Two weeks ago two good friends from college, my college room-mate of four years and her husband, came for a week-long visit to Lisbon along with her family. It was so wonderful to see dear friends. All the hugs were so encouraging. They spoiled me and took me out to lovely dinners, and let me tag along on their sight-seeing. They also generously brought me ziplock bags and brownie mixes! Two things that I can’t find around here and was really missing. They brought me so many brownie mixes that I am sure I have gained several pounds along with many of my happy-to-help-eat-them friends. Needless to say I have been volunteered to make dessert for the last few team dinners. And the ziplock bags have changed my life! 🙂 Very little comes in resealable packaging here, and ziplock bags are very difficult to find. (If anyone takes it into their heads to send packages at any point, ziplock bags would make great packing material/space fillers.) 🙂
Last Monday, my dear friends-of-a-month, Kevin and Angela Deane finished their time in language school and headed for Angola! I was very sad to loose their company, but so excited that they were heading out for what they had been working towards. Their Portuguese had improved my leaps and bounds while I was here, so I am hoping to see mine doing the same soon. Please pray that their time in Lubango, Angola will be greatly blessed and that their Portuguese will continue to improve.
Language classes have been going well. There is alot of homework and then tons of optional opportunities to practice that are difficult to fit in as much as I would like. I am getting practice listening to Portuguese at church. Everyone is really friendly there and anxious to help me learn. I kiss everyone every Sunday. They all repeat things multiple times if I am having difficulty understanding and help me get out what I am trying to say. I have one sweet little girl who’s English is pretty good, and she teaches me new words every Sunday and asks if I have any Portuguese questions. There are several sweet young girls and young women at church who know a little English and help me out when I get stuck (which is almost every time I try to talk right now). We are planning a picnic at my house as soon as the weather gets a little warmer. They are excited about it, and I am thrilled that they are excited about it. I live quite a ways out from downtown Lisbon, so it is exciting when people want to come out and visit me.
I have gotten to know the area alot better. I have been trying out different bus routes and seeing different metro stops as I become more comfortable with the transportation systems around here. And since I was helping my friends get around the city, I learned more of it for myself as well. I discovered directions to the city’s largest market, in Portuguese, for one. I asked these sweet little ladies waiting at a bus stop how to get there and then proceeded to: 1) Correct my grammar and pronunciation; 2). Tell me it would only take about 5 minutes to get there; 3) I could get there by walking (this part was illustrated by some animated walking and arm swinging by said little lady) and following the trolley tracks; and, 4) I should watch my bags and my pockets because there were lots of pickpockets there (again illustrated by animated clutching of her bag and pockets). A highly rewarding conversation and one that still makes me laugh when I think about it.
I was able last week, to go to a symphony performance of Carmina Burana and Beethoven’s 9th Symphony. It was amazingly beautiful, of course (although I was dismayed/amused that throughout the last movement of Beethoven’s 9th, cheesy words that I sang to that tune in my homeschool choir as a kid kept running through my head! I am sure some of you fellow-choir members will start singing them as you read this) It was also a fun experience because I went with a couple from church as well as my team-mates, and it was good to get to know them a little better. As we are on budgets, we went with the tickets we were able to afford (the cheapest of course) which were really very inexpensive. They make me laugh and so I thought I would tell you about them.
SO … in Portuguese they don’t have a verb for “to stand”, they just say they are “on feet”.
So, my team-mate went to purchase tickets for all of us, and we knew they were going to be in the top level of the coliseum. The next morning on the way to class he said, “So, that symphony we are going to … you might want to wear comfortable shoes.” “Oh really?”, I said, wondering what the cheapest tickets were like in Portugal. “When I was buying the tickets,” he said, “the lady asked me if I was sure I wanted these cheap tickets. And I said I was sure, but you might want to wear comfortable shoes.” He then showed me the tickets, and they said “Galeria De Pé” a.k.a. “Gallery of Feet”. Love it! So the cheap seats are standing room only. But we could still hear great, had a good view of the whole ‘Coliseu Dos Recreios’, and thank goodness had a balcony railing we could lean on. It was a great experience, and next time I may bring a fold-up chair, or at least a cushion to sit on. And I had a great thankfulness for the invention of chairs for the rest of the week. Hopefully we will get to go again soon.
I have had two Flat Stanleys that joined me for a brief visit this week and that was alot of fun. I got to use my knowledge of the city to find a few fun places for us to visit and think of fun things to send back to American classrooms. I hope they have as much fun learning about where their Flat Stanley visited as I did showing them the town.
This last week was a little bit of a struggle for me for several reasons; among them being tired, hearing the news of several deaths back home, and feeling like I wasn’t making progress in language learning (The language discouragement happens briefly and periodically and then I feel like I start moving forward again. My teacher gives me pep talks and at the beginning told me about when I can expect to hit these points. So I know they are part of the process, but I still wish I could learn faster than normal.) But out of this little struggle came a renewed dedication and reliance on God and His word for my strength, thanks in part to the prayers of you all for me. I am amazed how God works through my weaknesses and draws me closer to Himself.
Anyway, I was feeling a little down because I just want to be able to talk to people I meet about so much more than my vocabulary allows. (Through frustrating, this is good motivator because it makes me want to work harder to learn faster.) But I got a great pick-me-up Friday evening. I got a text from my language teacher telling me that a sweet lady I talked briefly with at the bus stop this afternoon was her mother! I had Alex (4-year-old Campbell boy) with me; and little, blond, blue-eyed, smiley children make you all kinds of friends immediately. Anyway, we just said a few things to each other while waiting for the bus. We mostly laughed with each other as I fed Alex whipped cream from a can. (I had gone to the store to get ice cream and whipped cream for the strawberry shortcake Laura was making for dessert. Alex got hungry and asked for a snack. So I improvised.) I then didn’t really think about the meeting anymore.
But when Eunice talked to me this evening she said that her mother said my Portuguese was very good and she wasn’t sure if I was Portuguese or not when she met me. Now, granted we didn’t have an extensive conversation, but still, it was a huge encouragement. There is hope for me yet! I will keep on keeping on! There is light at the end of the tunnel. And granted, that light is very far down there, but I still caught another flash of it today. Just thought I would share this little moment of victory with you.
And then Saturday I stayed at the school and cleaned my room, had some good quite time with God, and just rested. By the end of the day I was full of energy and ready to tackle Portuguese and win! (I mean win in very general terms of course – a basic ability to communicate at a 6-year-old level would more than satisfy me at this point.)
I have a few pictures of the Bible school and places I have gotten to visit so far. I am working on an album and will let you know once I post it. I love the transportation network here. You can go so many places so easily (most of the time) and for a flat monthly fee.
I love hearing from you all and thank you so much for the encouragement that so many of you have been sending me.