Archive for September, 2007

Learning Portuguese with George Orwell

Posted by sue on 30th September 2007

OrwellDownOut.jpgLooking for creative ways to keep me going with language learning, I thought it might be useful to try to read the same book in English and Portuguese. That way, I could learn lots of words in context and reduce the need to resort to the dictionary so much. (And, ideally, I could find the same book in Audiobook form in Portuguese- but that seems not to exist here.)

So I’m working on Na Penúria em Paris e em Londres by George Orwell, a translation of Down and Out in Paris and London, a fictionalized account of some of his experiences in the 1920s and 30s (first published in 1933), and one of my favorite books. The great thing about reading Orwell in translation is that you’re forced to learn tons of new words-he actually disliked long English words of Latin origin, because he thought they were too pretentious. (Usually it’s the Latin words that have made it into English that are a great help in reading Portuguese. Reading academic and technical writing in Romance languages is often way easier for English speakers than reading novels, because academic English is teeming with those long, Latin-based, “pretentious” words that translate easily into Spanish, French, Portuguese, Italian.)

Anyhow, I’ve learned some useful words in the first few pages: percevejos (bugs), and zaragata (quarrel), and vaguear (to loaf, or loiter). Fluency, here I come!

Posted in Portugal | 27 Comments »


Posted by sue on 29th September 2007

Last weekend’s Squeeze-the-Fun-out-of-Living-in-Lisbon trip was to Belém, where there is an amazing 16th century monastery, called Mosteiro dos Jerónimos. It’s an example of Manueline architecture (for Manuel I, the king at the time), which is a late Gothic style with maritime-inspired decorative elements. (As usual, click the little pictures to enlarge.)

DSCF0757.jpg There was a wedding just ending when we got there, with the bridal party and guests streaming out of the church and setting off little confetti bombs.

DSCF0771.jpgThe inside of the monastery church is really beautiful and unique-it has a lighter, more open feel that most Gothic churches. It also has lots of details that suggest ship’s rigging and exotic vegetation-very much in keeping with the spirit of the time, the age when Portuguese ships were exploring the world.

DSCF0786.jpgJust as lovely as the church is the adjoining cloister where the monks lived. This is the central courtyard, which totally has a fantastic, elven-realm kind of feel to it.

DSCF0789.jpgThis little guy (right), for instance, is just one little semi-hidden detail that blends in with all the other decorative stone work. This monastery has all kinds of little monsters and goblins amidst the more usual vegetal and symbolic decoration.

DSCF0832.jpgFinally, this is the Monument of Exploration that’s across the road from the monastery, right on the river. It represents a bunch of guys that were instrumental in Portugal’s maritime power in the 15th and 16th centuries. You can climb to the top for some nice views of the area, and inside you can view a tourist-oriented “Please Love Our City and Spend Lots of Money in Lisbon, Please, Please, Please” film, more officially known as “The Lisbon Experience.”

This weekend it’s raining, so we’re very glad we got this little trip in last week! Definitely one of the highlights of Lisbon.

Posted in Portugal | 25 Comments »

Everyday life in Lisbon, Part 2: The Library

Posted by sue on 25th September 2007

DSCF0745.jpg About a 15 minute walk from our apartment (not up the stairs- in the other direction) is this cute library that is our new alternate study and work space. It’s on my way to work, so I stop there to study Portuguese sometimes and Len spends many an afternoon there with his laptop, usually closing the place down (at the party animal’s crazy hour of 6:00 p.m.).

DSCF0746.jpgHere’s a glimpse of Len in his usual spot (next to the air conditioner and an electrical outlet). This is the reference room, which has one Portuguese textbook that I’ve been using in my spotty attempts to learn the language, dictionaries, encyclopedias and all kinds of histories of this and that:

DSCF0747.jpgThis last room is of course what’s really cool about this library- the old-fashioned, two-level central reading room. Yet another part of Lisbon’s old-world charm.

Posted in Portugal | 33 Comments »

Everyday life in Lisbon, Part 1: The Stairs

Posted by sue on 24th September 2007

We live in a neighborhood in Lisbon called Mouraria, close to a nicer area called Graça. In Graça, there are grocery stores, cafés, banks, even an IKEA-like furniture store called Moviflor, so it’s where we conduct most of our everyday business.

Unfortunately, to get there, we must walk up these stairs:

And these stairs:

And these:

AND these!

145 steps in all. When we bought our bed, we carried it down all these stairs (In two trips– mattress, then frame). When we do our food shopping every couple of days, we haul ourselves up the stairs, and all our groceries back down. All part of the healthy European lifestyle, we tell ourselves!

Posted in Portugal | 27 Comments »

Weekend trip!

Posted by sue on 20th September 2007

I’ve always said that I’d like to live in a “real city” at some point. You know, where a car is not only unnecessary but more trouble than it’s worth, you walk everywhere or take public transportation, you shop at local stores because they’re nearby and there’s only so far you want to carry your stuff.

But in the summer time, the crowdedness of the city is rather oppressive, and sweating profusely on your walk to work is not all that fun. So we decided to take a little weekend trip up north to see more of Portugal, and get into the country a little bit. We were sort of successful, in that we saw some of the Douro River valley (where they grow the grapes for port wine! Yum!), and we spent some time in the smallish town of Lamego. We also spent some time in Porto, which is a pretty large city, but it was lovely and the weather was cool and pleasant, so it was definitely a good, relaxing trip.

Super Fantastic Photo Tour HERE

Posted in Portugal | 35 Comments »

The Red Bull Scare

Posted by len on 18th September 2007

Avante poster
The other day we went to a yearly local festival that a friend had mentioned was a lot of fun, with music, food, etc.
Just south of Lisbon we jumped a cheap train and found free transportation to the water-side fairgrounds.
The only hitch was: it was a Communist Party party!
That which has been become taboo in the United States is alive and well throughout a good part of Europe (Portugal especially, it seems).
The festival was nice. Great park and some interesting things to see, as you will, I’m sure, agree, after visiting our little photo tour here:

Communist Festival Photo Tour

Incidentally, I haven’t really seen Red Bull around Portugal. But it’s a cute play on “Red Scare” isn’t it? Eh? Uh?
Oh, yeah, wanna read more about the Portuguese Communist Party? PCP

Posted in Portugal | 19 Comments »

“I get drunked from that beers! : )”

Posted by len on 12th September 2007

Those were the words text-messaged to me from my new friend, Victor, a Brazillian/Italian Electrical/Software engineer who’s been living in Lisbon for the past year.
I met up with him at 7:30pm at Campo Pequeno, a performance venue and mall complex here in Lisbon. We sat outside under some umbrellas and started into the Sagres beers and vinegared lima beans (kind of like edamame at a sushi restaurant).

And then the rain started. The rain came down so heavy and hard that I thought it might dent some cheaper cars. It did, apparently, set off a bunch of car alarms on the nearby streets. Each drop was like a small fishing weight. I haven’t been in that kind of a rain for many years.

Shortly after the rain began I had planned to meet Sue at her school, American School of Languages, where she was finishing her work day. By the time we met up the rain had subsided slightly so we were just slowly getting drenched looking for an open late-night restaurant. We found one. Looked too upscale but their prices were typical for most Lisbon restaurants. I confidently ordered two ‘vino tintos de la casa’. The waiter brought out a full bottle and started uncorking it. We were a bit worried we’d be fleeced if we didn’t ask the price so we did (how uncool). We were sure he said “treze euros”, 13 Euros. Okay. We typically don’t pay more than 3 euros for grocery store wine but we are escaping the rain and all. It turned out to be pretty good wine.

Even better, when we got the check we discovered that we had mistranslated the wine cost. Apparently he had said ‘3.20 Euros’. Sweet. A bottle of wine in a restaurant for about $4.50. Ah Portugal.

Posted in Portugal | 25 Comments »

…walk into this bar

Posted by len on 7th September 2007

“So a special effects artist, a professional photographer and a nun walk into this bar…
The photographer goes up to the counter and orders a gin and tonic. The VFX gal strips naked and says…”
(Comment and I’ll tell you the rest)
So my beautiful friend Jen is getting married TOMORROW: Saturday!
The Squid would like to make them honorary Heroes of the Expedition (TM) for their willingness to do the truly heroic: commit to a life together.
(Your Squid Logo briefs are in the mail).
Mark is not only easy on the eyes but can grill a serious mushroom! (he’s handy with bleu cheese too but that story’s not appropriate for a family blog like this)

Here’s the happy really, really, almost a couple:
Jen and Mark, the Soontobeweds

Posted in Musings, Photos | 24 Comments »