Being Lazy in Lisbon

I’m listening to two Australian girls try to plan the rest of their itinerary.

Traveling alone was the best move… Ever.

“We should go to Sevilla after Madrid.”
“But why are you being so persistent about Sevilla?”
“Because it’s written up as one of the best places in Spain.”
“I didn’t read that.”
“Shhh you’re talking too loud, it’s going to annoy everyone.”
“No one is sleeping!”

My few weeks with Andrea was great. We pulled out a map and looked at “where planes go from Ankara.” That’s how we got to Sofia. From Sofia, we pulled out the map one more time. One more place. Belgrade, Serbia? Sure!

I couldn’t fathom spending three months on the road with anyone. These girls are stressing me out. Their decision will take them all night – they have the Internet and multiple travel books out. One girl keeps going on about “backtracking and logical routes” while the other says “we wake up early one day, what does it matter.”

This just heard: “You need to give me an alternative, rather than just saying no.”

Every time I pass this poster, it freaks me out. Her eyes follow you.

When I woke up this morning, I thought maybe I’d been overzealous in booking another night. With a night train (not that I booked it yet) to Madrid tomorrow, I had another two full days here, and as far as backpacking goes, I’ve pretty much conquered it. Now I’m just living here.

It’s fine. Today was chilly and foggy. I spent the day in the House of Cool and wrote a draft of a children’s book – #5 of the trip, 4th in a series. If anyone knows anything or anyone about or in publishing… Do tell.

It all rhymes.

More of my love for this hostel. The two main people you see working here are house grandma and house guy – they’re probably related, but definitely not husband and wife. House guy learned English with a British accent. “Proper” English. House grandma learned “American English” and she is darn proud of it. It’s fantastic to hear her brag about it.

He says splendid and brilliant. She says awesome.

The hostel has separate bins for plastic, paper/cardboard, glass and organic waste. Tonight she was fretting because she had a cracked metallic Christmas ornament. “I don’t know! It’s not plastic! It’s not organic! It’s not paper! I know… I’ll put it in a bowl as decoration!”

Today, I really did pretty much nothing (except write a book – my days don’t feel productive unless I walk seven miles). It’s only a mile and a half roundtrip to/from town. I did it twice today. That was enough.

I went back to the cafe to get my French toast Christmas treat. The old man behind the counter recognized me, but the sugary bread wasn’t on display. I pointed at the other ball of fried sugary dough. I had a 1 euro coin handy, so I said I’d take one. He said they were 50cents each, so I said okay, two!

“Okay, and I’ll give you one.”



Tonight I grabbed dinner in town. I might have been overcharged, I dunno… 7.50€ for salmon, salad and potatoes, as listed, but the beer wasn’t on the menu. 4€ for one draft beer? Of Super Bock? Come on.

With six days to go, I’m not really fighting anything. All is okay. The restaurant was pretty empty and they were watching Rush Hour on television. It was in English, with subtitles, and it was fun to hear “damn!” and read “Carumba!”

On my way in, the young man who had gotten my attention with the menu and gotten my “okay! I’ll eat here” had asked me where I was from. This is a pretty standard line, but I’m always honest.

The other night a sketchy guy wanted a picture with me and when I declined, he said “American?” I said nope. “Canadian.” Yep.

I hadn’t gotten to use that one this trip.

On my way out, the guy who stands outside the entire night getting people to come into the restaurant asked me how my meal was. I said it was fine, and he said, “So you’re from California.” I prepared for some cheesy line or awkward conversation, but then he continued. He asked me if I’m a student and what I studied. I said public relations and he said “Oh. Different.” Just as I was about to say “huh?”…

“I want to go to school for computer design. I had to stop my studies seven years ago for money problems and came here from India. I am Indian. But a man here told me he studied computer design in America and it only took one year. In America, I can work and study. I can’t do both at home. But on the Internet yesterday, I looked and it said the study in America would take two years. That’s why I asked you, I’m sorry.”

Don’t be sorry! It was a surprisingly pleasant, refreshing, real conversation that ended with each of us wishing the other good luck.

There are a lot of sights, sounds, feelings and people I’ve seen I’ll never be able to adequately describe.

Last night on the phone, Ryan showed his English major professor self when he schooled me on the definition of irony. I said see, that’s why you studied English and I really know nothing about writing, except maybe how to do it decently.

Tonight at the kitchen table here, I was editing my children’s book on the iPad and House Guy came over. I knew he probably thought I was anti-socially Facebooking or something and I told him what I was doing. I had a handwritten draft next to me and he said it looked like poetry of some sort.

He said it was really neat, especially to try to reach children, and he could never write in rhyme – that takes him much too long and is far too hard, putting his thoughts together in a structure so restricted.

“But, you know something, now I think I’ll finish my book. I’m halfway done with it, but I haven’t looked at it in six years. Life has a way of getting away from you…

I always had trouble with one thing, though. I never, never think of myself as a writer.

No, I’m not a “writer.” I’m a reasonable thinker… that writes.”


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