Some languages in Europe make my vocal cords sore. One such patois is Portuguese. I’ve been tired of saying words like “Eu estou com fome” and “Reconciliação.”
Today, I am in a special place:
I’m in Portugal–at a little city called Fatima.
The flight took six hours . (That’s the same amount of time it takes to fly to Los Angeles!) Upon stepping outside the airport, I quickly had my doubts about this country’s beauty at first. The first thing I saw was poor infrastructure, i.e., chipping paint and grey cemented walls–these things are as dull as overcooked turkey. I pulled the judgment trigger way too quickly. Luckily, my opinion was about to change.
When I first arrived to the revered city, all I could think of was food. (So let’s start with that.)
I walked into a quaint, expensive looking restaurant about 300 meters from the center of the Basilica.
“Boa Tarde!” The staff greeted. But once I told them that I am an American, they replied, “Sorry, I thought you were Brazilian.” Now, that’s a new one.
As the sounds of Sting and the images of raunchy waxing commercials on TV became apparent, I tried to figure out what to eat. I’ve been exploring the city for hours. My server Roberto (pronounced HOO-ber-TOO) had plenty to say about life in Fatima. He began by declaring that Americans barely visit the place. The majority of people who visit are those from Poland, Italy, Spain, and the Philippines
With regards to women, Mister Roberto kept it real by claiming that “Portuguese women aren’t the best in the world, but they are definitely crazy.” This is coming from a guy who expressed his opinions as he changed the TV channel from soccer into pro wrestling. Is watching fake wrestling a bad American stereotype or something? Anyway, it took me a second to process his description of the women here because I kept envisioning pale skins and curly dark hair. These are very typical traits here, but really, it’s a mixed bag. Everyone’s last name is either “Oliveira,” “Silva,” or “Pereira.” I thought I was watching a UFC fight.
WHOA! Port wine originated in Portugal.
My first taste occurred when I met two lovely ladies from a quaint religious store in the town center. They provided me with two free shots of Port! If a store faces the challenge to compete with fifty other stores that sell the same exact stuff, then it is natural that they offer free wine and discount merchandise to their customers. Therefore, free wine? My American ass was sold.
The weather was all sorts of messed up.
It was rainy and cold, then suddenly–it was sunny and hot within minutes. It hailed too. I was relieved to have layered my clothing in preparation. One does not simply take a comfortable stroll around Fatima with regards to temperature. Negative reaction to extreme weather can really make or break a solemn visit. (But perhaps that’s what the Port is for, right? 😉 I am pleased with one thing, however. The people of this town are all about silence. Some people entered the site while crawling on their knees. It’s an apparent a sign of penance. They even have knee pads for it.
If I had to sum it up overall, Fatima is:
-a place without fast food.
-tailored for the non-mainstream pilgrim.
-quaint but ready to party. And by party, I mean church bells. ♣
See you at Lisbon.
Bonus: Here’s a video of my interaction with a young Portuguese girl. Neither of us speak the same language. Enjoy. (Notice that the video starts with the little talk-box sharing all the English she knows.) https://www.vimeo.com/82870921