So. We’ve moved to a new country. We did it at the beginning of December specifically so we would meet our new home during the holidays. Heck, literally the first thing we did outside of our flat was to attend a Christmas tree lighting event in the public square with some other American immigrants we’d met through social media. That part of the plan went perfectly; I’m not sure anything short of ecstasy* could have more helped us to feel warm and fuzzy about Braga than getting here with families out in force and actual chestnuts roasting on actual fires in the marketplace. Cut to January, and we packed our bags and hit the road. (“No crap, y’all just spent a month posting about it.”) And now we’re back, to a flat that is not an Airbnb but, in fact, ours for the rest of a 12-month lease. I mean, it’s pretty mundane around here; we do laundry at least 4 days a week since the washing machine is tiny and, as yet, we can’t hang clothes out to dry; instead it’s a drying rack over a space heater.
What, exactly, did we get ourselves into?
It’s not that we didn’t know what a normal life consists of. We’re a couple in their 50s who’ve been together for 20-ish years, owned homes, been through illness, gained and lost jobs… the whole deal. So no, nothing is being demanded of us that is new and different, other than the whole “we don’t speak Portuguese and they don’t really speak much English” thing (more on this in another post). But for all that we moved several months ago, only now is the dust really settling. If only because of visa limitations we are absolutely not traveling out of the country until April. We can, but have no plans to, travel within Portugal at the moment. That will come, certainly. But this is the first time in many moons that the calendar has nothing in particular highlighted for more than 30 days out. And so, finally, we can start to discover what our everyday life will be like.
In the last two weeks, for example, both of us have walked into the hospital, spoke to someone in the reception area, and made appointments to see a doctor. Not fancy-pants emergency stuff, just a basic, pleased-to-meet-you meeting, plus handing over medical records and oh-by-the-way please write us new prescriptions for the following medications. (It’s worth noting that we were able to schedule appointments for the next day. We also paid absolutely nothing for these visits, but the financial realities of health care here is also a subject fit for its own post, so hang tight on that one.) We’ve both had prescriptions refilled successfully. So, no problems there.
We’ve also, in the last couple weeks, made a point to be sociable. We’ve got plenty of examples in our lives of what happens when you don’t make efforts to meet people, and so we do. The immigrant community has so far been a lovely bunch to meet. We kicked this around for awhile and decided that it’s not a random selection of people at all; you have to start with people who don’t mind unmooring their lives just like we did. These are also people with the means to do so, although that is a much broader category than you might expect – I suspect there’s plenty of people here specifically because they can afford to retire only outside of their home countries. Speaking of which, they aren’t all Americans. We have met Canadians, Italians, South Africans, and at least one couple that I’m not sure how they identify but it’s probably either British or Australian based on what we’ve learned about them so far. In any case, it’s not just a random jumble of folks; there’s a common seed in each of us, at least. And as such, it seems pretty easy to get along with folks so far. (Then again, Lisa wrote a whole a whole book on group dynamics and a part of it specifically discusses how groups are always easy-going when they first form; we’ll find out what happens when people stop being polite and start getting real. (Shout out to all my “The Real World” fans.)) Still, better to be meeting folks under any circumstances rather than remaining shut-ins.
Real life also means things like cutting your grass, and contacting an electrician because the fans in your bathrooms won’t turn on and a plug in the living room blows the whole circuit box if you so much as wave a plug in its direction. And speaking of cutting, both of us have successfully had haircuts now. That at least went way easier than expected, mostly because we both stumbled upon English-speaking providers. Our barbers/hairstylists are both essentially on our road, a few minutes walk in either direction. In fact, we’ve realized that for all that we love it here, if we’re being honest we can only genuinely claim to be in love with about a two-mile stretch of road and a couple of teensy off-shoots. We went to dinner the other night to a Chinese restaurant and by taking a right and going a block up (at an intersection we’ve walked through a hundred times) we were in virgin territory for us. We walked by a compound with a huge stone wall and a tower peeking up from behind it that we had no idea was even in Braga. So, yes, life is starting to settle in, but we’re still far from settled.
*Don’t do drugs, kids.