I watched dawn lick the edges of the sky as I drove from Lisbon to Aljezur this morning, the sun burning through the mist about when I reached the wine-growing Alentejo region. It returned again as I wound my way through Alentejo west to the ocean, taking the scenic route accidentally on purpose to enjoy the ambivalent peaks and valleys of this beautiful country on my way to my home for the next two months.
My flight landed early in Lisbon before six a.m. and by 10 a.m. I was back here in the southwest Algarve. I am now once again ensconced in Irma’s Casa Maracuja just a few kilometers from Aljezur’s town center, jetlagged and exhausted, but happy to be here again, in this beautiful place, in my solitude.
Leaving New York was not without its drama, even though the city overall had been pretty nice to me my last few weeks in town. I was the victim of something banks do to “protect” us from fraud — that is, Bank of America canceled my debit card without telling me because it had been, according to the company, “compromised.” I did not learn this fact until I was trying to buy euros at Newark airport not much more than an hour before my flight and the card was declined. When I called the bank, the agent told me they’d sent me out a new card on Tuesday, but it had not arrived even in Friday’s mail (I checked before I left).
I was irate, of course, because not having a debit card and not being able to return home to where the new card has been sent for two months is a very bad situation to be in indeed. I certainly don’t want someone using my card besides me, but if it’s going to be canceled for that reason, why not some kind of automated phone call? I despise this practice of banks to cancel debit cards without proper notice, because it gives no thought to people in situations like mine — about to board a flight out of the country and dependent on a bank card for cash. I am hoping my kind roommate will send me my new card sometime this week.
Today was spent getting here, greeting Irma, her son Emanuel and the dogs Fuzzi and Tigar (by their enthusiastic greeting, Emanuel thinks they remembered me), napping and then driving to Praia de Odeceixe to check out the waves, which were gentle, predictable and just about perfect for a beginner like me. Too bad I don’t have a surfboard yet — something I hope to fix tomorrow by renting one from my friend David. His surf school was in the water with students, and inspired by watching them, I called him and we set up a time to do a deal tomorrow.
From my experience with my lovely friend — who operates strictly on Portuguese time — I know plans are all subject to change. I am anxious to get in the water, though, so if I have to track him down to get my hands on a board tomorrow — or go to someone else to get one — I will. The weather is unseasonably warm here and if the waves hold up it will be lovely to get some surfing in before I leave for Morocco on Wednesday.
I also went grocery shopping, and realized that my Portuguese is better than the last time I was here, even though I didn’t really study the language between visits. While I still miss most of what people are saying, I do pick up words here and there and even the context sometimes, and my own ability to ask for things and do simple transactions in Portuguese has improved greatly.
All in all it feels good to be here, and while I am disoriented and a little emotional due to jetlag and exhaustion, I do realize how lucky I am to have this time alone to think, to breathe, to write and just to be. Already I can feel the existential clamor of New York City falling away and my calmer, less-distracted inner life — the one in which I worry less, love more and exist nearly entirely in the moment — finding its shape again.