I’ve come up with the brilliant idea to cook Thanksgiving dinner at my friend K’s house Thursday night for a few people here. It seemed a shame not to mark the holiday even though it’s not celebrated in Europe, since most everyone in the U.S. spends it with their families and I am very far away from mine.
It occurred to me that I’ve never cooked a full Thanksgiving dinner before — not without help. Of course, I will have K’s help, and she’s a great cook, but it’s up to me to take the lead and come up with the menu and perhaps even bake a pie, and I’m just now, two days out, feeling a bit daunted by the task.
I haven’t even begun to shop yet — I figure I’ll do that tomorrow. And the dinner won’t be until about 6:00 pm Thursday night, so there will be plenty of time to cook and bake all day (I’m going to attempt a pumpkin pie, god help me).
I suppose it will all work out alright, as things usually do. K has a pretty good-sized kitchen (though not a huge stove — for people who love to cook, the Portuguese sure don’t splurge on their stoves here). As far as mine goes, it’s pretty small as well, and I’ve never once lighted it or cooked in it. Though I’ve cooked a lot here, I’ve isolated much of that to the stovetop, as I’m slightly afraid to stick my head in the oven to light it (it’s a little too Sylvia Plath for me, I think).
Anyway, I have nothing but time here, since I’m still not working on anything (and it being the holiday week, I am not even going to try to reach anyone in the U.S. about work). If I spend tomorrow preparing some of the things I can make early for the meal, it should be fine.
That all said, I guess I have a lot to be thankful for, even though today I woke up feeling a bit anxious and worried, again, about what I might do with the rest of my life.
The weekend was really great; Saturday night I went out with D to dinner in Vila de Bispo and then drinks in Sagres, and that was really fun. She’s a lovely woman and so friendly, and I met a few other friendly people who live down that way the next day on a beach called Mareta in Sagres. D invited me to surf with her and her friends, and the surf was good on that particular beach.
It was really nice to be in the back (yes, I’ve finally graduated to surfing in the back and not on whitewater, hurrah) with some really friendly people, and it was such a beautiful day in the water. The waves were slow to break and powerful, though not so big in height.
Sagres is the southwesternmost point in continental Europe, and there is a point there where on one side you have the west Atlantic coast, and on the other you have the south coast. In the winter, the west coast tends to get the brunt of the swell, while the south coast’s waves are much smaller. It was true on Sunday, as we were on the southern beach and the waves on the west coast were forecast to be 15 feet or more that day.
It was pretty amazing, though — you could see the gigantic swell coming around the point in unbreaking waves that eventually turned into the ones we were surfing. It was quite something to be out there in the water and see, once again, the awesome power of the ocean.
Speaking of that, I had a couple of wipeouts that unnerved me and didn’t really get a good ride, but I learned a lot from my mistakes and had to paddle back out several times, which is helping to strengthen my arms. Paddling is bloody hard work, and now I see why surfers use the back (which means behind where the waves are breaking) to float and rest in between trying to catch waves.
After surfing I had coffee with D and her friend E, another lovely woman from Belgium who has lived here for five years. I felt really grateful to sit there at a table of a beach cafe and watch the surf while talking with these two women, who also made choices to settle here away from the place where they were born more or less because of the beauty and the draw of this part of the world. As I’ve gathered the stories of expatriates here, I realize I am certainly far from the only person who’s been lured by the siren call of the Algarve.
Last night I had my Portuguese conversation class, and I am actually starting to get more of a feel for the language. While I still don’t understand everything my teacher says, I am following more and more. My reading skills are also getting really good, and I am not as shy to speak when it’s my turn to do so. I feel pretty confident that I might be able to speak conversationally in this very difficult language before the end of my time here (at least the end of *this* time here — I still would like to come back and settle for a longer time, if that’s possible).
Today I took D’s yoga class and after she invited me and another of the students (a friend of hers and also a surfer — a British guy named Chris) over to her place for dinner on Friday night. She’s doing a personal coaching retreat this week with a woman from Switzerland this and part of it is to help the woman learn ayurvedic, vegetarian cooking. They both thought it was a waste to cook so much food and not have anyone to eat it, so there will be a bit of a dinner party Friday night.
I have class again tomorrow and then, of course, there is Thanksgiving on Thursday night. All in all, it should be a really good rest of the week.
I realize I am really lucky to be here and to be welcomed by so many of these lovely people here in the southwest Algarve. Though I’m still worried about what I will do for work in the coming months (and still not feeling super-motivated to crank out the freelance pitches), I’m hoping I will soon have a clearer idea of what I will do next with this crazy and somehow fortunate life of mine in a month’s time when I return to the U.S. for the Christmas holiday.