I am not afraid . . . of rough spots . . . or lonely times . . . I don’t fear . . . the success of this endeavor . . . I am Ra . . . in a space . . . not to be discovered . . . but invented . . .
I promise you nothing . . . I accept your promise . . . of the same we are simply riding . . . a wave . . . that may carry . . . or crash . . .
It’s a journey . . . and I want . . . to go . . .
— Nikki Giovanni, 1943
I have never had a one-way ticket somewhere. I have never sat in an airplane on the tarmac knowing that there was no return flight, at least in the near future.
Someone asked me the other night if there was a particular moment when this journey became “real.” In fact, there have been a series of milestones that have brought this adventure into high relief — when tenants were confirmed for our house, when I received the confirmed airline reservations, when movers took the last of our possessions from our home, when I was standing in line to board the plane in San Francisco (feeling very alone, vulnerable and yet accompanied by the love of my family-of-origin and family-of-choice), and when the plane touched down in Lisbon.
The force of the last 12 weeks has come crashing down on me over the last 24 hours, and it’s manifest as laryngitis and an achy body. This often happens on vacation when it’s very stressful leading up to the vacation; the minute my body relaxes it becomes susceptible to illness. Today we will lay low in the tiny apartment in Madragoa neighborhood as I rest and recover.
It’s a very old neighborhood, named after the convent (Madres de Goa) that was here from the 1500s until the 1755 earthquake. Like the more well-known neighborhood of Alfama, this was also where the fishermen and fishwives lived. The families seem to have been here for generations and they use the street as an extension of their homes, gathering at the corners to smoke and gossip. It can get loud as the locals seem completely oblivious to anyone around them so they talk and play radio music loudly.
All in all, though, it feels pretty authentic and it’s quite charming here. There are dozens of restaurants within easy walking distance, and G has established a nice routine with his errands — laundry, groceries, French bakery, neighborhood coffee roaster, etc. It’s also an easy 10- to 15-minute walk for him to work.
We are here another week before we have to move to another apartment through September 17. Tomorrow we start the hunt for more permanent housing. It’s tricky to do this when I don’t quite understand the neighborhoods, but we have a few important priorities that will guide us.
For now, our focus is on getting me settled into some kind of rhythm, even if that is a challenge with the transience of living out of suitcases. Having been in such a race to the “finish line” over the last 12 weeks, it’s difficult for me to just stop without feeling like I *should* be doing something, checking some new task off the list. My hope is that I can settle down a bit.