Conclusion

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Last post of my Portugal series

I arrived in Lisbon late in the evening to spend the night and catch my flight early next morning. I woke up before the sun and booked an Uber for the airport. Diego, the driver was warm and welcoming, and we had a little chat on our way. He asked me about my travels and whether or not if I liked the place. I enquired about him and his life. Apparently, he wasn’t very happy with his life. He had to work 2 jobs and said its a normal thing for people in Portugal. He had to drive the cab for 12-13 hours when he wasn’t working on the other job. It was not possible for him to pay rent with just one job. Like some other Portuguese, he complained about the taxes and corruption. However, he held high praise for the new prime minister but was concerned that others in the ministry won’t let him last long. According to him, Portugal is a very nice place for tourists, with beach, sun, sea, food, everything nice. But for locals, they have to pay even when they are sick. “You cannot be sick for long in Portugal, if you’re sick for long, you die..”. The wildfire in the summer could also have been controlled, but the government officials were bribed and no adequate steps were taken to prevent the fire. The officials didn’t care because none of the dead were their families.

He complained about a few more things till we arrived at the airport. I think he just needed someone to talk to and express his disappointment. The sun had already come out by this time. I thanked him, hugged him, and said goodbye and walked into the check-in to board my flight for one final time in Lisbon.


It has been an amazing one month spent in Portugal. I met a lot of fantastic people, crazy ones, experienced great things, had eventful times, seen some unreal places.

I am also thankful to the Schwarzkopf Foundation Young Europe for funding a part of the travel through their grant. It’s a wonderful initiative to encourage young people to travel.

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Till next time, Adeus Portugal!!

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Tête-à-Tête and Pasta

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The two Italian girls at the hostel

New years Party all night, woke up tired and hungover, had a very long bus ride from Lagos to Lisbon.
Arrived Lisbon at night, checked in the hostel

Being the 1st Jan it was a holiday and stores were closed. I was so hungry, finally found a store open and bought some instant noodles.
Walked back to the hostel straight, to the kitchen.

“Do you want some pasta, I’m cooking some”
-Umm, yeah sure!

“Where are you from?”
-India, and I live in Luxembourg

“India, wow! It’s an exotic country, isn’t it?”
-Haha! Maybe not for Indians but yeah.
And you? Where are you from?

“From Italy, so my pasta is gonna be great”
-Absolutely.
What do you do?

“I was studying Cultural Tourism and graduated early this year or last year now, we’re in 2018 now. I have been traveling for a while, and I will start to work now”
-Nice. Are you traveling alone?

“No my friend is sitting there at the table, she is a bit sick. I’ve made soup for her”
-Oh! and how was the new year party in Lisbon?

“It was great! We went to see to see the fireworks in the central square”
-Was it raining?

“It did, but only for a bit”
-Hm! Which part of Italy are you from?

“Gorizia, its a city close to Venice. It shares the border with Slovenia. You can be in Slovenia in 5 mins”
-And how is the city?

“It’s a nice city but very small….”

*A person walks into the kitchen*

“Do you want some pasta?”

Random person, a bit hesitant…Umm

“I cooked a lot…”

Okay maybe!

“I am going to my friend at the table, do you wanna join us?”
-Sure

We both walk at the table.

Me introducing myself to “The Friend”

Friend(Sick voice): “Hi I am…
Sorry, I am a bit sick. Its a combination of cold and hangover. Usually, I am more cheerful”
-Its okay, which is worse, hangover or cold?

*lame joke, dismissing chuckle*

-What do you do? Do you study cultural tourism too?
F: No, I study Philosophy

-Wow?! In Italy?
F: No, UK

-Where exactly in the UK?
F: Cambridge.

-Cambridge. How is Cambridge?
F: Full of weird people

*Me surprised*

-Why?
F: Because it is full of weird people

-And how is studying Philosophy like? Do you have to read a lot too?
F: Yes, a lot

“And she also has to think a lot XD”
-Haha! That must be hard, no?!

“Do you want some soup?”
-No, Thank you.

-And the weather in the UK?
F: It’s like what you expect, rain!
What I don’t like is, they don’t have a proper summer

-And did you guys meet?
“We went to the same high school”

-I actually watch a show from Italy, its called Gomorra
“Ah! Gomorrah. Yes, its a very good show, isn’t it? Now everybody knows about it”

-Yes, it’s very good. But the things in the series are true and real?
“Well not exactly real. But we have had some incidents and the events in the show are inspired by true events”

-I follow the actors on Facebook XD
“Its based on a book by Roberto Saviano and I really like him. I follow him on FB and I like his views and statements. He has to live with Police protection and he wanders around. If he goes back to Naples, he might get killed too”

-How do you spell his name? I want to follow him too
“R-O-B-E-R-T-O  S-A-V-I-A-N-O
But his statements are in Italian and mostly on Italian politics”

“You sure don’t want some soup”
-Sure, I will have it. The pasta tastes great btw! Always trust the Italian with Pasta

F: When did you arrive in Portugal?
-I have been here for almost a month now. I’ve been around the country a bit. And you guys?

“We came here 4 days ago. But I will come back here again”
-The soup is delicious

“Tell me about India. Which part are you from?”
-I’m from Delhi. And it’s a crazy city. Full of people.

“I can only imagine, I would like to see that someday”
-The population of Portugal is around 10 million and in Delhi, we are 21 million inhabitants

“What?! I cannot live in a city with so many people. I like smaller cities”
-Yes, it’s a demanding city and in the summers, it’s burning.
But Italy is a beautiful place, isn’t it? I haven’t been there yet, but am planning to.

“Yes, it’s a lovely place but it’s a dying country you know”
-What do you mean?

“The population is getting old and the young people don’t want to get married and have children. So the young workforce is less. The average number of children for women in Itlay is 1-1.5”
-And how many should it be to have a consistent growth for a country

“Around 2-3”
-Oh! And is that why a lot of Italians are moving abroad?

“No, No. That’s not why Italians move abroad. The economic condition is also very bad. We were hit deeply by the depression and are still recovering. It’s not like there are no jobs. But the number of jobs are fewer than it should be. And people are also exploited at the jobs, long working hours, unpaid holidays and stuff like that”

“Also, a lot of people evade taxes. The government then raises the taxes and then more people evade”
-That sounds a bit like India

“And how is India?”
-It’s very diverse. The cities are very different from the countryside

“Is it an Indian thing to climb the Mount Everest?”
-What?! No no. XD
Also, it’s not easy to climb the Everest XD

“Yeah, I know that”
-Indian thing is IT and maybe cricket XD

“But are you IT?!”
-No. XD
I may not be the best example of an Indian I guess
But I love cricket though

“I’m going to make tea for my friend and myself. Do you want some?”
-Yeah! I’ll come and give you a hand

-You are like God sent. I walked into the kitchen tired and hungry and you offered me food. And not only me but to everybody in the hostel.

“Its an Italian thing”

-They should put your picture on the Wall of Fame here XD

F: Okay, now I will teach you an important Italian expression

Abbiocco

-Abbiocco, what does it mean?

F: Its like when you have too much food and want to sleep
-Ah! So, if you feel Abbiocco, after a meal, does that mean the food was great

F: It’s more to do with quantity than quality.

*I open my laptop. The girls notice the decal LOTR sticker*

F: I love that. Do you like LOTR too?
-Yeah! But I like Harry Potter more

F: Both of us are big fans of LOTR
Harry Potter was when we were kids

-I guess I never grew up then

-Have you been to the Oldest Bookstore in the world here in Lisbon

“No, we haven’t! Where is it?”
-It’s in Chiado
Look, I have a picture on my Instagram here

“It looks nice, we will go there tomorrow”

*Looks at my other Instagram pictures*

“What is this?”
-It’s a light bulb, like a lamp?!

“Yeah! But these strands hanging?”
-Umm, I don’t know how to explain. They are like the filaments of the bulb

“You have a good eye. Maybe I should follow you on Instagram”
-Good Eye. I wear glasses, I have 2 extra eyes.

*lame joke expressions*

We talked a bit more about things, places, life, museums, work, travel and I bid them good night and retired to bed.

Life like Lisbon

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I have spent just over a week here in Lisbon and it has been an enriching experience. During this time, I had the chance to meet a lot of people, very warm, welcoming and polite.

The weather at this of the year is a tad colder than expected. I was told that the city has been hit by a small storm. It rained and rained for few mins, then the sun would come out, rain again, sun again. “Umbrella at all times”, I was advised.

Oi, Tudo bem?”
“Tudo Bem!”
…and they walking their way. It was the usual greeting, seemed like an inclusive hello if the people are acquainted with each other.

One of these evenings, I accompanied a stranger turned friend, to one of the restaurants, to experience Fado, a traditional Portuguese music. Over a beer, Sagres (local booze), we talked about Portugal. The summer this year, wasn’t the best, there was a wildfire causing a lot of destruction. Some small places burned down almost completely. According to him, the situation could have been better handled. The people had managed a lot on their own by volunteering and donations. The population of the country is scattered in small amounts throughout the country. Hence, it was difficult to send help to some parts in time.

“Excuse me! Do you speak English?!”
“Yes, Do you need help”
“Can you please tell me where the nearest post office is?”
“Ah! Its the red building at end of the road on the right-hand side. It says CTT”

But there’s some good news this year too. Portugal has been voted as Europe’s leading travel destination 2017. People, here, were happy and a little proud of the accomplishment.

“We, Portuguese people love to eat. Food is great here in Portugal”

The food in Portugal in general and Lisbon, in particular, has been delicious. There are a lot of bakeries and so many things to try. The cuisine is diverse and varies in the countryside and the coasts. Pastel de Nata is one thing nobody would like to miss in Lisbon. Codfish or bacalhau is one staple food in Lisbon. There are a lot of desserts (sericaia, my personal favorite) to pick from, I never want to leave this place. Next to station named Cais do Sodre, there’s a closed market called Time Square Market. It’s a good place to try the food since multiple cuisines are at one place. Though it looks a commercial place and the prices might be a bit higher. “We, Portuguese people love to eat. Food is great here in Portugal”, my friend said while walking next to the river after our meal.

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TimeOut Market

After Athens, Lisbon is the oldest capital city in Europe and is home to the oldest bookstore in the world, Bertrand. The establishment of store dates back to as long as 1732. It’s well visited and seems like Lisboners have a good taste in literature and are fond of books. I could notice even in the public transport, buses, metros, and trains, many of them read during their commute.

 

“Visit us in Summer, people are happier”

 

 

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Lisbon had been an amazing experience so far. I love this place, people are nice, food is good, life is laid back, not too hectic. I’ve only had good vibes here and absolutely love the city.

Next, I’m flying to Ponta Delgada in São Miguel Island, where my next adventure awaits. I will keep posting about my expedition.

The Lady from Lahore – a short story.

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I met a lady from Lahore there. She was visiting her son, he studies in Amsterdam.

I met them at a coffee shop. Coffee shops in Amsterdam are not to be confused with cafe.

A cafe serves coffee and bagel and breakfast and croissant.

A coffee shop is a place you go to get marijuana and other stuff.

The son, Arslan was teaching his mom how to smoke weed XD

I told her that she might be the coolest mom ever. They clicked a picture together and uploaded it with this caption XD

Amsterdam is so full of happy stories, I love the city.

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Being from India, we have a sense that Pakistan is a closed and reserved society. I was pleasantly surprised rather delighted to meet this lady. She mentioned, that she had relatives in Delhi used to visit before the visa norms. I parted by inviting her to Delhi and requested to visit me next time when she’s in town.

 

 

 

 

Raksha Bandhan 2017

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7th August 2017, 9.30 am
Scrolling through my social media feed, seeing pictures and posts from friends and family makes me long for home. Festivals are best celebrated with friends and family.

I’m sitting here in my office, watching the clock ticking, waiting for the post to arrive, waiting for my rakhi. Waiting to click myself and send her a picture, to share my joys, and see her exhilarate with happiness.

13.00ish
My rakhi arrives and I’m elated with joy, like a little kid with a lollipop in Disneyland. I flaunt it and show it to everybody around at work, with a baby like “Yayyyyyy”!!

Living afar for long has made me realize how important family relations are and how I can never forsake family or friends. I feel sometimes it’s a struggle to live abroad.

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For the ones unaware, Raksha Bandhan or Rakhi is an annual festival affirming the affection and kinship between brothers and sisters. I have always been fond of my sisters. Growing up together we have so many memories of our mischiefs. Being around them makes me realize I haven’t actually grown up. Hence, Raksha Bandhan has always been special. It used to be an excuse for us to gather together, share laughs, stories, joke around and of course, eat good food. Through the course of time, the geography has changed, the distance has made it difficult to personally meet. But every year no matter wherever I am, whatever part of the world, I receive my rakhis.

Before technology, you know how people exchanged letters and Rakhi always came along with a letter. Even today, my sisters have kept the tradition going, I guess it’s become a habit. My post envelope had a short letter accompanying my Rakhi. All of us a funny “Nick Name” as kids and my letter is always addressed with my funny childhood nick name.

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The Monday of 7th August was a little brighter than most Mondays. 🙂

Passenger in Luxembourg

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Last week I had a chance to attend Michael David Rosenberg’s, better known by his stage name “Passenger”, concert here in Luxembourg. The venue was subtly set up with just enough (not too many!) people. An open air arena with small stands or shops selling snacks and booze. Having arrived early at the venue, we (my friend from work & me) were lucky to get a space close to the stage. Stu Larsen, another budding musician started the concert with his songs about traveling and advertising his new upcoming album.

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After a few songs, Passenger walked on the stage with a huge cheer from the crowd. It was evening and the day was getting cooler and sun light slowing dimming. I was pleasantly surprised, rather more impressed, by the personality of David. He struck as a funny guy. With a glass of whiskey in hand, he started with a story of how he performed as a street singer for 5 years and never expected to be famous. He started with his not so famous songs and the crowd was already moving to his tunes, people were smiling kissing and cheering. His most famous single “Let her go” made everybody lose themselves. The whole energy had a positive effect. His voice was just magical and the atmosphere around added to the setup. Eventually, he finished with a few duet with Stu. It was not one of those super packed high cheering concerts, with people jumping in mosh pits. It was more of those pleasant, charming and happy like feeling concerts. The crowd too was well behaved, cheering, making loud jokes and smiling. In the end, I enjoyed my bit and was happy by the end of it.

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The Girl with the Blue Glasses

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“Excuse me!! I suppose that’s my seat”

“Oh! I’m sorry. I’m just looking for my glasses, I kept it here, next to the window”

“How does it look like?”

“Nerdy and blue”

“Is it that one? Next to the scarf on the upper berth”

“Ah! Yes. Thank you!! I’m Ayesha by the way”

“Shameek! Nice to meet you”

“The Great Railway Bazaar by Paul Theroux, sounds like an interesting book you’re reading”

“Yeah, I like travel stories”

“Do you travel a lot too?”

“My mom says, I live in the trains”

“Haha! I would never want to live on trains. Trains in India run late”

“There are more than 11000 trains starting each day in India, managing such an organization is no joke”

“Still, that’s not an excuse for being late”

Sir, Ma’am, would you like to have some warm soup?

“Yes, please”

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“Its delicious, at least the food in the trains is not so bad after all”

“Around 25 million people travel everyday, some are there for the food, you never know”

“WHAT?! That’s almost like the population of Australia”

“Could well be, though I don’t know much about Australia. But do you know Indian Railways is the world’s largest with a network of 117000 kms”

“How do you know all these things?”

“My dad worked for the railways, I grew up with trains all around me”

“Is that why you live in them now?”

*Both chuckle*

“I like traveling in trains. I’ve been on the trains at the highest of mountains all covered in green, passing through the waterfalls, in the deserts, on the coasts, bridges, rivers flowing beneath, through the tea gardens, mustard field, remote villages, all on the train. I have seen a lot because of the trains”

“Wow! That’s sounds beautiful. We are halted for quite sometime now. What station is this btw?”

“Its too dark outside, I cannot read the nameplate”

“Looks like a good place for a midnight tea. Wanna join?”

“Sure, lets go”

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“Its quite late, there aren’t many people on the platform”

“You see these platforms, they all have stories to tell. People you see there, some tired, of their journey, some anxious, some happy, some sad, some impatient, some have their ears glue to the announcement speakers, the hawkers are busying selling, the coolies waiting for passengers to carry their luggage”

“Never looked at the platforms this way, till you said it. You really love trains, don’t you?”

*Amused*

“Haha!! I guess so”

“The train is about of start, the engine is already whistling, we should get in”

“Yes”

“I’m a bit tired, I guess I’ll sleep now. Good Night”

“Good Night”

*Few hours later*

“Hey, someone’s up early”

“Yes, I like to rise before the sun” *wink*

“What?” *cackle*

“Look at this picture, I clicked it this morning”

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“Oh! That’s super nice”

“Watching the sunrise makes me cheerful”

“How far are we from our destination?”

“Few more hours”

“Oh! Look we are on top of the river, on the bridge”

“Yes, look how the river is shining in the bright sunlight”

“And there’s a road above the train track. I have been to such roads many a times, always wondered how the train track below looks like. I will get down and have a look at it”

“But be careful, you don’t want the train to leave you behind”

“Don’t worry, I’ll hop on before it whistles”

“Alright”

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*Train whistles*

“We’re moving again, I hope we don’t halt anymore”

“We’re almost there”

*Sometime later*

“Is this the railway station?”

“This is the yard, that’s what they call it, it just outside the main station. They prepare the trains here for their next journey. Do you see the overhead bridge in the far horizon there?”

“The one with lots of people?!”

“Yes, that’s the main railway station”

“Its super huge”

“..and very old too”

 

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“So is this it?”

“Yes, here we are, final destination”

“It was really nice to meet you, lets keep in touch. Bye Bye.”

“Sure, Good Bye.”