The Spanish guys I spent time with in Turkey told me it's not much fun to work in Spain or Portugal - they said the hours are long and the bosses are not fair. But they told me working all over Europe is hard - so many countries have economies that are tanking and so are looking for budget cuts and the cost of living just keeps on rising. I am not naive - I know that living in a country is a lot harder than travelling throughout it as a tourist. Hence the 'once I've made my millions' part. Then it's all swell :)
I've been thinking of home a bit the past few days - news of the weather has reached me here, even with the news being focussed on the demonstrations in Egypt. I'm really feeling for Queenslanders at the moment - it's not been a good summer for them. Then there's the bushfires down south - we really are a country of extremes.
I am sick again unfortunately - sinusitis again. I was really hoping it wouldn't happen when I have three flights in the next 2 days (one of them the 24 hour one back to Melb) but hey, that's life. Tomorrow afternoon I start the flights, first to Madrid, then to London. I spend overnight at Heathrow then fly to Melb at midday on Sunday. Therefore, I have nothing planned for today other than reading and resting - perhaps a short walk in the afternoon. I found a spy thriller in the book collection here so am enjoying that.
On Wednesday I went to the suburb of Belem - a very old suburb that has a few really beautiful sights. The main one is the Monastery of St Jerome. Walking through the cloisters I have never wanted to be a monk so much! It was probably the most serenely peaceful place I have been all trip - there's something about hearing nothing but the sound of your own footsteps as you walk through the cloisters, the sun on your face - the perfect atmosphere for prayer. The church there is also very beautiful - medieval Gothic in style.
Belem is kind of like a harbour town - makes sense in the old days because Portugal controlled the trade route between it and India for some time. There's the famous Belem Tower, which is in the water - about 10 metres from the bank. It was a scout and battle tower, as well as being a political prison, so there's quite a bit to see. It's not very big but there are about 4-5 levels of windy stairs. The views from it are magnificent - the water is so blue!
I spent most of the day in this suburb - it's about a 30 min tram ride from the centre of Lisbon where I am staying. The parks are green with beautiful monuments, the houses are beautiful, and there are yachts anchored along the piers strewn seafood restaurants, enticing smells coming from them. The weather here is perfect - I hate the heat, as some of you will know. But here the warmth comes from the sunlight and the skies are a perfect shade of blue. Therefore, while the air is fresh and cool, the sun warms your face. Perfect.
Just quickly, a word on the Portuguese language. I had thought it was similar to Spanish, but then I heard it. To me it sounds almost nothing like Spanish - its written form is close but the pronunciation is dramatically different. Portuguese sounds almost more Czech, with its 'sh' and 'j' sounds. This is very difficult to explain in text - I shall have to do a demo when I get home. Spanish also surprised me - I had not realised how to get the pronunciation right, one has to speak with a lisp. I thought 'gracias' was pronounced with the c being a soft s sound. But it's actually more like a 'th' sound. So, it's 'grathias', 'Barthelona' and sometimes even 'Madrith'. I think it depends on the dialect.
Yesterday I went somewhere that was first on my list of places to see when I originally planned this trip, over a year ago. That place is Fatima - home of the apparitions of the Virgin Mary in 1917 to three shepherd children, Lucia, Fancisco and Jacinta, and now the place where over 4 million pilgrims go each year. It's about an hour and a half out of Lisbon by bus.
I am not going to write anything about my experience there - I feel that written words cannot even come close to capturing what it was like to be there, and my atttempts would only sound overly dramatic and pretentious. Instead I will leave you with the words of one of the shepherd children, Lucia, who outlived her cousins and was visited by Mary throughout her life. She died in 2005.
“The Most Holy Virgin in these last times in which we live has given a new efficacy to the
recitation of the Rosary to such an extent that there is no problem, no matter how difficult it is,
whether temporal or above all, spiritual, in the personal life of each one of us, of our families, of
the families of the world, or of the religious communities, or even of the life of peoples and nations,
that cannot be solved by the Rosary. There is no problem I tell you, no matter how difficult it is,
that we cannot resolve by the prayer of the Holy Rosary.”