Sorry for the long silence. We’ve been distracted. Wayne and I have been sorting through emotions and practicalities of “stay” or “go” regarding Portugal. When we first set out on this adventure, it was open ended. People asked is we were returning to the US or staying forever. We were noncommittal because we didn’t have a specific intention. We felt we would try it for at least 2 years and see how we felt. The luxury of retirement.
Fast forward, for 2 ½ years we have been living in the cozy town of Setúbal. Not one regret about coming, staying as long as we did, or deciding to return to the US. We have lived everything we came for. We wanted to be immersed in a European country where the language and the culture were foreign to us. We wanted to visit different spots throughout the country. We wanted to be surrounded by a culture that was shaped by ancient events and multiple civilizations. Just to experience what it’s really like to be the “others”. We are the foreigners (“estrangeiros”) here and we try to respect the customs of another land. It’s fair to say that we desperately want to avoid being viewed as “ugly Americans” …to a fault. I’ve watched some other American friends breeze about, swing into restaurants and stores, speaking only English and feeling completely at ease. That’s just not us. Despite our history of running dance studios and events, we are quite shy and unassuming folks behind the masks. We do our best to speak Portuguese when we can. It was our own restriction to not own a car. We get out there to attend events and join the local community centers. We even taught a 10-week ballroom dance course in Portuguese dammit. The locals are warm and welcoming, especially our dance students who gush over us. The list of plusses goes on and on…the weather, the wine, the beaches, the bread, the fish…and we both still come back to wanting to go home. I rarely forget that we enjoy the privilege of having a choice.
Perhaps we predestined our fate by allotting 2 years to decide about wanting to stay, but that’s about how long it took to realize that we don’t. There was a brief period of indecision. So many expats have lived here for over a decade and will never go back. Even more Americans are planning to move here every day. It seemed like if you don’t just adore living here forever then there’s something wrong with you. Are we crazy, are we missing something really obvious? Well, if you’ve ever made a decision, you know that’s the most difficult spell. Once a decision is made, the rest is just a to-do list.
Enter Serendipity. Having made our decision, we attended a local meeting of the Expats in Setúbal Facebook group in December. Curiosity and a craving for spoken English were factors, but primarily our reason for going was blatantly mercenary. We had an entire apartment of furniture and machines to dispose of by the end of March – we had rented our apartment unfurnished. At that meeting was a lovely couple who was fresh off the plane from Ohio – with a familiar fresh glow of adventure and discovery about them. Tim and Susan are staying in a short-term place and were planning on scouting for apartments. Most long-term rentals here are unfurnished; only the vacation rentals have beds or fridges, let alone light fixtures in the ceiling.
You see where this is going. Yes, out with the us and in with the them! It’s difficult to think of a more symbiotic circumstance than the 4 of us. They love all the things we love about our apartment – 9th floor, 2 varandas, views galore, central location, spacious 3BR-2BA. They are delighted to not have to find, buy and transport furniture and machines like we did. We are delighted not to have to try to sell off articles piecemeal and/or donate to the local charity. Even deadlines aligned. We leave March 31 and they must vacate their rental by April 12. Our landlord is delighted to re-rent the apartment immediately. All of our lives are so much simplified by that one meeting.
We’ve taken them to a few of our favorite places and activities; even hooked them up with our language teacher. I have always felt the professional responsibility to train my replacements. Fact is, we just like them a lot. The bittersweet pill is that our playdate is brief. I appreciate this overlap time more because I know we are not just leaving town, but eventually the continent.
We’ve set our sights on the Maryland Eastern Shore, probably Ocean Pines or Ocean City. There is absolutely no way to explain this with logic or words, but, when we visited last fall — even the beach just felt more like home. We have been blessed to find amazing homes, as well as the towns they are in. I expect nothing less than wonderful at our next perch. It will find us just as all the others did.
After leaving Setúbal, we have 2 months of leisure in the beach home of our friend, Helena, in Armação de Pera. After that, we head north to the Lisbon airport and across the Pond.
Countdown Portugexit begins…