21 março 2019

A guided tour of 31 536 000 seconds

This will be a retrospective weave of memory threads of one year of my life, in which I have lived more than 31 million seconds as a volunteer in Lisbon. It’s quite an enormous number, no? (Trust me, I Googled it, it’s correct.)

In the first second I was confused, and in the second one I was happy. In the third I wanted to cry and in the fourth I started laughing.

Summarizing millions of moments seems like an impossible challenge. Maybe it is not possible, indeed. But what I can tell you dear curious mind, reading these lines, is that I loved every minute of it. For sure, there were ups and downs, but that’s how it works, don’t you agree?  I cannot share everything that I experienced, but I can give you a small guided tour to Lisbon, Portugal and my memories.

I was 19 years old, coming from a Southern Hungarian city, called Szeged, when I decided to move in the March of 2018.

The house that I moved into in Lisbon is called Casa Anjos. It’s old and smells a bit humid, because we dry the clothes inside and then bump into everything because there is not enough space. Inside the ‘house of angels’ there is Menino Morto, the guardian spirit watching over the building and over all the strange individuals living inside. There is a big corridor, with leftover memory pieces from people living there before me, which makes one realize that you were not the first one and you will not be the last. It’s almost like a small interactive museum of the happiness of others and yours, so definitely check it out for yourself. If you go straight, your reach the kitchen. It’s full of azulejos, traditional Portuguese tiles and has an old stove. It usually smells like food all the time, because you can always find someone there out of the 8 people that I lived with, that’s cooking or just drinking wine and laughing. I shared many family dinners in that kitchen around the white table that always needs more chairs. Some of those dinners were funny, some were serious and some were spiritual, we had it all.

If you take a few more steps, you reach my old room. It has two beds, the one closer to the door was mine. I shared this room with two amazing people throughout my journey. If you take a peak on the left side of the room, there is a balcony. I’ve seen many sunsets and sunrises there, and had many crazy or meaningful talks accompanied by a coffee or vinho verde, a typical Portuguese wine. Next to the balcony door was my desk. I kept many old travel tickets in a chaotic order. For example, travel tickets to the North of Portugal.

To Porto, the birth place of Harry Potter. Or Braga, one of the most religious cities of Portugal. Also to Geres, a national park, surrounded by mountains and lakes, where I had a training course. Also another training in the city of Viseu, where I met amazing people.

I also had some tickets there to Setúbal, a city close to Lisbon, which has a secret abandoned palace next to the ocean shore in the middle of its national park. And another close-by town, Sintra, and to its enchanted castles.  Also to the middle of Alentejo to a city called Évora, filled with Alentejo spirit, Portuguese cheese and wine. Or to Vila Nova Milfontes and its amazing shores and cliffs. I also had a ferry ticket there from Peniche to the Berlengas Island, where I learned how not to panic if you are accidentally stuck in a city, because you miss your last bus to get back to your home.

Or to the South of Portugal, to the Algarve region and its indescribable beauty. I also had many tickets to a small city next to Lisbon, called Cascais, where I spent many summer days enjoying the sun and the waves of the ocean with friends.

So take the train with me back to Lisbon from Cascais, and you arrive to the metro station. If you hop on the metro alongside me, you will eventually end up at my workplace in Bairro Padre Cruz, after a lengthy wait for the bus that is always late. There you find the office of Associacao Spin, with a big mural inside, surrounded by all the graffitis of the district. There in that office, I advanced a lot with graphic design, which was one of my main goals to do during my project. We hosted many groups in our social hostel, and I met people from all over the world. We ate a lot of soups from Churrasquinho, and had an overdose of coffee every day. We were planning, organizing, executing and having a lot of fun. I learned how to handle paper work, how to host people and manage a hostel, how to plan and execute events, how to promote, how to interview, how to work on online and print designs alike and had the opportunity to be creative meanwhile. I learned a lot during this one year, both professionally and personally.

If you come back with me to the city centre from the office, you will find one of the most controversial ambiances a city can bear. I found utter calmness inside the sunny Lisbon, and joyful and chaotic liveliness at the same time. Lisbon is the city of the Sun, sardines, bacalhau, music, hidden streets and beautiful people.

Take a 20-minute-walk with me on the old, tiled streets to arrive back to my home, maybe take a Pastel de Nata (you have to try it, it’s addictive) on the way and have a cigarette with me on one of the miradouros (viewpoint) enjoying the cityscape. Enter the old building, go to the living room, and you will see the place where I spent my last second waiting with my luggage for the taxi, crying like a new-born baby out of happiness thinking about all the beauty this one year gave me.

I travelled, I loved, I kissed, I hugged, I laughed, I ate, I drank, I sang, I swam, I learned, I was helped and I helped, I gained and I gave.

But the most important thing is, that I gained a family and a home, which I will always love and cherish.

I hope you enjoyed my small tour, even though I might not be the best tour guide ever. But this is not just a guide book, it’s a love letter to all the people that I met, to Lisbon and to Portugal. Thank you!

Kisses from Szandra
To You

Nürnberg, Germany

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