Sunday, February 27, 2005

Portugal II

Just a short post to tell you of some of the cultural shocks I have been perplexed and enlightened by. Johnny took me to her parents who were very parental in an ideal way that I imagined and idealized her parents to be. I thought I didn’t like fish. Correction: empirical research suggests that I don’t like any fish other than Johnny’s mother’s fish, or perhaps that Canadian fish sucks because it is frozen and Portuguese fish rocks because it is fresh and cooked to perfection.

Throughout dinner I struggled to fit in and manage around the language barrier. I now know the words obrigade and when to say ciao and how to rarely say adios. One obstacle is that I am a slob and this conflicted with the fact that Porties are very well mannered, as far as I can tell. I saved broccoli pieces as they jumped off my plate, slyly retrieved them, learned to put my napkin in my lap, and ALWAYS USE A KNIFE AND FORK. It may seem common sense to some, but it absolutely confused me when I was brought a second set of cutlery in preparation for an ORANGE. How do you eat an orange with a fork and knife? Is this what people do? Well, I used observational learning and was calmed by the fact that they too eat oranges with their organic digits, but I tried to impress them with my flair as I peeled the orange with my knife and made a swirl to undress it with one swoop. No one applauded, but I think they were all secretly impressed (or so I would have myself believe). Needless to say, lunch was very good. I like how Porties have all the amenities on the table: olive oil, vinegar, and «crisps». They all converse brightly and simultaneously, with their grand hand gestures, humourous teasing, and colourful laughter.

In other affairs, I am learning how to be fashionable. Since I walk with a stiff sailor’s gait, I am loosening up in hopes of one day walking like a homo erectus and being admired on the runway. I got some wonderful clothes, a jacket and a sweater as well as some brilliantly beautiful shoes. I let Johnny do the honours of pitching my old $7 second hand shoes into the «rubbish bin». Howard was with us for awhile but he became impatient. He said he «had some matters to attend to» and that he would meet up with us at the mall but then he was typically evasive. I’m sure we’ll see him again. For now, it is a relief to not have to hear his suggestions about how Johnny should rearrange her furniture, or his unbecoming habit of noticeably imitating the gestures of Porties on the street.


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