Portugal is a unique place to live. It offers artistry, warmth and opportunity for new discovery.
Finding a New Artistic Voice
Yesterday I had the pleasure of singing with the Bandalhos band for a birthday bash of a dear friend. At the onset of joining this band I was a bit intimidated because rock music was not necessarily my forte. Ask me to sing the Jazz of Etta James, Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughn and I would do so without hesitation. When I heard that the set list would include songs from the likes of Gary Moore and Guns N’ Roses I almost said no altogether.Surprisingly group cohesion of this band paralleled some of the communal values I noticed about the people of Portugal. The underlying theme of loyalty and comradery was very strong as these band members knew each other since they were barely out of diapers. My first meeting before rehearsal would be in a little Tasca (small restaurant) before rehearsal at the Rockpit studios. Hubby has known one of the band members since he was a child, but interaction with Portuguese natives can be quite overwhelming.
While seated I tried my best to remember my basic words of Portuguese in efforts(Boa Noite, Obrigada, Falar Davagar) to prove the progression of my language. Once I began to sing the lyrics of the song of My Way by Lenny Kravitz, I began to think of home and connected to the musicianship of singing with band. Truly, moving abroad has taught me to open up to new experiences while also appreciating all that my native culture affords.
Amidst my time of singing with the band, I cannot fail to mention how much the elderly are viable aspects of the community. I have never seen so many vibrant seniors happily enjoying their daily routine and intermingling with the rest of society. It appears that they become the grandparents of the entire community. The elderly people are honored in a way that denotes their wisdom and not their ageing physical appearance. I almost drop my jaw when I ask a senior how old they are and they respond with a grin to pronounce they will be 80 or 90 years old. One can see quickly that seniors continue to walk, rest and convene in the cafes where they discuss the latest happenings in the country. They will also join the rest of the community to watch an exciting game of soccer to see if their special team will win. In addition to this, there is an allegiance from within the community that allows them to be authentically cared for.
Portuguese people like to work out! I am amazed at the love of biking, surfing and running that goes on in the city. While I was conducting a morning run, I almost thought a mini-marathon was happening when I saw two large groups of runners heading in my direction. I thought to myself that something major had to be going on for this many people to be running. Indeed-it was a normal day for health and fitness as I realized this similar pattern after three week period.
It’s amazing to me because many people look surprisingly young for their age. With that said, I can also concur that the rich nutrients within the food that is sold here is at a reasonable cost and accessible to everyone. I was almost shocked that I could purchase a bag of small fish for only five Euros. I also was able to purchase spinach that had leaves as large as the palm of my hand. Undeniably, Portugal wins for access to fresh and rich produce.
I cannot tell you all of the perfect things about Portugal without highlighting one of my major challenges this month. I like to call this new experience I have had language numbness. This simply indicates that I got frustrated with learning this language and took a two week hiatus from learning European Portuguese. Portuguese is a language with varying inflections that can be frustrating for the English speaker. On the one hand, you want to learn the basic grammar, but on the other hand you do not want to sound like a five year old when you are speaking. With that said, I experienced a hesitance to want to continue. I completely thought about individuals in the States who have had to adapt to the English language. This made me acknowledge the challenge they must have in acclimating to the American English as well. With that said, this language hiatus is over and I am happy to say that I will begin with a new mindset in the coming weeks. I am learning that I will have to take baby steps as I learn new phrases since I desire to speak with the locals.
Taken together, Portugal has treated me well. I cannot complain about the rich experiences I have had with the music, people, and language. I do understand that dissonance is necessary for further growth. Here I come!
Dr. Allana Da Graca is the founder of Turning on the Lights Global Institute, Inc. Her focus as an educator is to help adult learners reach their personal and professional goals. She is the author of a new self-help book called, Tomorrow Can’t Wait. Currently she teaches a variety of communication courses) as an online instructor at Walden University. She is the recipient of the Robert C. Ford Fellowship, Martin Luther King Leadership BHCC Award, and the Chahara Foundation Award.
Learn more at www.drallanadagraca.com.