Little things I love about Portugal

View of Tomar from the old bridge over the Rio Nabao.
View of the historic district of Tomar from the old bridge over the Rio Nabão..The Templar castle is on the hill in the background.

It’s been raining a lot in my part of central Portugal during the last few weeks. Although we desperately need the moisture after a long dry spring and summer, it’s still pretty dreary. But when the sun returns everything looks so lovely.

This morning it dawned bright and clear after a gray and gloomy day yesterday. The clear sky meant that there was frost on top of my car for the first time this autumn. Still, I was happy to see the sun and I was reminded of how may little pleasures there are to enjoy here.

Take for instance, my morning walk with my dog, Divina. On Saturdays I usually do a longer walk and often go through a nearby village. Last Saturday I walked past a garden gate and saw an elderly lady with a walker who looked as though she was having trouble opening the latch. I said good morning in Portuguese. She answered “Bom dia” and we continued with the usual “Tudo bem?” meaning, roughly “how are you?” Then she apologized saying she was having trouble speaking, pointing to her mouth and I gathered the problem was that she hadn’t put her dentures in. Never mind, we had a brief happy little conversation, teeth or no teeth.

My dog Divina

Adventures in healthcare

One of the other things that has delighted me here in Portugal is the health care system. Yes, it has been very stretched due to the Covid crisis. But it has slowly come back to life. The little clinic in my village, which is open a few hours a week, once again has a visiting doctor. Last week I went to inquire about making an appointment for a check-up. I was told to show up at 9 am to make the appointment. However, when I arrived there were already several people waiting outside in the cold. Luckily it was not raining. About 9:45 the regular nurse arrived and I was able to make the appointment. (I have worked hard during my three years here to learn Portuguese. I’m not fluent by any means, but I am able to use it in most of my daily business.)

My appointment was for 10 a.m this Friday morning. Based on my experience last week, I went at 9:30 expecting to see a crowd waiting outside. This time there was only one other woman. We were able to go inside the clinic just before 10 and I was the first one called. The doctor, who looked incredibly young, kindly suggested it would be easier if we conversed in English. I have learned not to take this as a failing of my Portuguese language skills, it’s just a fact. I didn’t know all the medical vocab needed to converse with the doc.

Long story short, he wrote orders for a battery of tests and said he’d see me in two weeks. Simple. Simple, Simple.

Helping neighbors

While I had been waiting, an American friend of mine had come in with an elderly Portuguese lady who used a cane to walk. My friend asked if anyone spoke English. (Since I was wearing a mask inside the clinic, she hadn’t recognized me.) I waved at her and she explained that the older woman was a neighbor of hers and she’d given her a lift to the clinic. I said I’d be happy to give the lady “Uma Boleia” back home. So, as soon as I was finished, I waited while the older lady got her prescriptions filled at the part-time pharmacy next door, then I drove her back to her village, located about two miles from my home. It gave me such pleasure to be able to help a neighbor!

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