Begining Of Journey From Beautiful Islands ( Azores)
In my birthplace of Terceira Island in the Azores, an archipelago between the American and European continents belonging to Portugal, there’s a question that imposes itself to all high school students: “will I leave the Azores at the end of these three years to go to college in the continent?”
The bucolic, romantic hearts might have some difficulties understanding why someone would want to leave the breathtaking natural landscapes and the almighty Atlantic Ocean of the Azores. The bucolic, romantic hearts probably didn’t grow up in a pretty rock separated from the rest of the world by miles and miles of unruly water, crossing oneself with the same faces, tastes and ideas day in and day in. At least that was how I felt, not all Azoreans are introspective, melancholic potential cinema students, actually, most of them aren’t, and that was my problem.
Lisbon, A city of Dreams and Opportunity in Portugal.
My mind was set even before I went to high school: I’m going to run through these three years as fast as I can and move to Lisbon, not the continental part of Portugal, Lisbon, got to be Lisbon. All of Europe can fit into Lisbon to the eyes of a young Azorean man. Saying “over there in Lisbon” when you actually meant “over there in any continental part of Portugal” was such a common mistake in Terceira that eventually it wasn’t a mistake at all. We obviously knew that Lisbon wasn’t literally the rest of the world but deep in our hearts that’s how we felt; here we are in our recondite part of the world, with our ocean, green pastures and cows and everything else, civilization has the world knows it, was two hours by plane away, in Lisbon.
When I moved to the Lisbon.
The city corresponded to my expectations when I moved in; in it, I could see a sample of the world, I was as impressed by the social landscape in Lisbon as most people are by the natural landscapes in my homeland. A harmonious conglomerate of languages and styles converged into this city, following their invisible paths through rectilinear avenues or exploring the narrow streets of smaller neighborhoods. Anywhere I went someone I could never find in Terceira looked for something I never experienced before. I felt all the enthusiasm one feels when knowing his life is going to change dramatically but I also felt something else: I’m not home anymore.
This feeling hit me the strongest when I returned to Lisbon after my first Christmas vacations, three months after I moved in. I knew these streets well enough to not be as surprised by them as I was when I first moved in Lisbon, but not to the point of familiarity. And that was precisely what I needed in that time where Christmas has already ended but not really passed, familiarity.
Then it was 7 AM and I couldn’t sleep, I’ve spent the night searching all angles of my Lisbon bed looking for the one I left in Terceira and all I could find was more reasons to keep on searching. I got hungry, I had no food, I always had food in my parents’ house in Terceira, my house, in Terceira. I ended my bed expedition, got up, grabbed the money on the bedside table and went to the small bakery near my house that opened precisely at 7 AM.
The baker greeted me with a familiar smile, sold me a warm chocolate croissant and a loaf of bread, asked how my day was going and complained a bit about how early he needed to wake up in the morning. I’ve only been to that bakery two or three times before and yet I felt like it was the most routine part of my life. I stored the loaf at my house, ate my croissant with some milk, left the house and decided to roam around my neighborhood. The narrow streets embraced me, the old houses with its picturesque motives and Portuguese traditional tiles kept me warm on that January morning.
I sat down in a café/florist/gourmet store that I usually went to, asked for tea and opened a book with the intention of reading it. But then the waitress/florist/gourmet store owner asked me the reason for my recent absence. I told her I was in the Azores for Christmas, she asked questions about the archipelago and talked about her hometown in Alentejo until I finished my tea, a cigarette, a coffee and another cigarette.
When I walked back home I was seeing a side of Lisbon I haven’t thought I would see, much more need it. Yes, Lisbon is a cosmopolitan city, filled with visitors from all corners of the world, visitors that easily top the number of inhabitants in the central parts of the city, but it isn’t just that. It’s also an old town, with narrow streets, warm people and places you will easily recognize and go back to time and time again. Lisbon is a city that lots of non-natives chose to call home because it’s really easy to feel familiar in Lisbon.