Learning a new language has a tendency to reveal patterns otherwise hidden in your normal vernacular. My husband and I just returned from our honeymoon in Portugal and I can say, as with most travel I have done, I was pleasantly impacted by the experience.
Before leaving for Portugal, it was an important gesture to try to learn *some* of the language. As one of our tour guides put it, being able to speak someone’s language is a way to relate, be hospitable and make someone feel at home. The Portuguese have definitely mastered this. During our language classes, we learned the basics, “hello”, “where is the bathroom?”,”a bottle of wine, please” etc. We even discussed possible vocabulary associated with travel, dining, emergency situations and shopping. Some of the vocabulary stuck but there was a lot to cram in a few sessions.
After arriving in Lisbon, we were graciously greeted and picked up by our friend, Marta, who we had known from when she lived in Orange County. This is not atypical of Portuguese people – they are welcoming and treat you like family.
It would be difficult to say which is more beautiful, the country or the people. We were lucky enough to even have Marta’s mother prepare traditional Portuguese cuisine as a homemade meal. You can’t get any better than that!! We toured Lisbon for a few days, ventured to the Algarve in Lagos for a solid 5 days and then made our way north again to Sintra. Our last night was spent in Lisbon with Marta and friends with made through our trip. Great food, great conversation and a great end to an exciting trip.
Through all of these adventures and moments of joy, I noticed that both my husband and I kept using the word “obrigada” (obrigado for him), which translates as thank you. Maybe it was my minimal knowledge of other Portuguese words that made this word stick out compared to when I had traveled to Italy or other places in the world. Maybe it was just our being on our honeymoon made possible by our friends and family. Maybe it was the people and their inviting disposition. Maybe it was all of it but obrigada became a type of mantra throughout our trip, repeated time and time again with almost every interaction with others. I found myself using the term even when I had been speaking English with someone. (Most Portuguese speak fluent English, sometimes even better than native English speakers.) I was reminded of what a beautifully simple prayer “Thank you” can be, one that has the power to change mindsets from a place of lack to abundance, from a place of despair to joy, from a place of isolation to connection and belonging. It’s the gift that keeps giving – making us aware of all of our blessings.
“obrigada became a type of mantra throughout our trip”
Returning home was bittersweet as expected, but I have the delight of knowing that a piece of my heart will be in Portugal. And I will be forever grateful for that.