The first years (2001-2008)
(picture taken from the internet)
The first time I moved do Porto was 12 years ago. In late September 2001, as an 18 year old Law School freshman I rented a small place near Lapa's church. It was an attic in an old house and I was sharing it with a fellow law student from my hometown. I remember it was so small that I called it a "dollhouse". I lived there for one semester, my first months ever away from my family. Then I moved to another incredibly tiny room with no windows where I lived for 1,5 years in Boavista. Only in my third year I managed to find a proper flat and live in decent conditions (actually on the same building). I still recall those first university years as very intense, full of new experiences, great new friendships and lots of parties and alcohol. Like me, Porto was a very different city back then. My own life was very different back then.
Then my Erasmus year came (2005/2006). As the first defining moment of my life, that year in Budapest changed me irreversibly and coming back to Porto was a big shock to me. Suddenly I realized how so many things were lacking in this city and I was feeling the need to fly away, that my future would be abroad. In between dreams of going to NYC for 6 months and work in a bar just to pay my bills or working in some oil platform just to earn good money and have some crazy experiences, I found myself graduating and starting to work in a law firm in Porto, on September 2007. Moving to NYC ate the age of 24 vs promising career as a lawyer in Porto. The latter sounded (and still sounds) terribly boring to me, but I went with the easy option, the one which would be seen as the "normal choice" by society (oh, society!!!). As most of you know, I couldn't stick to my choice and I quit my job (second defining moment in my life) only six months later. During the months that preceeded my liberation scream, I was deeply bored in Porto . The only thing that would amuse me was to hang out with my friends on the weekend and go to this rock bar "Tendinha" (oh, the good ol' early days in Tendinha!!!) and get wasted. To me, Tendinha was a sacred refuge, where I would heal my soul while listening to great music and was the place where dreams felt like they could become true. And of course, every time they would play "Killing in the name" from Rage Against the Machine, I would stick my middle finger in the air and express all my rage singing along the chorus (F*ck you, I won't do what you tell me!). Oh, and everytime they would play Smashing Pumpkins, pure bliss! As one of my friends once said, during their songs was easy find me as I would stand still with my arms wide open pointing at the sky (the ceiling, I mean), smilling and with my eyes closed while people would go insane around me. Those nights were certainly magical and represent a golden period in my early adulthood which will never happen again, sadly.
However, Porto was not filling my needs as a city. Not many things were going on here. The city wasn't cosmopolitan, you couldn't find affordable international food, culture was extremely elitist and the concert scene was barely existent. We were still far away from what I call the urban european lifestyle. Now I can see that in late 2007, early 2008, the first seeds of what Porto became today were being slowly planted. But in that time it was cleary not enough. We'll go back to that.
February 2008 ended with me quitting my job. I already wrote about that day. I did manage to leave Porto as well. Destination?? New York? No. London? No. Some caribbean island? No. I quit my job and my next city was Santarém!!! Yep, probably you never heard of it if you are not portuguese! Back then I didn't know I'd became a tennis coach so I applied for jobs all over the world and also used my tennis coach degree, cause I needed to find a job to pay my bills. And my first offer was in Santarém, a smallish city north of Lisbon, where I spent 3 months as a tennis coach. The only good thing about Santarém was the amazing meat they have there. Truly delicious. Oh, and nearby there's a beautiful castle on a tiny island (Castelo de Almourol, picture taken from the internet).
When I left Santarém, I was jobless (meaning free) again. So where did I go? Berlin? No. Melbourne? No. Chicago? No. I went back to my old town, the infamous city of Santa Maria da Feira, where I started my own tennis project and where I still work today. I never thought I'd go back there actually. But make no mistake, although I don't have much connection with the city or the people there besides my family, my job there is being some of the best thing that could ever happened to me. I lived in my hometown for 4 years (with a 3 month break when I lived in Berlin). On the first 3 years, it made sense to live there. But one day, for many reasons, it stopped making sense to live in a small town. That's when I decided to move to Porto after returning from my roadtrip across the USA, which was another defining moment in my life.
You might ask why on earth someone was desperately trying to leave Porto in 2008 only to be eager to return to that same city 4 years later. That is, dear reader, one of the biggest ironies in my life. But that's also a sign of how much Porto changed in less than 5 years. What Porto was, what Porto is nowadays and what Porto might become are three different realities that I want to analyze independently. With this post, I briefly covered my past in this city.
Soon I'll write about this last year.