A Travellerspoint blog

Any given Sunday!

sunny 32 °C

This is just a reminder to future me.

"How to make some random Sunday extraordinary" - June 30 2013

8.30am - waking up and preparing some breakfast.

9.00am - buying the newspaper, the new edition of the "Time Out" magazine and driving to the beach in Leça da Palmeira.

(taken from the internet)

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9.30am - early enough to avoid huge crowds and easy to find a parking spot. Time to hit the water.

10.30am - sun is getting warmer and warmer, beach more and more crowded, time to hit the water for the second time.

11.30am - after reading the magazine, time for a third swim and leave the already packed beach.

11.45am - found a nice place right by the beach with shade and a gentle breeze. Temperature in the sun is probably over 30º. Order a hot dog and a coke (ice, but no lemon). Reading the newspaper and thinking about buying a biography about Nelson Mandela.

1.00pm - back home. shower, wasting time online and watching some random comedy freshly downloaded.

5.45pm - grabbing a towel and Fitzgerald's "The Rich Boy" (in times of crisis, I keep rereading the books I have) and walking a couple of minutes to Palácio de Cristal, a park nearby. Laying in the shade, enjoying the breeze, the slow dance of the trees and reading.

(taken from the internet)
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7pm - driving like a madman to Maceda to catch some waves. "Loveless" from My Bloody Valentine is blasting on my Ipod.

7.30pm - arriving to the beach. How I missed it!!! Waves are not so big, just as I like, especially when out of shape. The sand was probably packed with people all day, but now as the sun goes down, beach is almost empty. Getting ready and off to the water, smiling like a little boy. All is perfect in that moment.

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8.15pm - leaving the water, trying not to be late for family dinner. Recording that moment with a picture and sharing it on FB! Loving the colours of the end of the day and listening to "Gentle Hour", a cover song from Yo La Tengo. Thinking how it really fits the moment.

8.45pm - arriving to my parents house. Family gathered to celebrate my aunt's 76th birthday. One of the persons I admire the most.

10.30pm - after a great family moment, time to say bye. driving back to Porto. "Loveless" again.

11pm - picking up the laptop in my flat and going to café Encontro, right on my street to watch Brasil vs Spain in football and write these words.

11.45pm - time to write about my conclusions about this day.

After weeks of hard work under 30+ temperature, I was needing a day like this. I've missed going into the water with my board. I was somehow distracted and/or busy over the past months. And today I found out I still love to be in the water. And I still need Maceda, my beach.

Today I also reminded myself that it's up to me to make my life awesome, as normal as it is. I will rather focus in the things that I can do and not the things I can't do. I forgot about all the personal and professional worries and just lived, when and how I wanted it.

I was alone all day up to dinner time. But I wouldn't change that for almost anything in the world (except for true love). Being with ourselves can be really inspiring.

A new week starts now. And so it does a new Pedro, ready to continue the "struggle", never stopping, always moving forward, never giving up to believe, never settling for anything less than great.

Posted by ZackMeursault 15:23 Archived in Portugal Comments (0)

Primavera Sound 2013 (Porto) - a cosmic trip

A jubilee of explosions in a bloody sky!

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Primavera Sound 2013 is over. The last days have been surreal in so many ways. I feel like I was teletransported to a new dimension, to a new life. I embarked on some emotional journey that took me to so many hidden or almost forgotten places of my mind. So many moments and people passed through my mind over the last days. I felt like my shoulders carried all the suffering in the world, but at the same time all its beauty. I felt hopeless and yet, hopeful. I hurt and healed myself. That's the power of music in me.

About the festival. When I heard about it, in early 2012, that Primavera Sound in Barcelona would have Porto as a sister city, I was thrilled. I had been following the line ups in BCN for the past years and finding the names of so many bands that I loved or was discovering and that probably would take a long time to come to Portugal. And when the line up for PS12 - Porto was published, I was overwhelmed with the possibility of having magic moments before my upcoming life changing trip to the United States. Obviously, given the alternative spirit of the festival, not many portuguese people even heard about the festival (the first edition had more than 60% foreigners) and that made the first edition quite special. Plus, the location, in Parque da Cidade, proved to be the best place in Porto for a festival, with green grass all over, ocean views and the sun setting right at our side.

Coming back to the 2013 edition, and despite becoming a little bit of a social event in Porto (many people heard that it's cool and go just to be part of a cool thing), I had an even better time. The weather was just perfect, I've seen amazing bands and could share this experience with new and old friends. At the same time I was working a lot this weekend, so my days were quiet frantic, between working, rushing home to rest for some hours and suddenly being amongst thousands of people feeling completely happy and in peace while being taken to distant imaginary worlds and endless possibilities.

Sometimes I really don't understand how music is irrelevant to many people. How they can not leave the comfort zone of all the commercial sound that they are exposed to and just discover new things. I guess that's how society works these days, people don't search around the normality spectrum, instead they let life unfold in front of their eyes, doing what they are told to do and listening what they are offered to.

In my case, music is the most important thing in my life. It started when I was 12 years old and discovered “Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness” (Smashing Pumpkins) and “Vitalogy” (Pearl Jam). Ever since, music has always been a part of my daily life and I can never forget my first walkman, my first discman, my first iPod or the stereo I bought for my room during university. Through all these devices, I had access to sounds that defined my life, that shaped my personality. There are songs that helped me more than anyone can even begin to imagine. Songs that literally kept me going and struggling through life.

We are never alone if we have music. Music is always there for us. And we can always discover new music, new songs and find new hopes, new dreams, new directions for our lives. Songs are moments, people, triumph, defeat, joy, sadness, angst, depression, euphoria, accomplishment, pain...

And then, live music played in front of thousands of people, all united through a common sound and yet, feeling so many different things, remembering different people or places, but all together in one huge magic bubble. That's when we humans are in touch with ourselves, there's no space for differences or hate, we all share a common love and respect for beauty. This said, having the chance to see My Bloody Valentine live was a blessing and definitely one experience of a lifetime.

Anyway, music should reign in this post of mine, so I'll leave you with songs that defined my 2013 Primavera Sound experience:

Posted by ZackMeursault 03:19 Archived in Portugal Comments (0)

New dawn fades. A broken country. A shattered Europe.

(I know, I know... this is a travel blog, but who cares?) :)

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Today is (still) Europe Day. On this day, 63 years ago, Robert Schuman, the French Foreign Minister at the time made a declaration calling for the need to create a new form of organisation of States in Europe, some kind of a supranational community. That was the first step of many that led to the creation of what we know today as the European Union.

Over the years, I became interested in this so called process of european construction, so I guess today it's a good day to share some of my views about this overwhelming crisis that if affecting Portugal, Europe and the world itself.

About Portugal, there's one thing that became clear to me over the past months. Make no mistake: the middle class (where I belong) will be poorer and poorer (compared with northern european standards) in the next decade(s). People can scream, people can shout, people can complain as much as they want, but they (me included) need to accept that as an undeniable fact and prepare to see all their previous hopes and dreams be shattered into a million pieces. From those ruins, we'll need to build a new tomorrow, both as individuals and as a society. And there is nothing wrong with that, in my opinion. I'm actually preparing for that challenge.

But why or how did Portugal reach this point? Amongst all the white noise and demagogy I've been hearing in the last couple of years, a few days ago it all became crystal clear to me, after watching the explanations of a portuguese economist. In his words, Portugal lost his job in the world and got at the same time a credit card. That couldn't lead to anything good. I'll try to summarize his explanation:

Let's consider the post 2nd WW world as a huge company where each country performs a role, a task. For many years, our role in the european economy was to export simple industrial products, made with intensive labor and low wages (e.g. textile industry and simple machinery). Besides that, we had tourism (beaches and sun). When we joined the European Union, back in 1986, the big european economies such as Germany changed our industrial map, when their big multinationals installed many factories here, creating jobs and attracting investment. That modernized our small industry and everyone here knows the progress our society had during the 90's.

But then the XXI century came and it brought one thing called globalization which completely changed the way the world was spinning. In 2001 China joined the World Trade Organization (WTO) and it's cheap labor attracted all the big economies in the world. Shortly after, in 2004, many former soviet union countries joined the EU. Their cheaper but more skilled labor than our own (portuguese), shifted the attention of the big european economies, who placed their big factories and investment there. That's when Portugal got "unemployed" regarding its role in the world's economy. As a small country, we became useless and unattractive for the "big fish". We kept being a good destination for holidays, but that is not enough.

At the same time, we joined the EU's economic and monetary union which led to the creation of a single currency, the infamous EURO. At the time and during the years that led to the crisis, all countries profited from low interest rates. What does that meant for Portugal? Everyone (State, banks, companies, normal people) lost their minds and started spending money. Public and private debt exploded to unthinkable levels. That's the credit card part. As a country (and here I blame the political elites and the people) we had this ingenious (yet incredibly stupid) idea to live and be happy like the rich european countries but without having nothing to offer in return.

Sooner or later, someone would look at those "credit card" statements and stop financing this debauchery. In a nutshell, the subprime crisis imploded in USA in late 2007 and the european banks were extremely exposed to it and that huge hit affected the stability of the euro and the european countries high public debts became an easy target for the financial markets. While trying to keep their (some might say unexistent) role as a key player in the world's economy, side by side with USA and Asia, the EU, leaded by Germany, was forced to do everything to save the euro and started bailing out the southern economies, creating on the public opinion the idea that they are helping those countries (such as Portugal). This led and it's still leading to a huge division between countries, between their people. Populist and nationalist movements are rising all over Europe and we were never so close to a complete collapse of the so called european utopia. The truth is that Germany is not helping anyone, but themselves. We are not talking about little kids games here, we are talking about the big game. Southern economies are like infantry, the first barrier against the financial markets, while the big fish is preparing for the big battle in the backstage. They are assisting us while they need and as long as we comply with their rules. Ironically, this constitutes a paradox: while they are objectively not helping us, we can't survive without their so called help. Again, let me be clear: if we don't follow their rules, they close the money pipe and then we'll see what's real poverty, as the country will enter in bankruptcy with unimaginable consequences.

Welcome to today, this is our Europe as of 9th of May 2013!

And the following is what I think about this tiny beautiful country next to the Atlantic ocean, full of history and wonderful things.

I recall an expression used by a good friend of mine a couple of years ago, when the crisis imploded in Portugal: "this is a chance for a collective catharsis for of country, of our people"! At the time, I gave his words some thought and felt hopeful for a brighter future for us, for our people. Our society, my generation, we would learn with our mistakes and start working on a better future. Two years passed and I lost my hopes.

And I blame the middle class. The poor were always there and the rich will always be rich. The change will have to happen in the middle class, which represents most of the people in this country and was the most favoured class in the last 30 years. And within the middle class, I believe that it's my generation and the following ones that should lead this change, this evolution and build a brighter tomorrow.

But I don't see that willingness around me. I hear a lot of complaining, a lot of whining. I hear people talking about rights and expectations, that they "deserve" more. Deserve? WTF? We don't deserve anything. Ok, I concede that we are entitled to fundamental rights such as the right to life and all the basic things that luckily are granted in western world. We have all those charters and declarations giving us lots of rights and a few duties.

Besides that, we have to make our own luck, trace our own destiny. We have to fight hard and struggle. But that's the thing, our middle class thinks that they don't have to struggle. I have to say that I get more and more impatient when I hear people with 30 years old living with their parents when they could afford a rent and live alone or share a flat. I don't talk about people that are jobless or in some fucked up situation. I refer to people who prefer to spend their money in travels, expensive phones and clothes instead of spending it in rent, food and bills while leading a modest but independent life. I can't stand how people are affraid of losing their status quo in the society and keep living above their real possibilities. That's the same problem that led us here and people are not changing, that can't be good. I can't stand this bourgeois lifestyle around me.

I'm not even despising consumerism. All over the world, people want to have iPhones and fancy cars and all that material bullshit. I respect that, although it's not part of my nature. I'm criticizing the ones that want so badly to feel like they belong to a certain group of people that they lose the notion of reality. And there is only one reality for the next years here: we will have to readjust our lives to a sustainable level, whether that means riding a bike instead of driving a car, sharing a flat with three persons instead of living alone, spending our holidays in the beach right next to us instead of going abroad...etc... We have to live with what we earn, period.

My life has been incredible, but it was never easy, never had anything for granted and I'm still fighting everyday to survive, to stay solvent and be completely independent. I'm prepared and preparing for almost everything ahead of me.

So I urge you to look inside and ask yourself: Am I still living in some illusory bubble? Am I doing all I can for my country? Am I being the best I can be in everything I do, both professionally and personally? The future of our country lies in me, in you and in all of us.

I leave with a song from Joy Division that fits our situation as a continent.

Posted by ZackMeursault 04:58 Archived in Portugal Comments (0)

The Baltic Way...

and a glimpse of the Eternal City.

Spoiler alert: if you read this post, you won't find anything really useful from a touristic point of view. My pictures are not that good too. That you can find in other travel blogs or guides. Other people can tell you about when the Cathedral in Vilnius was built. I prefer to remember the person I met in front of it on a certain freezing day. Someone else will tell you about how many hours in the queue you will need to wait to visit the Colosseum in Rome. I prefer to remember a new italian friend and his group who took me to a very small and typical place in Pigneto. I didn't enter any museum in Riga, but I will never forget one certain tuesday night and the glass (or glasses of wine) in the dim lighted Café Osiris while discussing music and LIFE (yes, that wonderful thing). About Tallinn, I know now they once had the tallest church in Europe, but who cares? Instead, I will never forget Paar Veini, Must Puudel or Sinilind and the hopes and dreams of the people that sat by my side in such moments.

Over the years and specially over the past couple of years, I understood that I don't travel to see, I travel to feel and to experience. As I sit now in my place, the familiarity of my surroundings suggest me that I never left home. But one week ago, I was sitting alone in some bus, somewhere in a highway on my way back to Vilnius, feeling larger than life. It was a clear sunny day and there was white snow all over the plain fields around. My iPod, the most loyal of all companions, together with my backpack, was once again in shuffle mode and playing my music, such a great part of my travels. As I sat there, I wrote in my journal. I was heading back to a city I knew already from the week before, but there was a whole new beautiful moments about to be lived. Oh and they were unforgettable!

That why I like to travel alone. Because, in fact, I am never truly alone. Beside all the people that I meet along the way, I have myself, my memories, my dreams and the hopes for the future. Then I have all the people walking around me. I have the landscapes, the sky, the new houses, the ruined buildings. I have a book which pages I read every now and then. I have my music, which basically is a constantly evolving soundtrack to the past 20 years of my life. And above all, I have all the FREEDOM in the world to do whatever I feel like.

About the places I have visited, I have to stay that they were an incredible new surprise for me. I couldn't help to feel like an ancient portuguese sailor, navigating around a newly found land. Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia were just names of countries in my head before and suddenly, there I was and the impact hardly could have been more impressive. There I was, far away from home, but yet feeling so at home, so comfortable there. I couldn't help to feel fascinated and overwhelmed. Tallinn and Riga old towns seem taken out of some beautiful fairytale. And although those countries were recently facing economic problems, they seemed to point towards the future now, showing me a new world, fresh and revigorated. Society seemed developped and modern, open to the world outside, willing to absorb as much as they can and ready to shine like bright stars in a full moon sky. I was and still am astonished with the feeling I got there. Really, a brave new world to me.

Other thing that was quite present throughout my trip was the impact from the communist years. I visited the Genocide Museum in Vilnius and had the honor to attend the Commemoration Day of the Victims of Communist Terror in Riga. I learned about the lithuanian partisans, who moved to the forests during the soviet occupation and fought fiercely against a much powerful enemy. I saw pictures of young men and women smiling, while the reading the dates of their deaths, to the hands of the communists. People like you and me, who were able to fight for an ideal, for the values that unite a nation. And that kind of acts are some of the most inspiring examples to me, as they are so beautiful, so selfless, so above the mediocrity of our selfish stupid little lives. In Riga, I saw hundreds of old men and women holding flowers to honor the deceased, but few young people. I kept staring at their faces, imagining the suffer some might have endured and all the loved ones they lost, just because they are against a political regime. And it was not so long ago that this was happening. I kept thinking if society today would still uprise against occupation, against invasion, against unfairness, to uphold the values of a nation. Or any kind of values. I want to believe that we would still be able to do that. That we are not as individualist, egocentric, selfish and shallow as we think we are. In 1989, not so long ago, the people of the baltic countries did something that I didn't know and will be a landmark in my life. More than 2 million people formed a human chain uniting the 3 countries against the Soviet Union occupation. Those are moments when we, as humans, transcend ourselves and raise above the insignificance of our lives. In times like nowadays, where I see so much division over european countries, this baltic example of hope and strenght should be constantly evoked and reminded.

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Back to the trip itself, I took with me "Walden", a book from H.D. Thoreau. I read some parts of it some years ago when I bought it, but the bad brazilian edition that I acquired was not motivating enough. But I gave it a try again and I'm glad I did. In 2007 I was not ready to understand Thoreau, now I was. His words are all about keeping life simple, honest and focus in the beauty of the moments. He keeps explaining (and I agree) how useless luxuries such as big houses and new expensive clothes are empty and meaningless. His depiction of the american society in the 19th century is like a trip to the present, to the days we live today. I guess modern society has only chosen to worship the wrong values. And why most of people can't open their eyes to this kind of enlightment is a complete mistery to me. Why people prefer to have useless furniture in their homes instead of using the money to hop on a bus, travel for hours and arrive to a foreign city like Riga with just a backpack and some written address, just to be received, by coincidence, with 10 minutes of fireworks illuminating the dark sky. Or why people need new clothes all the time, when they can book a cheap hostel in Rome, share a dorm with persons like an indian guy from Goa, catholic and with "Fernandes" for a surname, in the city to attend the Easter mass? What's the value of a car, compared with the joy of walking on the frozen waters of the Baltic Sea in Jurmala? The answer to these questions is so simple to me, that I don't understand how many others can't see it.

I will end this post with two quotes from "Walden":

"I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. He will put some things behind, will pass an invisible boundary; new, universal, and more liberal laws will begin to establish themselves around and within him; or the old laws be expanded, and interpreted in his favor in a more liberal sense, and he will live with the license of a higher order of beings. In proportion as he simplifies his life, the laws of the universe will appear less complex, and solitude will not be solitude, nor poverty poverty, nor weakness weakness. If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them."

"However mean your life is, meet it and live it; do not shun it and call it hard names. It is not so bad as you are. It looks poorest when you are richest. The fault-finder will find faults even in paradise. Love your life, poor as it is. You may perhaps have some pleasant, thrilling, glorious hours, even in a poorhouse. The setting sun is reflected from the windows of the almshouse as brightly as from the rich man's abode"

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Posted by ZackMeursault 03:50 Archived in Lithuania Comments (0)

The resolute urgency of now. Decisions that change our lives

Life is all about choices and decisions. Everyday we make decisions. Most of them are actually quite irrelevant and are connected with satisfying immediate desires or situations that we face on a daily basis. But some are meant to change the course of our lives in ways that transcend our own rationality.

Exactly 5 years ago, on this very same day, also on a thursday night, I was facing an emotional turmoil. Some words I had heard a few hours before were echoing in my head, like a ticking bomb : "From now on, it will only get worse, from now on, it will only get worse...". A fellow trainee lawyer, already on the second year of his traineeship, had told me those words in the end of another day at the law firm I was working. And I just could not erase them from my mind.

This night, 5 years ago, was the night that changed my life for good. This was the night I decided to quit my job as a trainee lawyer, after 6 months working in one of the biggest law firms in Portugal. This was the night where I realized that my life was mine and only mine. That I had sole responsability on my life and only I could decide about it.

I barely slept that night and the first thing I did next morning was to quit my job as soon as I entered the office. I felt so relieved. Everyone at the office was nice with me and understood my reasons, giving me all the support. I was told I could leave that day, provided that I'd finish all my tasks. So I spent that day saying goodbye to my colleagues, both in Porto and in Lisbon and finishing up work.

Around 8pm I left the office for the last time. February 29th 2008. Walking to the car, I couldn't have felt more free. Indescribable moment.

All was possible. Nothing was certain anymore. Routine was over. My life was in my hands, right there, I was ALIVE. All I knew was that I had 800 € under my name and a car to pay.

5 years and hundreds of amazing days later, I can say that I did just fine. That was undoubtedly the best decision of my life so far. A funny thing about life changing decisions is that this one led me to make another, some days later, that is also unforgettable. March 4th 2008, when I decided to go to a certain Erasmus dinner. But that's a whole other story. :)

The trainee lawyer version of me with 24 years old.
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The tennis coach version of me with 29 years old.
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Posted by ZackMeursault 15:21 Archived in Portugal Comments (4)

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