23 days into 2013 and I realized I didn't post anything yet. I feel like I have been waiting to see how the year will unfold. Probably like 90% of portuguese people, I must add. That's one of the sides of an economic and financial crisis. We learn to live day by day, hoping that tomorrow will not be worse than today. A big percentage of society has seen their dreams being swept away in a matter of months, weeks or even days. The general feeling of uncertainty about the future is almost unbearable sometimes. Personally, I chose not to care much about the long term of my life. Present and near future is all that I care and focus on.
So, as this is (supposedly :P) just a travel blog, I am posting about my next destinations in the near future. I've been owing a visit to the Baltic area for a long time, as I've been hearing great things about it. So here's where I'm going (photos taken from the internet):
On the way back, I will have the chance to make a stop over in Rome, Italy, for 3 or 4 days! I'm really curious about it, heard nothing but awesome things about that city.
Maybe the best way to go through life is to indulge ourselves constantly. Because sooner or later, with crisis or without crisis, it all ends.
Fate wanted this day to be rainy, windy, cold and grey here in Porto. Such a contrast to how colorful and warmhearted this year was to me. But as nostalgic as endings can be, this day is being perfect to look back, with the melancholy of Bon Iver as soundtrack. Later in the night will be time to celebrate the future and embrace new challenges, new dreams, new hopes.
29 years of existence and I don't recall a year that I thought it was really bad. I guess I've been lucky so far in that matter. But 2012 will be ranked amongst the best ones for sure. Not only for having fulfilled a long time dream, the unforgettable journey across USA, but also because I found the answer for many existential questions. I've met people that had such a huge impact in me or in my life. Some will jump with me to 2013, others will remain forever in the box of memories from 2012. Neverthless, it was such an overflow of wonderful human beings and moments.
On August 27th, just two days before coming back to Portugal and while driving across the state of Minnesota, I also took a moment to stop and process all the feelings and emotions of the past weeks. Like today, I reached some conclusions. So instead of words, for a change I leave you with a video depicting the end of that day and leading to a final conclusion. Hope you like and understand.
Wish you all the best for 2013. Surprisingly, I don't see anyone worrying with the fact that is the 13th year of this millennium. Not that I'm superstitious, but I'm not expecting too much from this new year despite being quite curious about it.
Some people already know (and make fun of) me for my tendency to remember dates or occasions. So here's another one, another day that could be like any other, but that represents a landmark in my life.
Three years ago today, I returned to Portugal after a 3 month stay in Berlin, where I did an unpaid internship at the Embassy of Portugal. I had moved there to be with Violet and to fulfil my long time dream of working and living abroad. In the meantime, a tennis coach friend of mine replaced me in my tennis school.
I left Portugal in mid September, carrying a suitcase filled with hopes and dreams. Somehow it was a step into the unknown. I was moving to a new country, mostly for love, for a love I believed with all my strenght. Little did I know at that time, that another hidden love had been growing inside me during that past year.
Those months in Berlin were quite good. I loved (and still love) the city and its vibe. I think it fits me and my personality. I was lucky enough to be there on the celebrations of the 20 years of the fall of the Berlin Wall (November 9th 2009). I also loved the opportunity to work in an embassy and get a small glimpse of the diplomatic world, which I find quite fascinating.
But as much as things were being almost perfect there, I started realizing that I would have to make huge efforts to stay there. I would have to learn German, the internship was unpaid and I would need to find a job soon. On the other hand, I was feeling that I couldn't just abandon for good my tennis project and also the people, my students and their parents, from whom I was receiving some much positive energy. Maybe I chose the easy option, but at the time I felt like no other job would fulfil me as much as my job as a tennis manager of a small club in a small town in Portugal. I discovered then something new about me. Unlike I had thought for years and years, I was not able to do everything for love.
So I decided to come back home for Christmas and come back to my club. That decision took me here today, writing in my living room in Porto. And as much as I'm curious to know how my life would have been, I look back and think this was the best decision I could have made.
Violet and I survived this decision, but somehow we realized how difficult would be to find a common future, a common path and time proved us right.
I was right to think that I could do more with this tennis project, that if I would leave after one year, all that initial effort would go to waste. I was right to believe that I could pull all the strings to finally install the lights in the tennis courts, I was right to believe that I could reach things for my tennis school that at first seemed almost impossible (even to me, sometimes). I started playing tennis in those two tennis courts, back in 1992. I spent there countless hours and some of my best memories are from the early years there, when we were all a bunch of kids spending our summer days there, without any pressure or competition. So maybe you can imagine the rollercoaster of emotions I felt when I switched on the lights for the first time in 20 years, this September. I had the chance to record in a video the reactions of five of my students, kids between 8 and 12 years old. There's one thing in common with all of them: their faces shine with happiness. Such thing is priceless and overwhelms me beyond any written words.
So yes, decisions always have consequences, good and bad. The imply an option between A or B, a choice. We have to let go of something. But if we make decisions without fooling ourselves and truly believing that they are the right ones, there's no space for regret. And then, those moments, the moments when we decide become memorable, as landmarks in our lives that I choose to remember instead of forget.
So I leave you with a beautiful song from a band I "discovered" almost by accident in a concert during my times in Berlin.
I took this picture exactly one year ago, inside some cozy cafe in Bergmannstrasse, Kreuzberg, Berlin. I sat there writing in my journal all of the impressions of those last 24 hours, killing time before going to Budapest.
Minutes before, I saw Violet for the last time in some subway station I forgot the name. Our goodbye was memorable. Our story deserved such moment. As beautiful as it was, I would like to share it, but I won't, it belongs just to us. And I feel so happy now that life gave me (us) that chance.
A year passed. I met dozens of new people from all over the world. I lived unforgettable things. I gathered lots of new memories. But I surely want to keep all the previous memories, I don't want to forget anything or anyone worth to be remembered!
Some people seem to focus on the negative sides of the past or want to forget it, because if it's in the past it means that it's over. I know past is long gone, each day forward is one day further away from the past. But that's the beauty of it, it can stay forever in our minds, in our memories, in our thoughts, immortalized.
And that doesn't mean that people can't move on. I did and keep doing it. I keep moving forward. I feel like my life is a giant unstoppable quest for happiness. And I keep finding it almost everyday, everywhere, in every little thing, in each and every beautiful detail.
Soho. Brixton. Old friends. Brick Lane. Fanfarlo's concert at Union Chapel. New friends.
After returning from Frankfurt, I worked Monday and Tuesday, met some friends in Porto and suddenly was 4.30am on Wednesday. I woke up, drove to the airport and embarked at 6.30am to another usual destination: London Stansted. In the airport, I bought the newspaper "Público", one of the habits I can't do without. Flight was normal and in Stansted I took the EasyBus transfer to Baker Street, in the center of London. Couldn't help to notice that EasyBus is using smaller and smaller "buses". This time was a 9 seat van, where I didn't have any comfortable leg space. I guess that's the price to pay for cheap connection between Stansted and the center.
Arrived in Baker Street, I walked to the hostel I was staying in, YHA Central London, which was not far. This time I decided to stay in the center of the city, so I could reach everything without losing much time in transportation. It ended up being the best decision I could make.
After checking in the hostel, I went for a walk towards Oxford Street and Soho, which was 5 minutes away. I had been to Oxford Street but never walked around Soho, so I went to that area, trying to find a nice cafe to drink a coffee and get warm, as the weather was cold.
As I read, Soho used to be something different in the 60's, now it's just a fashionable area, with lots of international brands and restaurants. Sill, was nice to see all the different people waking by and I felt like I was in another dimension again. Waking up in Porto at 4am, walking around Soho at noon, how could my life be any better? After searching for a while for a place to eat that would fulfill my usual conditions (cozy, cheap and with good food), I ended up in this very colorfol Lebanese place, called Le Comptoir, where I ate a tasty chicken wrap.
After I went to have the desired coffee in Costa, where I stayed for a while writing about my impressions at that moment. One of the things I like abroad is to be inside warm cozy cafes, while it's raining or snowing outside. In the evening I would be meeting an old hungarian friend of mine, Niki, so I went back to the hostel to rest a bit.
Time passed by and suddenly I was in Brixton, once more (in January I was there to attend Explosions in the Sky concert) to meet a good friend of mine. Niki and I met in 2006 during my Erasmus year in Budapest and 6 years later we are still good friends. That's something I value in life, friendships that last over time and over distance. We had dinner in a nice Asian restaurant and then went for some drinks in a cool place called White Horse. Wednesday night and I was in London, meeting an old foreign friend and having amazing talks surrounded by a vibrant young urban crowd. Again, couldn't feel more in harmony with the world. Young Cosmopolitan Adult Life 2 - Boring "Oh I'm getting old and responsible" life 1.
Later on the night, I went back to the center and wandered around Regent Street, already with the Christmas lights on. Was really beautiful and I decided to walk towards Piccadilly Circus as I had never seen it by night. The streets were still lively, with lots of cars passing by and people walking around. All the neon, all the glare in front of the eyes of this little portuguese man coming from a small village and now lost in the pleasures of the world (that's how I feel when I'm in big cities). Back in the hostel, I met on German guy in my dorm, with whom I shared an interesting conversation before sleeping. It's surprising to me as lately I'm meeting lots of people with long lost love stories still affecting them (is it karma???? LOL).
Thursday came and I met another friend for lunch, an australian guy I met while in holidays in Dubrovnik 2010, and that has been living in London in the past years. That week in Dubrovnik was insane and we had lots of fun, so we were remembering old stories and also talking on how our lives evolved ever since. We had lunch near Old Spitalfields Market, which is near Brick Lane, the place I love the most in London. After saying goodbye to Brett, I went there, to explore it a bit more and go to Rough Trade Record Store, where I spent some time checking music. I ended up buying 3 albums, from 3 bands I didn't know: Pond, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart and Bell Gardens. I also realized that I spent a lot of time away from discovering new music in recent years and that now I'm really catching up on lots of things. I love music and hope I will never stop taking my time to explore new music, always and forever more!!!!
I roamed around a bit more, taking pics to the old brick houses and somehow thinking in Joy Division. They were from Manchester (or shall I say Madchester ) but still, those streets drove me back to the 70's or early 80's and to some imaginary image I have from those times.
As the hour of the concert was coming closer, I went back to the hostel, rested a bit and prepared to meet a portuguese friend of mine that is living in London for a while. She was not going to the concert, but was joining me for some drinks nearby the venue. So we met in a pub called "The Famous Cock". Later a French girl from CSurfing that also wanted to join the concert showed up and we all had a nice conversation. Later, already at the Union Chapel, she introduced me to a bunch of friendly italians and we all watched the concert together! Really cool!
Fanfarlo are a band that won't change the world or be part of the music history, but to me they will always be linked to Union Chapel. This place is actually a church, an award winning venue and a centre for those homeless and in crisis in London and was built in the late 19th century, representing a fine example of Victorian gothic architecture. As soon as I entered the venue, I was invaded with this feeling of being in another era, and lost some minutes looking around, enjoying the silence and people drinking tea (alcohol was not allowed in the church). We wanted to explore the place, try to go to the upper part to enjoy the view and we ended up discovering a bar somewhere on the 1st floor. As we walked towards the door, we could hear an indistinct clatter, louder and louder, contrasting with the silence behind us. We opened the big door and before us was this room with high ceilings, low lights and filled with young people talking, drinking glasses of wine and eating salads and quiche. I remember to be surprised by such place, inside a church somehow. Nice contrast between the contemplative silence a few meters away and this vibrant young crowd, chatting and laughing. I felt really nice there.
The opening band was called Eyes and No Eyes and their sound was quite fitting the place. I really enjoyed them.
Then Fanfarlo came and the concert was nice, not as I had imagined it (people were seated throughout the entire concert), but it was a very positive experience. After I went back to the infamous "Famous Cock" for drinks with a spanish girl, also from Couchsurfing that joined me during the concert and then home, as I was waking up next day at 6am to fly back to Portugal.
Final score: Young Cosmopolitan Adult Life 54 - Boring "Oh I'm getting old and responsible" life 2.