I've traveled far and wide, Portugal is only one of many places, but it is part of me now. Burned in my mind like all the things my mum tried to teach me. Like what a tree looks like, what the feeling is of a loving home, a warm bed and someone to tell you off when you do something you shouldn't. She didn't teach me what the sensation is of flesh on burning surfaces. It stings like bees do. She did not teach me that, experience did. This is how I learned about Portugal. Some things I knew. People told me about it like mum used to tell me about getting burned. It would hurt she said. But that isn't enough. Hearing what something will be like, or feel like, is far removed from the actual experience. And only then will it settle deep inside. Permanent like the ever moving sun. Permanent like the wind that ruffles leaves and permanent like the dead that is always waiting at the end.
I feel it now. Portugal. It has settled deep. All the drops and rises, all the stings from cobbled stones on the bare soles of my feet. The cold ocean touching my skin. The sand stuck everywhere. The cheese that covered everything in my bag. The uncomfortable bed on the third floor of an uphill street. The smell of freshly prepared fish stews and the gentle taste of the wonderful vinho verde. The men in dark alleys that whisper "weed, cocaine" and the humming noise of voices mixed with crashing waves and soft guitar tunes. When I say Portugal I should really say Lisbon, because we didn't venture very far. Some towns surrounding it, but nothing more. And Lisbon. Lisbon lives. It is wonderful and horrible and surprising and more wonderful. It's real like the beautiful girl next to me on the train who snores in her short mid-commute sleep. Perfect with all her flaws. Thank you Lisbon, for giving us so much.