Nueva vida

Personal

For those who have been reading my dribbles for some time, you might have noticed how much I missed the sea, the warmth, and the South. Last month I’ve made a turn and relocated back to Spain, after a long process of preparation. I would like to walk you through my n-th relocation in life, and probably the most complex one.

The complexity comes from the fact that I was indeed very torn between how lucky I am living in Berlin, the centre of the modern cultural world, being in a very comfortable position in one of the stellar music companies and with a loving boyfriend living quite a similar scenario in his industry. We’ve just moved in together to a place we made so much ‘ours’, yet we knew that our rent will not go for much longer than one year. This is where the first cracks started to spoil the image of perfect happiness. Was it really? Housing situation, even if you are pretty well-off, is dramatic in Berlin AD 2019. There’s simply too many people attracted to this city and too little space for them to live in, which makes the market ultra competitive. The cost of living rises, but obviously this is not met with the salaries. The companies come and go, or at least make you go through pretty harsh twists and turns, and there’s no such thing like stability offered anymore. You notice you work more hours or at least think and talk about work all the time. Your friends as well. You’re quite lucky if you manage to see them once in a month, even the closest ones. The winter lasts for about nine months – and it’s not the cold that makes you so miserable, it’s the lack of light, the constant greyness. Last but not least, it’s gloomy. Even if you love the black colour, the sadness of jazz, after 5 years it starts to affect you. Is this how I imagine my life to be for the upcoming couple of years? Do I have to spend my weekends flying down to Spain, Portugal or Italy and polluting the planet instead of just… relocating back? I couldn’t help but trying to plot how could this look like, if it happened for real.

I started tucking myself and preparing a plan. I need a job, which would be comparibly attractive with what I have, but offering more growth, preferably in a less gentrified place than Berlin or Barcelona, where life is somewhat easier and more pleasant. Where I speak the language good enough to understand the context and culture, and which makes me smile, not felt misunderstood. Where I can watch the sea and hike in the mountains. Where I can predict the weather will be sunny for most of the year. Magically, a person from my network tells me there’s a very good opportunity in Malaga, in a company that is investing a lot into their employees and is technically speaking, fantastic. I am pretty surprised that my scenario can be true, but would it hurt trying? I test the waters and enjoy conversing with my potential future leader, and in two weeks from then I am invited together with my boyfriend to spend a few days in the city to get the feeling how is it in January (the coldest month of the year, around 20 degrees during the day and sunny) and get to know more people from the company. At this point we really enjoy our time in Malaga, but don’t think that this would seriously happen… until I get the offer. With a relocation package and guarantee that my boyfriend would be able to settle down with me without the necessity of finding a new gig from the start, but to live life a bit slower, mindful while learning Spanish and focusing on his projects. My job sounds exactly as I wanted: a step up, with great degree of vision and strategy. We decide to make the move and then the process only starts. 3 months to go. We are as excited as scared.

As it happens with unexpected twists and turns in life, no one really expected us to relocate to Malaga. They would bet on Barcelona, Lisbon, maybe Valencia or Oporto which are considered more ‘modern’. We leave our comfort zone greatly, and face the initial disapproval coming from the family, which is simply worried about us going so drastically further away than Berlin or friends who see us as these cool guys who would die out of boredom on Costa del Sol. Not all of them though, some see it as a great opportunity. They just need some time to understand this decision and support us through the change. My Mom goes, in parallel, through another transformational time, selling out our family house and settling down in a flat in the centre of the city, to be more connected with friends and family, to cut down the costs and be able to travel and enjoy life more. I feel I will be missing her a lot (now being away by just 2,5 hours on the train) and worry how this will all go. I also talk a lot with my boyfriend, how different our life will be and how we can support each other. I feel we grow stronger through this process and that I have never loved him more than now.

At the same time, we create a project management tool to go through the shlepp of: resigning from work, from the flat, cancelling all the running contracts in Germany, finding a transportation company, deciding what to take with, sell the remaining things, look for the new tenants, and paperwork that sees no end. Finally, saying countless goodbyes to our friends, probably the most emotional part of letting go off an important chapter. Until the last day I can’t actually let the tears go by, but then I burst at every single memory from that important period of my life. Our flat is completely empty, after having packed the full truck with our stuff, and we have 6 suitcases to take onboard the flight. The day has come, it’s 31st May 2019.

The flight is blissful and the stress goes away, we are ready for the new adventure. The partner from the relocation company picks us up from the airport in Malaga and lets us into our temporary flat prepared by the company, where we will spend the next three months. There’s even a fridge prepared for us so that we don’t have to worry about the groceries, I feel really embraced. We spend our first weekend in between our favourite restaurants, the beach and hiking through the nearby mountains. I can’t be happier, but I am aware this is a part of the cultural shock and that difficult days may come up. At work I feel extremely welcome and trusted from day one. As agreed, I get a great sense of responsibilities and my ideas are very embraced. We get to know first people, both expats and Spaniards, and the friends and family we left behind are starting to plan the visits. We found our flat! We will move in on September 1st to a more residential neighbourhood where we’ll be still quite close to the centre and the sea at the same time, but further away from the tourist traps (that’s probably the most disappointing part of the relocation, but that calls for another topic).

It’s been over 3 weeks now and in the meantime, we note everything in our physical notebooks, day by day, not to lose the sense of the process. There are great days and more challenging ones, but I start noting the change in how I walk, breathe and talk. It’s been almost 5 years writing this blog and Berlinering, at the same time, and I am looking for a new way of expression, might be a longer form at some point.

So far, I can only say that I am surprisingly at peace.

 

Advertisements

So… pack light!

Personal

Only partially related to travel, but here comes the story of my past month: I’m moving again.

After having spent almost five years in Berlin, like a bird craving the warmth of the sun, I’m heading back South and from there will continue reporting back on Lusofonetica, in the beautiful and sunny region of Spanish Andalusia!

There is a lot going on in my headspace, wrapping up my life from professional to very personal perspective. The change is constant but when such a big one happens, there is barely any time to think and reflect, so to be fair, I am sure the moments of saudade and retrospection will probably come in a few months from now.

I have learnt that it used to be easier to move around the world for me even a few years ago. Once I settled for good in places like Poznan, Barcelona or now Berlin, I grew roots and when moving to the new destination, had to leave a lot behind. Bureaucracy of changing cities, countries and continents is definitely painful but with a good deal of preparation it is bearable to go through it.

Even the most tedious, physical aspect of packing may be fun and gamified, as at the end of the day… these are simply the things. They are often heavy and may no longer serve us, but may bring joy to others. Just in a few weeks I’ve given away some books I love, winter clothes I will no longer (not so often at least!) need in my new home, and a bike which made my life in Berlin so free. I hope I also left a piece of me, not in a material sense in this special city.

Most importantly, I am grateful for getting to know such a great community and friends in Berlin. I will miss you all so dearly, I already actually do. So the most important luggage I take, is the quantity of love, trust and happiness I shared with my all these wonderful people.

Celebrate good times

Personal

I was pending to share two sources on the profoundness and richness of the Portuguese language – recently I’ve read a comprehensive book on the MPB genre: Claus Schreiner’s ‘Musica Brasileira’ as well as this article summarizing why is Portuguese the best language for music. I can recommend these reads to everyone interested in both music and Portuguese language, but also the art of celebration: just because when I think about the rite of joy, the most powerful association comes with the carnival. However, these publications are showcasing the history of the language and culture, also taking into considerations not only stereotypical ‘fun’ associated with the carnival, but also racial and class complexities of the postcolonial, modern Brazilian society.

Today is Sunday, just after the Carnaval 2019 which I celebrated in a great company of friends, without dancing, sun and craziness typical for more exotic parts of the world, but in a cosy dining room in Berlin. I reflected a lot about how lucky person I am to be living in a peaceful, loving environment and whatever may change, it will likely be for better. Never mind where you are based, I understood how important is to celebrate good times, regardless how you like to do it.

Often times, we take lifetime’s milestones for granted, and we hop from one achievement to another, not taking a break, reflecting and sharing our happiness with the nearest and dearest, only wanting more and more to happen. Other times, we forget to appreciate the great company of people and surroundings of places we live.

Carnival is about celebrating the moment, living in the present, often without a goal. What if there is no milestone, no higher bar, no rushing into the ‘next big thing’? Mindfully taking changes as the enriching part of the lifespan, collecting thoughts, emotions and observations into a big picture can make us more connected to ourselves and our loved ones.

Last week has brought me some great news and upcoming changes, not only for me, but also in the life of my best friends. After a long and dark winter, the sun is coming up, and our lives start to beam again. I was right about 2019 being transformational and it’s not magical thinking speaking through me. It’s being conscious about what life is and if you decide to make the most of it, you will. With that, I wish you all a great start of the month, and springtime, even if the carnival is over now.

A rota da Felicidade – Costa Vicentina

Personal, Travel

If happiness is nature, ocean breeze on the cheeks and tranquility, I claim I have found it. Costa Vicentina is located in the South-Western part of Portugal and since many years it has been one of my favourite destinations in the world. It is still (!) not as popular and accessible as Algarve located in the south of the country and is a great destination for those who enjoy the nature, and powerful, jaw-dropping views while hiking. Not to mention surfing, which comes without saying as a consequence of such a landscape.

This year I’ve spent some time in Portugal, namely in Lisbon for work and life balance purposes in November. Weather around this time of the year can be surprising, if not hazardous and indeed, on the last day of my stay there were severe floodings and strong winds devastating almost all country including the capital. Staying connected to the weather warnings, I decided to travel to the south where the impact was not foreseen, at least for a day.

I took a national bus line from Lisbon to Lagos, calling at various sleepy towns of the Alentejo region. My first stop was in Porto Covo, a picturesque village south of Sines, known recently for a dispute against the petroleum investment, potentially destructive not only for the human but all the living species in the region. Porto Covo is the best example why such initiative should never happen – where the locals decorate the houses, palms and other vegetation and truly care for preserving their little paradise. I was very moved by the view of the colourful, winter sweaters embracing the plants, that may indeed feel cold during the Atlantic winter.

After a brief, 30 minutes stop the bus continued its journey further south, passing by vast, sandy beaches, and dramatic views of the National Park of Alentejo.

This region – famous for offering the out of this planet’s ocean landscape, but also fantastic wine, olives and cork. On the top of that, Alentejo can be discovered solely by foot. There are two hiking routes of approximately 250 kms each alongside the coast, or the interior. On the way one can discover natural and historic wonders, and encounter various animals (especially bird species, as I have spotted peregrine falcons, seagulls and jays struggling in the gust of ocean wind).

On that particular gloomy Sunday, I’ve taken a 12 km stroll around Zambujeira do Mar, another seaside town with breathtaking views. Contrary to the weather, while walking around Zambujeira, I noticed: a bunch of friendly people asking if I needed direction, street named for happiness and was welcomed and entertained by a very cheerful waitress in the local tasca. She was notably enjoying her work, unlike in the places where tourism is massive and overwhelming to everyone and offered be probably the best prato do dia I’ve had in a while.

Now, sitting next to the SAD lamp, my loyal companion during the winter months, I already fantasise about returning there, possibly planning a semi-active hiking trip from one winery to another in the upcoming year, combining physical activity with hedonistic pleasure. And I’d call it A Rota da Felicidade (The Happiness Route).

 

Saudade at the tip of Europe

Personal, Travel, Uncategorized

I returned to Portugal for 9 days this month to reunite with my best friend at one of the biggest tech conferences, and for the change of air. Or even more metaphorically: to hear a wind of change. Nous voyageons pour chercher d’autres états, d’autres vies, d’autres âmes. So we travel to search for new states, new lives, new souls.

After a particularly busy week at the conference we took off to Cabo da Roca, about an hour away from Lisbon, to the Westernmost tip of continental Europe (and oh how I like the extremes, remoteness and ends of the world).

I returned there after many years: first time I had gone there when my adventures with studying in Portugal started off and ended up quite abruptly, and secondly after my father’s death, my break up and my return from Brazil effectively. From such experiences one could think it’s a place I would only contemplate finiteness, or profound sadness. Truth is, my last weeks have not been too easy at different wavelengths, at the same time.

Being around natural wonders, vast spaces and with people who are close to me is a one way I recover, music is the other solution. I guess this is why I am not tired of coming back to the sounds and landscapes which cure the soul, and constantly searching for the new ones as well. Hence I still curate Lusofonetica after over 4 years and return to the positive side of life eventually. Like in this beautiful song:

Não me deixe só
Eu tenho medo do escuro
Eu tenho medo do inseguro
Dos fantasmas da minha voz

Despite the darkness this season, various insecurities and ‘ghosts’ in my head, I still write up about the beauty of things in life I have seen and hope to see again, enlightened by the SAD lamp in my Berliner apartment.

At the tip of Portugal, the sun was shining, the sound of waves crushing magnificent rocks brought me to a state of meditation, tranquility and strength at the same time. There’s undoubtedly magic in places at the end of the world, causing our exploratory imagination to move further and remove the artificial obstacles.

After this trip I just hope this winter will be transformational to me. I see the sun.

 

Beira Alta – my first time in Portugal

Personal, Travel

This month I have been enjoying hot and sunny weather in Berlin, but I travel in time and without moving to my very first time in Portugal. Since I started this blog over 4 years ago, many things have changed: the city I live in, the job, personal and interpersonal constellations too.

Moving back in time, my adventure with Portuguese language started with me being curious about the sound, structure and melody of it. Then, some cinematic and musical inspirations came up, and I started reading more about Portugal as a country itself. How distant it seemed to me, not to mention the other Portuguese-speaking countries that I wouldn’t dream to discover so soon in early 2000s.

In summer 2007 I saved some student pocket money for a 3-week-round train ticket around Europe: Interrail to reach the most far off country in Europe, Portugal. I didn’t really have much more money to spend on local transportation, accommodation or amusement, so I joined a voluntary service in the rural area of Beira Alta, dedicated to Roman-times archeology camp. In exchange for few hours of physical work in the early morning (the temperatures at noon could easily rise up to 40 degrees Celcius!), I stayed for 2 weeks in a picturesque village of Coriscada, located precisely in the middle of nowhere.

When after 2 days drive by >5 trains, I stepped out of the compartment in the town of Celorico da Beira, I did not really have any expectations. Everything was new to me, the language sounded very unfamiliar and exotic, and I had my first cultural shock already ticked (elderly ladies sniffing drugs in the compartment with some raving Portuguese and Spanish teens!).

I did not speak Portuguese at this point, and I didn’t really know how useful it will be to communicate with local volunteers and inhabitants. Fortunately, my French was very fluent at that time and since a lot of the local population either had families emigrating to France, Switzerland, Luxembourg, or have spent some time working there themselves, I had no problems in getting to know them.

I was extremely lucky that our team leader at a camp was an avid adventurer, polyglot and traveler himself, Luis, and he shared some good tips on how to discover the world at ease. During the stay in Beira Alta, I had a chance to discover the hidden and picturesque villages like Marialva, or Pocinho (where the scenic train to Porto is taking off) and bigger, historic cities like Guarda, bordering with Spain and welcoming the nearby Spanish neighbors by… horse’s tails. For some reasons all of the sculptures involving horses, were facing West and showing the Eastern border their back…

I was even luckier to have been invited to local festivities, cellars with delicious wine & cheese, probably some of the best on this planet (just think about Portuguese tinto and queijo da Serra da Estrela) and got first hand stories about aging donkeys, youth escaping to big cities or foreign countries, preserving the traditions and finding similarities between Portugal and Poland.

When I came back, I knew it’s just the start of my discovery series, and I hope to continue these for the years to come, through music, people, travel and literature.

Mirando a la Palma

Personal, Travel

This a post about a short getaway to a beautiful island but most importantly about the friendship that never ends. Last month I was very lucky to meet with my crazy bunch of people I love.We stayed together throughout various great and tough times and it is important to celebrate that we have each other in our lives. Regardless of the distance that separate us nowadays as we live in different countries, we care about making our regular getaways happen.

I am glad that it looks like since last year we found another spot for our get togethers: Palma de Mallorca.

One of my best friends, Olga, relocated there last year and I already knew this will be a great place for her: for the love of the Spanish language, sunny days and plenty of opportunities to practice for her crazy sportive activities. There were also other changes that happened, not all that easy, but they turned out to be positive and made her grow a lot. As soon as I learned that she had settled down for good, I called our friend who currently lives and works in Dubai, to find a date for us to meet. Since I only started a new job, I didn’t have much time off, but with a regular 2-hour flight connection from Berlin, spending the last weekend of November felt like a bliss. Empty, but still warm and sunny spots and lots of laughter, and meaningful conversations and affirmations recharged my batteries for the long winter to come.

We repeated our get together in June and this time it was a full of chilling at a beach or small calas during the day, and enjoying the warm nights at delicious restaurants and rooftops in Palma. Wallowing in the warm sea for hours, and our insight jokes and simply living la vida loca, we had tremendous time together.

I can’t really complain at the summer in Berlin, probably the warmest and longest we’ve seen in years, however it’s not all about the place, it’s also about the people. Among them, fantastic women who travel and are not afraid of taking difficult decisions. I also need the sea, as Pablo Neruda once said, it teaches me. Looking back, I am so grateful for this time we have spent. In the meantime, my life will continue to be divided between various places on Earth where I left a piece of my mind, heart and soul together with my dearest friends. The price for that abundance of love in the world is occasional melancholia that tears you apart, but also drives you to continue to explore, learn and grow as a human.

This post was prompted today as my special thoughts go to Weronika who is staying at a hospital and I wish her a speedy recovery. Hope to soon spend some good time together, vecina from Poznan, Barcelona and these days, Berlin.

 

 

Meet me halfway, in Aveiro

Personal, Travel

I’ve been to Aveiro for the first time in 2007 during my very first trip to Portugal. It caught my attention as I was staying in Oporto and it was accessible by a regional train pretty easily. Worth mentioning that I was poor as a church mouse and the only reason I could afford it was due to saving my scholarship award money for months in order to buy the Eurail ticket. It would allow me to travel around Europe for 21 days using most of the train service. For the rest of the time, I was volunteering at an archeological site in the literal middle of nowhere, in the most rural (and authentic!( part of Portugal: Beira Alta, as I was craving for some manual, physical work in the sun, after spending a whole year studying clinical psychology and linguistics.

I recall a sunny, windy day; colourful houses and azulejos around canals and lagoons – thinking of a funny fusion of Portugal and the Netherlands. It was a day trip and I’ve enjoyed a beer in the sun with way too many tremosos – salty, marinated and thirst-inducing beans served often to create a drinking loop.

 

Fast forward 11 years later, I spontaneously found myself in Aveiro again. This time thanks to my partner’s sister who happened to be in Portugal around the same time we were. As she travelled to Oporto, and we were in Lisbon, we decided to meet halfway in Aveiro to enjoy a Sunday funday together. Not that Berlin and Warsaw are completely different and separated worlds, but why not meeting in Portugal for a change.

Contrary to 2007, it was the most rainy, springtime day and we couldn’t really explore the lagoons or take a gondola ride on the canals (although the obscene pictures on the boats were promising some great adventures!). Thankfully though we had a few indoor recommendations and bumped into a very friendly bistro, offering vegetarian treats, which is not a common standard in Portugal. As a foreign and exotic language speaking group and myself bringing a strange Portuguese Brazilian/mixed accent, we were getting some attention, and the locals were even showing us the mobile app on how to rate and match table wines. Despite the rain, it was definitely a Sunday funday family reunion in the middle of nowhere, and I would definitely repeat such an experience.

This month we’ll be traveling around Galicia in Spain, something I was looking forward to for a very long time, visiting Islas Cies, and Finisterre aka the medieval End of the World. I plan a few more extreme getaways this and next year too, so I hope to keep you posted regularly with some new content.

 

Abril, aguas mil – Lisbon in the rain

Personal, Travel

Iberian peninsula during springtime is wet, dramatic and unforeseeable. Unless you expect the unexpected, or something which would discourage many tourists (and leaving these beautiful lands at peace!), i.e. torrential rains, strong winds and only short spells of the sun. There’s even a saying about it both in Spanish and Portuguese ‘Abril, aguas mil!‘. I’ve experienced it very well living in Lisbon, Faro and Barcelona, still this kind of weather did not scare me off from visiting my beloved Lisbon for a city break, hungry for something different after a long and bleak Berliner winter. And knowing there will be less crowds than usual, to enjoy the springtime rain smells and spells.

I decided to picture these days with my new camera, Nikon D5100, and although I don’t pretend to be a professional in this area either, it was quite some fun to explore its different effects. Still, Lisbon looks pretty even in the eye of the worst photographers!

Bad weather was also a great occasion to explore Lisbon’s tech hub: I have connected with various professionals working in the industry, including FarFetch, Uniplaces and Zalando. It was great to see how the city is growing its potential and economy, and I asked a lot of uncomfortable questions, including the responsibility over the gentrification, lower remuneration and taxation than in other parts in Europe.

Getting the current insiders’ perspective was refreshing and I am looking forward to connect with more people during this year’s WebSummit where I’ll definitely show up. I was delighted by the experience and offers that this city gives after years I’ve got to know it, but I still think about how the fast tech growth could take into consideration the city’s history, pace, specificity and not leave the less privileged inhabitants behind and push outside of the city limits.

I do believe that tech can make a positive impact, much more than mass tourism model, but needs to be tackled early enough. I hope for the social responsibility actions to be taken in Lisbon and other cities in Portugal and Spain, flourishing years after of financial crisis such as Porto, or Valencia. Even though I can honestly admit that I’m a part of the problem, I still remember living there on a shoe string, as a student and being able to make it a valuable experience.

Final words go to my partner, an author of some of the tram photos. Visiting Lisbon for the first time, I benefited a lot from his sharp and new perspective on things, and he was lucky enough to experience an empty Tram #28 at night, something which is a hard to find, very special setting in this city.

Lisboa does not love?

Personal, Travel

First of all: this post is all about love. My everlasting love for Lisbon.

Secondly, it is about sustainable tourism, gentrification and all the negative things that make me think if I should continue writing this blog ever more.

Lastly, it is about the sadness about losing the authentic touch for which I initially fell for when I decided to move to that city, and re-visit almost each year.

So what happen this month? I had a chance to travel to Oporto where not so much changed and then spend a couple of days in Lisbon for the Lisb:On festival and visiting my friends and favourite places.

While I’m very interested to see the rising number of people talking about Lisbon’s unique atmosphere, as well as observing the interest of the investors in the start up scene out there that make the city a living entity attracting expats and creative workforce, I am very worried about Lisbon’s entering solely commercial path.

I’m tired about being bothered by street selling, exactly the same like in Rome, Barcelona or Venice, being approached by tuk-tuk drivers (what does it have to do with Lisbon anyway?!) or being treated like a tourist anywhere I go. Even if I know the city well and speak Portuguese. And don’t act out like a prototype tourist. Website Lisboa-Does-Not-Love.com lists the reasons why massive tourism is destroying the city and its morale and acts as the code of conduct while in Lisbon, but will it stop the massive tourism craziness?
I had to spit out my frustrations about the changing landscape of one of my beloved cities, and pose an open question: should we advertise for places we think are unique? Of course the sole act of visiting will not destroy the well-kept secret, but the scale of reach out via travel/lifestyle blogs may actually lead to it.
That’s why with mixed feelings, I’d like to leave you thinking about which direction can Lisbon take to prevent from becoming another tourist-fuelled city like London, Barcelona or Venice? I care too much about Lisbon to simply never visit again, as this replicates the scheme for which I moved out from Barcelona and hope never be forced to relocate from Berlin.
I love all Lisbon, much as I do love Barcelona and can’t keep falling in love with Berlin. What I’m just pretty sure about is that they don’t love massive tourism.