Monday, January 14, 2019

Portugal's Amazing Bookstores

I normally check out libraries in every country I visit, but in Portugal, the bookstores are what you want to see. Both Lisbon and Porto have some gorgeously unique bookstores that would seduce any bibliophile.

Livraria Bertrans in Lisbon
This gorgeous tile-clad building is even more intriguing inside, where arches doorways lead you through deep rooms. The passageways feel very cathedral-like while the final chamber leads to the Fernando Pessoa Café, aptly named after Portugal’s most famous poet.

Ler Davagar in Lisbon
This hipster haven, right in the middle of LX Factory, is impressive upon first impression. Walking up the stairs and exploring the nooks and crannies of this sprawling store’s used and rare book collection is even more rewarding.

Livraria Lello in Porto
Porto’s most popular tourist destination is by far the hardest-to-access bookstore I've ever seen. First, you must go to a separate location to purchase a ticket, and that line could be an hour long. Once you have your ticket you can enter the bookstore, but it’s a frenzy inside with so mnay people trying to take photos. Contrary to popular tourist strategy, going when the store opens is even busier than when the store closes. We went about 20 minutes before closing and actually had some time to take photos without too many people in them, and more importantly, to savor the peace that a bookstore should offer.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Flying in the first trimester

We planned our trip to Portugal before I found out I was pregnant. When I checked the calendar, I realized I would be there on weeks 10 and 11. 
No big deal, I thought. After all, I hadn't had any symptoms or gained any weight. This will be easy. The only thing I need to worry about is avoiding certain foods (liked cured meats and soft cheeses - not so easy to do in Portugal!). 

Little did I know that the worst was yet to come: Morning sickness. 

Typically arriving in the 6th week and lasting until the end of the first trimester (weeks 12-13), this symptoms can range from nonexistent, mild, annoying, debilitating, and life-threatening (you can dye from dehydration due to morning sickness).

For me, the sickness manifested in an intense nausea and vertigo that lasted all day and got worse at nights. Sleeping was challenging. I would throw up multiple times and day and when I wasn't throwing up, I was feelings like I needed to. 

My taste in food completely diminished. I couldn't eat anything except potato chips and coca-cola. The smell of cooked food, especially meats, was repulsive and gag-inducing. I ran from the smell of coffee. None of my usual foods could be consumed anymore. It was a bland, terrible diet of white bread, chips, and coke every day. 

I started to really worry about my trip to Portugal. I worried I wouldn't be able to eat anything, be able to walk around the explore, and the able to survive the place ride over. 

In the subsequent posts, I will be writing more about my trip to Portugal, but in this one I want to address the worst on my mind: flying. 

I already hate flying and hate being on planes. My hatred of flights is well-documented in other posts, and now with my pregnancy and new symptoms, I was dreading the flight even more.
My fears:

  • throwing up on the plane
  • being unable to handle the smell of plane food
  • having to pee at take off, landing, or during turbulence
  • getting jerked around in my seat due to turbulence 
  • being unable to sleep or rest
  • getting deep vein thrombosis
The nausea was my worst concern, so to combat that, I did a lot of preparation. Check out how much anti-nausea stuff was in carry-on bag:

  • dried prunes (natural Chinese remedy)
  • dried plums (natural Chinese remedy)
  • dried ginger (natural Chinese remedy)
  • Zofran (prescription drug used to treat nausea in chemo patients)
  • Ginger tablets
  • Prenatal vitamin (not for nausea just for general health)
  • Vitamin D (not for nausea just for general health)

After all was said and done, I ended up needing none of these on the plane. Ironically, it was while we were walking through the streets of Lison and Porto that I had to bust out my emergency anti-nausea remedies. 

The other thing I did was buy some compression socks. I loved them and they made my legs feel so good during the flight. 

One rookie move I made was to carry a large backpack on my shoulders. I figured it was fine because I wasn't that big yet and it's it my belly that grows? Wrong. Having to bend over and pick up such a heavy bag was taxing. As was carrying the weight long distances. I wouldn't do that in any stage of pregnancy. 

All in all, flying was not bad except for the nausea. Without that, it would have been almost a completely normal trip. 

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Taiwan Style

I went to Taiwan in the fall, but it was typhoon season and there was a heat wave for almost the entire two weeks.

I ended up not wearing most of the clothes I packed since they were too tight or too hot, but this  striped tunic has saved me time and time again. 

It fit me nicely when I was about 40 lbs lighter and pretty well when I was 6 months pregnant too. 

Top: Nordstrom
Pants: Motherhood Maternity 
(yep, finally wearing maternity pants)
Shoes: adidas
Tote: from the Taipei MOCA

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Lisbon Diaries

One of my most vivid memories from Lisbon is going to sleep in the early evening, and once darkness fell around 8:00pm, hearing my neighbor practice Fur Elise on the piano, the notes wafting through the night air. We stayed in a renovated apartment on the second floor of a building on a small street in the Estrela neighborhood. I would hear the piano music every night, either beckoning me onto the streets or deeper into a dream.

I wish I has written this on my trip to Lisbon, but now it appears on the page as a memory. I didn’t write a single word in my diary during my entire trip to Portugal. I thought I would. The purpose of this trip was meant to reawaken me to the world’s variety and refuel me to start my new business. At critical junctures of my life I’ve quit my job, traveled to another country, and returned to start something completely new. This would be one of them, and Portugal would be part of that transition. But what I had not anticipated was that I was in the 10 and 11th weeks of pregnancy, and at the height of my morning sickness. Fatigue and nausea overtook most of my days, and distracted me from writing, reflecting, or even processing my experience.

Every day in Portugal I awoke at 8:00am and was in bed by 8:00pm. 12 hours of sleep was nothing for me – I could have slept 16 if I didn’t feel guilty about wasting my time in a foreign country. I did manage to leave the room each day, to go out for walks, to photograph a few things. But the physical discomfort never left me. I was always only partially present, with the other part of me trying to flee my body away from all the sickness I felt.

It’s hard to know what sort of experience I would have had in Lisbon if I saw it from a different body, or from a different time in my own body. But this was the time and this was the body, and this was the Lisbon I experienced.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Lisbon through the written word

Because I had never been to Lisbon, I decided to learn about it through the city's most famous writers. I had about five or six booked checked out at the library, all famous novels that took place in Lisbon and written by Portuguese authors, but only two of them really left an impression on me, enough to share a few quotes from each.

The First is The Book of Disquiet, by Fernando Pessoa, Portugal’s most famous writer.
Indeed everywhere I went there were cafés named after him, figurines of him for sale in gift shops, and even a monument where he was buried at the Jerónimos Monastery. I could think of no equivalent American writers who were so venerated in society.

The Book of Disquiet is one of his only works translated into English, and it reads more like excerpts from his diary. He makes frequent reference to the Rua dos Douradores in Lisbon, where he lived in a small room overlooking the street. There were a few passages I found from his book that really captured the essence of the city.

Installed on the upper floors of certain respectable taverns in Lisbon can be found a small number of restaurants or eating places, which have the stolid, homely look of those restaurants you see in towns that lack even a train station. Amongst the clientele of such places, which are rarely busy except on Sundays, one is as likely to encounter the eccentric as the nondescript, to find people who are but a series of parentheses in the book of life (Pessoa, 1).
In the plausible intimacy of approaching evening, as I stand waiting for the stars to begin at the window of this fourth floor room that looks out on the infinite, my dreams move to the rhythm required by long journeys to countries as yet unknown, or to countries that are simply hypothetical or impossible (Pessoa, 1).

In these lingering summer evenings, I love the quiet of this the commercial part of town, all the more because it’s such a contrast with the noisy bustle that fills it during the day. Rua do Arsenal, Rua da Alfândega, the sad roads that reach out to the east where the Alfândega ends, and the long, solitary line of quiet quays: they comfort me with sadness on those evenings when I choose to share their solitude (Pessoa, 22).

Praça da Figueira, replete with goods of various colours, fills with customers and peoples my horizon with vendors of all kinds (Pessoa, 28).

As the mask of veils fell away, the features of the city were reborn. The day, which had already dawned, dawned anew, as if a window had been suddenly flung open. The noises in the streets took on a slightly different quality, as if they too had only just appeared. A blueness insinuated itself even into the cobblestones and the impersonal auras of passers-by (Pessoa, 32).

Know that I have only to raise my eyes to see before me the sordid skyline of the houses, the unwashed windows of all the offices in the Baixa and the empty windows of the top floor apartments and, above them, around the garret roofs, the inevitable washing hung out to dry in the sun amongst flowerpots and plants (Pessoa, 94).

The second book that really impacted me, perhaps even more than Book of Disquiet, was the Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis by Jose Saramago. Ricard Reis is another famous Portuguese writer, and the fictional  story follows him from Brazil back to Lisbon after the death of his friend Fernando Pessoa.

Here the sea ends and the earth begins. It is raining over the colorless city  (Saramago, 1).

Several bars were open, side by side, murky, their viscous lights encircled by shadows, the silent image of a dirty wineglass on a zinc counter. These façades are the great wall that screens the city, and the taxi skirts them without haste, as if searching for some break or opening, a Judas gate, or the entrance to a labyrinth (Saramago, 7).

When one awaits sleep in the silence of a room that is still unfamiliar, listening to the rain outside, things assume their real dimension, they all become great, solemn, heavy. What is deceptive is the light of day, transforming life into a shadow that is barely perceptible. Night alone is lucid, sleep, however, overcomes it, perhaps for our tranquillity and repose, the peace of our souls (Saramago, 23).

Portugal's Amazing Bookstores

I normally check out libraries in every country I visit, but in Portugal, the bookstores are what you want to see. Both Lisbon ...