It’s absolutely the worst sound in the world. It sounds godawful and it brings up a torrent of emotions. It sounds the way a “Dear John” letter looks. It sounds like of my mother’s voice calling me in to do my homework. It’s the sound of the alarm on my phone, or on Nathan’s phone maybe. It’s very early. We have to wake up and get moving right away. Our train leaves Porto at 6:00 am.
The plan is to visit the coast one last time to take some photos of a church curiously built out on the rocks, just offshore, withstanding an unrelenting assault from the sea for 800 years. It’s worth opening my eyes long before they’re willing to be opened but waking up early still just feels downright unpleasant.
I’m not ready to leave Porto yet. We’ve only been in the city for 3 days. Nathan and I have met a number of both members and sympathizers of Bloco and I want to engage with them longer, learn more from them, and attend at least one of their demonstrations. They had a “Solidarity with Greece” rally the day before we arrived and they’re having an anti-austerity rally later today. If I had my way, we would be here until the evening and I could at least stick a toe in the waters that my new friends are navigating.
It’s no use dragging my feet or presenting the argument that we stay longer; apparently we have a deadline.
We had intended to be in Portugal for a fair amount of time. Instead we found ourselves settling for a few precious days in Porto with the one person we knew before heading to the southwestern tip of country for 2 weeks to volunteer on an organic farm run by some dropout punk rocker types. The deal is an exchange of work for a place to sleep, free meals, and possibly a few good stories to collect. This isn’t my favorite idea. Not by a long shot.
I want to be in the cities where there is a political life and where there is movement. There are things happening in Europe that I want to see (and in my fantasies) participate in at some small level. However, going to this farm is not my least favorite idea either. I don’t miss commuting to work and talking to customers for even one second. There’s a serious thrill that leaps to the forefront of my mind when I consider the possibilities presented by each new episode of our little adventure.
Catarina, a most wonderful host and friend, brings out a sack with some egg and mushroom sandwhiches and some fruit. She also brings coffee. Now I’m awake. Each sip of coffee is like a breath taken during CPR after being rescued from the deep end of a pool. I may have an addiction.
Of course we’re not quick enough after so little sleep and we manage to spend only a few moments on the shore. It’s not enough time to see the church, just long enough to complete a ritual. We came to say goodbye to the sea in case we don’t see her again for a while. I’ve learned through painful experience that it’s important to say a proper goodbye to those you love.
I’m awake but I must not be completely cognizant of what’s happening. Before I know it, we’re at the station and it’s time to go. Catarina does us one last favor by making sure we’re getting onto the right train. I wonder what we’ll do when we’re on our own. We’ll have to actually learn some things.
It’s a long ride on the train but we have plenty of time to reflect on the past few days. We’ve barely bothered to properly write about any of it. Maybe we’ll finally get a chance to develop a solid routine, a division of labor; a real writing process that works both for Nathan, the most eccentric guy I’ve ever known, and for me. In the past I have only ever written articles for left wing newspapers, or speeches for left wing gatherings. Nathan tells me I should write about where I was in my life before we decided to take this trip. My brother Chris has told me the same. I’m not really ready to do that yet.
By 11:00 am we’re walking the marina in Lagos. It seems like everyone here is British. This place is a major tourist hotspot and it doesn’t have the same vibe that Porto had. It’s not that Porto isn’t a tourist hotspot as well. It’s that in Porto we were with people who knew things. They took us to places “outside the zoom.” Hell, even in the most tourist-friendly spots they were able to add texture to everything with their narrations and stories and jokes.
Here in Lagos, we’re just two more foreigners with giant backpacks who can only make a pathetic effort at a “conversation” in Portuguese. Sure, everyone seems to speak a little English but I feel like a goofus every time I get to the inevitable point when I have to ask, “Fala inglês?” Lagos isn’t our destination though. We have to make our way to a small village 45 minutes away. From there we get a ride to a farm outside the village.
The bus ride to the village is fairly uneventful, save for the event where we missed our bus and had to buy tickets for another one. I can’t help but think out loud about how utterly bizarre this change is going to be. It’s mostly bizarre because I’ve never spent much time on a farm. I had a very pleasant afternoon on a farm in Killeen, Texas once nearly a year ago, but that’s about the extent of my farm experience. After whizzing past some lovely scenery, and ignoring a lot of it to read my book, we find ourselves in a small village without a lot going on, at least at first glance.
Right about the time I start nodding off on a park bench out of sheer boredom, our ride shows up. I can’t help but feel like 2 weeks on a farm is a long time. I wonder what on earth we’ll write about.