P: Azulejos and Beyond

Azueljos are the fabulous tiles that decorate the buildings and churches.  Libson is a beautiful city and strangely familiar; with rattling streetcars, hilly streets, views of the water and even a red suspension bridge, it’s easy to think we are home in San Francisco.  But the warm sun each morning pours down on red tiled roofs, and the guttural Portuguese spoken by people on the streets is entirely foreign to me.


I didn’t really want to post today about Lisbon; about all the cool things we’ve learned this week about the massive earthquake of 1755 and the reconstruction of the city (Europe’s first city planning scheme).  Or the unchecked graffiti on buildings, tramcars, tile mosaics, churches and monuments.  Josh said the city seemed like a Grande dame with cracks in her face powder, decay just under the surface like an urban Miss Havisham, still wearing her wedding gown with crumbling rosebuds in her hair.


I actually feel like Lisbon is full of vigor.  Young people, music, art and energy simmer in the sun.  The formality of the city, with art deco shop fronts, cobbled streets and structure seems to contain the vitality but not entirely and the graffiti leaks out.


And this is a good thing.  Lisbon is a beautiful city. Not because of its monuments or food, but its grit.  Back in the “Age of Discovery” Portugal was the place.  This plucky little nation-state in 1400s with a little luck and some clever sailors embarked on world domination.  Their quest for gold, spices, and fame changed the world.  The Portuguese explored the Atlantic Ocean, coast of Africa,  established a stomping ground  the Indian Ocean and cornered the trade routes to the Spice Islands.  In 1494 they were arrogant enough to sign a treaty with Spain to divide the world in 2 and share it between the two sovereign nations. Spain got the New World, and Portugal got everything else.  Good deal.  In fact the Portuguese held onto their colonial interests until 1974 when they gave up their overseas territories– but didn’t hand over Macau until 1999!  But corruption, greed and slavery always gets you in the end, and Portugal eventually faded from its glory days to be a relatively small player in the EU.

But I didn’t really want to post about Lisbon.  I actually wanted to write about the end of our glory days, or the up coming change in direction for our traveling family.  For the past four years we’ve been flying far to South East Asia, Japan and Europe for learning expeditions.  Much of the time it was wonderful and some of the time hard work.  When I talk to people about our traveling school life most people are so happy for us and say, “I am sure the kids will look back on this and really appreciate the experience.”  I think they will.  For our family I expect the Age of Discovery will never end just change shape.

eIn the fall Emma will start a more formal program (classes 4 days a week) at OHS.  Never fear, she will still be able to travel and have time for speaking internationally for Jungleheroes.  Her high school classes are asynchronous and she’s got online tutors for Trigonometry and Japanese but I anticipate that as the workload develops she’s going to need a lot more hours for studying.  Max’s program for next year is still shaping up.  But I feel change is coming and instead of desperately clinging onto old habits and wishing we could just keep going with more of the same, I recognize that the kids need something different.  So we will keep on traveling, albeit a more modest scale, and look back on our time with great happiness.


So I take heart and think of the people of Portugal.  I will look out to sea and wonder …what’s around the corner?


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