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Off to a Bumpy Start in Braga, Portugal

Updated: Jul 6

The inside of a studio apartment in Braga with granite walls, three French windows, a small loveseat, a bed and a table and chair.
My Infirmary Room in Braga, Portugal (photo by author)

After a long train journey from Nazaré to Braga, I arrived in the late afternoon heat, and checked into my apartment in the city center. I was eager to spend more time here after enjoying a week in the same apartment last summer.

There is NO Talking During Football

After unpacking and stocking up on groceries, I headed out to find a place to watch one of the biggest football games of the year, the European Champions League final. After a quick wander through town, I found a guy opening up his bar in the side streets who was going to show the game. He had a big TV hung on the wall and plenty of room for me to sit right in front. Hooray! I went in and grabbed a barstool with a good view of the game and hopefully an upset by the underdog team. 

Surprisingly, only a few people joined to watch, including a local guy who wandered in and settled into a table with a book, ignoring the game. While this was not the most exciting of finals, I still don’t understand how a European cannot want to watch one of the biggest games of the year but to each his own. 

This would have been fine but unfortunately, he decided to chat with me. I resisted the urge to explain the importance of the game and why one must not talk about anything during the game but the game. At this point, the match was looking like it only had one outcome and it was not the one I desired so I chatted with him. Turns out, he is Brazilian which added to my confusion about his lack of interest in the game.

When the game ended, I was not happy with the outcome and not feeling my best so I headed toward home to get a good night’s sleep. 

The Mother of all Bugs

The next morning, instead of feeling rested and recharged, I woke up feeling like the mother of all bugs had invaded every inch of my body. I laid in the bed too weak to get up, willing food and water to miraculously come to my bedside from thankfully a stocked kitchen. When those efforts failed, I would drag myself the painful few steps to the kitchen area in my tiny studio apartment to get nourishment. After forcing something down, I would sit up long enough to drink herbal tea, hoping for some kind of healing effect, and then crawl back under the covers.

View through the balcony railing to priests and people walking by with religious artifacts
The Saints and Sinners March By (photo by author)

As I tried to sleep, noise erupted on the streets just below my apartment. When I peeked out, I saw a parade of priests and churchgoers marching down the street. Hopefully they would sense my misery and send some healing vibes. Next, there was loud drilling and hammering on a problem area in the pedestrian street that lasted most of the day. These were just a small part of the disturbances that created the soundtrack of my day.

As a former New Yorker of 23 years, I can handle city noise. However, this was like an annoying kind of noise potluck where random disturbances would occur as I lay there suffering. I’d peel back the shade to see what fresh hell was keeping me from the deep sleep I desperately needed, always to be greeted with something new. 

I might as well be trying to sleep on a storm grate on a NYC avenue. 

Hostage Situation in the Pingo Doce Supermarket

After the first noisy day, I got one good day of peace and quiet and sleep. On the third day, I felt human enough to get out of bed. As I moved around my apartment, I realized I had enough energy to actually leave the apartment, so I got myself dressed and somewhat presentable, and headed out. 

My first stop was Pingo Doce, the local grocery store. I wanted to buy laundry detergent so I could start washing everything involved with whatever it was that put me in bed for two dark days. As I was in line to pay for my detergent, I tried to stay away from others in case I was still contagious. That was challenging as there were three lines, with the outer two completely packed due to the center aisle being closed. 

Finally, the register opened up in the center aisle. I pointed the way for the older lady in front of me to move over as I remained behind. Suddenly, across from us in the back of the opposite line, a young lady with long blond hair yelled in a voice that was as nasty as she was beautiful, “Senhora NÃO!” and shoved an older man in front instead. The poor man looked like he had no interest in such a disturbance being made on his behalf as he was pushed forward to the waiting register. The older lady returned to stand in front of me, seemingly wanting no part of that chaos.  

Blondie, being the man’s unwanted savior, remained in line behind him, gaining herself a quick exit from the long line. As she waited for the old man to check out, she continued to toss her long, blond locks over her shoulder as she threw nasty glances back in my direction. I did not engage with her but that did not deter her. I found myself wishing I was still contagious enough to share my monster bug with her.

Having had enough of this, I was ready to put my detergent down and buy it from the overpriced mini market. Unfortunately, there was no way out that would not lead to another potential encounter with Blondie. Giving into the hostage situation, I waited my turn and avoided any further skirmishes. 

An old man's face is barely noticeable as he peers down on passersby below his window
The Man in the Window (photo by author)

The Man in the Window 

After escaping the incident in the grocery store, I decided to check on my “man in the window”. Allow me to explain. 

On my previous stay in Braga one year ago, I was sitting outside a cafe on the main street watching the parade for the annual São João festival go by with others who had crowded into every available seat. I noticed a man looking out onto the parade route from a second-floor window. He was old and seemed alone in the apartment. I began to feel sad, thinking how we were all excited down here, enjoying the parade and he was sitting up there alone. I stared up at him from my seat just below his window and started waving. He noticed me amidst all the chaos of the parade, looked confused for a moment, then surprised. 

Finally, he laughed.  

Soon I had all the people sitting at the cafe waving up to him. He had a big smile on his face and seemed happy to be a little part of the celebrations.

The Man in the Window, A Year Later

A year later, I wondered if the man was still up there in his window. I headed down to the café and took my same seat, ordered a galão, and waited, hoping to see his face appear and knowing I would feel sad if I did not. Thankfully, it did not take long until he peeked out, looking down to the street below to see what was going on in the world outside his apartment.

As he looked around, I waved up to him and finally caught his eye. He had the same reaction as before, a little confused and eventually smiling and laughing. I wondered if he remembered me from last year. He was happy with the attention so that is enough for me.

As the days passed, I’d often stop and sit in the same seat or simply look up as I passed by, hoping for a view of him so I would know he was okay and I could wave to him and see him smile. I always watched as people went in and out of the building, hoping someone was living with him or at least checking on him. Finally, I noticed a woman would come around lunchtime each day, dressed in hospital scrubs, and head into the building. When that happened, the man disappeared from the window. 

I had such a sense of relief. Now I will not worry so much knowing someone is looking out for my little man every day.

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