Saturday, October 13, 2012

Autobiography 1

So, I haven't written in 2 years, wow. A lot has happened in that amount of time. Gray hair, graduate school and my guitar strumming bf, Evan.

I was thinking I'd start by posting some completed assignments. Some will be edited to remove some content I don't want on the WWW. I'll save it for my book, as they say. Maybe I'll be ready then.

This autobiography below was a one-paged assignment meant to discuss my cultural background.

Autobiography 1: Cultural Background: Edited

       I was born in a small Maine town with modest means, a modest penis too. And by modest penis, I mean no penis, to the dismay of my father. My mom thought she saw one too; I can assure you she didn't, so Michael became Melissa. I heard this story when I was 5. It explained, at the time, why my father left after my sister's birth and again after mine, because we weren't boys. His leaving and my mom's resulting depression left me with a few messages that pervaded most of my life; Men can not be trusted and I, alone, am responsible for the happiness of my family. That pressure was often too much. I cooked and cleaned and tried to make my mom well. Our home, after all, needed all the help it could get. It was purchased for $3,000. It was located between a dump and a gravel pit, our poor pets... all those trucks. I'm thankful for the third message my mother gave me, that I'd be her college girl. Otherwise, I'd still be taking on too much in Belfast, Maine. I place I wouldn't shine and grow.
     Since my parents were divorced, my Gram came back into our lives; my mother was un-disowned. She'd make us PB & J sandwiches after school while my mom was working; then she'd play solitaire while we watched TV. There were no qualities of any heritage background apparent in either home. The only thing my grandmother protected was her biscuit recipe. We used to slice them in half in the mornings, add butter and fry them on a frying pan and eat them with strawberry jam. My grandmother certainly held the family together. Yearly picnics at her house happened every summer until her death. Now we get together on Christmas for a small gathering but it doesn't feel the same.
     Thankfully, my mom had Elizabeth when I was 5. She became my best friend and many days were spent at our club rock, which was below our sledding hill, in the forest. Our time at the rock felt easy and natural. I felt like a kid. The four of us started attending church when I was about 8. We never talked about God outside of church. I just liked to sing and feel the happy energy, that seemed mutual.
      It took therapy to help me overcome my misconceptions and strengthen that which was healthy in my family. My early messages led to many undesirable happenings with men but now I'm able to step back and realize that I'm okay and that I've always been okay, despite my thoughts. I now understand that creating happiness is a group effort. I also learned that being with people helps me stay balanced and feel really alive. I was always a social, well-adjusted butterfly, just trapped in a cage, until Elizabeth came along.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Pickles and Eggs

    It's been a strange day. I smell like pickles. I smell like pickles and I'm filling out a 2 hour application on egg donation. I am doing strange things for money. I don't know whether to laugh or cry... probably I should cry seeing so I have only $14 in my bank account, but thus far my humor is intact. The only thing I can afford to do is be online for free, so I have been for the past 5 hours. Of a few things I'm sure,  missed connections no longer excite me, I need a planner to try to make sense of the weird 2 hour shift/ 8 job mania I have going on and I want to sign up for a class or 2 at SMCC to perhaps continue to pursue my OT career. Yes, I've reapplied for my doctorate but frankly, that seems like so much work, pressure and money to listen to other people's problems for 8 hours a day. Yes, I should have discovered this sooner, Yes I've wasted a lot of money and time applying to these programs but it wasn't in vain, I have options. Anyway, I have to take more pre- reqs for OT, so I'm thinking starting with Sociology, sure I've already taken it twice, but a D and a C is just not something I can live with for the rest of my life and I really liked sociology despite the bad grades. Classes started this week, so I'll pick it up next week. Say goodbye to a zero balance on my credit card.
   Oh and just when I thought perhaps my existence doesn't and hasn't always revolved around food my mom sent me some "artwork" from the early days. It begins as any young child's artwork would, practicing letters, M, D, O, A, then words, "Mom," "Dad," "Cats," but then the inevitable trigger.... "Dogs" ... then comes "Hot" then "Dog" and then "Hot dog, hotdog, hotdogs." I found it funny, as well as the attached letter written years later. I wrote, "I did my best Mom. I had to leave. I still have to do some work on it. Love you, Sunsiraly, Melissa [ heart ] xoxoxox."
    Sure, I'm working at an Italian kitchen making sandwiches for $10 an hour which is perhaps less than I made when I worked at Belfast Variety making sandwiches when I was 16, sure I'm living in an apartment in Park side paying only $300 a month with everything included, sure I don't own a car or pants (well thanks to Erin I'm borrowing 3 pair, so technically that's not true!) From the outside this could look like a quarter life crisis, but fact is, I'm having a great time finding my way again, starting from zero, meeting new people, making new friends, operating with the new perspective that friends, good times and a quiet, happy mind is paramount to obligations, should-do's and ought to's. I've always been a bit too responsible... I mean, I was a "playground peacemaker" with an official hat at age 11... I was in the newspaper, I mean, really?! What 11 year old can control a crowd and resolve tether ball fights?! So why not be a little unconventional at the ripe age of 25 and just do whatever. 

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Madrid and coming home

Madrid has been restful and great... finished a book and just had my last dinner in Madrid... I'm packing up.... I'll arrive in Boston at 4pm U.S. time. See you there.

Thanks for reading my travel blog...

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A week in Barcelona

Barcelona was great. I spent a week there, mostly alone. I had tons of time to myself which I desperately needed to think and write and draw and walk... it was lovely... I felt extremely free to go and do or not go and do, whatever my mind decided.

I posted pics on facebook... check them out...

Friday, December 4, 2009

Barcelona, take 3

Hey all... I made it to Barcelona via cargo ship! I got a bed this time on the boat and it was so worth it. I had my own room... woke up feeling super motion sick this morning but after taking some meds I enjoyed the rest of the ride (21 hours total). Now I'm at my hostel after walking around for a bit. The plan is to stay here a few nights and travel to Madrid... 

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Beginning My Trek Home

Today is December 1st and I just received my debit card in the mail which means I can be on my way. I have 16 days left in Europe. Thursday I'm taking the cargo ship from Rome to Barcelona (20 hrs) so I'll arrive Friday. I'm going to try something new. It's called couchsurfing and it's a legitimate site with listings of people with verified profiles interested in letting people sleep on their couches. It's free and you get a local's view of the city, sounds good to me. My 2 objectives in Barcelona will be 1.) To shop for winter clothes... I have nodda and 2.) To make a video of my travels to show friends and family. So after a few days or a week in Barcelona I'll make my way to Maria in Madrid around the 10th- 13th of December. Wish me luck.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Mountain Biking Day 2

It's still quite beautiful in Italy, mind you have to wear a coat. Today we cleaned a bit in the morning and ate some of the bread I made last night for breakfast. It was good and much easier than at the Quinta in Portugal, here they have a bread making machine, lovely!!!! Ahhh the joys of technology. 

We went mountain biking for a few hours.. my legs are tired! There are tons of mountain biking and hiking trails through the area, and at the moment, lots of hunters. We rode up a big mountain and finally to a local village for a chocolate break. 

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Today I made it to Citta Della Pieve!

Holy Cow. I am EXHAUSTED! Citta Della Pieve was a steep climb, according to me, but not according to Matthias who has climbed the Pyrenees in France on his bike trek from Belgium to Portugal (so clearly that's unbelievable and his opinion doesn't count!) We went by bike and by bike I mean, bicycle, and by bicycle I mean, I used a 11 year old boys bicycle, and thus it feels great to stretch my legs. We rode from about noon to 4 and I just had the best shower of my life.

    My passport arrived yesterday, by the way, so as soon as my debit card arrives, I'm as good as gone. I'm excited to shop for some winter clothes before I come home. Talk soon!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Our search for Citta Della Pieve

We never did find Citta Della Pieve, but the search was fun. We had prepared ourselves to walk 20 k's (about 13 miles) to see a pretty village near the farm, but vicious dogs, unmarked paths, spiders, and old ladies stopped us from reaching our long sought after destination. Just kidding, about most of that... the dogs were constant and at many points we searched for sticks to defend ourselves but they weren't necessary. There isn't much day light anymore, we started too late, so we had our picnic in some random field on a log, got lost and ended our search for Citta Della Pieve and instead looked for "home." It was dark by the time we found the farm and we had to be on the defense when cars were driving by, they never saw us... but we made it. Here is a video from the walk. There was a dog that I really think was going to bite us  but when I began yelling, "CIAO, CIAO" an old lady came, we couldn't understand what she was saying, but she kept walking with us... here's the clip...

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Paciano, Italy and a long explanation as to why I burnt the hamburgers!

I feel more like a guest in the home of Gracia and John than a wwoofer. I remember meeting another wwoofer in Portugal who said that the quality of food you receive as a wwoofer is evidence of how much you are appreciated and respected, because food is your payment. I can say now James, that I agree. I don't mean quality as in expensive, but quality time put into preparation and cooking and making sure that everyone is happy... Cat, my old softball teammate who is Italian, told me that food is happiness and love... and in the Italian culture it is. Grazia would literally give you the shirt from her back. Working has been pleasant... except for my mishaps in the kitchen yesterday, which include, cat eaten desserts, my seriously overcooking HAMBURGERS (how hard are hamburgers, christ!) for lunch, heating up pesto (apparently thats a no no), spilling cake batter in the oven, on the floor, everywhere, almost baking a metal spoon in the cake, and most notably using a 50 euro block of cheese for some meat rolls, which was not only expensive but due to be sent out to John's brother in Norway... So, you see, I'm causing some destruction, but hopefully more laughs than "what the fucks".
My head has been elsewhere. I've been thinking about my acceptance to the doctorate programs in the states and if I want to go, the updated essays I have to write and send by early January... I've been thinking about this trip and how I thought I'd come back a new person nearly who knows what she wants to be when she grows up and have the motivation to do it and I've been thinking about how I want to stay here, traveling Europe, feeling the freedom that is a long train, a dark bus, a walk through a city on a nice day, but I've been thinking about my family. My beautiful little brother whom I want to get home to to see his big smile and the signs that mean "more song.." I've been thinking about my mom and papa, where my biggest decision involves helping papa chop wood or going for a walk with mom, either way their both happy... I miss mom's loud footsteps in the morning and the way she slams every door cupboard, microwave, etc. just because it's her way... I even miss Papa's bad jokes...I miss my big sister's dirty mouth and how she'll do anything for you if you need her too (just make sure to say thank you) and also how she knows me better than anyone else... she is the only one who grew up along side me in some of the most difficult situations (we'll call them the darkside of Belfast)... I miss my little sister incredibly, we've made some of the best memories of my life, most notably, hiking in the summer, running trails, sprained ankles and having picnics on mountain tops... I miss Erin and Nick (my bestest friends) whom I can tell anything too and somehow they still think I'm sane... I miss my old apartment on Spring street and its current tenant Christian.

All these things make my head a bit foggy... I've loved Europe and traveling, the many friends I've met, the constant learning, the being on your toes, the good times, the bad, seeing society from lots of different angles and from many perspectives... the independence it brings. But the saying holds true, "where ever you go, there you are." I'm still the same Melissa, although, I like to be called "Mel" and the word "lovely" is now apart of my everyday vocabulary. Traveling has shown me a lot, I haven't seen all there is to see or learned all there is to learn but I've seen a slice of the world through a slice of pizza in Rome or a pig foot stew in Portugal... I've seen a slice of the life of a traveler and gained more insight in many realms, the inside and the out ... that both made me optimistic and not for the future and its decisions. Its made me realize that if something doesn't fit in your life, be it clothing, friends, or a job, there's more out there waiting to be found... ditch it, move on... explore.

I've been thinking about preparing for home... the main question on everyone's mind... "Melissa, was it worth it?" Was it worth leaving your great job at the hospital, your stability, selling your car, your clothes, your furniture, your everything, was it worth coming home with $500 from the $6,000 you sold and saved... was it worth it for Europe? My answer is unclear, I want to shout a resounding YES! Of COURSE, because of course I want this trip to have been the answer! But somehow it didn't live up to my expectations... perhaps if I had had more time to think and write rather than work and work, maybe it would have... but I don't think so. I think my expectations were too high... I'm not a new, more clear, more decisive person full of happiness and clarity. I'm Melissa, but a Melissa who knows there's a bigger world out there and who's seen a slice of it. The exploration has to continue, but a flight won't take me there. [ Two weeks later after writing this- I want to make an addition after a bit more clarity.] So, here goes, this trip was worth it and I'll tell you why. I learned that friends are important and so is doing what you love. I learned that if I like to mismatch, it's ok and if I feel lonely sometimes, that's ok too, because in the end, life is about putting yourself out there and those that love you for who you are, are people who you should surround yourself with. I will no longer use anyone else as a scratching post for my insecurities- because since traveling alone I've developed a bigger and stronger inside voice... she's kinda smart, and she has answers. Anyway, I know that's unclear but I have to keep the details for my book. :)

I walked to a village called Panicale the other day and caught a beautiful sunset. Click on the pics to make them larger.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

I love John and Grazia!

Matthias and I have made it safety to our work location. John picked us up from the train station with a friendly American face on (he's from Kansas) and I instantly felt at home. Grazia, John's amazing Italian wife is always feeding us and telling us great walks to take... she's so welcoming and friendly. The work day is relaxed... they told us to get up when we want to and they expect us to help out, not work like slaves... yess!!!!!! This is great. This is what wwoofing should be like. Mattias and I aren't used to it though, yesterday we worked from around 9 to almost 5 and couldn't believe our eyes when we saw the time. We took a walk to the closest village and had a beer and then went grocery shopping with John and Grazia. Mattias helped Grazia with dinner and I spoke to John about the states and my naivety about how the world works. He said I definitely had a country upbringing and its true. Some of the lessons I've learned in Europe hit me like a brick wall.... it's like I'm learning for the first time that life isn't fair... to the point of being incredibly cruel... where was I?

Anyhow, the kids, Eddie and Luca are great. They speak Italian and English and are always smiling. I am going to enjoy my time here immensely. The landscape is absolutely beautiful with rolling hills, villages and mountains in the distance. Also we are amongst an olive tree farm that produces olive oil. I haven't checked out the buildings yet but I want to take a tour soon... we can smell the olive oil and hear the tractors, it's just great!! I have come to love olive oil even more while in Europe and I'll probably never go a day without a glass of red wine. John has been giving us wine at dinner and it's been so good. I've already learned a few dishes from Grazia- she's a great cook.. Anyway, I need to start the day... just wanted to let you all know I am happy, safe and way overfed so no worries about me... for the next 3 weeks I'll be here and warm. I hope you are all well (or at least on the up and up... my family has the flu :( sorry guys). Cheers!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Florence, Italy

Just arrived to Florence...  just found a job since the olive guy cancelled... here's the link to the people we'll be working for... it's not olive picking but it will do!

SO, Florence is beautiful... I like it a lot. Most things you have to pay for to visit, like museums, domes and such but the architecture is great and Florence has nice vibes...

Florence really can be discovered in a couple days so we took a day trip to Pisa and saw the Leaning Tower of Pisa... Pisa was alright.. not much there other than the tower though..

Friday, November 13, 2009

Perugia Italy continued

So waiting in Perugia has been a bit difficult at times... it's cold here, we're really conserving money... yesterday we smeared a hard boiled egg between bread (ha!)... I learned that when you're hungry things taste much better! We've been trying to save money and yesterday my purse was stolen, ouch. It makes me feel personally hurt- the girl was real nice to me the night before... I went to brush my teeth in the morning and then leave for the day and noticed that my wallet was gone and so was she. Things are looking up... my olive picking job fell through but today I skyped with a nice guy from Kansas who needs workers... so after I get my passport on Monday we will travel back to the mountains to work for him for a few weeks. I will miss Thanksgiving at home so much, by the way!!! I'm not going to worry about the money that I'm loosing in this situation... it makes me too sad/mad and I can't afford (haha) to feel those things now... I have to go to western union tomorrow (thank goodness I still have my international drivers license for I.D.) and then get my credit cards sent to my new job and finally go to the embassy on Monday... I will likely get a fine since I've overstayed my welcome but I guess that's fair. 

Today it was AWESOME  talking to my momma, Michelle and Christian by phone... nice to hear your voices!!! MISS YOU GUYS SO MUCH!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


A bit south or Rome now.. in the mountains... and its cold!!!! Should start olive picking job soon!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Buon Giorno!! Rome Nov 7th and 8th

I have a new appreciation for the expression, "Rome wasn't built in a day," because even when you get lost in Rome you find historic sites, monuments and rubble dated 2,500 years ago. This city really is amazing. On the 6th Matthias and I pushed our limits and walked clear across Rome to the Vatican city. We saw sites all along the way and back, 20 to be exact. Vatican City [ruled by the pope of course] was gigantic, 110 acres to be exact and with a population of just over 800, it is the smallest country in the world by both population and area. It was an impressive site but such an exagerated and gaudy show of catholocism. It wasn't my favorite place.. that would be the Pantheon. It's a temple that was built to honor all of the gods of ancient Rome. The building is circular with a portico of three ranks of huge granite Corinthian columns. The columns are under a concrete dome, with a central opening open to the sky. On the night we saw it there was a brass band playing outside which added to the atmosphere and awe of the structure. We also accidently found an Leonardo Divinci exhibit which although we couldn't afford to visit it, the mechanics and drawings in the bookstore were fasincating. We crossed the Tiber River and it was the first time that I've felt fall. It's definately getting chilly and the leaves have even changed color here in Rome. Matthias and I have been very careful with our money and although our lonely planet guide says to budget 60/100 euros a day for Rome, today we spent 13.90 including food and our hostel.
November 8th: Yesterday we spent much of the day walking but in the vacinity of the Pantheon where old Rome is located. We saw the Colosseo, Domus Aurea, the Arc of Constantine and the Circo Massimo to name a few. We also saw tons of fantastic fountains in the rain which were beautiful, my favorite being the Trevi fountain. It's 85 feet tall and 68 feet wide. A traditional legend holds that if visitors throw a coin into the fountain, they are ensured a return to Rome. 3,000 euros are thrown in a day! Wow.. Today we spent a total of 18.20 with food and hostel... so it is possible to visit Rome on a cheap budget... granted we didn't go into any historical sites but you can see so much from the outside! Today [Nov 9th] I've come down with a bit of a cold and feel a bit run down so this concludes my Rome excursion as we're leaving tomorrow for new pastures. Today we'll walk around a bit but I'll give my impressions of Rome now... it's beautiful and impressive, of course it's Rome but I'm frustrated. Everyone looks like they've spent hours getting dressed and primping in the mirror. Probably I'm sick of my worn and torn clothes and jealous of their money and perfectness but it seems so cold. My eyes welled up today upon passing a 5 year old boy begging for money. As he held out his cup I noticed his eyes most. He looked like he was staring into brighter days- his eyes were glossy as if he were watching his own private daydream on big screen. Rich people with their serious faces stomped by as if they were on a runway, never looking down, never stopping, never thinking. I can't say the boy noticed them either as he didn't even blink. Their shiny cat woman boots and his shiny eyes were likely the only thing that united them. I related more to the boy but couldn't help but be envious of these beautiful Italian people. I just wish it didn't matter. I wish the world, I wish I, was always more concerned with making others happy than worrying about well, mundane niceties, shiny cars, things that people won't remember you for... how does that song go? "It's all about the Benjamin's?" I buy it... but that sucks big time. Yah, I know,

It's not just Rome... it's any big city anywhere... it's our's the way the world works... that gets me down.

Friday, November 6, 2009


I just finished traveling 20 hours on a ferry, 1 hour on a train and 20 minutes walking to get here at this cheap hostel in Rome, Italy! The border patrol didn't look for a visa, just my passport expiration so I made it in. The ferry ride was rough. We just had regular seats like on an airplane but at least we got to walk around the ship. It was big- it even had a restaurant but it was so expensive which we expected so we brought our own food on. I asked for a pillow and they said it wasn't possible...jerks but what do I expect for 40 euros!

I can't wait to see Rome tomorrow... it was night when we arrived so tomorrow will be great!1 Talk soon

Thursday, November 5, 2009


So, Matthias and I went to the American Embassy today... it was a daunting place. They took all our things and just gave us badges to go in. I asked about how I could extend my visa since it was expired. They said that if I'm already illegal I'm supposed to leave and there is a tiny possibility that one foreign office will extend but they advised me to send a convoy in for me just in case they wanted to deport me! So, Matthias was my convoy and there was nothing the office could do. They told him that I'm not Spain's top priority since I'm from the states but they have to tell me that I'm supposed to leave. 
  I'm really scared but I've come this far and at this point really want to see Italy. So, we're going to try to take a 10pm ferry to Rome tonight. I will either be in Rome in the morning or if the police catch me... I'll be in the states in a few days.... unless they detain me in order to get me expelled from Spain... the embassy gave me paperwork saying they could detain me for up to 40 days before sending me home, but the lady at the foreign office said I shouldn't have a problem. Interesting stuff. 

Wish me luck, seriously. P.S. I'm on a really tight budget and only spent 6 euros on food today! I'm keeping track of all my expenses. P.S. It's getting cold here so today I had to throw out my sandals and buy boots... they are much warmer and more comfy. Here's a pic of this mornings breakfast at the hostel (note: these are pieces of melba toast... trust me... free things taste great) Cool, talk soon!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

I made it to Spain ...barely

So, I got to Lagos just fine and began my trip to Seville, Spain by bus.... except we were stopped at the border for border patrol which isn't super common. I was sitting in the first seat and they checked everyone's passport except mine because I was fumbling for it and so the guy skipped me and later forgot to check! THANK GOD. My heart was beating so fast!! I hope it doesn't happen again entering Italy!!! P.S. Matthias is with me...

Monday, November 2, 2009

Sagres (2 days)

Sagres has been great... we stopped at a bar asking for a room and they had one for 25 euro a night for both of us... so cheap so we're staying 2 nights (leaving tomorrow) for Lagos and then Seville. By the way, Matthias is likely coming with me to Italy because his work fell through... this is great news... a travel partner.... much safer, etc. etc. We will take a bus from Seville to Barcelona Spain on Wednesday and then a ferry from Barcelona to Rome, Italy on Thursday.... arriving on Friday in Rome! By the way, this should all cost about 120 euro from the most western point of Europe, which is where I am now, Sagres. I have 998 euros... so this will be an interesting penny pinching trip. Matthias gave me a sweatshirt, check! So, now I just need jeans or something... it will be colder in the North. My initial plan was to take a train through France but the ferry is cheaper (and more south) and once I visit Italy and Greece I'll know if I can afford France, hopefully so. I'm going to try to get my visa extended in Italy but the longest it can be extended is January 20th so I'll likely be home for Christmas unless of course I meet a beautiful Italian man who will marry me for EU citizenship. Hmm... ho ho ho... see you for Christmas! Will post pics soon... just have a crap connection but love my new camera!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Lagos, again.

Matthias and I went out Wednesday night as soon as we checked into our hostel. We drank way too much... I think because we were used to only being allowed to have 2 drinks a day at the farm... and that included soda... you all know me and diet coke... I rarely had space for beer! We got back to the hostel at 6am (early for Lagos) and went to sleep. After a long sleep in we walked to Playa de Ana (The beach of Ana) and rested then ate great indian food and went back to the hostel and read. I'm reading "The boy in the striped pajamas" and it's really lovely. Thursday we went for a long walk to the light house and took some videos and pictures, we had lots of Portuguese coffee (like expresso) and went to Nah Nah Bar (an amazing place to eat burgers- oh how I miss American food!) Yesterday (Saturday) we took a LONG bike ride to Portomao to go to the movie theatre for Halloween... except Halloween isn't big in Europe so there was nothing scary playing or anything scary to do... although we tried to pretend that the train ride back to Lagos was scary but really it wasn't... we ended up watching "signs" at the hostel and it really was a bad movie but Matthais had to wake me up because I was having bad dreams and screaming in my sleep... awesome... bit embarrassing... today (sunday) we're having breakfast, checking out of the hostel in Lagos and taking a bus to Sagres.... it's the western most tip of Europe... so fellow American's... I'll be as close as possible to you at about noon your time today :) Check ya later! P.S. Will post stupid videos soon!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Leaving the Quinta

Hey everyone,
So I'm leaving the quinta in an hour... wanted to write to say that I don't know where I'll be in a week's time. Yesterday we cleaned the rain drains, did a bunch of laundry and tried to keep motivated... I definitely had 'last day laziness'. We all got together for a staff dinner at Pepe's in Santa Clara. I will post a video soon. 
  Today we cleaned our room, mailed some post (cost 35 euros!) but my bag was too full so there ya go. Today's Matthais's b-day so we had a little party tonight and now we're getting ready to leave. 
  I'm going to the south to stay at Archie's tonight and by morning I'll be in Lagos with Matthias until November 1st. I might work with Matthais for a week or so or go straight to Southern France, Italy and then Greece. I found a job in Spain so hopefully I'll make my money last to get there after my 3 country excursion... I'm going by train since my visa is expired so that'll be expensive. Mom- I hope you still have my $500 dollar reserve :)  

Monday, October 26, 2009

Another work day at the Quinta

  Today Matthias and I woke up per usual by 8am and had breakfast before getting to work. The 6 great guests left this morning at 6am and left envelopes for us in their rooms. They wrote a really nice card and gave us each 60 euros! That's a lot of money and I feel so grateful. Matthias and I spent the morning debating whether or not we should put it in the tip jar. Our envelopes are still sitting on the microwave... we haven't made a decision as of yet. He feels we should and I feel we shouldn't. They were addressed to us individually and we really need the money. Other staff are not here everyday and they get paid; for me, it's easy, but likely I'm a greedy American... thoughts?

  Anyway, afterwards  I took Molly for a walk. Molly is being punished for nipping a guest and is on a chain... sad! But it's a great excuse to take a nice walk in the mornings. This morning I took some photos. There were only 2 guests at the Quinta so I felt pretty lackadaisical. 

 The first picture is an olive tree overlooking part of the lake; the 2nd is Molly, Honey and Pescha (Fish in Portuguese).

After the walk I began painting and continued until noon. I made lunch for staff; no guests yay! Today I made a hamburger casserole, tomato salad and apple crisp. After lunch Matthias and I painted all of the stairs at the Quinta. We finished at 5pm after a few mishaps, mainly my sitting on a wet step with my mainly bare bum, oops.... note to self: don't paint in a dress. Got it. We jumped in the lake as soon as we finished our last stairwell. We don't have to make a dinner tonight which is really great. It's nice to have a break. 


I can't believe it's been so long since I've written. I've kept notes in my journal and need to transfer them eventually. I've been very busy working at the quinta... we've had a lot of guests and when I get my break (4pm-6pm) I just want to swim and visit the sun, which I've done everyday. It's still hot here during the day but it's getting cooler at night. The lake is lovely when I wake up, for the first few hours it's covered in fog. I plan to leave the Quinta in 5 days. I've had my ups and downs here but lately I feel like I'm loosing the plot... or the plot is loosing me. It's just time to move on- I feel it everywhere. I'm really missing the Fall in the states- the way the leaves dance in the wind and the way they crunch when you step on them, the brisk mornings, the pumpkins, the apple cider, corn mazes, haunted hay rides, cow trains (lol) and especially Halloween films like hocus pocus and even the Mary Kate and Ashley ones (hate to admit it). It still feels like summer here which is good and bad. I guess you always want what you don't have. It doesn't feel like Fall and I'll truly, truly, truly miss it this year. I have a much better appreciation for it now.

Since I've last written I've been to Faro (s'ok)-
COOLEST part was this chapel made of the bones of munks; Tavira (great, typical small Portuguese village), Portomao (big city with a beach), Lagos(see prior posts- it's lovely), Monchique (beautiful and on a mountain) and all the coastal cities on the west of Portugal. The western cities are part of a nature reserve so there are no touristy high rises or hot dogs stands anywhere, just hippies in caravans in the nooks of the rocks. The West and South coasts look so different for this reason but they are both gorgeous. I prefer the west since it's more desolate and natural. I've been able to travel a lot more since the arrival of Matthias , from belgium. He can drive a manual car, thank God, so I've been able to travel with him on our days off. It's been very cool. I bought a new camera a couple of days ago since I broke mine in Spain and I took a few cool photos today. Matthais's friends came from Lisbon and we went to Tia Erme Linda's bar. The only problem at the bar is that there's only 2 stools! It really looks like a small bar in a house... it actually is a small bar in a house. It's only 10 minutes by car from the Quinta. We took an 8 hour walk a few days ago and discovered it. P.S. I have crazy blisters on my feet, but the walk was beautiful. We found an old wind mill dated from 1925 and climbed it. It was made from a big cork tree. We also climbed a big mountain where we could see views of the lake and the hilly landscape of Santa Clara. There we had a picnic and shared with the dogs since they made the trek. We got a bit lost on the way back but luckily a car passed us on a dirt road and we flagged them down. Matthais speaks portuguese, that's a lucky thing. Three of the dogs followed us- they were so boring! We couldn't walk past many of the farms and houses for fear that the dogs would eat the residence's chickens or fight their dogs. Everyone in Portugal has at least 2 dogs. It made it difficult to walk certain places, but they chilled outside the bars when we stopped in and actually could have saved us from wild boars in the dark so I can't complain.
     Fatima, the Portuguese cleaning lady invited Matt (from the states) and I to her house for lunch. It was great to see a typical Portuguese house and eat a local delicacy, which lucky for me was pigs feet on this day. I didnt enjoy the pigs feet at all but the stew they were in was delicious and I'm really glad to have had the opportunity to try them. Portuguese always have parties in December where they slaughter a pig. This porco was from last year's celebration and I'm really glad I missed it. I've heard many Portuguese people say that the pig's scream- I couldn't handle that. I'm actually really looking forward to eating vegetarian when I return. I'm happy for all the carnivorous experiences in Spain and Portugal thus far, thanks goes out to all the suppliers of said "meat" and the animals themselves, but truth be told, I'm not a big fan. Did I hear a "hell yah" from Erin? :) (Miss you!)

    My latest whoa is that I'm just found out that I'm illegally in Portugal right now. I called the embassy before I left and got wrong information. I thought I could stay in each country for 3 months but it's actually 3 months in the European Union which includes Portugal and Spain. So, I'm not sure what happens now. I wanted to fly to Italy but I think they might send me back to the states if I do so I think I'll take a train there or perhaps stay in Portugal in Spain since my funds are getting low. I'm not quite sure... I haven't had as much time as I would have liked to think about my situation and near future. I did email the university in San Diego to ask that they go on with my deferment, meaning they will review my application again and let me know if I 'get in' again. I'd like to have the option, but I suppose it didn't look good, my applying and not attending. I have figured out that of course I like working with children. I also love horses, farms, hard work and keeping busy. I think there's a therapeutic and constructive way to summate all these loves. I'm working it out.

Anyway, our current guests rock. They're from the Isle of man, England. I've made many a Mojito for them throughout their stay (they actually had over 100 drinks in 7 days between 6 of them). Nice work. They leave tomorrow and then we literally have no guests for the first time... which is another sign that it's time to go. I have good and bad reactions to the Quinta. I haven't worked it all out in my head yet so I'll get back to you.

My immediate plans are to leave at the end of the week for southern Portugal. I want to spend Halloween in a city and I think Matthais will come too. He's going to volunteer in a city in the south and I might stay there a week also to buy myself some time. It looks like I will come back to the states for Christmas afterall.... my money is low and I shouldn't be illegally in a country, right? That's not nice on my shoulders. I've contacted a horse farm in Arizona about staying there- no word yet but my fingers are crossed. If not Arizona I think I'll find somewhere to volunteer in the states. It's a good way to see the world I think... as long as you don't work like a slave and have the time to get away and think.

Here are a few pics from the month's activities...
Fatima's pig feet stew with chic peas and mint ( I know Mom, you would HATE this dish)

Above is Andrew Potter(far left)from the states volunteering for Carol who lives down the dirt track ; Archie, my boss Frank's son, me and Matthais from belgium, wwoofing w/ me. In Portugal you can't have a fire until after October 15th. Fires are dangerous since the land is so dry.

To the left is Matthais and I leaving the Quinta to go to Tia Erme Linda's bar today.

I'll write again soon; I promise.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Quinta (Farm)

The last few days have been rough... I've been doing hard labor jobs which I love but I've gotten beaten up along the way. I definitely have the wrong shoes! I've fallen down a lot and skinned my knees, got stung by wasps (so many here) and I woke up with spider bites (yuck!) But, it's just typical life here. No Problems! In the last few days I've learned a lot: how to mix cement and fix rock walls, how to build a canopy over cars (for example) which involved sawing but Papa taught me that, how to make bread ( so good) and there's more I'm sure. I accidently gave my best tank top to the cleaning lady. She was admiring it on the drying rack and I meant to say, "you like it?" but "you can have it" came out (in Portuguese). She was SOOO happy and in reality she appreciates it way more than I do... she doesn't have much... I feel good about it.

    Great news is I'm going to Faro tomorrow by train.. I haven't been outside this farm for.... 3 weeks! It's crazy. I almost didn't leave at all because the neighbor asked me to help her with her roof on my day off (tomorrow) and I almost said yes... she would pay me but I HAVE to see a city or I will get depressed... I feel it coming... so I'm out of here.... talk to you in a few days my loves!

Saturday, September 12, 2009


The last 2 days have been spent cleaning  the cars, learning to iron and fold properly  for the Inn (not easy), picking mint for tea, learning Portuguese, taking the dogs for long walks, helping to serve breakfast, lunch and dinner and learning to add to and maintain the Quinta's website. Daniela is back so I haven't been cooking. Tonight I might try my luck at paddling across the lake to a fiesta on the dam!?! I don't know what the lighting will be like... and I'm not quite sure I can row in a dress and stay dry? I guess I could sail into the party but I think I'm more comfortable in the kayak, especially at night. Daniela is supposed to give me a lesson in her car (manual) so I can drive myself to the coast! I am definitely getting a but stir crazy here. It's  been 2 weeks since I've seen civilization. It was nice taking a walk on my day off and I saw some new scenery but it's still cork trees, water and dirt roads. I think I'll go to Lisbon. Maybe I'll be able to give up my breaks each day for 3 days off. We've been working 50-60 hours a week but no one counts them... it's just what you do here. The train only comes through Santa Clara once per day so actually, I'd only have 24 hours in Lisbon- it doesn't seem worth the effort and cost except it is... for my mental health! :) I haven't even spent money in 2 weeks- crazy! Oh and great news, Frank found me Soya milk in Santa Clara! HOORAY! No more black tea and coffee!! P.S. I'm picking up Portuguese a bit!! :)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

9/7-9/10 Quinta

What a crazy 3 days! Daniela and Frank went away to Spain and left Matt and I in charge of the Quinta. Before they left they gave us some tips and tricks but mainly we were flying by the seats of our pants. We did all of the cooking and managed the bills, bookings and phone calls on top of our normal work, my promoting a yoga weekend at the Quinta in October, and Matt building a rock wall and watering of the grounds. We got a 30 minute break each day, with one of us always covering the phones. Initially I was terrified of cooking because each person was paying nearing 35 dollars American for their meal! But the guests said we did an excellent job and that the food couldn't have been lovelier. Thank God! 

Today is finally a day off but Daniela's 6 year old daughter returned from Northern Portugal and I'm teaching her to read English. She is incredibly smart. I think I already mentioned but she's fluent in German, Portuguese and English. Insane! Ok, well it's almost lunch time so write later!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Sunday at the Quinta

So far so good. It's 9:45 am and I've already done breakfast for the guests. I love making orange juice. This morning I picked fresh figs from the garden, cut them up with a peach and kiwi and squeezed some lemon juice on top w/ honey. 

Last night we didn't have to make dinner for the guests so after running all the sprinklers for the land Matt and I watched Narnia. It was a little escape from Portugal... an English movie with an English friend... a nice little treat. But back to Portuguese life. This morning I was able to tell Fatima (in Portuguese that I LOVE Cheese but I can't eat it because I'm allergic and that I LOVE dogs but I can't pat them because I'm allergic.) I'm getting better!

The Quinta, Saturday

Today Daniela accidently slept in so I did breakfast with the help of Fatima, the amazing cleaning lady. She is so awesome. After breakfast I nearly finished my email database project I cleaned 30 or so fish (pictured here!!), learned to sail, saw a big snake, jumped off a cliff and it's only 6pm! I LOVE this place. I'm not going to lie though, cleaning the fish was disgusting. I accidently flung fish gills at myself and definitely gagged a few times. I didn't expect them to be so bloody! Eww!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Santa Clara, Portugal: Working at the Quinta

     *Remember click on pics to see them larger*

  So after saying Goodbye to everyone at the hostel and apologizing for my tears I hoofed it back to the train station and by hoofed it I mean ran. Mama was talking to me about what happened and wanted to make me sandwiches so I was held up a bit. I made it with 3 minutes to spare (scary!) and sat back and tried to relax. I realized that I was supposed to go through the city of Faro but I knew I wasn’t and I hoped that Frank, my soon to be boss would still be waiting for me in Santa Clara. I got off the train in some tiny, tiny town and used Caitlyn’s money for a little snack (thank God for her!) My train left an hour later and it was a beautiful landscape the whole way. It was filled with rolling hills and cork trees, which is a big but dying industry here. Only buy wine with cork tops- you’ll be employing people and using natural resources!! 

    Anyway, when the station pulled into Santa Clara a small white house was the only thing in site. I crossed the tracks and saw a familiar face, it was Frank. His red hair stuck out, he smiled and said in an English accent, “Hi, I’m Frank how’s it going?” I said, “ok and thanks for waiting as I was a bit late. He put my bag full of dirty clothes in the back of his truck and we zoomed off. He said he had just picked up a box for me at the post office and that he needed to stop in town really quick. He pulled up next to a quaint white building and I looked around. I could see a fruit store, a general store in addition to the one Frank was in, another small store with a few cork products in it and a very small church. This was Santa Clara, the only town within 20 minutes of the Quinta. Oh my God I thought, but perhaps we have a lot of neighbors. The last 10 minutes of the drive was on narrow dirt roads and Frank was driving fast. 

No one was around so it didn’t matter. When I arrived to the Quinta Frank brought me to my room. It was one of the guest rooms. He said I’d be staying here for the night and then if it was ok with me, moving in with another work exchanger, Matt. I said that was fine. I was hoping it really was fine… I hadn’t met him yet and it sort of depended. I set my bag down and Frank gave me a very quick tour and brought me inside the kitchen to meet Matt and Belinda (2 workers my age). They were very nice and I instantly knew it would be fine to share a room with Matt. He is 19 and originally from Boston but had been going to college in NY before he came. Belinda is from Australia and has been the assistant cook to Frank’s wife Daniela. Matt does more of the man jobs I’m told.

 I meet Daniela and she doesn’t seem too excited to meet me but she’s in the middle of making dinner and Frank says she takes some time to warm up to people. She is Austrian and she speaks German, English and Portuguese… impressive… and actually her 3 kids speak all 3 languages as well, including her 6 year old Carolina. She is the only one I have met so far, as the other kids are in France. The Quinta is different than I pictured it. First of all, there is no one even remotely close to us. I can see a small Inn across the lake but to get there you must go by boat and even then they don’t really have a bar. It is so deserted that most everyone who comes are couples seeking some alone time… so I don’t see myself hanging out with any guests. Let alone that a lot of them are Spanish or Portuguese. I learn quickly that Belinda does the cooking when Daniela is away and that Belinda is leaving in one week…which has now come and gone! L She was so sweet. She drew portraits of everyone, even me and gave us all letters. She was in the same boat as me only knowing English and a little Spanish. I add 2 and 2 together and realize that I will be cooking gourmet food for guests. This is scary because not only would it be stressful to cook for 15 or so people but the ingredients are in Portuguese. This will be a funny story when I’m old. Guests pay almost 25 euro for dinner here… that is like $35 American! I’m already learning so much about cooking and if it weren’t for being terrified of really messing up I would be totally excited about this opportunity. Belinda was always in the kitchen with her laptop reading recipes though so I can do that. I think. 

Although, I’ll have to think up 3 to 4 course meals. I’m sure once I get more comfortable with Daniela and her with me the pressure won’t be so bad. Actually, they are going away for 2 days soon and I will have to cook everything with Matt helping me. I will make sure to have the recipes ready! He’s not much of a cook but he’s a good server and has been here for 2 months so he knows exactly how to run the place. I’ve got the bar tending down and the booking system but I need to know Portuguese to be of any help on the phone. Luckily Matt has family in Portugal and has been around Portuguese since he was young. He understood it when he arrived but now he can speak it quite well. I’m very impressed with him. He draws well, he reads during his breaks, he works hard, he plays the guitar, he speaks Portuguese, he makes bracelets and he’s only 19. He is young but he seems old. It’s comfortable sharing a room with him. Sometimes we hang out and sometimes we do our own thing during our breaks from 3-6. 

Belinda left today which was really sad. I really liked her and it was nice having a girl around that was my age. Now I only have Matt and Daniela’s young kids once they come back to start school… and actually there are 5 dogs here. I am allergic but the company is worth my crazy sore throats and stuffy nose. So the dogs are all so different. I don’t know the types but I’ll take pictures with Matt’s camera soon. Their names are honey, sideways (because he always walks sideways and makes you fall), Mike Tilla (named after a war vet), Pesca (Portuguese for bird I think) and my personal swim partner, Molly.

  So the work here is varied. Frank always starts people off with a long tedious task so test them. Belinda had to tile the kitchen, Matt had to move a bunch of wood piles and I had to transfer 1,500 written emails into an excel database, add them to his established email contact list and then organize them into a Portuguese and English speaking list. I researched email marketing companies because Frank wanted me to send 10,000 emails 20 at a time so as to not get sent to the spam folder and I thought that was unrealistic to do in a week. He hired someone so YAY! My tedious task won’t be as long! I still have to separate the group into languages… is there an easy way to do this in excel?! I will find out- 10,000 is a lot.

Today is Friday and each week I will have Thursday and Friday off. Saturday-Wednesday I work 7:45am-3pm and then again from 6pm-10pm, that is about 11 hours a day. I wake up at 730, roll out of bed, put a dress on and head to the kitchen. I put silverware, plates, bowls, cereal, croissants and coffee and tea out for the guests and juice oranges for yummy fresh juice. After that I can eat with Matt, Fatima (the cleaning lady) and Dulce (the gardener). Fatima and Dulce are both amazing women who only speak Portuguese. I think Fatima understands me a bit. I told her my throat hurts and she made me the most amazing honey lemon tea. I want to learn Portuguese because I hate being limited in my conversation with them.

So after breakfast, Belinda goes off to do a lot of laundry and help Fatima, Matt builds rock walls and fixes roofs and I work on my tedious email list until lunch at 2. We all help serve lunch, eat ourselves and then usually get a break from 3pm until we have to set up for dinner at 6pm. During our break we can do whatever we want. It’s still hot out so I always go swimming and usually take the kayak or surfboard out for a paddle. I also like to fit in a few pages from one of the books I brought. I just finished my final day off until Thursday and I spent it sleeping on the dock, reading and getting sun burnt. It was great. Even though we have days off, we still help out. Frank and Daniela rarely get a day off so the atmosphere is such that we want to help. That being said I slept til 10am today and aside from talking with Frank about the email job and learning the booking system I didn’t help out until dinner time. I helped serve food and clean up. I have been dying to catch my blog up and I’m excited that it’s finally happening. Now that Belinda is gone I will assist Daniela by making dessert and or the appetizer and help her plan a meal and Matt will set up the intricate table, steam the silverware and glasses, make flower arrangements, slice butter and pick flowers to decorate it with, get the water pitchers ready, choose music and we will both take turns running the sprinklers. 

It is very dry here so every night at 8pm we have to start 6 sprinklers; which are quite far apart and then shut them off at 845pm and then start sprinklers 7-12 and run them until 930pm. I’ve been doing it a week and still need a map and still get soaked. A lot of them go around in circles and you really have to run fast and know the land in order to stay dry. Matt has been here 2 months and he still comes back wet so I don’t feel bad. He runs through the bushes but I did the flower arrangements the other day and noticed the huge spiders so I stick to the rock paths… which makes it nearly impossible to stay dry. Anyway, dinner is served when the gong is rung, around 8-830. We serve bread and butter and the “entrada” (entrée in English) which is confusing because to us, the entrée is the main course. In Portugal, the entrée means appetizer. After the appetizer comes the ___ followed by the pudding, which is dessert to us. After dessert we pick fresh mint from the garden and make fresh mint tea which is so good after a long days work. We clean up the kitchen and Matt (and Belinda until tonight L ) head to the area known as the kid’s room to relax with our mint tea and watch television from England. We only get like 3 channels but even that is a welcome treat. Matt and I both fall asleep within an hour of watching and eventually make it to our room.

After my emailing job, which sort of blows since I’m inside all of the time I will have a few roofing jobs and some rock wall jobs. Matt and I will likely work together on these ones so that will be a nice change. I really like learning new things so I am happy that the work is varied. I haven’t spent a lot of time in the garden but Dulce will be off soon so I will be tending it a lot more. We get a lot of the food from the garden but Daniela is from Austria. The cuisine here is certainly international and heavier than I thought it would be. For breakfast we eat toast with butter or jam, lunch is buffet style with multiple veggie salads (like shredded carrots with apple, cucumbers with tomato and onion and tuna salad with olives and main things like Shepard’s pie or pizza… both made gourmet style (with lots of goat’s cheese and rich things like that). I’ve had a tummy ache nearly everyday but I haven’t stuck to my lactose free diet either. I didn’t want to make a fuss about anything so they don’t know that I need to eat lactose free or that I am allergic to dogs. I’m getting more comfortable so I’ll mention it at some point! Oh and I’m allergic to Tide and that’s what they use to laundry detergent… you should see my poor rashes lol! It’s funny at this point. I feel like I’m always telling Matt about some new problem! What can I say I am a sensitive girl!!

  Anyway it’s 1am and I have finally gotten a lot of things out and I’m happy about it.  The internet is really touchy here which means no skype or gmail video chats! L That is a huge bummer but I am happy that there is at least internet sometimes! I hope you are all doing well and I will try to give updates more often!  Love you all. P.S. They call me “Mel,” short for Melissa but also in Portuguese it means “honey”… sweet huh

Friday, September 4, 2009

Holy LAGOS!!!! >>Portugal<<

I met 3 particularly great people in Lisbon whom I did the majority of my site seeing with, Maria, Angel and Simon. Maria and Angel were heading to lagos so we decided to take the train together. Angel and I had an impossible time finding a hostel to stay in so we booked an expensive guest house type thing but upon arriving to Lagos and bringing Maria to her hostel, "Mama" said she could fit us. I had read about this hostel, called "The Rising Cock," "Mama" herself and the crepes she makes every morning with her famous lemon tea. Mama insists on being called this and is like your mother whilst you’re away. I was skeptical at first but she was really there for me when I needed her- more about that later. 

The hostel is infamous for crazy 24 hour parties but it seemed quite quiet. I could hear a movie playing in the background and few people were going in and out. It was mid day and super hot so I figured most people were at the beach. Mama had a double bed amongst a room for 8 for Angel and I so we took it without a question. It was so much cheaper than our other option and we were already there with our heavy packs! Yes! Maria was also placed in the same room so things were good! Angel and I had already developed a brother/sister relationship so it wasn't even weird. Once we got settled we went straight to the beach and from there waited in line at a restaurant for hours!

   We didn't get back to the hostel until 11:30pm and everyone from the hostel had already left. We decided to take a look around just the 3 of us and went to the most famous of the bars called, "Monkey Bar." It is insane. The bar tenders act like they are on speed! They run around taking shots themselves, giving people funnels and weird things to drink from and not one was wearing a shirt. Within 5 minutes of being inside I got burned by a cigarette twice, got a beer spilled on me, got stepped on and then hit on by a midget. No judgments here but it was all a bit overwhelming. We had the distinct feeling of being too late for the party to catch up and thus way too sober for this so we went home with the intention of getting back to the hostel earlier tomorrow night in order to meet everyone and go out from there. 

The next day we went to the beach of course and discovered some really, really beautiful ones! They had amazing rock formations and really cool caves. Lots of people were jumping from ledges and added to the cool, free atmosphere. Everyday we went to the beach with more and more people. Everyone would go out and drink together at night, eat Mama's crepes in the morning and maybe watch a movie before going to the beach. It was so chill! The hostel was not a crazy place this week because everyone was in Valencia for the famous tomato fights. The boys at the hostel were a bit disappointed with the odds, 3 girls and like 15-20 boys, but they had a good time anyway... and there were no shortage of girls at the bars. Lagos is known to be a crazy party town where crazy things happen! It is quite small and most capital is brought in from the fishing industry and tourists.  

There were a few notable bars... one was Inside Out. They had fish bowls [scorpion bowls, aka loss of memory in liquid form] that are best shared between at least 4 people. Two girls in my room tried to share one and lets just say our room was a gross disaster in the morning. So one night we went out with the hostel and shared one... everyone had really strange nights that night. I woke up on the beach alone at 830 in the morning and returned to find Angel in the bed covered in blood. He still doesn't know what happened and Maria was quite naked in her bed. Everyone ate crepes and spent the next couple of hours piecing our night together. I had gone back to the hostel and told people that I wanted to write and draw and took my notebook. There was nothing in my notebook the next day. Hilarious! One guy remembered dancing in his underwear in a chair at a bar and one girl still wasn't home. We again went to the beach and took a boat tour through caves. It was fantastically beautiful and I am super tan! 

The next night a great girl I met, named Sara (from Australia) and I decided to make our own fish bowls for the hostel.. but much lighter this time!! Everyone gave us 5 euro and we ended up with 100 euros and made 4 tasty fish bowls! I even managed to get Inside out to give us free huge straws! After drinking them some people went out early and some of us stayed. I stayed with Sara and some Australian boys to play some card games. When we went out we were stopped by this funny little guy and he invited us for free drinks, apparently that's what it takes to get people to his bar. First of all, it was called, "Smiles" and it had smiley faces everywhere and a stripper pole and seriously NO customers! The bar tender having nothing else to do decided to give me and a couple of the boys some lessons. It was so funny and so difficult, by the way. I am NOT sexy on a stripper pole but she said I did well because I have some upper body strength. Afterwards we found part of the group and had a good night dancing and talking until we left the bar at about 4am. I immediately spotted a beautiful white horse. The man must have noticed my instant love for the thing and motioned for me to get up on it. So this was random but amazing! He was an old man with a black suit and top hat. He put his hat on me and let me take the horse around the block by myself and didn't charge me a thing! My camera is pretty broken so the pics I have now are from other people's cameras. We all extended our stay a night (including Angel and Maria) and spent it at some other bars and restaurants. We went to the Nah Nah Bar every night for dinner... it was right across the street from our hostel and it served the best burgers I've ever had! 

Another night that was random and funny was a night we went out and had fun but came back relatively early and went to bed. Sara and I woke up at the same time and both wanted to take a walk. We left in our PJ's (Mom, I was wearing that funny Animal t-shirt you gave me haha) and we stumbled across a foam party! A foam party! And we went in, of course. They didn't charge us anything. We walked in and it was like a crazy dream. People were drinking, it was 5am and they were completely covered in soapy foam, except the girls tried to keep it off their pretty make up faces. Everyone looked RIDICULOUS and some were taking themselves and their foamy dance skills seriously which made Sara and I laugh so hard. We decided that this was insane and since we had an early night and the rest of the group hadn't and actually went skinny dipping we were up for the foamy craziness. We were both really sleepy and for some reason thought that since the foam looked soft that it actually was and decided to wrestle in it... we stopped when I pinned Sara and realized that actually the floor was covered in water and I almost drowned her. LOL The foam kept getting above our heads and was almost suffocating but so funny at the same time. We saw one guy from our hostel and apparently he had been there for hours. We decided to bring the foam party back to the hostel and loaded are arms with foam and then put it on people's faces and jumped in their beds... I hugged the guy at the front desk.. he spent the rest of the night wet but said this was not even a little bit surprising or weird compared to the things he's seen. The poor guy! He turned out to be as awesome as Mama... again more about that later. 

The beauty about Lagos is that there really isn’t much to see aside from the beaches so I didn’t feel that pressure to see all of the sites, there were none. The group I had been with had to go to their next destinations on Thursday but I didn’t need to be at work for another day so rather than pack up my stuff and find a city closer to my work location for one night I decided to stay in Lagos. The Australians from Smiles, 2 guys from England and one Spanish guy were the only people left that I knew so I went surfing with them in a city about 30 minutes away on the coast.  We left in time to see the most beautiful sunset ever in another town that the Spanish guy, "Toba" knew of. It was nice to be in a car again driving on an open road, as opposed to always being on a bus.

  That night we all went out. I ran out of cash so I brought my debit card to get a little money out for some drinks, big mistake! We had a good night out and one of the Australians and I went to the beach because we heard cool music. There were tons of hippy people there playing instruments and camping out on the beach w/ their dogs. It was really cool- they sounded great. Upon getting back to my room I noticed that I didn't have my debit card. I got online and cancelled it immediately and then realized that I had only gotten 30 euro out because I didn't want to walk around with a bunch of cash in case I lost it. Well, that didn't work out well. Now I had about 23 euro and I still hadn't paid for the 2 extra nights I had stayed. I owed 60 euro and still hadn't paid for my train ticket to get to Santa Clara, Portugal for work and I didn't have money for food. All of a sudden I was in a bad place. I decided to freak out about it in the morning. I wasn't ready to except that all of a sudden I was up shit creek without a paddle! 

 So, in the morning I had crepes as usual and went downstairs to tell the hostel my problem. The guy at the desk Nick said he'd have to talk to Mama about it. He walked away and I was really embarrassed. I felt like I was taking advantage of them not making me pay when I added nights and I was a bit scared that I was to get 4 hours away by train with no money. What if I missed the train. I knew I had to take 2, so if I missed the connection I wouldn't have any money to stay anywhere or any money for food. My cell phone was dead. I was all alone. Ahhh!! So obviously I cried! It was a bit overwhelming, being in Europe with no money. Mama, bless her, let me pay like 18 euro and said it's ok because she knows I will be back again. She let me keep 5 for the train fare. I walked the 20 minutes to the train station and was pretty upset. I had 5 euro and I wasn't even sure that I would make this train let alone the connection. When I arrived I paid the train fare and had trouble understanding when my train was leaving. Finally I found someone who spoke English and they told me I still had an hour and a half so I conjured up all the Portuguese I knew and asked if I could leave my bag at the station so I could go get food. Well, in reality I didn't have money for food but it was the only Portuguese I knew. What I really wanted to do was go back to the hostel because I left so upset that I forgot to say goodbye to the Australians and Toba, the Spanish guy. Also I needed to call home to get my debit card straightened out. They let me leave it there which was great. That meant I could walk a bit faster and not sweat bullets- it was 100 degrees after all. 

When I got back a girl who works at the hostel had heard about my situation and gave me 20 euro for my trip. I told her I would pay her back but she told me not to worry about it because good karma would come back her way. This made me cry too, because it was so nice of her. Actually, everyone was really nice and said that I'd be ok. I found the Australians and lost my shit again with them. I began to realize it wasn't just the debit card situation that I was upset about. I was ending a chapter and beginning a new one and that's always hard for me. Transition. Ew. I was worried about the train transfer because Angel (from Cali), Maria (from New York) and I had been waiting for our train for 30 minutes in Lisbon to go to Lagos and it stopped so far up the track from where we were standing that we had to run with our 30 pound backpacks to catch it. It was so close that my bag actually shut in the door... my heart was beating so fast that I thought I was going to die. Also it was difficult understanding which platform to be at... and on top of everything I didn't know what to expect with work. I hadn't thought about it at all. I was living in the moment the whole time and didn't learn any Portuguese, did no research on the area and didn't read the Quinta's website as well as I should have. I was scared and I was sad to leave my friends. They split up in 2 groups, half went to Sevilla, Spain and the others to Lisbon, Portugal... and I was headed to small town Portugal which it turns out is WAY, WAY smaller than I thought.