Coping with a lousy cold when you’re in the comfort of your home is one thing, coping while traveling is a whole different story. Sure, there’s a pharmacy on every corner in Porto, but try finding a bottle of Ginger Ale on the shelf of the neighborhood market… it ain’t gonna happen. You guessed it, the lousy cold bug has us both down for the count and I don’t have my favorite blanket with which to curl up so I’m a bit cranky. Just a bit.
When You Don’t Speak the Language
After a lovely day of exploring the city and port wine tasting, we returned to our temporary home away from home last Sunday afternoon, looked at the $1.95 clock we bought to sit on the shelf, and realized daylight savings had ended at 2:00 a.m. that morning. This is what happens when you don’t speak the language. You have no idea about such things.
Halloween came and went without too much fanfare here in the hood. As far as we can tell there’s not a single child residing in the building in which we currently call home. It was a bit of a bummer because we didn’t have a reason to buy candy in earnest anticipation of having left overs. Actually, I don’t even know if the kids trick-or-treat in Porto. The only evidence we saw of the holiday was store window displays and pastries in our favorite bakery that boasted sugar pumpkins.
Eggs, Ice & Starbucks
I engaged in an online conversation about Europe’s policy of selling eggs at room temperature, right off the shelf. No refrigeration. I’ve learned it’s all about the processing and I’ve gotten used to the idea. Although, we put them in the refrigerator as soon as we can. Truthfully, the eggs are quite tasty and let me tell you they make for some very yellow custard filling which can be found in every single bakery in the City of Porto. We’ve learned there is little reason to taste test other bakeries because they seemingly all sell exactly the same goodies.
Although I have grown accustomed to the selling of room temperature eggs straight off the shelf (there is literally no other choice) I cannot, nor will I ever succumb to boxed milk sold straight off the shelf at room temperature. Nope, nada, never going to happen. It’s just wrong. And, nasty. Obviously, it is safe for consumption but… I finally figured out why my Chai Lattes at the various European Starbucks tasted off. It’s the milk. There is actually a “coming soon” Starbucks in Porto, but I don’t know. I’m secretly hoping it won’t open before we leave so I won’t be faced with the decision.
What’s Up With the Ice?
Ice. What I would give to order a diet coke with a cup full of crushed ice. Speaking of Diet Coke. I have not found a single can of Diet Coke in the past four months of traveling throughout Europe. Apparently, the “D” word is taboo. There is Coke Lite and Coke Zero, neither of which I’m particularly fond of. Here’s the story about Coke Zero. It was created to soothe the male ego because apparently it’s not manly to drink a Diet Coke, because you know, men don’t diet. Right? So, the marketing wizards came up with Coke Zero, which comes in a black and red can because it’s manly don’t you know? Let it be known that Coke Zero is not all about the zero, it is chock full of caffeine.
But back to ice. I literally get giddy when I order a Coke Zero and get an ice cube, thrilled if there are two cubes. Speechless if there are three. I’ve yet to get more than three. Seriously, I can count the ice cubes in my drink. The only place where one can get a serious cup of ice in a drink, such as in my beloved Iced Chai Latte, is at Starbucks. Say what you will about Starbucks, they can be relied upon. By the way, the Portuguese word for ice is gelo. Just sayin.
Learning the Cultural Norms
We have learned there is a trick carried out by the locals when it comes to shopping in the neighorhood Pingo Doce (grocery store). This particular store is always busy with long lines. The local women have developed a system of putting a few items in their basket, which they leave in line in place of their body. Then they run back and forth pulling items from the shelf and adding them to their baskets. Honestly, if I could speak the language I’d be all over this little practice as I find it super annoying. But, to combat the process we have taken to one of us standing in line while the other grabs what we need. Why do we shop there? Because it is literally just around the corner.
But, now that we’ve been here a few weeks we’re getting to know the neighborhood and have found another store that we like. It’s one-half mile away, but an easy walk. We can’t buy much each time because we have a very small refrigerator. We even found tortilla chips, at yet another store, which was very exciting. In order to do so though we had to take the Metro across the river to Gaia. It was so worth it!
Porto: It’s All Kinds of Fabulous
Lest you’re thinking we’re not enjoying Porto, that’s just not the case. Porto is all kinds of fabulous, but sometimes one just wants what one wants, especially when not feeling well. It’s fun to explore and try new things. And, although it can be a bit frustrating, it’s also interesting to learn cultural norms. The trick is to remember that it is in fact the norm, it’s up to us to adjust our thought process. It’s all part of the experience of daily life no matter where in the world you find yourself.
It’s funny what you miss, isn’t it Patti? We adapted to the room temp eggs at the beginning of our travel through Mexico and Central America when we found out the first few didn’t make us sick but the boxed milk took some getting used to. The expatin’ differences keep the adventure alive but still, when you’re sick, it’s the little comforts that go a long way to making one feel better!
The boxed milk just does not work for me/us. I tried a couple of times but ended up throwing it out. And, yes, there’s nothing like not feeling well to remind you of the little things missed from home, such as Ginger Ale! 🙂
Patti, I hope you and Abi are feeling a lot better now? Having a bug sucks particularly when away from the comforts of your own home. Do I detect a tiny bit of homesickness in this post? Who could blame you? After such a long time away, I guess thoughts of home do start creeping in? As for the ice just say…”quero mais gelo por favor”…should work 🙂
Gilda Baxter recently posted…Mauritius: Climbing Le Morne Brabant Mountain Independently.
Thanks for the well wishes, Gilda. When I don’t feel my best I get a little wistful, but it’s all good! Thanks for the tip about the ice, I do ask but have yet to get more than 3 cubes. 🙂
Certainly not fun to be sick anytime, but especially in a new place with a language barrier. Plus there’s that comfort food problem. I remember struggling with that when living/traveling in Mexico long ago and how excited I was to find Oreo cookies. Lots of trial and error on the boxed, non-refrigerated milk. It’s an adventure.
Gaelyn recently posted…Foto Friday Fun 239
Oreo cookies. That’s great, Gaelyn! I think we all of that one pampered thing that makes us feel better. The boxed milk isn’t going to happen! 🙂
It’s interesting to read about the experience of getting to know a new place… it’s always fun but challenging. I can relate to not being able to find Ginger Ale when you need it!
Scott – Quirky Travel Guy recently posted…The 30 Most Amazing Things I Saw in Iceland
I swear, Scott, Ginger Ale has healing powers! Thanks for stopping by and for posting a comment, you’ve definitely experienced a lot of new places and cultures in your travels!
In Viet Nam no locals had fridges..that would not be considered fresh enough. It’s to market every day, sometimes twice a day! Ben grew up in France where no one at that time, not sure now, put eggs in the fridge. Here in Sri Lanka no one does either. I love cultural differences.
Those egg custard tarts are incredible… we wrote about them in our Lisbon post:
Eat some for us! Yum!
No worries, Peta, we’ve eaten enough custard nadas for everyone! We definitely have our favorite bakery here in Porto where we’ve decided they make the best. I’ve since learned that eggs are processed very differently in the US, which leads to the refrigeration. One of the best aspects of traveling is learning about cultural norms, I find it really helps to put daily life in perspective.
With tiny refrigerators, the people of Europe…and probably the rest of the world have learned to put only the most important items inside. This was true 35 years ago when I lived there, as it is now. Ketsup, mustard…in the cupboard. Eggs too. Cokes were drunk room temp. I think that is why they have the highly pasteurized milk. No room for a gallon of the good stuff. It’s the kind of milk you get in those tiny little packets in a cafe in the states. Okay, but nothing wonderful.
I think the surprise I had is when I came home from my year in Europe, I missed all the things I had become used to there. The US annoyed me for quite a while. I guess that is why I return and return. I love yogurt in little glass jars. I love vegetables that taste like something. I love cheese made down the road.
You will have to learn to say in Portuguese…lots of ice please. And eat a few more of those egg treats for me. God I loved those.
I do ask for ice whenever I order a Coke Zero and then I eagerly wait to see how many cubes I’ll get… 1, 2, or 3. Three would be considered a lot. 🙂 There’s always a big reverse culture shock after having been out of the US for a number of months.
Funny how the comforts of home always make feeling bad just a little bit better. I love your attitude that “it is their norm,” and we that must make the adjustment.There is nothing worse than a whinny American making superior comparisons. Feel better soon!
Suzanne recently posted…A Little ICE with my Bourbon, Please
Ha! Indeed, the whinny American (and others as well) one can spot/hear them a mile away!
The two things we also miss while traveling are diet coke and ice!! I wish I could ship some to you. It’s the little things, right!.?.!.?
Hang in there! I hope you feel better soon.
Yes, Julie, it is the little things! I have my list of what I want first when we return to the states. 🙂