September 10, 2023

My work contract ended a couple weeks ago and I just found the strength to write a blog entry, due to other things that took away my energy. But now I feel ready to do so. I haven't written an entry here for two good months, I need to give some more life to this blog.

For the better part of my life, I had a strong aversion to Portugal (and to an extent Brazil), without really knowing what it was about and why. The language was enough to irritate me, even if it's not that irritating once you get used to it. I associated it with something really sleazy, ill-mannered, ugly, and Portugal felt incredibly overrated to me. So many people go on vacation there. They brag about having been there, and touristy areas just piss me off. It makes me feel like the place loses its meaning, its possible original perfectly fine status, just to become some other place where everyone goes and puts it on Instagram with all the shit that Instagram entails. You get what I'm saying. The perfectly Insta-ble pictures. Makes it so... low. Not to mention the French-Portuguese people (that will later be relevant) who brag about being part Portuguese, when they've been to their 'native land' of Porto 3 times and they've grown up in a suburban ghetto of Paris. I'd be willing to bet half of them don't even speak the language.

It's a boat that led me to question that and ultimately led me to where I am now, learning European Portuguese. Yes, a boat. It wasn't a woman, I didn't fall in love, but it was a damn boat. She is moored at the port I worked at, and has been abandoned for four years now. My colleague who I was replacing said we basically wait for her to unmoor herself or to burn down. Her owner is a Portuguese guy who, at the beginning, was here and lived aboard on his own, but I've found out, probably never took good care of the boat, and possibly was in financial trouble. There were complaints about the state of the boat two years into his time at that port already, when he was still here, although already starting to behave in a shady manner like coming "home" late at night, possibly to evade anyone interrogating him and demanding him to pay. He disappeared and was impossible to contact, not answering neither emails, nor phone calls, nor anything, to the point it was theorized he had died, only to be found dwelling further south in the bumfuck out of nowhere by tax inspectors. Several people have offered to buy this lonely big girl, but he remains silent, impossible to reach, as if he had locked himself in a tower far away. Oh if boats could speak, what would she be telling me about him?

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't tempted to contact him about it, since his contact info and mail (up to when he was found living somewhere else) is still at the captaincy, but I'm afraid it's not really legal and could land me in serious trouble, especially if I end up getting this job again next year. Boat should've been taken away and sent to auctions or destruction a while ago, but the procedure is complicated and probably expensive as well. In the meantime, this boat is waiting for her fate, alone at the port, unless I go and give her a pat, but I prefer to do so when no one can see it. I was well-liked by the boatspeople at the port, the last thing I want is them thinking I'm crazy and, god forbid, people finding out at the town office. Everything goes back there. Maybe someone has noticed already that I was always taking more time around this boat, looking inside through the only unobstructed window (as most are covered by curtains), and going back and forth sometimes because I thought I had noticed something but wanted to look closer, as close as I could without actually trespassing or even landing a foot on the poop deck. Because yes, getting on someone else's boat is trespassing. Even if this dude hasn't been there in years. The boat still belongs to him legally and if he turns out to be a dickhead...

I started writing a novel about this boat a week or so into my job, because that boat had stirred up something visceral in me. I know what it's like to be left like that, and to, actually, have never been taken care of by the person who should've, in one case, or simply the person I loved. I would always linger around her as I passed by when doing my morning/afternoon walk on the docks, and when no one could see me, in the early morning, I'd give her a pat, or tap seven times with my fingertips as a way to sustain whatever bit of energy is still in here. The curious thing is that I would feel pain in the arm that touched the boat and that it would feel "charged" for a long time after. Mind you, I didn't do a thing that would explain a physical pain in my arm. I don't know if the boat holds an energy of her own, or if it's actually the owner's energy that I was tapping into, or simply my mind imagining things, but remembering it, I feel the same kind of cramp-y feeling in my forearm. I wish I could clean her up at least, or make her look more presentable. It breaks me to see these mossy moorings, all these pine needles in front of her door, and this fading blue colouring, although I think it looks better than the original shade.

But back to Portuguese language and Portugal, it's at this point I started to have an urge to remember about Portugal, and why it was so repulsive to me for twenty years of my life. I started being curious about it, when it would've been unthinkable just a year ago. I was curious, but also kind of low-key afraid: questioning something you've had in yourself for the better part of your life is incredibly scary. It's almost part of your identity, something that makes you you. Whatever is from childhood is difficult to get rid of, because it's anchored in you. I was afraid that I'd end up liking it, when all my life, I had known myself to dislike it. It's deeper than say, food choices: for many years I hated lamb and mutton, but now I love both, yet this has no bearing on my identity. Yes, I hate saying the word identity about this, but that's exactly what it is. It's not my entire being of course, but it was part of it.

I remembered something called fado, which is a genre of music that is from here, and very popular. I was a bit scared of looking it up, because again, what if I find out I actually like it? But I did. I looked some up and yes, I did like it. So much in fact that I downloaded a few tracks. I have about twenty-five of them in my Winamp library now. Fado is characterized by its somber lyrics that are often about longing, heartbreak, jealousy, memories, or other types of things that evoke sadness, accompanied by stringed instruments, typically a Portuguese guitarra. I find the instrument to be quite charming in both sound and shape. Looks like the lovechild of a regular guitar and a mandolin. It looks like I have a thing for rounded or pear-shaped lutes... as I already have a Kazakh dombra.

Now, what caused me to be in such a beef with Lusitania for so long? I'll put it simply: a huge misunderstanding that wasn't helped by later encounters.

You see, the first Portuguese person I met in my life was really good, actually. She was the janitor of the building I lived in when I was 2-3 years old. I don't remember her face but I think her hair was bleached blonde. She had a daughter who was slightly older than me, and was very nice. I would always be drawing her. My mother took me every day or other day to the same bakery, and I would get those little pencil pack so I could draw. The personnel knew me and liked me. And the thing I would draw the most was this woman. When she got pregnant with her son, I would draw her pregnant, with the baby inside getting bigger as her belly grew bigger. It was cute. And I recall being curious about the baby boy once he was born. She also helped me reach a development milestone, so really, it should've all been good, right?

Then my dad became best friends with a colleague of his, who was Portuguese, or at least born French but with very Portuguese parents. He was also a nice guy, I remember his vibe as similar to that of my dad. My mother says they were like brothers. This guy was married to a French woman whose memory brings back disgust and tension to me, and had two sons who weren't exactly the nicest and well-mannered kids. I can't blame this lack of education on the daddy: he wasn't home often due to his job, so the upbringing was mostly left to the mother, and probably, just like my own, when he was there he wanted to make his kids happy rather than be the authoritative father. He also happened to be the only sane man in his family, which was... particular. My parents moved as to be closer to them, and we would often be visiting each other. I was, by then, 3-4 years old.

I don't have too much of a precise recollection of their home, but when I think back about it, I get a dirty feeling in my gut. I even feel the word "crass". There was something rotten about this family, and I was once blamed for having walked on CDs that had been left on the floor. The sons went into the attic of my home and broke valuable jewelry. The youngest peed on the floor. This lady was quite rude honestly, and got offended for things that didn't make a lot of sense. Her husband's parents refused to let my parents be the youngest kid's civil godparents because we weren't practicing Catholics. I'm going off what my mother told me, but from my own memories, I just felt... that "crass" energy. Something really off-putting, and I most likely somehow learned that they were Portuguese, and mistakenly, as children often do, clump the slobbish mother into them. That misunderstanding, I think, didn't only tarnish my image of Portugal and the Portuguese for too long, but also was the worst of my life, because as I said, she was... French. I remember going to the husband's sister, who was pregnant at the time, and also being uneasy. She was a bit of a spoiled brat. That likely didn't help my developing mind. We cut off contact with these people shortly before moving again a couple years later. The house was sold another couple years down the line.

Later on, in middle school, several of my bullies were Portuguese, or rather, French of Portuguese descent. I mentioned those who brag about their ancestry, well, they did brag about it on Facebook. It was in the early 2010s, and yes, we were younger than 13, but still using FB, me included (unfortunately). A lot of them had profile pics related to Portugal or some even had "the Portuguese" in their FB name... which was ridiculous, but still, I was a kid that was already sensitized, and it didn't help my case.

Now I realize, yeah. It's not the Portuguese that made me hate Portugal for such a long time, but the French, and I feel like shit about it. But you know, I think being able to look at this and even go learn a language you historically associated to unpleasant things, getting to know it all over again, and realizing it's not so bad, even if it's still not your favourite sound-wise, is a sign of growth. I even feel like going to Portugal sometime, just out of pure curiosity. The ultimate irony would be for me to fall for a Portuguese woman, but I feel too burned by what I've gone through emotionally to even think about dating. It'd take someone who is really interested in me, and even, I'm afraid I wouldn't be able to reciprocate right now, because deep down I think no one would stay with me of their own free will, without me putting on an act to try and make myself interesting, lovable, and worth something. Polishing a turd basically. Because I ultimately feel like a turd, and people have a ton of options anyway. I just feel like I'd be a placeholder until a better, shinier, more free, fun and joyful person comes around. Basically, in other words, I'm not ready. And I have a lot to work through before I can give myself to another person fully, without having shadows in the background haunting me and polluting something potentially good.

This energy, it's weird, but I feel like putting it into this boat that has been cowardly left to rot instead of simply sold off when things got tough. If not the boat herself, at least my novel. Reconnecting with my art, being able to draw again, because I haven't drawn anything of note since February. It's been 6 months since I collapsed and lost most of my hobbies, dreams, and everything else. If anything, I think I just need something to give me hope again. And perhaps this arc of mine with Portugal will do just that, in a bittersweet way. Wait for me Kazakhstan, for right now I can't face you, there's too much pain attached. I'll be back to finish business.

Vamos ver onde me leva esta aventurinha.