Sunday, September 30, 2007
Entry for September 30, 2007
I wondered whether I should cook something for myself or not. I was in my room, and it was nearing that time when the body wants to eat. I had just bought groceries, and I had a selection to choose from. But I wondered if I would be asked to go to the party, as well.
I was updating my website up in the beer hut when Bernd and some fellow Germans came in. They were looking “dapper,” simply meaning that their hair had the wet remnants of a previous shower, and they had put on non-beach clothes. No suits, no ties, no real dress shirts, but these men weren’t the type to ever dress that way. I’m not even sure if they could bring themselves to do it for a funeral. But I could tell that their dress was different, and they had a reason for doing so...
“We will be leaving for the party in 20 minutes.” Bernd had mentioned something about a party. Hmm.
“Ok.” I nodded in affirmation. I didn’t know who all was going, I didn’t know what Bernd was going to do with his young kids, I didn’t know if I was invited, I didn’t know anything. So I finished up the website, then headed to my room. And waited.
A few minutes went by. Nothing. I poked my head out the door a couple of times. The truck was still here, and I could still hear voices from the beer hut. There was still the possibility that I would be going...so I couldn’t start supper yet.
Another few minutes. Still nothing. I looked out again, making sure that my light was on so they could see it...just in case they needed to know where I was. I tried to make sure that they couldn’t see my silhouette against my bright room.
Another couple of minutes. I was now just walking in my room.
Knock! Knock! “Are you ready?!” Bernd’s wonderful German accent quickly followed his rapping at my door.
“Yup!” I said back. And with that, I knew that I was going to this party! What party?! I didn’t know. I only knew that I was being outdressed (if possible!) by these laid-back Germans, and my Adidas shorts and baseball t-shirt just didn’t feel right. I threw on some khaki shorts and a nice shirt and headed out the door.
Several people had come together now...Bernd and family, Klaus, Renata, Willy and family...and we piled into two vehicles.
The drive was about four minutes. Bernd’s place is already in the middle of nowhere. And I don’t know how to get further from civilization, but we managed to in just a short amount of time. I still didn’t know where I was going. Or what type of party to expect. I was only told to bring 10 Euros for the food and music. Honestly, since the kids and all were with us, I was banking on a night around a table with wine. I mean, these Germans were looking suave, I had on clothes that would work in a church, and we had kids! We had to be going to a mellow party. That was our only option.
We drove through a one-car-wide road for a bit more, followed the turns, then headed up a hill. And I saw a car parked on the road, obviously there for a party. And to my left, the first thing I see is a gazebo tent popped up. We were expecting rain, and I assumed this was to protect the gear. Sure enough, band equipment was inside. This was in the front yard. Behind the huge tent was a very large house lit up by many lights...with a huge banner hanging on the side.
What type of party was this?!
We were some of the first to arrive. I walk through the gate with the little kids, and I am immediately greeted by two men concentrating on this large pot of food. Now please understand me...I have seen many fine foods in my day. I have seen 10-pound pizzas, 11-pound hamburgers, 72-ounce steaks...I know large. But before my very eyes was a HUGE pan of food. Underneath the pan was a fire constantly being kept up by more sticks. The flame continually mated with the underside of the pot, and these men worked tirelessly to keep the whole mess from sticking. Stir, stir, stir. Shake. More water. More sticks. Stir, stir, stir. It was quite a site.
Behind me people were gathered on the large porch, already talking the night away. There is just something about Portugal get-togethers...lots of slowness and lots of talk. It’s a good thing.
“Hello, Andy.” One of the Germans I had met in the beer hut greeted me. I do not ever fully understand it, but I have encountered people on numerous occasions that I have seen before. Just last week, I was sitting in a small town, on a patio at a restaurant, and I recognized the guy sitting at another table. But where from? It took me 30 minutes to figure out that I had met him at Bernd’s beer hut. Ah, yes...
And also last week, I met Bernd as we was searching for a house. We asked a woman where to find it, and I instantly recognized her as the woman that spoke to me at church like I was fluent in Spanish. I saw her two more times that day.
In just a week and a half, I have ran into people that I have just recently met. And I love it. The towns are spread out here. The houses have large distances between them. But the region is full of constant interaction, and I have only begun to taste it...
“Over here you have beer on tap. Self-serve. Just grab a cup, and help yourself. And if you want wine, or tea, or water, or mineral water, it’s in the fridge next to it.” Very well!
I walked around a bit, trying to figure out what type of party this was! I saw some Germans, and I saw some obvious Portuguese people, but I just couldn’t make out the dynamic of the party quite yet.
So as to not be dependent upon Bernd or another, I made sure to keep moving and have my own way at the party. I could see into the house, and I wanted to see more. I saw some people inside, and I wasn’t sure if it was allowed or not, but I went inside anyway. Futbol on a wide-screen TV inside a very large and quite colorful living room. A piano stood tucked away in a corner, and all eyes were on two teams from Portugal. Vibrant colors indeed...the room was decorated with an African flair. Very welcoming for a party!
I stayed and watched futbol with them. The passion for these teams is quite enjoyable, and I have found myself more and more in love with the game. If only I could score myself one of those jerseys!
Some guy (whom I had met sometime in the previous weeks) came in with a plate of food, and he mentioned something to me in Portuguese. I don’t know what it is about languages, but sometimes with no understood words, everything is understood. I knew that the food was ready, and I better get myself out there before it was gone. Except I don’t know about that last part, because seriously, how does one get rid of a 40-inch wide pan of food? I mean, seriously. And I was fascinated with this man. I could tell that he was the host. He sat in the nice chair in charge of the television, and he carried with himself an aura of confidence, familiarity, and delight. He wore a loose white shirt, the type worn by pirates...with untied cords from left to right showing his chest. He was free, he was happy, and he was home. He just had something about him. He appeared to be rich, yet he could have passed for a homeless man, just as easily. I wonder how he was able to acquire such a place and throw such a party.
But what type of party was this anyway?!
I walked outside, and the number of guests had grown. The huge pan of food was now no longer over the fire, and it was being attacked by several guests, though they appeared to be getting nowhere. I hopped in line. I didn’t know what I was going for, but that had never stopped me before.
I was pleasantly surprised to find a huge source of rice, vegetables, and chicken. I filled my plate and grabbed a slice of bread, then headed back in to watch the game. I finished my plate, realized that I would rarely have this opportunity again, so headed back out to have some more.
Where are these people coming from?! The party was growing in size.
And I was greeted by another pan, though not quite as big. This one was only 35 inches wide, and I was told that it had a seafood meal inside it. And sure enough, after a close look, I saw lots of shrimp, potatoes, and a ton of mollusk shells sticking out of the mix. I didn’t know if those were for decoration or for eating. So what to do in a situation like that?! First of all, take a picture. Done. Second, follow what the people ahead of you do. And hope that they aren’t like you. And wouldn’t ya know it, they were putting everything on their plate...the open shells included. I covered half my plate, then headed to the other pan to fill up the rest. And another slice of bread.
I had wonderful shrimp, gorgeous potatoes, and a I even tore out the little sea creatures from the shells and ate them. Tasty! I think there was some other seafood in the mix, too, but I couldn’t tell. I just ate!
The futbol game ended, and so I headed outside. The rain had started, and it was here with a vengeance. Rain is not very common in this part of Portugal, but tonight you couldn’t tell. But we all knew that this was not just a passing rain...it had the feel of a long, constant downpour. So we all huddled like sardines on the porch.
I was a bit turned off to beer from the night before, and so I just ate my food. I didn’t know anyone outside of the Germans, and they were all on one side of the porch, and I was in the middle, and so I just stood there, trying to play it cool. I had met an Indian girl inside who spoke brilliant English and Portuguese, and I made some small talk with her, but we were separated again.
Then I saw some people I knew...the Latvian crew was here. They had come to Bernd’s beer hut sometime last week, and I had talked with some of them in the hut. Their crew had grown larger, though, and they now touted some blonde women. Interesting enough. I overheard one of the girls (not blonde) talking in English to the Indian girl, and when the Indian girl left, I went over the asked if she was from Latvia. I think I completely threw her off. We had a very difficult two-minute discussion, and she quickly parted ways.
Ouch. That was a rough one.
So I played it cool again. Stood on the porch. Watched the rain. With other guys playing it cool.
And I watched the people keep on coming. But I still couldn’t find a dynamic to this party. I asked a couple of people how often this party happens, and I was told either once a year or twice a year, they weren’t sure. Someone said it was to celebrate the end of summer. The host is a restaurant owner on a beach, and up through August, the tourists pack southern Portugal. Now, though, in September and later, the beaches are given back to the locals, and the once-bustling towns are quiet at night. Something to celebrate, I guess.
But the people were so vast...and so different. There was a healthy dose of surfers here...guys in their 20’s and 30’s...sporting the small t-shirts, bronze faces, long and dark curly hair, and sideways hats. If ever there was a poster with surfers, these guys would be on it.
But there were also the Latvians...a motley crew that only led me to one question: did they mean to dress like this or is this normal? I learned in the beer hut that these guys had come over to Portugal to start a pizza shop. A group of friends, an idea, and a place. To be honest, I don’t see it working out, but they were happy for now. And that was good enough for them. But when they arrived tonight, they seriously looked like they stepped out of a circus. Where other people were wearing “normal” clothes, these Latvians came in with the brightest of colors...reds, blues, yellows, from head to toe. Not knowing how else to put it, their clothes were “loud,” and for a second, I thought they had just wanted to dress like that for the party. Until I thought about how difficult it would be for them all to find clothing like that in such a short time. Bright shirts, jackets, hats, shoes. Girls and guys. Could it be that this country really dressed like this?
And then while watching the rain, I thought about how funny it would be for just one country in the world to be the jokesters. They wore bright clothes, they played jokes, they enjoyed each other’s fanfare. From the businessmen to the homeless, nothing but bright colors everywhere. Just think about it! The Wizard of Oz and Ocean’s Eleven joining hands. Quite a sight...
Back to reality...who were these people?! Elsewhere we had the Germans...a crew within themselves. Bernd has been here for over 20 years, and some of his friends have just recently moved here (within the month). We have Mike the German-speaking Canadian-truck-driver (who I learned was Bad-Weather-Mike...it only rains when he comes to Portugal...without fail...every time he steps foot into the country, it rains. Mike came in yesterday. It rained today...for the first time in awhile...well, since the last time Mike was here, I think), we have Blondie, we have the American traveling across Europe, we had this English & Portuguese Indian girl, and on and on and on.
Then the band started. They were a young mix and played some very interesting (what I would say poor!) songs, but the people didn’t seem to mind. Actually, they loved them. Of course, the free beer-on-tap and unlimited alcohol seemed to be the band’s best ally, but I didn’t say anything.
“Andy, come here.” I was taping the band and the people, and I thought it rather awkward that I was being grabbed, but this German is a bit different anyway. He is the millionaire-alcoholic, and he was pulling me through the crowd. I had a quick fear that I was going to end up behind a microphone.
“Here, meet them.” Before me were two blonde surfers. I introduced myself, and I was pleasantly surprised to find two fellow Americans. Georgia and Florida. I shared my story with them, and they shared with me.
“We just arrived five days ago. We flew into Lisbon, and we refuse to pay for our beds. We tried to learn as much Portuguese as we could on the plane, and we ended up taking a bus when we landed. As we approached our destination, we started talking to the people on the bus, looking for jobs. And wouldn’t ya know it, a German chick says that her dad owns a German hotel in the country. We could work for him in return for free food and a place to stay.”
I listened in wonder, as I saw my life being played out in another form. They asked how long I had been here, and I said I had been traveling around 50 days. They were delighted (though not impressed!) to hear that I hadn’t paid for a single night of lodging. They were simply as confident and eager to do the same.
They had already spent three days surfing in the ocean, and I wanted desperately for them to ask me to come travel with them! How fun it would be to have someone else to share the memories and experiences with!
And for the first time in quite awhile, I wanted someone with me! I have been absolutely delighted to take this trip, and often being alone has its advantages. But here, all of a sudden, I was hoping to find two guys that would invite me in! We would work together by day, then play together by night. It was one of those friendships that you wouldn’t even have to work on. We talked like we were old friends, and everything that would happen would come naturally.
But one of them left, then after grabbing a drink, the other went after his friend. Aye.
How fun would it have been to fly over with a friend?! Trying to learn Portuguese in just a few hours! How silly or stupid would we have been to even think we could?! And then to get on a bus without knowing where we were going! And then to have found a place to stay just like that?! With food! And a bed! And beaches nearby! And to end up at one of the biggest parties in Portugal after only 5 days?!
And to repeat that above paragraph to each other every night while lying in bed?!
It would really be sweet, actually. I’m not lonely (though anyone that knows me will know that I have been there...that this trip even brought out some loneliness early on), and I haven’t regretted anything about taking this trip. But in the blink of an eye, I instantly yearned for something that I haven’t had in a long time. I yearned for the friend that I didn’t have to work for. I yearned for the friend that just happened. I yearned for the memories...for the cold days in Salt Creek, for the family vacations that are only complete when he comes along, for the nights of driving in the country with no purpose...but complete all the same.
And it’s a hard feeling to describe. Because right now I am not lonely. I love the freedom that I have. It’s something that is only available when you have nothing tying you down. Which is the beauty of it all. You see, right now, I have nothing tying me down. If I want to go somewhere, I go. If I want to hit a country, I do it. If I want to stay somewhere, I stay. But that’s where the natural friend comes in. He’s not a burden, either! You are one and the same. He doesn’t tie you down....he actually gives you a better experience! Not that going alone is worse. Or that going with two is better. They are both good! But each has its place.
And as I write this, maybe for the first time, I am beginning to see that the marriage thing can have its place, too. Well, maybe not for the first time. I often realize more than I let out, but that’s a different story. But look at my website! Because I have no wife! And frankly, it’s true! I have friends back home that have done the marriage thing...they have bought the house, they have married the mortgage, they have popped out kids, they have found the steady jobs, or they have popped the question, and now they do the planning, and on and on and on. And what I see is this...
Birth—eat, poop, sleep
1-4—drive your parents mad, but make ‘em smile, too
5-18—School, school, school
19-22—More school! After all, a good job requires more education!
23-25—Get married, get a job. You’ve got to move out, show your independence, give your parents some peace of mind in the house, prove your self-worth, and start building up that retirement account. After all, retirement is only 40 years away! Gotta start now! Those inflation prices can sure wreak havoc for you!
26-60—Work, work, work. I have this to do, that to do. 9 to 5. Pop out a kid. More of this to do, more of that to do. Raise my kids to do the above scenario. Pop out another kid. Aye, more! School, sports, bills, mortgage, second mortgage, work...and then you have people like my pops that are 10 years out from retirement, and that is all they can think about! Do they enjoy life? Sure. Is it hectice? Sure. Do they enjoy work? Nah. But it’s 9 to 5. Nothing else. A vacation here, a vacation there. But the idea is...to be safe is to be well. And a long job is safe. And secure. And it provides the money for my mortgage, kids, new car, and on and on and on.
60-90—Finally do the things that I had dreamed of doing when I was 21. If I have money. And if I have legs. And if I am still living. Or don’t do the things that I wished I had done, and tell others to do them for me. Or don’t do the things that I wished I had done, and make sure to keep others in the above scenario, too. I mean, to branch out is scary. It’s a big world out there...
So I have had the conversations with everyone about getting married. You can’t work at a church without every mom and grandma ask you why “such a fine young man” such as myself isn’t attached to a girl. And so they look. And so they ask. They try to get me to date Barbie, or a girl my age in the church, or a girl that they read about in Montana who is also in the 20-25 range. It’s madness.
And so I naturally retreat. Do I like girls? Love ‘em more than most. Do I wish I had a girl to walk along the beach with me? Sometimes. Yes, it would be great. Hand in hand. Crashing waves. Full moon. Dreams live in Portugal. But sometimes not...because they don’t always like to climb the steep cliffs or go through the water that I go through!
And so I find this at work within me. I would like to have a girl, and I would very much not like to have a girl. How is this so? Because the girls that I see seem to fit precisely into that mold I just mentioned above. I have always said that I am not overly impressed with the female variety. I don’t mean that as a cut-down (though, yes, it can seem that way). I’m just saying that a girl for Andy Polley is not going to be your ordinary girl.
“Oh, well, then let’s hook him up with so-and-so.” Or so-and-so. And these people find the most strange varieties of girls for me. And so I get rough-and-tough cowgirls that frighten even me. “She would be Andy’s type! She is so different!” And I don’t know what it is, but the girls that are sent my way scare me. But what scares me more is that they think that I would like them. That deeply frightens me. Am I that odd?
So I share all of this with my sister. And she asks me then what I like. And, lo and behold, I like cute girls. Not the other ones that can beat me in arm-wrestling. Is that so wrong? But when I meet cute girls, either one of three things happens...and it’s gone from a theory to a fact...every cute girl of what I would call my type is either...
1. Married or already married. I can give you countless examples. At age 25, I ALWAYS do the ring-check. And I have seen MANY beautiful rings.
2. Bonded to the above scenario. “Let’s get married, have kids, move into a Chatham neighborhood, go to our kids’ soccer games, and on and on and on...”
3. Not a Christian. It turns out that I hate to say it, but being a beautiful girl seems to be more of a curse than not. Why is it that all of the hot girls don’t like Jesus? Why do hot girls have sex in junior high? And high school? And college? And not find Jesus (if at all) until after they marry and are age 33, then realize that they need more in their life, their marriage, and in their two sons’ lives. I hate to say it, and I even feel like I do a disservice to God, but it’s what I feel, it’s what I see, and it’s what makes me quite angry and frustrated. Hot girls don’t like Jesus. And Andy is attracted to hot girls. What to do?
And so I bring myself to make a website entitled “Because I Have No Wife.” Not that I want to. Seriously, if there was a girl out there that would be a match for me, that would complement me, that would climb mountains with me, that loves Jesus, that also doesn’t want the above mold, that realizes that there is much life to be lived before the age of 30 that doesn’t involve kids, mortgages, and the like, that would rather walk along the beach than watch TV, that would play in the rain even at age 25...and 35...and 70, that is above the age of 18, and on and on and on, then count me in.
But what I have found or am finding are girls that don’t meet what I am looking for. And so I am relegated to the conversations that I had with my dad on the way to the Chicago airport...”Your Mom and I were talking, and we finally think that maybe it is best that you don’t get married. We just don’t think you will treat her well.” And it wasn’t an insult, and I didn’t take it as such. It’s where I was at in life. I needed Andy Polley time. I needed “before the age of 30” time. I needed to not be in American any more. I needed to hear people say that getting married at age 30 is ok. That traveling is ok. That being me is ok.
I needed this time because I had older people telling me to travel. I needed this time because I weekly receive e-mails about people encouraging me to follow my dreams, to take life by the horns, to travel when I am young. I needed this time because I get e-mails that applaud me for bravery. I needed this time because I get countless e-mails about people living vicariously through me. And this is just too much for me.
What is it about other peoples’ lives that makes them need to live through mine? That is exactly what I do not want to happen in my life, is what. And so I fight against it.
Wow! So I just took a huge tangent from the party, but that is ok!
And so I make my way back to the porch. I go back inside, watch part of another futbol game, and then watch the people all around me. The Germans, the Americans, the Latvians, the Austrians, the Portuguese, the British, the Indian...I would imagine a good 15-20 countries may have been represented!
And I watch people keep going back for more beer. And I see a couple of blunts come out. And I see wild dancing. And I see a Latvian take off his pants and dance in his boxers. And I see a beautiful girl go from attractive to falling-over drunk.
And I sit there, wondering when we are going home. I appreciate the beauty of the party, but the more I watch it, the more I just don’t appreciate it anymore. I have that problem with people...with life. I have such a hard time enjoying so much of life because my mind is always remembering other parts of life. What do I mean?
I mean today I was watching the FIFA Women’s World Cup on television. In the beer hut. Several Germans had come to watch the championship game. And I watched 90 minutes of intense and fun futbol...I found myself clapping, cheering, and really enjoying the action.
But at the end, I just had to question sports again. The arena in China was full...literally thousands of spectators...the companies were out in full-force with advertisements...Adidas, Minute Maid, Vodafone. And these girls with these great bodies, nice abs, huge salaries, and relentless devotion to the game...walked away with a free t-shirt and a piece of metal.
And so this is what I see. I see millions of dollars going to a game, and I see child sex slaves. At the same time. I see passion, devotion, sweat, tears, and I see devastation, poverty, and hopelessness. It has seriously become a curse for me. The very events that I used to love to take part in now leave me wondering...I have such a hard time enjoying so much of life, because I have seen so much of life. I have seen poverty, and so it’s sometimes hard for me to watch dollars be spent for pleasure. It’s easy to comment on, hard to live by.
What would happen if every single dollar at the FIFA Cup was used to support a child? To hire lawyers to fight sex slavery? To feed the hungry? But then I realize that if people heard that, no one would show up to the stadium. Because supporting a child is boring, hard work, and we don’t get to cheer and scream with bright colors and loud noises. Because getting involved in fighting against child sex slaves might get you killed. And who wouldn’t rather do the wave than be shot?
And so I sit at that party, and I see people laughing, dancing, whistling, having what appears to be a good time. And here I am, sitting on a trash can, in the middle of it all, not even drinking. Of course, it was a bit difficult, too, because I didn’t have anyone to talk to outside of the occasional Indian woman, and I recognize that. I know it would have been completely different if I had had a friend with me. Would I have been dancing? Hardly. Clapping? Maybe. Whistling. Sure. Talking? You couldn’t shut me up. And I’m wise and mature enough to realize that part of that played into why I was ready to go.
But the other wise and mature part of me knows that I would still have been torn for the people that didn’t know how to walk. That were high as a kite. I would have wondered why people would come up to me and ask...
“You not drinking?”
“No, I already had one.”
“You don’t drink much?”
“Nope, just one or two.”
“Well, you’re better off for it.”
“Well, that’s a good thing.”
And I would wonder why they would say that with a beer in their hand. Their seventh one. What would bring people to think that a life of less drinking is so good when they would come to parties to get plastered? It made no sense to me. And still doesn’t.
What are we looking for, and why aren’t we doing something to get it?
We ended up leaving the party a little before 3:00 A.M. Roughly five or six hours there. I’m not sure. But the party was still going strong. I found out today that the party had to be broken up at 5:00 because of a neighbor’s complaint. Bernd was thrilled with the party and asked me what I thought about it. Very diverse...nothing like this in America, I would say. And there isn’t.
But I really wasn’t fulfilled. The food was great, the futbol was fun to watch, the experience was just that...an experience! But I still wondered about it all.
And I wonder why our churches aren’t packed with excited people. From 15-20 different countries. In Portugal. Someone said it would take a kegger in one of the comments from another post. Yeah, maybe it would. But there’s got to be something else, too.
If people don’t want to feel the way they feel. If people think that we’re better off for not doing what we do. If people are looking for something more. Something else. Something different.
I don’t know. I’ve said before that traveling can make you gain hope and lose hope. Last night I think I lost some hope. It just feels like a never-ending uphill battle.
Yet at the same time, I saw something beautiful last night, too. No nationality borders. No language borders. No age borders. No social class borders. Young and old, Americans, Germans, Portuguese, Latvians, working, retired, rich, not so rich...all coming together.
A melting pot in the corner of a country. A hope at traveling with some American friends. A look at a special wife. A fun...and empty party. A man with more questions than answers sometimes. It’s just another day in Portugal.
2007-09-30 23:06:01 GMT