Day 27: errands and a long adventure--Oeiras, Pride, and Variações

This morning started lazily--I woke up at around 10 and I ate a sweet breakfast of my Hot Chocolate Oatmeal. The story behind the hot chocolate powder was I thought it was cocoa powder, but when I looked at the ingredients closer it's definitely something to just add to hot water and it'll turn into hot chocolate. That being said, it's pretty good in the oatmeal.

Anyway, then I did my laundry and bought some fruit and some pizza dough to make into lunch. I decided I wanted to try to make Pizza rolls for lunch and my afternoon snack, and I would say though it's a bit more work, it tasted good and it was an easy-to-pack snack on the go.

(my attempt at a food photo that is somewhat curated--I chose this plate and placemat specifically. However, you'll notice that I didn't add fresh basil to the tops of them after the baking, like everyone else would ;) )

Then Brianna, the other intern from New Mexico, came over, ate some pizza rolls too, and we made our way to a beach (something we had decided we would try to do this weekend). In short, it was great. I think next time I'll take the train and plan better because this time the Uber was fun but it was pricey. Anyway.

It was a pretty crowded beach, as you can see, but it was a beach nonetheless. Plus, I don't think any beach near Lisbon will be Un-Crowded on Saturdays and Sundays, so might as well accept it. I've been spoiled by my parents (cough cough, papa) when it comes to beaches I think.

Brianna went into the Atlantic all the way--but I got up to around mid-thigh and couldn't stand it anymore, so that's okay.

I loved the beach, and it was great to spend some time in the sun and feel like I'm on vacation. All the people playing paddleball reminded me of home, and it made me really really miss mama and papa and Louis, though, and I just wanted to play paddle ball with someone :( I will make cookies tomorrow to combat the missing home feelings.

Afterwards, we met some colleagues at the Pride March in Lisbon. These are two people in different sections whom I feel extremely close to (and their children)--Patrick and Rami, and they are so kind and welcoming and happy to talk about their experience with being gay and raising kids in the Foreign Service. I'm so grateful to them for everything they've done for me and the other interns.

We were invited to be a part of the parade on three different buses--Microsoft, EuroPride, and one other--but we decided to walk along with the parade instead, because it was pleasant to walk and the double decker top of the bus was scorching hot and a tad claustrophobic. Nonetheless, I have some photos from the top of the bus. :)

Pride was amazing--here are some photos of how crazy it was (and how crazy beautiful).

After the parade was over, we met up with Laura and Sebastiao and parted ways with our more senior colleagues, and we ate at the 100 Montaditos place again. I really really enjoy the food there, and I can't emphasize enough how amazing Tinto de Verano is. After dinner, we made our way over to Belem, where there was a free antonio variações tribute concert outside. He was a  portuguese  singer songwriter who died very young and was famous but also gay and that's really all I know because my portuguese is horrible. However, like Freddie Mercury and Elton John, he is also the subject of an upcoming movie now. It was such a good concert. I was nervous, because it gets cold at night, but this was very fine because of all the people standing around. I really really loved the style of music--though I can't recognize any songs right now, I will work on finding youtube links and sharing them here. There was a full Symphony and choir there to accompany a variety of artists as they sang songs written by variações, which was also really cool. Also, the Belem tower looks super cool at night--kind of like it's actually glowing.

Anyway, tomorrow there will be more adventures and I'm very excited! Thanks so much! it's late now though. :)

Much love.

Day 26: Intern dinner and Pizza A la Dave... another foodie friday.

Today was a fine day at work--it was the day some people were saying goodbye and others were saying hello--one of the hardest parts of embassy life is constantly saying goodbye to coworkers. However, other sections were welcoming new people or simply celebrating, and among them was our Pizza chef extraordinaire (and Michael's boss) Dave. He has a pizza oven, and when it's reached a hot enough temperature (around 500C) he can average one pizza every three minutes. He hand makes and  stretches the dough and uses amazing ingredients, and it really shows.

In Portugal, it's typical to add a variety of ingredients to pizza, including an entire egg! or cooked corn! it's sort of bizarre but I must say, the egg was pretty tasty.

Dave, stretching and preparing the dough:

Perfecting the toppings:

This is the oven in action:

It was SO GOOD, I wish I could say that it wasn't the best pizza I've ever had (because that should be horno pizza) but this was extremely well made and used incredible ingredients too.

Today was friday, so we had another Intern Dinner. This time there were 4 of us, but one of us was Sebastiao, a portuguese local intern. We made tacos with many many fixings: Guacamole, black beans, lettuce and cilantro, sauteed peppers and onions, tomato-y spanish rice, hard shells for the tacos, chicken with taco seasoning (bought at the american store--oh well), and cheese.

It was maybe a tiny bit excessive but we ended up eating mostly everything. It was  nice to eat a more complex meal (with all the different things to prepare) that I didn't even mind that I definitely burned the rice a bit while I was sauteeing the peppers and onions.

Speaking of a tiny bit excessive--my morning oatmeal has become such a zone for experimentation. Recent editions include Peanut butter hazelnut and coconut, as well as Hot Chocolate Maple, as well as chocolate coconut with chocolate chips. It's very sweet but it's so efficient and fast and easy... plus it keeps me mostly full till lunch. Hot chocolate powder has been my new chocolate flavoring of choice since it's easier to mix in. Pro tips from Lara, the non-Chef.

Anyways, my friends stayed so late and we were really just talking for the most part about life and the US and Venezuela and god knows what else and it was just so nice so the time flew by and here we are.


Day 25: It turns out...Work can drain you

Hello! Today was a slightly rougher day at work, just because I felt like there were a lot of things with pressing deadlines to finish and each was getting more complicated to do. However, when everything that was urgent was done, I got to settle in for an afternoon of research, which is really rewarding because I know it's geared towards an end goal: an information cable to Washington that I drafted. It's more short term than any academic piece of research, so it's more like any research paper for school, except that it's written in a very formulaic State Department style of writing. I don't think I can share the topic here, but just know that I am loving the research I get to put into this.

The writing style is really interesting. It differs from my own academic style in several ways: it contains almost no adverbs (which can easily be misinterpreted), and it usually only reports--most cables don't presume to offer policy suggestions directly, they merely paint a situation and guide Washington to make the policy choice. Also, there are two spaces after every period. Wild. However, the writing style values the same precision and active voice that I strive for in my writing, so that's good. Something I learned here, though, is that U.S. is an adjective while United States or USG (United States Government, to be used only internally), is the noun.  So, for example, I couldn't write "the U.S. has many boats" but I could say "the U.S. Navy has many boats" or "the United States has many boats" even though that's a silly sentence to write. I don't know if this was ever taught to me in school or my college classes, but maybe you all knew this already and it's just me that was surprised by it.

Fun facts you never wanted to know about State department writing. ;)

Anyway, today I ate lunch with the administrative assistant to the Ambassador, who told me much about the Foreign Service Officer Test and the process and everything she did to prepare, both for the written and the oral assessments. She had so much good advice and welcome information that I simply hadn't found online before, and she guided me towards corners of the online world that do have this information as well. It was a very educational lunch, and I learned a lot about the mechanisms of bidding and linking and hardship posts and so much more.

After work, though, I was very tired, so I settled in for some phone conversations and some reading. I'm still reading Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed and it's really really emotional and nice. I kept reading until my stomach was literally growling (around 8 pm) and then I made some dinner.

I had oven-baked  zucchini (marinated in olive oil, spices, and Parmesan cheese), some prosciutto, and a fried egg in a itty bitty pan, which came out perfect and was really nice.

The zucchini was good too, a little on the well-done side and I may have used too much oil. But that's okay. I want to make jam thumbprint cookies (I don't know why but I'm craving sweets lately) sometime soon, but I need baking soda :( Michael, another intern, said he only found baking soda at the Naval Exchange, so I may go there tomorrow and get a bit for my baking desires. Other easy (and no mixer or fancy ingredients required) cookie recipes would be appreciated.

All in all, it was a nice day. It's a niceness that comes from life and time simply moving by, and being content with what is. This time in Portugal isn't day after day of exciting trips--though some days certainly do have them--and it wasn't ever meant to be. This is why I like being in places for more than a a week or two... it allows me to be gentle and live life at a natural pace. This is why I think the State department is for me--I love experiencing the world, but slowly. Living and adapting are required.

Much love!


Day 24: Biang Biang part 2, and also tofu.

Today Laura and I were invited to learn more about the Consular section of the embassy. It was very interesting and extremely different from the activities of the Pol/econ section, which was a welcome opportunity to understand the foreign service more deeply. We had so many questions for everyone working there that we basically ran out of time! but the amazing consul chief made sure to herd us along if we were in one place for too long.

This afternoon was the Hail and Farewell ceremony, among other things, and I found this paper plate after the event was over and I was eating the baked bries and berries and cookies that were catered:

I thought it was very funny. There has to be such a good story about Julio involved. Who was speaking at the time this was written? What did the plate look like when the note was passed--did it have food on it to be inconspicuous? I am probably getting too far into this, haha.

This evening I tried a second time to make Biang Biang noodles, and this time, I was much more successful. The noodles pulled well--though I don't have a photo to prove it. I waited the specified three hours for the dough to rest, so that was pretty crucial. anyway. I also made tofu for the first time, and I fried it to a crisp in a pan--though I could have seasoned it better. next time I'll cut it smaller so there's more surface area too. But yeah! it was a culinarily successful day.

the "gherkins" of noodle dough, almost ready to roll out and stretch!

Below you see the Pressing of the tofu (to dry it out before soaking it in flavors--I wasn't so good at the flavor soaking part so the tofu tasted kinda bad).

Now most of the excitement of the week should be over and I can start preparing for the craziness of next week, with the 4th of July and all. I can't believe how fast time is flying by--and there's so much I still want to do in Lisbon alone, not to mention the rest of Portugal and the surrounding countries. aghghghgh....

Much love!

Day 23: Pride and Pudding

Today was an amazing day because it was the day of the pride reception at my colleague's residence (see photos from the event on the embassy's facebook page here.)

But before that, at lunch, I had a healthy dose of lentils and sweet rice and espresso, so it was already a great day.

I really like the large variety of creamy cinnamon based desserts available here, even though this was pretty simple and similar to Milchreis.

After lunch, Laura and I had a small photoshoot in front of the tiles at the embassy's old Manor House, which houses our cafeteria and some other rooms. They're part of what makes the embassy so posh, I think.

Here are the tiles in (almost) full:

But now, for the main event of the night:

After work, I went with Laura over to Patrick and Rami's residence to begin preparing for the reception (and snag a cool embassy pride shirt, designed by our very own Sebastiao).

Here are the other interns from the embassy that attended the event. I love them so much and I'm so happy to be working in a place with other interns at all--last summer was so hard without people my age.

Rainbow cake that was actually very delicious with lemon frosting. :)

Laura, Herro (our Deputy Chief of Mission), and I with our snazzy new tshirts :) Herro is truly the coolest lady and an amazing leader. She's had such an admirable career and is admired by so many other people at the embassy for her confidence, capability, and kindness.


Day 22: Line dancing and Lemony Lentils and Love

Today was a buzzing day at work--though not as buzzing as tomorrow will be, I'm sure, because there's an event after work that I'm helping out with that I'm not sure how long it will last. I'll be taking photos and greeting people, so that'll be fun. Laura and I realized that while we've now been here for 21 full days (we arrived on the same day), we only had 12 work days so far. It's funny because it's felt so much longer than that, because every day is so fulfilling and filled with action and activities and the page in my journal where I keep track of what I produce is getting full. But maybe that's more apparent on my blog, where half the days seem to be me just having a blast around Lisbon, while the other half are more boring posts like this.

But today at work we had a rehearsal for the July 4th party, where we intend to line dance. We've been having weekly practices for this occasion and it's been great fun dancing and whistling and pretending I have a belt buckle to loop my hands on. I'm reminded how much the diverse community at the embassy can identify with certain things--the flag, hot dogs, chocolate chip cookies, and so much more. Just the other day we were bonding over how paper towels outside of the US really aren't the same and don't absorb nearly as much, no matter where you get them.

yeehaw :)

Many thanks again to Sebastiao for the photos--I don't know how many times I will be doing the Boot Scootin' boogie in full Business Casual garb in the future, so it's good to have a record of it. Also--this outfit is completely made by Mama, which I haven't gotten the chance to tell people enough. Only the other New Mexican Intern (from GALLUP! how cool is that?!) compliments me on my clothes. It might be a New Mexico thing? who knows. But maybe it's just that people have been outside of the US for so long that they forgot that it's a totally normal cultural thing to give compliments, because even when I do it to others, they seem kind of awkward about accepting it. Maybe I'm the crazy one.

This evening I made something that I really really love that my family makes back home sometimes: Lemony Lentils. It's super easy and super simple, and I now have lunch for the next several days. It's tough sometimes to feel like I'm eating healthily with the very greasy but delicious meals at the embassy (today there was seafood soup and it was truly wonderful). But lentils are healthy and pack a lot of protein and fiber into one. Plus, this recipe that I used ( ) with a little bit of parsely and cayenne and double the garlic and ginger is actually intensely flavorful. I'm a nut for spiced food, and I like the tangy savoryness of these lentils and their acidity. I remember as a kid I hated lentils, but the ones with lemon I really really enjoy.

Not pictured: the garlic and the copious amounts of butter :P hehe

I had promised at the beginning of the summer that this might be a bit of a food blog--and well, maybe it is. But I am learning a bit and I feel so at home in the kitchen here (I mean, yes, I don't have freezer space or really all that much fridge space, so I mostly shop day-to-day) that I am genuinely surprised at myself. I baked cookies! I bought bouillon cubes! I swear I have never felt more like an adult. That definitely sounds silly, but it is what it is. Harvard treats us like boarding school children and at home I'm lucky to not have to do much of the cooking and planning and shopping and cleaning.

I am so in love with what I am doing and though I know that this lifestyle isn't what life is always like--I love my house and housemates, I live close to everything I need, I have immediate access to one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, and I find my work fulfilling and I learn something new every day, to name a few things--I am extremely grateful for where I am and what has allowed me to be here. It's not always going to be this easy or this fun, and at some point the pressures that I'm already starting to feel at the embassy--to stay later and finish editing a paper, to read more cables from Washington after the workday is over--will interfere with the work life balance I find so enjoyable here. But until then, I will live on.

Much love!


Day 21: 100 sandwiches and other miscellaneous delights

Today was a quiet day--I woke up at noon like I thought I would, and it was pouring, so I settled in for a cozy day with a brie+prosciutto omelette for breakfast. It looked more like brie and prosciutto scrambled eggs though because my omeletting skills are not that sharp yet, so I didn't take a photo. Oh yeah, btw, today's mostly a food post.

Then I caught up on yesterday's blog (whoops) and got groceries for the week--I want to make lentils, baked zucchini, and fried tofu at some point this week (not all at once, though, holy smokes). I was craving sweets this morning so I decided to make peanut butter cookies and I added chocolate chips.

On the search for the peanut butter, though, I stumbled across this delight (which I didn't buy because there was cheaper peanut butter imported from Holland elsewhere in the store). I'm not entirely sure what to make of these mixed signals, but maybe I should have bought it and seen whether it was actually pecan butter, which would be kinda fun? who knows.

I also pass these door handles every time I walk to the grocery store, and I get such a kick out of them. That door really has a Hand-le on things. It's such a great mixture of cute, bizarre, and a little creepy.

The cookies turned out well--I might have burned them a tiny bit but that's okay, and now I have so many cookies to share at the office or which my housemates. One of my housemates watched me make the dough with an incredulous looks on his face as I added one cup of sugar to peanut butter and stirred like a madwoman. Some other housemates tried them though, and said they were very good.

After that, I met up with Laura to go to a Spanish chain restaurant she really likes called 100 Montaditos, which serves 100 different types of miniature sandwiches for 1 euro apiece, as well as some other small appetizers. It's fast food, technically, but it's so tasty! Certainly not the healthiest, but it's not terrible either.  I got three sandwiches: one had barbecued beef, cheese, peppers and onions; another had smoked salmon, cream fraiche, and crispy fried onions; and the last one (my favorite--and Laura's favorite too, how gauche) had chicken, barbecue sauce, bacon, and cheese. We also had some pretty amazing olives and Tinto De Verano, a new favorite of mine. You order on a piece of paper with the number of the sandwich that you want, and it's fun to read Portuguese and guess at the meanings (though it's nice to have Laura around who can translate too)

After that, we enjoyed some gelato from a place called artisani. I must say, though it's closer by, it's not as good as Nannarella, which is just custard-level thick and creamy glory, while this was more like normal frothy ice cream. Maybe I'm getting spoiled a tiny bit. ;)

We enjoyed the sunset from the bridge over the railway tracks, and that was it for today. It was a much needed day of rest and relaxation, and I feel ready to start my first five-day work week this week. Between all the holidays and festivals, all of my weeks so far have been 3 or 4 day weeks, so this may prove more taxing! who knows!

Much love!

Day 20: Almourol Castle, Sardines with friends, and Late-night Pride

Today was a long day filled with activities--I started by taking a new route to the embassy and getting completely lost, but I did manage to get there at 8 for the meetup prior to the Kayaking trip. We drove on the bus from there for about an hour and a half, and so after a nap and some small talk, we were out on the Tagus (the river that flows past the Almourol castle and down to Lisbon). The water was pretty cold, but the exercise of kayaking made it feel comfortable.

We were so lucky that it was a truly beautiful day and the sun was shining. There were a lot of kayakers on the river, though. :)

We kayaked past villages like these and then, after about an hour and a half to two hours of kayaking, we landed at the castle.


It's an awesome medieval castle, captured by the Portuguese nobility as they headed south to conquer Lisbon, and the center of many myths of knights and wizards and ladies. Ranked one of the most beautiful castles in Portugal, I must say--it's very cool.

After traipsing around the castle, we went to lunch at a beautiful restaurant on the Tagus. Lunch included pork, potatoes, and a fun cabbage and bread and herbs mixture that reminded me a lot of Thanksgiving stuffing. There was also bread pudding for dessert.


We got back to the embassy at around 4:30, and then I napped from 5 to 6:30. I then made my way to an annual outdoor sardine party hosted by one of my Portuguese colleagues at the embassy and feasted on grilled sardines, pork, olives (!) and melon until around midnight. It was fun to meet a bunch of people--here's a photo I took after it got dark.

Then (when I really could have gone home and had a normal day on Sunday) we went to a Pride party that was going on on Praca do Commercio. It was loud and packed, but we met up with another intern from the embassy who is so fun to talk to that Laura and I proceeded to do so until around 2:30. He is Portuguese and knows more about the monarchy and revolution than anyone I've met, and he delights in sharing this passion, as well as his passion for soccer in Portugal, and discussing American Politics too. But yeah, it was late.

(the statue was lit up in rainbow colors but you can't really tell from this photo)

The good news is that Sunday is very rainy and not so good for any of these adventures and a much better day to spend reading and baking (which I'll write about later, haha).

Much love!

Day 19: Seafood Pasta and Intern Dinner--I guess all I did today was eat

Today was another day at work, but at a high of 76 degrees Fahrenheit, it was the warmest day we've had yet.

So I wore summery clothes! and it was wonderful

For lunch, we sat outside and I ate a plateful of seafood pasta--it had shrimp, clams, mussels, and fish, and it was really pretty good. I mentioned that there were a lot of bones to my lunch companions, though, and one of the Portuguese interns shot back, "well, it's real fish, from the ocean" and I was like, "dang". Fish is taken seriously here. But it's good, I'm adjusting and learning and I really have loved everything so far.

And really, for 5 Euro, the embassy cafeteria feeds us pretty well.

After work, I hosted another Intern Dinner, which was really nice. We made Zucchini Pizzas, which was fun and very easy. I love getting to know the other Interns--who have all actually already graduated and are moving onward to either Master's programs or actual jobs--and my kitchen is well suited to have several chefs in it. :)

Tomorrow should be a very exciting day!

Much love!

Day 18: Corpus Christi (in other words: a holiday! Ramen, Azulejos, and Ericeira)

Today was a fun and beauty-filled day, though of course it is rather late for a work night right now, so I will keep things kinda brief. I started today by sleeping in till 10 (I don't know how I do it here--it's so loud because of the trains and planes, or at least I thought so at first, but now it's like I don't even hear them) and eating a leisurely breakfast. I cleaned my room and it had started to drizzle, so I huddled inside and read--now I'm reading Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed, and it's heart tugging and funny and feels like Dear Abby on steroids. In short, it's great.

Then Laura and I met up at Praca do Commercio and listened to some of the street preformers there before going to Lunch at a Ramen restaurant recommended to us by a fellow intern, and a Lisbon native. This was Chinese ramen, with chili oil and flavors from Sichuan, so it had a bit of a bite. There were only three different types of ramen we could order--with pork, beef, or tofu at 0-5 levels of spice. I ordered tofu at level 3 and it was perfect.

After that, we ate some Bing Fen, which is like vegetarian unflavored jello with toppings--we had peanuts, Ginger honey, and goji berries. Overall, there were not many choices at this restaurant but everything we did have was delicious and affordable--a drink, the ramen, and the dessert were 9.80 euro.

After that, Laura and I split up and I went to the National Tile museum, which she had already visited on her previous trip to Lisbon. It was a beautiful museum with many tiles, as well as a section that was a church with a lot of artwork in it. I'm a little rough on the details because all the signage was in Portuguese. But the tiles are so beautiful, it was nice to walk and just stare.

little feet at the bottom of the stairs :)

An indoor courtyard that reminded me a lot of the Isabella Stuart Gardener in Boston

Three Dimensional tiles from the 19th century!


These were in a section of more modern tile artwork--I thought this was a cool addition to a museum that houses truly ancient things.

Tower of Belem excerpt from the below panorama of Lisbon.

This 23-meter long bird's eye view panorama of tiles depicts 14 kilometers of the Lisbon coast and remains the best record of what Lisbon looked like before the great earthquake of 1755.



The Churh-like part of the museum

It took me about an hour to get home (though it should have taken around 20 minutes) but I had just barely missed one bus, then the next never came, and by the time the next arrived 40 minutes had passed because it was running late as well. Nonetheless, my housemates waited for me at home, and when I got back, we packed up and left for Ericeira, a coastal town north of Lisbon. The intention was to walk around, enjoy the coast, and enjoy a "Lanche" (pronounced Lunch, but it really means an afternoon meal) of shellfish and other seafood. It turns out that of the 6 in the group, two were allergic to shellfish and another didn't like seafood at all, so we didn't go to any of the specialty restaurants we were originally planning on. In these, I'd like to note, all of the food is priced in Kilograms. So a group of people can order a certain number of grams of shrimp or clams or squid or cuttlefish or a million other things, and it gets cooked up and served with potatoes and bread. Plates of food American style where everyone orders their own doesn't make as much sense in this way.

Anyway, we walked around and enjoyed the views of the ocean together. I'm really so lucky to be near this incredible group of fun-loving, casual people that just want to see the world in a relaxed way. Among us were French, Dutch, Italian, Portuguese, and my combination, and it's delightful to learn so much from them about the portuguese language, holidays, and sayings in other languages, and so much more. We're also from a wide slice of experience--I'm the youngest but there are other students in the group, other people have jobs and others have careers, which is great to hear about as well.

We ended up eating at a restaurant that served shellfish (the town specialty), fish, and meat, so everyone had something. I ate some clams, some shrimp, salad, and some steak, and I think I liked the clams the best--they were soft and delicately flavored with garlic, parsley, and lemon. my mouth is watering just thinking about them again. I didn't take photos of the actual food, but here are some photos as proof that I did eat seafood! and that I did enjoy it a lot!

Then on the drive home we got a little lost and made around an hour long detour, but that was okay, since I got to see the area at night. I am now very tired and I must go to bed!

Much love!