Day 17: Networking, a busy buzz, and other comments

Today was another day at work--I continued to write for a longer term project, and I attended a countdown meeting for an upcoming event, which was really exciting but reminded me a bit of curling meetings. Here, everything was about logistics for the event--everything from chair covers to security to media engagement was covered, and it just felt a lot  like curling board meetings where we prepare for upcoming practices, spiels, book hotels, rent cars, get quotes, deal with grant applications and club recognition as well as work to recruit new people. Embassy work; college curling--really, they're the same ;)

Just kidding. But it reminded me of it a little.

After work, Laura and I were to attend a Networking event hosted by a group called Friends of Portugal, and American non-profit on behalf of the embassy. We took a taxi there and back, which was fun, because it was around 20 minutes outside of Lisbon. The event was pleasant--a lot of people--but it just was striking to see how shallow networking really can be. Not to say all networking is shallow, and maybe I'm just not very practiced at it, but it felt honestly kind of like the admitted students weekend at Harvard, where everyone is just trying to impress everyone else and subtly mention their test scores or the other schools they've been accepted to. It felt like that. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe I'm inexperienced. But I wasn't sure what I should even be aiming for--I was aimlessly eating high calorie food in a random office building, listening and trying to ask questions that I wanted to know the answers to. But alas. Who knows.

Pardon the bad quality photos taken from the taxi window ;)

But being in the networking event and meeting people that really only wanted to perfect their elevator pitch and hear themselves talk made me think about the dynamics at the embassy. Because of course, there are many many more men than women across all offices, and many more white people than not. The truth is, American foreign policy and diplomacy has been controlled by white men--anglo saxon protestants, if you will--for as long as it has existed. And while many things have changed and many bars preventing people who aren't WASPs have been lifted--the embassy can still feel like it houses a secretive community, an elite club of men that banter at meetings and make small talk only amongst themselves. Perhaps I'm being oversensitive, but considering the sheer number of women in many of the spaces that I'm working in--something I'm extremely grateful for as they are amazing role models--I find it difficult to believe that it's some coincidence that nearly all of the joking and banter occurs only between the men in the room. Perhaps I'm not giving enough credit to the personalities involved. Perhaps there are some relationships that I'm not aware of, some unspoken rules, and some particular exceptions, and everything that I've witnessed is a figment of my imagination and a tangle of coincidences. But it has happened so frequently now and in such different groups of people, over and over, that I have started to question the structures at play and I wonder how long this will take to change. Who knows. I'll keep you updated :)

Much love!

Day 16: Much ado about nothing

Well, I am up late for no good reason apart from a strong desire to talk to my housemates. The "gang" as the group chat is named, convenes every night over dinner and wine (or another alcoholic beverage) from about 9pm to midnight. They're so welcoming and funny and kind and fun-loving, though we're a vast range of nationalities and ages. I honestly love this house so much because of them--though at first the closeness of the community can be intimidating. Today the topic of conversation was politics, including Iran, voting (Portugal just had the EU parliament elections and there was horrifically low turnout), and democracy in general. It was really great to engage in conversation with people who cared about my views specifically but wanted to share their own as well. Also, they found my Linkedin and now everyone knows where I go to school ;) I had kept it private because there's no sense in sharing if no one asks--and in Europe, liberatingly, the majority don't ask.

After work, I went grocery shopping and prepared a Chia-seed pudding for dessert tomorrow--I've been craving sweets and I need to stop buying pastries at the *several * bakeries located in my neighborhood.

It doesn't look so good yet, but it will hopefully be ready tomorrow evening!

Speaking of sweets--I've discovered that a spoonful of nutella in my morning oatmeal is amazing, especially with the hazelnuts I roasted. That, in addition to the machine that I've found in the supermarkets that pulverizes oranges at the push of a button and gives you fresh squeezed orange juice, has really brightened and sweetened my mornings here. I love the juice so much. Below is my typical breakfast (gorgeous feature photo, I know)

Update: I did do my ironing! and a good thing too, because there's an event tomorrow and I need to look at least somewhat professional. I mean, I usually do for work, but tomorrow is supposed to be extra professional.

Also, another revelation: a cup of espresso at the embassy cafe costs only 45 cents! This is a reason to guard your coins well, folks!

Sorry for the boring pictures today--I really didn't do much outside of talk to my housemates, reheat my leftovers, and prepare the pudding and do my ironing. It's not the most exciting of days, but tomorrow there should be more to post! Thursday is a day off, as well, so it may be a late night tomorrow depending on my housemates.

PS: the title of the post is in reference to what I did today and what I talked to one of my housemates about--Joao had 4 sisters growing up and considers himself a sensitive man. Therefore, he said, one of his favorite movies is the 1993 Kenneth Branagh "Much ado about nothing" . Therefore, he said, he understands women well. Between him and the rest of the cast of characters living here, it's really a great house to live in. :D We often joke that we have no need for television.

Day 15: (and the day 3 of procrastinating doing my ironing) Koi Fish and Chef Lara

Not at the same time! Chef Lara did not cook the Koi fish! Gross!

Today was another Monday under the belt--I finished a bit of writing and got quite a few more assignments added to my plate, but people are so careful and timid whenever they offer me more work (as if I wasn't there from 8 to 5 to do exactly that!). It was a bit warmer today, so after eating a lunch (fried octopus and a rice dish--looking back I should have taken a photo, but I've started to get used to the food in the cafeteria in the embassy), I went out to the koi pond and watched the fish. There's something so mesmerizing with the way they swim and bump into one another and slurp the air and bottom of the pool.

Anyway, after a fruitful day of staring at fish and also other work things, I went home, took a nap, went grocery shopping, and began cooking dinner at around 7:30. Today this is definitely more of a food blog post, because I followed Good Housekeeping's unreviewed recipe for Mozzarella stuffed Turkey Meatballs. I must say--my meatball making skills leave some things to be desired, but my improvisation skills are sharp as ever.

I have a fear of touching raw meat, so I thought what better way to get over it than to make meatballs that require hands (the mozz stuffing part). So, I did that, and it was a mess:

But I survived getting raw chicken all over my hands and made 12 little bad boys and tried to fry them. Yes, it was chicken, not turkey, because there was no ground beef or turkey or any ground meat at all in the supermarket near my apartment, so I bought a box of "chicken hamburger patties" and mashed them up instead. I also toasted some bread and crumbled it up for the breadcrumbs, but apart from these minor changes, everything went according to the recipe.

Luckily for me, there was a hungry housemate lurking about, and he offered to fry all the meatballs (it was a struggle--we made the pan far too hot and flash burned them instead) while I formed them, which was much more efficient. He also kindly boiled us some pasta. Prior to the meatball making bonanza, though, I had made marinara sauce (the tub that's in the background of the photo). He didn't want to add any cayenne to the sauce, though ;)

After that, all we had to do was let them simmer in the sauce for a while! It was tricky to get them to cook all the way through, but though they look massive, there's a hunk of mozzarella in there, so it's really not so much meat that has to cook. My housemate was very impressed that this was my first time cooking meat ("why do you choose something so difficult and complicated for the first time? is this an American tradition?") and I was also pretty happy with the result. Plus, it easily made 4 servings of meatballs--so I can repeat this with the interns if I want to. :)

it's tricky to see the mozzarella in the meatball, but it's there! and it's reallllllly gooood :) okay, I'll stop patting myself on the back. Paul-Emile did help, so it wasn't quite by myself. but I did the hard parts (raw meat! eew!) and I was in charge ;)

Another funny note: even though I'm the youngest intern (and also the youngest person living in the house alone), I think I've really started to embrace taking charge--something that hasn't really happened before. But in cooking, in day planning, in other things, I started to notice that I was giving a lot of firm suggestions (okay, also known as directions or orders) and people were listening. It's been bizarre. I worry that it may weaken my ability to be affected by what other people want, if I'm the one that's constantly doing the planning and arranging, and I usually am very sensitive to other people's wishes and feelings. So what will happen if I start to take charge more in groups? is that specific to here, because I know what I want and need? or is that part of growing up? My housemates are constantly surprised that I'm 19--but they also said that young americans they've met are typically very responsible. I think there may be a selection bias there--young Americans that they're meeting are living abroad, a sign of some responsibility perhaps--but I still thought it was interesting.

As for my title--yeah, I really should iron my clothes because I'm running low. But I'm just so tired when I get back from work that I don't want to iron and cook... eh, I'll try to do it tomorrow.

Much love!

Day 14: Castelo de S. Jorge, Nepalese food, and a RAINBOW TOAD

Image result for rainbow toad

No, not entirely like this. more like this!

Image result for flying tiger rainbow tote bag

It was a good day to accidentally find a Tiger store (a Danish dollar-type store where everything is pretty useful and pretty cheap). I needed a pair of scissors and, well, maybe also this bag. :)

But I digress.

Today's adventure started with the Castelo De S. Jorge, which is a big old castle that overlooks the city, located near the old neighborhood Alfama. The views from each of the turrets are unique and beautiful and I really loved just watching the red roofs go on and on for forever. Laura and I really loved it--so much that both of our cameras ran out of battery! oh well. Next time I'll be better about charging it.

We were lucky it was a clear day--the views were really spectacular. :D

After walking around the castle--and meeting the peacocks! we walked around Alfama and Graca, and stumbled on another amazing overlook of the city, filled with flowers and tiles and also many tourists.

Then we had lunch at the Nepalese/Indian restaurant Yak&Yeti, which was really delicious and filling (and was extremely reasonably priced--I highly recommend it and would go again). We had Chana Chatpati, Chicken Tikka Masala, Naan, and Palak Paneer. It was good to eat heavily spiced food again, as well--Portuguese food tends to value the flavors offered by the meat/fish/potatoes/other ingredients, and keeps the spices to a simpler olive oil and salt combination (as far as I can tell?).

After that, we wanted to ride the typical #28 tram (which we were warned about for its many pickpockets--because it is the touristy tram that traverses the city, so that makes some amount of sense, but we wanted to go anyway) but the line at the tram station to get on was crazy long and far too slow--a 20 minute wait and the line only really moved about 15 feet, and it was in bright hot sunshine the whole way. Instead we rode the #12E tram that went in a loop around Alfama, which was equally (if not more!) enjoyable, since it was less crowded. We actually (illegally, apparently, but no one stopped us) rode the loop twice because it was such a nice day and the open-window style of the trams made it just a really nice rest.

Then we shopped for a while (got the tote bag!) and sat down near a plaza where people were playing cricket. We watched them play and I enjoyed my espresso to-go (which came in an adorable cup! and was very affordable at only 65 cents! the prices of fruits and espressos never fail to impress me). It was nice to sit and watch the light change.

The cricket players were very serious

(View of the S. Jorge castle from below)

Finally, we met up with another intern at a Vegan Donut and ice cream shop, where I enjoyed a very expensive cup of lactose-free Black Sesame ice cream. Keep in mind, though, we were invited for an "afternoon donut" at 7 pm! that's later than when I usually eat dinner! hehe.

That's all for tonight! tomorrow's another day at work, so it'll be a little bit less exciting. But maybe I'll cook something fun!


Day 13: Gulbenkian and Shakshuka--oh, and laundry I guess

Today was a relaxing saturday--I woke up leisurely and figured out how to do laundry in my neighborhood laundromat. I am reading Shrill by Lindy West and today I managed to read quite a bit. After a simple lunch (toasted brie and jelly sandwich, hehe), I went to the Gulbenkian Garden and Museum with Laura, another intern. The museum had two parts, the founder's collection and the modern collection, which were both connected to an oil magnate who had a passion for art. His collection spanned Ancient egyptian art to several Monets--it was a wild ride with a lot of variety in the founder's collection. Funds raised from this collection and his wealth allowed the modern museum to exist as well--this was a collection of more portuguese modern artists, and it was also very interesting, though of course very different.

The garden was exceptionally pretty, and it was a nice enough day to spend quality time reading and chatting outside.

There were turtles and fish and ducks in the ponds! It was nice to see animals besides pigeons again (though there were a lot of pigeons too).

After trotting around the Calouste Gulbenkian Founder's and Modern Art collections for several hours, we went and got ice cream at my new favorite place (and new weakness): the Nannarella. There are two locations, and while one of them is in a very cute part of the city, it's also kind of far, while this one is literally only a 20 minute walk away or so, at the top floor of a nearby department store.

There were some funky views from the terrace on the roof of that department store, which I enjoyed while enjoying my very indulgent three-flavor cup of Italian ice cream.

Then we spent more time in the park, because there's nothing quite like sitting around talking while the sun is shining and there's nowhere else to rush to, plus it's really a very beautiful place to walk around in.

Finally I came home and I tried to earnestly cook a full, real meal for myself--none of that toasted sandwich behavior. I made Shakshuka and added some ramen (not pictured because it's not very photogenic), which was a very filling meal. According to one of my housemates, though, it looked like I was a chemist the entire time I was cooking it because of the expression on my face--but that's okay. I have now half an onion and pepper left over, though, so I will have to figure something out for those--maybe a tomato sauce? eh, I don't know. My housemates are so delightful though--it's amazing to sit down with people for dinner and have conversations and animated jokes and learn about people from all over Europe: Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, the Netherlands, and more. It's really such a good community. However, they do like to have fun late at night. I was invited to go to a club with the group, but I know it's just going to be so late when I get home (especially considering I got the invite to go later in the night at the hearty hour of 10pm) and I'm a sleepy person. Plus, I have big plans tomorrow! Stay tuned!

Much love!

Day 12: Intern dinner!

Today was a fairly busy day at work--after the relaxed laziness of yesterday, I came back ready to rumble and I managed to get several projects done, which was exciting and fun. I adore the miscellaneous research and pouring over cables (basically official emails) for writing.

After work, three of the interns and I met up to cook dinner at one of the intern's apartments. It was a really nice apartment, extremely modern and new. The neighborhood was also obviously newer, because the buildings were far taller, and not as decorated, as the ones in my neighborhood are. This really reminded me how diverse of a city Lisbon is--though the classical houses look like mine and Laura's, there's so much else going on.

That part of town was extremely modern and new, very close to the iconic Benfica stadium.

We shopped for vegetables at a nearby grocery store, and then ate a dinner of fried noodles--adding red pepper, mushroom, and bean sprouts was pretty fun. I wouldn't say it was the best thing I've ever made, but it certainly went a lot better than the Pasta cooking experience in China!

Tomorrow will be a leisure day of perhaps also doing some laundry, but

Day 11: Sardines, "doing Dutch", and a relaxing day

Today I woke up at 11am, which was absolutely glorious. I ate a lazy breakfast, went grocery shopping and did some meal planning, and then a housemate invited me out to lunch to eat in a "tasca", or a small restaurant. According to him, there is a difference between a restaurant--which offers a large menu of many items and is more expensive--and a tasca, which has a smaller, more modular menu of more traditional, homemade foods that are cooked on the spot, by maybe one chef or a family. At this tasca, I ate sardines--five of them. They were grilled and seasoned with salt and olive oil, and they were delicious. I didn't take a photo because it would have been kind of awkward for my housemate in this tiny restaurant, but they were very shiny and difficult to eat--the bones were very small. My favorite part was probably the charred salted scales, though everything about them was simple but good. I was served seven entire sardines, but my housemate (who had swordfish) helped me out and ate two of them, because they were very greasy and very filling.

We split the bill, and my housemate explained that this was called "doing Dutch" in Portuguese, which I found very interesting.

Also, this lunch took place at the hearty hour of around 3pm. After that, he and I had an espresso (I love afternoon espressos! They perk ya up without needing to drink much)  and walked back home, where we talked more about his biomedical research and my time at university over a cup of herbal tea.

Then I went for a walk through the Gulbenkian garden toward the Parque Eduard VII. It was a beautiful, though slightly chilly, day, and I think I'll have to invest in some longer pants to wear on these breezy days--maybe jeggings or something similar, because I didn't pack any, expecting 90 degree weather.

This was the view from the top of the hill towards the mall Corte Ingles, which I've heard is pretty pricey.

This was the cafe near a pond that I met the other intern, Laura, and some other colleagues for drinks.

After drinks, Laura and I walked to the Parque Eduard and had a view of the book festival again, as well as over the rest of the city. It was really nice to just sit in the sun and talk, while watching all the dogs that were there play together.

Finally, before dinner (of pfannkuchen because I was still so full from lunch) I had another Pasteis de Nata. This one, though it was not warm, was also very good. Overall, I had a very relaxing and delicious day, and I feel very rested after the craziness of last night.

Day 10: Santo Antonio and "the Portuguese Way"

Yes, it's currently one in the morning. But it's okay, because I have the day off tomorrow and can sleep way in (like everyone else in my house will--I went home relatively early).

Tonight marks the highlight of the festas de lisboa--or the month long affair of neighborhood parties all over Lisbon. They are technically happening all over Lisbon all week, but tonight is the night that people party all night and sleep in crazy amounts tomorrow, since there's a day off. There are other traditions, such as pots of basil and eating grilled sardines, neither of which I really partook in.

So I decided that it would be best to experience this festival with my housemates--some of whom are Portuguese--rather than with my fellow interns, because I hadn't really hung out with my housemates and frankly they invited me out first ;P

We "planned" to leave the house at around 5:30pm so that we could get a table and relax and enjoy one another's company while drinking and eating--but planned is really a very loose word. I was explained many times over that planning simply is not the Portuguese way and that improvisation is what the Portuguese do best (besides coming up with novel ways to cook fish). In reality, we left the house at around 8 pm and didn't really leave the neighborhood (because someone wanted snails from our local restaurant) until perhaps 8:30.  It must have been nearly 10 before any of us got to eat anything--you can see from the photos that it was very crowded.

I ate some (not very good, I was told) chorico sausage that was grilled--it was the coarsest sausage I've ever eaten. the texture of the meat making up the sausage was preserved, so it was more like chunks of fatty meat bound together in a sausage skin and grilled. But it was an experience. After that, I ate a generous piece of chocolate covered carrot cake, which was excellent.

I saw lots of interesting food though--not just the full sardines. I saw pork slabs being grilled by what looked like the hundreds for the traditional Bifana sandwhich. I saw a whole pig roasting on a spit--though most of the pig was eaten, the pig-quality of the legs and head were remarkably well preserved and recognizable, and there were so many other stands for food, offering the same things for marginally different prices, that it was really overwhelming. I was extremely happy to be with my housemates, who knew their way around, knew Portuguese, and could take pretty good guesses at the things I didn't understand that merited explaining: the vulgarity of the music we were listening to, what different menu items and drinks were, where in the city we were walking to, and many others. I am really very grateful to them and their expertise and hospitality.


The pictures really don't do the absolute chaos that was Alfama during Santo Antonio justice. The smells alone--smoke from cigarettes and all of the grilled food, as well as other city smells and the smell of tourists--were overpowering, and the thick crowds flowed like a molasses river. I t took some effort to stick together. But the music was bouncy, there were live musicians on many streets, and everyone was a dancing and having generally a good time, pursuing the cheapest drinks and bifanas possible. It was great. It was spontaneous--we never knew where we were going, but as long as we were together (a group of 5+ people), we were exceptionally safe in the labyrinthine neighborhood Alfama.

Day 9: Não falo português, 可是我会说中文!

"I don't speak Portuguese, but I can speak a little Mandarin!"

Today was another day at work--I finished off a "stab" at a larger project so I felt some relief going home, but it was a nice day overall.

After a quiet afternoon of an easy dinner and some phone calls, I went with the other interns to a meetup event called Mundo Lingo Lisbon. Here, they give you flag stickers representing the languages you speak/wish to speak that night at the entrance to a hip community space (and everyone gets a Portuguese flag because we are all here in Lisbon, after all).

I put American English, German, and Mandarin signifiers on my shirt, and I managed to speak all three languages that night--some even all with one person! It was a really exciting time and two hours flew by, so I got home a little later than a normal work night would ideally suggest--hehe.

Overall, I had a really fulfilling day, and I hope to go to more Mundo Lingo events--everyone was so friendly and eager (some people had arrived just 2 days ago!) to make friends for the summer, and it was exciting to be able to speak languages with so many different people and learn about a variety of topics from other Lisbon interlocutors (and some locals!)

Much love!

One note on tomorrow night: I'm going out with my housemates to Alfama for a traditional grilled sardines experience. However, it is the night of Santo Antonio, so literally everyone in Lisbon will be doing that exact same thing--so it'll be crowded and I'm not sure when I will get home. Traditions may include staying out all night and sleeping through Thursday, which is a day off. ;) On the bright side, I trust my housemates and they said we would strictly stick together ("otherwise you'll end up in Spain or something"), and I look forward to socializing more with them.

Day 8: Look out! it's Portugal Day! (Let's go to a lookout)

This morning started slowly with a painting session and a lazy person breakfast and lunch. I had the day off today for Portugal National day so it was nice to sleep in, listen to npr, and paint a card for the coworkers that took Laura and I out to brunch yesterday. I tried to let myself be inspired by tiles in Lisbon ;)

Then, I met up with Laura and Michael, the other interns, and we explored the Necessidades palace and park together. The palace is in use so it's not to be toured inside, but the exterior was still pretty and the courtyard up front had an awesome lookout.

The park was really nice too and had so many plants, including a large cacti section, which made me miss home a bit--but these were strains of Yucca and Agave that are different from the ones I'm used to. I tried my best to hide my disbelief when Laura and Michael said they'd never seen a cactus like the prickly pear in real life before--but it makes a lot of sense. The US is so geographically diverse, in part because of its size, and I'm constantly impressed that we're all here, with the same goals, working at the same place trying to represent the United States fairly. Anyway, I thought it was cool.

After that, we went to the LX factory, and extremely hipster collection of shops and restaurants, that had a beautiful bookstore and many murals (and many people taking photos).

We ate an afternoon snack at a funky "sweets charcuterie" place that served biscuits mixed with flavored chocolate or condensed milk that looked like salamis.


Now comes my supreme guilt: the reason we went to this hipster, out of the way place was because I was meeting a friend from school there (a suitemate from freshman year) but much to my agony right now (as I write this), we didn't take a photo together!!!!!! oh well. next time. Together with my friend and the other interns we walked back to the center of town, where we ate dinner. On the way there were SO MANY pretty buildings. Lisbon is a staggeringly picturesque city.

Laura, Michael, and I finished off the day at the highest point in Lisbon, the Miradouro de Nossa Senhora do Monte, a free lookout point over the city. It was absolutely beautiful, and though there are many other viewpoints of the city, this one is technically the highest. :D


Tomorrow marks week 2 of work-- out of 8.5 weeks, I have done 1 already! That feels crazy to me, as time flew by. I think time will fly this week as well, since we have Thursday off in addition to today. This Wednesday is known as a massive party night, so I look forward to the experience--and Thursday is known as the day to recover.

And yay I figured out how to resize the photos on Kat's fancy blog design! sorry for all the small ones up till now, hehe. now I can inconsistently change the sizes of the photos to suit me ;)