I finally got to check another country off my list this weekend. I visited Lisbon, Portugal, and I must say I was not disappointed. Lisbon is one of the most charming cities I have ever visited. I just kept saying, “wow, this city has such a strange effect on me.” I don’t know what it was, but it just felt very familiar. In the oddest way, it reminded me of Philadelphia, where I was born. Now don’t get me wrong, Philly and Lisbon are worlds apart and vastly different, but I just kept feeling like I was in Philly. Maybe it was the trolley cars or the cobblestones, or the areas with clusters of trees where golden drips of sunlight could peek through. I’ve seen all of those things in Philadelphia when I was growing up. It just felt like home.
The food was very delicious too, especially the pastries of Belem. They are egg custard pastries and they taste like the epitome of comfort and home baked into a golden delicious treat. I have been spoiled by Madrid though. Here in Madrid, I’ve never had to wait more than 10 or 15 minutes to get my food at a restaurant. In Lisbon, I could hear my stomach growling after 25 minutes waiting for food. I know that will be an adjustment when coming back to the States.
It was also a very different world hearing Portuguese. I don’t know much Portuguese, but I thought it would be similar to Spanish. There are a few words that are the same, but they may be pronounced or spelled differently. Most people speak more English there than even Spanish. One of our taxi drivers said “When people from Spain come here, they expect us to know Spanish, but most of us only know Portuguese and English!” That’s so odd to me, because Spain is so close! I feel like it would be more beneficial to know Spanish, but the world is so heavily influenced by the US. It’s insane to see the reality of that abroad. And it’s kind of scary because there are many things wrong in our country, yet we wield the greatest power.
Among the things wrong in our country, I think our work ethic could be improved. And that is not to say we must work harder, but different. America is so heavily focused on deadlines and doing whatever to get ahead and make money. We thrive off of the idea of making a lot of money. We stress ourselves out trying to meet a deadline for a job we may not even love. However, over here in Spain, my office is so relaxed. People have the freedom to set their own deadlines for when they think they can get it done. My boss often says, “when do you think you’ll get it done by?” I tell her and that will be my deadline. They have confidence in me to know my own limits and strengths. Our lunch break will be anywhere from 1-2 hours and we really use that time to relax and socialize and get to know each other. It’s just a much more relaxed environment which makes it a joy to come to work everyday. It makes me want to get my work done and try to set deadlines for myself that I can manage. It’s much better for mental health as well so you don’t get burnt out.
I think when I return home, I will try to take breaks more often. There are many times I just work right through a break, or eat while still working. But I should take time to enjoy a break. It gives me time to be able to refocus my brain after rather than wearing myself down until I can’t focus at all anymore. It is pretty hard to set my own deadlines at my job back home, since things have a specific time when they must be done, but I do want to start taking on more creative projects that I will be coming to my boss with, and I think I could set my own deadlines for that. I’m really excited to take what I’ve learned back to the US with me! I’m excited to see how I’ve grown coming back to my old work environment. There is definitely a noticeable difference in my ambition and ethic that I think my supervisors will appreciate and utilize upon my return. I only have 2 weeks left here, and as much as that pains me to say, I am looking forward to reemerging back to Pitt as stronger and better than ever.