Category Archives: Portuguese

Saturday 1 November 1755

Saturday 1 November 1755.

Many people were in church, celebrating All Saints Day.

Without warning the earth began to shake. Buildings swayed catching people unawares. Children began to cry. Men and women looked up, fearful of the growing rumble. Fissures rent the earth apart. Buildings began to crumble and fell in on themselves, rafters and masonry burying worshippers beneath their colossal weight.

Six minutes is all it took to raze one of the most modern European cities of the time to the ground. Those who survived these six infernal minutes ran outside, down to the docks, for fear of being buried beneath falling buildings.

They watched in fear as the water began to recede. 40 minutes later a wall of roiling water rushed up the Tagus River, the tsunami engulfing the city and taking the lives of those who’d survived the earthquake. Two more waves drowned the already destroyed city killing any survivors. Fires raged in the city for five days after.

The number of dead is disputed to this day. Reports say between 10,000 and 100,000 people died in the earthquake and tsunami of 1 November 1755. According to today’s seismologists, it measured a 9.0 on the Richter scale, making it one of the most severe quakes in history.

Most of Lisbon was decimated. Many historical buildings and libraries were destroyed, including the stunning Gothic Convento do Carmo. The ruins of this structure still stands today, untouched, as a reminder of that day.

The reconstruction of Lisbon led to seismically constructed buildings, probably the first such buildings in the world at the time. The Marquis of Pombal who led the reconstruction of the city tested wooden models before construction began to ensure that they could withstand another earthquake of that severity.

The earthquake of 1 November 1755 has affected the psyche of the Portuguese people and is part of the national identity, still, to this day. It was one of those events that redefined a people, who still talk about it today.

Simulating the Lisbon earthquake at the Lisboa Story Centre, an evocative and realistic simulation
©2017 Regina Martins

The story of the earthquake is evocatively told at the Lisboa Story Centre in the Praça do Commercio, at Terreiro do Paço. It showcases the history of Lisbon from pre-medieval times, through the earthquake to modern day. In a darkened room the earthquake is simulated, a movie projected on three walls and sound booming from hidden speakers, to try and convey an idea of what it was like all those centuries ago.

Saturday 1 November 1755.

Many people were in church, celebrating All Saints Day.

The day a city was reborn.

 

Our Christmasses Are Green

Have I told you yet that our Christmasses are green?

We don’t have white Christmasses here, we have green ones. Green hills, green grass, green heat. The sky is blue. The pool is blue. It’s summer here. Maybe in the early morning when soft mist rolls in high lying areas there is a bit of white. It is soon replaced by green though.

Continue reading Our Christmasses Are Green

A Tale Of Two Countries

Originally published on HarsH ReaLiTy’s Project H on September 29, 2016.

They say that home is where the heart is. I don’t know who “they” are but “they” seem to be telling us a lot of things that unfiltered could make life confusing. But I digress.

Home is a city in South Africa. In Gauteng province to be exact. This province is the smallest but is the economic hub of the country and the African continent. It also boasts South Africa’s capital city, Pretoria. What do “they” say about dynamite coming in small packages? I digress again…in any event, the photo below shows the area in which I live, south of Johannesburg in a beautiful peri-urban environment.

If you look really carefully, to the right of the photo, you can see the cows crossing the road, herded by a dog and cow-herder, to graze on the other side of the road. This may give you the wrong idea of SA – cows don’t cross the roads all the time and we aren’t dodging elephants and lions on a daily basis. It’s a country like all others in some respects. I’m lucky to live in an area that is so close to nature.

Why did the cattle cross the road?
©2016 Regina Martins

South Africa (henceforth SA) wasn’t always my home. I was born in Mozambique which was my home for the first 9 years of my life. Political upheaval uprooted our young family and because my Dad had always wanted to live in SA, SA became our new home.

What with learning a new language and somewhat traumatised with the splitting up of my extended family to whom I was close, the foundations of my 9 year old world were shaken to the core. It took me over 20 years to feel that SA was my home. Initially I’d been made to feel an outsider, an immigrant from across the border. It wasn’t nice for a young child to experience that. But it made me stronger and more determined not to allow other people to prescribe to me.

I remember the day, to the moment, that I finally felt that this beautiful rainbow country of all sorts of contrasts was home. My husband, Che and I spent a couple of weeks in Portugal for my brother-in-law’s wedding in 2001. It was winter there, rainy and cold and I was seriously miserable. I don’t like the cold and the wet at the best of times, but even worse than this was not seeing the sun. Living in Africa I have sunlight about 350 out of 365 days of the year. That’s a lot of sunlight, even in the winter.

During those two weeks the feeling that I was “a tourist that could speak the language” began to take hold. Everywhere I went people remarked on my accent, some not kindly. Portuguese, just like English, is spoken differently in different parts of the world. Those of us in SA have a different accent and colloquialisms than those who live in Brazil or Portugal for example. I realised that cultural communities living outside of the country of origin develop their own identity and sets of values like those of the country they’ve adopted.

In 2001, as the wheels of the Boeing 747 touched down at Johannesburg International Airport I began to cry with the overwhelming feeling of belonging to SA and of having come home.

I still have family and friends in Portugal and I’m lucky to be able to visit them. I feel comfortable there. I can do things there that I can’t do in SA, like walk the streets without looking over my shoulder. I enjoy exploring the most beautiful slice of the Iberian Peninsula and immersing myself in the incredible history of that country which goes back thousands of years. I love navigating the narrow roads of old Lisbon, steeped in history and enjoy that our family’s apartment is in one of those narrow roads, shown in the photo below.

Beautiful Lisbonne
©2016 Regina Martins

I feel a patriotic fervour when it comes to the Portuguese soccer team and when they won the Euro 2016 on Sunday I jumped up and down, laughed and cried and felt proud to be able to claim a part of that nationality. South African sports are exceptionally well represented internationally and I feel an equally patriotic fervour when they compete internationally.

I feel emotionally proud to live in a country that Nelson Mandela called home and to have been part of those historical elections in 1994 when previously disenfranchised people stood in queues for many hours waiting for their moment to put a cross on a ballot paper for the very first time.

When I visit Portugal I still get comments about my Portuguese accent. In South Africa, sometimes, people notice a slight undertone of an exotic accent to the way I speak English and ask me about it. I choose to ignore the less kind comments and embrace the diversity that make me who I am.

I feel Portuguese. I feel South African. I am both.

Finding my place…

 

Slowly

Goodness, all I want to do right now is to cocoon. Keep warm. Not talk to anyone. It’s a good thing that it’s the weekend.

It’s been a hectic month for me so far. It started on June 30th and continued until yesterday. I spent more time on planes and away from home than at home. Some respite is ahead thankfully.

The pink underlinings are the times I’ve been away from home on business and the blue underlinings are the start of the holidays.

©2016 Regina Martins
©2016 Regina Martins

I’m looking forward to the next 2 weeks – on Thursday I’m flying to Portugal and then to Barcelona. While in Lisbon I’m looking forward to the food and the coffee, exploring Roman historical sites and going on a graffiti tour. My Mom is joining me on August 1st and while we have some work ahead of us to renovate the apartment I know we’re going to get some girl-time – shopping, going out for dinners and having nice chats.

For me it’s partly a much needed holiday, and part work-related. The work related part is our international coach camp where all us coaches from around the world come together to learn from each other’s experiences, work on some innovative stuff and most importantly to have some fun! This is the Barcelona bit. Not sure how much work is actually going to take place in the middle of summer in Barcelona…

And the cherry on the top of all these upcoming travels – I’m going to hot weather – summerrrrrrrrr! Away from the cold winter of Joburg. And when I return to Joburg the worst of the cold will be over (I’m holding thumbs as I say this).

All in all, it will be good to slow down a bit.

 

Feast

Families that eat together stay together. Feasts and celebrations go hand in hand. Families coming together is enough of a celebration.

I have visions of long wooden trestle tables groaning with food, of a large family sitting around it and in true Mediterranean fashion are eating, drinking and talking. All at the same time.

Things become loud and by the main course things are at their loudest. Dessert, many hours later, and voices are less. Tummies are full and people become sluggish. The siesta calls, under a tree preferably in a hammock. Kids have long ago fallen asleep, safely deposited in the couches indoors.

Grown ups that can still keep their eyes open talk over espresso coffee, this time their voices a bit softer. There’s no need to compete for airtime.

The quiet zzzzzzs and the loud snores evidence of a feast enjoyed.

If I could, I’d have a feast every Sunday.