Tag Archives: portuguese

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.

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I have 6 + 1 names

I have 6 official names. It is customary in Portuguese tradition to give a child a first and a second name. Then the maternal grandmother’s name and the maternal grandfather’s name. Followed by the paternal grandmother’s name, finished off with the paternal grandfather’s name which is also the father’s name. So no one is forgotten.

Modern Portuguese parents are dispensing with all of this and I agree. The “old” way  makes it lengthy, and the poor child (and later adult) has to explain time and time again why they have so many names.  And official forms, for example, never have enough space for all of them.

My first and second names are the same as my Mom’s friend who is also my Godmother. I was named after her.  For many years I didn’t like my first name – Regina. It was too serious and grown up. It wasn’t a little girl’s name. I much preferred to be called by my nickname – Gigi.

When I was born, my uncle, who was a well-known writer, was a fan of the movie Gigi with Leslie Caron and Maurice Chevalier, and decided that would be a good name for the first grandchild of the family.  He also wrote a song of the same name and dedicated it to me, which was sung by a famous songstress of the time in Mozambique, Natercia Barreto. I don’t have a copy of this song, it was probably lost when our family fled from Mozambique. I’ve searched YouTube and even though there are songs by Natercia Barreto, Gigi is not there. I have doubted its existence, although some relatives do say it exists. When I find a copy I will most certainly blog about it :-)!

So the name Gigi stuck and I’m only known as Regina academically and professionally.

The name Gigi has also been the source of many jokes – “Ha ha, my dog’s name is also Gigi!”

When I got married the feminist in me decided not to take my husband’s name – I would then have 7 names! I had to write a letter to the government asking that the population register be changed to my unmarried surname, because in South Africa (at the time) it was assumed that a wife would take her husband’s name,  without the common courtesy of asking or confirming! You can imagine how this went down well with me!

When I registered my marriage in Portugal (many Portuguese people are registered in the country of domicile and the country of ancestry), the government there asked me how I wanted to be known – so no assumptions were made! I was most pleasantly surprised that my individuality and dignity was considered.

Regina is Latin for “queen”. It is pronounced “ruh-JEE-nuh” NOT “ruh-JY-nuh”. My high school principal used to call me “ruh-JY-nuh”.  No matter how many times I told her the correct pronunciation, she continued pronouncing it incorrectly – leaving me feeling mortifyingly embarrassed time and time again.

I have been called many variants of my name – Reg, Reggy, Reginald (I went to an all girls school and we all had male versions of our names) – and have grown to love the uniqueness of my name…Regina.

Featured image courtesy of http://www.dreamstime.com/ (latest stock photos and free images)

Da silver Hyundai

Da silver Da Silva Hyundai
Da silver Da Silva Hyundai

After a seemingly short 2 hour drive to Bela Bela we stumbled gratefully into the resort’s air-conditioned reception. I made eye-contact with Jasmine who had our checking in details but she was busy with someone else, and so she handed us over to a colleague to give us our keys and gate pass.

Almost drowned by the hum of the air-conditioner and the babble of the other voices in the room, she mouthed a question which sounded to me to end in “da silva.”

Thinking she was confirming my surname, I responded with, “No, Martins.”

Husband behind me thinking: “How the heck did she know we were Portuguese?”

Indignant me thinking: “Humph…does she think all Portuguese people are called Da Silva?”

Checking-in person looks at me with a puzzled expression, looks down at the sheet of paper in her hand and asks: ” D’you have the silver Hyundai?”


Almost lost in translation, this interchange had me and husband giggling to ourselves the whole weekend.

Bittersweet and lightning fast

Cafe Nicola at the Rossio and restaurants waiting for lunch patrons
Cafe Nicola at the Rossio and restaurants waiting for lunch patrons

In 2008 I decided not to return to Portugal ever again. In that year we came on a lightning (goodbye) visit to my Mom-in-law, with the knowledge that it would probably be the last time we’d be seeing her. As it turned out it was also the last time I saw my Gran and my Uncle. My Gran and Mom-in-law passed away that year, and my Uncle passed away last week. So here I am again, on another bittersweet and lightning (sorry guys, I’m not able to see you this time around) visit.

Lisbon is awash with tourists, foreign languages heard everywhere. I’ve watched with amazement huge tourist busses squeeze their way through the narrow streets of the old parts of the city. Despite the economic and political crises there is an interesting vibe about this historical city – something funky, cosmopolitan (off-course :-)) and young. The fact that it’s summer probably has a lot to do with it.

In spite of the reason for my visit, I’m enjoying the coffee – it’s sublime – I’ve yet to find a bad cup of coffee. Every second shop is a coffee shop, the ubiquitous “pasteis de nata”, “rissois de camarão” and “pasteis de bacalhau” a must-have companion.

It’s scorching hot, 38 degrees on most days. Clothes stick to the body which have to be peeled off. It’s almost 10pm and it’s still light, and hot. Fires have started, already decimating acres of forest land. Just walking on the street guarantees sunburn. Walking into an airconditioned shop is marvelous and finding an airconditioned taxi is heaven!

One cannot understimate the state of mind that such visits bring along with them. The future will in all likelihood include visits to Portugal once again, longer ones, and I’m counting on happier ones.

Never say never again, isn’t that what it’s all about?