PORTUGAL 1987-1989

I arrived in Portugal to work as an English teacher at the American Language Institute, in the summer of 1987.

It did not begin well. My first roommate and I did not get along, as she needed a support structure, and I needed to be left alone to prepare my classes, which I typically did until long after midnight, staying up by drinking pot after pot of strong black tea. I had a schedule that kept me either preparing all night, or teaching all day. I didn't speak the language, had no real support structure of my own, could not figure out how to meet women, and was generally miserable in a lot of ways. The results were manifested physically: I developed a severe and painful skin condition, which my doctor at the British Hospital could not diagnose. After trying his remedies awhile, I saw a dermatologist who said that this was something he'd seen often. "We don't know what it is," he said, "but we do know how to fix it." He gave me medicine, and the rash went away. When I finally knew Portuguese well enough to read my medication labels, I found out that they were merely sedatives. I had had a case of hives, which covered my entire back. It was during the very middle of these unfortunate episodes that I was asked to write a letter for career counseling back at Williams, and that letter was far from positive. It wouldn't be discovered by my bosses at the A.L.I. until after I'd left, but would leave an understandably bitter taste in their mouths. So it goes.

But everything changed, as though with the wave of a wand, on January 1 of 1988. I got a new roommate and a great new place to live, and a better schedule complete with some repeat classes. I started speaking enough Portuguese to get along. I started dating a woman who was fabulous, and all of Portugal started to seem wonderful. Though I had once scoffed at my former roommate for saying that she would stay another year, at the end of my first year in Lisbon, there was no doubt that I had to stay on. I wasn't making a whole lot of money, but life was great.

My roommate was Scott Bowling. It was interesting that when Scott and I first met, we didn't really like each other very much. Both of us hit each other's prejudices square in the eyes. He thought I was snobby New England preppy, and I thought he was Arizona trailer park (complete with disco mustache, which he soon enough shaved off). So much for quick character judgments. One day we were supposed to have lunch with mutual acquaintances. They didn't show at the restaurant, and we politely went in together. We soon discovered that each of us had a lot of stories to share, some mutual interests, and a lot of mutual attitudes. We had lunch again. And again, and when Scott's live-in girlfriend decided that she'd had quite enough of Portugal thank you and went back to America, I was also in the market for a roommate, and Scott and I had already become quite good friends.

Scotty and I lived together for a year and a half and never had an argument. We sorted out our differences with humor, and intelligence. We enjoyed spending time together, and knew how to give each other space. We prepared lessons together. I recall looking forward to going home in the evenings because I knew that I would be preparing dinner and spending time with my roommate. We were closer to each other than either of us had ever been even to family. He once said to me, aptly, that it wasn't even that we were friends, or even brothers. We were a team. We could read each others' thoughts across a room, with a look. We schemed against our foes and hooked each other up. We called each other Calvin (me) and Hobbes (him). It worked as a metaphor: I was the younger, brilliant and mischievous one, and he was the older one who could keep the younger in perspective. We had only one evening of tension in our whole relationship; it was so rare and odd that it sticks in my memory. Even that whole period lasted less than an hour: I tried to escape him on the patio, and he came out and told me what was bugging him. We straightened it out; gave each other a hug; and it was over. A magic relationship.

For other people, too, the association was easy. Besides having the same name, we were both tall (by Portuguese standards), thin, blond, and green-eyed. This would provide many opportunities for Scott and me to say on the phone, "Which Scott? Could you be more specific…" which we always thought was funny.

We both left in the summer of 1989. In many places I've left, particularly Japan and Turkmenistan, there is a countdown of days until you're outtahere. In Lisbon, Scott and I counted the days in order to focus, to enjoy ourselves all along the way. "It's never going to be like this, Scotty," I said. "Enjoy this moment. And this one, and this one, and this one."

Ten years later, Scotty is still one of my closest friends.

This picture was taken shortly after Scott and I started to live together:

I love this picture because I think it captures us so perfectly. I have no idea what we were doing: tongue-in-cheek advertising a camera? It's me hamming it up, and Scott enjoying it all.


The beginning:

I arrived as part of a group of recent college graduate recruits. We stayed for a month in a pension near the Bairro Alto, while learning the tricks of English as a Second Language teaching. My closest friend in the group was Jim Governale, who's wearing the glasses in the picture below. However, at the end of training two people had to be sent to the institute's branch in Oporto, and in what was considered a strange decision by nearly everyone, the powers that be decided to send a man and a woman: Jim, and Eva Neubauer (wearing the hoop earrings). This made for bi-gender apartment-mate decisions, including for myself. (The other two men in this picture, Jeff Munsick and Jim Hilgartner, were not really a part of our group--both having master's degrees in E.S.L., and were already hooked up with housing.)

Scott is on the far right (complete with disco mustache).

I'll have to work on this page more, later, but before that, one last shot:



Scott is happily flanked by beautiful women: on the right (his left), Dalia Martins, and on the left, her cousin Candida Martins. Scott dated Dalia, and I dated Candida. Inbreeding. The two relationships continued through our last half year in Portugal, but eventually had very different endings. Candida and I haven't communicated in more than a decade. Dalia, on the other hand, now has a new last name: Bowling. She and Scotty got married in Arizona, and now have a four-year-old son.

Scott, Dalia, and Patrick Bowling all came to Hawaii last summer. We spent a week on Kauai together. Different stories. Later.