It’s nearly 13:00 here which means any minute the little café I’ve become a foreign regular at will be flooded with locals darting in from the rain looking to fulfill their coffee addictions during the siesta hours. On days I have afternoon class, I come here to study but more often than not, I end up people watching more than I do studying. There is something special about the Portuguese people. It’s true, Vila Real is small, there are people I recognize everyday whom I will never know their name, but it is as if every Portuguese man knows every other Portuguese man.
Maybe it’s because every hour each building is lined with men taking a smoke break, so naturally they are forced to see more than those who stay in from their personal enslavement. But regardless of where I am, whether I am in Viseu, Porto, Sabrosa, wherever, it is all the same. The men greet with the most pleasant appearing handshake as if they are seeing an old friend from 20 years ago. But they aren’t. It is the same greeting day in and day out; I find it warmingly sweet.
Sweet like the fresh squeezed juice that is my daily dose of orange now that the sun has decided to say goodbye. I should be used to the rain, I’ve lived in Oregon all my life, yet here it’s different. Maybe it’s because I don’t have a fire to curl up next to, or because Portuguese hot chocolate is more like a thick chocolate soup which requires a spoon to “drink” it, or because unlike in Oregon everyone uses an umbrella here (I won’t argue with that one though).
My walk to school takes 17 minutes if I walk with the roommates and 10 if I walk on my own (thanks to my mom and my girraffe legged sister) and it is uphill so I feel a little accomplished each morning when I arrive to school. School starts at 9:00 each morning unless we have lab which is held in the evening but being the Portuguese way, our schedule doesn’t tell us the times or the building where our classes are held, instead it simply says: morning or afternoon. The rest is up to our discretion to figure out. It was rather bizarre at first but now I find it slightly charming and entertaining… only frustrating when it is test day. So far, I have taken a module on Berry Development and Ripening, Wine Microbiology, Wine Analysis, Winemaking Process, and Pre-fermentation Operations.
I am still getting used to the layout of school with the modules. We have tests on Fridays which means we are only taught the material for a week which has proved hard for both the students and the teachers. They have so much more material to teach then the time we have to learn so they speak as fast as they can hoping we absorb it all. I won’t lie, it can be a little stressful, but my classmates and I are all in the same position. We take the same class everyday, take the same test, and there is always something going on at someone’s house outside of class. We watch movies, drink wine, study, travel, and eat food together every week. And we still got two more years together.
This program is creating an environment for making connections that will be beneficial to each of us for years to come: some students are here to take over their family wineries in Champagne, others already have vineyards but want to know more, a lot are wanting to become distributors, and some have no idea what they want to do. Everyone comes from different backgrounds whether it be a different country or a different focus of study, we all have something different to bring to the table and the nice thing is that everyone recognizes it. The majority of the class is from France, a couple from Italy, Germany, others from Canada, Iran/Malaysia , South Africa, United Kingdom, and a girl from California/Mexico. We have had two people quit the program for different reasons but the rest of us are in it for the long haul.
Now I must get back to homework so that I can in fact stay for the long haul:)