Monday, February 28, 2011

Campo Real

I kept repeating to myself, "This is the reason we came to Portugal, this is the reason we came to Portugal."

We had finally made it to Campo Real for the summit that Jason was attending. After being submerged in this fantastic culture where everything is so rich with character, so lived in, maybe a little dirty and dilapidated, but very comfy, kind of like your favorite pair of old jeans, we had to spend four days at a brand-spanking new golf resort, in the middle of nowhere. Ugh. On the first day, for the first few hours, I thought I might die. But then I shifted my mental attitude and embraced it as an opportunity to rest and recover from the preceding weeks of intense activity, though I couldn't help but to keep stopping by the front desk to ask them "Are you sure there isn't any place that I can walk to?" They were very elusive whenever I posed this question. They seemed like they would very much not like me to walk anywhere, but they could get me a car or a taxi. I didn't want a car or taxi. How about, "Could I walk to the resort's stables so the kids could see the horses?" The front desk replied that it was too far and they would get me a car. Again, I did not want a car. So I resigned myself to leisure activities. On day one, we played an hour of, I use this word loosely here, "tennis." The next day we played a little soccer with a soccer ball that was a lot flat, frayed everywhere, and sporting a huge hole. It was actually quite fun. The next day, after being informed that we needed to be certified in order to play golf, we hit 200 balls at the driving range. Interesting side note, on the way out the door to the driving range we saw a full page of rules on proper golf attire and realized that we were dreadfully underdressed to perform such tasks as golf. It was on this afternoon that we made our great escape! I figured that if we wandered around the outskirts of the resort maybe we would find the stables, or, even better, our way out of the resort. My devious plan worked! We wandered out of the resort and immediately after setting foot outside, we magically returned to Portugal again. Broken walls emerged out of the ground leading us to an old arch which framed a vineyard. It was really astounding to see the difference between the real and the not real. We wandered down the narrow country road (only occasionally having to dive into the grass to avoid cars speeding by) past orchards and vineyards and gardens and more vineyards. I could feel my soul returning. Aaron, of course, had his heart set on getting to the top of one of the hills nearby ever since we had arrived so we took another road heading up. At the top of the hill we found a little village where the villagers watched us through windows as we walked by and then emerged from their houses to get a better look at the blond strangers. A simple "Bom dia" melted the ice immediately and they would smile, return the greeting, and usually start speaking to me. At which point the gig was up and I would have to tell them that I did not actually speak Portuguese. Even though we didn't speak a common language, we got our points across and we would all depart smiling. We finally topped out and found ourselves next to one of the picturesque, old windmills we had seen dotting the countryside. Mission accomplished. 

Even though in the first few days I was a little daunted trying fill our time, the evenings turned out to be actually quite interesting. We were dining with all of the summit attendees who are the brightest minds in software security in the world. We were the only family there so lots of people were curious and came over to talk to us. We talked with so many fascinating people from all over the world: Indonesia, Malaysia, Cambridge, Singapore, Ireland, Israel, Germany, Netherlands, Switzerland. During the day I made friends with other wives who had tagged along, all of whom, strangely enough, were women who were born in one country but now lived in another. Martina from Germany but lives in London, Christina from Egypt but lives in Ottowa, Nishi from India but lives in New Jersey, Jane from China who lives in Mexico. It was really eye-opening to have the opportunity to speak with all these people from all over the world. In the end, not only did we survive Campo Real, we walked away with a lot of interesting experiences and I am glad we went.

Click here for photos.

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