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Cleaning, cooking, and trying to be still 

October 22, 2016

NEVER in my entire life have I mopped floors, cleaned bathrooms, and washed so many dishes. En serio. NEVER. I’m of the mind and (lack of) habit to typically only clean when (1) guests are coming over OR (2) I’m moving house. Otherwise, shuffle stuff around, surface clean, and and make sure I have clean dishes for dinner tonight and clean underpants for tomorrow. 

At The Horta Grande Hostel in Silves, Portugal, where I am staying as WORKAWAY volunteer in exchange for a room and meals*, I am charged with cleaning the sleeping rooms, bathrooms, and common areas, after our guests check out. Given it’s low season here in the Algarve, we’ve just a few guests each week, and just as much cleaning. Which is still more cleaning in the last two weeks than I’ve done in the last two years… No, more than that. Much more. 

Am I taking pride in cleaning, or a job well-done? I’m not sure yet, but maybe. 

I am 86.5% sure that only a few weeks of cleaning will not change my habits, but there’s the 13.5% and that’s something new and possible.

When not cleaning, I’m gladly cooking meals for my hosts.* Simple, familiar dishes like stews with chicken and our herbs and vegetables. Others using our vegetables in new ways like using the (dusted-off) blender to make a savory pumpkin soup and a gazpacho (Spanish style which, after serving, learned the Portuguese style is different ((better))). And a couple meals so far that are “American” (their words) e.g., cheeseburgers (per a request) and one of my personal favorites, frijoles borrachos (drunken beans), an American dish because it’s a Mexican-American recipe that I make. Lena, the Lady of the House, especially loved this dish and was so enthusiastic eating it captured a photo mid-meal to post on Horta Grande FB.

I adore cooking and this current routine of mine, right now is perfect: wake, breakfast, clean, lunch, siesta, walk and shop for dinner provisions, cook dinner, eat, clean, and read aloud in Portuguese…. 

All of the other chores of harvesting, laundry by hand, and so on are alright by me. I appreciate more and more the challenge of being patient, present and still while doing something simple like rendering the juice from lemon, lime, orange, tangerine, watermelon, Santa Claus Melon, and pomegranate without having a JUICER. It takes so long…so much effort…for so little juice…and the juice is “okay.” By okay I mean perfectly natural and yummy without additives. OM. 


The other day I thought I was thinking about nothing. I couldn’t think about anything except the dream I had the night before starring that one guy I adore and the fantastical emotional experience that it was and how much I wanted it to be but then in real life to see the Old Goats on the other side of the bridge the next day made me slightly nervous and upset and kinda angry so I walked all the way around them to get to the grocery store even though that way means I do not visit with “Don Manuel Anotonio Banderas” the jolly seller of books, comics, and DVDs. He’s atleast 109 years old. When it is semi-warm out, he wears shorts and tells me (I think) that he doesn’t give a damn what anyone else thinks. Don Manuel Anontio Banderas is his name for him and totally unverified (yet not wholly refuted) by the Lady of the House. He sold me O Sorriso De Mona Ratisa. He is nice and the opposite of those mean Old Goats. 

The Son of the house, who visits every other week and speaks English and seems to understand my issue with the Old Goats, tells me that I should just say “fuck off” (I think). The entire family describes in Portugues-English-Spanish a generational and cultural divide in the city of Silves that would explain the bad manners of the Old Goats who guard the bridge aka The Ponte de Silves. I tell them that I’ve experienced the same thing everywhere and it’s not generational nor location-bound. It’s an attitude abierto or cerrado (just like Sesame Street taught us, Open–Closed). In theory I should be able to let it go, ignore them. Yet I remain vexed by this brand of rudeness no matter where I am, or how content I feel.

Damn, even when not working a 9-5-ish day-in-day-out job it’s difficult to stay patient, present, and still. To be still (or) chill, be comfortable in your surroundings. Imagine trying for that. To be like Mina, the most best camouflaged farm-cat ever. I’m trying for this.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. October 22, 2016 10:21 pm

    blogging! and meta-blogging! and Sweet Dreams are made of these! Loving your reports from European gypsy scholar life.

    • October 24, 2016 3:03 pm

      Thanks pal. I appreciate you paying attention to my blog and all the super sub blogging. 😉

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