Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Ep 4: The Final Days [Memories of Portugal]

This post is part of a series on my life in Lisboa.
4.1: Nomadic Moments
2017 August - 2017 December

Toytrain to Fonte da Talha
We came back to Portugal from Belgium in August 2017 so that I can complete my thesis. By then, I was in my fourth year, and therefore my Erasmus Mundus scholarship had finished already. The Erasmus Mundus funding lasts only for 3 years, although we all had a Ph.D. that last mostly 4 - 5 years. Some students had managed to complete by 3.5 years though - primarily due to the limited funding.

Upon our return, we quickly enjoyed the rest of the summer. We visited Fonte da Talha using the toytrain from Costa da Caparica. I have been to that beach several times before in the earlier years. It is one of my favorite beaches as it is a long sandy beach with not too much crowd. We also went to take the cable car in Parque das Nacoes. It was 5 years ago in 2013 January we tried it before. This time, we just opted for a one-way trip, rather than a return trip, unlike last time. It was refreshing the memories from those days. We visited the Marques Pombal park area during the Christmas days. We also walked around the Ameixoeira neighborhood, including its park.

The cable car in Parque das Nacoes
I received funding from Belgium for the first half of my fourth year, and I had to return to Belgium briefly again. There were some back-and-forth flights between Lisboa and Brussels in August - September. Due to the last minute flight demands, I even had to fly from Faro. I was a reader of a master thesis defense that day. Therefore I had to connect from the hotel in Faro before taking the flight to Brussels, CRL airport. Although this was my second visit to Faro, I did not really have time to enjoy the town. After a few days in Belgium, I flew to KAUST, Saudi Arabia to do my research there, while still being in the mobility period and funding of UCLouvain. Finally, in mid-December 2017, I returned once more to Lisboa!

4.2: Final Goodbye
2018 January - 2018 June 
Lumiar Park
We had rented the apartment in Lumiar neighborhood since August. However, the neighborhood was still new to me since I was mostly in Belgium and Saudi Arabia until December. When I came back, we visited Moscavide and Parque das Nacoes neighborhoods, to relive the memories, as we did several times before. We also visited the Lumiar Park, which had a small lake with some ducks and geese in it. 2018 was the first new year which we did not go out to see the fireworks in Lisboa. We felt old!

View from the Loures Shopping Mall
Despite our long stay in Lisboa, we never failed to find new places to visit in the city and suburbs. Our apartment is just on the border of Lisboa. Therefore we were able to visit some outskirts and suburbs quickly with a bus. We visited the Strada shopping mall, which I had previously visited once to apply for a residence permit extension. We visited Loures shopping mall for the first time, a large shopping mall in Loures just outside Lisboa using an RL bus. Our favorite season, summer was back again. We also visited Sesimbra beach, a beautiful beach on the other side of the river that I never had a chance to visit before. I visited Evora once more - this time with my wife. It felt so good to be back in a town where I got to know that I had been accepted to the EMJD-DC. Great memories. We revisited several places in Lisboa, just once more - often mentioning that might be our last visit to that particular place.

Evora, one of my favorite Portuguese towns
I made sure to finish writing my thesis before leaving Portugal. I had my UCLouvain thesis confirmation at UNINOVA at Almada. I did not have much time to enjoy the town as I was busy preparing the presentation. Then I also had the IST/Portuguese version of the confirmation, which is known as the "CAT" just a few days before departing Portugal, finally. Of course, we wanted to visit and revisit many places in Lisboa and Portugal before we leave. It was almost like rushing for a summary. But our time was limited. Money was limited too, as I was funded from Portugal's local funding, rather than the EU funding as in Erasmus Mundus. We still tried our best. The bus trips from Lumiar neighborhood was fun. While staying in Arroios, we mostly used the red and green metro lines. During our stay in Benfica neighborhood, we used the blue line. Finally, this time we were using the yellow line. Now we have covered all the metro lines!

Sesimbra beach, my first time here!
This time when we decide to move back to Atlanta, we carefully discarded things that we do not need anymore. We also donated several useful and new things to the donation box. I even mistakenly dropped my metro card in the donation box, which I later found only after arriving in Atlanta. I also had mistakenly left my new umbrella in the taxi in Lisboa. Leaving Lisboa again, this time more like a permanently moving out, was indeed sad. We felt like leaving our home country yet once more.

How many times we relive those days?
Portugal had indeed become a second home to me. I have better memories in Portugal more than in Sri Lanka. But every story has to come to an end. Is this the end of our life in Portugal? I don't know. We may come back in the far far future. That time, probably we will recall the entire 6 years (2012 - 2018) of our stay as those days, rather than the first 6 months of 2013. We don't know. I still have a long list of places to visit, including Nazare, Sendim, and Braga, and revisit including Porto, Lagos, and Ilhas Desertas. Maybe when I go to Portugal in 2019 June - July for my defense. I imagine my next visit for my Ph.D. defense would qualify as the Episode 5 of my Portugal story. When will I have an episode 6? How will that be? Time will reveal.

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