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Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide for Reeves County, Trans Pecos, Big Bend of West Texas


Peggy McCracken

Wednesday, May 13, 1998


By Peggy McCracken

Portuguese dreams remain

following long trip

Forget the jet lag. It's dreaming in Portuguese that's killing me.

Two weeks in Portugal with International Crusades was a snap. The six hours we lost crossing the ocean April 22 didn't bother me a bit. Maybe the after-midnight bedtime, late breakfast and 2 p.m. lunches that are normal there made up for the time difference, and my body didn't have to adjust.

But since I got home, I've been crashing at 5 p.m. and dreaming I'm on a bus or train traveling between Lisbon and Porto - never arriving at my destination. How do I get re-acclimated to the West Texas desert after enjoying green pastures, rainy days and cold, cold nights?

Did you know the Portuguese don't heat their houses? Some did have small electric space heaters, but I suspect the cost of electricity is so high they can't afford to use them. The places I stayed had clothes dryers, but they weren't used, either. We hung our wash on lines strung across a balcony or tucked away in a corner of the kitchen.

I had first-class accommodations everywhere I went: first in the Sheraton Hotel in Lisbon, then with missionaries in Braga, Barcelos and Famalicao. From the fourth-floor apartment of Brazilian dentist-missionaries Flavio and Rosa Niehues, I could see a traditional two-story house across the street where livestock was kept on the ground floor and the family lived on the second floor. That's so body heat from the animals would heat the living quarters in the winter, Dr. Niehues told me.

From my vantage point I could see all of the valley and hills surrounding Barcelos, a city that dates back to Roman times. Romans built the stone bridge that we crossed on the way downtown for our daily street witnessing. A modern school sits behind the apartment building, and a furniture store with a glass front is across the cobblestone street. Next door are several old, old buildings that have caved-in roofs. No doubt they date back to Roman times, too, and probably were farm houses. High-rise apartments tower over clay-tiled farm houses throughout the large city.

Although I was told Portugal is a rural country, it seemed very urban to me, with modern buildings under construction on every hand. People are moving from the farms into the cities, where small industries provide jobs. Both men and women work long hours. One missionary gave me a tour of the older portion of Famalicao, including a trip down a one-lane road bordered by stone fences. I was sure glad we didn't meet oncoming traffic.

Everyone has a grape arbor in their back yard, and the area is famous for its green wine. Porto is where Port wine is made, in case you didn't know. We saw more grape vines than I ever knew existed. And olive trees. They use lots of olive oil in cooking. Everything I ate was delicious, and I ate twice as much as I do at home. Not until my digestive tract clogged up did I learn the strong espresso coffee I had declined after every meal helps with digestion. I couldn't take the caffeine, so I had to go back to my fruit-only diet to get back on track.

Ocean fish provide much of the Portuguese diet, and cod with vegetables seems to be the national dish. I loved it. We also had fried pork (I think), stewed rabbit, fried mackerel, chicken, rice with everything, beans, a chicken-rice-vegetable casserole that melted in the mouth, and other dishes I ate with relish but can't describe. When they suggested we go to McDonald's for supper, I resisted. And turned down Pizza Hut vehemently. Who wants to eat American food when all that good stuff is available? The restaurant prices were reasonable, too. That $30 salad at the Sheraton seemed a little out of reason, though.

This was my second trip with International Crusades, and probably won't be my last. It's hard to leave home for two weeks, but it is rewarding. Christian people are so nice to be around, whatever country you are in. I've never had much desire to travel, but thought that if I did, I would want to get to know the people; not just look at famous places. My group did take a tour of Lisbon, but I stayed at the hotel and slept. I settled for photos of the town taken from the roof of the hotel, where we met later that afteroon.

All the places I stayed had computers with Internet access, but I never did check out the Enterprise web site to see if we were still online. Of course, we were. I did send one e-mail to let them know where to reach me in case the world came to an end. It didn't. And I don't think they even missed me.

"How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!" Psalm 133:1

EDITOR'S NOTE: Peggy McCracken is a writer and webmaster for the Enterprise. She can be e-mailed at:

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