Date: Early December, 2013
A woman politely stops me on the sidewalk as I am heading up to Eduardo VII Park from the Marquess of Pombal Square. She says something in a language that I can’t understand. Her brown hair looks windblown around her bisque-colored face even though I hadn’t felt the wind blow the entire time I was in Lisbon. I assume that she is speaking to me in Portuguese, so I conjure up my rehearsed response in Portuguese regarding my inability to speak the language, “Não falo português.”
She sighs, then turns her head away and says to herself in English, “I was just asking the time.”
In response, I silently hold out my $10 digital watch in front of her so she can read the time, forgetting that I can speak her language. Her face lights up instantly. “You speak English?” she asks excitedly. “Yes,” I say.
She goes on sounding slightly panicked although she keeps a smile on her face, “Maybe you can help me out. I’ve been speaking to myself all day.” I grin at her confession, then I proceed to look down at the commotion beside her. A toddler is running her arm off. It’s a little girl with blonde hair who sees something in the distance, most likely the carnival set up about 20 meters away that has been blaring American Christmas music all week. We start walking again while talking.
She hurriedly tells me how the airline lost her luggage again, a French airline, and she wants to know the way to the airport because she’s going to walk there.
I tell her that I don’t know for sure, but that it’s at least a couple of miles. The woman lets the toddler run away a little before the toddler returns, yanking on her arm again. At this point I look at our surroundings and I know for certain there is no way that she can walk there. Lisbon is very hilly and she would have to walk on a very busy highway to make the trek. A task that would be even more impossible with a toddler.
She nods, “I know. I asked at information and they told me I was crazy to walk there. Maybe you know where I can exchange South African currency. They told me this square, but nobody here will do it.”
With a sympathetic look, I regretfully reply, “No, I don’t know. Sorry.” The toddler finally wins the tug of war and pulls the woman away. I yell after her, “Good luck!” as she hurries off in the direction of the airport with a toddler leading the way.