Working Culture

I never had much of a full time job in the states. It was more like lots of little ones that kept me running in a million directions at all time. In Portugal I was a full time slob and working with some fantastic people for a very evil corporation. And at the fishtank its a whole different story …. and even though you’re not supposed to talk about work, I gotta say the place where I work is like a family. Well, a family where people occasionally resign and move on… but still.. a family.

So some of the family decided we’d busted our asses for the brains of the netherlands today, and we deserved an evening in the park. Oosterpark to be exact. So we grabbed the left over fancy food from the fancy events of the day, I grabbed my frisbee, and we sat at that park from 6pm to 12am. Toronto’s most famous chef in exile was there; incedentally, he was in the movie PCU or something like that, as — yes — a frisbee player. So of course he and I threw the disc around and he gave me the tips I need to impress the frisbee feminina, if I decide to go that route.

But the best part of that evening was as it was almost pitch black, and the park has few lights, and we decided to play frisbee in the dark. It sounded something like “ok… here it comes bicyclemark…. THUMP… — OWWW MY EAR.” A whole lot of that in between drinks and hysterical laughter.

I mention all this for a higher purpose. Work culture. You probably have some where you live. Maybe you bowl… or have dinners together. Maybe you’ve got a softball team or yearly picnic. Here in Amsterdam, this is how it is for me; a big family of people who are VERY social and can often be found out in the middle of the night together throwing discs at each others’ heads.


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Our Store

I can smell the stench of old beer and urine already, it is Queen’s Night here in Amsterdam, the eve of one of the messiest, nuttiest, look-i’m-wearing-my-orange-shirt days of the year. But let’s leave that for tomorrow, today I’m telling a story from my childhood:

Growing up in Newark, my parents had a store in the Ironbound (Portuguese section). As far as I can remember, this store sold – generally speaking- Portuguese things. I remember records, shirts, table cloths, and oddly enough- large virgin mary statues. The store was called Voz de Portugal (voice of portugal) and everyday afterschool that’s where I would be, in the back room watching cartoons and building McGuyver like objects out of the spare radio parts I found. Oh yeah, we had a homemade recording studio in the back where we would record a weekly radio show for the Portuguese Community.

The one thing I remember about this store, was that it really wasn’t about selling things. It was a front. Not for drug running or money laundering – oh no… it was a community center. I remember everyday the same old men and women would come in looking for my mom or dad, always toting letters in English that they just couldn’t understand. Tax forms, green card renewals, letters from that dam phone company – they brought them all for my parents to transcribe. Often times the regulars wouldn’t bring any letters at all, they would simply bring the problems of the day. Or maybe some gossip from the neighborhood.

While at the time I didn’t think anything of it, and just kept doing my McGuyver thing, looking back, I still carry the lessons I learned then. Like my parents, I too specialize in helping random fish at the fishtank with their life problems. Even if I’ve got tons of things to do, I still put it aside, and help the frustrated international student understand the letter from Canal+ or the foreign police. Only one difference of course, after they leave, in my mind, I’m completely fed up with this inability to say NO.

I digress, the Voice of Portugal was an amazing place to grow up.

Oh and rumor has it BlondeButBright‘s blog is all the talk in Minnesota.

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My Favorite Day

It’s a bit pathetic, yesterday was my most favorite holiday EVER, and I didn’t even notice. I didn’t flip open the Portuguese newspaper, I didn’t reflect or write, I didn’t salute a beautiful event in the history of the world. I just kept repeating the date to myself like an old man losing his mind: 25 of April. 25th…. April… 2o plus 5. And only now, after receiving an email from my father, do I realize why the date echoed in my head. It’s the anniversary of the Carnation Revolution in Portugal. April 25th 1974… 31 years ago.

31 years ago a country that had lived under decades of dictatorship, torture, and lies, awoke from a long slumber. Led by the armed forces, who were tired of fighting brutal colonial wars, people took to the streets. The tanks rolled down the streets of Lisbon, but not with the intention of killing. In the barrels of their weapons, carnations, what would become the symbol of the revolution and later, the socialist party. A symbol that stood for peace, democracy and human rights.

People tend to say that it was one of the few bloodless coups in the history of the world. Though that’s somewhat true, people did actually die on that day, when the murderous secret police opened fire from their headquarters, on the singing masses outside. But beyond that, the revolutionaries successfully booted out the dictator and the fascists behind them. They demanded socialism (their form of it) and a society opened to the world.

Of course, 31 years later, it’s pretty telling that even a fairly intellegent boy like myself forgets to celebrate. My generation doesn’t really notice or remember. They see Portugal and it’s many problems, and don’t feel much like cheering. The reality of the situation is that the global economy hasn’t worked to well for the average citizen. Quality of life is good for some, but everyone knows it’s far below what it could and should be. The ideals of the revolution were discarded along the way, the political class has firmly implanted itself, complete with the same ol rhetoric of empty promises and populist ideals.

Still, as is clear from my post last year, I love allowing myself to get caught up in the romance. Because it must have been an amazingly romantic time. Everything I read and watch about that time oozes hope and passion about the future. Who doesn’t like feeling that?

Feliz 25 de Abril Portugal. O povo é quem mais ordena.

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Low Budget Blows

Remind me to tell you my plan for getting together a bunch of young kick-ass laywers to take all these low budget airlines like RyanAir and Transavia to the European Court of Justice and sueing them for violations of my traveler rights and fraud. It doesn’t count as Brussels, Stockholm, or Rome if the airport is 2 HOURS away from the actual city! Yet they advertize cheap ass flights as if it were true. If you come to Europa, stick with the quality airlines or else Easyjet – cause they still do it with real airports.

Here I sit in Umea, which is a one hour flight north of Stockholm. I saw piles of snow, but the weather is spring-like for Scandinavian standards. So far so good. Stockholm was city-ish yet small, but I’ll really get to know that place on thursday. For now I’m here amongst the academics and enjoying all the loving care I get as a gust in this particular house. There was a bit of a party here tonight and I met lots of cool Swedes, but also a great Iraqi couple and a fantastic Brazilian with whom I had crazy insane discussions with. We’ve concluded the answer to life might lie in Portugal, eventually. Write that down somewhere. He also gave me this quote which I find bloggable:

“Sweden is the best place in the world to raise children! But I’m not a child! (So get me out of here)”

So maybe, just maybe, you want to see me live streamed on the internets, as I give my talk about podcasting! Exciting says you? Well, you can find out, 7:15am EST / 13h15 CET, it’s available via the HUMlab blog, I hope.

Oh, and lucky me to have the German Phrase of the Week, the new pope guy is German!

My own photos tomorrow, I promise… i think.

Today’s Sounds: Swedish countryside?


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