5. /Free/ Alfama, Portugal
It smells of sweat and gelato baked together in midday Lisboa summer sun in here. There’s a stickiness to every surface that probably hasn’t been scrapped off since the last decade but I’m too hot and bothered to care. I plop down next to a window and semi-hang out of it trying to catch a breeze.
As this rickety white and yellow funicular winds up the narrow, cobbled streets of Alfama, I slowly begin to cool off as we stop in the cool dark corners of the streets. Heading towards the São Jorge Castle, it’s a push & pull between other traffic and funiculars to see which gets to pass through the narrow gaps of the streets first.
Heady on the sweet gelato-sweat air, my eyes droop into a 1/4 eye-shut. Slit-eyed I watch 2 kids chasing pigeons on the side. Tiny little rubber shoes, peals of laughter and not a care in the world.
When was the last time you felt like that, Dear Reader? Like you’re on your way home after a sports day in primary school? With every inch of you covered in dust, the corners of your mouth and in-between your fingers dried up with sticky sweetness of the red icesis (popsicle for you lot), your voice hoarse from the different versions of go-red-gooooo and from laughing too louding in between the cheering. Your ribs slightly sore with all that jabbing your best friend made with her elbows every time her crush swagged by (which was like every 15 minutes!). Your steps towards home light like you’re bouncing on clouds. And your heart? Your heart empty. Free. Like someone’s opened all the windows in your valves and there’s a fresh breeze smelling of cut grass and freshly washed laundry flowing through.
I often talk about happiness on this blog. The very basis of its pursuit is to first, find that freedom that sets our hearts free for ourselves.
Walking around São Jorge Castle felt a bit déjà vu…Fort Reis Magos in Bardez, Goa was built by the Portuguese as well. (I just have to link back to the Ah-mazing “Photo Goa” exhibition on at that time I was there last – check it out!)
Anyways as I was saying, it’s hard though to not get sidetracked on our quests for happiness. When without fail you have Courts ringing you on the 23rd of every month following up their overdue payment for that washing machine or when your employee payroll is ready to be banked but your cashflow is tight because your client didn’t pay on time or when you hand your kids for the 3rd time that week, money to buy lunch because in-between ironing your husband’s shirt and finishing up that report for your boss, you ran out of time to make them lunch (and also that you forgot the bread yesterday, too) – the last thing you’ll be even want to be doing is “swimming upward in mighty effort for your happiness”; trying to fit it in somewhere in your life.
You see, it’s not that we don’t value happiness these days, it’s just that we’ve given up our freedoms to be so.