Moving to Tokyo – 1st impressions

You would think a 40 million people metropole would be chaotic. I personally thought the chaos of my lovely small capital would shy out in the face of Tokyo (which is 30x Lisbon!). You would imagine, the simple act of crossing a road would be 10 times worse than in some Southeast Asian cities, but no.


All the countries in the world that have a population smaller than Great Tokyo area

Tokyo surprises you by a weird sense of “neighbourhood” small town, where silence is king and respect for the other prevails. I heard, so far, 1 car honking and 2 times an ambulance. Pedestrian crossing signs are followed religiously, and I was looked awkwardly when crossing a red light. Of course, the crazy “gaijins” decided to cross the red lights in central Shibuya crossing by bicycle… it was the most adrenaline I have felt in a long time, not because of the sense of danger, but because it is so wrong to do so here.

Shibuya crossing
Shibuya crossing – fair point to us, we would never have been able to cross by bike at the same time as the pedestrians 🙂

The fuss and busy life of central roads and train stations, follows an order that I had never seen in the chaotic human nature.

Metros – ordered chaos

After standing in line to enter, you may feel a bit compressed. However no one in the metro pushes in when others are still exiting. You are always able to make your way out in a station. Also, I haven’t encounter so far any awkward traditional metro smells (maybe when the rainy summer begins…), neither seen myself in the scenario where I may succumb to the impulse of slapping the creature with a sneaky hand making it’s way to the crushed bodies. There is always a metro arriving, ALWAYS! The longest I have waited was exactly 3 minutes. Funny thing, every station has it’s own distinctive cute tune. I wonder if anyone is able to recognize them all.

I did a rookie mistake in the metro… shame on me… and the stares… as if I was a neanderthal coming out if its cave… What is it with getting a call in the metro anyway? It is seen as very rude, as the several signs and english anoucments remind you, to not speak on the phone in the Metro. As soon as I realized my mistake, I spoke as low as I could and as discretely as I was able to, but still… the “rude gaijin” label followed me for the rest of the day. Social pressure and norms have a funny way to make you feel bad when there is absolutely no rational reason to.

Orderly chaos of Tokyo metro and railway… thank god for Google maps!


Talk the talk… hopeless dreams…

Even after 20 hours of personalized Japanese classes, I can barely survive the restaurant and telling the time. The 50 shades of formal expressions that mean exactly the same thing, rule out any possibility of remotely blending in on any succinct conversation you may have.

8 ways out of the 20 to apologize in Japanese. Please notice how many words are even remotely similar between the different expressions… This doesn’t include “Sumimasen”… the only one I know!

Bureaucracy in Japan

I have to take my hat off to the British, their government systems are impeccable, smooth, easy to use, easy to register, to consult, to change… Somehow I always thought they had imported it from Japan, but how wrong I was…

I was very thankful for the support of the lady that helped me register my residency, open the bank account and get a SIM card. I would have absolutely not survived it on my own. All the forms are in Japanese, and of course there is a different form for any little feature you may require for the same service. Online Banking? barely! Debit cards? Unknown in Japan. Cash withdrawal card (!!!) and a credit card that will take over a month to arrive is what you get.

I was extremely lucky since the rent contract was taken care by the company. If it was already 40 pages in UK, imagine here…

Tip: Do have cash with you at all times, not many places take credit cards. Alternative can be to charge a SUICA card that can be used in trains, subways, some shops and most vending machines smoothly.

Reflections on this new journey

The Japan opportunity came as an unexpected, but very welcome, surprise, in a time I was about to define my Amazonian destine in France. The amazing thing about leaving your options open, is the places this mindset may take you. I am lucky to work for a company that embraces this mindset and sees these type of moves as valuable to the company as they are to the person. Following a silent old dream, after 2 weeks in Tokyo I find it hard to believe I am in the second greatest city in the world, (of course, Lisbon is always number 1), embracing an international experience where I don’t speak or read the language, in a job I know nothing about, and within a culture that contrasts with everything I have experienced and am. What could possibly go wrong?

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The turning point – GRIT lessons from my grandfather #1

This was Lisbon in the early 40’s. Sitting in a garden bench near Baixa, probably in Avenida da Liberdade, a normal stop within his route, Amadeu sinks his head in his hands and contemplates what he perceives to be his lowest point. During his lunch break with barely any food, his growling stomach is inaudible for him. The breeze has an adverse affect in enhancing the sound of thoughts running through his head. An overwhelming feeling of fear and doubt entices him to question his choices while glazing at a blurry future.

He has risked everything to follow his dream of a better life, including his father’s help. He has harnessed all his knowledge, his life work, the sacrifices he has made to reach this moment but the desired outcome is shy to arrive. In this sunny afternoon in Lisbon, Amadeu contemplates regret and questions his sense of worth… It was not lack of effort, persistence, or knowledge that was causing his business to fail.

If fate would have it, that garden would have been where now Bambu stands, a restaurant from my cousin, one of the grandkids

How scary must have been, 13 years earlier at the age of 11, to leave a small village in Beira Alta and hit the 350km path alone to the big city in search of a better life. He was on his way to work for an uncle as a delivery boy for a grocery shop, not sure where he was going to sleep, and no longer with the warmth of a home filled with the laughter of his siblings and mom.

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Delivery boy in the 20’s – 30’s

Highly independent at age of 13, he keenly observed the wealthy customers and the homes he delivered to. Amadeu spoke about how much he admired these customers, and how much he wished to be as successful as they were. It was not an admiration deprived of substance, my grandfather was the most humble man I have known, but rather an admiration that would motivate him to do more, to be better and ultimately to fulfill the reason why he came to Lisbon at such a young age. During his first years in Lisbon, Amadeu truly became a survivor and as observant as a detective. He had to grow fast, and learn to be self-sustainable, a lifeskill never deprived of stubbornness and persistence. To make extra money, my grandfather collected lost coins along the tram line in Avenida da RĂ©publica and Avenida da Liberdade. The Tram was often overcrowded, with people hanging outside. The bumps on the ride would cause coins to fly out and into the ground. Amadeu would screen both Avenues in search for lost “tostões”. Sometimes he would make more than his daily pay wage.

Lunch money!

An old friend passes by the bench. “Amadeu, It is good to see you… You look unwell, is everything alright?”. With a smile, my grandfather ensure his old friend all was good. This random moment was a turning point for my grandfather. Despite the difficulties and what it seemed like a dead end, it strike him “How can I thrive in business if I show weakness? I need to keep pushing, and I cannot show weakness because it will attract more weakness!”.

My grandfather tells this story with a strength and determination that my father very emotionally speaks about.

A few years later, the same friend finds him working in his first shop in Abade Faria. “Amadeu, you work here? How have you been?” My grandfather proudly states this is his business. “Your business? This is all yours? With all these people? My god Amadeu, you are thriving!”.


Airport tales #2 – the myth of low-cost – Ryanair “experience”

Low-cost they say… as much as I love the popularity that my country recently acquired, it’s cheaper to fly to Seul from London on a normal flight, than flying “low-cost” to Lisbon.

My latest low-cost flight was as painful as funny. There isn’t a great deal of difference between the service amongst low-costs. More cattle, less cattle, we are all packed together in an “outstanding service” to fulfill boarding and landing timetable metrics.


Ryanair portal allowed me to book my flight ticket and the Luton airport car parking space together. When you change the plane ticket, it doesn’t change the car… or so I realized when I arrived at the airport. Only a painful contact service to Ryaniar could save me from paying twice. Of course with the strike, this contact was impossible! Lucky me to not get hit by the pilot strike by Ryanair.

It seems to be that now the policy is you need to pay extra 7€ if you want to have your trolley bag with you on the plane, otherwise they will take it away. This meant that I wasn’t able to pull off my ninja trick of disposing relentlessly of the yellow tag (they check your ticket 2 times for this), and had to carry my laptop in hand. Other than that, despite boarding a plane full of drunken guys and gals on their way to stag parties, the outbound flight was pretty smooth.

Cattle service strikes again…

Kipper Williams cartoon 31 July 2012

To avoid carrying my laptop in hand again, on my return I did paid the 7€ for “priority”. This has granted me to be in the 1st line to offload the waiting room (1 of 3 lines) and have the luxury of not being separated from my belongings. Of course, the staff was missing the morning coffee, an still try to yellow tag my bag from me. I was proudly flashing my priority ticket… not this time lady!

20 minutes pass standing in that line. There is movement, and mislead by the boarding time assumption, my priority lane starts yawning its way into a second line outside.  It is 6am, still warm from the aircon inside, the groups stays first outside pretty spread out. 10 minutes after and the staff, always proactive, asks us to “squeeze” to give way to another portion of the herd to fit in the little square. The squeezing was not too bad, as the 17CÂş had set in, and the cold shakes away all summer vibes. Unbelievably, they made us wait outside for 40 minutes before boarding the plane. Priority lane… lucky me!

Priority lane… 40 minutes in the cold at 6 am!

Sales, sales, sales…

Inside the plane, the easiness of the Portuguese staff was quite amusing. I do love that about my people. It suits perfectly with the new on-boarding sales strategy.

There were at least 5 purchasing opportunities during the flight. First it starts with food and drinks… twice. In between there is a watch sales. Afterwards, comes the electronics, where they advertise heavily universal adaptors to the UK, because “no need to worry, Ryanair has the solution”. Perfumes follow quickly after, with a Versace perfume sale that is now only 18€, “I have no idea how much it costs in the UK, but in Portugal is usually 80€ with discount, and is only 50ml, so you can even pass by security with it, it is a great opportunity” the staff said (I am pretty sure it was the pilot!).


Perfume cannot go without an eyeliner and mascara “baratuxos” (slang word for bargain) for the ladies in the plane. And finally, to close this big flight auction, how could we ever resist the urge to buy some “raspadinhas” that are 50% off “only on this flight” and enables you to win 1 car… oh and it counts for charity! Thinking this strategy in the 80’s would have been a killer! I’m personally hoping they start selling Bolas de Berlim! (Common beach pastry sold during the summer by street walking vendors).


Sales campaign is over, and we are now ready to land. The poor guy sitting on my right was in deep sleep, surely the sales jingles felt like a luluby, only to be unmercifully woken up by a “jornalada” to close his tray (yes, the flight attendant hit him softly with a rolled newspaper on the head… ) I was in awe!! Maybe we are dogs and not cows!

On my way out of the plane, I finally recognize the food smell coming from one of the 3 bags belonging to the lady sitting on my left. I bet it has something to do with the Versace perfume promotion. There is clearly some cooked “bacalhau” (cod fish) in her bag. How she passed by security with that I have no idea.

In the end, all I could think during this flight was… lucky bastard!! I bet he wasn’t priority lane.


Running: Surviving the warm-up! – Gym battles

Gasping for air, people must think my head is about to explode, as they look in awe to my extremely red face… or is it becoming purple? Who knows! But the pounding feeling in my eyes surely is a sign of my heart going at 170bpm, and I’m unable to speak with my lovely sister who chitchats and lightly hops next to me, clearly forcing herself to run at half of the pace she is used to in a warm up…

I look at my watch, 5 minutes have passed, and I’m 500 meters from home and wondering why the hell did I ever agreed with this?

My sister runs 80km in mountain, I run… when I really really have to go to the bathroom more like 80 meters.

Sister killing it in some mega trail.

Just 4 minutes before, I had a chance to experience the lightness of running. For a brief moment I thought I was light… almost like when you dream about running were tiredness is not! The first 50 steps are energized, then your steps become heavy, until you feel every single step on the floor… speaking about living the moment.

On minute 1 and 2, I was still able to formulate sentences in response to my sister. After 3 minutes, I said my last words: “Speak at will, I will listen from now and reply you later to focus on my run”, in a desperate attempt to keep myself together. Never give in! Of course, focusing on my run is the worst thing I can do at this point. Every moment is extended to the maximum possible time perception.

It is not a specific pain, is mostly just tiredness caused by not enough air reaching your system. The world slowly weighs on me gradually… or perhaps all the pastĂ©is de nata I had. (I know, super drama queen, so imagine when I am running!).

At 700 meters, I tell my sister I need to walk for a bit. She doesn’t let me. “cmon, I’m not even breaking a sweat”… I, on the contrary, have all my body screaming and my lungs wanting to expand into a balloon. It is a nice picture, me floating away because of my over extended lungs, surely would feel lighter.

 “Just until that bench”, how my sister knows well the mind tricks of mini goal setting.

I focus on that bench, and hope to somehow decrease the distance between us both, visioning myself sitting there and rest for the remaining of the afternoon. The bench seems to have this weird effect of going further away from me instead of closer, some sort of an inverted tunnel vision. Small trip, nothing major. Didn’t fall this time.

If I had to run for my life… it would be a short one!

I start to think about the times I dream about running without being tired. Maybe is a reflex of my impatience of waiting for results, or just myself tricking my own brain in thinking I’m making exercise. Whatever it is, I crave that lightness and feeling of being unbeatable, but running is not the answer for me. I can always throw the excuse of my hereditary back problem (I got all the genetic issues! Thanks mom and dad!).

This quick mind drift worked! The bench is now 15 meters aways and I start to slow down feeling I conquered something… how naive of me. My sister doesn’t even slow down. “It’s not this one Rita, is the other in front” An unpronounceable sound comes out of my mouth. I’m sure I just curse at my sister, but cannot really tell or have a clear memory of it.

Me and sister… after the running warm-up.

Suddenly, a ripping feeling is felt on the left side of my waist. “DĂ´r de burro”, we call it meaning donkey pain, do not know the origin of such saying, but I surely feel non human right now. My sister keeps pushing for me “um, outro, um, outro” is her trick, and I start doing that for every step I take. It works for 10 steps! Enough to reach the other bench. I am finally able to walk a bit. A sort of whistle comes out when I breathe. A quick stop only! 4 more Km to go, which I didn’t realize at the time.

The next day I could not move…

Will never say such words!!!


Airport tales #1: UneasyJet

Disclosure: Angry customer ranting at a particular airline. No offense intended with any passengers, staff or random readers.

I’m writing this sitting in a table outside the gate in Terminal 2 in Lisbon, a rather small terminal for the passengers it sees daily. I’m sharing it with a lovely old lady whom I do not know the name. Both of us have experienced, it seems, several poor experiences and waits provided by Easy Jet. In a way, Easy jet is promoting social bonds with strangers, some better than others. I wonder if easyjet is inspired by a mix of Murphy’s Laws with Black Mirror.


Let’s dig in:

1. “Nothing is as easy as it looks … everything takes longer than you expect”  

Do I need to say more? Of course I do, I am in a ranting strike. This could perfectly be the airline’s slogan, that could easily stretch to other airlines. Low Cost operators seem to suffer from a syndrome of lack of consideration for the customer, some sort of customer experience autism. So far Easy Jet is painfully the worst.

Today’s delay was not warned with a push notification on the mobile app. I realized it was 1 hour delayed upon passing the security checks, 70 minutes before the original flight time. After looking a second time, it was already in 2 hours delay. Reason: A crew member late for work, so it seems, and domino effect of the South French strike… when I am flying to Luton, with an airplane that came from the UK. Seems to me that the crew member may be in trouble… or maybe was caught on a low-cost connection flight delayed if we want to stick to Murphy’s Law.

“…and at the worst possible moment” – I’m particularly annoyed with the lack of push notifications (they never come up when they should) because I could have seen my nephews this morning if I would be aware of this delay. Easy Jet – indirectly challenging family ties. Maybe again, a side effect of the privacy policies kicking in Europe. No idea. Blame Murphy!


2. “Natures sides with the hidden flaw” – The cattle treatment boarding experience

Easy jet is the perfect example of how animals humans really are. We are not godly beings, nor are we greater than any other creature of the animal kingdom, particularly the cattle we raise. Fair point! Let’s dive deeper into this, shall we?

a. The Cow Bell: It is rang, and we all rush to queue in a line that interrupts the flow of equally anxious passengers waiting to board the neighbouring gates. Then we wait for 15-20 minutes standing, reality which most of us know very well. You may say: “you will all arrive at the same time, why you queue so early?”, As this may be the reality for normal flights, us who have been trained in low cost airlines, know this is simply not true.

“On Behalf of Easyjet, we wish you a pleasant flight?!” The punctuation is not arbitrary. If you pay attention, it almost ends in a question mark, not as a statement, but as unmistakably doubt. The voice is either poorly recorded from an actual human being, or it us a poor computer system. The voice has a theatrical but unemotional tone in a strange slow motion monochord tone. Either the person or the computer clearly fought against themselves to portray such unrealistic words. Tip for EasyJet: pay 10$ online and have a professional actor / actress recording a message.


b. The Inspection: 2 servants of the airline, easily noticed by the uniform, walk the lines, inspecting the possessions of all passengers. It is usually small ladies, that can easier blend in and pass through the mass of people and bags. Very strategic. Do not get deceived by the stature. Their mission is to coldly mark luggage in a polite order (rarely a request) to voluntarily (ish) give these away to be transported on the hold, for there is not enough space to accommodate everyone and everything safely.

Furthermore, if any passenger attempts the serious offense of having a second carry-on bag bigger than a wallet hanging on their neck, they will then need to either risk damaging its goods by compressing everything in the main carry-on bag, or pay a fee for the privilege of occupying 10cm more of space, and still be disposed of the bigger bag during flight. It takes swiftly moves to escape the inspection, something some of us have learnt along the way. Unfortunately these secrets cannot be shared to not alert the inspectors :).


c. The false start: After surviving the inspection, you will see movement at what it seems to be the end of the queue. The host smiles politely at a screen (not so much at you) while taking passports and boarding passes that are barely verified. The passengers mimic the smile in a primitive hopeful social reaction, before frowning gradually into an angry state. We, passengers, have not realized the space and time still left to occupy before boarding the mighty craft. There is this square shape area (or in Lisbon case, a long line surrounded by a never ending temporary construction barrier), where we are pushed cosily together against each other, compressing bodies as much as we did the goods inside our small bags, looking into random directions like lost flamingos in an attempt to ignore the unbelievable uncomfortable strangers proximity touch. (Trying to keep a pink picture of this to not offend anyone by calling us pigs or cows).

I am sure there is a hidden Marketing strategy called “the Cattle treatment”. The purpose? I have no idea! Surely you don’t need to ride the rush-hour subway in Tokyo to experience it.

'Ugh, traffic.'

d. Stairway to heaven: After surviving these stages, you are finally at the edge of the stairs that will concede the privilege and easiness of flying. You are literally a few steps away, and look up beholding the door in awe and admiration (mostly relief), barely noticing the fierce weather. The boarding is within reach. You take the first step up, carrying your impossible heavy mini bag with you as quickly as you can, before stopping half way through. You queue in the stairs, while the wind and rain remind you once again of your own true nature. The familiar compression of bodies starts once again, now unfavoured by the steep stairs. You compressed against the backside of the person in front of you as people below try to go up as quickly as they can, in some sort of wave that freezes on the break. Upon this situation, you look to the side and contemplate the aircraft wing pretending normality. You are trapped. It is a slow march until the actual door of the plane where you work on creating as much space as possible between peoples butts and faces.

The heard starts to move slowly and you are stepping into the door. A polite smiley pony tailed face welcomes you, providing a false sense of hope to which you again mimic as the survival instinct to socialize kicks in. To be fair, it is your best choice.

e. The Throne: You finally realize what made the stairway march so slow. Inside the craft passengers are fighting for space for their bags over their heads, and trying to squeeze into the seats they have been assigned to. There is the risk of having a bag falling on your face, so never assume nothing. Once again, people squeeze against each other while targeting any remaining space available overhead before catapulting their bag up. It is a fight for resources and only the first ones survive. To the impossible tall man that waited the line to move in the boarding gate, fate has it that there is no space for the bag, and so he must place the baggage under the seat, leaving no leg or feet space, risking a severe knee injury.

Luck favors the short and the first in queue in low cost flights.


3.  “If there is a possibility of several things going wrong, the one that will go wrong, is the one that will cause the most damage”

You miraculously made it! Congrats! The wait is over… You are finally seating on your desired uncomfortable seat, which is a relief comparing to the hour you just spent queueing (please noticed that I did not included the security checks on purpose, that perhaps deserves another post).

There is a false sense of relief that makes me believe I will miraculously arrive on time for my afternoon meeting. How presumptuous of me! As I am leaning backwards almost drifting into sleep, when an (un)expected announcement comes. “there is a malfunction on the plane, we are waiting for a technician”, “We are delayed due to queueing of planes, “We are waiting for a passenger”, “We are expecting delay in take-off authorization due to the delay of the flight”… The lady in front of me is saying that sometimes they make you wait on the plane so the threshold is not met outside, and they do not have to pay any delayed flight compensation. Happened the last 4 times…

'I saved 10 minutes at the hotel with speedy  checkout, 10 minutes at the car rental with instant check in. Now I'm spending 6 hours on the runway.'

The power of contrasts in shaping customer experience here: What counts is the first and last impact. The boarding experience is surely the most consistently awful one. The booking is made quick and easy (if you learnt how to skim through all the extras they try to sell you when booking a flight and checking-in), and the time you leave the plane upon reaching the destination is surely an amazing one.

Yes, I can surely stop flying low-cost airlines, particularly when they are not so low cost anymore (300£ flight? I paid less to South Korea!), and I can’t wait for that time to come. As of now, due to sometimes cost, sometimes schedules, sometimes airport and sometimes all, I have to keep my complaining mind complaining every time I have the dreadful task of booking with Easy Jet. And please remember, especially true at low-cost flights, as Murphy has it, “If everything seems to be going well, you have obviously overlooked something”.

It is what it is…

The loop and thrill of change

Non-ironic post… I know.. how could I?

There is something quite exhilarating about new beginnings. It is a mixed roller coaster of anticipated “saudade” of what you will leave behind, and excitement for what is coming where daydreaming is almost a teleporting experience.

I am now in my 5th country! Moved this month to the Midlands in England from the rainy Wales. The reason: work at a new site for my company. It was a strange move, with lots of unknowns and last minute job demands that really didn’t allow the normal moving process to unfold. Didn’t have time to say goodbye to everyone, or know exactly when would my last night at my old house be.

When reflecting upon the subject, these are the consistent stages I face whenever change is on the horizon:

1 – The plateau

When all is too settled, the sea is flat, no wind, all is in cruising mode… but underneath a swell builds up, craving for novelty and bumpy rides. Calm seas never made a good sailor, they say. This is a very familiar sea I encounter after being in a place for a while. This plateau has a second phase called “the wait”. When you know a wave is coming, but you are unsure when and where it will lead. Time stops in this period. Personally, it feels like a limbo. Focusing on the current task needs becomes extremely hard, it takes a lot of mental power to stay conscious and not drift into a “wandermind” state.


2 Land on sight

When you know where and when you are going. The level of difficulty to focus on present life increases. Your mind goes from a wander state, into an investigation mode. New tasks start to appear on the horizon and some juggling skills come in handy. This is a short phase, I tend to immediately jump to the next one.

3 – The hunt

My favorite. Research, research, research, house hunting, town hunting. Despite the excitement, there is this subconscious certainty that all will be good. I usually let the places surprise me and not plan too much (which plays in my favor. I suck at planning!). Still the research of the new place and of the mundane tasks that you probably never realize anyway (such as, I need a house close to the gym), play some weight in the decision making of house hunting.

At this stage, the first instinct of the place to live is usually the right one. It happened to me the last 3 times. Still all the hunt in between makes it fun and confirms your initial hint.


4 – The shift

Again, my last house move was a weird one, but nevertheless, it still felt like the familiar paradoxal phase of extremes and calmness. It is surprising how quickly one adapts to its new surroundings. Must be the human nomad brain kicking in. Is like you feel at home only when change is present, but at the same time you embrace all the other changes you experienced. You miss some of those, but you do not wish to go back, for each change has brought you closer to some ideal, whatever that may be (haven’t figured out mine yet). Whenever you move, you leave something behind, a little piece of you is in the places you will probably never see again, and the friends you will speak occasionally, and you bring those places with you. It’s a nostalgic exchange.

The only downside of moving: packing and unpacking. It is amazing how much stuff you can accumulate in a single year. Maybe next time I will opt for a minimalistic way of life! However, my need for change has never reached the digital nomad way of life… yet. I’m still more in a “hermit crab” phase.

On a final thought, is not about new life vs old life, for each chapter is part of the same book, of your own story, and all of them are important trails that lead you here. Is not about running away from something, but towards your own quest. For me, the need for change is something deeper that I am not quite able to explain.

Reaching for the sky: 5 Short girl realities

The fact that I am short, was never so much brought to my attention as it did in the past 2 years. We are not tall back home but since living abroad, I think people believe my mom didn’t feed me enough veggies, or that I descend from a goblin family. I should have realized the reason why my head seems to be an arm-rester, is not because others are tall…


Short girl reality #1: one height does not fit all

When I first arrived in my current rented furnished home (house number… I think 19th), The landlord asked me if there was anything I needed to change. After my first night, I discovered the mirror in the bathroom was useless to me. I replied saying the mirror was too high… never got a response back. Let’s just say I learnt to appreciate my forehead since then, and have found 10 new white hairs… Plus at least I exercise my calfs twice a day!

On an additional note, short people are the ultimate balancers in public transport, since the standing holders are most of the times to high to reach.

Short girl reality #2: one size does not fit all

As much as there is no standard height, there is also no standard size. Having small feet, standard size socks are too big and 2 pairs of socks are necessary to get into the smallest adult size shoe. Standard size pants are too long and standard size shirts are like dresses. Finally, I have experienced that reality check moment when my old flip flops were being used by my 10 year old nephew…

This is true…

Short girl reality #3: Stretch your boundaries

Ain’t no shelving high enough, ain’t no table long enough, ain’t no counter wide enough, that keep us from getting where we need to be! We have mutated with the super power of stretching. Short-girls expand their limits, challenge the laws of physics and learn MacGyver tricks to reach impossible heights, which for us is anything above 1,80cm. We jump if we have to, climb where we can, go diagonal and disregard any embarrassment or shame related to owning a kitchen stool. There is no impossible reach!

Short girl reality #4: never ending leg room

Eat your jealousy, tall people. Short people never run out of leg room in airplanes. In fact, we may even find a comfortable position cross legged or hugging our knees and sleep like babies!

Last week on Easyjet… traveling in style!

Short girl reality #5: tall crowds

I can see some rays of light flying over my head mixed with hands of others. Thankfully, phones have huge screens nowadays, and so it allows me to indirectly see the musicians live from the screens of the audience next to me.

Sometimes I also feel invisible. People may step on me or bump into me because they don’t see me. Therefore, in a concert options are limited. Either I am too far back that I can hardly see the people on stage, or I am close enough that I can only see people’s backs. Short girls in concerts learn to expand their senses and absorb others energy as part of the experience, and unfortunately odor… Occasionally we do have a gentleman who puts us on the shoulders so we too, can fully experience the magic of live music.


Even in cinemas, despite the disposition and inclination of chairs, there is always that person that is 6 foot tall sitting right in front of you. So option 1: risk neck and back injury to be able to see the movie in between the heads of the people in front of you… option 2: use your coat and bag as a pillow to get higher! No shame!

There are many other realities that favor the short. We can take advantage of others umbrellas when raining, any couch is a comfortable wide bed where we can sleep soundly, and people usually assume we are younger than we are (or at least they are being nice). We learn to adapt and reach where others think impossible. Jump higher, stretch taller and climb further. Being short makes us giants!

“It is what it is” series 1: mastering the fall

I’ve been falling all my life. Always in unexpected places, on flat surfaces, and in awkward ways. Many have confessed to feel embarrassed when associated to my person when I awkwardly lose my balance on the street. But there are some valuable lessons from being unbalanced on flat surfaces….

The calming life by the sea, with the boats swinging in the wind have brought me into a calm mindset every time I set foot out of my temporary house when I arrived in Wales 1 year ago. I was happily walking around the marina one morning and feeling energised by my new surroundings, when I noticed a bike shop. In a very personal impulsive way, I swiftly changed direction towards it. Not that I am a biker, or intended to buy one just yet… Then, 3 meters from the entry, this invisible chain was connecting only two small pillars amongst 10 unconnected ones. I stepped confidently forward and suddenly I see the sky disappearing from my eyes and metamorphosing into red bricks and textured gray concrete. Elbow and knee meet the ground in one perfect slow motion fall… and blank.


I entered the shop not deviating my route after the event, and the owner looks in awe at me after witnessing this most amazing fall… I believe that was the first time I heard it is what it is in this country, this dreadful sentence that would mark so many more awkward moments the year ahead. Let’s just say I had a bruised elbow (dor de cotovelo as we say in Portugal) for the next month and a half.

Just as much as burro velho nĂŁo aprende lĂ­nguas, or literally translated, old donkey doesn’t learn languages (how I love the nonsense of literal translations), the sentence “it is what it is” is the perfect example of an excuse to not change what you can. You may not avoid a fall, but you can totally manage how to react to it, because it is what it is, until it isn’t!
How to master the art of falling in 3 steps:

1. If you have to fall, do it gracefully: Those who have witnessed, more than I like to admit, these countless (un)expected moments, have said I fall in slow motion. Somehow I will unconsciously predict it will happen a few moments just before it does, almost like a muscle memory resulted my long experience mastering the art of the fall. If you have to fall, react quickly, do it calmly, and embrace gravity for the natural law it represents, even if it doesn’t feel like that when you are in mid air.

2. Get support: When you fall, the slow motion effect will assist in getting support. Avoid falling face flat on the floor. The only time your face interacts with the floor is upon seeing it coming dangerously close. It is ok to show you are human in the moment of the fall, as terror will run through your veins and you will most likely show a deformed expression mirroring your immediate unbalanced existence. However, your existence is the one of a warrior, so fall on your knee and elbow / hand. Fall as it was meant to be and conquer the floor. The pain will be sharp but you will not feel it just yet. Accept it is natural and inevitable, which brings me to the most important part: the clichĂ© – it doesn’t matter how you fall, but how you get up!

3. Get up in a single motion: Never stay down for long. With the same speed and calm you fell, get up in a single movement. Almost like break dancer, make three synchronized movements that end with you standing tall with feet on the floor. The expression on your face must also transform into normality again. You will be a bit bruised, and so will your ego, but a small period of temporary amnesia will help you get through the initial shock and social embarrassment, allowing the pain to build only in your body. Then laugh it out to disguise the pain, and carry on reacting as if nothing happened. Others with you, may feel as embarrassed as you are, so it is in a way a social sharing experience.


One year ago “It is what it is” quickly passed through the bike shop into the work place. Everyone at work uses it to justify the events resulted from running a complex and fun operation where every day is different and the unexpected happens. Despite the healing and comfortable benefits this sentence brings to ones acceptance of surrounding circumstances, it is what it is… until it isn’t, and won’t settle for anything less. The unexpected never truly is!

Ego logic bosses

Mere peasants, who succumb all their resources to the Master of the Land. We deprive our children from their daily basic needs, we steal from our neighbors, we hide our precious goods in camouflaged wholes in the ground where we plant beautiful trees to disguise these resources, all to fill in the masters pantry just a little bit more.

You shall never suggest the master how to organize their pantry, you must give him subtle hints so the master absorbs those into his “own” ideas. If you ever dare to bluntly change course of action without permission of the master, you must face the wrath and the fire piercing out of his eyes, and being marked for life.


Ego Logic: the one’s inflated Ego absolute argumentative reason

I’m sure all of us have experienced such Ego Logic bosses. I define it as the belief that despite reason, common sense and/or factual proof, one’s own ideas / arguments must be perceived as the right ones. This is broken down in 3 parts:
1. The Core dynamic: The need of feeling complete ownership of ideas / arguments is so strong, that ego logic boss narcissism will emerge to transform his thoughts in absolute reason that others are expected to understand, accept and praise.
2. The Creator Complex: Ideas / actions must always emerge from the Ego owner. If ever these ideas come from another party despite having concrete proof, facts and arguments, the Ego owner will classify them as wrong and will override them with some strange logic and distorted truth.
3. Insecure Apathy: There is an apparent absence of comprehending the impact certain actions have on others. The Ego logic boss must at all times feel in control of all that is happening, because his own insecurity does not accept others to take independent actions unless authorized and supervised. Their sense of security seems to feed of the others insecurity and the need to feel superior.

Why people suffer from Ego Logic? I really don’t know. And they don’t know it or ever admit it either, I am sure. So you can only assume by what you observe. However I have encountered and experienced living in the “shadow” of such bosses.


Mr. Charles was the first. A grumpy old human, proudly showing his round belly with a cigarette in his mouth, the 40th of the day at 1pm in the afternoon. His skin was 15 years aged and burnt. Even his glasses were stained by the tobacco. Grotesque little man, lost some precious brain cells to nicotine, which greatly affected his judgment (when the habit of smoking was not even left aside when putting gasoline on a boat…). Mr. Charles sailing skills, left many praying and valuing life a little more and his inconsideration for all the inferior humans around him was legendary. No skills for customer service, business, management or life for all that matters. Speaking with him was a dreadful task I was fortunate enough to endure only for a couple of months on rare occasions. I learnt to cut these moments short by agreeing and pretending to have some urgent task to attend to.

Mr. Nando, a man whose logic defied the smartest of the business man. Team meetings would last an hour, with no clear agenda, no clear message or goal and with words that were wrongly translated from a foreign language no one would understand. Yet you would never dare to seek clarification of his logic, for the 1 hour could quickly turn into a long 3 hour dinner about nothing at all. Mr. Nando would go around a subject until you were dizzy, hypnotize you until time seems to stop. These 3 hours would feel like days. He was void, lost in his own world which he attempt to bring out to manage his business. The success of the “big company” was of course, attributed to his “guidance” (or should I say, to the teams own undercover way of executing without his knowledge). We would be but grateful if Nando would grant us permission to bring something that would fill his own pockets, because his “fair to everyone” was wise and almighty. Long live Mr. Nando!


So many I know suffer under the management of Ego Logic bosses. Strategy is key to deal with these bosses. I will come back to this topic in a near future, but for now, your end goal must be the one with the least loss of personal energy. These people are provided with a black hole capable of draining the energy of the strongest of the stars. Best strategy is to avoid its orbit, or escape… even though confrontation is unavoidable.

I am so grateful and lucky to have now a boss that is completely the opposite.

Life is better upside-down

I have always envy ice skating gymnasts. To my naive young dreamy child eyes, they represented the ultimate freedom. Ruthless, strong and mesmerizing humanoid forms who swiftly cut the ice and levitate with a grace that elevates them to some sort of godly state.

I could not have been further from this ideal… No levitation, no godly state, cutting only my fingers in clumsiness when trying to cook and reaching humanoid status by having some alien life logic. Regarding sports, let’s just say I was never the athletic type…

While growing up, gym classes were a sacrifice I had to endure. My poor classmates dreaded picking me for their teams as much as I did dribbling… or should I say tripping, a football into this square space. It made no sense to me, and I hated the competition. I stood alone on many occasions, stubbornly manifesting my disscontempt, or sharing the goals keeper net with another school gym striker, before magically disappearing into the school cafe. With time, I became an escape artist.


5 years ago I discovered freediving, and at the same time yoga came into my life. These are the perfect sports for my slightly introvert self. Both of them are personal mind games that literally make you jump head first. Here is why I love them:

1. Being under-pressure

In Freediving, self-sabotage is directly correlated with poor performance. Mind and body must become one. Trust is key! On the surface, breathing techniques calm your body and mind and help you slowly focus on something easy. You cannot start a dive tired or overthinking. Then the duck dive needs to be done in a single flow movement that gets you to 5 meters deep with the minimal effort. Afterwards, you synchronize the swim with your heart beat and ear decompression at a slow rhythm. No need to rush, rush wastes energy.

After 15 meters deep, your lungs are less than half the volume. No more natural positive buoyancy. Pressure takes over and you slide down motionless. At this point you feel your body transforming. At 20 meters, your lungs are 1\3 of the size and your stomach is glued to your back. You need to build reserve air to decompress your ears. At 30 meters, your lungs are at 1/4th of the size, you are close to your residual air lung volume. Instincts kick in. Then you feel the compressions. Your diaphragm is pressuring your lungs to recycle your air. Your body is triggering your brain to scream for air. Blood leaves your legs to protect your heart and brain. You need to control the impulse to panic, to control fear. . . you may feel living a sort of a dream and no it’s not the eternal one! Compressions are fine. They are the trigger to turn up slowly. They form a sort of a loop where mind triggers your body to make you believe you need air sooner than you actually need. Mind over body and time is extended. You are in total control at the same time you are letting go. Very paradoxical feeling in freediving.

(it is not me in that video… not yet!)

2. Balancing out:

Turning now to yoga and handstands in particular, I do not do it to find some soul enlightenment and mindfulness zen state. I do it because I love the challenge, and to observe how my thoughts affect my practice. Parallel to freediving, overthinking is an enemy of handstands and any yoga balance. My first handstand felt like a log. I was struggling to balance on my neck (should be on my shoulders), my face was in lobster mode, I could feel blood pounding in my eyes… I thought my head was going to explode. I lost balance and slowly fell to the side, in slow motion but brutal fall on the ground. Not very graceful… Yet, that feeling of being upside down was addictive, and I haven’t stopped since.


So what is so special about being upside-down? Is it the illusion of control, power and the humility that comes with it… Is it feeling unbalanced and learn how to remain whole or is it the growth pains felt when faced with adversity. Perhaps is about solving puzzles, celebrating small victories, having the freedom that comes with expanding your comfort zone. Whatever it is, all of the above or none of them, I’m addicted.

How I miss freediving and the being under pressure… for now, handstands have to do it. As I like to stay, 1 handstand a day, keeps the doctor away.