PC 129 A new experience

The streets of any strange city are often confusing; normally one city block looks like any another; one way streets and directions to unfamiliar areas compound one’s sense of unease, tinged of course with the excitement of discovery. Walking around is at your own pace; driving one is in the flowing traffic and you need to know where you are going, or at least have a sense of that direction. These days you can have as much assistance as you like in the form of a satellite navigation/information system beamed to your smart phone or in-car dashboard display. They help quite a lot, although when they  start ‘recalculating’ because that side road she (also a female huh?) asked you to turn down was either a one way street the wrong way, blocked by a council refuse-collecting vehicle or just looked plain wrong, you want to shout at the sky: “aaggghhhh”!

Lisbon city map

So it was on a Sunday in early July we found ourselves heading to a school building (Escola Secundaria Maria Amalia Vaz de Carvalho) in the Portuguese capital Lisbon in search of a yoga class, taking place in an inflated tent. I think the principal is great. Take over some space, in this case a spare classroom, inflate your yoga studio inside (note: not inflating your ego!), pump in the heat and conduct an hour’s Vinyasa or something similar.

On Rua Sampaio e Pina we found the entrance to the waste ground that was obviously used as a car park and nodded to Santos, who was the weekend security chap. “Bom dia. Yoga?” he asked politely, peering through the car window. “Bom Dia. Sim!” He pointed to a rusted iron fence through which we should drive; down a ramp and park in the dust, among the weeds, alongside an enormous building. The sun was high in the sky and it was hot. We were early and were just discussing life and the universe when another car pulls up and out steps a young woman who says she’s Sophia and she’s our yoga teacher; she had made a ready assumption we were there for yoga! Why else would you be there on a Sunday morning? We walk towards a small white metal door at the rear of the building. Up a flight of stairs …. to the door of the studio.

“Is there a loo I can use?”

“Yes, down this corridor take the first right, another 50 metres, on the right.”

We knew there were showers we could use after the class and took advantage of someone coming out of the previous class to guide us. She asked whether we were Sophia’s parents – think I could have been her grandfather more like!!  It was a ten day Camel Ride, as they say; along this corridor, down some stairs, along that corridor, turn right, another 100 metres – it’s a large school building. Dusty indoor plants (Ficus Benjamina), looking as though they needed sunlight, water and a good feed, make a feeble attempt to brighten the entrance hall

On the way we pass the signs of school life at this time of year; notices on doors: ‘Exams: Silence!!’; School Sports’ Day’s photographs; timetables largely coloured out; photos of past Alumni; displays in English and Portuguese of subject matter – biological systems, the planets, geological strata etc; a noticeboard with personal messages and holiday advertisements etc. The half-tiled corridor walls bring back my own memories of decades ago, although these are that blue colour so loved of the Portuguese, not the mud brown on my Wiltshire school corridors! We eventually reach the showers, look, and retrace our steps, hoping we’ll find those showers when we need them!

“You can change in there” says Sophia, pointing to one closed door for me and to another door for Celina. In mine lies detritus from the IT Department. How quickly machines become obsolescent and then obsolete in the technology sector these days; dead desktops, keyboards by the dozen, cables everywhere, the odd printer and many screens all piled higgledy piggledy in the corner. Dusty and forlorn; depressing actually! I am reminded of that little green cursor winking at me …… fond memories of my first VDU.

Hot Pod

The pod glows purple and blue in the room next door and our fellow participants, some nine in all, are gathering and finding a floor space. The light level is low so Sophia, when she starts the class at the front, sort of appears in silhouette. Soon we are sweating in the 38ºC heat and going through the asanas; after almost two weeks of no yoga, this is good. All too soon it was over, we say our thanks and namastes, and head for the showers; we are the only ones going in that direction, suggesting that the others preferred to shower at home.

Down this corridor, these stairs, left by the potted plants and there we were five minutes later, the girls and boys shower rooms. The building was completely empty, the echoes of children and staff and bells and doors closing all too apparent on this quiet Sunday; I felt like I was trespassing in this empty school, devoid of pupils and staff  yet haunted and inhabited by its past. We decided to simply use one room and chose the boys’ – easier to explain if interrupted maybe? Rather worn and paint-splattered floor tiles, a shower area around by the windows and ….. no hot water! But we coped – washing the sweat off and a brisk dry with a towel.

Then out in to the hot sunshine, into the baking car, switch on Jezebel 2, and ask her to take us to Jardim des Amoreiras in the Rato district. “Turn  right out of the car park ……” Here we go again, except this time we’re relaxed and exercised, so in theory it should be a doddle.

Richard 27th July 2018                                          richardyates24@gmail.com

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