In the fall of 2019, I spent six weeks in Germany, living in the town where I had lived three decades earlier. It’s interesting returning to your past. Realizing how little you remember and how much is forgotten. But somewhere in the recesses of my psyche, it’s all there. It has to be.

Here’s how I know.

About four weeks into my visit, I was walking from the library, up the cobblestoned lane, to my friend’s home. In deep thought, I walked straight up to the door of the house where I had lived for four years. I stopped myself just before I reached for the door handle.

Tell me our former experiences don’t stay with us, somewhere in the recesses of our minds.

Two Weeks and Two Days

The bank of the Douro River, Porto.

It wasn’t long after returning to the U.S. that COVID changed our lives. I was lucky to be on a two-acre country property where I could take walks and enjoy the beauty of nature. That helped.

I clearly remember one day in the summer months when I wondered if people would ever travel out of the country again. The thought brought tears to my eyes. This is why it should be no surprise that as soon as the travel restrictions were lifted for fully vaccinated Americans, I booked my next adventure–Porto, Portugal.

One blog post I wrote while in Germany began, Two weeks. That’s how long I have been in Germany and how long it took before I woke from a dream where I — and everyone around me — spoke German. I had learned German when I lived there previously, but much of it had been forgotten. Rusty from non-use in a monolingual country. The post was about the importance of full immersion when learning a new language.

This time around, it was two weeks and two days before I dreamed in Portuguese, a language I am only now learning. In the dream, I was stumbling over the words, but that makes sense. I’m still trying to shape my mouth around the expansive variety of vowel sounds and the lack of emphasis on consonants which often ground words.

The only difference between grandmother (avó) and grandfather (avô), for example, is the way the vowel is accented at the end. Learning how to shape the subtle difference is not an easy task!

Still, I consider waking this morning from my Portuguese dream to be a good sign. Inspired, I pop in my earbuds and try to remove the cotton from my mouth.

Continuar, devo. (Continue, I must.)

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