Pompeii takeout and American assumption

Archaeologists have uncovered another fascinating glimpse into pre-eruption life in Pompeii — the recently excavated termopolium, or takeout counter. I’m agog at the brightly painted counter, still vivid after 2,000 years, and the fact that the physical design is so recognizable: we modern folks still use 

“No shopping malls”

I was reading an article in Salon.com about a reporter visiting South Africa for the World Cup, and found this description of Soweto: Old photos of Soweto show tracts of tiny, rectangular, one-story brick dwellings with bald lawns of worn-down grass. The government built successive 

Egyptian grasshopper

We had a bit of excitement in the house last night. Our mighty hunting cat, who is constrained to several screened verandas filled with planters, was delighted when the largest insect she had ever seen dropped onto one of the plants. She pounced and ran 

US/Portugal culture: Fences and walls

A recent article in the New York Times discusses the fate of a promenade along the edge of the sea cliffs in Newport, Rhode Island. The Cliff Walk, as it’s called, is lined in places by not-very-scenic chain link fencing, in order to protect people 

Things you can rent

I asked my wife the other day what the difference was between alugar and arrendar. I know that alugar means “to rent,” and have commonly seen aluga-se signs on buildings, but on a recent bike ride I saw a sign on a building reading arrenda-se. 

For whom the bell tolls

The other day I asked a friend about the 11:00 church bells, when she happened to be here as they rang. “Is that for a mass, or a wedding?” I asked. I’ve been hearing these bells for years now, usually a couple of minutes after 

Oh, THAT’S how you say it

One of my friends was recently telling me about the trauma she experiences driving her young son and his two buddies to school. “He’s in a growth phase where he stinks,” she said, and added that with three boys that age all trapped together in 

Portuguese body culture

Do you know what I have never yet seen in Portugal? This: I was thinking about it the other day during an email conversation with a friend regarding, of all things, the specialty food we buy for our cat. I’d told her it was labeled 


Ah, spring, when a young person’s fancy turns to thoughts of…snails. Best served with fresh bread and cold beer. This is the time of year when cafés will have signs outside declaring, “Temos caracóis!” (We have snails!) The café in our apartment block had just 

Is the Pope Catholic?

My family used to toss out the above phrase as a pat response whenever anyone asked a question where the answer was patently and transparently yes. But lately I’ve been wondering if that hasn’t outlived its time. Living in a Catholic nation and speaking with