One evening, as we come down a narrow set of steps in the Alfama district of the city, we get stopped by a woman who instantly involves us in a long story about her plight. She says she is ashamed of her situation, she doesn’t want to beg for money but if we could have a look at her wares, maybe we would like to buy something? I tell her that we are travelling light and therefore don’t want to buy anything that we don’t actually need, but we’d be willing to have a look but here is nothing there for us… Her story is heartbreaking and quite confusing, how she hasn’t got enough money for food, she moved to Lisbon to support her daughter in her studies but her daughter left her and now she is all alone, can’t pay her bills or get food or medical treatment for terrible tooth problems. Maybe she will die, she says, as she has a strange feeling in her throat that means she can’t chew and swallow food properly.
We offer to make her some soup in our campervan but she says she can’t get to Belém, so we arrange to meet her the next day in the same spot with the soup.
The following day, we pack a whole box; soup I made especially for her, home made apple puree and a Kombucha culture with written explanations on how to feed it. We return to our rendez-vous at the appointed time and wait. Standing in front of an Electrics shop that has a huge television screen in its display, I’m idly watching the news, when suddenly the Charlie Hebdo shooting appears. It’s hard to understand what happened, as the subtitles are in Portuguese and of course we can’t hear the commentary. It’s hard to comprehend the ferocity of hate that leads to such an act. Frank and I both stand there, agape, speechless.
The woman doesn’t turn up for her food either.
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