Unwrapping a gift conveys the feeling of surprise coming head to toe, face to smile and eyes to deep inside. Apparently, beauty originates in these rendezvous: unexpected as life, well-written as a new song gently played on the piano, just the moment before placing the fingertips on the keys. Not perfect at first, full of remarks and proofread million times, but still, something new to hear.
It usually happens to me: to unwrap the next city I am going to relocate in. Unwrapped as it opens in all its façades introducing numbers, colors and street names. But most importantly, breathe of lives, those of the thou-sounds [a voluntary mistake, perfectly balanced with] strangers with whom I lock my eyes with, every day. Thousands in sounds and colors, that like printed images stuck in a pigmented memory.
Surprisingly in a maze of feelings, I got to know Lisbon in late November 2019. I had to move with the purpose of ‘intern-shipping’ my life again. This time, to a country I used to dream of when I was 18-year-old, when me and my best friend were about to interrail Portugal but never managed to.
I had to move with the feeling of leaving behind my life as a student and as recent graduate in Economics and Management of Arts and Cultural Activities; I decided to apply to an Erasmus + Program and eventually won the grant.
It was July when me and Merc’art got to know each other, when a beautiful video on their website caught my attention and made me feel on the same page as the values the company wanted to share. To the point that 3-4 application emails seemed to bounce back (“error” was their clear statement) and any further try was worthless. But as life teaches us every day, sometimes hopelessness can turn into a ‘hop-portunity’. Of course, a big jump…
In the end, I managed to leave in November. Southern Italy, Rome, Milan, Shanghai and Venice were fertile grounds for me during academic studies and now…Portugal: never thought of learning Portuguese in my whole life: will I be able to make people understand me? Will I be good enough for my company?
Questions, questions. Uncertain answers. Despite them, here I was.
Left my hometown, Canosa di Puglia, a day before starting the internship, on my own, with no house but a deadline of a week in an Airbnb apartment and for a city that I had never been to. I had to use Uber for the first time, managing to meet my driver after 10 minutes in a not-so-easy-to-understand picking point. Indeed, followed by two big bags, those that in Italy were said to be the ones used by Southern people who emigrated to the North during Sixties, seeking fortune. I felt as much as a seeker.
The name of my Uber driver was Pedro and we started chatting. He was the first Portuguese I had a conversation with. He was kind and left me in a very steep street I wanted to climb by myself, but he didn’t allow me to go for it, he wanted to help me. It turned out to be my first lesson learned.
My first day started at LX Factory rushing back and forth, up and down, in order to find the Art Container. In the end, all sweated and timid, I introduced myself to the team.
It was a tough week, fighting against shyness and deep discovery, while at the same time looking for a new place to stay. I went home happily ever after spending the whole day surrounded by art and people who were as much as fascinated as I was.
From that week on, the city disclosed its beauty in full power: a slow process that allowed myself to feel grounded but at the same time filled my mind with beautiful pictures and dream places.
“Todo cambia con la luz” – I couldn’t stop singing the song Populous (an Italian artist coming from my region, Apulia wrote and produced in 2017 while falling in love with Lisbon, alongside the release of a complete album named “Azulejos”. Not read with the Spanish jota sound, lesson two learned.
I saw Lisbon in very dark and light days. Each rua and calçada dance as clouds and sun get along together. Nothing is the same and this city resembles the changing nature of feelings, as well as both the capacity of reinvention and rebirth when the sun is up. The latter, while falling at sunset on Rio Tejo, has a light that perpetrates and burns, even after disappearing behind the visible horizon, on its way into the ocean.
The ability to be changeable and new matches with the growing art. One can find murals everywhere, museums, cultural associations and events are one step away. Expression is what makes this city alive, in colors and words, in music and green spaces created to bring people together. Everyone becomes part of a new vision, both in old and new neighborhoods.
December and January
I found a new apartment and moved in. It seemed that new co-ordinates were set both in my personal and working life. In fact, I was not the only one who was moving: we (Merc’art) were about to leave our beloved LX Factory. I must admit I was lucky enough to live this chapter. LX Factory had me for a short time, but it was as intense as if it was for longer.
Almost every morning, Café na Fábrica kept me awake with coffee and torradas – not to mention that it was the first place where I discovered the abatanado type of coffee (a kind of Americano). But together with coffee comes my favorite part, the people: the guy at Café na Fábrica who, since he knew I was Italian, each morning greeted me with ‘Buongiorno’ as well as the smiley girl serving coffee on my way to the office, who tried to teach me some Portuguese. Small things that resonate, making life worth and meravigliosa.
During these weeks I got to know my team even better and felt free to reveal my most vulnerable side. At first it was a healing process, something that our Founder and Believer made accessible through the development of the very-complicated-door of self-acceptance. Current status: under construction, renewed. I still have trouble in finding the right key to that door, but sometimes it feels good to accept the clumsiness I developed my entire life and get closer to imperfection, as to as to human nature. I am proudly more human than ever now. My work consisted in this, while….
Running up and down stairs or by elevator, moving packages and folding boxes which in some ways made me used to LX Factory. Walls, streets, people and sounds became familiar to me. Then, it was time to leave.
Moving to the new office took all the new energy we were able to bring in, while letting the old one flow out. It was another door in our building up process: four walls became three with a stained glass, transparent enough to filtrate light to colors, a new rainbow each morning. Art surrounds, quiet and alive in the “quiddity” of these eyes. Let them indulge, our new motto.
February 25th, Carnival or the end of my days as intern.
Call it coincidence or destiny, this experience had me even before starting: all appealing values I was expected turned into the perfect combination of personal enrichment and career growth I was searching for.
This is not certainly a review, just a short space on the gift paper used to wrap Lisbon. I’m unwrapping constantly each corner of this city in the hope of filling the blank with something special, just a slice of life. Not mine, ours.
In the end… no, in this beginning, I am grateful. I feel like the city does – colorful in its light, dark in its color.
My contentment has found a purpose, at least in a magical sense. Are you ready for a new magic spell?
Anna Rita Germinario, Merc’art Content Wizard soon-to-be Lisbon-citizen.