ONCE UPON A TIME

PERSONAL JOURNEY

Once upon a time, there was a little girl (me)…

Before I learned to read or write I already knew of Alexandria, Persia, Egypt, Algeria, Iraq, and other kids who did not wear the same clothes as me, and did not look like me. Back in those days my father was a Portuguese electrician working in Arab lands. During the week he was part of a team of builders, but during the weekend he would turn into an independent traveller riding camels and facing sand storms armed with a purple Kodak and rolls of film. Every six months he would land in Lisbon and bring home, to my older brothers and me, small souvenirs, stories, new strange words, and photo albums of his working travels.

In between dad’s arrivals, my mother cunningly fed me soup spoons pretending they were airplanes landing in my mouth, saying. “Daddy sent this plane.” Nonetheless, she felt like she was raising 3 children alone. And when she fell pregnant the 4th time things changed. So, the adventures and the travel stories stopped. The colourful photographs of unfamiliar people and unknown places were replaced by familiar family albums filled with pictures of my 3 siblings and me. On the little’s girl 7th birthday the 5th child was born and my father’s non-travelling fate was sealed.

Years later, at school, the teacher asked the class to write an essay:

“If you were a journalist what kind of journalist would you be?”

That day I arrived home at lunch time with a mission. I asked my father what different kinds of journalists existed. He turned on the old brown TV and asked “What do you see?” For the 9-year-old me it was evident. There were only two kinds: those who were at the office, and the ones who were far, far, far away. My answer was obvious: I wanted to be a journalist who walks on different lands, who hears different stories, who eats different foods. I wanted to be a stranger in a strange land living between the edge of the unknown and cultural ecstasy, sharing it with the world.

My answer was obvious: I wanted to be a journalist who walks on different lands, who hears different stories, who eats different foods. I wanted to be a stranger in a strange land living between the edge of the unknown and cultural ecstasy, sharing it with the world.

Coincidently, my father’s old van, broke down. The cream Datsun 1200 was about to become the creative fuel for the imaginary maps I would create. From that moment onwards instead of going to the piano classes fruit of my mum’s hard work and sacrifice, I hid inside the car. And, from the driver’s seat I would make my way around the world through make-believe roads.

Time passed by, the old broken car was taken to the scrap yard, and the dreams were tempered by reality for a short while. After my parents divorce, the idea of journalism was replaced by rewarding opportunities in the tourism industry. The only moment I could travel was when I sat sitting by the sea looking at the horizon line, imagining what was beyond what could be seen. Yet, at the age of 20, my best friend invited her to come over to the UK.

The lightbulb of hope was lit.

(To continue next week…)