At the backside of our hotel in Tavira in Portugal is a small business area with real estate agents, a restaurant and a driving instructor. Behind that there is a tidy neighborhood of white apartment buildings. Everything looks quite new and clean, yet one can sense there must be poverty. In other European countries you can expect a satellite receiver on every balcony, but over here there is only a great variety in drying laundry to be seen.
When you walk on there is a school and a playing area next to it. This also looks very clean and tidy; there is not even the normal garbage you can see in other cities in Europe. Our goal is a bar a little further, not the one on the corner you see first in which the interior looks like an abattoir with all these white tiles that covers it completely in the inside. The one we like, has made an extension of wooden poles and plastic. The furniture consists of very simple kitchen chairs and plastic tables.
Nobody over here speaks any English but it doesn’t matter. We are able to order our drinks any way and we get the local delicacy with it: yellow salted beans. We love bars and restaurants like these because no tourist will ever go over here. It’s so nice to see the people live their normal life and have their normal talks. You do have to get used to the shouting and outcry. The people always seem to be in the middle of a big quarrel.
This evening we see a very cozy scene. There is a big family with a very young couple. The boy and girl can’t be older than 13 or 14 we think. Yet there is a baby and the girl doesn’t hesitate one second to unbutton her blouse to breastfeed the child. The family looks at the scene in complete serenity, almost quiet. We do think it would be better if there was less smoking, but it’s still very normal to smoke everywhere in Portugal.
When we sit outdoors the internet café a few days later, I point my wife at a couple of schoolgirls. They giggle and talk a lot and yes, that’s the young mother in the middle of the group. Our feeling was right about her age. We discuss the problems this double life must give to the girl. What a weird life she must lead!
A few days later we sit at the same spot enjoying our bica (a small coffee) when my wife notices the girl again. This time she is on her own shouting and probably cursing in her mobile phone. Tears run over her cheeks and she throws her school backpack on the floor. After a few paces she comes back and picks it up again and walks on.
We see her a few times walking by again, always on her own. No giggling with best friends around anymore, nothing but a sort of blank face she has and we notice the dark bags under her eyes.
We think there must be trouble in paradise and curious like we are, we decide to have a look at that bar again before we go back to England.
We get the same reception as before, people are always friendly to foreigners.
It’s not hard to recognize the family of the girl. They are all sitting together except for the young couple. The baby carriage is in another corner with the young girl next to it, drinking a Pepsi.
At a certain moment she takes the baby in her arms, unbuttons her blouse and starts feeding.
When I pass her to go to the toilet I notice that tears are dripping on the forehead of the baby.