Verão de São Martinho

Verão de São Martinho is the short period around St. Martin Day (11 November), when the weather gets warmer and sunnier before Autumn definitively comes. I live in a small town by the Portuguese western coast, so I’m obviously taking the opportunity for some sun tanning.dsc_0202

I’ve lived all my life in Portugal, but now I’m preparing myself to leave. The sea and the sun will be among the things I shall miss more, so I’m taking now as much as I can. Much as the sun warms and comforts me, the feeling of loss that I get is stronger. Portugal is currently facing a huge brain drain. Young people are leaving, because the salaries are low and prospects of development grim. Among those who leave, the feeling that this is the country of the lost of opportunities. There is this feeling that the train has departed and there was no place for us, the fact is that in Portugal you can succeed only if you have the right connections, otherwise all doors will be closed, no matter how good you are. It’s probably not too different from other places (well, where I’m going I didn’t need connections, so not everybody is like that), but in a country with the size and economic structure that Portugal, this is dramatic. There is an insidious environment that incites us to quit, where only cynicism seems to pay, while being honest is considered a weakness of character, a lack of ability to survive. It could be worse, of course. It is worse in Serbia, for instance (and there isn’t even the sea as a way of mental escape), but, having friends there, that is no consolation.dsc_0218

(it looks like a desert, and it is a desert, metaphorically speaking, a desert of hope, but the colours are beautiful)

I tend to be fatalist, that’s a culturally induced characteristic that I share with most of my co-nationals…but I don’t like that feeling. So, I celebrate my patriotism by taking as much sun as I can, the beaches are public domain and sun tanning is free. In a few months, I’ll be missing all of this… in fact I’ll be missing it in a few days, after Verão de São Martinho is over. For now, I’ll just enjoy this short break in Autumn, I think I deserve it, and even if I don’t, o sol quando nasce é para todos, e há que aproveitar.dsc_0207

(The beach is not big, but it’s not small either, and it was empty. Yet this nice couple couldn’t find a better place to sit than there in front of me… that is soooo portuguese…)

I’m pessimistic, but if you though this text is depressing, here’s a very crude yet lucid assessment of the current situation, (in portuguese only).


Filed under Portugal

16 responses to “Verão de São Martinho

  1. Owen

    You need a picture of the two occupants of a London Underground carriage each trying to squeeze closer to the door at the opposite end.

  2. Sarah Franco


    there are good things in life… My sister was insulting me, calling me really offensive names, when we spoke on the phone and I showed her the post and told her I had been on the beach from 2 to 5 pm… she is working in France.

    but I think you understand that’s very sad to belong to such a nice country and understand that there is no place for me here… but this too is part of our identity, we are emigrants, you will find Portuguese in the most unexpected places in the world.

  3. Ben

    Dear Sarah,

    Its sad that you are leaving Portugal, but I hope I can offer a consolation in an invitation to come join us in Australia – the land of endless beaches and sunshine. There seems to be some kind of inherent resistance to change in human cognitive processes, but change heralds (more often than not) new opportunities and possibilities.

    I myself have felt like a nomad for most of my life. Escaping the Bosnian conflict in late 1995, we found ourselves moving from one place to the next. However, I’m so glad we ended up in Australia. It is absolutely brilliant – no words can describe the beauty, generosity and kindness of Australia and its people.

    Also, reading your post made me think of my Portuguese friends here; who have, amongst other things, introduced me to the amazing world of Portuguese chicken!

    Owen – the invitation to spend summer in Australia also extends to you. Its by far the best season to experience Australia, with the exception of the inland plains where temperatures exceed 50 deg C and where you’re almost guaranteed to be knee-deep in snakes (that may be a tad exaggerated). I’m dying to go camping and fishing!

    Best wishes,

  4. Sarah Franco

    Ben, thank you for the invitation and for such a nice comment. It did cheer me up!

    Australia with its beautiful beaches does sound tempting 🙂

    I’m moving to Norway, and although that’s a good opportunity for me to evolve and although I think the Norwegians are very nice, I know it will not be easy to adapt, but I’ll have to manage that as well as I can. But at least I’ll be close to the sea there and there is aurora boreale…

  5. Owen

    Ben, thanks for that brilliant invite – just as the wind lashes the last yellow leaves from the trees here and the rain drums on the window. I’d love to see Australia but first I need to learn how to deal with poisonous spiders in the loo!

  6. Owen

    Sarah, just make sure you’re well protected against Scandinavian short-days depression.

  7. Sarah Franco

    thanks for the concern Owen. That does worry me. I’m probably moving there by mid-January, that means I’ll be arriving precisely when days are shorter, but also at the moment when they start to become longer… I hope it will be a change for the best, so I am facing that as a minor obstacle. I just wish Portugal was Norway, or at least that Norway was in Portugal, but it seems difficult to have only the best of two worlds.

  8. AM

    My dear Sarah

    I didn’t came here often lately, or at least, I didn’t made any comment lately.
    I am sorry for that.
    I can truly understand your post, and your reasons to leave this country of ours.

    I wish you all the luck in the world and, from deep in my heart, i hope you will find the happiness you deserve.

    All the best to you, dear Sarah.


  9. Sarah Franco

    Obrigada, António.

  10. I have to agree Portugal is a very strange country… Probably by going out for a while in the future you will be able to better understand our strange system…

  11. Daniel


    Don’t be sad. Think about new opportunities. You never know what good is waiting for you. Change is great, it makes life more interesting. 🙂

  12. Owen

    Get some full daylight spectrum light bulbs.

  13. Ben

    Wow, I was just talking to my friends about full spectrum “natural” lights today over lunch! I have a desk-lamp thats like that. Since I’ve been studying non-stop these past 2 weeks, I’ve noticed that my arm closest to the lamp got an actual tan and started to get a burn!!! Goes to show how exciting my life is at exam time – getting sunburnt by an indoor lamp! haha

    So yes, they’re a great idea to supplement Vitamin D, but learn from my mistakes 🙂

    Owen and Sarah – thankyou for your kind e-mails. Its so reassuring to know that there are wonderful and genuine people like you still out there. I will reply soon, as I have to compile a slideshow for my friend’s 21st birthday party right now.

    Sending you all some Australian sunshine, with best wishes,

  14. Owen

    Ben, send us as much as sunshine you can – the Northern hemisphere is going through sunlight-crunch!

  15. David All

    I am sorry that career prospects are so poor in Portuagal. I hope you do well in Norway. Am afraid it will be quite different from what you are use to in Portugal. Norwegians are very good and tolerant people, but they tend to be rather quiet, stoic, and withdrawn emotionally. There is a joke about the Norwegian man who loved his wife so much he almost told her! It may take you a while to get past the gruffness that Scandavians are well-known for. Also in addition to long nights, cold and snow, the weather from the sea in Norway in winter is likely to be particularly stormy. Finally with the world going into a major recession, it may be difficult to find a good job in a country like Norway where you have just arrived. Still, Norway is a good country for a fresh start and I am sure things will work out for you.

    Is anybody going with you? Will you be living in Oslo or another part of the country? Wish you all the best and look forward to hearing from you in Norway. Also hope you will still be able at least occasionally to post on Harry’s Place. I always enjoy your comments there.

    Good luck, Sarah,

  16. Sarah Franco

    Thanks, David, that was very nice of you to put a comment here.

    I think Norway is going to be a good experience. I’m going to Trondheim, not Oslo. I’m going alone but I count on having people visiting me all the time.

    At least I’m getting the chance to understand how the peoples on the peripheries of Europe leave,. while most people only care to know about important countries, the big ones.