A life between two (or more) worlds

As a child I remember fantasizing but also creating a lot. Inventing stories and coloring them in my mind, diving into my own world. At the same time, I never believed in Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny. I guess, I was very well aware of the difference between fantasy and reality. This is most probably also a result of my childhood and education (more on that later). However, I always dreamed and still dream big. Those big dreams keep me alive and bring me forward. They push me to be the best version of myself. They also give me a lot of disappointments. Failing is a big part of my life but it wasn’t (and isn’t) that easy to accept that fact. I mean, who does like to fail? Do you know what always helps me to face failure? Children, most precisely babies. They fail like a hundred times a day, they keep making mistakes over and over again. They never give up. And most importantly, they don’t see it as a failure! It’s simply doing something over and over again until you succeed. I’ve always been a ,trial and error’ kind of person. To really know what and how to do something, I have to experience it. To really know what makes me happy, I have to experience unhappiness. I was born in sunny Algarve, Portugal and grew up there six years with my mother and dog. My father was doing military service in Madeira and moved right after to Switzerland. We had no money. My parents had me at a very young age (19 and 21). Leaving his family to give them the best future he can, was the only option he and many other fathers saw at that time. Along my childhood, I always felt an emotional gap between my father and me. And writing this is very personal and hurts also a little bit. But it is how it is. Today, I know, that the person suffering the most with that distance is probably him. As a little child in Portugal, I missed having a father because the other children had one. But it was like missing something that you actually don’t really know. So it didn’t really hurt, maybe it was more like an empty space waiting to be filled. I hope you know what I mean. I was a very independent child. And my mother probably just let me do whatever I wanted (I have to ask her about that, but it feels like it). When my mother told me that we’ll be moving to Switzerland, I remember feeling very happy. I already pictured my new life with my father and mother, finally. I remember also having a precise idea of Switzerland, but don’t remember it. I think there was a lot of snow in it. We packed our things, well some clothes and that’s about it. I don’t remember taking any toys with me. We left Portugal on March 27, 1991. It was my 6th birthday. I did not sit next to my mother on the airplane. Apparently there were no seats together anymore. Can you imaging that? I can’t! I don’t know what my mother was thinking at that moment and why she let her six year old daughter sit by herself in an airplane. I asked her once. She doesn’t know. But I also didn’t say a thing, I did not cry. You’re probably wondering why I’m going into such details? Don’t worry I’m speeding up a little bit. But this details are very important to understand why I ended up doing what I do and why Taste of Portugal exists. We arrived at Zürich Airport. My father had a stuffed animal for me, a dog. It was my sleeping buddy until the age of 16, I think! I remember arriving in a very tiny, empty and dark apartment. My bedroom had no toys, no color. On my bed was a Barbie in a big red dress, my birthday present. I remember feeling disappointed and feeling very badly about it. I think I never told my parents that. This was my new home. No beach, no sun, no dog, no playing in the garden all day long – no independence. After that, I don’t have any specific memories of my first days, months in Switzerland. I joined preschool at some point. Did not understand a thing on my first day there. I don’t remember learning Swiss-German. There was my first day at school, don’t know about that either. But I have that very vivid memory of getting up early by myself sometimes, putting the key around my neck and leaving for school. One day, the alarm clock did not ring (or I overheard it) and I arrived at school too late. I felt so embarrassed and tried to explain my situation but did not know the word for ‚alarm clock‘ in German. Otherwise, I never felt left out at school. I never felt like belonging to anything either. I just went with the flow. My parents told me to be good at school, to study and become independent. I should not stand out in a bad way or ask to many questions. Now I know, this was not good for me. But I don’t blame my parents. They were young and afraid of that unknown country. They didn’t want to be sent back because that meant not having enough money. My parents gave me everything they could. We were typical Portuguese immigrants: We’re in a foreign country, so let’s behave. My parents barely made any Swiss friends. On the other hand, I had not even one Portuguese friend. I visited Portuguese school every Saturday morning and hated it. I wanted to be Swiss, I couldn’t identify myself with my Portuguese heritage. We spent every summer vacation in Portugal. When we arrived I felt very excited. After three weeks I just wanted to leave. I missed Switzerland so much. At the age of 16 (late puberty probably) I started to not feel like myself. I had that inner voice telling me that I should discover more, that the way I was living could not be it. When I finished school, I decided to not join my parents on their next summer vacation in Portugal. I started working at the airport, moved out and traveling the world was my goal. I didn’t travel the world that year. I simply did a two weeks vacation to the US. I started studying architecture. I didn’t like studying at the university. But I did like architecture. I stopped. I did a special course in communication, not at the university and started working in advertising. I never really liked it. I was basically a project manager trying to organize everything and everyone so that the advertising agency would earn money like crazy and the client would be happy. I quit. I started working in branding. I liked it. Building up brands is somehow similar to building up a fantasy world. You have that dream world on paper that you will never reach in reality but if you’re very ambition and work hard you can get pretty close to it. In 2012 I worked myself into unhappiness. I didn’t have a burnout but I was feeling very unhappy. I was once again working for an agency and not for me. I quit, again, and decided to never ever (not realistic at all) let someone else influence my life. I went to Malaysia by myself. Read many books and had that moment of revelation when reading Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse. Siddhartha decides that he wants more for his life than what he’s having at the present. But he does not know what more. He goes on an adventure and lives very different lifestyles. He starts questioning himself and why he can’t find that one thing. He’s constantly changing his direction in life. And finally I felt understood, by a dead writer unfortunately, but at least someone! And most importantly, I finally understood myself. From that day I moved to Switzerland, I tried to fit in. I tried to please my parents by being a ‚good girl‘ and study. I tried to ignore my Portuguese roots and be Swiss. I tried to be an excellent employer. I tried not to fail (remember what I wrote in the beginning). But as said I only tried. I never WANTED. I forgot about myself. I forgot about that first six years in Portugal when I lived for myself, when I just did things, asked questions, dreamed big. After my travels to Malaysia, I went hiking at Costa Vicentina with my mother. True fact, I had spent all my money in Malaysia and was totally broke but I felt free as a bird. Like everything was possible. And I fell in love with Portugal again. The Vicentina Coast and I are since then inseparable. And I guess that it will be a life lasting love affair. I started traveling around Portugal by myself. I found back to my Portuguese roots. It was not through my parents or my family. It was through the country itself, through nature and the Portuguese people I met along my journey. When in Portugal, I try to soak in all the beauty nature has to offer and get all inspired by the stories I hear from strong and brave Portuguese people. I sadly never related to the Portuguese people living in Switzerland. But through Taste of Portugal I met some fantastic Portuguese that also grew up in Switzerland and had gone through exactly the same thing as me! Portugal is not braggy, it’s not posh. Portugal is honest and true with all its flaws. I wish for the Portuguese to put themselves out there more often. There are so many brave people and inspiring projects in this country. Portuguese are shy and don’t like to attract attention (remember what I told you about my parents?). I founded Taste of Portugal with many intentions. One of them is for sure my fulfillment brought by exploring new places and meeting new people as well as sharing stories. My friends all know how I love to tell stories vividly. And on the other hand, I feel obligated to help the Portuguese spread their creativity and knowledge more actively. Because there are so many talented people in this country. What I did not intend but accidentally happened, is the empowerment of Portuguese women! Let me tell you something, Portuguese women are the strongest ones I know! I’m so impressed by their way of putting carrier and family together. They are by far more ahead time than Swiss women when it comes to that. They start companies while pregnant, they work full-time without missing out on being a mother and wife. For me, they are superwomen and I want to be like that! I should now probably come to an end. So here’s a conclusion to my story: Ironically, I didn‘t learn from my Portuguese parents to be a free spirit and live life as it comes. Something people associate with the Portuguese culture. But I learned how to structure life, to be organized (maybe my parents were Swiss in a former life), to respect and be kind to others. I learned how to fix things, to cook and to appreciate food. I learned that life needs constant work, and that it‘s hard sometimes, many times. They taught me to be an independent woman. I learned by myself that I am a free spirit and that I can trust life, I don‘t need to always work that hard. I learned by myself that I can ask any question I want and that I don‘t need to have the answer to everything. I learned by myself to be self-confident and that neither I nor others are always right. I learned by myself that it‘s not always about money but that sometimes having it makes life easier (not happier). I learned so much by myself so far. By quitting my architecture studies I decided to study life and learn from it. No school contributed to the person I am today, sadly somehow (ok, I can read and write and do some other things) but school poorly contributed to my personal growth. Along my path I had to hear a lot of people questioning my decisions. They told me things like: „Do you know what you want? You’re always changing jobs, starting new projects, sometimes not finishing them and starting new ones again.“ It was hard hearing it. Sometimes I also questioned my way of jumping from one thing to another. Actually, it never felt like jumping. It felt and still feels like LIFE EXPERIENCE. I get inspired by so many individuals in my life. Some will stay forever, some will come and go. I soak in all the stories I hear and get inspired by people and nature. Thanks to the people around me, I keep learning and growing. I'm proud of my achievements. And I know that they are the result of hard work. Some of you might not know, but I work full-time. Taste of Portugal is not my actual work. I feel at home in Portugal and in Switzerland. I couldn’t and don’t want to decide where to be forever. I live in two (or more) worlds. Here and there is where I want to be. Thank you life! Yours Liliana PS:

There are two people I did not mention in my story, otherwise it would have been even longer. No words can describe how much you are appreciated, loved and needed in my life, my little sister and dear husband-to-be!