Lisbon EP #3 Work-life balance.

Helen Vechurko
9 min readJun 9, 2023
Photo Helen Vechurko

It’s still early in the morning, but my room is already sunlit, and things cast sharp shadows on the wooden floor. I wake up to a shy knocking. Then a drawing slides under my door. And what I see is a portrait scribbled by a child’s hand. It’s one of these unbearably cute drawings, with short strokes serving for grass and long ones for trees. There is a big dog in it, and in the figure with a round face, messy hair, and “ha ha ha” in a dialog box, I recognize myself.

The knocking repeats. As I open the door, Tomas, a 7-year-old kid, armed with a whisker and a sieve, a saucepan worn as a hat, gives me this cheerful “ha ha ha”. And I laugh back. And it feels like home.

It’s been around a month since I moved to Beatriz who gladly agreed to rent me a room for as long as I need it. Her grandson, Tomas, a bright and mischievous kid, often stays overnight. My Portuguese allows us to communicate in short phrases and gestures. Sometimes he engages me in guess-an-animal-type quizzes. That’s how I learn the language.

The dog in the picture is Charlie, a huge Labrador that Tomas’ mom brings along with her son. It’s only me who can handle taking him out for a walk, so pushy he is. Beatriz has a cat that loves to sneak into my room and sleep in the chair. She treats Charlie with a distant disguise. Probably that’s why the cat is not in the picture.

In film school, they teach you to design a plausible hero’s world. My foster family comes along with the rent at no additional cost proving that life is the best storyteller so far. But this is not a sweet family commercial. This is a story of lost and found and lost again values.

{-350 eur for rent}

{Account balance 130 eur }

My morning typically starts with a job search. Plan A, ambitious — video productions, play B, basic — photography gigs, plan C, where I have zero experience — shitty jobs. What you should know about employment in Portugal as a non-EU citizen, it’s not about your portfolio, background, and talent, in the end. To get a contract, you need a work permit.

To get a work permit, you need a contract. The absence of logic was one of the odds of my studies at the film school that made me quit. Now I see what they meant…