Zebra Tales
Yuen Ning '21

A Weekend of Pastéis De Nata

The Saturday of this past Winter Long Weekend was my 18th birthday, so my dad decided to bring me somewhere both of us have never visited before – Portugal. From a young age, I’ve been lucky enough to have the opportunities to travel abroad every year. My parents have always believed in the education which traveling provides, which one will never find in a textbook or classroom.
As soon as the bell rang signaling the long weekend, I grabbed my suitcase and got in the car, bubbling in my seat as we drove to Boston Logan. Lisbon was our destination – it had been a while since my last visit to Europe (Seville, which I loved very much), and I was excited for another adventure. On the way to my dad’s friend’s place, I looked out of the taxi window to see dull, uniform buildings gradually replaced by shorter, unique houses of pastel colors, aligning irregularly along the hills. I felt as if I were transported into a different world in just a couple of minutes.

My dad’s friend and his family greeted us warmly at the door, and soon we were strolling down the stone-tiled roads, heading towards the town square. With a camera ready in hand, I was determined to capture the essences of Lisbon. The sweet aroma of pastéis de nata wafted in the streets, leading us to an old bakery specialized in making these iconic pastries. A buttery flaky pastry filled with a silky, indulgent egg custard, lightly browned on the top – who could’ve come up with a better creation? They reminded me of familiar flavors of home: Hong Kong’s staple egg tarts were influenced by the Portuguese when Macau was their colony.

It was fascinating to find elements of Portugal that I could recognize on my own, and my visit again confirmed that my parents’ belief holds true; growing up, I have learned much from different cultures, not only about others but also about myself. My identity and perspective of the world are shaped by so much more than just my own upbringing and background. Yet in sixth grade, I remember envying a friend who was visiting the Knott’s Berry Farm theme park when we were going to Istanbul to see the ruined homes of people I didn’t know about. Many of my friends associate their childhood holidays with Disney Worlds, beaches, and zoos, but mine is filled with memories of ancient ruins, museums, and temples. I often complained to my parents why never went to “fun” places, but looking back now, I’m grateful for being exposed to so many different cultures and civilizations.