Portugal: a review


by Alyssa Pilecki 20 and Ishaa Sohail ’20

Gathered in the bottom of Roberts on Saturday, Nov. 17, ten students and two teachers waited for the bus that would bring them to Logan International Airport, from which they would eventually fly to Lisbon, the capital of Portugal.

Those students and teachers were: sophomore Brandon DeLucia, juniors John Doar, Juliana Kulak, Jacqui Oullette, Anusha Memon, Alyssa Pilecki, Niko Rodriguez, Ella Schwartz, Ishaa Sohail, and Ben Zamstein, Model UN advisor Stacey Savin, and Interim Director of the Upper School Carolyn McKee.

We were setting out for a trip aimed to expand our knowledge on the Model UN front at a conference at the Oporto British School (OBSMUN), as well as exposing us to a different culture, history, language, and people.

As the time grew closer and closer to when we would finally take off, excitement coursed through our veins and the hope for a great trip grew stronger and stronger.

While it wasn’t exactly how we pictured it, needless to say, the Portugal 2018 trip was definitely one for the books.

After a layover in Munich and another flight to Lisbon, we finally arrived at our hotel on Sunday afternoon and then the twelve of us set out for our walking tour of Lisbon with our tour guide, John. He was informative and friendly, and he clearly knew the city inside out. We got a basic overview of the city, walking by buildings with facades made of famous Portuguese tile, visiting churches, taking pictures, and going to the Elevador de Santa Justa and Rossio Square. Generally speaking, it was pretty warm in Lisbon, around 60 degrees Fahrenheit, but it was also rainy and made for some bad hair days.

The hotel we stayed at for the next three nights was called Corpo Santo, a quaint little place that was within walking distance of a lot of sights and shops. The receptionists were friendly and accommodating, and the hotel had a table with candy, fruit, and Portuguese snacks that they were giving out for free. The rooms were really spacious and seemed as if they had been recently renovated, and the beds were super comfy. The bathrooms at first glance were nice, but later we figured out there were lights inside the showers that kept changing colors, so that was surprising.

The next two days just comprised of sightseeing. On Monday, we visited many churches that were all beautiful and made with such intricate detail that they were truly awe-inspiring. One of the churches was actually called a “dead” church; because it had been a scene of destruction and not even one person had survived, it was left in ruins as a way to honor the victims of the tragedy.

John also brought us to various spots that were perfect for taking pictures with pretty views of the city’s distinct red-roofed, pastel-colored buildings in the background. Then we visited a fort that was strategically built by the Moors to be a defensive site in the case of an attack. The fort, still standing in perfect condition, was built in the 700s and had not been conquered for around 400 years, signifying just how advanced the Moorish people were in their architectural and defense techniques.

On Tuesday, we visited the famous Palace of Pena in Sintra. The palace combined features from both German and Moorish architectural styles, which created a unique but eye-catching sight. Rich with history and beauty, the palace serves as a sign of true wealth, and the abundant gardens that had been planted when it was first built are still there.

Afterward, we drove to the coast where we stopped for a bit and took some amazing photos of the landscape. Giant waves crashed onto the shore and water shot out of geysers. It was very windy in both Sintra and the coast, though, which made taking pictures of ourselves kind of difficult.

Wednesday, we had time to go shopping by ourselves and do some exploring in the morning. At around two in the afternoon, we embarked on the second part of our journey and took a train to Porto, which we quickly discovered was much colder and rainier than Lisbon had been.

That night, all twelve of us ate together at a restaurant that seemed like it would be nice at first. We discovered the menu was kind of strange, though, with specialties like chicken blood rice. While a few us still enjoyed the dinner, others had been a little disappointed. Food in America is obviously different than the food in Portugal, but at times throughout the whole trip, it was difficult to stay open-minded.

Thursday, which was Thanksgiving back in America, was quite an experience. We spent the morning walking around Porto with our new tour guide, Miguel. While our time with him was short, he showed us Porto in its most beautiful light. We even went to the library that inspired the one in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. It was so interesting seeing one of the places that helped in the creation of a popular story we all read when we were younger.

Later that afternoon, we went to the Oporto British School for the first day of the Oporto British School Model United Nations (OBSMUN) conference. The conference began with an opening ceremony where the Headmaster Robin Silk, Secretary General TĂłmas Koehler, Deputy Secretary-General Stephan Sazanov, and OBSMUN Director Leta Ferreira gave introductory speeches. They even had a Guest Speaker, Ana Lehmann, who gave a speech that, while wonderful, honestly felt like it was longer than the entire trip.

After the opening ceremony, all the delegates went to our committees and we figured out which countries were our allies and which were our “enemies”. We met tons of really cool people and were so pumped for the second day of the conference.

The second day of the conference was really long. We presented clauses and came up with resolutions depending on our committees. After a tiring day of debating, we went to a fancy dinner hosted by the OBS for all delegates. Niko and Ben showed everyone else there how Americans dance, and they were all in awe. It was pretty crazy to say the least.

The last day, the Disarmament and International Security Council (DISEC) and Human Rights Council (HRC) combined to form the General Assembly, while the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and Security Council had their emergency crises. At the end of the day, there was a closing ceremony, where they presented awards and the security general gave a speech again. Unfortunately, no one from KO received an award, but Brandon did receive the Meme Award.

After the ceremony, we went to Porto Airport and relaxed before our flight at 6:00 A.M. the next day. Most of us went to bed for a short and sweet nap, but Juliana, Jacqui, Alyssa, and Ishaa pulled an allnighter because we had to wake up at 3 A.M. The four of us were exhausted so we slept really well on the flight back.

From that point forward, we were on our way home and to say the least, we had the time of our lives in Portugal. We all grew closer and created new friendships with each other and the delegates from other schools.

We, Ishaa and Alyssa, definitely recommend going on at least one of the KO trips, especially if it’s to another country, whether that be for Model UN, Team Tobatí, or one of the June term trips. We plan on going again next year and are excited for the journey that awaits us. Where should Ms. Savin take us next?