In Amsterdam Oost at Sara Guia’s home

A year ago, I met Sara during a meeting organised by the Facebook group of Expat bloggers in The Netherlands. We started to follow each other on Instagram and this “virtual” friendship became a real life one. There are many things that I admire and love in Sara. I could start with her work, a beautiful representation of her vivid and creative spirit, I could go on with her kind and sensitive soul and continue with her terrific sense of humour. But let’s give the words to Sara. Enjoy!
Can you introduce yourself and tell more about you?
-I am a 33-year-old multi-potentialite at heart from the most beautiful city in the world: Lisbon, Portugal.
Currently, I am a fibre artist, a balfolk dance teacher and a Portuguese translator.
I hate pineapple and I love all things peppermint.
I have anxiety and I took bagpipe and accordion lessons some years ago. I am a wife, a sister, a granddaughter, a daughter and a super proud stepmother and aunt.
How did you end up in The Netherlands and in Amsterdam?
-After a long time struggling to make ends meet each month, even though both my husband and I had tons of work, we decided we had to leave our country and try our luck somewhere else. We wanted somewhere not so far away from our Portugal (because my husband has a nine years old daughter living there), where the language would not be a barrier (pretty much everyone speaks English here), where we already had friends so we wouldn’t feel totally alone while settling in and, most of all, where our working skills would be useful and valued like they weren’t before.
My love affair with Amsterdam began a couple of years ago, as every time I visited my friends here I would leave with the feeling that I somehow belonged in this place. So, when the time to decide a place to go arrived, it was a pretty easy choice!
Has your vision of Portugal changed since you live here?
-I wasn’t expecting it to be in a positive way, but yes. You know, Portuguese are always undermining their worth, so I too was a part of this cultural trade. Until I arrived in a different culture and realized we are much more hard-working, resilient, polite and educated than we think – or we make others think of us, for that matter. The ‘expat’ experience also made me much more proud of my country and culture: I had to distance myself from it to really appreciate our natural beauty, our history, our artists even.
On other aspects, I also realized deeper we still have a long way to go in terms of social rights, beliefs and mentalities, working policies, etc.
Is the place of women in the Portuguese society different from in The Netherlands? 
-Yes, very much so. I find society to be a bit more equal for men and women here. There are more women in management positions and there is a lot more respect for mothers and their needs. People are rewarded for their abilities, no matter what their gender is. In Portugal, women are still the weakest link, the ones supposed to take care of the children, the house, the chores – while having the extra pressure of having to pursue a career at the same time -,  their opinions are still a little undermined and there’s still all kinds of prejudice towards them. Women are harassed and cat-called every single day and that’s, unfortunately, kinda’ normal. We have a very conservative Catholic background and not so long ago, in the dictatorship (lasting 41 years and ending in 1974) women were not allowed to work, vote, get a divorce, study, live alone, etc. And although things are changing, we are still getting out of this mentality and we still have a long way to go.
As a stepmother what do you find the most challenging and how do you deal with it?
-Let’s get real: loving a child that is not yours biologically is not a ‘natural’ process. It takes time. I do love my stepdaughter to bits but I must be honest and say it was hard at the age of 27 having a fully grown four years old messing with my free agenda, my house, even my beliefs. She made a mother of me and that shook my inner-self: what do I want her to learn from the world, how can I protect her, what examples can I set, how I and my husband’s relationship is impacted? Will I ever want my own kid? I am very lucky because her mother was very accepting of me from day one and my husband is a wonderful person, with whom I can always be honest about what I feel. That made the perfect ground for us to build a solid relationship where we support and understand each other while making sure our daughter’s needs are always taken into account. If we deal with whatever comes as a team, while also being honest with each other, then we can overcome all challenges.
What can you tell us about Julieta and your creative journey?
-Julieta was born out a self-expression necessity. While growing up and until recent years, I was lead to believe – by society norms – not only I was not a creative person AT ALL, but also we all have to choose a specific path and stick to it. All my friends knew from an early age what they wanted to do: an architect, a marine biologist, a lawyer, a mother, a traveler, a singer… But I still don’t know what to choose.
I now know that’s ok. I’m a dancer, a writer sometimes, I was a children’s English teacher for several years, I love wool and all its crafting possibilities, I was an amateur actress, I’ve loved working at the airport, I’ve worked in bookstores, in museums, I’m now working as a translator… the list goes on. To this day, I can’t choose just one single thing out of all of these (and so much more I still want to perceive!).
Julieta was the outlet for all of the things I love: taking pictures, writing, making and selling my fibre art pieces. She is my alter-ego.
My creative journey is a mirror of who I am: all and nothing. Black and white – and all the colours in between. Happy and sometimes sad.
I experiment new techniques, I fail, I try again. I like doing a specific thing for a certain amount of time then, in the next month, I do the exact opposite. If you look at other fibre artists’ work, for instance, they’re much more consistent. But I’m still figuring out who I am. Where do I go next. And I’m at peace with that now.
When you are busy with a new project for Julieta, which part of the whole thing is your favorite?
-Well, I love to have custom-orders, where clients tell me their preferences on colours, shapes and materials because that makes me focus much more. I have a due date and I work hard at it. When I end it, I feel satisfied and a bit proud of my achievement, I admit. But what really drives my guts is when I have a new idea for a piece (crochet or handweaving) and I can’t stop until I’ve planned it, gathered the right materials, researched all the techniques involved and start working. I also love taking pictures of my pieces and I have a mini home studio just for that.
Do you have role models? If yes, who?
-I don’t have role models, I think, but I do admire certain people for specific reasons. First and foremost, my husband: he is the most hard-working, talented and generous person I know. He grew up in a place where opportunities were not at your door but at 15 years old he decided to wake every morning at 5.30am and study in Lisbon, just so he would broaden his horizons: believe me, this is just an example of how he got where he is today. He never stops wanting to learn more and more about – pretty much – everything: coding, design, cooking techniques, electronics, nature, carpentry, aviation, fabrics, dance. He even cuts my hair! Oh yes, I do love him.
My sister-friend Raquel, for courageously raising two beautiful children in a country that doesn’t support motherhood. My friend Catarina Sobral, an awarded illustrator building an admirable career in and outside of Portugal. My parents, for so many different reasons.
But there is one person I really admire and had a deep influence on me: my late grandfather Eduardo. He was a kind, generous, sweet, educated man who loved history books, his work, working in his vegetable garden and always loved me unconditionally. He taught me to love Lisbon and books.
And then there are, of course, a lot of people whom I admire for their work: a couple of my country’s freedom fighters, some fibre artists whom I aspire to reach one day, a bunch of musicians that changed my life, it’s a never ending list.
What always cheers you up when you are down no matter what?
-Balfolk dancing! An impromptu dinner-party with my friends. Camping under the moon. The beach. The beach. Oh, have I said the beach?
Which advice(s) would you give to someone who comes to live here?
-Be truthful to yourself. Embrace Dutch specificities and try not to lose your mind if (no, when) they step in front of you on a queue. Take Vitamin D supplements. Learn the language.
What is your favorite spot in Amsterdam?
-I am still discovering the city and, truth be told, architecture in the Netherlands is not so diverse… I’m kidding.
I love the Jordaan neighbourhood, the east road next to the Amstel river and all the parks, my absolute favorite being Frankendael: not only because it’s five minutes from my door but because it has this wild-nature vibe that makes me feel I’m in the countryside. And I’m super spoiled because I live in a super cool neighbourhood: Watergraafsmeer.
Thank you very much Sara for your time and for sharing with us a bit of your life in The Netherlands. You can find Sara’s photos, work and thoughts on Instagram , Facebook and on her blog

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