Sunday, March 25, 2012

Our Final Farewell to Portugal

Well, we did it. Our last few weeks in Portugal were filled with good-byes and tying up loose ends,

Playing Tourist in Aveiro one Last Time

with making costumes for carnival,

Our little Horse goes to School

 with dinner parties, 

Our Last Dinner Party at our House
Tristan Entertains the Guests

 and fresh oysters from the Ria delivered to our house by Deolinda, which were consumed amidst the boxes. 

Oysters...Gourmet Fare!
There is Life Among the Boxes!
 Our final day the kids and I spent with our good friend Teresa, had one last Gymboree class, returned to our empty house, packed our huge van, 
Packed and Ready to Go!

 got some sleep,

A few extra Minutes of Sleep

then we woke up and drove away. 

The airport seemed like a marathon all on its own, assembling crates, taking the dogs for a last bathroom break, going back and forth between the oversize baggage and the counter. Checking in 5 bags, 4 animals, 4 people, and consolidating carry-ons. Dan left Tristan with security to sprint to the gate next door when he heard them call our names on the final boarding, while I waited on the other side with a screaming Amelia who they wouldn't let me carry through (she won that battle with them). It was exhausting, but we made it through it and the following 16 hours of travel.

Thank you all for sharing with us our life in Portugal, and now that our adventures here have come to a close, please join us now on our new blog:

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Next Big Adventure

With one foot still in Portugal and the other not quite in Nanjing, since we returned from Christmas in the US I have been feeling a bit like we are in limbo here, and unfortunately not the cruise ship, margarita drinking, "How low can you go?" type of limbo. As I walk around our house everything I see is automatically being viewed and classified as either 1) take with us on the plane 2) include in air shipment 3) include in sea shipment 4) try to sell before we go, or 5) why haven't we thrown that out already? In addition there are so many little things that need to gone through and classified as well. From our experience moving here I know the movers will pack everything in sight, so this time I want to be (well, with two kids this time I NEED to be) a little more organized. Today begins the two week countdown, and my list grows longer rather than shorter at the end of each day. But somehow it will all get done. Or not. But that will be OK too.

Now that we've returned from our house hunting trip, decided upon a home and a school I am feeling more prepared. Now I'm starting to look at some things here in Portugal with nostalgia, though others I may not be so sorry to see go. I'm looking forward to the new adventure in China, but also nervous about many things. I mean, I thought grocery shopping was difficult in the beginning here, I can't imagine how long it will take me to decipher some of the Chinese products, and this time I will have 2 kids in tow. So stay tuned, it will be quite an adventure, and there may even be a new blog address for you to check in with soon!

Adeus Portugal, Ni Hao China - Dan's Take

It is now official. As soon as the visa application is complete, expected sometime around beginning of March, we will be moving to China. We have now been in Portugal for 4.5 years and it was a big decision whether to move to another country or to return to USA. In the end we felt it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and it’s a good time for us to make the move while the children are young, adaptable, and not too attached to a particular place.

The city will be Nanjing, which is a small Chinese town of about 8 million located 75 minutes up the Yangtze River by fast train from Shanghai. We just spent last week there looking for a home and getting ourselves situated. We found a nice place that is in a compound with lots of other expats and close to where the kids will go to an English speaking international school. Amelia is very excited to speak English at school, and Katrin is excited to have other moms and children to play with during the day. Here in Portugal that doesn’t really exist since every home needs two incomes to have a decent standard of living, and the children are either in daycare or with their grandparents.

As for me, it will be a big challenge, but how could I say no? For those who love to travel and seek adventure, this is the ultimate opportunity. It will mean a lot more travel as my responsibilities cover the region from Australia to India to Japan, but I feel a little more comfortable leaving home when Katrin and the kids are surrounded by a good support network.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Grandpa Bill and Grandma Jo Appreciation Day

So I was informed that last some of my family got together to have an appreciation dinner for my Grandparents, and since I can not be there to join them, I thought I would post some of my thoughts and stories here on the blog for the world to see.

But where to begin? My life has been so enriched by their presence and generosity. From summers of taking us up to the cabin to catch tadpoles and try oh-so-patiently to convince me to water ski. Fueling us up each morning with Grandma Jo's special french toast (no one can beat it!), and keeping us in good spirits with her hilarious patented sense of humor. To being there to see us walk down the aisle and dance at our reception (they have always been better dancers than I'll ever be).

They gave me the most amazing opportunity a girl could ever receive when I was only 11 years old. Growing up, I could only be described as horse crazy. Putting every cent of birthday and paper route money into my "horse account," and experiencing that secret disappointment every Christmas when even though I got a lot of wonderful gifts, Santa didn't leave a real horse in the back yard. Eventually I was given riding lessons for every gift giving occasion, and what a thrill! I couldn't have been happier, that is, until one day Grandpa and Grandma announced that I had worked so hard to save, that they would contribute half the cost of a horse, and, more importantly, the monthly board required to keep it. The search was on and my mom and I spent our Saturdays combing the classifieds and driving out to test ride quite a few horses in the area. But none of them were quite right. Until one day we met Cee-Jay, a little morgan horse who was so full of spunk and pep when riding, but so sweet and patient on the ground. After a cool down ride on my own with him I returned with a huge grin and we knew we would be perfect partners. I imagine that mucking out stalls in the cold January Oregon rain might not qualify as Shangri-la for many, but it was truly paradise for me and I spent every possible moment I could at that barn for the next several years. It is not many 11 year olds that can honestly say their dreams have come true, but I was one of the lucky ones.

And while sometimes they do make dreams come true, or give us the chance to attend colleges across the country, other times they may disappoint us, but they always have our best interests at heart (even if we don't think so at the time). Like when I was 17 and Grandpa went to the police station in Bath, England to ask if he should let me go out to the club I wanted to go out to that night (they said no, and I was furious at the time, but now, 17 years later, I guess I can see his point!)

And when our fury gets the best of us, there is no one like Grandma to put a smile on our face and pick up the pieces. Quite literally if necessary, like once when we were at their house in Neskowin. I must have been about 7 or 8 at the time and got so riled up by something Devin did or said (just what it was I have no idea now) that I threw my hair brush at him. He ducked. The window cracked, I cried and felt horrible and was so nervous about getting in trouble. All I remember happening next was Grandma coming into the room, hearing our story and looking at the window. She then walked over, pulled the shade down, and said "There, now Grandpa will never notice." And I never did hear another word of repercussion from it. Everyone needs a Grandma Jo, because with her on your side the world can never really come crashing down around you.

So, for all you have done and all that you do, Grandpa Bill and Grandma Jo, I love you with all of my heart.

Skiing with Grandpa

I actually wrote part of this story out several years ago. It was one of my favorite childhood memories. I thought I would share it today as part of Grandpa Bill and Grandma Jo Appreciation Day. The memories below more than make up for the memories of Grandpa opening our bedroom door at 5am to say "Everybody up, we gotta get to the mountain!"

I remember the fist time I went to the mountain with my family. Everybody said I was too little to ski, so Grandma stayed with me at the ski lodge all day. I slid around on my little cross country skis at the base of the mountain, and pouted and sulked and watched everybody else joyously riding up the lift and swooshing back down the mountain. It was a beautiful sunny day and the snow sparkled, and at the end of the day all of the tired skiers came in beaming with huge smiles and talking about what a perfect day it was. When Grandpa came down he said it was such a great day that he thought he would take one more run. I glowered knowing I would have to wait still longer, but then he surprised me and scooped me up in his arms and skied over to the lift, and sat me down as we rode it up together. Higher and higher we went, and when we got off the lift Grandpa swooshed down the mountain holding me between his legs on my little cross country skis. I could feel the wind blowing through my hair and the snow sliding smoothly beneath me, we were going so fast and it felt amazing. Sure it was really only the little baby lift, but it still lasts in my memory as one of the best runs down the mountain I have ever taken.

In the following years I was old enough to join everyone on the mountain, but I still got left behind when I tried to keep up with my brother Devin and cousin Justin. I got tired and frustrated being the littlest one, and my toes got cold, and I knew they really didn’t want me around. Then I realized, if I skied with Grandpa, when I got tired and my toes got cold he would take me into the lodge and sit with me and let me have a hot chocolate and a donut. And at the end of the brilliant sunny days if I asked “How about we do one more run?” Grandpa would smile and off we would go. 

P.S. Hi, this is Dan here. Katrin mentioned this family event and I wanted to get in on the action. Katrin and I have been together for going on 13 years now and in that time I've had a lot of opportunities to spend time with Bill and Jo, not only in Oregon but also even in Vermont and Hawaii. What strikes me more than anything is their generosity. They have always made me feel so welcome as a part of the family, showered me with smiles and kindness every time, and it's made me feel comfortably at home in their presence. I've heard it's not always easy marrying into a new family, but they sure have tried to make it easy for me. Please pass much love on from me to them.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Catching up

A Christmas Market in Vienna
It’s been a long time since we gave everyone an update on our adventures in Portugal. We have no excuses other than being busy with two small children and two jobs and four pets and some friendly visitors and traveling to interesting places and, and, and.

Port Wine Tasting with Kim and Patrick
October and November were good times to receive some friends and family in Portugal and to share the developments of Amelia and Tristan. In early October we had Gemma (Dan’s mom) here who came over to play with the grandkids. We also had our friends Kim and Patrick visit from Colorado who took the chance to explore Portugal and were able to visit with us for a few days. And then we had the chance to celebrate an early Thanksgiving with some family for the first time in several years as Grandpa Steve (Katrin’s dad) and Grandma Pam came over. It was great to have the chance to catch up with everyone and to see the kids play with some of their extended family members.
A Concert in Vienna
 In early December we decided to explore a little bit more of Europe and we flew to Vienna for a few days and then took a train from there to Prague. Our children remain enamored with traveling, especially Amelia who has now been in ten countries and is always talking of her next travel opportunity. As we schlepped all of our stuff down a flight of stairs to get on a bus to take us out to the plane in Barcelona and after being on the go for quite a while Amelia declared “I like taking a bus to get the plane because I am a traveler.”  The Christmas season was a great time to visit as the cities were lit up and revelers were everywhere and the famed Christmas markets were a fun adventure for the kids. The little ones weren’t used to the colder weather there but we got a bit lucky with temps in the low 40s and no rain. In Vienna we enjoyed touring the Spanish Riding School and walking through the gardens of the Schoenbrunn Palace and in Prague we mostly walked around saying “wow”. The innumerable spires, the old bridges across the river, the castle up on the hill and the general eclectic feel of the city left us breathless. 
Our Quaint Little Hotel Room in Prague
And the View from the Windows
We are now preparing for our next trip which will be to USA for the holidays. This year we’ll keep ourselves to the east coast where we’ll have the chance to visit old friends in DC, celebrate Christmas with family in New York, and ring in the new year in Miami.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Wheels on the Bus

This has been a huge hit for the last few weeks. Both kids like to pack their bags on go for a trip on our new bus. Unfortunately the bus has seen better days and may be taking a trip to the recycle bin soon, but it sure was fun while it lasted!