Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Friday, October 19, 2007
And if you want to, you can too, just enter your birthday wishes in the comments section (or send us an e-mail), and I will make sure that at some point, Dan checks the Blog for them! I don't think he really does check otherwise, but just in case I won't spoil the surprise and post a picture of his present. You can all check back later and see it after he does. It is getting set up right now and I hope he likes it, cause I know I do!
Thursday, October 18, 2007
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Well, I guess what I am trying to say is...between that and all of the lovely e-mails I have been getting from everyone, you guys have made it all worth it, aw shucks.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
Hopefully no one out there is as depressed as I am by this most recent development. But in case you are, here is a photo Dan took last night that might amuse you and help lift your spirits. I was tired of sitting on the hard plastic lawn chairs we have been using, so came up with a more comfortable way to watch TV in our empty living room. I was also feeling a little under the weather, and I guess I was a little more tired than I thought. Luckily Tazzy is very tolerant...I think she stayed there for over an hour.
Monday, October 15, 2007
We have also seen several people doing this paragliding thing. Not sure what it is called, they have a parachute with a little motor on the back. Looks like you could get some good views from up there, though we imagine these things use a bit of gas. Here is a photo of one getting close to the ground.
Saturday, October 13, 2007
Tuesday, October 9, 2007
- beating it on a rock (variation, throwing repeatedly against a rock)
- dipping it in boiling water three times, then cooking it in a copper pot (only copper will work)
- kneading it with grated daikon (variation, beating it with a daikon root as hard as you can)
We chose to go with the simpler sounding...boil the heck out of it for an hour(ish...times varied between 30 minutes and 2 hours in recipes). Though there were also endless cautions about boiling too long and it will get tough, boiling to little and it will be like chewing seafood flavored chewing gum (not a flavor Wrigley has released yet, for good reason).
So we boiled away, and arbitrarily decided when enough had been enough. Then threw in some garlic and olive oil, stir-fried it for a couple of minutes, and served it up. After the first bite took a few minutes to get down, we had differing opinions about whether it was a result of too little cooking or too much. Unable to reach a consensus, we simply kept eating. We discovered that the small tips of the tentacles were actually rather edible, so concentrated on those first. When they were gone neither of us were too keen on continuing the venture. We may get up the courage to try it again sometime, but I will at least wait until the Portuguese cookbook I ordered from Amazon arrives. Ah well, at least we tried.
Sunday, October 7, 2007
The first five days we spent in the hotel, and I must admit that a small European hotel room with two 50ish pound dogs is less than ideal. When we received word that our air freight was going to take another week (by air?) we decided to take our landlord up on his offer of letting us use their condo in Barra (read: beach condo) so we could be a bit more comfortable. So we stayed there the second week. I also managed to find the appropriate converter for my laptop (the one we brought didn't work), and then we managed to get a mobile web service so I eventually began a more productive existence than wandering the streets of Aveiro and napping away my jet lag while Dan worked those first few days.
We moved into the house on September 15th, complete with a futon mattress, a small box of kitchen supplies, and a borrowed table. Still, empty as it, it was nice to be "home." Of course in the weeks since then, we have only added a couple of curtains, a TV, and some appliances, so still a long ways to go, and hoping for the container with our furniture by the end of this week.
While we try to fit in fun and exploration in our free time, so far much of it has been filled with car shopping, appliance shopping, getting services like cell phone and cable, and bureaucratic nonsense like tax id cards. Recently the ratio of things we have to do versus things we want to do has been tipping slightly more in our favor, so here is hoping that trend continues. The beach is great, I will try to post pictures of it, as well as the town of Aveiro, soon.
Saturday, October 6, 2007
So what have we learned since we arrived? Well, the Portuguese like food, especially cod. But also octopus, squid, eel, shrimp, mussels, and anything else that comes from the sea. They also eat a fair amount of meat and not much for vegetables, but lots of fruit. The grocery stores have aisles devoted to olive oil, and olives are practically free (as is the salt, as they farm it here in Aveiro). Eating out at restaurants is very popular, there are a couple of restaurants on every block, and it doesn’t cost much more than shopping and doing it yourself. A yummy fish dinner for two with a half-bottle of wine and some appetizers sets us back about 25 euros…I think we’ll be dining out a lot over the next three years.
Our home is still, well, not quite a home. Almost everything we own was packed up from our house in Burlington on August 22 and now more than six weeks later we’re still waiting for it. So we’re surviving day-to-day with our two plates and two forks and two glasses and a table and chairs we borrowed from our landlord. We’re excited to have a real home so that we can invite people over for dinner and such. It seems that’s the socializing method of choice over here. We’ve been to our landlord’s a few times for lunch or dinner, and hope to be able to return the favor soon.
Both Katrin and I are working a lot. The schedule at my job is 9:00-6:00, meaning it’s basically 8:30-6:30. There are three breaks during the day – 9:50am and 5:30pm for an espresso and one hour for lunch. But oftentimes people go out to lunch and then we take an hour and a half. Interestingly, it is Portuguese law for the company to provide lunch to employees. So lunch in the cafeteria is free, and it’s quite good with a choice of four different hot entrees every day. And if you go out to lunch for the day, then the company pays you 4.20 euros into your salary. Not a bad gig.
So what will the next month bring? Well, we do have a trip back across the Atlantic planned at the end of October for my friend Al’s wedding in Aruba, so that will feel like quite the getaway. And some much needed rest. I gotta tell you, we love being here but setting up a new life and a new home and starting a new job in a new country where you don’t speak the language requires a lot of energy. Some R&R at a friend’s wedding will be great. And we do expect our stuff to arrive soon and when we have that set up we’ll start to feel like we actually live here. And the other big challenge is to learn the language, but that will come with time…and with the lessons we’re taking twice a week. So we’re not quite there yet, but once we’re settled here and can communicate with the locals, I think we’ll love it. It’s really a beautiful town in a beautiful location with some great people and amenities. We hope everyone is doing great, enjoying the fall weather wherever you are, and we’ll be in touch again soon with the next update.
Friday, October 5, 2007
Then there is the front yard.
And of course the front of the house.
We can't wait until our furniture gets here. Right now it is on a boat from the US. It left our house in Burlington on August 22nd, and is now scheduled to arrive in Lisbon on October 10th. We are hoping to get it on the 12th. A little slower than we expected, and I still won't believe it is coming until the truck pulls up out front. For now we are "camping" with the bare essentials that we air freighted from home: A futon mattress, a box of kitchen supplies, a small table and chairs on loan from our landlord, and of course some of our clothes (though not enough if the weather starts getting cold on us). We also bought some electronics that we couldn't bring with us, a TV, washer and dryer, and dishwasher. Living in our new empty house was kind of fun and exciting at first, but a few weeks into it and the newness has worn off.
Thursday, October 4, 2007
“It's the little differences. A lotta the same s**t we got here,they got there, but there they're a little different.” Vincent Vega (John Travolta), Pulp Fiction
There are the things you know you are going to miss. The big things, your friends and family, the sense of place you have at home, being able to communicate without having to put so much effort into it. Because you know you are going to miss those things, and expect to miss those things, it is not a shock to you when you actually miss them.
There are also the not-so-big things that you suspect you are going to miss, such as your favorite restaurant around the corner, beautiful Lake Champlain and the Green Mountains, or the Daily Show. But then you find Gafanoto, a lovely restaurant around your new corner, and you are busy exploring the lovely seaside and countryside surrounding Aveiro, and then you find John Stewart’s smiling facing coming to you undubbed, 4 days a week (though 2 weeks behind), and you don’t have time to miss some of those not-so-big things you expected you would.
Then there are the little things. Things that you never even considered twice while at home, but now discover that they are different. And for some reason, it is these things that get under your skin. So while we haven’t been to the local McDonalds (actually, there are 3 local McDonalds), here are a few of the differences we have noticed so far:
The fact that I can only but yogurt in little tiny 125 gram containers, and I go through a lot of yogurt, so in the US I buy big tubs of it so I don't go through so many small plastic containers. Why does this bother me so much? I have no idea.
Another thing that’s different here is renting a home is not common and when you do rent it’s typically for about ten years. As such, the houses come empty. That means no appliances, no lights, no plants in the yard, and so on. And when I say no appliances I mean not just washer/dryer, but also no refrigerator or stove or water heater, or even kitchen cabinets for that matter. We got lucky because the previous tenant was a German colleague of mine who left a lot of stuff behind. So we had a refrigerator, for instance, which are very small here and are built into the kitchen cabinetry.
The highways don’t have merge lanes and people travel at all rates of speed. So you’d better be ready to hit the accelerator when you get on. There are speed limits (120kph), but nobody cares. The cops are concerned about talking on your cell phone while driving, but not about speeding. However, the drivers follow the rules here, meaning they use their blinkers, they only use the left lane for passing, they’re not terribly aggressive, etc. But that doesn’t mean you should assume they’ll stop for you in the crosswalk and they don’t’ see anything wrong with driving just a couple of feet off your bumper.
Another different thing at work is punctuality, or lack thereof. It’s not unusual for someone to show up to a meeting 15 minutes late or so. Especially if the meeting is scheduled anywhere near the espresso break(s). Also, during meetings people regularly have side conversations and answer their cell phones (cell phones are how everyone communicates, even within the office). But I do like my job a lot, the people are very nice, and we do some interesting work. And on top of that, I get to do some traveling. Milan and Paris seem to be the first destinations on the agenda, but hopefully there will be many other great places to travel to.
Door handles only go in one direction. You try to turn them the other way, they just don’t go anywhere.
Light switches always seem to be on the outside of the bathroom.
Ethnic foods. While Portuguese cuisine is quite good, the variety of non-portuguese restaruants and food in the grocery stores is rather limited.
Girls (and women) don't play sports, especially not football. And by football, of course I mean soccer.