Sunday, November 18, 2007

Another update from Dan...

Hi again. I guess I haven’t been quite as diligent as Katrin in maintaining this blog. But I’ll make an appearance now and again. Here we are in mid-November and I’m getting pretty close to feeling like this is home. The arrival of our container was a major event for us. No matter how much effort and mental preparation you put into it, you just don’t feel at home while you’re sleeping on the floor and eating with plastic ware. So having our stuff has allowed us to convert this stone structure into a home. And what a difference that makes in making this place feel like we belong.

The downside of this is that we have been spending our weekends working on the home. We’ve never owned a home before, but I’m starting to realize what it’s like. Every weekend is some project or another…cleaning, landscaping, fixing up a bedroom, redoing furniture, etc. Sounds like my childhood…but that was my parents’ home. But we’re quite close to having this place in order and being ready to explore. That’s basically been our plan – get life situated and then get out and about. For weekend excursions we’d like to get to Lisbon, some of the cathedrals and castles around Portugal, and up to Galicia in Spain. And when the weather warms up we’ll do some larger adventures to various parts of Europe. Nothing confirmed yet, but we’re talking about Greece, Sweden/Norway, Eastern Europe and Ireland/Scotland. After all, we don’t want to leave here in three years and say “We should have gone…”

One comment we’ve heard from several folks back home has been along the lines of “I don’t know if I could ever do that.” Honestly, it’s not easy, but if you’ve got the make-up for it then it’s a ton of fun. The hardest part, of course, is the beginning. It’s hard for me to compare since it’s still the beginning for us, but it hasn’t been easy settling in. Social life is slow at first because you don’t know many people; the little details of life are complicated; not being able to communicate (easily) can be frustrating; and so on, and so on. Thankfully, Katrin and I are similarly addicted to travel, which means we get energized by seeing new places and meeting new people, which is why we wanted to do this. It’s not that it’s fun to do something simple such as trying to buy a bottle of water from a place where you don’t know how the line forms, how to ask for it, what you’ll actually get, how to pay for it, etc. But the fact that the simple things are a challenge is kind of fun, and then the second time is easier, and that’s invigorating. So the main thing you need to get by is a positive attitude and the determination to make a go of it. And the other thing you need is a strong relationship. Doing this on my own would be frustrating and less enjoyable. Over the last couple of months Katrin and I have been very dependent on one another to help each other out and to share experiences. I’ve heard of extraordinary divorce rates among expats, and I can easily see how the challenges and frustrations can lead to strain in a relationship. Thankfully, Katrin and I haven’t had those problems and are working well together to have a successful adventure over here. Working as a team is important to both get things done and to learn…and, of course, the necessity of leaning on one another for support. It’s great to do this together.

The next event for us will be a party we’ll be hosting on the 24th. That will be a good learning experience to see if hosting a party is terribly different here, as well as a great opportunity to socialize. We’ll keep you posted on how that goes. Happy Thanksgiving to all of you and please stay in touch.

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