Sunday, December 28, 2008
Part of the joy of this trip was seeing Amelia and Michel (her great-grandfather) get to know one another. There's a large age-gap, but they seemed to get along perfectly. Papy loved to smile at her and she would always smile back. It was sad to see them have to say good-bye, but we hope to reunite them in Spain next summer. And the way Papy is still cruising along, we don't expect anything but more of the same fun and smiles.The rest of the trip was full of great food and good company, and Amelia braved the plane rides like a champ. A bit of fussing on the first flight, but completely passed out the whole ride home. Probably due to the fact that with all of the new and exciting things going on she couldn't manage to close her eyes. Of course she took a 4 hour nap when we got home yesterday afternoon, and then slept in until 11am this morning (waking up to eat of course).
For more pictures of our Christmas trip, click here.
Sunday, December 21, 2008
Saturday, December 20, 2008
Our HR department has apparently known this since June and was kind enough to tell me about it in December. They’ve applied for the correct visa, but the Portuguese authorities don’t move that quickly. The locals say that if the government employees work too fast then it will be obvious that half of them aren’t needed.
The lawyers, as you might expect, chose the cautious (and law-abiding) route and told me, first, to not leave the country and, second, to go back to the US until this is resolved. The problem with the first is we have plans to go to France for X-mas, and the problems with the second are too numerous to count.
Then, by a miraculous stroke of luck, my French citizenship was granted the other day. Since my dad was born in France he recently regained his French citizenship and, as his son, I’m eligible for the same. It took many months of paperwork but I now have a French birth certificate which I took to the French consulate in Porto to apply for a passport. I can then apply for a work permit in Portugal as an EU citizen which should make all the difference.
In the short term, this means that we will get to go to France for Christmas and introduce 3-month old Amelia to her 91-year old great-grandfather. In the medium term, it means we should be able to continue living and working in Portugal for a while. And in the long term, we will now have the opportunity to live and work in any EU country without having to worry about visas (thanks, Dad!).
Sunday, December 7, 2008
First my mom came over for a visit and to meet Amelia. That was wonderful to have some family here again, and to see Amelia spending time with her grandma (aka gemma). They had some good times together and we (especially Katrin) got a little bit of a breather. We even went out on our first date since early September when Mom was nice enough to take the baby for an evening. We enjoyed some sushi in town which, while it didn’t compare to the sushi we’ve had in some far-flung parts of the world, made for a very relaxing evening.
Second we hosted some friends for an Amelia play date. This was a chance to introduce her to some of our friends who hadn’t met her yet, and for others to come over and play with her. She was on her best behavior all night and did some smiling and even laughing when Fernando was making faces at her. Our friends brought her some sweet gifts too…she’s well taken care of over here.
And third we celebrated Thanksgiving. We did it on Saturday since I naturally have to work on Thursday and the following Friday, and it worked well this way. It was a chilly rainy day, i.e. perfect to stay in and cook and eat. Katrin found a turkey this year that was small enough to fit into our European oven. We were happy to celebrate the holiday despite the fact that it makes no sense been here. Perhaps next year we’ll try to organize something and introduce our friends to it. As we've been told, it is the perfect Portuguese holiday…all about family and food.
Sunday, November 9, 2008
Juxtaposed with this bastion of Catholic faith, a mere 10 kilometers south, is a valley where those of the Darwinian faith can contemplate the 100s of dinosaur tracks that have been found preserved in the stone. There is a path surrounding the area, and you can even get down and walk among some of the very large footprints. Needless to say in this country of 98 percent Catholic there were hundreds of visitors lighting candles and worshipping in Fatima, but I believe we only saw 2 other couples tracing the steps of the dinosaurs with us.
The town we visited on Sunday was Tomar, a town with an enormous monastery built in a variety of architectural styles that used to serve as the headquarters of the Knights Templar many centuries ago. It was quite a place to explore, and very easy to get lost in once we were inside. The town of Tomar itself was very pretty and quaint, right on a river with a lovely park and had some pedestrian only cobbled streets filled with shops and restaurants.
But the real story of this trip was the ease of traveling with Amelia. She’s a good car sleeper and as long as we kept her rested and fed, she seemed to take everything else in stride. We had concerns about eating meals in restaurants with her, but the Portuguese are extremely amenable to having small children in restaurants…not only the employees, but the patrons too. At lunch the first day nearly every table had a stroller alongside, and dinner had several small diners as well. We never felt even remotely uncomfortable if she started to whine, as Portuguese restaurants are usually loud and boisterous, and no one notices or cares about the added noise. However, we’ve quickly learned that new parents can’t try to stick to a schedule. Dinner will not necessarily happen at 8:00, but rather when the baby decides it’s a good time to take her out into public.
We stayed in a cute B&B on the edge of a river in the very tiny village of Dornes. It would be a great place to return to in the summer with the dogs (which they allow, one of the few places we have seen in Portugal that do). The trip was enjoyable not only because it was the first time we’ve done a trip like this in several months, but because now we get to bring our daughter along. We’re talking about doing a similar trip in a few weeks when I have a 3-day weekend. After all, we need to practice for our Christmas visit to France, which will be a longer trip and will involve plane travel.
For more pictures of our weekend and Amelia's second month of life, click here.
Sunday, November 2, 2008
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Monday, October 13, 2008
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
Amelia is doing quite well. We have learned that she hates Mondays as much as the rest of the world. I have no idea why this day is any different than the rest of her days, but the last two Mondays she has been in a horrible mood, hasn't slept much at all, and just wants to comfort herself with food all day long (when she is old enough I'll teach her to enjoy a good pint of Ben and Jerry's for this purpose). Luckily she follows this act with a night of only waking up once between 11:30pm and 7:15am, and then a very peaceful Tuesday (which explains why I am able to write this blog entry). In general, she is very sweet and cuddly, and it seems she is starting to enjoy her bath time and continues to enjoy, or at least sleep through, her afternoon walks with the dogs. Speaking of the dogs...Blaze seems to have designated himself as her protector. He gets very worried when she cries, and will come and get me, or if it goes on long enough, he will howl along with her in sympathy. Very cute when it happens at 4 in the afternoon, I feel sorry for the neighbors when it happens at 4 in the morning!
Saturday, September 27, 2008
Thankfully, she’s a good traveler so far, meaning she likes to sleep in the car. As long as the car is moving, preferably over bumpy roads. Our challenge came in finding the embassy which, to our utter amazement, does not announce itself with American flags but rather with two men carrying uzis. Welcome to the United States, dearest daughter!
After having to park a kilometer away (no cars allowed), and then having to carry her and her things another half-kilometer (the building is geniously set way back from the street), and then finally managing to push open the 4”-thick steel doors, we were able to submit her applications and announce her existence to our beloved home country.
On a positive note, this was our first encounter with American bureaucracy in some time. And what a difference! We had an appointment at 2:00 and met with the consulate at precisely 2:00. We were in and out of there in 15 minutes. We love Portugal, but there are some things that the Americans do far better. For all of you who complain about waiting at the DMV or to see the dentist, come live in Europe for a while. It will change your perspective.
Sunday, September 14, 2008
Monday, September 1, 2008
Saturday, August 16, 2008
We got Tuga in January of this year and neither of us has ever known a more amazing cat. And that’s saying something considering Katrin’s former times working in a humane society. Tuga was as affectionate and friendly with people as any dog I’ve ever known. He would let me roll him over on my lap and stroke his belly; he would curl up with Katrin on the couch for naps; and he would play with Tazzy as playfully as any other kitten. They were remarkable together, as Tuga would leap onto Tazzy from behind and then they would roll to the ground, with Tazzy putting Tuga’s entire head in her mouth as Tuga playfully reared up his hind legs to kick himself out. Or he would sometimes tear around the house chasing the toy that Katrin would slowly drag around. But his cutest habit had to be his obsession with water. We weren’t sure what memories we would make here in Portugal, but one of them will be Tuga following us into the bathroom and climbing into the bidet, begging us to turn on the water so that he could bat it with his paw or try to bite it as it poured down.
He had a short life, but his affection will impact Katrin and me for a lifetime. We will miss him terribly, and mourn the loss that our daughter will never get to play with him as we had hoped. We’re happy that a few of you got to meet him, though. A cat that special should really have an opportunity to touch as many people as possible.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
We had another doctor visit today and everything continues to look fine and dandy for both mother and child. The heartbeat is normal, the head is pointed downward, and Katrin doesn’t have any abnormalities in her health that would raise concern. We’ll get to weigh the little girl on the 19th and then meet her in-person on or around the 2nd of September.
So far we’re feeling fairly comfortable in this process. Well, I guess that’s easy for me to say…I should let Katrin speak for herself. We know life will turn topsy turvy in a few weeks, but that’s exciting. Largely thanks to our sister-in-law Jen, and with input from our other sister-in-law Megan and my cousin Julie, we are feeling relatively prepared and have a lot of little baby things now taking up space in our home. Many thanks to everyone from home who passed on advice and gifts during our recent trips to the east coast. Wish us luck in these last few weeks and we’ll keep you informed of the big event!
Monday, June 30, 2008
Sunday, June 29, 2008
Laura and Hunter then had to leave for the US, but we had Karen and Kevin for a few more days. We decided to go to the Galicia region of Spain for a long weekend. We found a great B&B outside the town of Santiago de Compostela, and from there explored the coast out to Cabo Finisterre and up to A Coruna. It was a beautiful area, kind of like Vermont but with an ocean, although we did have to brave some pretty strong hailstorms to enjoy it. Karen and Kevin were good sports and we all managed to have fun, especially at mealtime. Whether it was Katrin’s homemade stuffed squid, seafood rice at our local neighborhood restaurant, or tapas in Spain, we had some great food. This marked the end of Karen and Kevin’s round-the-world trip, but they’ll be back when our little girl is born and liked our hometown of Aveiro enough to put a deposit on an apartment for the winter so they can be closer to their granddaughter.
Soon after we got to see our friends Val and Bryan from Burlington. Val’s work took her to England so they were nice enough to add us into their plans. We only had a few days with them before they were off to see the rest of Europe, but we did have a lot of fun doing a port wine tour in Porto, exploring a nearby castle, and experiencing the local dessert of ovos moles (sweet eggs). Mostly we enjoyed catching up with some old friends again.
Our most recent visitors were my parents, Mary and Pierre, who also included Portugal in a European vacation. We picked them up at the airport in Lisbon and went straight to Sintra, a town up on a hilltop where the Portuguese royalty used to go to escape the summer heat. There we explored a Moorish castle from the 11th century, many fabulous gardens, and a Portuguese palace that seems straight out of Disneyland but without the rides. Coming back to Aveiro, we joined some friends for a typical Portuguese sardine barbecue, which is a tradition at this time of year. It was a nice opportunity to give them a taste of Portuguese culture with some locals, and the language barrier wasn’t too bad with my Dad getting by with his Spanish and Katrin and I doing some translating from Portuguese. Finally, we capped off their visit with a sunny boat ride down the Douro River, in the heart of port wine vineyard country.
We are expecting a couple more visitors in July and August, and then we’ll probably lay low for a few months after our little girl is born. But to the rest of you, we would love to see you in Portugal. And for all of you who have come to visit recently, thank you so much. It’s a wonderful way for Katrin and I to stay close to everyone and still feel connected to home.
Sunday, June 22, 2008
In the first round we watched the first game in town with some friends at a bar. Portugal beat Turkey 2-0 and you would have thought they had won the championship with the way the celebration was carried on in the street. There was flag waving and crowds gathered outside yelling, honking, and celebrating long after the game was over. With their second win over Czech Republic, Portugal ensured their group win and a place in the quarterfinals, so they played their B squad in a 0-2 loss to the Swiss in the final game of the pool play. They were expected to beat Germany in the quarter final game, so the 2-3 loss Thursday night was taken particularly hard.
We woke up Friday morning to a very depressed country. It is hard to imagine an entire country being so affected by a single game, but the last few weeks it has been all-consuming here. Nearly every house has a Portuguese flag hanging on it, and expectations were very high. We watched the game with friends at a local Brazilian restaurant and the blood drained out of their faces with each German goal. We've since learned that they don't care about Olympic soccer around here, so the 2010 World Cup will be Portugal's next chance to prove to the world that it can be among the elite.
Monday, May 19, 2008
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
We headed to Athens for a couple of days, mainly to see the Acropolis. It’s a very cool cultural site to explore, being a large area of ancient temples, theaters, markets, residential areas, etc. And of course topped off (literally) with the architectural wonder the Parthenon. I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to battle the crowds and heat when most visitors go in July and August. We also explored some of the cute neighborhoods surrounding the Acropolis, but there doesn’t seem to be much else to Athens, which looks more like a dilapidated sprawling South American city than a European capital. So, after a quick 1.5 day visit it was off to the islands.
We flew to Santorini, which is an incredibly picturesque ancient volcano rim surrounding an enormous caldera submerged into the Mediterranean. We were told the power of this volcano when it went off about 1500BC was 40x that of Krakatoa, and I could believe it looking at the size. But the beauty of Santorini is in its whitewashed villages that cascade down the cliffside with amazing views across the caldera. It is also known for its much photographed white churches topped with blue domes. Our hotel room was literally a cave room that was built into the cliff, which is quite common (and great for keeping warm in winter and cool in summer). The old villages are lovely to explore as they are only big enough to move around on foot, no cars, and boating out to the currently active volcano to hike around and swim in the hot springs was great fun. But Santorini is really best for the cruise crowd that wants to stay for a day, take some pictures and shop. Beyond that it’s not as adventurous an island as we are used to, so we were off to Naxos for some additional exploration and beach time.
It was a 3-hour ferry ride to Naxos, our last stop of the trip. This more unknown island is actually quite big with a lot of little mountain villages to explore. The main town of Chora is very cute, right on the seaside, with some nice beaches nearby. This was a good place for us to wind down the trip with some exploring, biking and reading on the beach. The highlight, however, was stumbling into My Big Fat Greek Picnic. On May 1, a holiday throughout Europe for Labor Day or May Day, we were exploring the island by car and decided to visit a monastery. Since the gate was open, we did not realize it was actually closed for the day. But in the parking lot was a big family celebrating the holiday with a picnic. They invited us over and plied us with the most succulent lamb off the barbecue I’ve ever had, not to mention enormous amounts of wine (none for Katrin, sorry), dolmas, feta, etc…all homemade from the families lamb, goats, vineyard, and garden. They loved having a couple of Americans around and then started playing some traditional Greek music and dancing – holding hands and dancing in a circle, the men occasionally dipping and slapping their feet and knees. They got a big kick out of putting Caesar-like laurel wreaths on our heads and including me (Dan) in their dance. It was great fun and a very lucky way for us to experience Greek culture and hospitality up close and personal. Our goal should be to try to stumble into a group like that in every place we visit.
Monday, May 12, 2008
Sunday, May 11, 2008
Thursday, April 24, 2008
Sunday, April 13, 2008
It helps that some of these languages are close in both structure and vocabulary, in particular, Portuguese, Italian, and Spanish. A few weeks ago when Dan was in Milan for work, he said his Portuguese colleagues could speak to the Italians in Portuguese, and the Italians would respond in Italian, and everyone understood enough of the conversation to make it work. Similarly, we have heard that once we know Portuguese we will be able to understand Spanish, though our Portuguese probably won't be understood by most Spanish speakers (the Portuguese say that the Spanish have always looked down on them and see no reason to try to understand their language). The fact that many Americans have to travel thousands of miles to even have the opportunity to really try other languages is amazing to most Europeans, while for us, the fact that they are exposed to and able to speak so many is a fact we are extremely jealous of. It also seems to make them much less inhibited to try to use their language skills, while I bumble along and lose all confidence in my Portuguese if I am unsure of my verb tenses or prepositions. I know no one cares -- I realize I don't care when non-native English speakers make mistakes -- I just need to convince myself now. I'll work on it.
Saturday, April 12, 2008
In other news, Tuga went in for his second surgery this past week. This one was to fix his leg as we were waiting on it until all his internal injuries were healed. So now he has another large shaved patch, another big scar, and we hope that this will get him back to being able to be a normal cat once he recovers from this one.
Friday, March 28, 2008
Sunday, March 23, 2008
Friday, March 21, 2008
We also introduced him to our local restaurant, Gafanhoto, which makes a great seafood rice. And took him (or I guess he took us) to a soccer game up in Porto. The game featured Leixoes (a Porto team) vs. Academica (from Coimbra) and neither team is all that great by professional European soccer standards, but it was still great soccer. We ended up siting in the visitors section, which was directly behind one of the goals, and completely fenced off from the other spectators. But it ended up being an exciting game with almost all of the action right in front of us. The home team was lucky to tie it during injury time on a penalty kick. You can be assured our neighbors in the visitors section were not pleased.
We spent Saturday touring some historical areas north of Porto. We went to Guimaraes, which is the unofficial birthplace of Portugal as it was the country’s first capital and the home of its first king, Afonso I. We then went to nearby Braga, home of supposedly 365 churches (it seemed to be true) before heading to Porto for the soccer game. All in all, it was great to see some family and a friendly face from back home. We were happy to be able to show Eric around (although he had been to Aveiro before), break in our guest bed, and look at our home and lifestyle from a different perspective. We look forward to having more such opportunities in the future as the rest of you come visit.
Thursday, March 20, 2008
Saturday, March 15, 2008
I am feeling so very guilty right now, so many "if only I had's"...racing through my head. But I can't change the past and now we can just hope he is making it through the night at the vet's office and we get to visit him in the morning. Here is a picture of our little guy enjoying the sun with Tazzy so you can have him in your thoughts for us.