Saturday, January 26, 2008

Meet Tuga!

Tuga is the new bundle of fur that has joined our family in the last week. We were told that Tuga is a nickname the Brazilians have for someone Portuguese (Portugal), originally with derogatory intent but no longer considered offensive. He is a four-month old kitten that is very sweet and cuddly, and of course can get very playful at times. He loves to sleep on laps, and can be very loud when we leave him alone. He was a bit anxious of the larger furballs at first, but as you can see, he and Tazzy have become fast friends, and though he keeps trying to befriend Blaze, Blaze is not yet convinced he won't be getting his nose swiped at any minute. As with all change, we think Blaze will come around, eventually.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Thoughts on New Year

An interesting part of our return to Portugal was the onset of the New Year. The coming of a new year in the U.S. always seems to exemplify hope and the idea that one can wipe away past mistakes and setbacks and prepare to take advantage of the boundless opportunities available in the future that is now the present. We show that by making resolutions to better ourselves, and looking forward to the fresh start that the new year always offers. We have started to wonder if that sense of optimism is unique to Americans. Here in Portugal, the country famous for saudade (melancholy/forlornness/homesickness), as is apparent in the cultural music known as fado, the changing of the calendar is more a symbol of getting further into the future, which is looked at with some sadness as it is one year further removed from the glorious past (to which the future can never live up to). There is, of course, a sense of a new beginning, but with more of a hint of nostalgia than of optimism. More like "oh no, I just accepted how things were last year, and now I have to start all over again."

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Home from the Holidays

Hi again, everyone! Sorry we’ve been out of touch for a bit, though we were lucky enough to catch up with some of you back in the U.S. Things got a little busy as we headed back to the States for the holidays. It was a wonderful visit and thanks to a packed travel schedule we got to see lots of family and friends. Christmas Eve in Oregon with Katrin’s family, Christmas Day in New York with my extended family, and New Year’s Eve in Vermont with everyone else on the planet. And still we were able to find time to enjoy the snow (which we’re told has since disappeared) at Mad River Glen with Vanessa and on the Prickly sledding run with Deb, Val, Bryan, Brian, and Kira. Sorry we didn't get to see everyone, but that just means some of you have to get over here now!

After two weeks overseas it was time to come home. The weather gods were smiling on us as it was 16 degrees below zero the morning we left Vermont, which helped make us eager to get back to Portugal, but unfortunately the airline gods were not on our side, as we ended up spending an extra night at a hotel in Burlington and then flying to Chicago in order to get to Newark. So we ended up getting home a day later than expected, which meant I got to take a shower and head straight to the office. But before that we went to pick up Blaze and Tazzy from our friend Sofia’s house, who took good care of them while we were gone. There was lots of excitement as we had our family reunion in Sofia’s yard. Though as Sofia said, Tazzy was lucky enough to “earn” a few kilos while we were gone.

An interesting part of our holiday travel was the sentiments we had coming back to Portugal. It actually felt like we were returning home, which is what I was hoping for. It certainly helped that our dogs were here waiting for us, but we also had friends that we were looking forward to seeing again, work to get back to, and events to look forward to. (One such event was Sao Goncalinho Day, which celebrates a saint at a local church. The festivities included fireworks and the traditional throwing of small hard cakes off the top of the church to the crowds below in the street. I failed to catch any, but was sort of out-manned by the locals who attached their fishing nets to 20-foot poles to catch them before they even came close to ground level.) It was a much different feeling than when we were back in the States in October for Al’s wedding. On that trip it felt like we had just left the US and had been away for a long trip. This time when we were in the States it felt like we were visiting before returning home to Portugal.