Friday, December 31, 2010

December 31, 2010 - Christmas & New Years

Our Christmas season began with our branch Christmas party on the 19th.  A few Sunday’s ago (I was serving in Primary) the ladies quickly planned a party to be held the next Saturday afternoon.  We met at the church building at 4pm.  They had bought some meat and everyone else brought some goodies or side dishes to share.  Our branch president, Elder Duarte, gave a message and Elder Duarte & Elder Walter did a reading from the scriptures.  We sang a couple of songs, then headed into the other room to eat some yummy food.  After we ate we played a game led by Julio (Tina’s husband).  The game was called “Cat and the Rat”.  Basically, you sit in a circle and he has 2 men’s ties.  He gives 2 people, sitting across from each other, each a tie.  Then he yells “go”.  The person who is the cat has to tie the tie once (just in a knot) around their neck.  The one who is the rat ties it in a knot twice.  After you’ve tied it and untied it you pass it to the person sitting next to you.  The object of the game is to not get “caught” by the cat.  So, if the cat (tie) is catching up to you, you need to tie fast and pass it on.  If you still have the “rat” tie when the “cat” tie catches up to you, you have to give Julio something.  Elder Walter had to give up his nametag and his watch (he got caught 2 times), Kaylie had to give up her CTR ring, others lost their scarves & jackets, Julio’s son lost one of his new earrings (haha).
(Side note:  just glanced up from my computer and it’s totally sunny outside and totally raining – and Rick and Tanner and Devan are out jogging)
When the game is over (basically when everyone was ready to be done) Julio handed out your “item” to someone else.  That person would think of something you had to do in order to get your item back.  Kaylie had to sing a Christmas carol, Rick and I made Elder Walter sing a Christmas carol at the same time as break dancing, a couple of the kids had to hop on one foot or jump up and down a few times, etc.  We thought Elder Walter’s was the best though.  I filmed him with my small camera, but because he’s so dang tall I could only get the top half of him and I had to turn my camera sideways.  He was hilarious – could not remember the words to Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer at all, but his dancing was just “amazing” - haha.  One other funny thing about the party – Tina & Julio’s son, Paulo, kept taking pictures of Kaylie with his cell phone – thinking she didn’t see him.  Hilarious.  The party was simple, but so much fun.  Reminds me that things can be fun without a ton of work and stress. 
(Side note:  boys are all back)
A couple of days later we finally went to our “local” castle, Castle of Tomar with the Convent of the Order of Christ.  What an amazing castle.  It is huge.  We spent several hours walking the inside and some of the grounds and still didn’t see every nook and cranny.  It has beautiful carvings and an amazing “round church” inside.  Every time we tour a castle or “ruins” I am just so impressed thinking about the time it would’ve taken to build one of these structures.  I really can’t imagine how many people it must’ve taken to build a castle, especially back then – this one was built in 1160.  Think about how many government workers it takes to fill a pothole in the road.  Haha.  Anyways, if only I were a history buff I’d be able to tell you all about the significance of the castle.  But, since I’m not – you’ll have to “google” it, like I did.  Where’s my friend, Bryan Cowley, when I need him.  He was our personal history buff tour guide last year, when we were here.  The castle was well worth the visit.  Rick has decided that he wants to buy a castle, just for the land of course.
The next thing we did to help us “get in the spirit” was go to Coimbra on the 22nd.  Fatocha’s stake was doing a “soup” kitchen for a homeless shelter.  We arrived a little late – it’s an hour and 45 minutes away.  They had a lot of the tables already set.  So, we just helped with the last stuff – putting soup and rice pudding and a piece of bread at each place setting, etc.  The people from the shelter came over about ½ an hour after we got there.  This was done at a local high school.  It was pretty cool.  We all sat and ate together.  After dinner was done there was a huge table of desserts that everyone helped themselves to.  Then, we just visited with people.  There is a couple in the Coimbra ward who are from England.  The man, Mark is studying to be a translator.  He speaks English, obviously, served his mission in France, so he speaks French, of course, and now is living & studying in Portugal to learn Portuguese.  His wife just had their first baby (brave soul!!) here in Portugal, so her parents were visiting.  We visited with them for a majority of the evening.  That was fun.  I also talked with one of the men from the shelter – he was from India, but has lived in Portugal for about 30 years.  He spoke decent English.  He said his time in Portugal has been pretty tough.  As we were leaving, Kaylie and Rick and Tanner had to use the restroom.  The man from India had followed them down to the restroom.  He started going into the women’s bathroom so Rick told him, in Portuguese, that that was the women’s.  He looked at both of them and then went in the women’s anyways.  They couldn’t quite figure that out, but Kaylie had to wait a while until he left.  Anyhow, the evening was good and put me in the mood for Christmas.
We decided that we would do our “traditional” Christmas morning on Christmas Eve morning.  We had stayed up very late the night before – had a great conversation with Devan.  So, we all slept in kinda late (for Christmas morning) – well, except for Kaylie who got up early to exercise.  We finally got everyone up and opened presents.  Didn’t take a whole lot of time, since this Christmas we scaled back quite a bit.  Plus, Devan & Kaylie had already gotten their bikes, and Tanner’s big surprise was a bunny & guinea pig.  I know I know I know!! We really are becoming a farm.  Tanner had decided that’s what he wanted because he “needed something soft and cuddly so he doesn’t hate Portugal so much”.  And did you know that bunnies and guinea pigs can go in the same cage and they eat the same foods?  That’s what they tell us here, anyways.  When we went to the pet store to pick up the bunny a guinea pig was in the case with it.  So, for an extra 5 Euros we got it so the bunny wouldn’t be lonely.  After presents were opened Rick went and picked up the Elders for breakfast.  I was so bummed because I thought breakfast was going to be so yummy.  But, I had kept our traditional “fritters” warmed in the oven – which I had up way too hot (you know, Celcius) and so they were hard as a rock.  Major bummer.  Live and learn.    After breakfast we gave the missionaries their Christmas “basket” (food to last them a little while) and then hung around for several hours playing games and such. 
That afternoon we headed to Fatocha’s home for Christmas.  She had a table full of traditional Portuguese desserts and was in the process of cooking a traditional Portuguese Christmas Eve dinner.  We had soup (a must!) and bacalhau (dried cod fish).  But, the bacalhau was prepared differently than we had it before.  She had cooked it in cream with shrimp and other stuff.  Then she layered it in a casserole dish with mashed potatoes and veggies.  It was extremely tasty.  In their family it is traditional to open their gifts on Christmas Eve.  They wait until midnight when Santa comes (a neighbor dressed up), but Tomas (their 6 year old) usually can’t make it that late.  Plus, this year the neighbor couldn’t do it.  So, we exchanged gifts about 10pm.  Christmas day we ate all the desserts for breakfast.  Had an early dinner – roast, rice, and veggies (I know I’ve said this before, but, sooo way yummy) – and then headed home that evening.  We picked up the Elder’s on the way back home, brought them to our house, and Elder Walter skyped his family.  Wow – I hope my kids love me (eventually) like Elder Walter loves his family.   It was so nice to hear him talk to his family.  His whole family – parents and siblings, nieces, etc.  He is such a nice guy.  Maybe he’s just super nice all the time, or maybe it’s because he’s on a mission.  Whichever it is – he’s sweet.  He talked for quite a while and then we took them home.
That about sums up our Christmas in Portugal.  All in all it was a good one.
Now, we’re sitting here on New Year’s Eve trying to decide if we’re going out or not.  Believe it or not (I know you will) we’re sick AGAIN.  Please don’t roll your eyes.  No really – don’t roll your eyes.  I wasn’t even going to put it in here, but since this is my “journal-ish” I thought I needed to put it in here, so when I all of a sudden die, no one will ever say “but she was so healthy, I just don’t understand”.  I got a terrible backache (down my spine) when I was wrapping presents 2 days before Christmas.  I thought it was just from sitting on the floor wrapping, but the next day the backache was combined with a fever and headache.  Those fun symptoms have gone on for over a week.  Thank goodness for a drug called Benuron.  I’ve kind of lived on it the last week.  Although that’s probably not smart, I’ll probably end up in the hospital with a hole in my stomach.  But, at least it got me through the holidays.  Rick has also had a terrible head cold the last few days, and Kaylie has an ear infection.  I know – we’re a mess.  Luckily Tanner & Devan are both well.
Well, I hope all of you have had a wonderful holiday season.  Merry Christmas & Happy New Year.  I hope the holidays didn’t cause too much stress in your lives – I know Heavenly Father never intended the birth of our Savior to cause us stress and grief – do you?
I love you all & miss you (and In & Out chocolate shakes – it’s really all I’ve craved through this flu – weird, huh?)

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Gas Station

So, funny incident at the gas station.  No, we didn’t put the wrong kind of gas in our car.  But, it was my turn to fill it – for the first time.  Rick wasn’t with me.  Kaylie and I were shopping.  We were at the same gas station we always go to.  I looked at the pump, figured out the right kind of gas (diesel) and tried to pump it.  But, it wouldn’t work.  I figured I must be doing something wrong, so I called Rick.  He said it sounded like I was doing everything right.  But, the lady inside the “glass box” might have to reset the pump.  Oh, I forgot to tell you.  At this gas station you pump first, then you drive up to the “glass box” and pay the lady, then she raises the “arm” to let you out.  So, I guess sometimes she has to reset the pump from the cash register.  So, I stay on the phone with Rick while I try to get her attention.  She looks at me a couple of times, but nothing happens.  I kinda raise my arms like “hey, my pumps not working”.  And she just looks away.  Finally, I hang up the phone with Rick to free up my hands – and all of a sudden my pump starts.  I look back at the lady in the “glass box” and she’s talking (and laughing) with the lady who’s paying, and then she points at a little sign in her window that’s a picture of a cell phone with a slash through it.  The sign was in the bottom corner of the window and was about 4 by 6 inches big.  What a joke.  She wouldn’t turn on my pump because I was on the phone trying to figure out why my pump wouldn’t work in the first place.  Then, I go up to pay and she doesn’t speak any English so I couldn’t ask her about the “no cell phone” policy – although she said something that I assumed meant it was against the law to be on a cell phone.  Here’s the funniest part – so, the next time Rick and I get gas at that gas station I tell him to ask her about it.  She said it’s a law in Portugal – you cannot be on your cell phone in any gas station.  He said “Why?”  She said “because they can blow up”.  Now, we’re still not sure if she meant that the cell phone can blow up or the whole gas station can blow up.  But, tell me – have you ever heard of anything blowing up because of a cell phone?  Funny.  20 years behind…

Monday, December 27, 2010

December 27, 2010

Because I haven’t updated for a little while, I’ve been trying to decide just how to do so without boring the heck out of you (and me).  So, I decided that maybe I’d just do some actual “updates”.  And, if I’ve already told you some of this stuff, I apologize.  I’ve kinda lost track of what I’ve already told you and I don’t want to go back and read through all of my posts.
Update #1:  The Car
We actually own one and are driving the one that we own (after about 3 weeks of being put off for different reasons).  And we actually got it insured too.  That was another chore because everyone tells you something different.  We thought we wouldn’t be able to get it insured because we don’t have licenses here.  But, that all worked out.  We bought a Renault Grand Scenic, which is a small car, but seats 7.  It has 2 small collapsible seats in the far back.  Perfect for picking people up for church or giving the elders a lift, if needed.  It’s a manual, so we’ve had to get used to driving a stick again.  And it’s also diesel (hopefully Rick will remember what type of gas to put in the car – don’t tell him I put that in my blog - haha).  Everyone here drives manuals/diesels to conserve.  I’m thinking we bring the car back to Utah because it’d be a great souvenir – haha.  It’s a pretty funky looking car.
Update #2:  The Dog & The Puppy
Yes – The puppy.  After over a week of the dog (Amber) not getting much better we decided to adopt a puppy.  We figured Amber wasn’t much of a help for the kids because she wouldn’t let anyone pet her, except for Kaylie, and it took everything for Kaylie to be able to even get her to come in the house.  So, the lady who works at the pound, and is also in our branch, told us we could come take one of the puppies she had rescued – for as long as we want.  And then if we can’t find a home for him when we leave, she’d take him back.  Not a bad deal.  So, we brought him home.  And, having another dog at the house has helped Amber A LOT!!  She has now warmed up to everyone (except Devan – which drives him crazy).  She’s starting to behave more like a normal dog and the puppy has been a lot of fun – excluding the normal puppy messes.  We had to remove all rugs, so now the house is colder because of the tile flooring.  But, the puppy has made the kids happier.  The puppy came with the name “Beethoven” and he’s a “boxer” mix.  He’s very adorable.  We still can’t understand why his owner would go to the bother of clipping his tail and then give him to the pound.  He’s a golden color.  He’s developed a pretty bad cough so we’ll be taking him to the vet this week.
Update #3:  New Friends & The Branch (our church)
We’ve met some really great people and the branch is growing.  We even had enough people to hold Relief Society a couple of times.  And the Relief Society president even had a lesson.  Not bad.  The ladies were all very nice to me and Kaylie (poor Kaylie still hasn’t been able to have a Young Women lesson yet).  I had told Rick to tell them that we had our English lesson manual and that we’d just follow along as best we could.  But, they were so nice.  They really tried to include us.  They would stop and ask us the word in English.  I was surprised how many words in Portuguese I actually knew (I actually felt like patting myself on the back).  The chapel has been quite full a few times.  Hopefully it will keep growing.  The Elders have a hard job, in my opinion.  To be the branch presidency – working with the members – and then being missionaries – out tracting, looking for new members – would be very hard.  Which I’ll tell you a little more in Update #4.  As far as friends go.  We’ve been over to Vilmar & Dede’s home for dinner and another afternoon where she taught me how to cook a couple of different things (then, we ate them).  Vilmar is hilarious & Dede is a riot.    They have 2 kids (both in Primary).  Vilmar is a member, but had been inactive for a long time.  Dede is not a member, but goes to church and let her daughter get baptized.  She seems to love the church, just doesn’t believe in Joseph Smith having been a prophet.  They have been together a long time (they are from Brazil), but have never been married.  And, now that they are in Portugal, they have had a hard time getting the right paperwork to be able to get married.  The other family we are becoming friends with are Tina (the lady from the pound) and her husband Julio.  They are just coming back to church.  They have been married a couple of years.  She has 3 kids from a previous marriage (which was a very bad, abusive marriage).  They have a 3 year old boy, 12 year old boy (who was very cute, until he showed up at the branch Christmas party with 2 earrings), and a 14 year old daughter.  They are struggling with the daughter and the son seems to be following in his sisters footsteps (maybe).  But, nice family.  We like them.  Planning on having them and the Elder’s over for Family Home Evening.  One other couple we met live down the road from us.  We ran into them a couple of weeks ago when we were on a walk.  They moved here about 3 years ago from England.  They are in the process of getting plans approved to build a new home on the same piece of land they are currently living on.  We plan on visiting them soon.
Update #4:  Rick’s calling
We’ve been a little confused at Rick’s calling.  First, he thought that the District Presidency had called him to be the Branch Mission Leader.  But, our branch president was a little confused by that, since he had called another person (Antonio) to that calling.  Then, Rick thought that he had been called to be the District Mission Leader.  Then, he went to meet with our District Presidency and he told Rick that he’d be in charge of contacting all the in-actives in the district and finding out if they are still living in their homes and why they aren’t coming to church.  I guess that will be a relief to the missionaries.  They can concentrate more on finding investigators.  And to top it off, I guess I’m supposed to be going out with Rick to.  Interesting, since I CAN’T SPEAK THE LANGUAGE!!  We’ll see how that all goes.  So, now we’re not sure if Rick has an actual calling or if it’s just an assignment.  Whatever.
Update #5:  We enrolled Tanner in school
Yep – I sometimes can’t believe it myself.  Poor kid.  He is not thrilled with the idea.  He went for a week and then the school is closed for the next 2 weeks for winter break.  The first day was pretty hard – on both him and the aide that stayed with him all day.  His teacher and the aide both speak English pretty well.  Better than they think, actually.  The aide stayed with him all day so that he wouldn’t feel completely lost.  But, she got pretty frustrated with herself and cried a couple of times (according to Tanner).  But, by the 3rd day Tanner came out of the school happy and smiling.  Although, if you ask him, he’ll tell you that he hates it.  It’s been an adjustment for him, but he truly seems to be happier.  He was completely bored at home, and was constantly fighting with his bro.  He’s in a second grade classroom that has 2 other 4th graders.  I guess the other 4th grade class was full.  But, it’s worked out ok because the other class’ teacher doesn’t speak any English.  Plus, the boy in Tanner’s class is also new and they’ve connected.  Tanner refers to him as his “amigo”.  He doesn’t speak any English, but they manage.  Tanner has lots of admirers.  He’s already had girls telling him that they love him.  Very cute.  Tanner’s last day of school, before winter break, was a field trip to Obidos Vila Natal.  Which leads me to update #6.
Update #6:  The best day ever
Since Tanner had a field trip to this place, we decided to take Kaylie for our own field trip.  It was so much fun.  Just what we were in need of.  The town of Obidos is extremely quaint.  The whole town is surrounded by a fort wall.  A wall that you can walk on and circle the whole city.  The castle has been transformed into a hotel.  The main road, which is all cobblestone, has shops all along it.  We had a great time shopping, eating chocolate, drinking hot chocolate, and eating yummy roasted chestnuts.  Also, the Vila Natal is an area that you pay to go into, which had lots of fake snow stuff.  It was kind of cute, but mostly for grade school kids.  They had an ice skating area that cost an additional 5 euros for 20 minutes.  Funny.  Anyways, it really was one of the best days ever since we moved into this home.
Well, hope you didn’t get too bored.  And I hope I didn’t repeat myself.  We have had many good days lately.  The feeling of being here in Portugal is changing (for the better).  We need more days like the one in Obidos.  Christmas was good – I’ll write about that in my next post.  For now – it’s bedtime and I’m exhausted.
Love you and miss you (and my automatic)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

December 7, 2010 (Part 4)

Part “quatro” – that’s 4
Thanksgiving ended well.  We spent the evening with the elders.  They helped us choose a name for the dog.  We settled on Amber.  Did you know that you can google “girl dog names”?  And also, “girl ghetto names”?  Devan thought we should name her a cool black girl name (we all know he is a “brother” at heart), but we all could agree on Amber. 
Saturday, Devan and Rick went bike shopping.  They managed to find Devan a great bike (Christmas & birthday present).  Now, Devan will be training for his California bike ride this next summer. He and Jared have this crazy plan to ride from Mapleton to Southern California – We’ll see!!  While they were out shopping Kaylie and I decided that we should change the dogs name to Kia (because she looks and acts like a coyote). We started calling her Kia and the name stuck – she seemed to respond to it.  The dog has warmed up to Kaylie, but not really anyone else.  She is very sketchy – hides a lot, runs away if we walk in the room, cowers – it’s very sad.  At the end of the day we realized that the Portuguese word for “shut up” is very similar to Kia (could be why she seemed to respond to it, remember the lady at the dog pound?) – so we changed it back to Amber.
Sunday, we left the dog in the rec room while we went to church.  It’s a big room with a concrete floor that has a ping pong table in it, next to the pool.  Devan was home with her and we told him to check on her once in a while because we didn’t know how she’d do locked in a room by herself.  Well, we don’t know exactly what happened, but after Devan had checked on her once, she escaped.  Devan saw her out of the corner of his eye and she took off up the driveway.  He looked for her for a while on his bike, but only saw her once behind a big fence.  We figured she was gone.  Kaylie was VERY sad.  She was also a little sick that day and had fallen asleep in the car on the way home from church, so she didn’t have the energy to go look for her.  Well, that evening, with Kaylie being sick and it being cold, we decided to cozy up by the fire and watch a church movie.  During the movie I glanced outside because there was some movement.  It took me a second to realize – it was Amber!!  She had come back.  We were shocked.  We had thought, for sure, that she had found freedom and we’d never see her again.  But, I guess she likes our love (and being fed).
Lastly, I want to tell you about Antonio.  Antonio is a young guy in our branch.  He is 27 years old.  The first time we met him (on our first Sunday at church) he seemed so sad.  I could tell that he’d probably had something in his life that was difficult.  Well, he wanted us to come over after church this past Sunday to meet his aunt.  Now, the Elder’s that got transferred just after we moved here had told us about Antonio’s aunt.  They said that she was crazy; that she was very protective of Antonio, and that she wouldn’t let him come to church for the longest time.  They told us that she would never let the missionaries come over and that if they stopped by she’d yell at them to go away and not let Antonio come outside.  So, having all of this information, I was surprised that he wanted us to come over and meet his aunt.  Also, we had found out that Antonio suffered from depression, I guess that’s why he looked so sad that first time we met him.  Well, we took Antonio home after church and went in to meet his aunt.  She was a very nice lady.  Not at all what I was expecting.  She had a table full of framed family photos and we enjoyed learning about her family.  We found out that she had 20 siblings – OH MY GOSH!!  Can you believe that?  20!!!  We think they were from a mixture of parents, but Rick couldn’t really figure out what she was saying.  We also learned about Antonio’s life.  Turns out, this aunt rescued him from the hospital, where he had been put because of his emotional condition.  The reason he suffers from depression is very sad.  He is originally from Africa.  He came here with his mother when he was a teenager.  His father died in Africa, within that year, but they don’t know how.  That same year, after coming to Portugal, his mother died of a tumor in the brain and then his sister committed suicide.  All of this happened when he was 17.  He never said, but I’m under the impression that he was probably suicidal also.  That was 10 years ago.  About 5 years ago he started coming back to church.  The church didn’t have any record of his baptism, although he thought he’d been baptized, as a child, in Africa.  He remembered, from his childhood, 2 missionaries teaching and baptizing him.  When he saw the missionaries, on the street, 5 years ago, he started coming to church.  He was baptized again, because of the lack of records.  We can tell he still struggles with depression – some days he just looks so sad.  It was good to be able to spend some time, at his home, with him and his aunt.
Chau for now!!
Love you and miss you (and juicy, crispy turkey skin)

Sunday, November 28, 2010

November 28, 2010 (Part 3)

Part “tres” – that’s 3, in Portuguese – betcha didn’t know that
We really enjoyed skyping our family (sorry dad, we’ll skype you again this week).  We miss everyone, but we’re glad you all had a great Thanksgiving.  Ours went something like this…
We received a phone call telling us that we weren’t going to be able to get a turkey.  Rick had ordered one at a store on Tuesday, but they ended up not being able to find one.  So, we waited until our dryer was delivered (they had told us between 8am and 2pm).  They came at 2pm.  Then we headed out to go to the dog pound again and some other grocery stores to see if we could, by chance, find a turkey. 
I first want to tell you our dog pound experience.  Saddest thing ever!!!  We sent Rick up to the door/gate first to make sure it was open and to see if we could go in.  It is located in an alley type of thing across from the ciganos (gypsy).  Not an attractive area to begin with.  The ciganos set up these “camp” type of communities.  Basically, they find a vacant area and then start building shacks out of whatever they can find.  They have beat up old cars and they hang their laundry wherever they can find a spot.  It’s one step above “homeless”, in my opinion.  I’d really love to see the inside of one of their houses - I’m so intrigued by their lifestyle.  Anyways, back to the dog pound.  So, the lady tells Rick that we can come in.  So, Kaylie, Tanner, and I get out of the car and walk up to the entrance gate.  I almost gagged.  Kaylie and I looked at each other with the same expression at the same time – pure disgust!!  The smell was so overwhelming.  I told Rick I didn’t know if I’d be able to handle the smell.  But, the kids wanted to go see the dogs so badly that we forced ourselves to handle it.  Really, the only way I can describe the condition of the place, is – it was a concentration camp for dogs.  It was like walking through a cave at first – a narrow passageway, made out of concrete type walls, with very little light.  That area had bowls of cooked rice and bowls of bread pieces.  Rick assumed that they were probably given leftover bread from the bakeries (the stuff that didn’t sell).  Once we got passed that area, there was a concrete path that led you in between the dog pens.  I think there were a total of 6 cage areas full of dogs.  We found out later that they house over 200 dogs.  Along that pathway we had to be careful where we stepped – there were piles of doggy diarrhea right in the middle of where we walked.  That explained why the lady who worked there was wearing rain boots and a full plastic apron.  The whole time we were looking at dogs the lady would be yelling (and I am not kidding – I tried to secretly video tape her, but I couldn’t pull it off) at the dogs so loud to shut up.  We could hardly even talk to each other over the dogs barking and the lady yelling.  We found a few that the kids liked, but it was so hard to decide because they all looked like mangy strays and every time the kids would try to pet one through the gate 20 other dogs would crowd around barking.  There was a cage area right when we had walked in the main gate that was housing puppies, so we went back to look at them.  Of course we all fell in love with them (except for Rick).  After looking at the puppies we went back to the other dogs.  For me – that was the wrong choice.  I had already left once because I had to go out and get some fresh air and clean my hands.  When we went to the back again the dogs were so excited to see us.  As I walked up to one of the gates several dogs jumped up and flicked poop and urine right at my neck.  Then my natural instinct was to quickly wipe it off.  So, at that point, I now had poop and pee on my neck and my hand.  Can you say vomit?  Because that’s what I almost did.  At that point I was ready to go and we decided that it was too crazy to try to choose a dog anyway.  The lady said if we came back the next day there would be 2 of them to help us.  So, we decided to leave and think about it.  Before getting in the car we all had a good wash down with the antibacterial wipes.  Although, we still smelled like the place.  Luckily Rick had an extra sweatshirt in the car that I changed in to.  We still had turkey shopping to do.  We went to several stores looking for a turkey.  We even drove to the next town, Torres Noves, which is bigger (and a half hour away).  In Torres Noves we were able to find a turkey – in pieces!!  We could buy turkey wings, turkey legs/thighs, and they had 1 gigantic turkey breast (12 lbs - it was actually both breasts together).  So, we decided that the turkey breast was better than nothing.  We had the butcher cut it in half and took the one breast home with us.  We called and told the missionaries that we’d be having Thanksgiving the next day.  So, when Friday came along I was all set to go with a unique Thanksgiving dinner.  I started cooking in the morning, typical.  But, I soon realized that I had forgotten an ingredient for the pumpkin pie.  And cooking with a single oven that doesn’t work too well was a real challenge.  Because we called Thanksgiving for the next day, I didn’t really have a chance to make anything ahead of time (like the pies, for instance).  So, working with a single oven was difficult.  I prepared all the veggies, marinated the meat, made the pie crust, partially cooked the stuffing, then we headed out to get a dog and go to the store for the ingredients that I forgot to buy.  When we arrived at the pound the other lady came to the gate.  And it turned out to be the lady that we had met at FHE the previous Wednesday night.  Funny.  She talked with Rick for a few minutes.  Rick had told her about the dog that we wanted to see again.  This time we had stopped by a “Chinese” store and bought a collar and leash.  She went back and got the dog and brought it out to us, so that we could see it interact with the kids without 100 other dogs barking.  The dog was scared to death.  She just coward away from us with her tail between her legs the whole time.  I was kind of bummed because I was hoping she’d be playful once she was away from all of the other dogs.  But she wasn’t.  We tried to get her to play with us for a while, but she just wouldn’t.  I told Rick I thought they should go back in and check out a few more.  So, they did while I ran back to the store to get my pie ingredients.  Rick called my cell phone and said that they had adopted a dog and were heading to a park and for me to pick them up there.  I was surprised.  Turns out this dog was happy and playful at the pound, but once they got her on the leash and took her down the street – she froze.  I guess these dogs like their concentration camp.  We’re hoping she opens up and becomes playful again.  Now we’re trying to come up with a name for her.  When we got home it was back to cooking again.  I felt pretty panicked because I was running out of time (Rick was picking up the Elders for dinner at 5pm) and the whole oven issue, hmm….
But, it all came together – a little late, but none the less – we had Thanksgiving dinner.
Ok – it’s going to be a 4 part-er.  Good night!!

November 28, 2010 (Part 2)

Part “dois” – that’s 2 in Portuguese
See how the days just slip by?  I’ve tried to finish part 2 several times and look – it’s 4 days later. 
Well, I forgot to mention about the car situation…  Here, in Portugal, gasoline vs. diesel is not so easy to tell the difference.  I am very paranoid about putting the wrong type of gas in our car (therefore, I haven’t offered to pump the gas).  In Portuguese the word for gasoline is “gasolina” and the word for diesel is “gasoleo”.  See how you could easily put the wrong kind of gas in your car?  And when you’re tired and it’s raining and you have a bunch of young punks getting annoyed with everyone at the gas station, it would be very easy to error on the type of gas.  So, I have to cut Rick some slack.
The next day (or actually the same day, since it was 2:20am) we slept in.  We figured we didn’t need to get up for church since we didn’t have a way to get there.  We didn’t really know at this point what would become of the car situation.  But, all we did know is that we were carless for the time being.  Our Sunday was nice and restful.  We had planned on taking a walk around to see if anyone claimed the dog that had spent the last few days with us.  A few hours had gone by and the groundskeeper, Francisco, showed up to rake up the leaves.  He’s an older man, probably in his 60’s or 70’s, and feels that it’s very important to clean up the leaves.  I told Rick to ask him if he knows of anyone missing their dog.  He said he didn’t.  I was secretly happy about that because I was hoping the kids would be able to keep this puppy – he was very good natured.  But, about an hour later he came back with his 2 nephews that live down the street from us.  Turns out the dog belongs to them, and Francisco hadn’t known that they were missing one of their dogs (they own 6).  We had named him Rex (short for tyrannosaurus rex – because he bites a lot), but his real name was Flash.  The other dog that had run through our backyard with Rex/Flash was his mother (nice mom for not coming back to get her son).  Anyways, the boys were thrilled to get their dog back.  I guess the day that we had kidnapped their dog, they had spent looking around the neighborhood asking everyone if they’d seen him.  They told our kids that they could come see him anytime.  They also told us that there is a pound in Tomar if we wanted to adopt a dog – they probably didn’t want us stealing any more of theirs!!  Just kidding – we had asked them if there was a pound.
We had planned on just hanging around the house on Monday because we didn’t have a car anymore.  I had looked up some recipes online to make pancakes and my mother in law had sent me a recipe for homemade syrup (that doesn’t require maple flavoring – because they don’t have that here).  We had a very yummy breakfast.  After that we just hung out and did school work.  But, a little while later, and much to our surprise, Fatocha called – she had arranged for a taxi to come pick us up and take us to the car rental agency, in town, to get a replacement car.  So, we quickly got ready for the day and headed out to pick up the rental and go car shopping again.  The kids just hung out at home and got some school work done.  The next few days were spent car shopping.  Obviously last Saturday was NOT the day to get a car.
THURSDAY was actually the day to get a car.  We had found 5 cars that would work.  SERIOUSLY – 5!!  We took Kaylie and Tanner with us again and headed out.  We had decided that today was REALLY going to be the day to ACTUALLY buy a car.  We drove 1 ½ hours into Lisbon.  We test drove the cars, went to lunch at the mall, talked about it, then headed back to one of the dealerships to “seal the deal”.  Everything went well, price agreed upon, paperwork filled out, then Rick was told we couldn’t take the car for a week because it came from France and they had to have a week to get the registration in Portugal done.  BUMMER!!!  We were all set to drive home in a new car.  That was a disappointment.  But, at least we were finally done car shopping.
So, Friday was good.  Felt like a weight has been lifted off our shoulders – house hunting, DONE; car shopping, DONE.  Now we can move forward.  Today Kaylie and I went for a walk.  The first time we’ve been able to experience our nice surroundings.  Our neighborhood is wonderful.  Not your typical neighborhood.  It’s very hilly with a single, narrow road, old homes, very green, very quiet, very quaint.  Perfect!!  In the back of our property is a very nice lake.  It is actually formed by a dam on the Rio de Zezere.  We are on one of the “fingers” of the lake.  So, it’s calm and quiet.  Later in the day Kaylie colored my hair – I was considering going gray while in Portugal, but I guess vanity won!!  Luckily, my wonderful hair lady (Julie Bainter) taught Kaylie how to color before we left Utah.
Fatocha, Luis, and Tomas were coming to stay for the weekend.  They arrived in the late afternoon on Saturday.  Rick and Tanner wanted haircuts before they got here, but the clippers didn’t work (cheap).  Rick ran back to the store to buy a better pair and while he was there – he bought me a dryer – whoo hoo!!  A dryer!!  I won’t have to hang clothes outside in the cold and all over the house anymore.  They are supposed to deliver it on Monday.  When Fatocha’s family arrived we showed them around the place, hung out for a while, then headed to buy food to make Fatocha’s yummy “bacalhau” (which is dried codfish).  We were going to have American food (tacos – ok, Mexican), but we decided to save that for Sunday night, when the missionaries were coming over.  Before bed, Kaylie and I made homemade syrup for the next morning; and homemade dough for flour tortillas (for the tacos). 
Sunday, we took Fatocha’s family to church with us – after having a delicious French toast breakfast.  Luis is not a member of the church, but he really enjoyed the “services”.  He is originally from Angola and he connected with Elder Duarte, who is from Cabo Verde.  Elder Duarte (remember he’s our branch president) had asked Rick to give his testimony during Sacrament.  He seems to do that – he has a member bear their testimony and then has a speaker, then a song, then another speaker.  Rick seemed to touch a lot of people.  That evening the elders came over and we all feasted on tacos.  Devan had been harvesting crawdads for the last several days.  He keeps them in a pool area in the back yard.  Fatocha taught Devan how to cook them her way – which was WAY DELICIOUS.  He spent about an hour gutting them and then had them in the tacos.  Crawdad tacos – yum yum.
Monday – we waited for the dryer to be delivered, but they never showed (not surprising).  Have I said it before that nothing is ever easy in Portugal?  Oh yea – I have.
Tuesday – After doing Seminary and some school work – we took Tanner and Kaylie into Sao Pedro, where the elementary school is.  We have been contemplating having Tanner go to public school.  But, he’s been fighting us on it.  He was wanting to go at one point, then completely changed his mind.  Well, we took him there to check it out.  We had a tour of the school by the administrator.  We met the 4th grade teacher, who was very nice and introduced Tanner to the students.  Everyone was very nice and we’re still considering enrolling him.  Although, he did leave me a giant note on my pillow, that night, that said “I am NOT going to Portuguese school”.  I guess he’s serious.  After traumatizing him at the school, we took the kids to the dog pound to possibly adopt of dog.  But, the pound was closed.  We figured we'd check it out tomorrow.  Devan got invited to go to the movies with the friends from Marinha Grande (the friends we first met when we arrived in Portugal) to see Harry Potter.  So, Rick being THE nicest dad in the world – drove him 45 minutes to see a movie that started at 9:30pm (which is already past Rick’s bedtime).  Rick was going to go shop around for a bike, but everything was closed.  So, he ended up back at the movie theater and watched a different movie, by himself, to kill time until Devan’s movie was over.  Harry Potter had some technical difficulties and therefore started late, so Rick’s movie ended before Devan’s.  Anyways, by the time they got home it was about 1:30am.  Crazy!!  Oh – PS, Devan went with 5 girls & 0 boys.  Oh – PPS, they all like the cute American boy.
Wednesday – So today was a big government workers strike.  We found this out a couple of different ways.  1 was because we were wondering why the kids would be seeing such a late movie on a school night; 2 was because Rick received an e-mail from the guy at the car dealership that said we couldn’t get the car until next week, due to the strike (the paperwork was delayed).  Really?  Can you believe that?  And, can you guess why they went on strike?  Well, Portugal’s economy is one of the worst in Europe right now.  They have made all the workers take pay cuts, they’ve put tolls on their freeways and highways.  Things are just a mess right now.  Anyhow – I don’t know how the strike turned out since we don’t watch TV here and we don’t get the newspaper.  All I know is kids didn’t have school and we didn’t get our car.    Just a few other thoughts for this wonderful day – I HATE HOMESCHOOLING!!  I really don’t know how parents home school their children.  Takes a lot of patients.  Tanner drove me crazy ALL day.  I think he’s out of sorts with himself.  He really doesn’t want to go to public school, but then he drives us completely crazy at home.  Doesn’t quite make sense.  Kaylie is a great homeschooler, though.  She keeps track of everything she does, she’s very organized, and she’s actually interested in learning so she reads all of her stuff on her own.  Devan, well, it’s taken him 2 months to get motivated to work, but he’s actually doing it now.  Luckily for him, it’s a self paced program; and, he has a year to complete it.  So, he’s doing good now.  This evening we went to the church for FHE.  A new family came.  They have 3 kids.  A boy who’s almost 13, a girl who’s 15, and a little boy who’s probably 3.  Elder Duarte gave a spiritual message and then we played “Pictionary”.  Very interesting to play “bilingual Pictionary”.  It was fun, and the branch is growing a little more.
I’m going to make this a 3 part blog.  It’s late again.  I seem to always do this when it’s late.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

November 23, 2010

Well, I’ve sat down to write an update at least five different times, but then something always comes up and I get distracted and it goes undone !!  I just looked up my blog and realized it’s been over 2 weeks since the last time I wrote.  SAD!!  I never was very good at keeping a daily journal.   And now I have to get all of our happenings caught up.  And we have definitely had a few “happenings”.  Because, you know, nothing can be easy here in Portugal. J
The last I wrote – the plan was to possibly take the missionaries to Lisbon.  Well, we did end up driving the Elders to Lisbon that next day.  It was quite fun to see these young guys with beat up suitcases bungee corded to a skateboard for wheels, heading off on their next adventure in Portugal’s largest city.  As for us, we spent the rest of the day in Portugal’s largest city – CAR SHOPPING.  Although, we did have a great time eating lunch – Chili’s!!  The only one in Portugal.  We were shocked!!  I guess things really have changed, in Portugal, over the last 20 years.  And the menu was the same.  It was so nice to have familiar food – it made me feel like I was back home.  I really wanted to order 1 of everything – but I refrained and ordered my favorite salad (quesadilla explosion) and endless chips & salsa.  Oh my – was it good!!  The rest of the day was spent trying to look at cars.
We seem to have left our kids home, quite often, looking for a car.  So, the next day (Wednesday) was spent at home – Rick looking up used cars on the internet, so we could try to hit a bunch the next time we go in to Lisbon.  There are several things that make buying a car in Portugal difficult for us.  First, the language barrier (although Rick speaks very well, he’s never had to learn words that have to do with buying a car); second, finding “dealerships” are a joke – even with a GPS, finding an actual address that exists can sometimes feel impossible; and third, getting accurate info on a car (before spending a half hour to an hour finding the car, in the first place) can be extremely frustrating.  Just an example – we’d been looking at minivans - We felt that having a car with extra seats would be helpful in case we needed to give the missionaries a ride somewhere, or pick up branch members that may not have a way to get to church, or just to have a couple of extra seats in case Tyler or other people come to visit – so, we go to look at an older 7-seater minivan, and when we get there it is missing the 2 back seats.  We ask if he has the seats and he tells us they are back at his shop and he has another van there we can look at.  So, we follow him back to his shop.  Turns out the 2 back seats are different upholstery.  Very typical.  No joke – that happened a couple of times.  Well, we spent many days looking for a car.  I’ll finish that part of the story in a bit. 
Wednesday night (the day after we got 2 new Elders) we went to Family Home Evening at the church.  We had told the old missionaries that we would come, and so we did.  Plus, we wanted to meet our new Branch Presidency (the new Elders).  Every Wednesday night (8pm) they have FHE at the church, in hopes that the branch will become more united and have a little fun and spiritual upliftment together.  Well, after stopping at a bakery to buy some goodies to share, we arrived about 15 minutes late to the church.  Our new Branch President is Elder Duarte, a young African elder from Cabo Verde – which is an island off the African coast that was settled by the Portuguese.  The other elder is Elder Walter, from Arizona – he is 6 foot 5 inches – OH MY!!  He dwarfs the Portuguese people - and the Maingots, of course.  Oh, and FHE?  Well, we were the only ones who showed up, except for the man who is the other counselor in the branch presidency.   It was nice though.  We talked with them for almost 2 hours, shared our sweets, and then went home. 
One other bit of our Wednesday – cooking dinner.  What a frustration.  I had not been able to figure out our oven.  So our dinner consisted of a roasted chicken that was burned on the top and raw on the bottom with uncooked potatoes and carrots.  Smelled delicious – tasted disgusting – well, the part we could eat without worrying about salmonella poisoning.  Kaylie thought my frustration was very funny.  Her favorite saying has become “calm down”, spoken with a Portuguese accent.  Ha Ha!!
Thursday was spent looking at cars in Lisbon again – just me and Rick.  LONG DAY!!!
Friday was a pretty happy day for the kids.  We had planned on going to the Feita – which is basically a swap meet put on by the Ciganos (Portuguese for gypsy).  But, as I was getting ready to go – the kids came knocking on my bedroom door.  They had a cute puppy in their arms.  Turns out 2 dogs went running through our backyard.  The kids ran outside and called them and the puppy came back.  Portugal has lots of dogs that roam the streets.  So, we had told them that if they wanted to befriend a stray that would be fine.  Well, the kids all chose to stay home and play with the puppy while Rick and I went to the Feita and then car shopped again.
Saturday was the day to buy a car!! Our hopes were high!!  We had found several that we thought would work and then Rick wanted to check out a couple more.  We took Kaylie and Tanner with us.  Because Kaylie is carsick all the time we thought it best if she come and drive in them before we made a final decision.  After several test drives, Rick dropped me and the kids off at IKEA while he went to test drive 1 more car.  We had a fun time shopping at IKEA, but it was late (11pm) by the time we were done.  Because the next day was Sunday we figured we better make a quick stop at a store to buy a couple of food items.  After driving around forever we came to the conclusion that Portugal stores don’t stay open 24 hours.  And, because we had driven around trying to find an open store, we now needed to get gas.  It was raining and late.  We finally found an open gas station.  Actually, it had a “debit card” pump.  The line was fairly long and everyone seemed to be having trouble with the machine.  When Rick got up to the pump he was having a hard time figuring out how to get the machine to work.  Several car loads of young punk guys had pulled in and were getting annoyed that it was taking so long.  The guy that had used the pump before us helped Rick get it going and we headed out.  By this time it was after midnight.  We jumped on the freeway and not too long after, the engine started making a funny noise and the car started to hesitate.  I said something’s wrong with the car.  Just as I said that Rick realized that he put “gasoline” in our “diesel” car.  We pulled over to the side of the freeway and stopped.  Now, what would you do if you were in a country where you don’t have any family or friends nearby, a Bishop to call, you don’t speak the language all that well, and you’ve just ruined the engine in your rental car at 12:30am on a cold rainy night?  Hmm…
Well, Rick does what he’s done most of this trip – he called his friend, Fatocha and woke her up.  She told us to look at our rental car accident form in the glove compartment.  Sure enough – there was a 24 hour roadside assistance phone number.  She called it for us and arranged a taxi and a tow truck.  After sitting on the side of the freeway for what seemed to be forever, we finally made it back to our house at 2:20 in the morning.  Can I just say one thing on the subject – I’m glad it was Rick and not me!!! J

I’ll post this for now and finish tomorrow – it’s late!!

Monday, November 8, 2010

November 8, 2010

I know this is back tracking a little bit.  But, several of you have asked me (via e-mail) if they celebrate Halloween here.  Well, they do – sort of.  It’s called “Dia dos Mortes” which translates to “Day of the Dead”.  I might be pretty clueless when it comes to Halloween.  I don’t know exactly what we are “celebrating” on Halloween.  All I know is that, as a kid, I couldn’t wait to fill up the pillowcase.  And now that I’m a mom I dread my kids filling up the pillowcase (unless they get the good stuff and they don’t notice it disappearing).  Well, for the Portuguese, it is a day that they honor their dead.  We saw lots of people at cemeteries putting flowers on their loved ones graves.  The children do go trick or treating.  In fact, they trick or treat 2 nights, October 31st and November 1st.  Kaylie said American kids get ripped off.  The kids dress up and knock doors.  The people hand out candy, or little cakes, or roasted chestnuts.  (Fatocha showed me how to roast chestnuts and they’ve become one of my favorite snacks).  The problem with this Halloween was the weather.  It rained pretty good both evenings – we didn’t see one trick or treater either night.  Kaylie was pretty bummed about that.  She wanted to see what the kids dress up like here.  I heard you all in Utah had a similar Halloween.  Hail storm, cold, etc.  Bummer!!
So, I’m trying to get caught up to the current day.  I know I already told you about our moving experience on Friday.  Saturday we hung around our new home (trying to get the kids comfortable with their surroundings).  Most of my day was spent vacuuming and mopping.  Because this home has sat vacant for a while it was filled with cobwebs, spiders, and dead bugs.  I guess since the owner was giving us a good deal on the house, he didn’t feel the need to have it cleaned.  Oh well, at least cleaning it made me feel like it was my home.  Devan and Tanner spent most of the day down at the lake, Kaylie hung out and organized her room.  Rick was given a “get acquainted with the property” tour by the lands keeper, along with walking through with a repair guy getting a few things added to the home – like shower head holders.  Europeans often just hold the shower head – strange.  He also brought plug in heaters, since it’s winter and not all of the rooms have heaters in them.  His wife, 2 daughters, and their dog came with him.  Very nice people.  We didn’t know they were here, though, because they walked straight down to the dock and started laying out.  I think that caught Devan by surprise because he came up a little while later and said some lady was there with her 2 girls and they were laying out in bikinis.  And we were told the dock was our own private dock.  It took us a while to put it all together, and we had a good laugh about it.  That night Rick and I and Kaylie took off and went grocery shopping.  Devan and Tanner wanted to keep crawdad hunting – by the way, we now have a small pool area filled with crawdads awaiting their death.  And this time Devan and Tanner had a good flashlight.
Sunday we headed to church.  It’s very interesting walking into a building that’s pretty much empty and knowing that it’s going to be pretty much empty the whole 3 hours.  We talked with the Elders for a few minutes and they told us their plan for us.  Tanner went with Elder Tanner for Primary (another little girl showed up about half an hour later), and the rest of us went to Gospel Principles together.  During class I couldn’t take it because the teacher was having everyone answer a question (the same question), he gets to me, I have no idea what is going on, I get all flustered – what a joke.  Then, I’m trying to read my book in English, while they are reading aloud in Portuguese and I couldn’t even focus enough to comprehend the paragraph.  Basically, my brain was confused.  So, I ended up leaving and sitting in on the Primary lesson with Tanner, which was good.  Since it was fast Sunday Elder Tanner was teaching Tanner and Isabella about testimonies.  Then he asked Tanner if he wanted him to teach him how to bare his testimony in Portuguese.  So, we got a language lesson.  Tanner ended up writing out his testimony in Portuguese – and shared it during sacrament.  WOW!!  What an awesome kid I have – very brave.  He didn’t even care if he pronounced it right or not.  I wish I was 10 again.  PS – Rick bore his testimony and introduced our family and then I grabbed him and made him translate my testimony to – it’s hard to keep track of your sentences when you have someone translating your previous sentence – FYI - This Sunday was a little more full.  There were 20 of us total.  Well, after church we visited with the Elders for quite a while and made plans for them to come over.  Elder Sagebin wanted to cook us his famous white chili dinner.  After their last appointment Rick went and picked them up and he cooked us dinner, which was extremely yummy!!  .  They hung out with us till about 11pm – oops – and then Rick took them home. Since it was their P-Day the next day, we made plans with them to go see the Castelo do Ourem.  It is a castle that Elder Tanner had been wanting to see and there was a possibility that he may get transferred Tuesday.  We met them in Ourem on Tuesday, which is today, and the first thing they tell us is that they got “whitewashed”, which means both of them are getting transferred.  What a bummer!!  They said it was very unexpected and that the mission president very rarely “whitewashes” an area where a missionary is the “branch president”.  It was funny to hear them calling all the other missionaries and talking about the transfers.  I told them they sounded like a bunch of girls.  Visiting the Castle was pretty cool.  I’ve decided, though, that exploring castles when we were younger was a lot more fun.  Now, I just worry about my kids falling to their death the whole time.  Exploring a castle usually consists of old ancient, crumbling rock with hundred foot drops that don’t have any guardrails.  And with my boys – it’s completely nerve wracking.  Kaylie is the only cautious, sensible one.  And, to top it off – it was raining and very windy when we were exploring.  So, all the rock was mossy and slippery. It is one of the coolest castles/ruins, though.   Oh, and we had to park down the hill because the road up is cobblestone and our tires couldn’t grip it. That was scary too.  Devan and one of the missionaries were trying to push it up the hill as Rick gunned it – didn’t work.  Well, the day was good – although we were wet and cold.  Went to lunch with the missionaries afterward, then took them home (30 minute drive with Tanner sitting on Devan’s lap and Kaylie sharing my seat with me – that was fun).  They move to their new areas tomorrow – I think Rick and I are going to drive them there – they both will be in different cities near Lisbon (Portugal’s Capitol).  I guess we’ll see who our new Branch President is next week.  Good times.
Love you and miss you (and my Armada)