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)