Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Brief history of port wine

We finally have internet!!!!

Okay, now that we have that out of the way, how about we recap a recent trip.

We recently traveled to Porto as we had a Monday off for a holiday and the city was on our list of places to see. Porto is the second largest city in Portugal - about half the size of Lisbon. It is located at the mouth of the Douro river on the northern coast as you can see from the map.

Porto is the economic hub of one of the country's key wine-making regions, but it is most famously known for its signature wine, Port, which can only be produced in the Douro River valley. It is a sweet wine, fortified with extra alcohol to stop the fermentation process. It is aged in giant oak barrels, with some only reaching their peak after more than 50 years. Outside Portugal, Tawny Port is often served as an after dinner drink with dessert. But in Portugal, there are several varieties, including a white port (great as a pre-dinner drink).

Stay tuned for more photos and details about our trip.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Good News!

Let's see what we have:

1. We got our car last week! It's great to have it back; we found that we missed it. Plus this way it is easier to discover more of the city....and more restaurants.

2. We are supposed to get internet installed tomorrow. (We're not holding our breath.)

3. We bought a new couch, and they are delivering it Wednesday! Get this: the temporary couch that was issued to us was supposed to be retired in 1992. 1992!

4. My mom and my sister are all booked to come visit us in July!

5. We FINALLY got a renter for our condo. He moved in on Saturday. Thank you, Martin. Thank you so much.

6. We are vacationing in Madrid for five days, and we leave this Friday!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Out and about in Lisbon

We arrived in Lisbon on February 4 at around 11:00 a.m. We knew we'd be able to get on a normal sleeping schedule sooner if we stayed awake for the rest of the day. Even though a nap sounded great, we decided to explore our new city. We walked up a hill near our apartment and discovered this view.

The photo is from the top of Eduardo VII Park. The view is impressive, as you can see straight down to the Tejo river. We followed the city's main tree-lined avenue until we reached the baixa, the city's historic center, located right at the water's edge. All the sidewalks are cobblestone, and while we love the European feel, they can sometimes be tricky to walk on. We love being able to walk wherever we go after two years of taking taxis everywhere in Jakarta.

Some other pictures from around town:

A street car passing near Lisbon's medieval cathedral.

Lisbon's Se Cathedral, built in 1147

A colorful block near our apartment

Internet...sort of

We've been trying to get internet and cable installed at home for close to seven weeks now. Unfortunately, the end is not in sight. After we switched to a new company, we ran into all sorts of new bureaucratic problems (we just found out that the original problem was caused by our building being historic and needing special permits for any type of modification). We thought it had all been sorted out and at 9:30 p.m. on the night before our scheduled installation, the company called us and said they had to cancel because of the same problems we'd been having.

Normally the embassy is able to take care of this huge hassle, but since nothing else was working, I went down to our local finance office to get the Portuguese equivalent of a social security number. Everything was going along smoothly until they realized that one had already been issued for me when we opened a local bank account. That number could only be used for banking transactions, however, so they now have to request that someone at their headquarters delete it and issue me a new one. How ironic - we opened the bank account so that we could pay our cable and internet bill. The joys of living overseas.

But the good news is, we recently found a weak pay-as-you-go wireless internet signal that's been working intermittently at home, so we're able to post some of the pictures we've taken around Lisbon.

Keep your fingers crossed for us.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Day Laborer

Currently I am still looking for a job. It's allowed me some time to get our apartment in order, but really I am ready for work. I know, I know - as soon as I have a job a day off will look pretty appealing. Right now there are a couple opportunities on the horizon, but for now I am playing the waiting game, as we STILL are with getting our internet, TV and phone installed!

I recently had the opportunity to help volunteer with a group to paint the inside walls of a children's home/school north of Lisbon. It's a building that houses kids taken out of unsuitable homes, and it has a school and cafeteria in addition to housing all the children. I knew it would be a bit of work, but by the end of the day I was worn out! Painting continuously from 9:30am to 4:30 pm with a 45 minute break for lunch was tough. I don't think I could paint like that as a full-time job, that's for sure. Although it would be a job....... Hopefully there will be more opportunities to help out like this in the future. Here are some pics:

Our much-needed lunch break

Our group posing in the building's church

Monday, March 15, 2010

"Little Honda"

This was the last time we saw our car - being picked up by a nice man in front of our apartment in DC.

John just told me that the ship carrying our car "broke down" somewhere in the big blue Atlantic.

I was actually a little relieved to hear the ship broke down. Why, you might ask? Because I thought John was going to finish the sentence as "broke apart", "broke in half", or just simply "broke".

In the words of the Beach Boys, "Honda, Honda, hang on tight!"

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Weather or not

No doubt, the weather has been very strange around the world these past few months. Snow in places that rarely see snow, and tons of snow in places where they don't normally see that much. (DC anyone?)

Lisbon has had some of the worst winter weather they have seen in a long time. (Of course this would coincide with our moving here...) No kidding, it has rained almost every day since we got here. Apparently Lisbon had it's coldest winter in 10 years; they even got some snow 30 miles outside of Lisbon, which never happens. January had the most rain of any month in 30 years, and February had the most rain of any month in 24 years. And February is a short month I must add.

Since we arrived, every single person here keeps saying that they've "Never seen the weather like this", and "The winters are usually so mild", and "Normally the sun shines and it's not cold during these months". Needless to say we are really ready for things to warm up and dry out here. With all that said, yesterday and today have been wonderful, and I know there is much more of it to come. Take a look for yourself: http://www.weather.com/outlook/travel/businesstraveler/tenday/POXX0016

Monday, March 8, 2010

Technically speaking

That's right, we still don't have internet access at home yet. Something about needing the mayor's permission for the cable company to connect to our building? Apparently a different company already has the connections in place, so now we are in the process of trying to get this new company to install it for us. We actually had an appointment last Friday morning for them to set it up, but after waiting out the 2 hour window they gave us, we realized they were not coming. We found out something later that would have been helpful to know: Apparently in Portugal, if the technician does not call you a couple days before your appointment, then that means he will not be coming after all. Hmm. So now we are back to square one, where they will be "giving us a call to set up an appointment time." I know things move more slowly here, so we are trying to be patient.

The good news is that we are able to use our Iphones here! We bought them in June when we got back to the states from Jakarta, with the hopes that we would be able to get them unlocked in Portugal. So a few weeks ago we did just that. I must say we got very used to our Iphones in the states, so it is nice to have them here. The data plans here are not unlimited, so we can't go too crazy using the internet, but at least we have that option while we are waiting on home internet. Thanks Apple!