Tuesday, June 29, 2010

World Cup fever

It has been fun watching most of the World Cup games here in Portugal. Europe takes their soccer very seriously, which definitely makes it more engaging. Every little coffee shop, restaurant and bakery has a TV in it, and you can bet they are showing each game when it's on.

It was sad watching the U.S. lose, but I am happy they made it as far as they did. The other frustrating thing is watching most of the players fake falls so often. I understand if everyone's doing it, they feel they should, too. But it really makes the game that much less enjoyable, in my opinion.

Well, the Portugal/Spain game starts in two minutes, so we'll see if Portugal can pull it off. Boa sorte, Portugal!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Wait a second...you two will be working together?

Guess what? I finally got a job! In all fairness, we knew coming to Lisbon that it might be a while before I found a job. But I guess I just hoped and somewhat assumed that it would happen sooner rather than later. And while five months of unemployment is not an eternity, it seemed like a long time. I also think it was harder to adjust to a new place with no job. But now that we have settled in, made friends, and are really enjoying Lisbon it has been a lot easier to deal with having no job. So wouldn't you know, just as I finally accept the fact that I don't have a job, one opens up for me! But this is just the way the world usually works, right?

I will be the Office Management Specialist (fancy way of saying secretary) in the same section where John works. Even though we’ll be working together, my role will be to support everyone in the section, but most importantly John's boss. In fact, I imagine I will have less interaction with John in our day-to-day duties than when we both worked in Jakarta.

It's funny, because most people who have thought it strange that we would be working in the same section are either not that familiar with this career or they are newbies. Because sometimes, that's just the way it goes. If a spouse wants to work, they can't always choose exactly which type of job they'd like. And in smaller places, there aren't even always enough jobs for all the spouses who'd like to work. I am pretty happy, because I would have preferred to have this job over any others that may have opened up soon.

Having said that, I'll leave you with some random pics I found online......

P.S. We just might eat lunch together most days as well. (The horror!)

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Saint Anthony's Festival

Last weekend we experienced the biggest festival/party in Portugal, called the Festival of Santo Antonio. In a word, it was crazy! Just about every street in the downtown Lisbon area was filled with tables of people eating and drinking. At times it was tough to even walk down a street because it was so full.

We started off at our friends' place, seeing as they live right in the middle of a neighborhood which goes all out for the festival. From there our group made our way to the Bairro Alto, which was even more hopping than it usually is. We would turn down a random narrow alleyway, and waiting at the other end would be a huge block party complete with a band and dancing.

One of the symbols of this festival is a pot of baby basil. They were selling these pots all over the place.

It took us a while to realize that the green wigs everyone was wearing were honoring the pots of basil. It was an exciting moment when a couple Portuguese guys threw brand new wigs to all of us so we could join in the fun.

Grilling sardines on the street

Shrine to Saint Anthony

We turned a corner and ran into these guys

So, what time was it that the parade finally ended? 3:30 in the morning!

This girl was THE very last person in the parade. She was on her cell phone the whole time...

Sunday, June 13, 2010

First a casino, then the Virgin Mary?

The last part of the trip was traveling to Figueira da Foz, a town on the coast of Portugal. The Embassy was awarding seven Portuguese students a trip to the US for their achievements in science. We attended the Science Gala that night and Abby had to get up on stage to make a brief presentation of what the awards were for and call each of the students' names.

The awards dinner was held at the casino, and they had dancers as entertainment. We couldn't really figure out what they were dressed up as, but they had elaborate masks and costumes and chanted while they danced around everyone's tables.

Here is the view from our hotel room. Figueira da Foz has one of the widest beaches I've seen. That is a lot of sand!
A nice surprise waiting for us in our hotel room

The town itself didn't have too much to see, so the next day we decided to head back to Lisbon and get lunch along the way. However, Abby's GPS stoppped working, and while we thought we were staying close to the coast, we ended up taking a different route. Because of our error we got to visit one of the most important Catholic pilgrimage sites in Europe - Fatima. In 1917, three children claimed to have seen apparitions of the Virgin Mary, who revealed to them three secrets. The Catholic Church declared the spot a holy site in 1930, and the Pope had just visited a week earlier to perform mass in front of a couple hundred thousand of the faithful to celebrate the anniversary of the apparitions. So pretty good timing on our part seeing as we weren't even planning on visiting Fatima.

The three children to whom the Virgin Mary appeared

The shrine today, called the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary
Abby has a book that lists the best restaurants and places to stay in Portugal; this book is also where she found our cute hotel in Seia. It's named "Boa Cama Boa Mesa" or "Good Bed Good Table". We really want our own copy, but there are none to be found in Lisbon. It seems they produced a very limited number of copies and they were all snatched up immediately. One of the restaurants that won Portugal's "Golden Fork" award just happened to be in Fatima, so we couldn't pass up the opportunity. It was a tiny place outside of town that you wouldn't even spot from the road. I love those types of places. And the meal was fantastic. We just might have to steal Abby's copy of the book.....

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Seia adventures

I can't say enough about the hotel we stayed at in Seia. You can click on this link to see the hotel if you are so inclined. (It is one of the better websites I've found for unique places to stay.) The town is located within the national park called Serra da Estrela, which is also the name of the mountain range. This picture shows the location of Serra da Estrela in Portugal.

One of the best parts of staying there was our dinners both nights. We had no idea what was in store for us when we told them we would indeed be dining at the hotel after we arrived around 9:00 pm. Nuno and his wife Maria run the hotel; Nuno grew up in Seia and they decided to build the small hotel in 2005. Maria creates all of the dishes herself, using locally grown ingredients - many of which are grown on the mountainside right next to the hotel. Each dinner started off with sparkling wine and an inventive appetizer, then a soup, some red wine, and then the main course. The second night we were offered red sparkling wine, which I had never had before, and it was wonderful. Only after asking more about the wine did we find out that it is from Nuno's family's vineyards. A nice touch, indeed.

On our last day there we opted to take a hike of the surrounding hills in the national park. We didn't realize it would be the owner himself who took the three of us on the hike. Since he was born there, he knows every trail like the back of his hand. We ended up being gone four and a half hours! We stopped at the largest grotto on the Iberian Peninsula, and even got to venture some into it. It was a bit scary, because as soon as you got through the opening and down inside, it was completely pitch-black. I am not the type to be claustrophobic, but I have to say I was a bit nervous!

Entrance to the grotto

Besides being famous for cheese, the region of Serra da Estrela also holds a lot of history, which is the case just about everywhere in Portugal. We hiked up to areas where the Visigoths had created villages to be able to keep a lookout in every direction. Not to bore you with too much history..... I'm not sure about you but the word "Visigoths" is stored somewhere far back in my brain along with other facts I've forgotten. So what better way for me to relearn some history than where it actually happened, right?

Abby and I are looking quite stylish here

We stopped halfway through for a snack that Nuno had packed for us. On the way back, we followed a stream for quite awhile and were even able to refill our bottles from a small waterfall. It's not very often you can feel confident about drinking the water from a stream. By the time we finally made it back to our hotel we threw on our suits and jumped in the (pretty darn cold) swimming pool. Maria made us sandwiches, and we were thinking how unfortunate it was that we couldn't stay there longer. We had to continue on to another town before we came back to Lisbon. Here are some pictures of our hike:

Posing in front of the waterfall

Tiny church mountain-style

Gotta love the signs

A rewarding view of the village

Our hotel's pool looked very inviting as we finished our hike coming down the mountainside.

I'll be back with one more post to finish our trip!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Work or vacation? How about both...

John and I recently went on a work trip/vacation. One of our friends here, Abby, works in the Public Affairs section of the Embassy. Recently they received a request from a school located up in a mountain town in the north of Portugal. Two young girls, sisters, recently moved there after being raised in the US. (Their mother is originally from this town, called Seia.) Apparently, the girls were having a bit of trouble adjusting to living in a brand new country. So the school asked the Embassy if they'd be willing to do a presentation about the US and cultural diversity. Abby and John were both available to go, and of course I went along seeing as it was work combined with a vacation! We ended up having a fabulous trip... The hotel we stayed at was wonderful. We had no idea what to expect, but it was just the cutest, most unique place, located in an even tinier village above the tiny mountain town we were traveling to. We arrived at sunset, and had to take a few pics of our room, which included a walk-in closet and bathtub with jets. We were booked in the "apartment", and Abby had her own room but we shared a living room and kitchen.

The next day John and Abby did two presentations. The morning one was for a group ranging from 8-11 years old, and the afternoon session was for eighth-graders. The older group really blew us away at how good their English was and how much they knew about the US. It was a really satisfying experience. And even though I didn't present, at the very end John introduced me as his wife to the eighth-graders, and they all oohed and ahhed and whistled. Then they started chanting 'Kiss, kiss!" in Portuguese! They wouldn't stop until we finally gave each other a brief peck. It was hilarious, and that never would have happened in the US!

The teachers took all three of us out to lunch in between the presentations, which was very nice. It was great to interact with Portuguese people outside of Lisbon. It was especially nice for me, because I don't have a ton of interaction besides my day-to-day activities around where we live. And I love getting to talk to children; it was always fun when we got the chance to do so in Indonesia.

There was more "work" to do in another town, but we got to spend most of Saturday relaxing. Actually, I'll have to do another post regarding that. Here are a few more pictures of the boutique hotel: