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May 28, 2012

week 21.

Sunday, May 20th
Not since the first Portugal Cup competition in 1939 has Coimbra's own Academica been champion.  Not until this year, that is!  The city erupted after the victory, so since I was already in the city for a choir rehearsal until 10, we headed over to the City Hall, where the team was supposed to show up at 11.  Here we are smiling, because we think they will be there soon.  In reality, they didn't show up until 1 am, which didn't make for a super happy Kim (lots of screaming, air horns, smoking, pushing and shoving, all while standing in a very crowded area, not knowing when we would leave... are you getting uncomfortable yet?), but I must admit that in regard to it technically being a cultural experience, I guess I could say it was fun... :)

Monday, May 21st
Stopped by the mall tonight to pick something up and this window display brought me back to my childhood. Neon is back, baby!

Tuesday, May 22nd
Today I got to be part of an international student project that our Association was hosting this week, as I translated from Portuguese to English for some Polish, Spanish, and Turkish middle-school students.  One of my favorite conversations of the day was with a young Turkish boy, probably 12 or 13 years old.  It went a little something like this:

Him: Are you cowboy?
Me: Do you mean, do I like the Cowboys, the American football team? (Imitate throwing a football)
Him: (Through the translator) No, he wants to know if you are a cowboy, since you are an American.
Me: You mean like a real cowboy?  Who rides a horse? (imitate riding a horse)
Him: (nods)
Me: Sorry, no. (Smile)

Wednesday, May 23rd
I used the bathroom at Luis Miguel's part-time clinic today, and was baffled by this sign above the toilet, which says "Please do not put toilet paper in the toilet."


Sorry, Portugal... I don't put used toilet paper anywhere except for the toilet!

Thursday, May 24th
My husband is a rock star for a million reasons, one of which being how often he washes the dishes!  Seriously.  He does.  And I hate washing dishes with a passion. Detest it. I am so blessed to have married someone who doesn't really mind!

Friday, May 25th
After winning the Portugal cup, our Academica soccer team offered 1€ tickets for a friendly match against Angola, where they brought the cup out on to the field, paraded it around, and took photos on their own "Champions" stage under I shower of confetti (which I missed by 3 seconds as my camera battery died!)

Saturday, May 26th
Another fun night with the Gerecke's and our Brazilian friends... and some pro wrestlers??

May 25, 2012

week 20.

Sunday, May 13th
Luis plays soccer on a weekly basis, just casual games with his club team in a city just outside of Coimbra, but since the games usually start at 9.30 or 10.00 pm, I don't go to watch much anymore, because really, who can concentrate at that hour of the night?  And worse, who wants to get home after midnight when you have to work the next morning?  Not I, said the Early Riser!  Sometimes, though, when the weather warms up, there is a tournament on the weekend, and the wives and kids can go watch! The day was in the 80s, and even at 6.00 pm we had to sit on the ground since it was the only spot of shade that we could find, and the sun was still hot at that hour! I'm sad that I didn't think to bring my nice DSLR camera, but my little point-and-shoot caught this action pretty fabulously!

Monday, May 14th
Heading back from Pinhel yesterday, I decided to take a break from my book and do a craft project, since we'd be in the car for two hours.  Proving difficult with all the bumps in the road, I finished it today.  Cute, eh?  It's a sailor's knot bracelet, all braided from one long 3.5m strand of cotton cord.  It was a project I found through Pinterest, and you can find the directions on the More Design Please blog.  I am tempted to not share it on here, since I plan to use them as presents and to sell them on my forthcoming Etsy site, but it was too fun not to share today!

Tuesday, May 15th
This photo and the story behind it deserves an entire blog, but since it's obvious that it takes me quite a while to get around to those, I am including it here. Dona María José and her husband, Sr. João, have one of the most amazing love stories ever! In a nutshell, when they were young, he was a Portuguese soldier in a war in Africa back in the day, and she was a "war godmother", one of the many women who volunteered to write letters to keep the soldiers company from afar during wartime. She wrote to many different soldiers, but one took quite a liking to her and began to correspond back and forth with her. Eventually he proposed to her - yes, across the miles and yes, through a hand-written letter - and they married shortly after he returned from the war.  That was 50-some years ago.  About 18 months ago, Dona María José had a stroke and has been coming to Luis's part-time clinic for rehabilitative therapy.  She has recovered quite well, can speak and walk on her own, and is always doted upon by her loving husband, who has the most spirited, can-do attitude that encourages all those around him to lift their spirit in the same way.  Sr. João is constantly speaking well of his wife, loving on her verbally, and holding her hand, which I absolutely adore.  I have started going with Luis on Tuesday afternoons so that I can chat with them, and today, I just so happened to have my camera with me, so I asked if I could shoot a few photos of them on their way out.  I think this one says it all...

Wednesday, May 16th
It is often said that spring in Portugal brings "snow", as the blossoms on some of the trees blow off and fly through the air for about a week, coating sidewalks and grass with a layer of white!  As we drove about this week, I kept thinking that I should stop on one of the covered sidewalks and take a photo, but never thought of it in time until today, when it has almost all blown away.  This photo barely does it justice!

Thursday, May 17th
I was at a dinner tonight where the story of this "espiga de milho" (ear of corn) bouquet was explained, and when someone gave me one to take, I heard that the tradition varies depending on which small village is celebrating. In years gone by in some small Portuguese villages, there was a certain day in May that was considered the day to celebrate the start of the crop-growing season.  People would go out into their fields, pick the leaves, grasses, and tall grains around the ears of corn, then hang them in their houses as a reminder of plenitude, peace, and abundance. The next morning, one of our soccer athletes brought me a bunch, and I was told to dry it upside down, so that's what I'm doing! (Please ignore the fact that Blogger is turning all my whites into beigey pinks...)

Friday, May 18th
I didn't realize how much I had missed the smell of a gynasium, the sound of screeching tires inside of it, or the tweet of a referee's whistle until today!  It has been extremely difficult to build a Powerchair Futebol (Soccer) program here in Portugal - at least outisde of our center -  due to lack of financing, difficulty finding accessible transportation, and a host of other reasons, so the small demonstration and training clinic that we did in Braga today was a breath of fresh air!  They had a team a few years ago that fizzled out due to aforementioned reasons, so now that they are getting a second wind, we are hoping to start another team there!

Saturday, May 19th
So... May 19th... I think it's about time to take the sweaters out of the closet, don't you?  We have had crazy variation in our weather lately... in the last week I have worn both a tank top and a long-sleeve sweater!  I am hoping the packing up of the sweaters will subliminally encourage the sun to keep shining!

May 16, 2012

week 19

Sunday, May 6th
First time making carrot cake for our dear Spanish volunteer Adriana's birthday... Check out the size of these babies!

Monday, May 7th
Do you remember having these plastic springy bracelets in the 80's?  I found these in the check out line at the grocery store today!

Tuesday, May 8th
Today was my sweet friend Cristi's birthday, and Luis and I volunteered to babysit so that she and her hubs could have a night out on their own.  Since I have used every recent photo I have with Cristi in other daily photo posts, I will share this one that I snagged while Luis was helping Cristi's daughter, Lily, with her Portuguese homework.  Melt my heart! [disregard the yellowish orange tone of the photo... can't seem to get around it in Blogger today!]

Wednesday, May 9th
When walking out of work one night, I saw a guy coming in with a parakeet on his shoulder... which is not exactly normal in Portugal.  And by 'not exactly', I mean not at all.  I conveniently had forgotten something in our office, so I had to head back in, and was outrageously curious about the parakeet, so as I fell in step with the man, I asked him about it.  He told me that Jacques speaks a little, though he was being shy at the moment, and I asked if I could offer him a piece of the apple I was eating, which he wasn't super interested in.  The man is the husband of one of our psychologists who happened to be working late as well, and we visited her with Jacques, who still refused to speak, until our psychologist explained Jacques behavior to a "man... who just does what he wants, when he wants".  To this, I let out a belly laugh, and Jacques chirped, as if to impersonate it! Now I kind of want a parakeet.

Thursday, May 10th
Though most people are pretty annoyed when they send us mail and it takes longer than expected or doesn't arrive on time, but this week I thoroughly enjoyed the extension of my birthday celebration when a big package arrived from my dear friend Jessica!  Everything was wrapped up all pretty and themed!  Does this girl know me, or does she know me?  Here are two of my favorite things that came out of the box.... I've already read the magazine twice and coordinated three days of outfits centered around these earrings!  Is it just me, or do you also appreciate how the color of the dot of the "i" and the magazine's spine nods to the tone of the earrings as well?

Friday, May 11th
It's very common to find granite countertops in Portugal, as granite is abundant here, making it a lot less expensive than in the States.  Here is some just hanging out on the side of the highway as we headed up north to Pinhel... See that mini-mountain in the background? That's granite. See that handsome husband of mine a little more in the foreground? He slowed down so that I could take a photo, then decided he would stop completely and get out to "pick some rosmaninho for you to smell, because it smells really good, and I don't know if you know it". Have I mentioned that I'm completely head-over-heels with this boyfriend of mine? 'Boyfriend' because it this makes me feel like we are still dating! :)

Saturday, May 12th
This weekend was the annual pilgrimage to Fatima, a city south of Coimbra that is known for it's large church and shrine to Mary, the mother of Jesus, as 3 shepherd children claim to have seen her appear to them there in 1917.  Many, many people make the pilgrimage on foot, demonstrating their devotion in this action, and yet a bit of it is just for the experience, as a poll taken this year showed that only 30% of travelers this year came for reasons of faith, and the rest for the experience of having said they visited. During the first two weekends of May, it is impossible to drive north on the highway and not see hundreds of people in yellow safety vests walking along the side of the road, some coming from 200 miles away, camping overnight, and making another trip the next day or over the course of a few days. I shot this a few days ago in a rain storm, but I thought it was interesting that this man was carrying a cross, even through the storm!

May 11, 2012

week 18.

Sunday, April 29th
I was wondering why my tennis shoes were making a strange clicking noise as I walked, then realized that the Roman ruins were to blame... and this is why I wear tennis shoes each time we visit!  Is it a lame photo to choose as the photo of the day? Yes. Do I want to keep reminding me that I have the ruins of an ancient Roman city from the year 300 AD just 5 minutes from my house so that I don't ever become desensitized to the fact that I live in such a beautiful place so rich with history? Yes.  And so... there you go.

Monday, April 30th
Our dear American friends, the Gereckes, will be heading off for a 6-month visit to the States WAY too soon, and we are trying to soak up as much time with them as possible! They kindly invited us over for dinner tonight, and I couldn't resist capturing the tongue action Calvin was working as he played Wii with Luis!  I can't get enough of him, and now that  his little 3-year-old self is speaking Portuguese... I don't have words to describe the cuteness!

Tuesday, May 1st
I love basil.  And I love having fresh herbs at home. Looking into starting a little herb garden on our balcony.  Or maybe not.  I never really enjoyed taking care of plants, and never found myself really good at it.  Our last basil plant, though, lasted through quite a few months, and the few leaves it had when we left for a visit to the States last year even stayed alive by the careful care of our neighbor!  I was so proud, and we loved making hot caprese (mozzerella, tomato, and basil) sandwiches and adding basil to pretty much everything we ate. We used almost all the leaves and were missing her in our lives, so we bought a new one the other day, which I promptly drowned accidentally.  You see, they are pretty touchy, so after going one day without water, all the leaves were droopy. Yet after we realized it was just lacking water, they completely perked up overnight!  The next time they looked droopy, I added a little too much water.  Oops. For 1€29, I felt worse for the plant than I did for the money lost, so back to the store we went. Not even one week later, we woke up to this!  What is my problem?!?!

Wednesday, May 2nd
Apparently these warmer temperatures in Portugal are making our plants more thirsty!  She revived herself with water alone, overnight!  (If only it were that easy for us after a night on the town!)

Thursday, May 3rd
Note to self: Stop buying 2€50 sunglasses at the gypsy fairs. These guys were only 3 days old. :(

Friday, May 4th
I must admit that I am a fairly organized person, but I like to collect things. Mostly notes, quotes, and lists written on little pieces of paper. Mementos. Memories from places we've been. Rocks from the beach shaped like hearts. Books. A large stash of American products to carry me over until our next visit.  Traveling feeds this love of collecting, and though we have a lot of closets, they are deep and tall with few shelves. I read recently that if you like the look and feel of your organizing system (be it you have one, like baskets, file folders, etc), you will naturally like to use it more (i.e. keep your house clutter-free!). Makes sense, right?  Unfortunately, materials to create an organizational system here are pretty pricey.  Until... the 75% sale comes to our local Continente grocery store!  I paid full price for each, but then 75% of the money will go back on my card in the next two months, so in the end, I got each one for 1€79, which is practically stealing!  Cute and functional!

Saturday, May 5th
To answer the never-ending question, yes, we are thinking about having kids, but no, not right now. As in, not trying right now. And will this post probably drive my family absolutely mad because I'm actually admitting it in public, making it all the more real?  Probably, yes. I'm just not ready and we personally both agree that more time together (alone) to see the world and just BE with each other is best. (May I also remind you, we spent just under 3 years very, very far apart! No birthdays together, double dates, game nights, etc. Boo to that.)  There are very few children that actually make me think more about starting a family, though, but these are two of them.  And there are few children I know that I would consider more beautiful than these two, but I chose a photo that their mom took of our backs without me knowing, because it just made me all warm and fuzzy inside.  Why?  Because it made me think that my dream of having a dark-haired, dark-eyed baby and Luis Miguel's dream of having a blonde, brown-eyed baby could, perhaps, maybe, possibly come true... if we are blessed with two children, that is!  (Unfortunately, I don't think we're going to come anywhere near those delicious dark brown curls that I ran my hands through all weekend!)  Really great to have the lovely Whiting family here with us this weekend, and we wish them the best as they visit their families in the States this summer!  We'll save you a beach weekend in September!

May 1, 2012

week 17.

Sunday, April 22nd
After a fun-filled weekend away in Guimarães, my sweet husband surprised me with a little mini-party with four other couples, 3 of which we have monthly dinner/games/chats about life with, and another couple who sing with me in the local choir here, and who have connections to the Cerebral Palsy center where we work and to our American friends, whose daughter is in their daughter's class.  After hearing me mention at the Easter party that my mom always made Dirt Cake for my birthday growing up (as my birthday falls on Earth Day), Cristi made me her own version of a Dirt Cake... chocolate mousse with crushed Oreos and strawberries... so delicious!  Their kids joined in and helped me blow out my candles, and we delighted ourselves with mousse, chocolate cinnamon cake, and Pão de Deus, or "God's Bread", which I must admit was pretty heavenly-... pardon the pun!  It was a sweet time and reminded me that God is continually caring for us here -- ever so far from "home", but with the beginnings of a great community that I know He is only going to grow larger and deeper as our time here in Portugal continues!

Monday, April 23rd
My two colleagues in the Volunteer Department, along with our boss, one member of the board of directors, and our 4 European volunteers here for 6 months through the European Voluntary Service Program all pitched in to celebrate with some pumpkin bars I had made (in Portugal, the birthday girl always brings her own cake for everyone else to enjoy!) and another typical Portuguese cake that our boss provided.  I was graced with the Portuguese birthday song (sung to the same tune as the original!), some goodies that were made to look like American money, a poster with a very accurate looking drawing of yours truly, with kind sentiments and inside jokes from our volunteers, and a really cute ombre (look it up) scarf!  My colleague Carina was kind enough to add the afternoon celebration as an entry on our volunteer blog, and though it's all in Portuguese, you can at least look at the photos!  The one I'm including here is with our volunteers and some super fabulous sparkler candles that our boss found... shaped into a 3 and a 0!  Amazing!  Does she know me, or does she know me?!?!

Tuesday, April 24th 
Last week on a public library run (I love libraries!!!!), I remembered that a few months ago I found this on the English bookshelf and promised myself when I finished my most recent book, I would start this one.  My former roommate and dear friend Margaret was always trying to convince me to read them, but without much free time to read while living in Atlanta (can't believe I didn't allow myself time to READ!  The horror!), I stuck to life application books instead of novels.  One of the first things I did after moving to Portugal was to start a list of all the novels that I wanted to read this last year, and I finished quite a few of them!  Now that I'm halfway through the first Harry Potter book, I can't wait to go back to the library and get the movie!

Wednesday, April 25th
We slept in today to celebrate a national holiday in Portugal and did house projects, cleaned in preparation for weekend guests, read books while watching a grey cloudy sky become more and more grey with each passing hour, and rotated about 4 loads of laundry throughout the entire afternoon.  (Confession: being a newly married couple without children, sometimes we just sit on the couch and read books in our free time instead of doing responsible adult things like laundry).  We have a lot more free time since Christmas, when Luis's parents bought us a dryer, since we are not spending 30 minute a week hanging socks on individual clothespins!  I love it.  Though we still hang quite a few things that we don't want to shrink, like sweaters and jackets, it has been a huge time saver... though it has made our electricity bill go up! (Boo).  Since Portuguese houses and apartments aren't equipped for clothes dryers, we have to physically put the dryer vent out a window or a door to avoid the humid air coming into the house.  The other day, Luis realized that it's really only in the first 30 minutes of the cycle that the air is super humid, and for the rest it's pretty much room temperature.  It was at that moment that he came up with the brilliant idea to redirect the air being blown out of the vent up to dry our clothes that were hanging on the drying rack, using a simple plastic laundry basket without holes to reflect the air and an old shower shelf that was on it's way to the trash to hold the hose down.  We call it the Double Dryer: (forgive the grand mistake to shoot the photo with the glass sliding door as a backdrop!)

Thursday, April 26th
While taking a walk near our house the other day, I noticed this beautiful archway, and I must confess that I don't think I have ever noticed it before!  Sometimes I fear becoming desensitized to the beautiful European architecture that surrounds me every day, so I am trying to be more aware of beautiful things like these!  (Also note the orange trees in background... they are everywhere here!)

Friday, April 27th
Really happy that now I can officially use the "30" cheese knife that I brought from the States, a memory from Swoozies, one of my favorite boutique stores in Atlanta that closed just a bit before I moved. It's been sitting in my drawer for a while and I'm proud to say that I didn't use it until I actually turned the big 3-0! One or many of you should think about coming to visit, so we can visit beautiful places and use my cool new cheese knife while eating Portuguese cheese and drinking Portuguese wine.  Just saying.

Saturday, April 28th
Three cheers for American visitors!  As many of you know, my mom often takes care of teacher's children in our home, and has since we were young, so that she could work at home and still have the same school holidays and summer schedule as us.  It was a blessing to be able to have a mom at home when we got home from school, always available to pick us up, and because of her amazing work with the kids, we often became great friends with the families of the kids she watched.  It's really amazing to see their photos on Christmas cards each year, some that I hardly recognize!  One family that we have kept in touch with has a daughter, Kayla, who is studying abroad in Spain this semester, and after getting in touch with us, she brought two friends and came to visit Coimbra this weekend!  Here we are at the Roman ruins that are 5 minutes from our house!