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July 29, 2012

week 29.

Sunday, July 15th
Pasta and wine for lunch... just preparing for comida italiana!

Monday, July 16th
Our packing method for this trip... tops with underwear and socks for each day rolled inside, organized in order of wear in giant 5L ziplock baggies that I accidentally bought  instead of the normal 1 gallon ones on our last trip to Ikea.  Note: they didn't change the colors of the bags just for fun. Colors represent sizes.  Whoops!  All bags are not pictured, but there aren't many more than this! We're bringing extra bags for dirty clothes, as well, and hope that in our 4 different cities, having clothes arranged in large zipper bags will eliminate hassle and avoid annoying me the 4 different times we have to unload the bag in the 4 different cities we will be visiting!

Tuesday, July 17th
We made it to Rome!

Wednesday, July 18th
How did I spend 2 and a half days in Rome on a college study abroad trip and not make it to the Roman Forum, one of the most famous ancient sites in all of Italy?  I still can't believe it, especially since it is about a 10 minute walk from the Coliseum!  Here you can see remains of Ceasar's palace, the first Senate house, the temple of the Vestal Virgins, and the Arch of Septimius Severus.  It's amazing to think that we can walk through ruins that are almost 1,800 years old!

Thursday, July 19th
After journeying to Florence, we ventured to the top of a hill that gave us a beautiful view of the city!  The large red domed cathedral is the Duomo, and the large bridge closest to us famous Ponte Veccio.  It was surely a stunning way to be introduced to Florence for the first time!

Friday, July 20th
Since it was 2€ cheaper to climb the Campanile tower than it was to climb the dome of the Duomo Cathedral, we chose that option.  And a brilliant option it was, since only by climbing the Campanile can you get this great shot of the Duomo's dome.  (Espertos!)  This also marked the day when we paid 6€ to climb 413 stairs.  Yeah. Espertos.

Saturday, July 21st
After doing quite a bit of research on places to visit in Italy and creating a concourse that would make sense (with all train transportation, cost of traveling during the week vs the weekend, etc), we had heard that Pisa wasn't a place worth spending time in, but since it was on our way from Florence to Cinque Terre, we decided to spend 3 hours there.  We hopped off the train in Pisa and on to a bus across the street from the train station, which conveniently dropped us off at the plaza right in front of the Tower.  And oh, what a Tower it is!  To avoid being asked the question "Didn't you take a photo trying to hold up the Tower?", and also to avoid putting my pasty white legs on the blog any more than necessary (it was about 95ºF the first 5 days of our trip!), I am posting a photo of Luis Miguel holding up the tower with his brute strength, all concentrated into the tips of his moussed hair.  Be jealous, ladies. Be very jealous.

[PS- Happy wedding day to my dear, dear friend Anna (Meyer) Foley!]

week 28.

Sunday, July 8th
Choosing clothes for vacation!  This habitual over-packer is trying to have a minimalist approach like her simplistic husband.... and that's not an easy feat!

Monday, July 9th
Kim: Hey Love, do you want to try out my new gummy fruit snack recipe that I found on Pinterest?

Luis: (silence)

Kim: (gets fruit snacks, takes them out of molds, tastes one) Mmm... try them! Want to try them? They're good!

Luis: (takes a bite; silence)

Kim: They are awesome! Tell me they're awesome! 

Luis: They are strange.

[The end].

Update: They are, in fact, strange. They taste like really really tough Jello jigglers. That didn't stop me from eating them, but when after eating 5 or 6, you realize you have eaten more than half of an entire pack of Jello gelatin, you rethink your decision...

Tuesday, July 10th
Break time with our volunteer event planning team... The cafe across the street had what looked like real American doughnuts, so my colleague Carina and I decided to split one.   Verdict: tasted pretty authentically American, but the consistency was pretty dry.  I'd be willing to try again though!  Reminded me of Saturday morning doughnuts with my dad in Milwaukee!  :)

Wednesday, July 11th
My super-thoughtful grandma, knowing how much I love Norman Rockwell, saw this cute reusable shopping bag and mailed it to me!  One side has one of Rockwell's famous baseball prints, and this side is a simple still life, which my grandma said "reminded her of Italy", so I should "take it on my trip in case we go shopping."  Love her!

Thursday, July 12th
As I have mentioned in other posts, a bit part of my job is working with European volunteers in a 6 month project through the program "European Voluntary Service" (EVS).  One of the parts of the project this year was to create an event that showcased the project and APCC at the same time.  We brought in 5ª Punkada, a band comprised of our disabled clients, a group of singers performing traditional Portuguese music, and a theater group.  Our volunteers hosted the show, created a video, and displayed a photo exhibition.  It was fabulous, as you can see in the "after" photo with some of our team that made the show possible!

Friday, July 15th
I think I will have to mark today on my calendar as the day when I made the most embarrassing cultural faux pas to date!  I will try to summarize concisely.  I have been having a recurring eye infection and decided to go to a well recommended doctor at a surgical center just outside of Coimbra.  Since apparently the 12.30 appt time they told me on the phone was really 12.20 (no way I messed that one up because of the Portuguese... "vinte" [20] and "e meia" [30] don't sound anything alike!), they let another client go ahead of me, so I knew I would have to wait.  I decided that using the restroom was a good idea since you never really know how long you have to wait at the doctor's office. Upon entering the restroom, I found myself in a small area with a sink and two more doors.  It is pretty common in Portugal that small restrooms like this have their own "rooms" (normal size stalls, just completely closed in) instead of stalls connected to the others with open tops and bottoms.  These rooms have doors that close completely, and since no light comes from the open top, they often have their own light switch.  Light switches in Portugal are often outside the door, but since I didn't see anything outside this door, I went in and looked on the wall inside. Nada. Glancing around, I noticed a cord hanging from the ceiling.  Now, I'm not sure if it's my American culture or if it's a universal rule, but in the dark, if you see a cord with a little ball on the end hanging from the ceiling, it is probably for a light bulb, right? Right. Or so I thought. After pulling it and not seeing anything happen, I exited the stall, just to see in front of me (which was to my back, next to the entrance, when I came in), another cord identical to this one, but it was only then that I noticed a small red sign next to the cord that said "Pull only in case of emergency". Though I didn't hear an alarm, I panicked and ran from the stall to the front desk around the corner, and very quickly explained to the nurse (who was already exiting her desk and telling someone else that there is an alarm going off) that there was not, in fact, an emergency, and that I had pulled the cord thinking it was a light.  She smiled and understood, but insisted on going back into the bathroom "just to make sure everything was ok", and then showed me that the light switch was actually directly beneath the paper towel holder (clearly designed by an engineer who loves his symmetry), and after turning it on, I could obviously see the emergency sign next to the cord in the stall.  I didn't notice the sign inside the bathroom earlier because... (wait for it...) there was no light on inside of there!!!  This post deserved two photos, because there was no way to show both the switch and the cord in the same photo.  You can't see the switch behind all those paper towels though, can you?  Yeah... I couldn't either.

Saturday, July 14th
Another note about EVS: Back in April, at a dinner hosted at our volunteers' apartment, Christian, from Germany, let us taste some of his dad's homemade raspberry jam that he brought from home before the project started.  Luis happened to love the jam as well... so much, in fact, that it prompted Christian to ask his dad to send a small jar when his brother came to visit this week.  Happy belated birthday to Luis, and happy dinner to me... peanut butter toast with German raspberry jelly on top!

Saturday, July 14th
Trying it out... though my Better Half will be the one carrying it!  We are using this instead of a suitcase because we have various train transfers that will make wheel-able luggage difficult to manage, not to mention a mere 3 hour stop in Pisa (including a train station stop, bus transfer, short walk to the Tower, short walk back, bus trip, then train trip!) which has unknown-to-us terrain.  We are hoping it's the right choice!

week 27.

Sunday, July 1st
After two failed attempts at making banana bread, I think I may give up and let the oven win. Not sure why I can make pumpkin bars, cakes, cobblers, etc, and bread just won't finish in the middle.  Maybe because the pan is too deep? This was in the oven 40 minutes longer than recommended, and even after covering the top, both that and the bottom were black, but it wasn't done in the middle, as perhaps you can see in this photo.  I tried a new recipe and was so excited to taste it... bummer.

Monday, July 2nd
Ran an errand downtown during the day today and loved these charming old flags that were hanging out of a second story window, above a little mom-and-pop shop.  Their obvious age makes me wonder who they belonged to, where they have flown, and how old they really are...

Tuesday, July 3rd
As mentioned in one of my recent posts, we have been confused and bewildered by the amount of taxes we occasionally have to pay to receive a package sent from America, never knowing if it was randomly searched, searched for a reason, randomly taxed, taxed for a reason, etc. Sometimes we get letters saying we need to respond and prove something-or-other like the reason we are receiving it, a declaration of honor saying we won't sell it, and the like. We never know why sometimes we have to pay, and have heard we can avoid this by asking senders to take off tags, put things in plastic bags instead of original packaging, and send flat rate boxes that have the USPS logo on them.  After a long-awaited Christmas box finally arrived from my brother (he's busy... it's not that the mail had to travel for 6 months), via my mother, we were very disappointed that we were taxed a LOT and had to pay more than we had ever paid to receive it or else they would send it back. After being informed that we would really enjoy the presents, and after really wanting some other things inside that I had shipped to my brother from Amazon, we bit the bullet and just paid it.  I must confess that it was surely worth it!  You can see the abundance of goodies here, a few American items sent from our wish lists sent by Kyle and his girlfriend Kelly, a few fun things my mom threw in, and two small electronic items which made the super high taxes all worth it.  Can you find the two iPhones in the photo??

Yes, we now have iPhones, and we need someone to come over on a vacation and teach us how to use them! Free Portugal tours in exchange for iPhone tutorials!  We are so thankful for our family and their generosity to us!  (PS - if any of you Americans in Portugal want the details of why you get taxed, when boxes will get searched, etc,  I can give you all the info because I got the low down from Alfândega!)

Wednesday, July 4th
Happy birthday, America!  My mom sent me these Christmas ornaments a few years ago and I decided they were better used to decorate our front door for the 4th!  We slept in today, as we are off for Coimbra's city day, and it felt great!  Obviously the Lord knew what He was doing when He moved me to a place that has a city-wide holiday on my country's birthday, and as long as I live in this city, I will be able to celebrate America with a day off!  :)

Thursday, July 5th
For being the patience that balances my impatience, for being the calm to my crazy, for putting the sun in my clouds, for bringing simplicity to my complexity... for all these things and easily 1 million more, I am thankful for you, Luis Miguel Almeida! Happy birthday to my one true love, who is making all my dreams come true... Here's to your best year yet! I adore you!

Friday, July 6th
The birthday celebration continues at lunch with our wheelchair soccer team... I can't remember the last time I laughed so hard with a group of friends!  What a privilege it is that even thousands of miles away from my home community, I can still work with such an amazing group of people who are changing lives through this fabulous sport!  So blessed!

Saturday, July 7th
Rather than lots of presents or a trip away for the weekend, Luis Miguel preferred a dinner with his nearest and dearest friends, the 4 that he grew up with and who remain his best friends to this day. Luis's parents graciously offered to host it at their house and prepare a lot of the Portuguese food (not exactly my forte quite yet!), including his favorite dessert, "Sweet Rice", pictured below, which was a huge help! I thought I would add a little American flair to the party with some discussion questions to provoke fun story-telling about the birthday boy himself. I was a bit nervous about this part, because not every Portuguese person is a fan of all the board games and themed parties that Americans love so much, so I took a risk.  It could either result in total silence or lots of laughs, and thankfully, it was the latter!  I put folded little pieces of paper in a bowl in the middle of the table and without saying anything, they immediately sparked interest!  The result was 3 fabulous hours of more laughs than I have ever heard come from this group!  It was a sweet time with old friends and I heard of a lot of old funny stories about Luis that I had never known before, including one where he and his friends put a small lizard into the binding of the teacher's attendance book on the podium in the front of the room in elementary school!  Priceless!

July 4, 2012

week 26.

Can you believe it?  Week 26... we are halfway through the year!  As of Sunday, we are closer to Christmas 2012 than we were to Christmas 2011!  :)

Sunday, June 24th
After having one of these frames blank with the cardboard backing showing through for 6 months, I decided to finish my project of filling it!  I gave up on my idea to cut hearts out of maps, highlighting a city that we love in each, (inspired by this idea via Apartment Therapy), I dug out an old magazine clipping that I had saved forever ago and framed it!  Funny story: I saved the entire magazine so I wouldn't accidentally wrinkle the page after ripping it out and most likely putting it on 10 different surfaces before actually filing or framing it.  After leaving that magazine in the trunk of our car, it got soaked after a rainstorm leaked water into the exact spot where it was.  Thankfully, somehow that page didn't get wet and I salvaged it!  If you look closely, you can see that Luis and I are clinking our champagne glasses while sitting on top of our suitcases, obviously celebrating the fact that we are world travelers. Cheers!

Monday, June 25th
Girl on a moto!  I love it!

Tuesday, June 26th
This is our freezer, just in case you were curious what it looks like.  At first I was annoyed that the drawers made it hard to find things and kind of frustrating to use, but I have since fallen in love with them and think it is a fabulous system. It fits SO many things! (In case you're wondering how big it is, it is just a bit narrower than a standard freezer, but the same height as my washing machine, which you can see just next to it).

Wednesday, June 27th
Seriously, this is like the 3rd deodorant that I'm trying here in Portugal and I sincerely hope that it works.  "Designed for athletes", so that should say something about its reliability, right?  Hope so!  Fun fact: It is rare to find stick deodorant in Portugal.  Most everthing is rollerball.  Am I the only one who feels like it's just sticky for an unreasonably long time after you put it on??  On a sweeter note, anyone care to guess who that adorable little boy is framed in the background?  :)

Update: After doing my best to adapt to the norm and use roll-on deodorant, I have decided that the varied selection and/or low price is just not worth it. I just detest it! Found a regular stick that suits me well enough for now, but I think I know what I will be bringing back from the States the next time we visit!

Thursday, June 28th
If you don't come to Portugal to visit us, you could probably just come for the fresh bread and still leave happy...

Friday, June 29th
I am almost getting choked up writing this, but I descovered something sad recently: a second-hand clothing store existed while I was living in Portugal and I didn't know about it. Worse, two weeks after I found out that it existed and tried to visit (only to find it dark and closed on a Saturday), I found out that it was closing for good!  Like... for forever. Today or tomorrow.  So we rush over there at 6.45 pm (I remembered that they closed at 7.00 most days) and arrived to find an empty store. Completely empty.  Not even one piece of clothing, nor a shelf of a rack. Heartbreaking. (Apparently I was so out of sorts that I couldn't even manage to take the photo straight!)

Saturday, June 30th
I love fresh pineapple, especially in summer!  Do you know how to buy a great pineapple that's sweet and ready to eat now?  The sweet ladies in the Continente produce section taught us the other day. (In Portugal, there is staff in the produce section because you have to weigh and price your fruits and veggies before you go to the register). The pineapple that's ready to eat will have yellow skin on the bottom, and it will be gradually yellow-ish up until about the middle. Yellow all the way to the top will be overly acidic, or too ripe.l Green more than 50% means it's not quite ripe to be eaten that day.  We have since consumed this entire container, and now I want more! Yum!