Category Archives: Settling in

Game of two halves

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Our neighbours are such friendly and generous people. It’s all been going along nicely with them popping over or stopping as they pass to hand over a bag or two of home grown, picked and brewed goodies. Call the initial gifts a welcome to the village. If it was a match this is just the pre-season friendly. A warm up to test fitness and try combinations of those young players desperate for a spot.

Sarah has been creating wonderful things in the kitchen. Onion marmalade/relish, cinnamon plum jam and spicy chutneys to name a few. These are our opening shots in Portugal’s National League of Home Produced Stuff for the Neighbours. Really should work on that acronym. The Portuguese love anything with sugar, so a jar of this stuff is going to be a winning shot in the back of the net. One jar of onion marmalade delivered. Bam, you can’t come back from that! 1 – 0. Thank you and good night.

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But that was just the first half. It appears sitting back and defending doesn’t work. The response was a bombardment of vegetables which made the score an embarrassing 6 – 1. Damn it. Next time we’ll get them.

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The other day I saw a flatbed truck pulling up to deliver some 1000 litre water tanks to a neighbour. They aren’t that heavy, but can be a pain to move in a tight spot because they are cube-shaped and a bit bulky. I was already in gardening clothes, so let the lady of the preserves know what I was doing, grabbed my heavy duty gloves with the hole right on the soft fleshy bit between the thumb and forefinger and headed out the side gate to see if I could lend a hand. By the time I arrived, the tanks were already plonked in a random way like a handful of giant die tossed in a field opposite the neighbour’s house. Gate being closed “no help thank you, I will do it later”. “Hey you want some vegetables?”. Me, confused look, “Umm, sim obrigado!” Having done nothing I returned home, still with confused look on face and wondering how I was caught off guard, with two plastic bags full of vegetables that were picked fresh right in front of me. I think we just lost that one 6 – 0.

My contribution:

Nada

The response from team Portugal:

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These guys play dirty, not sure we can win this…

Many Hands

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…and many parents! Yes it’s been three months since we moved in and we’ve had three sets of parents, in one door and out the other. Those three doors have come in handy! Hosting guests at the same time as moving to a new house in a foreign land might seem foolhardy and it would be a lie to say we aren’t just a little tired now.

It’s been great to catch up though and what we have really appreciated is having eager helpers to help make light-er work around the house. Traditionally we move into a house, plan to do stuff – stuff like put up a picture or two, and before we know it years have past and the pictures never made it out of the box then we’ve moved to another house. Repeat. So this time no moving in and getting cosy in front of the fire. Well, there’s cosy in front of the fire, but there’s also been a lot of doing!

The ladies enjoying the sunshine whilst moving rubble with a rotten old shutter. A wheelbarrow was bought shortly after this.
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Some painting done (looks lovely in the evening but perhaps a bit scary in the sun, so might tone it down a bit), new curtains and look even a picture – of sorts.
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Giant Mecanno shelving. I’m of the Lego generation, so was kept away from this job. Probably best all around really. I probably would have slashed my knuckles and bled everywhere.
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Wood burner oven conquered and wonderful things emerge regularly.
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Not strictly house, but was manufactured on site. Yes, it’s the new “man-bag”. What with personal and car ID needed to be carried, plus the other usual paraphernalia, it was finally time to go metrosexual. I designed it and Mum Manufacturing Inc. made it real! If it wasn’t for an eleventh-hour pardon, a pair of my brother’s corduroys would have been sacrificed in the making.
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A domesticated Dad. Quite a sad sight in captivity, but if you let them go feral they eat everything and risk being shot by hunters.
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Some raised beds made from leftover roofing for the future fruit and veg. section. Apparently these have become a trendy thing in Australia. Maybe we’ll export them!
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Day Something or Other

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Too tired to count, so you’ll have to do it! The radio silence has been due to lack of time rather than the internet string up to our village being broken.

The inside of the house is pretty well finished (an incredible feat by our builder and his team) all bar a couple of detail items, also the gutters are being fitted next week which should help keep the rain off the doors and leaky old window frames.

It’s all been a bit bonkers, since our furniture arrived three days earlier than scheduled (when we found out, cheered with excitement but then with all that was going on at the house, we wondered if that was the right emotion); the outlaws arrived from the UK to help unpack on the day the furniture was meant to arrive; the electricity was going to be connected, but then not, so the outlaws target destination was changed to rented house; the wood-burner and only source of heating arrived but it was the wrong one, so we are now waiting for the right one. In some ways, this is a good thing as we are now madly painting the wall behind where the wood-burner will sit. Apparently Portuguese wood-burners (salamandras) sit very close to the wall which means painting is almost impossible once in place. Imagine the warm cosy feeling of sitting in front of the fire with a hot chocolate in your hand, a warm lady at your side (possibly in the other hand), a snorey old dog at your feet and then you see it. That rectangle of grey wall where the brush will not go.

After the usual Aussie extravagance of three unnecessary bedrooms – just because we could, then downsizing in the UK to two bedrooms and a useful loft, we are now wondering where all our chairs are going to go. How did we end up with so many chairs? If they were Eames classics I could understand, but no, just a hotchpotch of chairs collected here and there.

Remember those photos of old Portuguese junk in the house. Well, we’ve replaced it with ours…

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Supervisor asleep on the job

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Bits and pieces

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My goodness, has it really been nearly a month since we posted? It would appear so! There is a bit to catch up on so this will be a hodge podge post with bits of news and random photos of various outings.

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We are continuing to settle in well and learn more Portuguese. We really feel like we are making progress on that score, especially when we meet someone who tells us about yet another expat who has lived in Portugal for years and still doesn’t speak any of the language. Everyone we have met is surprised that a) we are trying and b) what we have learnt in the last few weeks, which is a bit of a confidence boost for us. Having said that, we’ve just had a phone call from a delivery driver who is trying to find us and we don’t have a clue how to direct him. He’s sent a text saying he will deliver tomorrow, so we’ve replied with directions, courtesy of Google Translate. Goodness knows where he’ll end up!

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Our focus over the last couple of weeks has been on house-hunting – we’ve seen 12 houses in 10 days. Several we’ve been able to exclude very easily but we have three that we are keen on – all very different, all requiring different amounts of work. We are still waiting for some quotes to determine whether we can actually afford what we want, but it is an exciting time.

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The weather is all over the place at the moment. We’ve had some fantastic hot, sunny weather recently but the temperature has dropped considerably and there is a lot of rain forecast. So the house is freezing cold again. We had a horrifying electricity bill last month so have shut the electric heaters away in the spare bedroom, but I think we are going to have to get one out this evening.

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We’ve been enjoying getting DVDs from our local library – we can get 4 a week and have one Portuguese language one each time. Obviously it has to have English subtitles, but we like to think that we will be absorbing some of the language too. We didn’t have much luck with the last one we picked – although we thought the subtitles were in English, it turned out that they too were in Portuguese. We stuck with it for about 5 minutes but it was no good – that might be a film we’ll revisit in a couple of years when our Portuguese has improved a bit!

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We are gradually trying to make more things from scratch in the kitchen. Our first project is pizza! The first attempt was pretty successful – lovely crisp base – but a little bland. So for the second attempt I made a wholemeal base, a very rich tomato paste with lots of garlic and herbs and garlic mushrooms for the top, together with caramelised onions and red peppers. Unfortunately we had a little mishap transferring it from the board to the baking tray and we ended up with something resembling a calzone – only inside out! It tasted great though, so we just need to practice our transfer technique and all should be good. Practice makes perfect, so we are committing to homemade pizza once a week until we get it right. Tough job, but someone has to do it. We bought a pizza for lunch recently and made a mental note that an €11 pizza might be a bit bigger than we need! The can was added for scale.

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The next project is yoghurt – we can only buy individual pots here and we eat about 10 a week which creates a big pile of waste plastic. It can be recycled but that should be a last resort – first resort is to reduce packaging. We’ll need to get something to store the yoghurt in and probably an esky/coolbox/chilly bin (delete as appropriate depending on where you are from!) to make it, but we’ll get started on that soon. I had thought that we would also start making bread, but we can get such fantastic stuff from our bread van for 80c a loaf that we won’t bother yet. I made vegetarian sausages a couple of weeks ago based on kidney beans and seitan (made with gluten). The flavour needs tweaking a bit, but there were more successful than I expected, especially considering that a gluten sausage doesn’t sound particularly appealing!

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We had a trip to the coast a couple of weeks ago – it was too cold to stay inside. There was a fierce wind blowing in off the Atlantic which was whipping the sand up off the beach and causing a few problems – the car in this photo had got bogged in the sand on the road. Further down the road, there was a market happening and the car park was next to the beach. Several drivers were going to have a surprise when they got back to their car and found it half-buried!

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Update I started this post on Wednesday – it is now Saturday. The delivery driver called again on Thursday, except it was a different guy and he didn’t have the directions we had sent to the other guy. We didn’t understand him, he didn’t understand us and in the end I had to ask our landlady to call him and give him directions. She did, but he also decided to give up and go home. We drove here from Spain using the landlady’s instructions – the house really isn’t that hard to find! The delivery finally arrived yesterday. The weather has got worse – more rain in the last 48 hours than in the last six weeks and we’ve even had some hail and thunder to add to the excitement. I just read what I had written on Wednesday and was reminded that we were meant to be having pizza for dinner tonight – never mind, the spiced aubergine with quinoa & chickpea pilaf was pretty good! Pizza tomorrow.

Now we are enjoying a glass (or two) of wine and Eurovision. Belgium are on at the moment – Graham Norton called the choreography woeful, but I think he was being polite!

Learning Portuguese, I think I’m learning Portuguese, I really think so…

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Boa tarde! Chamo-me Sarah. Vivo em Trespostos, perte Castanheira de Pera. Estou em Portugal há três semanas.

Yes, we’ve had our first Portuguese lesson – it was meant to be last week, but I had one of my can’t-get-out-of-bed-until-lunchtime headaches so we missed it.

At first, we thought the lessons might be a bit chaotic for us – there are two other English couples in the class who have been going for some time and ‘helped’ by throwing in their tuppence worth frequently which made it a bit difficult to concentrate on what the teacher (Teresinha, meaning little Teresa) was saying. That settled down though and we quite liked the casual format of the class – a bit like a group conversation with English and Portuguese intermingled, depending on ability.

One of the students said she had been told to give herself ten years to become fluent, which I thought seemed a bit excessive. And then Teresinha gave us our first notes about Portuguese grammar….

There are four different forms of the definite article (like the English the), depending on the combination of masculine/feminine and singular/plural.

There are many ways of forming a plural, depending which letter the singular ends in. For instance, if the singular ends in l, you must look at the vowel that precedes the l – if it is an i, the l changes to an s but if it is any other vowel, the l changes to is. Even more complicated are words that end in ão, of which there are many in Portuguese. The plural is made by replacing the ão with either ãos, ões or ães. As our notes say (I love this) ‘The correct choice is the difficult part….’ I think we learn how to make the correct choice in a more advanced lesson.

Adjectives must agree with the noun they are qualifying – if the noun is feminine and plural, the adjective must also be in the feminine and plural form. As far as I can see, this means that there are four forms of every adjective too – you can’t just learn that ‘novo’ means new, you also need to learn nova, novos and novas.

Help! It isn’t helped by the fact that, when David & I were at school, they didn’t bother teach you what things like definite and indefinite articles are (I can hear our parents tutting from here), so we are having to learn that too. Suddenly ten years seems very generous.

It all seems very complicated (actually, it is very complicated), but Teresinha reminded us of some of the difficulties of learning English that we just take for granted – the different meanings of well and well, read and read, tear and tear for instance. She also learned that oo is pronounced oo as in food, until she came across flood and blood. Although there are some subtle differences in the pronunciation of some Portuguese words there aren’t any that look or sound exactly the same but mean something completely different depending on the context. That’s alright then!

Having said that, we both left with a feeling that we had learnt something and might have a fighting chance of mastering the language. In fact, we were able to go to the supermarket and ask for (and find!) a cheese made without animal rennet. In rather basic, pidgin Portuguese but not bad when you consider we’ve only been here three weeks. We’ll get there.

Eventually.

Progress

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We have made some progress over the last couple of days towards settling in -not bad since we only arrived on Thursday!

Yesterday, we joined the local library and are making use of their free internet access as I type. We start Portuguese lessons here next Monday – even the initial conversation with the tutor made my brain hurt a bit as she, quite rightly, insisted on translating everything we asked her about the lessons into Portuguese. We met the guy at the tourist information office who was very nice and suggested that we go back to him if we need help with anything in the future (he may live to regret that). We think we got our ‘Numeró Contribuiente’ – similar to the US Social Security number, you can’t do much in Portugal without one. I say we think we got them – the guy didn’t speak English and, although he gave us an official piece of paper with a number on for each of us, he then tried to explain further detail in both Portuguese and, when that didn’t work, French. I think it was something to do with registering for residency, but I’m not sure. We’ll find out when we try to use our numbers for the first time I suppose.

We also met our local vets – they have a satellite office in the nearest town, but we had to go to their main surgery on the other side of the mountain for Uller to have a chest X-ray. Turns out she has a lung infection so is on even more drugs. The vet is surprised by the combination she is on already (particularly because she has a diuretic and then a drug for the resulting incontinence) and thinks that, once the infection is sorted, her day-to-day drugs can be simplified.

What is bound to happen when I mention that we haven’t had any rain? Yep, you’ve guessed it. It was pouring this morning and our view looked of the mountain opposite was shrouded in mist. Photos will follow when we are a little more organised. The forecast looks a bit better though, so fingers crossed.

It looks like the posts I do from the phone don’t link to Facebook, so apologies to those of you who are following that way – you’ve missed out on a couple.

Must go – coffee and pastel de nata are calling.

Sarah