Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Life in Portugal

I can't say that I know much about living in Europe. However, thus far, it's been a great adventure. I almost feel as if we're on vacation.

We finally bought a car. We were getting rides from friends here and there and that was getting to be too much. So, we grabbed at the chance to buy a 99 Nissan Altima from a guy who is leaving NATO. It's not what we wanted. But, it was in our price range and had low mileage. So far, it's proved to be a fine car.

Driving, on the other hand, has proven to be a bit more challenging than I was expecting. I'm learning to navigate around round-abouts properly and watch for hidden street signs, all the while trying to avoid hitting cars next to me on the narrow streets. Our portable navigation tool (TomTom GPS) has come in very handy. In fact, Matt and I don't think we'll travel without one anywhere again. Though not always accurate, it easily redirects you in the event that it has taken you in the wrong direction.

I don't know if I've previously mentioned the baby sitter dilemma. There is no child development center here as there is no military post. I'm using a babysitting service that I hear has been somewhat unreliable. I also have a young American woman who's husband works for NATO helping me on Monday's and Wednesday's so I can get to my 5:30pm class on time. She stays with the girls until Matt gets home. Which, at times, has been later than expected. She's involved with the spouses group and has a couple of other jobs that keep her quite busy, therefore, I won't be able to use her as much as I had hoped. Portuguese use their family members to babysit their children and babysitting, aside from daycare centers, are virtually unheard of. There are many new families with small children here at NATO and we're all nervous as to what we're going to do when it comes time for the next formal. If the babysitting service works out, Matt and I shouldn't have too much of a problem. Just in case it doesn't work out, I've been keeping my eyes an ears open for other options.

The language class I'm taking is going okay. Learning a language is so much harder than I remembered. I almost wish I had taken a more relaxed, private group course in which grades are not given out. However, I am catching on and I vaguely understood what our gardener was explaining to me the other day. Well, really all I understood was that he was telling me that I need to learn Portuguese and that he thought our dog was six-years-old or maybe it was that he has a six-year-old dog...

As I've mentioned previously, the food here is wonderful. I've grown to love their form of coffee and even their grilled sardines. They are divine! And the wine! I don't even know where to begin. While it's good (not the best in Europe), I'm only just beginning to know what wine goes with what, etc. I ordered some books to help me out.

I'm trying to buy local food and produce while we live here. Local butter, honey, apples, cheese, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, bread, meats, fish, etc. It could be easy to go to the NEX (military store that sells food and a few household products). But, why buy American cheese and meats when I can the freshest here? After finishing up making stuffed shells a week or two ago, I realized that it probably would have tasted a lot better if I had used local parmesan and ricotta cheese. The cheese I bought from the NEX was about to expire. While the NEX is handy for Matt's Mountain Dew, American movies and a few other items, it seems senseless to continue to buy from there on a regular basis when the food on the economy is so much better than most of processed food sold at the NEX.

We finally hired a housekeeper. She's about $35/week US. I takes some stress off knowing that my house won't get too out of control. She comes once a week and cleans whatever I ask her to. Such as the stove, oven, floors, countertops, bathrooms, ironing, etc. We have her coming for four hours. If we need another hour or so, she's more than willing. I'm afraid that I'm going to get spoiled because I know there is no way I'll find someone to clean my house in the US for that price!

Matt and I have so many places we want to see before the cooler and rainy winter months approach. Now that we have a car, we can start to go on some adventures. It's not always easy traveling with two young children and you all will be sure to hear about our adventures and misadventures!


Angie said...

$35 for cleaning! That is incredible.

I do think that much of the shopping is better on the economy. However, it is cheaper and easier to buy here on post. Many of the german stores here don't take debit cards, so I need cash.

Also, many of the items are the same, but with a German label. Like Uncle Ben's rice or some cereals.

Natalie said...

I hear the cleaning ladies in Germany are just as cheap. Several people at FWA told me they paid about $25-$35/wk for a cleaning woman in Germany...
The NEX here is very small. I should have included that in my post. As in, the size of the mini-shoppette at FWA. There isn't much of anything. Mostly boxed goods such as cake mixes, Tuna Helper, etc. I do buy canned soups, Newman's Own pasta sauce, mac and cheese, cereal and Mountain Dew. Everything else, I buy on the economy. Even the baby food is better. It actually has spices and doesn't taste bland (at least the 6 month+ kind).