First Days of School

I realize most people were taking “first day of school” pictures back in August, over a month ago but here in Portugal school has only just now begun.

We had several school meetings last week to meet home room teachers, pick up school schedules and get the materials list.  It was the beginning of a busy time.

Esperansa had her 1st day of school last Friday, the 12th.  She’s in the 4th grade at a school named Florinda Leal.

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Karunia, Asher, and Jeremiah began school on Monday the 15th.  Karunia is in 10th grade at the Escola Secundária Fernando Lopes-Graça.  Asher is in 6th grade at Alapraia.  Jeremiah is in 1st grade at the school here in Bicesse – a 5 minute walk from our house.

Even Dan and I had our 1st day of school!  Back to language school we went so that we can improve our grammar, expand our vocabulary, learn a bit more of Portuguese culture and soften our accents.  We can now sympathize with the kids over homework (though we still have to enforce that all homework gets done).

Dan and I with Teresa, one of our teachers

Dan and I with Teresa, one of our teachers

Perhaps you’ve noticed that I haven’t mentioned Josiah’s 1st day at school.  Josiah is in 8th grade at the same school as Asher, Alapraia.  However there was a problem with helpers at the school and therefore it had been decided the 7th – 9th graders wouldn’t start last Monday as had previously been planned.  He trudged along with us to language school and helped a bit more around the house than he wanted.  Daily he was asking me to check the school’s website to find out if he’d get to start that day.

Finally today, the 20th, 1 wk after Esperansa and 4 days after the rest of us, Josiah got to have his “1st Day of School.”

Josiah - 8th Grade

Josiah – 8th Grade

 

Soup, Fish and 8PM

“Soup, fish and 8PM” may sound strange, but an important part of our life and our ministry has always been, and will continue to be, learning about the culture in which we live and adapting to it.  Adapting means that we stop doing things that make sense in America, or in our case Mozambique, and start doing things in a way that make sense in Portugal.  This is where soup, fish and 8PM become an adjustment.

As many of you know when we arrived we immediately put the kids in church camps and day camps.  They quickly learned that soup is served at the beginning of many meals here.  When we picked up Asher (who doesn’t like soup) and Esperansa from camp, 6 days after our arrival in country, and stopped to have lunch Asher said, “Please no soup!  They served soup with each lunch and dinner.”  Since then the other kids have echoed this thought, chiming in, “Yes, they eat soup with lunch even at school.”  Soup can be a big part of meals here.

Other adjustments for the family have to do with fish and 8PM.  Dinner time is quite late here.  Many restaurants don’t open for dinner prior to 7pm and it’s common to not eat earlier than 8PM.  We are used to eating around 6 or 6:30PM in Mozambique (which actually was late for us but necessary because Josiah didn’t get back from school before then).  We remember when we lived here in 2004/2005 that we were always the first to be at a restaurant and we always had to wait for them to open for dinner.  Fish is also eaten a lot here.  In Nampula, 2 hrs from the coast, we only occasionally ate fish and the kids did not really like it.

Now, living in this land of abundant fish/seafood and 8PM dinner time we are changing. Dan and I both like fish but neither of us really know how to cook it.  We are learning to cook fish and are having it for dinner at least twice a week now.  All of us have to learn how to pick around bones.  Our dinner is now eaten around 8PM (sometimes later).  The kids love the later bed time which results from a later dinner hour.  The fish…..they are not so thrilled about….

As we are now living and ministering here on a permeant  basis we are trying to identify with the culture; trying not to seem so foreign to our neighbors.  We don’t know what other things we will change but we trust God will give us wisdom and help us as we evaluate things…..

Our Home

We’ve already invited you to come visit, but until the day you arrive in person we thought we’d let you see our house.

Our Apartment Complex

Our Apartment Complex

It’s a complex of 20 units: 5 buildings with 4 apartments each.  The front door you see is our building and our unit is on the top right.  Those skinny windows are in our kitchen and the first set of green shutters/regular windows are to our guest room.  The apartment then wraps around the corner.

INTERESTING FACT: Our address will tell you we’re on the 1st floor.  I’ve already indicated to you from the picture that we’re on the top.  Well in Portugal the ground floor (the one you usually walk in on) is called the “Res do Chão” and the first level up would be considered floor #1.  In our building however the front door opens only to the stairwell and the garage level (which on the backside of the building in below ground) so it doesn’t even count as the Res do Chão; you have to go up one level for that.  So to reach our 1st floor apartment you must climb 34 stairs.

Would you like to see the rest?  As we were moving in I made a video tour of the apartment.  Karunia says I shouldn’t try to be a professional voice over for video and I’ll agree but here it is.

Resting and Trusting . . . His timing not Ours

This post referenced the inter-connectedness between our search for a house and getting the kids’ schooling registrations finalized.  Within a week an half we had two houses to choose between.  Both could work but house #1, though in the necessary neighborhood for school choice #1 was a touch small (no real space for kids to play, particularly if adults are also being entertained) and in the smaller complex.  House #2 seemed a better fit for our family needs and had space for friends to gather but wasn’t in the necessary neighborhood.

We felt so strongly about the school choice for Karunia we were willing to squeeze into house #1 and make it work IF she could be in that school.  We didn’t want to squeeze in there if the kids weren’t able to get into that school.  We only needed to hear one way or the other from the school.

And that was our prayer . . . to hear something  . . .

Yet no answer came . . over and over the school told us to wait a bit longer.  On the 30th the school finally told us we’d have to wait all the way until September for a firm answer.

We knew we couldn’t wait that long for a housing decision so we stepped forward and made an offer (rental) on house #2 – the one we felt a better fit for our family and ministry but wasn’t in the school district .  Part of the negotiation was we’d offered to pay 1 year up front in exchange for a significantly lower per month rental price.  Our offer was accepted the afternoon of the 30th.  We were very excited.

Though contracts were to be signed on Saturday, August 2nd, we went ahead and wired the money to our landlord’s account, a full year paid, the next day, the morning of the 31st.

So guess what happened that afternoon . . . . . at 4pm we receive a call from the school . . . they have room for both Karunia and Josiah.

We wrestled with this timing.  Had we made the wrong decision – had we chosen the wrong house?  We wondered if we should somehow backpedal and try to get out of the deal – afterall we hadn’t yet technically signed contracts.  But we had sent money – an entire year’s worth!

And then I simply had to rest in the decision.  I felt a peace – trusting that the Lord must have held back notice from the school until this time.  I must trust that He either wanted us in this house and this complex or He wanted the boys in the other school (or both).  Afterall, had we heard from the school on the 30th  – that they school had space – then we’d have chosen the other house.  For that matter, if we’d heard from the school on the morning of the 31st, before sending the money and paying the year then we could have pulled out of our agreement.  But we didn’t hear until “too late.”

His timing – not ours. We trust and rest in the peace that He guided our decision and held back an answer from the school until after our decision was made for a reason.  We pray the resulting decision brings Him glory.

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PS – Josiah (and Asher) will attend a different school.  For this year (which was the most important reason for wanting this school) Karunia can still take the opening they offered her with our colleague, who lives in the correct neighborhood, serving as her educational representative/overseer.

A Look Back – Our First Weeks in Portugal

We’ve shown you our car.  You’ve heard about our electricity dilemmas and that resolution but otherwise we’ve been rather silent.

There have been lots of small details which simply took a a bit of running around and time . . . getting fiscal ID numbers,  getting medical numbers, and making appointments with immigration.

To help the kids adjust (and prevent them from being bored which would only cause them to be more frustrated about our move) we quickly put them into various activities.  Church camp, art/tennis/sports camps, and programs with their future schools all helped them to be around other kids, hear the accent and begin to adjust.  That was one of the best decisions we made but also caused a bit more running around as we took them and picked them up from various locations.  Since we weren’t with them for much of that time we don’t have many pictures but we do have a couple.

While the kids were busy all day we then began looking for housing and working on school registrations.  Those two processes became intimately connected and caused quite a bit of frustration (explained below).  The back and forth of looking at schools, talking with schools, and looking at houses filled the rest of July.

Our ministry target is the middle class within the township of Alcabideche so all housing options needed to be within those areas. We looked at 3 houses the Wednesday after we arrived but quickly ruled out two of them as being too big or fancy despite the fact they were within our price range.  They were in upper middle class to wealthy housing complexes.  Other housing options seen over the next few days were either too expensive or not big enough for our family of 7.  (It must be said, we know we’re a large family anywhere but here in Portugal a family is considered large if one has 3 kids).

The schooling options presented an interesting twist to our housing choices.  One of the schools we wanted to get the kids into was in the neighborhood of Manique.  Asher, Josiah, and Karunia could all attend there IF they had space and IF we lived in that neighborhood.  Whether there’d be space was the big question and we were told they wouldn’t know until the end of July.  The school directors advised us to also register the kids in other schools as well so if there wasn’t space they’d already be lined up and prepared for elsewhere.  That was fine for the boys – we were pleased with their 2nd option school.  For Karunia however, that wouldn’t work.  For a variety of reasons, we really needed to get her into the first choice school.  A few days later we were told the 1st choice for Asher had no openings.

We kept looking at housing options.  The realty market here works quite differently than in the States.  Agents don’t communicate across agencies and houses aren’t shared across a network so one must work with several agents and do a lot of your own research if you want to make sure you see/know of all the options.  Robin spent quite a bit of time searching websites and calling agents.  We’d decided that if we could find an apartment or condo it might be nice.  Having a common space we could share with neighbors might allow us to meet people and perhaps make friends quicker.  One of the original houses we’d seen remained an option. It had the advantage of being in the neighborhood we needed for school purposes and was in a condo complex but it was on the small side and we wondered if we’d feel squished.  We found a 2nd housing option, also in a complex, which felt more spacious without being too luxurious.  It however was not in the neighborhood we needed for the 1st choice school for Josiah and Karunia.

Thus started the waiting game.  Daily trips back to the school to see if they could yet tell us about the space gave the repeated answer of “wait just a bit longer.”

While we appreciated our colleagues’ hospitality we also began feeling fidgety; we wanted to find our own space so we could begin to purchase furniture and start to settle in.

To add to the mix, in the meantime we’d found a car but needed an address in order to process the paperwork and pick it up.  We also had to have Karunia registered in other schools (all non-ideal choices) by 31 July but had to show proof of address as part of the registration process.  July 31st was the deadline because the month of August is a holiday month;  workers take their yearly vacations and everything grinds to a halt or a very slow crawl.  Clearly we were coming down to the wire.

Finally, on July 30th the first choice school tells us they won’t know about spacing until September.  We obviously had to make a housing choice without knowing about the school.   In the end there had been only 7 possibilities to even look at and that had narrowed to only two real options – those referenced above.  Both were within middle class areas, they each had enough room for our family, but one was on the small side and the other was not. One was in a small condo complex and the other in a larger complex.  We arranged for our teammates to walk through the houses with us and give us their opinion. The over arching view was that the apartment in the larger complex (which was not on the smallish side but also not in the correct neighborhood for school choice #1) would be best for us and ministry.

We have now been in the apartment since the 7th of August.  We’ve started to settle in.  We purchased some furniture and our appliances.  A few things were shipped from Mozambique and won’t arrive until the end of the month or perhaps even early October.  We are learning about apartment living with 5 kids who are used to having large open spaces to run and yell.  This apartment does have a large common area with a pool so that is helping our kids as they adjust to not have the open space of Africa.  We have been blessed to meet a few of our neighbors and one family was really kind and helpful during our 17 days without electricity (major hassles and confusion in getting it transferred over and hooked up under our name).

School has sorted itself out for the kids and they’ll all begin between the 11th and 15th of this month.  Life in Portugal is most certainly underway.

Our First Visitors – Who’s Next?

We arrived in Portugal on Sunday, July 13th.  On Monday, July 21st we sat down to lunch with our first “visitors” from one of our supporting churches, Roebin and Rose Tyler.

Rose and Roebin Tyler, Dan Karunia and Robin

Rose and Roebin Tyler, Dan Karunia and Robin

To be completely honest they weren’t specifically in Portugal to see us.  Rose is of Portuguese descent and they were here on vacation to visit her family, but knowing we’d recently arrived they contacted us so we could get together.  We had a great visit, chatted about their vacation and the various things we were trying to accomplish in getting settled and our vision/desire for what lies ahead.

We’re still new in Portugal and still settling in however we do want to go ahead and put in a plug . . . we’re very open for people and/or groups coming over to visit us and see or participate in our ministry.  Who wants to plan on being our next visitors?