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.

One thought on “A Look Back – Our First Weeks in Portugal

  1. […] 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. […]

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