Woof. It’s been a whole-ass two months already. How did that happen? I know some folks have been wondering where our heads are at now, so I wanted to give you a bit of an update.
Things are much, much better. Some stuff is still dumb. The toilet seat is still broken, the ceiling still leaks, the shower is still kinda broken, the bathroom is still too dark, and deliveries are still a giant pain in the ass, but somehow we’ve gotten used to it? I don’t know if we’re adjusting, or maybe just accepting things better now, but it definitely feels a lot better. The animals have adjusted better as well, and I think that’s helping a lot. Anxious dog is still anxious, but there are far fewer inside accidents. She still panics when we go out, but she’s getting better. A few steps forward, some backslides, etc but overall we’re seeing progress. She’s never lived in a city before, so this has been a lot for her to handle.
We’ve worked out a system where I take the “normal” dog out first, then Brady takes the anxious one. We meet up halfway through and she gets super excited to see me, so it gives her a positive interaction from the whole outside experience. It seems to be working so far. She’s sufficiently nervous that treats or any kind of food-based reinforcement simply doesn’t work. She’ll take a treat and let it fall out of her mouth once she gets into the panic zone so we don’t even try. (She was found in a box in Mexico and has always been extraordinarily nervous around people.)
It sounds really dumb when I type it “out loud”, but I think the pet stress was a huge deal to me. With the cat not eating normally, anxious dog peeing in the house, etc, I just felt completely awful for bringing them. Since they have mellowed a bit, my stress levels plummeted. We also got our VPN situation handled, which means we can access our TV and movies normally, and it means the HomePods actually work as expected now. (Brady will have a tech post on how he did that shortly. Edit: The VPN post is up now.)
We’ve changed our work schedule a bit, which is also helping I think. We had originally planned on doing 2PM-10PM, but the helpdesk was still pretty overwhelming – and because we’ve been getting up earlier, it really wasn’t taking advantage of our European time zone to be able to assist our European customers. Instead, we’ve started experimenting with working when we wake up and then taking a longer midday break, so it ends up being 10AM to 1PM, then a longer break, then 4PM-10PM. It makes the day feel a bit longer, but we’re able to use the timezones more effectively, and we feel a little less crispy at the end of the day, and it means we still have the overlap with our crew back in the US so we can help get them unstuck if needed. (We have co-workers in CA, ME, TX, MA and eastern Mexico, so sort of spread out among several timezones.)
We didn’t get to do anything fun this past weekend, since we both had a pretty nasty cold with fevers, so we ended up being slugs for both days, but earlier last week we got to visit São Bento and discovered a lovely park right next to the Assembly of the Republic of Portugal building. It’s a cute neighborhood, but kind of not a lot going on within a quick walk except for a kiosk where we had a lovely Wasabi hamburger and some coffees. (We were watering the plants of some Russian friends who are visiting Czechia.) I don’t know how they managed to find the only neighborhood in Lisbon that doesn’t have construction going on, but it was nice to be somewhere quiet for a moment.
I can’t really isolate when the switch flipped for me here. There are some days where I wake up and everything feels totally normal, and then other days where I wake up and think “Holy shit. We moved to another country.” But it’s different now than it was. It’s more joyful than panic-inducing. We’ve made new friends here already, and have gotten to reconnect with ones we had already made from the last time we were here, and I don’t find myself missing the US at all, really. (Yes, I still miss my name-brand tampons and stuff.)
We’re still waiting on our residence cards, and we don’t have an ETA on that, so it kinda means we can’t travel outside of Portugal yet. (Our D8 visas expire today.) We could probably travel just on our US passports, but our lawyer advised us not to, and we listen to our lawyer. Once we can travel, we’re hoping our friends can help with pet sitting, since we don’t have a car here and therefore cannot bring our pets with us anywhere. Still very excited to explore more of Portugal itself, but definitely not looking forward to driving here – at least not in Lisbon. Brady is an anxious driver already, and I haven’t driven stick shift in quite some time, and these roads are narrow af. When we’re ready to explore more of the country, we’ll likely rent a car, but it’s literally half as expensive if you’re a resident, so we’re waiting on those residence cards. If we rent a car, we can bring the animals with us, which simplifies a lot of things.
There’s definitely still a lot to be done. Finding a veterinarian, finding a doctor, etc. It’s not going to be smooth sailing from here or anything, but it’s manageable now. No more panic attacks, no more puking for hours from stress.
Our stuff hasn’t arrived yet, so we have to arrange a self-storage facility to have it sent to. Our apartment is furnished, which on one hand is great since we didn’t have to ship a bunch of furniture, but on the other hand kinda sucks because we don’t have room to store our own things once they arrive.
In retrospect, I feel like we shouldn’t have shipped anything. We could have just spent some cash on mailing some boxes of personal affects and clothes, and skipped this hassle. But, you live and you learn, I suppose.
The language is still tough, but we chip away at it every day, and the locals here generally speak to us in Portuguese, which helps a lot. We’ve mentioned before that – in Lisbon at least – it’s very easy to fall back to English, but we work hard at learning the language properly. Having locals that help you practice is huge.(I also bought some children’s books in Portuguese to help with that.) Hearing it (vs speaking or reading it) is still the hardest part, but folks are generally patient and will slow down if you ask.
Anyway, that’s how things are going over here. We’re hoping to visit the Jerónimos Monastery in Belém this weekend, since we’re both feeling better. There’s also a neat immersive 1755 earthquake experience I want to check out while we’re in that part of town.
There’s an ongoing heat wave moving through Europe right now, but fortunately it’s not been so bad here. Still hot as hell in the direct sun, but not as bad as it could be. Apparently there’s an “anticyclone” thingie from the Azores that’s protecting us from some of it.
I continue to marvel at the warmness and sense of humor of everyone here. Normal dog has become a bit of a celebrity with the locals and she eats it up. I have no regrets whatsoever (excluding some small logistical decisions like what stuff we shipped) about moving here, and am so excited to explore more.
Alison (aka “snipe”)