Home?

Saturday

4/5/2015

I decided to save my 14-miler for the next day. John and I were completely wide awake by 6:00am, as was Romeo. We took our time getting ready and then headed over to the FH. Jay wasn’t surprised to see us, he knew we would be there, but he was still excited. We saw Frankie, too, who wasn’t surprised and is hardly ever excited.

Then we had our first real greeting. Kate Rosenbaum (remember that ridiculous care package??) came stampeding into the lounge and jumped on John while screaming. It was my turn next, and she kept going back and forth until she was able to calm down. Well, calm enough to take a picture. Best.Greeting.Ever.

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Two other guys, Brett and Marc, showed up along with a woman who started at FH after we left. I almost vomited, but pulled through. Sled pushes, bungee broad jumps, and resisted runs. Burpees, ball slams, upright rows, plate swings, DB bench, and push ups. This is for fun?

We hung out for a little while after and waited for one more surprise. A family that John and I are really close with were in for a surprise. My friend Carrie hadn’t told her daughter, Grace, that we were home. She told Grace she had a physical therapy appointment at FH, but when she showed up, this happened:

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After we enjoyed our homecoming, we went out for a big fat American breakfast with Frankie. Our waitress told John she liked his accent (what?) and I ordered every kind of meat you can, with eggs and hash browns. My phone died, otherwise I would have taken a picture. John got a fat stack of pancakes and I had a bad cup of black diner coffee. Home sweet home.

Frankie dropped us off and we got ready to go check out some cars. We weren’t planning on buying one that day, but after going to two dealerships we found one we liked. A manager made us an offer a few hundred dollars below what John and I had set as our bottom line for that car, so we took it. We put down a deposit on a 2010 Mazda CX-7 and set off for the airport to see about our bags that had shipped cargo.

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When I asked the SATA representative who made my reservation via email a few weeks back, she said I could pick up our bags “a few hours later or the next day”. We weren’t interested in hanging around the airport Friday night (especially with Romeo) so we decided to try for the next day. John had called them while we were in the car and the lady on the phone told him to just go to the cargo area at the airport. Our bags were there, she said.

Turns out there are two cargo areas: north cargo and south cargo. After following the signs for north cargo (gotta start somewhere) until there were no more signs and we couldn’t find a building, we turned around and followed the signs for south cargo. We saw jetblue cargo, united cargo, and finally TAP Portugal cargo (not technically SATA but they are partners). We couldn’t find the door for TAP, so we asked someone in the parking lot wearing a reflective vest and he directed us towards the swissport office, because, well, obviously.

I went inside the dingy hallway inside the warehouse into a side office and was greeted by an incredibly overweight and less-than-helpful man. He recruited help from an equally overweight female, who told me my bags hadn’t cleared customs yet and to just “wait a few days” for them to clear. Sounded good to me. I hopped back in the car and John and I set off to drive home.

It should only be a 40 minute ride home, but they are doing construction in the Pru tunnel. I totally forgot! Two hours later, I was practically eating my arm, we stopped at Stop n’ Shop in Framingham so I could buy enough food to have sauce for dinner (the kind in the jar, which doesn’t take like my homemade..shocking). We ran home and I cooked as fast as I could. We ate and immediately went to sleep.

Sunday

4/6/2014

I got up and got dressed to run. I had to borrow a fleece headband from my mom because I didn’t have anything to wear running in the 37F weather. I headed out and my toes froze immediately.

I ran 3.5 miles to the Sudbury Starbucks where I met Kate. She and I threw down 8 together and I peeled off to run home at 11.5. She went to meet Jay, who is also running that 200-mile relay in May, and she’s been trying to get him geared up for it.

I ended up finishing 15 miles instead of 14, and at a good pace, thanks to Kate. I crawled inside to shower and get ready; we had to be in Manchester-by-the-sea by 12:30pm. John was coaching a clinic. John had gone to the FH to get some equipment for the clinic while I was running. He got to see Keith, Elizabeth, Matt, Amy, and all their kids. I was really jealous.

We stopped at Sudbury Pizza on the way, and while Dimitri was excited to see us, it was not as good as the greeting we knew we’d get from Stella. He gave John his pizza on the house as a welcome home gift.

We ended up getting to Manchester ridiculously early. I helped John unload my mom’s Subaru (ballin’!), talked to a few other coaches, and then I left him on his own. I headed to see my best friend Anna and her girlfriend Wendy in East Boston. We went out to have Australian food by the water and they took me to the Promised Land: TJ Maxx.

I bought a hair dryer, clippers for John (I know, I know..another pair?), gluten-free cookies and a donut pan. We got back in the car and headed back to their apartment. I grabbed my mom’s keys and drove back up to Manchester.

I got there early and John only had 6 girls. The clinic was split into two sessions and John later told me he had over 50 kids in the first group and it had been a disaster. He had a great time with the second, and older, group, made some good money, and is planning on running a few more clinics for this club.

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We packed up his gear and headed for Wakefield. We were going to have dinner with our friends Keith, Nicole, and their now almost-nine-month-old son, Alex. When we left, he was not even three months.

After playing with Alex for a while and catching up with his parents, we decided to go out for Chinese food. Nicole called her sister who came over to babysit. The four of us hopped into Keith’s truck and drove to the restaurant. We love Keith and Nicole. We love Chinese food. It is weird to be home, but we’re enjoying it so far.

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John and I played rock-paper-scissors to see who was driving home. I lost but John drove home anyway because I couldn’t even keep my eyes open.

When we were 10 minutes from being home I realized I hadn’t heard from Frankie about the U-haul he was supposed to get for us from his friend. I texted him and he hadn’t gotten it—he had forgotten. I couldn’t even imagine leaving the house again to go get it, but sure enough, 45 minutes later he was depositing it into our driveway. Thank you, Frankie. I couldn’t even get out of bed to say it to his face. #jetlag

Monday

4/7/2014

I got up at 4:36am. My alarm was set for either 4:45am or 5:00am, but I woke up early. After I had a snack and some green tea, I hopped in my U-haul to head to Starbies. I met some of the RunHens (Amy, Kate, Jenn) for their usual 5:45am, 5-mile run. Because one of the girls is recently pregnant they ran slower than usual. We finished with a 9:00 pace. #thisisslow ?

Two days in a row of not running alone and I was feeling extremely fortunate. This time I doubled up my socks so my toes wouldn’t freeze. We stopped into Starbucks for coffees post-run and then I headed home. John wanted to work out at 8:00am, but after my 15-miler, and the other 5, I was struggling. I showered and we both went to FH. I foam rolled and chatted with our friends. We saw a few more familiar faces and got some of the warmest greeting. I’ll tell you; nothing makes you feel more loved and appreciated than leaving for a while and then coming back.

After John worked out and we saw a few more friends (Sarah, Ofelia, Tricia, Rhonda, Linda, Dave!) we went home so John could get ready. We had to go finalize paying for the car so we could pick it up, and then we were heading to New Hampshire to get our stuff from John’s mom’s house. We were Facebook messaging with Carla, so John and I sent her silly pictures. You know, so she remembers what she’s missing.

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We stopped at DCU and then drove to the dealership. The sales woman was giving me the run-around about when I could pick the car up, because they were fixing some scratches on the bumper. From there, it only took us an hour to get up to Deerfield (even driving 60MPH).

We were worried we would miss John’s niece and nephews because they don’t usually get home from school until 2:45pm, but his sister Kati had picked them up from school early so we could see them. When we arrived just after 12:30pm they were there. And I was starving. We ate leftover Chinese food that John’s mom and her husband had ordered for dinner. #americanfoodcravings

John’s niece, Sierra, disappeared when we went to load up the U-haul. John’s youngest nephew, Justin, took a header off the U-haul ramp and was down for the count. We were down two workers and we hadn’t even started. John’s Grandma lended a hand, so that was helpful.

We only grabbed boxes marked CLOTHES or KITCHEN, and then also our dressers (one—mine—was covered in mildew and we were only taking it to throw it away) and a rug. My dad thought we should’ve just taken his truck, but in fact, the U-haul wasn’t that excessive after all. Except for the dresser, and my rug that smelled like horse barn (not really unexpected), all our stuff was in excellent condition. Just a little dusty.

We drove home to unload, taking one pit stop to see my cousin and her dog. After unloading the U-haul, John and Frankie returned it and went to see Captain American in iMax. I ate leftover Chinese food (again? I no longer remember missing this), unpacked some bins, moved some furniture with my dad, hung our rug up to air out, and went to bed.

Tuesday

4/8/2014

Romeo woke me up at 5:45am to go out. I got up again for real at 6:30am. For the third day in a row I had a running buddy: Ofelia. I had breakfast, and texted with Ofelia about the rain. She told me she was out if it was raining, and I told her I would be at her house at 8:30am either way. I ran the 4.25 miles to Ofelia’s house, all but one of which were dry. The last mile to Ofelia’s house the sky opened and it poured. By the time I got to Ofelia’s I didn’t even care if she was coming, I was ready to run straight home. She came outside with her raincoat on and we ran 3.25 together, and the rain mostly stopped. I dropped her back off and finished my last 1.5 to the Fieldhouse. Nine miles.

When I arrived at the FH around 9:15am, I was soaking wet and shivering. John was there to workout and he gave me his sweatshirt. I was also warmed by the hugs of people I hadn’t seen yet; Erica, Katie, Heidi, Kim. Zaela and I were reunited but it took her a while to decide if she was happy about that.

August:

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April:Z

I hung out with Kate while she ran childcare in the brand new childcare room that she and Jay made while we were gone. When I ran childcare, we hung out on the basketball court floors. And tried not to let kids commit accidental suicide on the bleachers. #newandimproved

John and I finally left around 10:30 and I was frozen. After I showered I began sorting through our six months of junk mail. John and I headed out to finalize our auto insurance, get lunch, and grab some groceries. When we walked into Sudbury Pizza, Stella acted like we hadn’t seen her in a year. Another incredibly warm welcome, accompanied by the most delicious grilled chicken salad. And more pizza for John. After we caught up with Stella, and told her about our plans to visit Greece (“Oh my god! My country!”) we stopped to get a few groceries before going home to grab my dad.

Since we didn’t have our car yet, we were still relying on the generosity of my parents (which, fortunately for us, is basically unending). We went home, changed, dropped my dad at work, and then headed for the FH. I got to see our GM, Denise, for the first time. I also got to see Mel and Kathleen from All Access. I missed Mel a lot, but we didn’t get to catch up since she was with a patient.

I worked out but John watched a soccer game. I got to see my Ashira, who I didn’t get to see on Saturday. She knew I was home but I still got a pretty good reaction from her. After we sat and talked for a while, and facetimed her sister Alisha, I got to working out. I am staying away from legs at all costs until the Nike Women’s Marathon in a few weeks so I stuck to core.

Carrie, Grace, and Carlos stopped by so it took me at least twice as long to work out because I kept stopping to talk. I got to see Jody and Alex, two other high school athletes who worked with me before I left. Coach Brewster, and Jen and her son Drew. Jen put this picture on my wall not long after we left in October. Sometimes, if I didn’t have very many kids, I would move them from the basketball courts to my office during childcare. #informal

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We left so I could get ready to have dinner with my friend, Jessie. Krista was supposed to come, too, but she had gotten the stomach bug. John dropped me at Acapulco’s before going to pick my dad up.

Thankfully, Jessie gave up alcohol for a month. I was planning have a big fat margarita, but I wasn’t going to drink alone. We got all caught up on the last six months of each others’ lives and I asked her to drive me home before my forehead hit the table.

When I got home John was already at his soccer game in Fenway. The first thing my dad said when I walked in the door was “Romeo ran away.” Ok. “He’s still gone,” Oh.

My dad and I got into his truck to search the neighborhood. He and John had already done so, and he had already looked in the woods behind our house with Nyla (my parent’s German Shepherd). We did that, too, after our drive around the ‘hood wasn’t a success.

I decided to call it quits after that. What more could we do? He had his collar on and my mom had called animal control. Either someone would find him, or not, but it was too dark to see anything. We would have to wait until the morning.

I got into bed with the house phone and my cell phone next to me, but my dad and Nyla waited downstairs, “For just a few more minutes,” my dad said. About 10 minutes after I laid down, my cell phone rang. It was Home Again, the microchip company. Someone had found Romeo! He was not far away. But he had eaten one of their small pets. They ended up telling their daughter, whose pet it was, that it had run away. I felt terrible and offered to buy another one, but they kindly declined. They are very, very, nice people. In fact, as my dad and I pulled into their driveway to retrieve Romeo, knowing what he had done, my dad said “Oh, no…. Not these people. They are so nice.” Yes, they are so nice. And Romeo is such a douche bag.

John’s phone had died, so when he got home at 11:30pm the first thing he said was, “Is Romeo home?”

Wednesday

4/9/2014

I got up at 6:00am and prepared for my first solo run since I’d been home. I brought my phone and listened to my Carrie Underwood station and ran to Starbucks to meet Carrie. I saw some DPW workers cleaning up the leaves on my way. One of them stopped and waved. I think it was Frankie, but he was covered head to toe—all I could see was a little bit of bald head between hood and sunglasses. I waved back and called out, “Bom Dia!” Seven miles.

I got there before Carrie and ran into one of our old FH clients who has checked out a few other facilities since she left us a little more than a year ago. She discovered recently she loves CrossFit and encouraged John and I to apply to work at one next to FH. She also insisted I let her know where John and I “ended up”. #fieldhouseyouremyhome

Carrie and I chatted for over an hour before she drove me to the Fieldhouse, but it’s never enough time. She dropped me off at FH where John was finishing up the 9:00am class. He had offered to teach that morning and Jay had obliged him. I got to see a few more adults we hadn’t seen yet but had to leave quickly to pick up my dad for work. We took him to the Post Office and the super market, and then dropped him off at work.

We stopped at Coffee Works and John asked if I wanted to sit and drink it there. Sit down? And drink? Oh, like at Pic Nic. We tried.

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We went home where I filed our taxes, showered, and headed back out. I had an interview in Newton at 3:15pm.

I had emailed back and forth with the owner of this personal training studio while I was away and she had asked me to come in when I got back. It is only a mile down the road from our old apartment, so I drove by and even stopped by my old Whole Foods before I found a parking spot in Newton Centre right across from the studio.

The owner was lovely, we had a nice conversation, and she asked me to begin shadowing the next day. I told her we didn’t have our car yet, and that Monday would work better for me. Great! She said, you can start then. #isthisajob?

I drove home only to pick John up and head back out again (see how different our life is?). I was babysitting for a friend right near where my dad works. John and I hung out with the kids for a while and then John took off to pick up my dad. The kids had hot dogs for dinner, so I taught them how to say “one more hot dog, please” in Portuguese, you know, so I could practice. Mais um cachorro, por favor. I also practiced my body parts on the youngest, Zaela (20 months), rabo rabo rabo, with pats on her behind.

Mom & Dad got home around 8:00pm and Kate and I went to pick up John at the FH (when he picked my dad up earlier, John asked him to drop him off there. He didn’t know where else to go). We scooped him up and Kate drove us both home. Thankfully, we were going to pick our car up the next day.

Thursday

4/10/2014

To say that integrating Romeo into Nyla’s home has been stress-free would be an outright lie. Today was my mother’s birthday and we began it by yelling at each other in the yard over the dogs. I took Romeo for a 5 mile run and my mom and I hugged it out when I got home. #homelife

I did a living room workout with the one set of adjustable dumbbells John and I own. I also posted a workout to ALKE Fitness’ Facebook page. I will try to keep doing this at least once a week for my ladies there.

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When I got back, after my mom and I made up, I showered and Krista came over. She and I had plans to get lunch. We took John to, of course, the FH and then headed off to Chipotle. I only had a few more American Food Cravings left to satisfy: Lee Chen’s and sushi.

We also wandered around Homegoods and Target, and then stopped by the new house she just bought (but isn’t living in yet) to empty her car out. She had offered to lend us her car to go pick our car up, but we also had to get our bags at the airport. #thankfulforgoodfriends

After we checked out her new house, we went to her work (which is also where my dad works). I took her car and grabbed John at FH, and we drove to the airport to attempt to pick up our bags for the second time.

This time we knew where to go, so that part was easy. This time a different, even more overweight, woman helped us. She told me my bags were still stuck in customs. Really? She also told me they don’t “just clear” if you “wait a few days” as the other woman had instructed me to do. The cargo warehouse also starts charging you STORAGE after a certain number of days. Luckily this woman was nice and way more helpful so she said she’d make a note not to charge us and told us how to clear our bags through customs.

Turns out I would’ve had to have gone to this office in the first place anyway. She gave me the forms I needed to take to the Customs office in South Boston and a set of directions to get there. I told her we would go the next day because I was not sitting in traffic. We were going to get our new car and go home before rush hour.

We took our forms and headed for the dealership, and on the way sat in traffic (of course). When we got to the dealership we waited half an hour for our sales woman to get our car off the roof (even though we told her we’d be there at three). When she brought it down it had a REJECTION STICKER and SCRATCHES on the back of the car. Now, the rejection sticker is because she had to jump start the car when we test drove it, so the computer reset. After we drive it 100 miles we can take it again, free of charge, and it will (should?) pass.

The SCRATCHES were on the car when we test drove it, but I had pointed them out and she had said, “Oh, we’ll fix that.” She had written it into our sales agreement. Only what I hadn’t realized was that she only wrote that the dealership would repair the “bumper” but failed to include the door. I told her exactly what I thought about that and gave myself a headache yelling at her. Not OK.

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I told John he could drive the new car and I would drive Krista’s Jetta home. Of course I followed him, so all I could see were those un-fixed scratches STARING at me, MOCKING me while we drove home. #thisisnotmyday

We stopped at Krista’s work to drop off her car, then Sudbury Farms to grab a fruit salad, a mini cake, and flowers for my mom’s birthday dinner. We went home where I made a giant veggie dish and my dad grilled steak and salmon. My mom came home and we feasted. My mom and I ate fruit salad and John and my dad split the mini Boston Cream Pie.

John and I took Romeo for a little joy ride in the new car. I had calmed down. A little.

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Boston?

Day One Hundred Eighty One (um cento oitenta e um)

Friday (Sexta-feira)

4 Abril 2014

our last day

I got up early so I could still get my 5-miler in. John and I finished packing and then walked over to ALKE to say our goodbyes. John said the only time he got choked up at all was when he said goodbye to Ernesto.

October:

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April:IMG_0225

We also said goodbye to Alexandre, Vitor, Saozinha (at the gym already!), and Marcy (the one who gave me eggs). We walked down to Pic Nic to meet Ken for our last cafes. Leila came, and then Lina and Carla showed up, too. We all walked back to our apartment to say our final goodbyes.

We gave Carla back our keys and everyone said goodbye to Romeo. We brought our bags outside just as Pedro was pulling up. We piled Romeo’s crate and our bags into the backseat, and I made Ken take one last picture of us.

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Pedro drove us to the airport in the Mira Mar van through the Azorean drizzle that had begun somewhere in Furnas. We pulled up to the airport right at 1:00pm, exactly two hours before we were supposed to take off. As soon as we hopped out of the van to start unloading the bags, I heard over the loud speaker: “ELEEZA DOODY, please report to gate number 11 immediately. ELEEZA DOODY, please report to gate number 11 IMMEDIATELY.”

I left John, Romeo, and Pedro on the sidewalk and ran inside to find out what the problem was—I was so worried it had something to do with Romeo and our flight. As soon as I ran in the door, I started scanning for gate number 11. But what I saw first was the lady who had helped me with my cargo bags on Wednesday, standing with a large SATA employee in a reflective vest. “Is everything OK?” I asked, breathily.

Oh, miss I am so sorry. I am new to this job,” she began, apologetically, “I forgot to ask you a few questions. And can I make a copy of your ID card?” She and the other man deemed my license and passport sufficient for that job. The other question? “How much are your belongings worth?” I couldn’t even tell you what I told her, it really seemed irrelevant. While she went to make a copy of my IDs I ran outside to tell John and Pedro that everything was ok. I hugged Pedro goodbye and we wheeled our bags, and Romeo inside his crate on a cart, inside.

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I retrieved my IDs from my Wednesday friend, she apologized a few more times, and then we made our way to check-in. One lady took John to weigh Romeo inside of his crate while another lady checked me in. She weighed my one checked-bag: 1.8kgs overweight, “Oh no! Can I take something out?” I asked, “Don’t worry,” she replied. She also tagged our carry-ons and gave me a ticket for Romeo and my one checked-bag, which I was to take to another desk to pay. Romeo weighed in at 39kgs (anything over 23 is considered “overweight”) but she didn’t charge me extra for that either. What I thought was going to be a 450 bill was only 270. Not bad.

We dropped Romeo off at oversized baggage, where John took him out of the crate so they could x-ray it. John secured Romeo back inside, and we went off to go through security ourselves.

On the way out the door earlier, my Chinese store boots broke. Well, just the zipper-holder on one of them. I couldn’t get them off to go through security, so I left them on, knowing that they would set off the sensor and I would get patted down (worse things had happened). They set the metal detector off (four zippers!), a lady came over and violently patted me down, it was practically a crevice exam, and then used a wand, and then made me take my boots off anyways. Really? At least she gave me a paper clip to use. Obrigada.

We sat down at the one cafe and waited for our flight. I bought 60 bags of Gorreana cha verde with our last few euro. I got stopped by border control because I didn’t have a visa. Yes, I know I overstayed my 90 day tourist visa, but I’m going to play dumb because I’m leaving today. No one bothered John, but so far I’d been patted down and yelled at. The man gave me my passport back and warned me, “Next time, get a visa.” Sir, yes, sir.

We took off a few minutes late but mostly made up the time. We filled out our customs forms before we landed and deplaned without event. We got out forms stamped, retrieved our one checked-bag and Romeo, and headed for the US Dept. of Agriculture with Romeo in his crate. John had asked me if he should check off “animal” on the customs form as something we were transporting, “No.” I said, “he’s not a livestock or a bird.” But the guy at the USDA said we should have checked the box. Oops. He made a joke about Romeo being federal property before letting us go about our business. Romeo didn’t have to go through the X-ray machine, but our carry-ons and checked-bag did. I freaked out as we were going through because you’re not allowed to transport fruit or seeds and I had a banana in my bag. Oops. John accused me of being difficult to travel with but then he lost our customs forms. A few minutes later, when we found them inside his pocket he apologized. We were so ready to be home.

By the time we got outside my parents were waiting and we piled in. I broke Romeo’s crate because I was too anxious to get it in the car, and we hadn’t taken all the screws out yet. We sat in a little traffic on the pike, ordered Gianni’s, and once we got home and unloaded the car, my dad and I went back out to pick it up. We ate and crashed. #doesntfeelrealyet

Days 82 & 83… Christmas Eve in Lisboa & Christmas in Povoacao

Day Eighty Two (octogesimo segundo dia)

Tuesday (Terca-feira)

Christmas Eve

Our alarm went off soon after we dozed off (and more than two hours before it was even Tuesday in Boston). We quickly got our stuff together, called a cab, checked out, and got picked up. We were at the airport before 5:00am, local time. After I had two cafe con leches and a chocolate croissant (now none will compare to what I had at el Fornet), we waited to board. Here is our last vacation-selfie, at the Barcelona El Prat airport around 5:30am, local time.

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Because of the time difference, we landed in Lisbon at 7:40am without fanfare. SATA/TAP Portugal served us our “light meal”. I ate my roast beef sandwich as soon as it hit my tray table, but John was sleeping so I saved his for later. I freely admit that after we landed and took ten minute naps on these sweet chairs we found with footrests that we ate at McDonalds. I had a sausage-egg McMuffin (no queso!) and a hashbrown and it was every bit as delicious as it was when I used to get them as a kid on Thursday mornings with my dad before school.

We logged onto the thirty minutes of free WiFi they generously give you, found our route out of the airport, and headed for the Metro. Many people had told us there was a large shopping mall near the Benfica stadium called Columbo. We found it easily on google maps.

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The weather was absolute shit in Lisbon (back to the Portuguese wind and rain!) so we were glad that the Metro was only a ten meter walk from the airport doors. I bought a four-ride Metro pass. John used it and handed it back for me to use (which is what we did all over Barcelona) but I kept getting a red-blinky light instead of green. A very nice Portuguese woman came over and tried for me on a few different gates to no avail. She pointed me to the service center where the agent was on the phone. She barely looked at me, “you have to pay for your own card”. I just bought this one, lady, and now I have rides I can’t use. She continued her phone conversation, uninterested in my current frustration. Boas Festes, you filthy animal. I went back to the automated ticket machine and attempted three times to buy a second ticket (it wasn’t accepting cards, and I tried two different ones before I surrendered to counting out the 3.30 in change). All while John waited patiently on the other side of the turnstile.

Despite my first impression of Lisbon public transportation, the Metro was simple, and after one line change (vermelha to azul) and 16 stops, we arrived at Columbo. Again, we only had to walk outside about 20 meters before we were inside again. The weather was terrible, so we didn’t leave to see Benfica’s stadium as we had originally planned. But that’s ok, because there was a giant Christmas tree and fake snow inside.

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We bought a few more gifts, had another galao, and wandered the mall. We bought a book for Joe and Carla’s son, Francisco. We bought him “Where the Wild Things Are” in Portuguese, which translates to “Where the Monsters Live”.

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I bought some nail polish for myself (they don’t sell any name brands on Sao Miguel, even in Ponta Delgada). I found a store that looked like Sephora which sold OPI for a whopping 14.50€ a bottle! Easily more than twice what you pay in the states. I also bought a bottle of base & top coat for 18.50€. I bought three colors, but there was some sale going on so I only paid 47€. Merry Christmas to me.

We stopped for lunch (I was still considering Chinese food) when I saw they had a H3 Hambergerology (just like at Parque Atlantico in Ponta Delgada!). I had a burger. It was fabulous. They also had an Eataly restaurant which makes me miss New York City and our friends, Keith and Nicole.

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We went to Continente (the Portuguese super Target) to get wrapping paper. The mall was relatively empty for Christmas Eve when we arrived at 10:30am. Now that it was after noon, the place was packed. We pushed our way around the packed store until we found paper and tape and booked it back to the registers. After we checked out, we saw table upon table of people wrapping their own gifts at self-service stations loaded with paper, ribbons, scissors, and tape. Free for patrons. On closer inspection we noticed no one was actually wrapping gifts, they were just taking the paper! People were rolling it off the reels and cutting it off to take home. While we paid for paper. #suckers

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Back on the Metro to the airport. We didn’t even have a gate when we got back we were still so early. We went through security anyway, just to relax on the other side. I was a little nervous about my nail polish since they are liquid and I didn’t have a plastic baggy to put them in. I showed them to the security agent, and assured him I had the receipt, I had just bought them, blah, blah, blah. He was not concerned. That’s one way you know you’re not at an American airport. The other way you know is they let you keep your shoes on. We didn’t even check go through customs when we landed in Barcelona the week before. I’ve been to Spain, but I have no Spanish stamp in my passport. 😦

We hung out in the airport (one more 3 galao…. I had officially quadrupled my daily maximum allowance) until they announced the gate number and we moved our lounging location. While we waited to board, I wrapped our gift for Pedro on a table the size of my lap and no scissors–I was impressed with the outcome. I was a little nervous because there was no plane at our gate, even when we went to board. My nerves quickly dissipated when I saw the buses on the tar-mac which were to take us to our plane. But then we sat on that bus for at least fifteen minutes and didn’t start to move even when it was full. The bus driver kept getting off and on and finally one of the gate attendants came on the bus and made an announcement in Portuguese. Then in English she said, “I’m sorry for the delay, but due to the inclement whether and the strike, you’re flight has been delayed. Please go back inside until we have more information.” Uhhhhmmmmm. Wait, why are we delayed? The inclement weather or the strike?

We had heard about the impending strike through Adam, who was worried about getting back to the Azores (he went home to New Bedford for Christmas), but we never thought twice about it. As soon as we were back in the terminal, the three gate attendants got on their cell phones and began making calls. I think they were arranging for another flight crew (for it is they who I believe went on strike). About half an hour later, they boarded us back onto the buses but this time we drove us out to a plane. The male gate attendant ran up to make sure the flight crew was all set before he began boarding us. We took off and landed on Sao Miguel one hour late. We got another sandwich and, because of the holidays, bolo rei (king bread), which is like fruitcake but it’s made with massa .Once we got our (wet) luggage, we stepped outside. After just a moment, we saw Pedro pull up in the Mira Mar van. It was a Christmas Miracle.

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We all loaded into the front seat and made our way back to Povoacao. He dropped us off and Romeo went crazy. We started to get unpacked and Skyped with my family who were all at my Auntie Bethie’s. We got to see Cheryl, Richard, Meg (and MIGHTY MAAAAAN), Bethie, my mom, dad, and brother. It was great to see them but there was no mistaking the sadness it brought to me.

Just when I stepped out of the shower, our doorbell rang. It was Julia along with Lina’s mother… they had brought us chicken soup and desserts! We gobbled up the pastries and hunkered down to watch Home Alone, alone.

 

Day Eighty Three (octogesimo terceira dia)

Wednesday (Quarto-feira)

Christmas!

We woke up around 8:00am (finally on Barca time!) and I took Romeo for a stroll—John went back to sleep. It was so warm! I went home and got ready for my first run in 8 days.

I took Romeo with me for the first half of what was originally going to be four miles. I felt pretty good until I hit the first hill. It felt like my calves were stuck in a vice! I hobbled along and dropped Romeo off at 1.8. John was still out cold, so I took a few minutes to stretch and then set out to finish three miles. When I got back this time, John was blasting Christmas music while singing along and dancing at the top of the stairs. I crawled up those stairs—I guess it’s going to take me a few days to get back into my routine.

Instead of the normal church bells that ring every fifteen minutes, we were rewarded with Christmas carols. We Skyped with my family again from their house and my dad showed me their Christmas tree and their first Festivus pole. He likes it so much, he told me, he is going to leave it up all year. John made hashbrowns and eggs and I made buttermilk pancakes from scratch, and added chocolate chips that John’s mom sent us. I must have had vacation-brain because instead of putting the oven on warm to keep the pancakes from getting cold, I put it on broil. Some of them got a little crispy. Oops.

We wrapped the gifts we had bought for Lina and Carla’s families. Just before we left to walk over to Lina’s mom’s house, we had a Christmas photo shoot. Sometimes, one or two parties would run away before the self-timer clicked.

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We had a hard time getting Romeo to sit where we wanted him. IMG_0911 IMG_0912 IMG_0913 IMG_1405 IMG_1406 IMG_1407 IMG_1411 IMG_1412 But I think the final product came out pretty well. So did 182 people on Facebook. HA.

We walked over to Lina’s just after 3:00pm and had lunch with Lina, Ernesto, Kevin, Xana, Luisa, Emanuel, Julia, and Lina’s parents. Everything was amazing. It was so nice to be welcomed into their home on Christmas, and it definitely felt like Christmas. We were still sad not to be at home, but incredibly grateful.

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We drank and laughed and ate (and ate and ate and ate). Joe and Carla came over with Francisco around 7:30pm. John had run home to get their presents. We were super excited to give Francisco his Portuguese-language Where the Wild Things Are. Of course, he opened it and wondered what else we had brought him. A book? That’s all you guys brought me? His face at the end of this short video clip is priceless.

 

He understands a lot English but would only speak Portuguese. We tried to tell him we didn’t have anything else, just the book. Finally I told him to close his eyes and I gave him a tangerine. He kept a straight face while he said in proper Portuguese: “That’s not funny.” We all erupted in laughter.

We finally left around 8:30pm. I had worn high heels I bought in Barcelona and my feet were dying, so John gave me a piggy-back the two and a half blocks back to our apartment. Merry Christmas, friends.

 

Day Seventy-Five… PDL –> Lisboa –> Barca!

Day Seventy Five (septuagesimo quinta dia) Tuesday (Terca-feira) We got up early to be ready for Ernesto to pick us up at 8:00am. Marco was supposed to take us, but then said he couldn’t. Pedro couldn’t take us until after 9:15am, so Ernresto offered to take us. He picked Ken up and then grabbed us. Because Ken packed like he was going on Apollo Twenty Five, it took us a little while to situate our luggage in Ernesto’s car. I had done my thirty burpees before I got in the shower. #30burpees30days Day 28: 30 burpee SPLATS. We saw the cows again on our morning drive. IMG_0979 IMG_0978 We got to the airport just before 9:00am, and the check-in for our flight hadn’t even opened. I pulled a bolos levedos that I’d been hoarding since Saturday’s trip to Furnas out of my purse and split it with Ken. After we went through security, we got raped by the ridiculous prices at the one airport cafe—2.25€ for a can of iced tea? We spent 15€ before we even left the island. Our flight was delayed about 45 minutes, which only made our layover there shorter.  Even though it’s only two hours to Lisbon they served a “light meal”—a sandwich, a fruit puree, and a drink. The tuna had cream cheese on it and I ate it anyways. It was delicious. When we landed in Lisbon, we checked for our next gate and saw that that flight was delayed too—only fifteen minutes. We headed to find what my little heart had been craving since we planned this trip. The Promised Land. IMG_0988 After we got our coffees and a snack, we went back to our gate. Delayed again. Our only concern was arriving on time for our first (and only) scheduled Barcelona activity: FC Barcelona vs. Cartegena at Camp Nou that night. At 10:00pm local time. We were originally set to land at 7:30pm and we ended up landing at 8:00pm. We got our checked bags and headed to find a cab. We didn’t go through customs so we didn’t get caught up. We also didn’t get stamps for our passports. An Indian man approached us along the way and asked where we were headed and we told him what hotel we were staying at. He said he would charge us 35€. I thought that sounded like a lot. We tried to get him down to 30€, but he wouldn’t budge. We left him to find a cab, which he warned us against—with the traffic at “rush hour” it would be much more, he heeded. It was 8:30pm, where in the world had rush-hour traffic? We hopped in a Prius in the taxi queue. It cost us 32.70€. He tried to bring us to the Hotel Astoria first (no, no, sir. The ASS-TON SU-NO-TELL). Thankfully, he turned off his meter shortly after he started his new route to our hotel. We arrived there before 9:00pm. After we figured out how to open our door and turn on the lights (harder than you might think), we dropped our stuff off (valuables in the safe!) and took the Metro to Camp Nou. We had been planning to take another cab, but the concierge urged us to take the Metro—it’s easy, he said. And it was. It was only about a four-minute walk to the station and Camp Nou was five stops away. We got to the stadium 15 minutes before the game started. It was lots of fun for me and John kept saying he felt like he was in a dream. IMG_0998 IMG_1017 IMG_1030 After Barcelona won 3-0 we headed off to take the Metro home again, only the station was closed. It was hard to tell whether it was just this stop or whether the Metro shut down at midnight. Lots of other people were trying to take it as well. After a few minutes of standing there, we decided to walk back to the hotel (only 3 kilometers away). We had no idea which direction to walk (even with my map). We walked into a McDonald’s on the corner and used their WiFi. I took a screen shot of the directions and  45 minutes later we were back at the hotel. Success.

Day One

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This is going to be my lengthiest post. Probably. Feel free to skim through, or even just peak at the pictures.

Last day in Boston/Pre-Day one of our Portuguese Adventure:

After sitting in rush hour traffic to get to the airport, and paying some tall Eurasian to help us bring our eight bags and dog-filled crate to SATA check-in, a very nice ticketing agent helped us wheel Romeo in his crate to the appropriate TSA office. This happened to be down a ridiculously long hallway that Romeo’s crate couldn’t fit through the doorway of. After we lifted it off the crate and put in back on after rolling through the doorway, Romeo was lopsided. After the ticketing agent took a few short steps, Romeo’s crate fell off and tumbled over a few times. We rushed to upright him, but he barely noticed. After getting security clearance for him & his crate, we left him with the ticketing agent to go through security ourselves. Our flight was uneventful, in the good way.

Portugal: Day One (primeiro dia)

We arrived in Ponta Delgado 7:00am local time and it was just barely getting light. Due to the absence of jetways, we exited the plane ceremoniously down some steps and onto the tarmac. The first thing you notice, should you ever get the chance to visit the Azores, is the intense, and not-entirely unpleasant scent of cows. Cows, cows, cows. They seem to be everywhere on the island. Once we entered the aeroport we retrieved Romeo from the “oversized luggage” area and made our way to the “vet”.

There were two other dogs in front of Romeo, so we waited outside the tiny office, trying to keep Romeo out of the other dogs’ sight—they were not happy about him. Once we finally entered the “vet” office she took our forms and copied them, without so much as a glance. She told us the other dog owner did not have the right forms, and that explained our extended wait. We were in her office a total of 45 seconds, long enough for her to copy our forms and hand us back the original. No stamp, no certificate. She left us with a “bom dia!” (trans: good day) and we went to see what sort of ride awaited us outside the airport.

John had talked to the captain of his team and they were aware that we had eight bags, a large dog, and his crate. We had been assured a van would be at the airport to pick us up (the normal driver for Mira Mar, Pedro, also drove school-children during the day and wouldn’t be able to get us). As soon as we were on the sidewalk a man approached John and explained to him in a few words that he was there to get us. His name was Liandro and he went to fetch his vehicle from the parking lot.

A few minutes later he pulled up in a Mercedes SEDAN. We began to pile the bags (framed suitcases) in the trunk and tried to fit Romeo’s crate in the backseat. When we realized his crate was not going to fit, we went to work taking it apart. Once all the screws were out, we put the bottom inside the top. We filled this with the bags that wouldn’t fit in the trunk and put it in the back seat. With just about 10 inches to spare, I scooted in next to it. John (with Romeo in his lap) took the front seat. What John had told me about how people drive on Sao Miguel was true—it is typical for a driver to gain as much speed as possible in whatever space he has. Once hyper-over-drive-speed has been attained, this speed is held until there is a stop sign/yield sign/rotary, at which point the driver applies as much force as is humanly possible to the brakes. The roads are as narrow as the teeny Smart Cars that line the streets, and we’re winding through the mountains which consume the body of the island. The scenery got prettier and the foliage more colorful as we got further away from Ponta Delgado and closer to our village (Povoacao). The last village we saw before our own was Furnas (pro. Furnesh.) Furnas is famed for its hot springs and geysers. The fog shot into the sky as the sun was beginning to rise—it set a nice background for the vehicular death I believed was imminent.

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While I tend to trust iMaps wholeheartedly, this trek only took us 45 minutes.

Without death or injury, we made it to Povoacao just before 9:00am. Many villagers were out and about getting their children to school. We finally stopped (after driving in what felt like several circles—almost every street in the village is one-way) outside a church. Opposite the church is a dentist and a nail salon, and a few other retail shops, and above these appear to be apartments. We waited on the street for about 20 minutes, for the president of the club, Betinho. Once he arrived, he gave John a nod and took a key to the door next to the nail salon. John, trying very hard to make me aware of the customs I was going to encounter, explained to me that men would kiss me on both cheeks when we met. He need not have worried; Betinho didn’t even give me a glance. We gathered our bags from the curb and walked into the apartment and straight up the stairs into the kitchen.

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The place is beautiful: hardwood stairs led up to a sun-filled kitchen with glass doors leading out to a tiny back porch (where we later found a WASHER and a DRYER). Also on this floor was our sun-filled bedroom (facing the church) and a decent-sized and totally clean bathroom. At this time, we still had hot water.

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Walk up the second staircase to a loft living room with leather couches and cable TV (not that I watch cable… but still a luxury, along with hot water, tweezers, and hair dryers…)

IMG_0089IMG_0097For those of you who don’t know John well, no, he doesn’t like to wear his shirt.

We got unpacked and were visited by the captain of the team, Marco. This is how we learned that our apartment was owned by the woman who owns the nail salon below us. She is in the states with her husband, Marco told us, but will come back in a few days. At this point, we didn’t know it was a nail salon as Marco kept referring to it as “the office building downstairs”.

IMG_0141Clearly, I didn’t take this picture upon our arrival. It does, however, show the nail salon, our front door, and our bedroom window.

After we got unpacked, we walked two blocks up the street, and let ourselves into the apartment John had been staying in with the other Americans (who aren’t all “American”, but we’ll get to that). After he excitedly and dramatically woke each of them up by jumping on their sleeping bodies (Ken, Majiid, Adam, and Bobby), we went to Pic-Nic to get a coffee. On the way to Pic-Nic, we found Pedro, Mira Mar’s driver. He had just finished driving the kids to school, and treated us to a coffee (cafe). We still didn’t know the password to our wifi, so we either had to go to Pic-Nic or the guys’ apartment when we needed it. Pedro and Marco both speak English very well, which is good for us, because our Portuguese sucks. People keep saying mine is better than John’s, but I think that is mostly because it makes him so mad. After we had galao (lattes) with Pedro, we walk back to our apartment.

After we nap for several hours (we only slept for about two hours on the plane) we got up and went to the market to get some groceries. The market is much different from what I had imagined—I was expecting farmer’s market-type places with fresh fruits and vegetables from all the surrounding farms. What there actually is are a ton of glorified mini marts full of frozen cuisine, with the occasional basket of oranges (laranja) and what look like plantains (which I tried to fry….) but are in fact bananas. See image.

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Fresh bread? I don’t think so. The pastries at Pic-Nic are pre-wrapped, too. So much for my “farm-to-table, everything is fresh or homemade!” expectations.

We took our canned and frozen and pre-packaged food home and had a lanche (snack). Thank you, Leslie, at Real Deal Snacks for our protein-packed (and homemade) goodness.

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Before Pedro came to pick John up for practice, we took Romeo for a walk to the beach.

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Pedro picked John up and took him to train the juniors and then he stayed for his own practice. I took advantage of the time to go to Pic-Nic, have another galao, and use their wifi to catch up with some friends. After that was done, I headed home to make some rice and beans for dinner. #tryingtobeportugee

John came home from practice, he showered, we ate rice and beans, and then we headed up to the guys’ to steal some wifi. We went home and crashed around 1:30am and slept until 11:30am. Romeo slept too.

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