Sunday, December 08, 2013

Christmas on the Island

Yesterday was a LONG day. It began when Mom and I decided to take Isaac and run out to the local "China Store" to do a little shopping. (These stores are actually called "The China Store" and are run by Chinese families.) They bear a resemblance to a dollar store except that the prices are not just $1. But they have a little bit of everything and relatively inexpensive. 

I wanted to give the boys an opportunity to pick out Christmas gifts for their family this year. I didn't want to spend a lot but wanted them to understand "giving." Originally we just planned to wait to institute this family idea when we returned to America since shopping on the island is so difficult due to lack of options. But ultimately, we went for it! (I plan to take Sidge out another day and will allow Abigail to wait until she gets a bit older.)

Isaac had a great time. When we got back to our van though, I discovered that I had been ticketed for not paying to park in a spot that I had no idea required payment! 

One of the things that is always frustrating to me about living overseas is the inability to understand traffic, parking, tickets, etc. What is intuitive to a local, is not to us, and what reads simply on a traffic ticket to someone who speaks Portuguese, looks quite Greek-to-me.

JB and I chalk these costs up to the fact that we are foreigners. You just sometimes get it wrong. I was pretty sure that I had parked in that same spot before without paying. But obviously, I was wrong.

The good thing was, I found a website on the ticket, and was able to ascertain that they were only charging me a few euro for not putting my coins in the machine. I used my VISA and paid online.

And while our pocketbook didn't take a huge hit, our van did. 

Another thing about living overseas that exhausts me? Parking lots! Spots are small, designed for little European vehicles. Our big van is ... well ... big. Navigating tiny parking lots with tiny spots is exhausting. After our China store stop (where Isaac found a little mermaid bath toy for Abigail and a ping-pong game for him and Sidge to play) we had gone over to the local Medellos (Portuguese grocery store) for a few things. I was already upset about my ticket when, on our way back into the van, I noticed that the spot in front of me was open! This meant that I could pull forward to exit the parking lot instead of trying to make a 417-point-turn to pull out. 

Only I didn't notice that the yellow-painted-handicapped-parking-spot had a yellow-painted-speed-hump in front of it. I hit it. And the front of our car dislodged and was hanging onto the road. I managed to prop it up until we got home wherein JB and his Dad were able to fix it. 

Quite a day of living-overseas-experiences.

After those two events, it was nice to get a little dose of America. The Base was putting on a Christmas Day Extravaganza. While the weather was far from cooperating, we had a nice time. It stated with a reading time with Santa.

This picture was taken right after Abigail's name was called to win a donated prize. We entered each of the children of course, but it was a random prize, and Abigail was called mere moments after we walked in. She went up to a table full of toys and chose the huge pink dog in the front and center of the table. Sidge coulda cared less. But Isaac was well aware that his sister won a prize, and he did not. We took this opportunity to teach him a life lesson. We don't always win. Sometimes other people win. Games are not meant to be won by everyone. And besides! Santa had a little present for every kid that came so he got to get something. And wouldn't you know that about ten people later, Isaac's name was called! He picked out a batman kite, and while happy, still pouted a bit that he didn't get a dog like Abigail. Ugh! How DO you teach gratefulness? So much for a life lesson being learned. What is even funnier is that Sidge, our happy-go-lucky-little-man, was a little bothered by the fact that his two siblings won a prize, but when we said he could have an extra cookie for compensation, he was completely at peace.

Hannah, when smiling, is such a cutie. But when she has on her serious face, you can't get her out of it, and with that head of hair, we think she bears a little resemblance to a "curmudgeon". 

I am well aware that this may be the last time we get a picture of Hannah with Santa for many years. Isaac was seven months old at his first Christmas and sat willingly with the big man at Destin Commons in Destin, Florida. (Click here to see Isaac.) Because Sidge was a January birthday, he was nearly a year when his first Christmas rolled around a year later, and he was having NOTHING of sitting on a strange man's lap. It wasn't until 2011, that we managed to even get a video of the boys anywhere near Santa again at a Christmas outing in Turkey. And with Abigail only being five months old that year, she willingly took a picture as well. 

After Hannah took her picture, we asked Abigail to take a picture. I am big on not forcing my kids to do things they are uncomfortable with. Abigail was having nothing of it. She did agree, however, to let her new "pink puppy" take a picture on the Big Man's lap. 

Once Pink Puppy got in on the action, I asked the kids if they would reconsider a photo. Abigail refused. However, the boys agreed. We keep Santa as sort of an "imaginary character" in our family. We don't really emphasize him, but we don't dissuade from believing in him either. We sort of think that you can understand Jesus while having a little fun with a few years of childhood magic before you outgrow it. The boys do, however, seem to understand that many of the Santa's they see are not the real Santa. They appeared to get that this was just a man in a costume and agreed to take a picture with him. (Okay so I bribed them with pennies for the piggy banks. While I don't force kids, I'm not above bribing.)

After that, Grama managed to talk the three older kiddos into a picture in front of the Christmas tree they had up on the stage. They were actually incredibly willing to participate.

Oh, so you may be wondering why the kiddos are in their pajamas. Well ... following the time with Santa, the Base was putting on a "Polar Express" activity for the kids. You could go to the movie theatre on Base, watch the movie for free, and then board a bus for a ride through the neighborhood to look at Christmas lights. The kids were encouraged to wear their pajamas like the kids in the movie did.

Sidenote: I'm just not a huge fan of this movie. I appreciate the creativity but it is just a little creepy to me in many parts. 

Anyways ... our friend "Ms. Mianna" joined us, but I don't have any photos from the second part of our afternoon because the weather was terrible. (It's been raining and windy on the island for about five straight days now -- with only a little break in the action on Friday.) JB rode the bus with the kids, and they couldn't really see a thing because the windows were so foggy. After the bus/train ride, we managed to stand outside in the rain long enough to see the Base Christmas tree lit too.

While the day didn't go much like planned, we did have a wonderful time as a family, and we were so blessed to share this Base experience with Grampa and Grama. While the Base is very limited in what they can provide, we so appreciate all the volunteers who help to make holidays away from home and family, feel a little less lonely. I will certainly miss the Base-family-feel next summer when we separate from the military. And I'll definitely miss the small town experiences that both Turkey and the Azores have afforded us. 


Brenna said...

Great post Wendi! It made me a little bit homesick for Lajes. I loved the Tree Lighting last year and seeing the Polar Express go by; so much fun!
Have you gone to Angra at night? They have pretty lights on the street and even pump out Christmas music, in English. Dan & I walked the streets looking in store windows and ended with a pizza dinner for two at Elios (very yummy).
Though I don't miss the rainy weather and tiny parking, I do miss base life and family there. I'm so glad you're enjoying it while you have it. Merry Christmas!

Blessed Blackman Bunch said...

My children LOVE The Polar Express. Just the other day they asked if I would like to own it which translates they would like to! ;) We find our SUV is super hard in Cali, TINY spots. Bummer for your van.