The last few weeks were such a flurry of activity that leaving for Portugal was actually rather anti-climactic. It was a relief to finally be able to sit still on the plane and know that anything forgotten could be simply forgotten now. The peace didn’t last long, neither of the girls were able to sleep much on the plane and Genevieve started vomiting with a couple of hours to go. We’re not sure if it was something she ate or motion sickness but she was miserable. We had a 4 hour layover then another flight, then an hour’s drive and she was a trooper. The only bright spot was that the Lisbon airport has wheelchairs that you can simply take and use rather than the usual airport system where you have to call for one. One can get through Portuguese passport control spectacularly fast when one is pushing a wheelchair containing a young child clutching a barf bag.
The airport personnel also offered to get us into the on site clinic during our layover. One thing I notice traveling from the US to Portugal (and many other countries) is how much kinder airport security and personnel is. In the US it seems the system is meant to intimidate you and reinforce a culture of fear. In Portugal all the same measures are in place but the attitude is kind, human, there are gentle reminders of procedures but they don’t bark “laptops out!!” at the top of their lungs. If you make a mistake you aren’t harangued but consoled “that’s OK, there a lot of rules.” The immigration officials wear normal uniforms and seem to not be allowed paramilitary style accoutrements. Whereas my entry to Miami a few weeks ago was greeted by a surly man whose outfit looked more suited to a SWAT van than sitting at a passport control counter. I was scared even though I was doing nothing wrong or even remotely suspicious.
Anyway we’ve now settled into our first Airbnb, a short one week rental in Lagos. We have a laundry list of errands but are also trying to get over jet lag and get the girls into some kind of daily rhythm. The first errand was a trip to Vodafone to get Portuguese phone numbers. Without a local call back number we really couldn’t get any other business done. As I walked into the store I silently rehearsed my Portuguese “I don’t speak Portuguese, I speak English” line. I confidently presented myself to a young man at the counter then proceeded to struggle with the phrase for a full 30 seconds. Once the last of the jumbled and mispronounced words tumbled out of my mouth he responded that English was no problem, in a native speaker’s British accent. We were in and out of the store in 10 minutes and I was all set to write high praise for Vodafone until I tried to make my first local phone call and it didn’t work. Perhaps having to contain his laughter over my linguistic prowess distracted him from some of the setup. Today we made another stop and everything is in working order. A 1 month pre-paid SIM with 3GB of data and 500 minutes/texts was €9.90 (~$11) then there is a special to get another 4GB of data free. After the first month it goes to €17.49 (~$19.50) a month. So even with the hiccup I’m pretty happy, on Verizon we shared 4GB of data (Heather .2GB and Chris 3.8GB) and paid $145 a month with a contract. Sure we had unlimited minutes/texts but I don’t really use my phone as a phone anymore and the only person I know to text in the whole country is Chris and we use WhatsApp.
The next order of business is figuring out our immigration status. I’ll eventually write a whole post, or perhaps a book, on this topic. But the short version is the Residency Visa that is supposed to be issued by the Consulate in the US was not approved by the Portuguese immigration authorities in time for our travel. So we are currently here as US tourists who can stay for 90 days without a visa. We are going to head to the immigration office tomorrow to try to find out the Residency Visa status. Wish us luck!