ChAlli in Lisbon

New Year's with the Andersons

January 10, 2024 Everyone Said

new years with the andersons

New Year's with the Andersons started in Iceland and ended in Lisbon.

She Said:

By the time we post this blog, we will have completed our fifth month here in Portugal. No doubt about it, time is starting to feel like it’s flying. I mean, it’s 2024!

December was a busy month, as it usually is for most, but this was definitely a different holiday/school break for me than I’ve experienced in the past. It was truly like none other as it was the first that I could remember and certainly the first in Sebastian’s 11 years that I was not working through the break. I was really excited and felt like a camp counselor planning activities for us the first week. We went to a space exhibit at the science museum, Seb went to his first movie with friends, and we went to the Winter Wonderland fair to go ice skating (which ended up being ice skates on plastic -- turns out it’s too warm in Lisbon to maintain the ice). We saw a Cirque de Soleil show, and we took a workshop where we all got to paint authentic Portuguese tiles.

I was also keen on seeing all that Lisbon had to offer for the holidays, and it did not disappoint. The lights alone were amazing. Castanhas assadas (roasted chestnuts) roasters popped up everywhere. Christmas markets were bustling. The stores were as crowded as you would expect, and when one, in particular, got overwhelming, we simply went to the top floor and out to the rooftop for a break to enjoy the sun and a gin and tonic, because that’s what’s on floor 7. And, get this, on floor 1 (where the grocery store is located), in a different mall-like structure, there were racks of free wrapping paper just hanging outside the store, just there for anyone to take!

Unfortunately, we also went through another round of illnesses. I have decided that living in a new place, especially a city, is analogous to being a preschool teacher in their first year of teaching. That is, always sick!!! This time it was Chad with some weird throat thing, and then Seb put in his two cents with what was presumed to be a weird type of walking pneumonia. Even Cody got pink eye! I stayed strong until the following week when family arrived with a brand-new petri dish of germs to swim in. But I’m getting better and better at navigating us through it, and each time, I pick up a new tip or trick with the system and pharmacy (and vet) to help in the future.

The second week of break is when the fun really started. After what seemed like a never-ending countdown between Seb and Caitlin (my niece), it was finally time to meet in Iceland. We were all excited to explore a new country but were grossly unprepared (mentally) for the bitter cold that met us as soon as the airport doors opened. But no matter, we blasted the heater in the family van and enjoyed every second together while quickly soaking up the countryside during the approximate five hours of daylight. Sunrise around 11a and sunset by 1600-ish.

Chad (Clark) did a great job driving the family truckster, and Bill did equally as well navigating him and booking us a glacier hike. This three-hour hike, in which we were given crampons and some kind of ice ax, was one of the most amazing things I’ve seen and done in my life thus far. Neither words nor pictures do it justice. It’s just something spectacular to have seen and experienced, and I’m so glad we did. And while the ride to get there was over two hours each way, the amazing scenic views, a few car games, good music and Podcasts, and of course, the company all made it enjoyable.

The thermal hot pool is a different story. While it, too, was beautiful and hot enough once in the water, I have never been so cold in my entire life getting to it. Walking in snow, in water shoes and clothes over a bathing suit, with the wind whipping in my face, was painful. Once I was able to hype myself up enough to take my outer layer of clothing off to get into the pool, I was able to determine if the pain was actual frostbite or just something close to it. I think the latter, but you get the point. But again, once thawed, nature’s view did not fail. And in no way and with no amount of peer pressure did I feel compelled to polar plunge into the fjord with the crazy few that did (that’s right, Cait and Isaac, my body, my choice 😊).

While we stayed in a smaller town about an hour outside of it, the town of Reykjavik proved a “charming” little town (and a lot more expensive than I thought!). Big cathedral, small mom and pop shops, and a quaint little bookstore with some delicious hot tea. While some enjoyed the traditional Icelandic hotdog, others enjoyed a White Russian at the Big Lebowski Bar. Thankfully, nothing erupted in our quick three days there, but sadly, the Northern Lights also stayed quiet behind the snowy clouds. But alas, it gives us a reason to go back. In the summer!

I anticipated one of the things I’d enjoy most about living abroad was having people come visit, and it’s held true thus far. Having the Andersons here in Lisbon and sharing our new life with them was really fun. We packed the week with fun things to see and do, great food and wine to consume and said goodbye to 2023 and hello to 2024 together. Saying goodbye felt hard again, but I’m so grateful for the time and adventures we had together.

So, 2024, here we come. So much more to see and do and I can’t wait to see what that looks like. Happy New Year to all, and thank you for caring about us and our journey.

Images from Iceland:

Seb Said:

Let me start out by saying that my Grandma‘s pumpkin bread has never tasted so good! OK, let’s back it up a little bit.

This all started when we left for Iceland the day after Christmas. Christmas alone was a very different experience than it is in the States. Don’t get me wrong, it was great, but for me, I am used to having either lasagna or ham for Christmas every year. However, when we went to our friend’s house for Christmas, they basically made a Thanksgiving dinner, but on Christmas. I laughed out loud when I saw that, but it turned out to be a delicious meal.

We left the next afternoon. I had been counting down the days for the last 111 days. All I can say is that that time flew by. Not only did the time waiting for it to come fly by, but sadly, so did the actual time that my cousins and aunt and uncle were here. We all decided to meet up in Iceland. The fun thing was that none of us had ever been, so it was a completely new experience that we all got to experience together. My family landed about four hours before the Anderson’s flight. It landed at around 1 AM. As a result of that, we were stuck sleeping in a van for about four hours until their flight landed. Me and my cousin Caitlin had been texting that entire day. I made her promise that she would not scare me while I was sleeping in the van. But, of course, Caitlin being Caitlin, decided to completely scare the crap out of me. She banged on the door and yelled “Sebby”! I got so scared, but really didn’t care because I hadn’t seen her and Isaac in five months and was so happy to finally see them! In some ways, it felt like a dream for two reasons; the first reason was because I hadn’t seen them in so long in person that it almost didn’t feel real. The second reason was because I was so utterly exhausted that I thought I was hallucinating, and I kind of was just not for that.

After we got settled in the van, we decided to go to Reykjavik town center for breakfast. The only thing was, it didn’t feel like breakfast because it was still pitch black, yet it was 9 AM. In Iceland, in the winter, there are only four hours of daylight. The rest is pitch black. So, we ate breakfast at a local cafe in the pitch black with a famous church in the background. It was beautiful. After we had finished eating, we were going to wait for the church to open so we could go inside. Since we had been in Lisbon for so long, I was not used to there being so much snow and also it being so cold! In the church, there was a tower that you could go up in. We decided to go up in it, and I am so glad that we did because the view over Reykjavik with the sun just starting to come up over the water and the ice was beautiful. I will attach pictures as well. If you ever go to Iceland, I highly recommend you go there.

There was also a hot spring. The hot spring was outside in the below-freezing temperatures. We did not realize that we could park close to the hot springs, so we parked about a five-minute walk from it. Let me just say that was the most excruciating five minutes of my entire life. We were in bathing suits with the frigid wind hitting us like knives and the snow on our bare feet, soaking in through our socks. It was so cold that I pretty much went numb until I got into the water. Once I got in, it burned like crazy. That was a first. Another first was flying on a plane with somebody other than my mom and dad. We flew with the Anderson’s back to Lisbon, and the kids sat together, and the adults sat together. The sunset out the window was gorgeous. I had never seen the sunset that beautiful.

Isaac got sick in Iceland and was still sick when we got to Lisbon. Sadly, he didn’t get to participate in the first couple of days. We went to a winter wonderland fair and rode a Ferris Wheel. It was honestly not as scary as I thought it would be. We also went to a delicious restaurant called Mini Bar. I had only been once before, and I don’t remember it being as good as it was that time. I don’t know if it was so good because of the actual food or because my cousins were there with us. But either way, it was amazing.

In Lisbon, in 1755, there was a devastating earthquake on All Saints’ Day, which is basically the European version of Halloween. The tragic earthquake led to fires and a tsunami, killing thousands and thousands of people. Buildings were destroyed, families were separated. It was a horrific 24 hours and then, even worse, five months of aftermath cleanup. You may be wondering why I am telling you this. Well, it’s what I learned at the “Quake Experience,” a museum in Lisbon. I don’t usually like museums; however, this was not an ordinary museum where you go and look at old artifacts. This was a little bit of learning, including a simulation of what the 1755 earthquake was like. It also tells you what to do if there is an earthquake. It almost took you on a story, a mystery if you will, and you had to solve it…

The whole part of where this pumpkin bread comes in is that the Anderson’s brought us a bunch of things that we can’t get in Portugal, pumpkin bread being one of them. I hadn’t had Grandma’s pumpkin bread in five months, and it was delicious! It was so good that I almost ate the entire loaf in one hour and a half sitting. At the end of the trip, there were definitely some tears shed as we did not, and still do not know when we might see them again. All I know is that the visit was amazing, and it was so good to see them. We will see them again soon. Anyway, all for now!

Cait Said:

Since the Stamm’s abandoned us, we went five months without a Stammderson reunion. This one was a memorable one! It all started in Iceland! Aunt Alli was there to meet us at the gate after we landed (they arrived a few hours before us and rented out a nine-person van to fit all of us), and we all grabbed some coffee (it was 5 AM). We then ran out of the airport with all six of our suitcases to the van where Seb and Uncle Chad were sleeping until we banged on the windows to get them up. After a quick pee break, we were on the road to explore Reykjavík!

We went for breakfast, where we all tried a traditional lamb stew and Icelandic yogurt called skyr. Afterward, we explored a beautiful church and watched the sunrise (at around 11:30) from its tallest tower. We then got to go to a bookstore/cafe where most of us enjoyed tea and books while others (my mom and dad) fell asleep on the couches. Next, we drove back to the place where we were staying.

Once there, we all changed into our bathing suits and got in the car to head for the hot springs. We were told that we had a private one but weren’t told where it was. This led to a lengthy freezing walk in which we all might have gotten frostbite. The hot spring, though, was worth it. The second your body touched the water, all the cold left your body… Until we had to get out again. Most of us stayed in the whole time until we had to leave, but the crazy ones (my dad, Isaac, and I) decided to jump into the freezing ocean nearby (it was around 35 degrees and 20 degrees outside with wind). I was in a bikini. It was very cold. After some warm showers, we got dressed and went to have some dinner, in which I was accused of stealing the last olive. A  multiday conversation. I didn’t, though!

The next morning we woke up to go hike a glacier. Unfortunately, though, Isaac got sick and couldn’t come. After some breakfast, we dressed in as many layers as we could and hopped in the van for a three-hour ride. During the car ride, we played ghost, watched the sunrise, and sang along to Holiday Road. Once there, we got ice axes, harnesses, helmets, special shoes, and spikes for the bottom of our shoes. If you kicked someone with those shoes, well… there would definitely be injuries. Our guide was super super nice and spoke really good English. I spent a while talking with her about rock climbing. Hiking the glacier was an incredible experience, and we learned a ton of cool facts! Did you know that icebergs are just broken-off pieces of glaciers?! Anyway, we hiked up tons and tons of ice stairs and hills until we eventually reached the top. It was beautiful, and the ice was a really cool shade of blue. After another three-hour ride home (in which I introduced Seb to the amazing movie we all love, Titanic), dad made some DELICIOUS sausage pasta. Seb, my dad, Uncle Chad, and I put our bathing suits back on and went back to the hot springs. We didn’t get home till around 1 AM, worrying the moms. After showers, we all went to sleep, ready to go to Portugal the next morning.

When we woke up, we packed up and headed to Reykjavik. There, we tried some delicious Icelandic hot dogs and stopped by the Lebowski Bar, where I got a delicious milkshake and the adults got to try some cool drinks. We headed to the airport, returned the van, and got on a flight headed to Portugal. I didn’t know what to expect at this point. Either it was super cool, and we would love it, or the Stamm’s had gone totally crazy and it was just another gross, old city. It was definitely the first option!

We arrived and had a super late-night dinner (around midnight), where I got to try a delicious sandwich that was WAY too thick to fit in my mouth without breaking it into two sandwiches. I went back to the Stamm’s apartment, and the rest of my family went to their Airbnb. The next thing I knew, it was ten the next morning, and Seb and Cody were on my bed, waking me up.

Seb took me for a delicious breakfast at a restaurant near their house, where I got pancakes with Nutella, banana, and whipped cream, and some fresh squeezed orange juice. Isaac was sick that day, too, so he slept all day while my dad and Uncle Chad went on a walking food tour for the day, and Aunt Alli, Seb, my mom, and I explored the winter fair. We went on a super fun Ferris wheel (Seb’s first experience on one) and explored some of the shops. That night, we took the train and met up with Uncle Chad and my dad at an amazing market called Time Out Market. We all got way too much delicious food and Pastel de Nata (Timeout Market is Uncle Chad’s favorite place to get Pastel de Nata in all of Portugal). On the way back to the Stamm’s house, Aunt Alli, Uncle Chad, Seb, and I got stuck waiting for an endless race to finish. After about 30 minutes of watching and waiting for the race to end, we still couldn’t see an end and decided to just run across the street to the metro station when the cops weren’t watching (we made sure not to get in any racer’s way). We finally got home and went to sleep. The next morning, I was woken up the same way. I loved it.

We explored Lisbon, a really really old bookstore, “the oldest in the world,” a store with a lifesized wax sculpture of Renaldo, sand sculptures, and even watched a crazy street dance performance, where all of us girls winced every time we thought that one was gonna fall and split his head open on the cobblestone doing a backflip or some crazy stunt. That night we went to a Mussels and Gin restaurant and boarded a boat to watch the New Year's fireworks from the water. We waited and waited in line to board, but when we got to the front, we realized we were in line for the wrong boat, so we ran to get online for the other one. Once on the right one, we left and had a ton of fun. We watched the water, danced to the music, and I had my first experience with a (personal-sized) bottle of champagne all to myself! Eventually, the fireworks went off, and it was totally worth the wait. The fireworks were INCREDIBLE!!! There was a 15-minute show, and the boat was in the perfect spot. We were watching them from front and center! When the boat docked, we got off and headed home. Stopping for some 3 AM pizza on the way. Seb had his latest night ever that night. We stayed up till around 3:30-ish.

The next morning, we woke up at around 11 and went to Time Out Market again for lunch. It was really popular with my family! After, we got on a train and went to explore an awesome beach town called Cascais. Later, we went for a Tuk-Tuk ride to see the lights of Lisbon, and went to an amazing Fado restaurant. Fado is where traditional Portuguese singers do multiple performances during your dinner. It was SOOO cool, which made up for the food situation.

The next morning, Aunt Alli and my mom ditched us to go get a spa treatment, and I was stuck with the boys ALL DAY! How was I gonna survive?! Don’t worry guys, I survived. I am writing this, aren’t I? Anyway, we went back to Lisbon and explored some of the sites on the water, like the Tower of Belem. We also got Pastel de Nata at the place where it was first created. It was DELICIOUS! Afterwards, we went to the Quake Museum, which was a super cool interactive experience where you learned about the earthquake of 1755 that destroyed Portugal, and even got to experience what it would have been like through floors that literally moved and shook while you were on them, and tons of screens everywhere that showed what it would have looked like. After it was over, we realized that the dads got a little too curious and stayed in a room longer than they were supposed to. We ended up waiting for them for 15 minutes! We then went home and got ready to eat at the notorious Mini Bar.

Mini Bar was incredible! Not only was the food mouthwatering, but it really was an experience. Even when my mom accidentally spilled red wine on me (wine away to the rescue)! The food was designed in such a cool and innovative way. It was a great close to our last night in Portugal.

The next morning, we all went to get boba at Seb’s favorite spot, and the girls and I went thrifting and found some really cute stuff. When we got home, we finished packing up and had a very tearful goodbye. We were really sad to go, especially since we didn’t know when the next Stammderson reunion would be, but there was one quote that really resonated with me through my tears in the taxi on the way to the airport.

Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened -- Dr. Suess

Love you all!

Anderson Addition:

Cait’s blog captured our trip so well that we only have a couple of notes to add. We wouldn’t go so far as to say abandoned, but the Stamms’ absence is definitely felt in the Anderson house. FaceTime can only make up for so much…

Thankfully, Bill recognized that the only way to cheer me (Jamie) up on the day we said goodbye in August was to give me a visit to look forward to. He mentioned December, and the floodgates of planning were opened! Lots of planning, given our 3 leg trip! Worth it, though -- the trip was even better than we hoped. While we were bummed to miss the Northern Lights, we enjoyed Reykjavik and loved it even more because we got to experience it while getting QT with the Stamms. Experiencing anything new with Chad and Bill always results in extra adventure and learning a ton. We all left with a desire to spend more time in Iceland in the future. After Big Lebowski Bar White Russians and airport shots of (what liquor, Chad?), we took off for Lisbon, excited to see the urban life they built for themselves. We were not disappointed -- their city made for a too-quick but amazing setting for the rest of our time in Portugal. We walked a lot, saw all the sights with Tour Guide Chad making sure we had quality context, ate fantastic food, saw epic fireworks for NYE, and drank lots (and lots) of delicious wine, Aperols, and -- our new fav -- Família Basílico. Chad and Bill got some bromance time one day, and Alli and I got some TwinQT on another. Both days were highlights for us. Overall, super impressed with how at-home the Stamms seemed -- especially Seb, who communicated and directed us on how to navigate the trains, metro, and bike lanes with impressive confidence! Leaving was hard, but we couldn’t be more supportive of the awesome Lisbon adventure and look forward to seeing them again soon.

Chad Said:

Many know how much time I give to the Rotary Youth Exchange program, but I won't go into a lot of detail here other than to say, 1) We would almost certainly never be in Portugal right now without the program's influence on our family, and 2) As the outbound coordinator for our district's program, I've helped hundreds of students prepare for their years abroad.

When students leave in the summer and live through a complete school year, a schedule we're currently in the midst of in our own experience, a common pattern inevitably occurs. There's a honeymoon phase when everything is new and exciting. There's an increase in homesickness as the newness wears off and the holidays approach. There can be extreme homesickness during the holidays. And then, people start to experience the same emotions as in the honeymoon phase, this time driven by a greater depth of perspective and a more significant appreciation of what the "new home" really is. As we push further into the new year, that's the way I'm starting to feel about Portugal. I'm understanding things at a deeper level. I hear more of the language and can better navigate conversations. I'm seeing more of the country. And the love of place grows stronger.

How does this process work? What makes for deeper understanding? Experiences, of course. Having visitors and showing them around. Seeing new places. Leaving and coming back. Doing more. Always saying yes. And that's what we've been doing. Saying yes to everything so we can have more of those experiences, things like:

THE HOLIDAYS -- Simply put, I have never lived in any place that looks as beautiful as it does here during the holidays. Snow-covered mountains, the holiday bustle of New York City, holiday light boat parades on the water -- none of this compares to the beauty of the Lisbon streets, squares, and plazas lit up in all their holiday glory. What did we miss? Our friends and family, of course, but this year, we made new traditions and have memories with new people that I'm sure we'll miss one day, as well. So is the nature of "saudade." Soon we'll reminisce about the Christmas markets, tuktuk rides through the streets to see the lights, a wonderful Christmas dinner with new friends, and New Year's on the water with family. Even now, these things are already growing in their importance in my mind. They're finding their place in my great storybook of holiday memories.

THE SUNSETS OVER THE WATER: This will never get old. I will never tire of the opportunity to sit in a chair by the water with a glass of Vinho Verde or an Irish Coffee and watch the orange glow behind our big April 25th Bridge or Christ the Redeemer, the water splashing against the rocks, being fully present in the moment. Every afternoon I spend along the Tejo is another twist of the screw connecting me tighter to this city.

SEB'S TIME OFF: Two weeks without school seems like a long time, but it's also an opportunity to explore some places we've never been, to learn things we never knew, and to try things we never tried. One morning, I took Sebastian on a private tour of Amália Rodrigues' house over in Principe Real. She is Portugal's most famous fadista, and her house is carefully preserved. Her pet bird is still alive, and he talked to us in Portuguese as we walked through Amália's kitchen. We also learned how to make the famous Portuguese tiles, azulejos, and created a few of our own.

ICELAND ADVENTURES: There's no better way to gain an appreciation for a place than to leave and return. We took our first trip out of the country to meet the Anderson's in Iceland. I'm still speechless at just how foreign it really is. It felt like we were on another planet. The sun rose, and then before it could turn into day, it set again. We stepped across a glacier and slipped into hot springs. The Icelandic hotdogs were bizarre, as was everything to me. The only thing we missed was the Northern Lights, but this is just another reason to go to a northern country in the dead of winter -- Finland? And as great as it was to see another-worldly place like Iceland, it was also so cool to come back...

NEW YEARS: When you live in a foreign country, leave to visit another foreign country, and then return to the foreign country where you live but find that country feels like home more than it did before you left, listing out the order of things is the only way to describe what this feels like. You just have to fill in the blanks. The sensation of coming "home" to Lisbon was exhilarating in ways I used to feel when I landed back at Laguardia. It's a supercharged injection of energy. Add in the fact that we got to play tour guide to the Andersons and spend a magical New Year's Eve on the Rio Tejo watching the fireworks, and it made our return even more special, creating one of the best New Year's I can remember.

So here's to a great 2024. I already know there are great things in store, but of all those things that will happen and all the amazing places we're going, it's gaining a better understanding of where we're at that will be the most meaningful. This is something the exchange students would definitely tell you, as well.

Feliz Ano Novo!

Images from Lisbon:

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