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Posts Tagged ‘portugal’


You know, it’s strange.

When you’re home-educating, school holidays kinda don’t feel much different to any other time. We had intended to keep up a scaled down learning schedule over the “school holidays” but, quite honestly, I’m enjoying the break myself.

Well, the break from having to whip out the laptops and maths and English stuff each morning anyway. There’s not much else break-like going on.

Just more of the usual work stuff, I guess. Jake has been helping out a bit. He’s earning some pocket money by getting stock updated and put on the website and it’s good for him to start associating real labour with real reward, especially when he is saving up.

We’ve got all his courses sorted for September (his English course with Catherine Mooney and his Maths GCSE course, now that we’ve found a school network willing to accept him as an external candidate next summer. He’s going to have to work hard (something of which we’ve yet to be convinced he is able!) but I believe he can get good passes in both, which will put him in good stead for the college plumbing course he wants to do next September.

Now that I’ve forked out the money for the courses, he’d better work hard or I’ll be docking it all from his wages!

El’s busy being the social butterfly with regular friend meet-ups. It almost makes me glad he isn’t in school with even MORE friends! We’d never see him (or, perhaps worse, there’d always be too many kids in the house!)

He’s had his birthday since we last posted. Someone (may have been me) decided it was a good idea to get him an electric guitar for his birthday.

What was I thinking?

Truthfully though, it sounds really good. He spends a bit of time, every now and again, teaching himself something from YouTube and the guitar itself makes a good sound (used with the amp we already had for his beatboxing microphone)
I did research decent makes for beginners (on a small budget!) and managed to find a half-decent one at a reasonable price (ex-display model) so I’m glad he enjoys it.

Whether the neighbours enjoy it as much…

So, yeah. Not much else has happened really.
We’re counting down the days until we go back to Portugal for our holiday though. It feels like a long time coming. We thought about trying to book a few days away somewhere (anywhere!) during the summer but, jees, those prices?!

Even a last minute booking in some dodgy caravan park (static vans) was over £500 for the week! Sod that. I’d rather save my money!

Anyway, at least the weather is half-good. I say “half” because it’s doing it’s usual “can’t-make-its-mind-up-what-to-do” thing, as British summers tend to do, but at least we have had some nice days. It’s not like we’d be out in the sun much anyway, even if is was nice. Eliot and Jake miss The Lighthouse though. Our neighbouring pub (The Stag’s Head – it’s only about 5 doors away from us) is a poor substitute, but we have been in there a handful of times now, which we’d never done prior to moving.

It’s a handy watering hole on the way back from walking the dog…occasionally at 11pm!

This one obviously wasn’t taken at 11pm!

Anyway, only about 3 weeks and we’ll be getting back to our school/work juggling schedule again.

I’m not sure which I prefer!

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I got told off last week for my initial post being too brief. I think the main problem was that, because I didn’t do much explaining, Nik then spent several days answering the same questions over and over.
So here’s a proper explanation.

We are returning to the UK for two reasons.

Firstly, school.
The boys have coped here. Barely.

Jake started off OK but it the last 18 months or so, he’s begun to really struggle. Unfortunately, being a teenager, he’s not really told me that. He’s your fairly typical non-communicative teen, so I’ve found out by regular reading of his school books. Despite his obvious difficulties, he seemed OK at school so we were content to let it go in the hope that, if he really had a problem, he’d tell us.

Eliot has never thrived at school, in either country. He’s about as non-academic as they come and so scraping through has been his norm really. Long-term, he worries us less. He’s one of those people that you just know will be OK.

However, this (school) year has been a whole other beast. Eliot has struggled to cope, even suffering with panic attacks at times early in the term and, while he has friends there in school who he chats to in fluent Portuguese, his abilities in the classroom are lacking. He is pretty much illiterate in the language, being mostly unable to read and spell it. At this stage of school, it isn’t going to get any better. Even he has confided in me that he struggled in class, and when my outgoing and confident 11-year-old is breaking down, I know it’s bad.

Jake is another matter entirely. He’s one of those kids who says little and just goes about his day with resignation. He gets up, showers, goes to school, goes to class with barely a mumble or an objection.

That said, we’ve noticed a change in his behaviour. He barely eats, sleeps poorly and just hasn’t been right for a while. We suspected he was suffering with depression, but it is difficult to tell the difference between “normal” neanderthal teenager and depression. Turned out we may have been right though when he came back from walking to the school bus in complete meltdown and started talking. Really talking.
Enter reason two for leaving and our proverbial “straw that broke the camel’s back”.

It didn’t take a genius to work out what we needed to do next.

Returning to England won’t fix everything. We all know that. Eliot won’t miraculously become some genius in school, and Jake won’t suddenly turn into a bouncy, bubbly teen. What it will do, however, is give them a chance.

It will remove a huge stresser from Jake’s life and that will go some way towards helping his mental health. There may well still be work to be done in that respect, but we shall tackle what is left when we know.

It’ll be a difficult transition back into English schools for both of them, but I’m fairly certain now that it will be for the greater good. For them both.

Neither boy is really thrilled about the move back (and it goes without saying that Nik and I aren’t). Eliot is quite excited about it, although he is anxious about changing school. Jake is being Jake and not really talking to us about it, but even he doesn’t really want to go back. I think it’s just change in general rattling him. I’m hoping that once he is settled into school, he will feel better about the decision.

And if one good thing has come from the last 5 years, it’s that we were right about one thing. We DO want to live here in Portugal, or somewhere like this. When Eliot has finished his eduction, we WILL be back. We are counting down the days!

Funny story: both boys have always been adamant that, when they’d left school in Portugal, they would be moving back to England again. Strangely, since deciding that we are moving back now, Eliot says he might move back to Portugal (with us) when he leaves school in 6/7 years.

Who knows what we will all be doing by then though, eh?

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We were blessed enough to be invited to the Portuguese wedding this weekend.

One of Nik’s biker friends was getting married to his beautiful girlfriend.

At first, I was a bit apprehensive. Actually, we all were. We knew we wouldn’t really know what was going on and, on top of that, we had absolutely NOTHING whatsoever to wear. Nothing suitable for a wedding anyway. Neither boy owns “smart” clothes: not a shirt or trousers between them, let alone footwear that wasn’t Crocs or trainers, and Nik, having recently lost weight, didn’t fit into any of his.

I came across a perfect dress in a store in town and coupled it with a newly-purchased (2 days before the wedding, when I could finally work out what the weather was going to do) fake fur bolero.

The boys – all 3 of them – had to go shopping for the full ensemble: trousers, shirts, and, for Jake (whose feet are far bigger than anybody else in the house), shoes.

They didn’t scrub up bad, if I say so myself!

(Bolero not being worn here due to lovely mid-November sunshine at the time!)

We met up with some friends beforehand and headed to the church in Guia for midday, as instructed.

The groom (to his credit!) turned up with much of his party just before 12, with the bride traditionally (whether a wedding tradition or a Portuguese one is debatable!) about 20 minutes or so later.

There was a short part of the ceremony in the doorway to the church before we all moved inside for the main service. Thankfully, no singing because I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have managed anything in Portuguese! It was all I could do to recite an English version of The Lord’s Prayer alongside their Portuguese one (and yes, I still remember it from school!).

After the church service, there was some standing around while the photographers did their bit with the church as their backdrop before we all headed off, in a convoy of cars, through Albufeira. This is apparently a tradition. The wedding party all attached ribbons to their car aerials and follow each other in convoy, beeping their horns loudly and persistently in celebration.

Many passing cars beeped back and lots of people came out to wave. It was great – even if Nik was too embarrassed to beep back and I had to keep reaching over to do it for him!

On arrival at the reception venue, we were greeted with drinks and snacks while the photographers took many more photos of the couple and guests in the beautiful grounds of the restaurant.

Both bride and groom are blessed with beautiful families, so I am sure their wedding photos will be stunning. Out of respect to all present and the photographers, however, I am not going to post too many photos here on this blog. It’s not the place.

The weather was lovely, considering it is mid-November. The sun mostly shone, the temperature was pleasant, and the rain definitely held off when it mattered.

When photos were done, we all headed inside for the reception and party. Fortunately, we were seated on a table with friends (English – no, English-speaking! Respect the Scots!) and the bride and groom’s friends and family were so lovely to us, ensuring that we understood what was going on at all time.

(Please excuse my moronic children!)

There was fabulous food, of course, plentiful drinks, and a very talented musician who not only sang beautifully, but also fully accompanied herself on the accordion (sometimes as she wandered around the room) and interacted with her crowd. She was fabulous.

A little later on, after the main food service (and much alcohol, of course), party games began and provided much additional amusement!

The food – and I feel I should give it a particular mention – was endless! The usual soup, fish and meat courses, followed by a huge selection of desserts (I wish I had photographed them!) and, a short while later, an even bigger selection of fresh hot and cold buffet! And just as we were leaving at around 9.30pm, more soup came out! I suspect the party continued on without us LONG into the night!

The whole day was fabulous and, as they head off on their short honeymoon to Italy today (me? jealous?), we wish Antonio and Ana Rita all the happiness in the world and thank them from the bottom of our hearts for inviting us to share in their special day.

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Boy, these summer holidays seem to be lasting forEVER! It seems like Christmas was more recent than my boys breaking up this year. My two have been off for 11 weeks already and they still have 4 left!

On the plus side, even El seems to be ready to get back to school, and anybody who knows him will know that this really is quite something! He’s missing his friends and, quite honestly, just missing something to do with his days. He’s a social kid and he needs school so much, especially the change of school. It’ll be great for him and he’s really excited about it. I honestly never thought I’d use the words “Eliot, Excited and School” in the same phrase. There ya go!

On the subject of school, I’ve just added a bit of information about school reports when moving from UK to Portugal. It’s neither gospel or exhaustive (different schools have different interpretations and levels of jobsworths, unfortunately) but it’s a very definite guide based on our and others’ experiences. If it helps someone, it’ll be worth the type up.

We’ve had a fairly uneventful summer really. Not too many visitors and pretty much just sunny weekends and working weekdays (with the occasional** obligatory trip to the Marina for a “business meeting”, of course).

Tapas at The Lighthouse on the Marina

A quick trip to Meia Praia beach

Lazing around by the local pool

 

Apart from back-to-school (can I get a “woohoo!”?), we do have a few other things to look forwards to too. At the beginning of October, I’m visiting my little sister in England for her birthday so that’s nice for us both! When I return from the UK, my Mum and Rod are flying back out here to Portugal for 8 days, so we’re all looking forwards to that also. Oh, and before I go, we have friends coming to the Algarve for a few weeks, so we’ll hopefully get to see them once or twice, which is always lovely.

By the time Mum and Rod go back, it’ll be mid-October! How the heck does it get to be two months until Christmas so soon? Good thing I’ve started Christmas shopping or it’d be homemade ginger cookies all round!

** in the loosest sense of the word.

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In some ways, it feels like we have been here forEVER, but in other ways, it’s hard to believe that four whole years have gone by already!

I suppose I should do a bit of a general update really. It has been a while and, while much of the past months have been “same old, same old”, stuff has happened as well.

For example, school finished for summer – over a MONTH ago!

Jake’s last day was 3rd June, I think, and El finished classes on 30th May, only going in on the Monday and Tuesday after that for half-day events and school trips. That already feels like YEARS ago!

Actually, I should start with school updates, shouldn’t I?

Eliot passed his year 4 exams – BARELY! Like, by 2%. God knows how he is going to cope with year 5, but I think he is ready for the change of school. The big school (which now does years 5 through 8 – more about that in a minute!) is right around the corner from us, and I think even he is ready to move onwards and upwards, although how he will do with a year 5 curriculum is anybody’s guess.
At least he is starting in year 5 with a decent knowledge of spoken and aural Portuguese, which is more than Jake had when he plunged in at year 6!

So yeah, that’s good anyway. Eliot moving school is definitely a big step.
He’s a big boy now. Hardly my baby any more (although I still call him that, and he’s fine with it!)

My big boy! Now, who put that beer there??!!

My big boy! Now, who put that beer there??!!

Jake is repeating year 9. He actually could have taken exams and probably passed all of his failing year 9 subjects, but we (Jake and I) both decided that it was better that he repeated the year. At 14, he is quite young to be moving into what is the equivalent of doing 3 year A-levels/college, so I’m pleased to have him in year 9 for a bit longer.

That news would have been even better if it wasn’t for the fact that they are stopping teaching year 9 (academic subjects anyway) at Das Naus (the school next to us).
We were quite looking forwards to having both boys in the same place, with no worries about transport, but now Jake will have to go elsewhere for year 9.

He’s chosen Gil Eanes (there was more than one choice in town) and we’re fine with that. Hopefully, we’ll get him signed up in a few weeks without any problems (hahahahahahahahahahaha – no, seriously!) and he’ll just have to use a bus for school. He’s quite old enough to do so, and the whole experience of having to actually “commute” to school will do him good.

Fortunately, he isn’t bothered about it all. He’s quite content to repeat year 9, not at all bothered that he’ll be repeating it in an entirely different school (a lot of his friends are going to the other one) and isn’t bothered about using the bus.
Oh well, I suppose indifference is better than him hating the idea!

My "mature" teen on a rare sighting outside the bedroom!

My “mature” teen on a rare sighting outside the bedroom!

What else has happened?

Wendy (my sister) came to visit for my birthday, which was nice. We spent a few days eating, drinking and generally lounging about, all of which was great fun! She then flew home and signed for her first ever house! Having lived in rented accommodation since she left home, finally putting down roots and buying a home is a HUGE step for her!

Way to go, sis!

My new skinny sis on her visit (well, she’s not a new sister, obviously, but she IS newly super-skinny!)

We’re super-busy with work (always good) and we have very few visitor bookings this year. None who need to stay with us anyway, which is even better, because it means that the boys get to keep their own space. Recently purchased bunk beds for El’s room make it slightly less disruptive if we have to move Jake into there, but it’s much nicer not to, obviously, and for Jake to keep his own room.

Not that Jake is much bothered really, because, well, he’s an indifferent teen and doesn’t much bother about anything (except chores. Boy, does he mither about those!)

Oh yes, we went to Jerez for the MotoGP at the beginning of May (I really HAVE been slack about updating this blog!).
We left Jake at home (with plenty of food supplies) and drove over from Friday to Sunday.

We had a completely awesome weekend. Drive took us about 4 hours, we stayed in a decent enough apartment (rock hard and creaky beds aside!) in Jerez and watched fabulous racing, including a race from the unstoppable Marc Marquez!
We took soooooooooo many photos, I don’t even know where to start, but here’s a few.

It’s weird to think that Marquez is now 8 wins for 8 races! It’s quite mind-blowing really. Am looking forwards, as always, to the race this weekend to see if he can make it 9 for 9!

And speaking of this weekend, we are off to Seville for a long weekend (we go tomorrow: Thursday) for Eliot’s 11th birthday.

Having driven past it twice now, first en route to Gibraltar and then on the way to Jerez, we’ve realised it’s actually quite close, and there’s an apparently very good theme park and water park, called Isla Magica, there which should a) make a great day out for El’s birthday and b) quench our long-deprived need to a return to Orlando!

We’re doing Isla Magica on Friday and have Saturday free to either go for a second day or mooch around Seville a bit. Even Jake is coming with us this time. It wasn’t optional (being a birthday celebration weekend ‘n’ all) but he doesn’t seem to mind. A few days in the “real world” will be good for him. Even if he doesn’t own and refuses to wear a pair of shorts. So he’ll be baking and melting in the 40C which is forecast in Seville this weekend!

Teenagers, eh?!

I think that’s our news really.

I know I’m behind with my Gibraltar A to Z, but quite honestly, at this point, it probably won’t get done. Don’t hold your breath anyway. It’s not THAT good LOL

I’ll try to do a Seville post sometime after we’re back. Maybe one for the trip and a separate one for Isla Magica. Depends what we get up to and whether it warrants more than one post. Might just do a picture post. We’ll see.

And speaking of pictures, let’s have some sunny, blue sky posts. I know the UK has been enjoying some (can I say “unseasonably”?) summer weather lately, and our summer pretty much here to stay until about October now, so I’ll try to keep sharing the sunny pics for when the “real” British summer arrives (you know, the one where it rains for days on end.)

Just so y’all know what you could be visiting if you popped over to see us!

It’s always nice when people come here on holiday and we get chance to meet up. A school friend of mine recently came to the Algarve with her family and it was fantastic to see her again, after 20+ years, and meet her brood!

So yeah, if you ever visit the Algarve on holiday, give us a yell and we’ll show you this lot!

View from the pool table at our local – The Lighthouse on Lagos Marina

Across Praia de Batata, Lagos

Our beautiful “green tiled shop”, complete with the Jacaranda tree in bloom.

View from the Science Centre and roof of the market building on the Avenida

Nik’s bike when he took it up to the Autodromo race track for the World Superbikes last weekend

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As my patience continues to be tested, I thought I’d post a slightly more thorough (I think) update with a bit of information regarding the whole school report debacle that I posted about earlier in the week.

Firstly, it has become apparent that it is actually a legal requirement for UK school reports, exams certificates (and other related items) to be legalised so that they are proved to be genuine when given over to the Portuguese schools.

official

I’d heard about this being asked of people when we first moved over but, as it’d never been asked of us, I’d assumed either it was one of those “some do, some don’t” things or just that, for some reason, it wasn’t necessary or an actual legal requirement.

Now that I know that it’s a legal requirement and that we’re having to go through it, I can explain a bit about the process.

The Portuguese authorities require that the reports/certificates are “stamped” by the Consulate. This is as much detail as they know!
After extensive investigation, it turns out that the actual requirement is for them to be “Legalised” which means contacting the Legalisation Office.

Details of how to do this are at THIS LINK.

Right, here’s where the fun starts(!)
You can’t just send your documents and get them legalised.
Oh no, that would be far too easy!

Before you can get school reports or certificates legalised, you have to get them “certified, signed and dated by a practicing UK Solicitor / Public Notary before submission for legalisation.”

Whatever you do, don’t assume that any solicitor or lawyer can do this either.
Oh no, that would be far too easy!

It needs to be, ideally, someone on a specific register as a Notary, and not all lawyers/solicitors are. You can use someone who isn’t, but this will considerably delay the process as the Legalisation Office will then have to verify that the person is qualified to certify, rather than just checking their signature on the register.

certified-stamp1

So, you’ll be getting those documents certified first then.

Be warned, it’s also HIGHLY likely that, before you can get them certified, the solicitor may also need to contact the school itself to get proof that the reports are genuine. You see how this goes, right? So you might find yourself needing a covering, official letter from the school, declaring that the reports are genuine and true also.
This is what we are waiting for now. Typically, of course, it’s Easter holidays so the chances of getting any response from the school until after 22nd are slim to none.

On the plus side, often a solicitor will handle the whole Legalisation process for you, eliminating the need to “to-and-fro” a bit.

After all that (school, then solicitor, then Legalisation Office), you might actually get your school documents back in your hands!

But you’re not done yet. Now they need translating!

Some schools/authorities will insist that this is done by an official translator. Some don’t insist this but then come back later on and ask for it, so don’t assume that, because they didn’t ask at the beginnning, it might not necessary.

Now you need to get your stamped and legalised reports to a translator and get them translated and, of course, stamped.
THEN, school might be happy with them!

Fortunately for us, school had asked us for official translations to begin with, so we’d done that.

It’s a costly process: getting all those “stamps”.

Portuguese-Stamp-Portuguese-Documents

Solicitor will probably charge upwards of £100 and to get documents legalised is £30 per document (although what constitutes “a document”, I’m not 100% sure!), then of course, there’s the cost of translation which, if I recall correctly, can be €15-30 per page/document.

Some schools probably won’t ask for it all. Some might require everything doing at the start. Some might come back four years later and then say that it is urgent!

We’re in the process of getting ours certified and legalised now.

It takes as long as it takes.
If it’s weeks, it’s weeks.
School will have to wait. There’s nothing we can do to speed it up.

Meantime, if you can’t find me, I’m under this lot!

Drowning in Portuguese red tape

 

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Something I’ve learned this week: NEVER get too comfortable!

I swear that, no sooner do you say out loud that things seem settled, something will come along and kick you in the shins.

And surprise, surprise, if that “something” isn’t school!

As regular readers will know (well, if you’ve been reading since “the beginning” anyway),  when we moved in 2010, getting the kids sorted at school was one of our biggest nightmares.
I mean, it would be, wouldn’t it? It’s one of the most important!

We thought we’d done as we were asked. We got all English school reports (including an extra letter from the school says “Child A passed/failed” which they INSISTED on) officially translated (at significant cost!), got vaccinations up-to-date and obtained what seemed like every piece of documentation under the sun and, eventually, they seemed happy.

You know how they say never count your chickens until they’ve hatched?
Well, turns out these eggs have a FOUR YEAR incubation period!

This one made me giggle!

This one made me giggle!

Yesterday, I got a call from the secretary at the head school of the Agrupamento. She informed us that we should have had our original UK school reports officially “stamped” as well as translated. As far as I can understand, it’s so that it legitimises the report (ie. verifies that it’s from a genuine bone fide UK school and not something we knocked up on the internet.)
I get that, I do. What irks me is being asked for it NOW, not four years ago.

Why?

Well, because NOW, it’s urgent. Urgent because both boys have exams and could potentially move schools this year.

So it’s urgent now.
Of course it is.

So now I’m to-ing and fro-ing from British Embassy departments to Ministry of Education and other Consular departments.

School wasn’t 100% sure which (of their many hundreds of them) stamp I needed, just that it needed  to come from the Consulate. The British Embassy are fairly certain it’s the Legalisation department that I need, to get the UK school reports stamped as official, but asked me to check with the Ministry of Education. The Ministry of Education couldn’t give me someone to whom I could speak English, so I gave up and emailed instead. Not holding my breath there!

I’m now waiting for the Legalisation Office, whose phone line is only operative between midday and 4pm – what?, to open so I can find out what I need to do next.

Seems as though we’ll need to send all the documents (originals, of course) to their Milton Keynes office for processing. At a cost, of course.

Meantime, we’re all stressed now.

Boys aren’t stressed enough though.
They need to study and won’t. In a nutshell, if they don’t study, they’re going to fail. Maybe then they will realise. Perhaps it’s what they need: to fail. For purely selfish reasons, I’d prefer Eliot to pass so he can move to the school around the corner from us and cut out a twice-daily school run. If Jake passes (big IF. Very big if) he will move to one of the Secundaria schools in town, depending on what he wants to study. That’s a whole OTHER can of worms which, while I’d love to discuss and share, right now I just can’t be bothered.

So anyway, yeah.

I guess the moral of the story is “Don’t get too comfy”.

keep-calm-and-don-t-get-too-comfortable-JPG

 

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