Istanbul

21st Jul, '14   |   by Laura

Istanbul is such a diverse city filled with so many different colours, smells, and different experiences. It’s our 7th day here, and we’ve barely scraped the surface of what Istanbul has to offer.

Yesterday we moved from our accommodation in Besiktas, outside of the city centre, to accommodation 150m away from the Blue Mosque (which is pretty much as central as you can get). We arrived in Istanbul absolutely exhausted from a month of travelling and working. Being continuously on the go, whilst maintaining an internship and client projects is hard work. Like, exhausting. It’s great, and we wouldn’t change a thing, but it’s definitely not a weeks trip to Fiji, lazing on the beach, reading books and sipping piña coladas sort of a holiday. In Italy we met up with Dan, Dave’s brother, and spent two weeks with him seeing the southern part of Italy, which was so much fun, but it was lovely to get to Istanbul and just be us two once again.

We arrived in Istanbul on Tuesday evening, and had a relatively brainless and easy trip to our airbnb, thanks to our host, Basak, giving us great directions. She was going to meet us at the ferry station, and needed to know when our ferry was going to come in so we’d organised for her to call us when we arrived. When we got on the bus my phone started ringing, but when I picked up my credit ran out, and the call dropped. I have an auto-renewing account, meaning that when credit gets below 2€ it automatically tops up another 10€, however I’m guessing because we were outside of the EU it didn’t top up, so she kept calling and I couldn’t answer. We decided to try and see if anyone would let us send a text off their phone to our host, and the first person we asked not only offered their phone, but let us call, and spoke to Basak for us letting her know the traffic conditions and that we’d get there ok. It was our first experience with the Turkish people, and the rest of the trip has been very similar; they are such wonderful people.

While we were staying with Dan, we spent our time in some really nice, and some not so nice hostels, and Dave and I couldn’t wait to finally have a double bed (even in the hotels we’d been in, they seemed to always be singles put together) and a space to call home for a while. We’d decided to be in a neighbourhood about 2km away from Taksim Square, and about half an hour travelling distance from the historical part of Istanbul, and we couldn’t have asked for a better place.

Basak picked us up from the ferry and we walked to her apartment, and I was so surprised to see so many beautiful and cool looking cafés alone the way. The level of English was very low from what we’d become accustomed to, so it made us feel like we were escaping from everything for a little while, getting to know a different and somewhat ‘less discovered’ place, which is what we love about travelling. It has also meant practicing our Turkish, which is definitely not easy! We so far can say hello, goodbye, thank you, thank you very much, yes and no. The concierge at the hotel we are currently staying at was so surprised at our (Dave’s) Turkish, saying, “How did you learn Turkish?” And when we laughed it off, he asked again. Taking the time to learn even the smallest bit of the language of the place you’re in is such a valuable thing, and we feel much more respected by the people we talk to. We saw a lot of Italians that seemed so jaded by the tourism industry and the amount of people that refuse to even learn a simple ‘grazie’; lots of people seemed so grateful and happy to not only hear us try and say thanks in their language, but also that we learnt ‘two’, and ‘I want’ etc…

The past 6 days have been so relaxing; we’ve barely done anything, and we’ve loved it. It has only been yesterday that we have really seen the sights people see when they come to Istanbul. Two days ago we spent 90% of our day inside while it rained, lying on the couch together watching TV shows planning for getting back to Australia and the rest of our time in Turkey. We’ve spent our time in Istanbul so far exploring the neighbourhood of Besiktas, going to its cafés, walking down the back streets, figuring out what Turkish food we like, eating in for a change, cooking, relaxing, catching up on work, going to the movies…

Part of the reason we’ve loved this has been because we haven’t planned our trip in advance. We knew that we had 5 nights in Besiktas, and after that, the world was our oyster, which meant we had the freedom to rest knowing that if we wanted to spend more time here, we could. While that can be stressful, it’s also extremely freeing as it gives us the opportunity to decide to stay in Istanbul longer and explore the different areas and relax. In Italy we travelled in the same way with Dan, however instead of doing nothing, we tried to fit everything into our small time there, spending no more than 2 nights in every place, seeing everything we could in our short time frame.

We’ve booked two nights at the place we are at currently (one night down, one to go), and then we have planned to head to Çanakkale, which is right near Gallipoli, Troy, and some other apparently stunning places. We’ll probably stay there for 3 or 4 nights before heading back to Istanbul to fly out to Dubai. I’ve always gone, as soon as we leave for Thailand, which is essentially heading to Dubai, our trip is officially basically over. Can’t believe that in three weeks we’ll be in Australia. We can’t wait.

Oslo

11th Jul, '14   |   by Laura

For those of you who don’t know, my (Laura’s) Dad often frequents Norway to facilitate training with his work. This year he’s been up there three times, and even though we really wanted to go, each time didn’t work out either because of the cost of getting there, or my schedule at school. So, when we knew he was heading up there in June, we wanted to make sure we could go and see him and where he worked. There is something so special about seeing places that people go to that are important in their lives. We love that my parents, Dave’s brother, his aunty and uncle and my best friend have been able to see our home, where we lived, and our favourite cafes; so we were really excited to be able to see where Dad goes to work, and get to know that area.

Guys, Norway is stunning. Beautiful.

One of the things that we noticed first and foremost was how well everyone spoke English. As an English teacher in Spain, I’m well-versed in the nuances of English as a second language; the mistakes that the Spanish commonly make, the way they communicate, the way they learn the language. I was so surprised to hear that the Norwegians not only spoke so well, but could really navigate the language similar to a native speaker, using colloquialisms and sayings that I know are incredibly difficult for non-native speakers to use. It really showed the gap between Spain and a lot of the rest of Europe when it comes to profficiency in English.

We had 5 days in Oslo overall, and they seemed to fly by. A big part of our time in Oslo was trying to figure out the balance between work and travel. We were working on a client project that needed to get sent off by the day after we arrived in Norway, so we spent our first two days largely in our hotel room, working to get that finished. Something that we’ve figured out, is that working in a cafe is so much nicer than a hotel room, so we are looking forward to a lot of time spent drinking coffee in different countries, trying out their food, and getting some work done. This whole work / travel balance will definitely teach us a lot over the next month and a half!

Oslo really reminded us of Australia. The food was amazing, and fresh, and delicious, and such a change from Spanish food. On our first night, Dad, Dave and myself went into Jessheim, a town near the airport, to have dinner at a chain called Egons. The food was so good that I almost cried. It was so reminiscent of Australian food – we had sour cream and sweet chilli sauce dip! Sour cream! Salmon without bones! Green beans for the first time in many many months! So many incredible flavours that we had missed. I have no idea if the Norwegian food is actually different from Australian food; but we sure felt like we were home.

Our main reason for going to Norway was spending time with Dad, and it was so lovely to join him on walks, go out to dinner with him, chat, play cards, and just be. Dad and I took a walk into Jessheim (10km) on Monday, when Dave had to do some work, and rounding a corner, I saw what I thought looked like a donkey, but knew wasn’t. I pointed wildy saying to Dad, ‘Look! Look!’ and when Dad finally saw what I was pointing to, and when we both saw that it was really a moose, it got scared, and wandered back into the shrubs. It was so big, and so close, and was so cool to see; a wild moose in Norway. Two days later, on the same walk, this time with Dave as well, we didn’t see a moose, but rather, a reindeer. It was so interesting to see such different wildlife, and we can only imagine that’s how people react when they see kangaroos and koalas in Australia.

On our last day, we were also blessed to be able to get in the sim with Dad, and learn how to fly a plane! This is what Dad does when he’s up in Norway, training in the sim, so it was both an amazing opportunity, and also a great way to see Dad’s work in action. We had a good hour and a half in there, where we landed, took off, and even had a few engine malfunctions to test our reaction to stressful situations. (Dad has some of the videos on his phone, so once I get them, I’ll upload some for you to see.)

The 1952 & 1994 Winter Olympics were held in Norway, with some events taking place in Oslo, so on our last day, we all caught the train up to the Holmenkollen Ski Jump, which my family had visited when I was 6 weeks old. The train trip up the mountain was absolutley stunning, looking over the city and the harbour. When we finally reached the top, we walked for about 20 minutes before arriving at a ski jump that wasn’t the ski jump Dad had been talking to us about. Because we were short on time, we thought we’d check it out, and we are so glad we did. The ski jump was about 110m long, and when we approached it to have a look, we saw that people were actually using it – without any snow!

It was amazing to see these people – some of them just kids – catch the chair lift up, walk to the top of the ski jump and then just do the jump, over and over and over again. It’s one thing to watch it on the tv, looking in disbelief that someone would choose to fly through the air with skis on, but something completely different to see it in person. Such an incredible experience.

We are currently in Italy, eating tonnes of pizza and pasta, and can’t wait to share with you all what we’ve been up to.

P.S. For some reason WordPress isn’t letting us upload photos / videos successfully; keep an eye out for a visual update of this blog post soon!

24 hours

20th Jun, '14   |   by Laura

24 hours.

24 hours left in Oviedo, before we embark on our slow journey back home.

It’s so crazy to think (and to know) that our time in Oviedo is basically up. We have had such a huge year, and Oviedo has become a constant for us, a place that we now call home, and I can’t believe that we’ll be saying goodbye to it tomorrow.

It is time to say goodbye to the beautiful scenery, the green and lush countryside, the Asturian culture. To the abundant amount of cafes with free wifi, to our beloved 1,20€ café con leche, 1,60€ bottles of wine, 2€ 6-pack of beers; basically the low cost of living.

We will miss the way of life here. Sure, the beaurocracy can be a pain in the bum a lot of the time, but we have so enjoyed everything shutting down on a Sunday (even though we always forgot, and then had no food to eat), the simplicity of living in the city and having a supermarket across the road, 10+ cafes within a 100m radius, hairdressers a 1 minute walk away, a beautiful park next door, and the countryside, with cows and sheep, 15 minutes from our doorstep.

We’re going to miss our cafe friends, the old ladies who sit next to us at Valor and give us kisses and pat us saying how far away Australia is, and how funny that we’re always working. The waitresses who know our orders and who’ve become our friends. Oh, I am definitely going to miss our napolitanas de chocolate. We love that we walk down the streets and there are people that we know that we wave to, and cars that honk at us to say hello.

This place has definitely become our home, and we are going to miss it dearly.

As sad as we are, we are also excited for this new part of our lives. After recoiling from the prices of flights from Spain to Australia we thought about travelling a little more, and ended up with a 7 week trip planned to slowly take us back to Sydney, where our flights ended up accumulatively cheaper than a direct (or, pretty much direct) flight back home.

We will be travelling to 6 countries, working Monday to Friday, and living out of our carry-on bags. Check out our itinerary here.

We are so excited to see some of these beautiful places and be able to document our trips. We will be updating the blog as much as we can, but make sure you check out our instagrams from time to time to see where we are, and what we’ve been up to (Laura’s & Dave’s).

We’ll be back in Australia mid-August, and can’t wait to catch up with all our friends and family!

Love you guys,

Dave & Laura

A weekend away

18th Apr, '14   |   by Laura

The past month has been full of ups and downs, as we found out about the miscarriage, went through the miscarriage, had my parents come to visit and be able to grieve with them, for them to leave, and be able to process and be sad by ourselves, and then to improve as each day goes by.  

Big change seems to be one of the main themes in our lives these past 18 months.  

18 months ago we were leading up to our wedding, and preparing ourselves for married life.  Once we got married we spent about a month on holidays, either on our honeymoon, on family holidays, or Christmas holidays.  

At the end of February 2013, we both left our jobs, to pursue what is now The AGSC, as well as make a change in our lives.  Two weeks after that we found out that I had been accepted into the Ministry of Education’s Teaching program, and that we would be moving to Spain in six months.

The following six months were us saving every little penny we had, getting used to married life, figuring out how to run a business, and trying to finish off my university degree.

October was a huge month for us, as my work was audited, so I was working non-stop on that, we shot two weddings (one two days before we left for Spain up in Byron Bay), I finished my uni degree (5 days before we left for Spain), finished off some huge client work, tried to pack up our house, and then we said goodbye to everyone and moved to Spain!

These past six months have been the biggest adventure for us, and we’ve loved every second of it, but it’s been a busy six months!  When we arrived, we spent two weeks finding a place to live, and the following three months were spent trying to become citizens in Spain (finally finalised in February), trying to get internet (we got internet on the 29th of January), and travelling to England, France, Germany and the Netherlands.  

As soon as we had time to breathe, we had visitors for a month, first my best friend Min, then Nick (an old friend from school), and then my parents for two weeks.  As soon as they left at the end of February, we buckled down for a week of long days getting The AGSC ready for launch.  

On the 5th of March we launched The AGSC, and we could finally take a big breath and sigh, and relax.  For us, so much was leading up to the launch, with this definite period of rest to follow.  

On Saturday the 17th of March, we lost Oliver, with the Monday and Tuesday spent in hospital.  Dad arrived on Tuesday, and Mum on Thursday, and they left two weeks ago yesterday.  The past two weeks has been us coming to terms with the fact that our life that we had planned for when we arrived back in Australia was no longer happening, so we have felt pretty overwhelmed and unsettled at that prospect, and coming up with new plans for this next period of life.  

We only have about 6 weeks left until the end of my time at La Ería, which is both exciting, and sad.  I’ve so enjoyed our time here in Spain, and I’ve loved my job (having two weeks off school definitely made me realise how much I really loved it).  These next six weeks will no doubt be very busy with Dave’s Aunty and Uncle visiting us next week, my birthday (!!), Dan (Dave’s brother) visiting us, and then saying goodbye to Oviedo and spending a month travelling Europe and Asia before coming home to Australia.

Without having realised it, this year has been shaping and moulding us as a couple, as a family, as business partners, and in our relationship with God.  It has been 18 months of change, stretching, growth, development, and the greatest adventure we could have asked for.  

I think something we are both looking forward to about coming home is the idea of settling.  These past 18 months have been full of movement, speed, and adventure, which has been amazing.  But I am so looking forward to going back home to Australia, and finding my feet in a community, and staying put for a time.  

We are really excited because today we’ve have hired a car, and we are going to go on a road trip.  A simple small road trip up the east coast to San Sebastián and Bilbao, where we will no doubt fill our stomach with good food and great wine, laze about in the sun (it’s meant to be 25 degrees!), go out for coffees, explore, and just be.  To leave work at home, and just enjoy being husband and wife on a weekend away together, with not a care in the world.  I think it will do so much good.

Remembering Oliver Coleman

12th Apr, '14   |   by Laura

shotHey guys, just wanted to let you all know that 16 weeks ago, Dave and I were blessed to fall pregnant. You know that we love kids and have always dreamt of starting our own family; so when we found out we had fallen pregnant, we were so incredibly stoked. However, 3 weeks ago, we lost our little son Oliver to a miscarriage.

We delighted in the time that we had with Oliver, and learnt so much in our 13 weeks together. It’s crazy how in 3 short months you can grow to love someone so much. We had so many plans for our little one, and so loved dreaming of his life and milestones to enjoy together. While we are incredibly sad that we will never get to see them realised, we know that God is good, and sovereign and has a plan for Oliver’s short but significant life. 

We were blessed to have my parents come over as soon as they heard the news (Dad was already in Dubai, and arrived at our doorstep at the exact moment that we did after being discharged from hospital), and we were able to have a service for Oliver, up in the mountain that overlooks our apartment. We filled a jar full of letters, notes, and things we had bought or been given that were for Oliver, and buried it in the hillside. Oviedo will always be special to us, and even more so now. Our hearts are healing, and we have been so grateful for the love and support we have had from family and friends.

Sometimes it’s nice just to relax.

14th Mar, '14   |   by Laura

I feel like we haven’t stopped to take a moment and write in this space in forever.  

The whole of February was a whirlwind of having some of the dearest people in our lives stay with us; my best friend, and my parents.  It was so lovely to share and show our space, our home, and our city with them.  

As soon as my parents left at the end of February, we headed straight into the final countdown to the launch of our business, The Australian Graphic Supply Co (The AGSC).  The last couple of nights were lacking in sleep as we raced to the finish line to get everything ready, content in, bug checking etc… 

What a feeling it was to release it!  We have been working on the release of our business for many months now.  Go check it out!  We hope you love it.

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Since the release of the site, we’ve been even more busy with the post-launch details; receiving a ton of emails, making sure everything is up and running fine, finding out what a business is like when you have an actual online portfolio and space to showcase who you are, getting back into client work… it has been a busy six weeks!  

Today was promised to be more of a relaxing day (at least for me), and we woke up, went for a walk around the park, to the edge of the city where suburbia meets farmland, and listened to the roosters crow, smelt the cow patts, and watched the sheep wake up.  It is so interesting to see what a difference a 20 minute walk can make to your surroundings; we can either be in the heart of the city, or on the edge, something I love about our location.  We finished our walk with a long coffee in Cafe Zero, which overlooks the park, where we talked about the business, our future, and the exciting plans ahead.  I slept terribly last night and so my day has been absolutely relaxing.  I’ve laid on the lounge all day, watching tv series, looking at an insane amount of food blogs, and dreaming about the warmer months ahead.

Sometimes it’s nice just to relax.

Guest Post: Our Visit to Dave & Laura in the amazingly beautiful Oviedo

24th Feb, '14   |   by Jeff & Wendy

Well we have had the most enjoyable time here in Oviedo with Dave and Laura for the past 16 days. We also shared the experience with Laura’s best friend Min for 4 days as our visits overlapped, before she went home to Australia. As usual the time has just disappeared and we now sit here wondering what it is that we actually accomplished. But when we look back the days have been full, complete and satisfying. Of course there will be the odd “bump” along the way and this always adds to the occasion and depth of the experience.

The Asturias region is a very pretty area and we have been surprised at the extent and variety of its natural beauty. Dave and Laura live with the equivalent of the Swiss Alps on one side of their apartment and the south coast of New South Wales on the other side. At one flank there sit rolling hills and Cornish lanes reminiscent of our own lives in Cornwall and Laura’s birthplace. On the other flank the rugged peaks of Los Picos de Europa thrust their heads above the landscape to just under 9000 feet. These peaks sit only 20 kilometres from the Asturian Coast and were the first peaks seen in Europe by ships travelling from the Americas. Hence their name representing Europe. Such an amazing area and one that could be explored for many months and still be filled with amazement at the beauty of this area.

The weather has been just as varied. We arrived to a bitter winter with non stop rain. The umbrellas got a very intense workout, as did the thermal underwear and every other piece of clothing we brought to layer up and keep the cold at bay. As outlined above the peaks have snow on them, though I expect this melts away during summer. We were most surprised to wake up one morning to moderate snow falling in Oviedo and snow all around even on the lowest of the peaks. This lasted for most of the day and the snow melted away on the lower of the peaks (those below 3000 feet) within three days. The past week though has seen a transformation to the beginning of a European spring. We have still been in jumpers but there is no bite to the air and it has mostly been bright and sunny. The blossoms are trying to come out and in about a week or two the leaves and flowers will reveal another part of this amazing part of Spain.

We took Dave and Laura away to Porto in Portugal for a weekend. We hired a car and drove across the alpine areas that take us out of Oviedo and drove down through the barren centre of Spain through Leon. Approaching Porto the rain and cold once more appeared. We stayed for two nights in an old part of Porto in an Air BnB. This was ideal and really homely. A 30 minute walk into the city or 10 minutes on the train that was right at the door. Our walking day of the town was an intense experience with the rain just bucketing down and winds blowing at nearly 100 kmh. The umbrellas barely survived the day and will never be the same. But we had a delightful time there and would love to visit again and see more of Portugal. The rain and wind made photography extremely difficult and our photos are testament to the conditions. Dave’s camera stopped working to his disappointment due to the intense rain and required a day to dry out and start working once more, to his delight. He was rather miffed though that the Nikon outperformed the Canon in that it too was drowned but continued working without missing a beat. The people of Portugal are lovely and we were surprised that almost no Spanish is spoken. In fact Laura and her Spanish skills were redundant and the language of choice by the Portuguese to communicate with us was English, even though they knew of Laura’s immense skills in the Spanish language.

The weekend also saw a visit to Santiago de Compostela, the destination for ancient and now modern day pilgrims following their journey along the Camino de Santiago, the way of St James. So named as the disciple James is meant to be buried under the cathedral. His crypt is located just like the disciple Peter’s is under the Basilica in the Vatican City. We also took in the delights of the north western Coast of Spain and the province Galicia prior to making our way back to our new home with Dave and Laura in Oviedo.

The villages around Oviedo are all very old and there are quite a number of derelict buildings vacant. From our perspective these buildings do not seem to be victims of the global conditions but just a natural decline of the buildings over hundreds of years and no effort made to repair or enhance their condition or value. This seems to be part of the Spanish culture more than anything. Even in the newest of buildings there seems to be a natural decline that isn’t taken care of at least externally. Dave and Laura’s building externally is shabby but internally is a very very nice apartment and in Australia would cost per week what they pay per month. We enjoyed a meal with Laura’s supervisor at her school, Arturo and his wife Raquel and their building has magnificent views of the snow capped mountains, is 8 years old and is more like a normal apartment block in Sydney. Modern and well kept externally as well.

Well our memories of Oviedo will always rest in the delight we have taken from experiencing Dave and Laura’s lives whilst here. We have visited Laura’s school, seen Dave at work in his home office at the dining room table and his little special corner at Penamea Cafe across the road from Laura’s school where she teaches English. We have enjoyed many cafe con leche’s (coffee with milk) at Penamea and many other cafes in Oviedo. Whilst Laura speaks Spanish as though she was born to the language, Dave has amazed us not only with his intensity of curiosity for the language but his ability to communicate in Spanish with people he knows but also those he doesn’t.

Another amazing journey for us, but the delight we take from this experience is being a tangible part of the journey that Dave and Laura have been blessed with. Thanks for sharing it with us.

 

Enjoy the photos. We dare you!!

Love Dad and Mum.

 

A typical Spanish street view


Back for the fishing – A Cornish scene


Welcome to Oviedo


Yes this is where they live just to the left and below the stadium with the blue roof – Amazing views


Top of the mountain


Oviedo park downtown


The fluent Spanish speakers


An action shot


Alpine scenery just 30 minutes from Oviedo enrolee to Porto


Derelict buildings in Porto, Portugal


A walk in the rain in Porto, Portugal


Happy as!!


Wet and wild Porto, Portugal

The cathedral in Santiago de Compostela


Cornish village or Spain??


Washing day

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My favourite girls!

Could be NSW

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Very difficult to get a photo of this one

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The snowy peaks near Dave and Laura


Just lovely

Ribadeo (and another lovely place I can’t remember the name of).

20th Feb, '14   |   by Dave

Well, we’d had the best weekend, it was Sunday arvo, and time to head back home. We dropped in on a lovely little waterside town in Spain (bummer I can’t remember the name) which reminded us of Mousehole, a really cute little fishing village in Cornwall that we visited whilst in England.

Then we stopped again for lunch in Ribadeo, which was really nice. The weather was glorious (compared to the downpour in Portugal), the town was beautiful and we got advice on which of the plants growing by the side of the road were best for soups, by some passing gypsies. Which was kind of them.

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Ponte de Lima & Santiago

18th Feb, '14   |   by Dave

The next day, after exploring Porto, the four of us headed back towards Spain, to Santiago.

On a whim, we stopped by the beautiful little town of Ponte de Lima and had a coffee and some more delicious Portuguese pastries (that require no effort whatsoever to fall in love with). I’m not even a pastry guy; they were just plain yum. We loved wandering around Lima – and ooh I tried a new tact with my camera; I’m always so coy when it comes to taking photos of strangers, even though it’s perfectly legal when in a public place. So I challenged myself to walk up to randoms over the course of the day and say “Photo?” in my best quasi-Euro accent, holding up the camera expectantly. Most people were surprisingly amicable, with only a few large oily men that waved their hands, grunted no and hid behind their cigarette smoke. It’s still not a perfect system, as you lose the candidness of an unanticipated photo, but better than nothing.

Here’s a few shots from over the course of the day…

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Porto

16th Feb, '14   |   by Dave

Over the past week we’ve had the great joy of hanging out with our parents, Mum & Dad Konemann. We have been blessed to no end with their company, and showing them our lives here in Spain has been really special. They were absolutely lovely and took us for a trip down to Porto, in Portugal. Best fun. We hired a car and headed south from Oviedo, drinking up the beautiful scenery and stopping for coffees and walks along the way. Seriously one of our favourite holidays here in Europe yet! Porto is beautiful and tragic, with so much life and bustle around houses and buildings lying in ruin.

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Hello hail!

29th Jan, '14   |   by Laura

Oh, Oviedo, what a wonderful city you are.  

Dave and I are becoming well accustomed to the Oviedo that everyone talked about before we arrived in Spain, that we really hadn’t experienced until recently: a rainy city.  The past week has been non-stop rain (except for the weekend), with another two weeks of rain ahead of us.  At the moment I’m sitting at a cafe in between classes, and I’ve just looked out the window to see our first bit of hail.  December and the first half of January was unseasonable warm, with dry and sunny days, and we are now becoming aware that when they say that Oviedo rains everyday, they really do mean it.  

Last week Dave and I had an airbnb guest stay with us for a week, and the poor thing had such a terrible time.  She was an Italian university student who had come to Oviedo to study, and she was staying with us for the week to find a place to live.  When she arrived at the student centre, the university told her that they had enrolled her into a completely different degree that she was doing in Italy.  Any studies she did here wouldn’t count towards her degree in Italy, but when they tried to change her to her actual degree, her university in Italy didn’t want to accept the change in studies.  She had found a wonderful apartment, but couldn’t sign a contract because she didn’t know if she was going to be able to continue studying in Oviedo, and she was so stressed.  At the end of the week she found out that her studies weren’t going ahead and that she had to return to Italy so that she could do two exams the following week as she was no longer going to study abroad.  So she packed everything up, and left on Sunday.  

It really put things in perspective for me; we may have had trouble with pretty much every step of settling down (hot water broken, fridge broken, heating broken, NIE and visa dramas, no internet for three months), but we have our jobs, and we are legally allowed to live here.   And to sweeten the deal, on Tuesday a hero of a serviceman came to our apartment, had a look around, changed a few knobs and connected some things, and said, “Ya está” - the internet was up and running.  

We continued our time of relaxing on Saturday (I wasn’t feeling too well) with a slow and lazy Sunday, which included a wander through the old part of the city.  As we live about a 20 minute walk from the oldest areas in Oviedo, we don’t often head over there, as our schedule is really busy at the moment with work.  But we decided to head in, have a coffee, walk through the markets and go exploring.  It really made me appreciate the city we live in.  There is so much history here.  We went to the Archaeological museum of Oviedo, and saw Mammoth bones from 125,000+ years ago that was found in Llanes, a town in Asturias, old skeletons, different stone works from the medieval age.  You just don’t get to see that sort of thing in Australia!

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Min and myself in Madrid, at the beginning of January

After our relaxing break, we are right back into work.  We have a busy, but really exciting month ahead of us.  This Saturday my best friend Melinda (Min to everyone) is coming to visit us for two weeks, as well as another old school friend for a couple of days.  And then the following Saturday my parents are landing in Asturias!  They will be here with us for two weeks too, and we are so looking forward to getting to show everyone around.

 

As well as that, on the 5th of March we will be launching our new business, The AGSC.  We are so excited to show everyone our site and our work; this has been something we have both been working so hard for, and we can’t wait to share it with you.  For anyone that wants more info, or wants a free repeatable pattern, head over to www.theagsc.com and subscribe so we can keep you in the loop!

Pause.

25th Jan, '14   |   by Laura

Dave and I have been so incredibly busy since we left Australia for Spain.

It’s amazing how quickly time goes, and how much fun we’ve had.  Most weekends we have been busy with something, whether it be going somewhere, travelling, or more recently, working on the launch of our business.  

Today is special because it is Saturday.  We have turned off from work, we have slept in, and we are able to pause our busy lives for a moment.  It is so lovely to be in the company of each other, going out for coffee that is actually for enjoyment, to chat to each other, rather than an excuse to use their internet (still no luck with the internet at the moment).  

We had grand plans for our day, to catch a bus to the mountains near our home (this week was exceptionally cold, and there has been a lot of snow on the mountains), however we woke up to a foggy, rainy day.  A day to sit on the lounge and watch Friends, make home made pizza, laugh together and be silly, go to cafes and enjoy each others company.  

It is so nice to relax.

#theagsc

18th Jan, '14   |   by Laura

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Dave and I have been working on something really special over the past couple of months.  We are really excited to be able share part of our journey with us.  Intrigued?  Head over to www.theagsc.com to subscribe and find out more.

5 minutes of Spanish

15th Jan, '14   |   by Laura

Something that I’ve really struggled with in Spain this time around is the little Spanish that I speak.  On average I think I’d speak about 5 minutes of Spanish a day, if that.  And it isn’t 5 minutes of deep conversation, where I wield the language skills that I do know, but more of a ‘Hello, how are you’, ‘two coffees please’, ‘half a kilo of tomatoes and that eggplant over there’.

As you’ve heard from previous posts, we’ve been so busy since we’ve arrived, travelling, exploring, etc… that we haven’t felt 100% settled in our home here in Oviedo.  We definitely feel as if we live here, and we love Oviedo, but not having basic necessities like internet, and not being able to converse much in Spanish really makes it feel so temporary in a sense.  

I always thought that I’d give myself a month to get back to the level of Spanish I spoke when I was last here in 2010, but I am still so far behind.  It’s as if not speaking the language on a regular basis, and not speaking in an in-depth way has really hindered my ability to converse with people.  

However, then there are days like today, where the students  in class get really involved in their activity, which leaves time for the teacher and I to stand at the front of the class ‘observing’, giving us the opportunity to have a really good chat in Spanish.  I love Spain, and the culture, and the people, and I think the thing that brings it together and really cements my love for this country is the language.  There is something so special about Spanish, and being able to communicate in Spanish.  It really does make my day when my 5 minutes of Spanish gets extended to 25 minutes of Spanish.

It is my hope that over the next couple of months we’ll be able to make Spanish friends, get connected with a church (we still haven’t decided on one), improve my Spanish so it is up to scratch by the time we leave, and be able to converse with Dave in Spanish!

Today, being able to talk to one of my co-workers really gave me back my passion and love for Spanish that has been waning with the little amount of language I’ve been speaking, and I really hope that these opportunities will increase over the next couple of weeks and months.

Spanish Bureaucracy

10th Jan, '14   |   by Laura

As much as I love Spain, sometimes I could pull my hair out with frustration at the way things are run.  

Yesterday was one of the most difficult days for me whilst being in Spain.

When we returned home from Germany last week, I was able to finally check to see if I had been paid for the first time since arriving in Spain (second most annoying part of Spanish bureaucracy after our ordeal with the NIEs), and it was so exciting to see that we had indeed been paid!  No more worrying about money!  We could pay rent!  

Having money in the bank, I could now sign up to internet banking so I didn’t have to go the branch every time I wanted to check my balance or transfer some money.  I went onto my bank’s website and was stumped.  It just didn’t have an easy way to sign up to internet banking.  After about 3+ hours of research with Dave patting my back in support as I grew more and more frustrated that there wasn’t a SIGN UP HERE button, I finally found, through some obscure page, the sign up form.  Fist pumping with joy I quickly jotted in my details, only to realise that they gave you a user number, but you needed a pin, and for that you needed to go to the bank.

This would be ok if we were in Australia, but we were in Spain, where the banks’ opening hours feel pretty much non-existent.  I had to wait until Thursday morning (yesterday) until I could head in to the bank, whereupon after waiting in line for a while, I received my pin.  I was asked if I wanted help with anything else (I still had to transfer our rent for the month, which was late due to the internet banking problems), but thought I had it under control now that I could access my account online.  Oh, how optimistic I was.

We went to an internet cafe (as we still didn’t have internet at home) to transfer the money.  I was online and had filled everything in for the transfer, when it asked me for another pin (that was meant to be on my card).  After searching for it, and even asking a waiter to tell me where it was, we were stumped.  There was just no other pin on my bank card that I could find.  So, I called the bank, where a lady spoke to me so quickly.  I understood basically what she was saying, but it just made no sense.  So I told her over and over again that I didn’t understand and asked for her to speak slower.  Alas, if anything, she spoke a little faster.  In the end she just sighed and told me to go back to the bank.  I hung up, and Dave looked over at me, and in pure frustration, I burst into tears.  The Spanish can be so unhelpful at times.  

I then resorted to googling the words ‘tarjeta de coordenadas’  to finally find out what it was that I needed.

Turns out I never received another card that looks like this:

tarjeta-de-coordenadas

This is basically a card full of coordinations.  When you do an internet transfer or anything to do with your account online, it asks for a coordination (e.g. C6 = 113) to make sure you are you.  Now that I knew that, everything that the bank lady had said made complete sense.  Because I didn’t have that card I couldn’t transfer the money, which meant back to the bank for me.  We went back to the bank, and told Roberto (the most lovely bankteller who has helped us so much since our arrival – setting up our bank account when we technically didn’t have the right documentation, changing my name, address, being just generally nice, serving me quicker than other people etc…) that we didn’t have this card.  This is apparently really unusual that you don’t get it sent out when you open a bank account with them.  He then transferred the money for our rent.  

It was by this time 12:30pm, and I felt like I had wasted the whole morning (we got to the bank the first time at 9am), but I had to run to work.  I was feeling frustrated and annoyed over the whole situation, and when I was stopped at a traffic light, feeling sorry for myself, a bird pooed on my head.

POOED ON MY HEAD.

It was the worst.  Everyone could see that I had been pooed on, and that I was trying to find out how bad it was, but no one helped me or told me where it was or anything.  I couldn’t help but laugh.

I ran to the bathrooms and washed my hair out, and got to class looking like a drowned rat with knotty hair, but taught class nonetheless with a spring in my step knowing that that afternoon a serviceman was coming, and that we’d be getting our internet set up.  Finally. 

After school I went home to wait for the internet man to turn up.  He looked like the most surly person ever, and that I was the last person he wanted to see, and work was the last place he wanted to be.  After going up to our place (six floors up) then back down to the power board on the ground floor (multiple times) he let us know that our wiring was broken.  The internet had been set up, but we couldn’t use it because the wiring wasn’t able to get it to our router.  So, after over two and a half months here in Spain, we still have no internet at home.  

So, a frustrating day on all points.  But then Dave came home, we sighed and hugged each other, made burritos for dinner (we can’t find any sour cream here in Spain, however we’ve found out that greek yoghurt makes a great substitute!), watched Friends, and got into bed at 9:30 for an early night.

Despite nothing going right when it comes to Spanish bureaucracy, we still are so happy to be here, and are so excited for the next couple of months.  We’ve got an exciting announcement to make next Friday (no babies, I promise), so make sure you keep an eye out on our social media / our blog.

2014

1st Jan, '14   |   by Laura

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I cannot believe that we have begun 2014!

We are currently in a small town called Langenfeld, about a 40 minute drive outside of Dusseldorf, where we have been staying at a great Airbnb place – the last leg of our German holiday, and a place to relax and celebrate the new year.  We were able to spend Christmas with our old exchange student’s family, which was so lovely, and travelled to Dusseldorf for the new year, as our flight back to Spain leaves here in a couple of days.  It has been the perfect end to such a busy month; just a couple of days to ourselves to relax, watch Friends, chat, and just be.  We had no grand plans for New Years Eve, so bought some food for an antipasto plate, hired a movie, drank a Spanish red wine (made us miss Spain!), and to our surprise, got our own fireworks display from our bedroom window.  In Australia having personal fireworks is illegal, so it was a great shock to look out and see hundreds of fireworks go off all over this small town for the better part of an hour, as families and friends celebrated the New Year.  It was like we had our own private viewing, and it really made our low key night.  You can check out a tiny video of the fireworks from here.

Today we caught the bus into the centre of the town to grab a coffee and talk about the year we’ve had, and to plan out our goals for 2014.  New Years is celebrated so differently here in Langendfeld to Australia, where most cafes and restaurants are open on New Years Day; however after a half hour walk around the city centre we found that when Sonja, the lady we are staying with, said that everything is closed, she was really telling the truth.  In the whole of the town there was one cafe open (coincidentally, also a hotel), where it looked like a lot of the town’s population had gathered to enjoy a hot drink.

Sitting down at our table after ordering our coffees, I opened up Instagram and looked at our year in photos.  It was so much fun to see what we got up to; 2013 was such a huge year for us!  Our first year of marriage, quitting our jobs, starting freelance, welcoming our little niece into the world, graduating from uni, moving to Spain, starting to teach, learning to live in a new country.  One thing that we’ve really loved doing over the past two New Years Days as a married couple is to sit down and think about the year ahead, create goals, and see where we are headed.  It is so exciting to see what we have planned for this coming year, in our marriage, our business, as a couple.  I really believe that getting to write down these things with your person is so… rewarding.  

We are so blessed to be where we are, and to be experiencing the life that we are living.  We have been so busy this past month, and cannot wait to share with you all what we’ve been up to.  Here are a couple of photos that sum up our past couple of weeks.

We took a day trip with our Airbnb guests around the Asturian coast.

We took a day trip with our Airbnb guests around the Asturian coast.

 

Ribadesella

Ribadesella

 

We spent our one year anniversary in the French Pyrenees skiing!

 

Snowball fights

 

So wonderful to be able to spend time with Wiebke & her family!

Navidades

15th Dec, '13   |   by Laura

love Christmas.

There is something so special about this time of the year, celebrating with your family, looking at Christmas lights, watching Christmas movies, listening to Christmas carols, and putting up the Christmas tree.  I have always loved this time of the year. 

Here in Spain, the biggest day of celebration around Christmas time, is not Christmas day, but Los Reyes Magos on the 6th of January.  I’ve never been in Spain to celebrate the 6th of January, so can’t really tell you much, but it is all about the three wise men.

My side of the family loves traditions.  We love creating a way of celebrating something and continuing to do it year after year, creating so many warm and lovely memories.  One of these traditions is putting up the Christmas tree.  Every year on the first of December, whoever is free goes to Mum & Dad’s place, where we eat chocolate covered fruit and peanuts, summer fruits, chips, lollies, listen to our favourite Christmas carols, and spend a couple of hours putting up the Christmas tree and decorating the house.  

Being in our own place here in Spain we really wanted to be able to celebrate Christmas and continue our own traditions, whilst still enjoying the way Spain celebrates Christmas.  On the 30th of November we went out and bought our Christmas tree on sale for 8,90€, bought a few Christmas decorations, made sure we had a Christmas carol playlist, and on the 1st of December we woke up, had a lazy morning, and then got into the Christmas spirit!

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One thing I’ve always loved to do is buy a Christmas ornament from wherever we go, so Dave & I bought our first ornament together from our travels; my birthplace.

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We (I) had so much fun listening to Christmas carols, dancing around, putting up our tree, and creating our own traditions of our first winter Christmas in Spain together.  Dave the poor dear has been getting an earful of Michael Buble’s Christmas album, and Hillsong’s ‘We have a Saviour’, as it’s pretty much been on repeat since!  

We both love Christmas movies, and have managed to watch Home Alone and Love Actually thus far.  We’ve got I’ll be Home for Christmas downloading from iTunes as we speak, and hopefully we’ll fit in a few more (Miracle on 34th Street – old or new, Jingle All the Way) before Christmas.  

The lights have finally been turned on in Oviedo.  The city at night, with its gorgeous old architecture and Christmas lights makes it so beautiful, with Christmas carols being played through loud speakers.  Ohh, I love Christmas!

 

Irregular verbs

4th Dec, '13   |   by Dave

Guys I’m learning (and even remembering) irregular verbs and conjugations and things!!!

Now I just need to learn to apply them to life.

Huge thanks to Laura & Arturo for teaching me.

The one where Dave fist-bumps a Spaniard.

28th Nov, '13   |   by Dave

Yesterday contained one of those moments in life.

You know the ones – where you’re in the middle of it (the moment), and you probably should be concentrating on it, but you’re not, you’re thinking “This is one of those moments”. The day I got married to Laura is a classic example (though I did concentrate on my wedding day, promise). There’s something beautiful about these moments; they cut through the noise and clutter of phones and our egos and work and “what-are-we-going-to-have-for-dinner”s and give you a firm but loving chin-chuck of perspective. 

Yesterday’s moment involved me, a handful of the finest Spaniards one could ever meet, and the Spanish language. It was also a lot longer than a conventional moment, it was more like from around 4 in the arvo until 8 later that night.

I have been visiting a lovely little bar named Taberna Penamea just across the road from Laura’s school nearly every day for the last week or two, so I can get some work done (blergh, still no wifi at our casa1, see Laura’s post about the joys of Spanish bureaucracy). The owner’s name is Luis, and we are basically best buds now. If it wasn’t for his kindness and willingness to put up with Laura and I constantly mooching his wifi, we wouldn’t be able to run the business as smoothly as we have been, and I definitely wouldn’t have had the opportunity to form such a wonderful little relationship with what appears to be one of Spain’s nicest barmen.

So I was wrapping up for the day, and Luis came over to my mesa2 as he does every now and then to deliver a volley of Spanish – to which I most often reply “Perdón?” (as if simply hearing a phrase again is the secret to unlocking my Spanish comprehension). Then we set about opening up Google Translate to type little messages to each other (so now not only am I bleeding dry his internet plan, but distracting him from his work too – but he just doesn’t seem to mind). This is a common practice for us by now, but today was different – I checked the time and it was much later than I would normally leave, around 4pm. I had a Spanish lesson planned for around 5pm with one of the teachers from Laura’s school, Arturo (who looks remarkably like both Rowan Atkinson & Jeff Goldblum, I’ll have to take a photo for you), so I had an hour to kill. I left my stuff where it was, picked up my laptop, and went and sat down with Luis and his co-worker Pedro – another stand-up guy – who was taking a break and eating something delicious.

It was then that something remarkable happened; we started chatting.

Now of course I’m not saying I had an Acts 2:6 experience and started speaking Spanish like a native, but for the first time since entering this country I felt like I was chatting to the very people indirectly extending the hand of hospitality to us by letting us co-exist with them in their country. There was a lot of laughter (nature’s language-barrier gap-filler), a lot of me shouting fragments of Spanish and other words that I probably thought were Spanish but very definitely weren’t, there was backslapping (backslapping!), urgent downloading of English/Spanish translators on phones all ’round, and lots of sharing of hastily typed, poorly Google-translated sentences in both languages on the laptop, accompanied by eager and expectant looks from whoever had done the typing, their face urging the others to understand and respond appropriately before the next person grabbed at the laptop for their turn. The hora3 melted away and before I knew it I’d blown right through my Spanish lesson appointment with Jeff Atkinson. I didn’t mind, of course; I’d been getting lessons from the minute my ears heard their first native-spoken Spanish words. Everyone tells me immersion is second to none for learning a language, and I had just experienced an hour’s basting. Nevertheless, I was pumped for my first session, and was only 15 minutes late so I excused myself, heartily shook everyone’s hand, fist-bumped Luis and headed out.

As I walked I thought about the last hour, and how special it was. Those reading this that know me personally know that talking is an activity I have a particular fondness for. I love the art of communication, I often use many more words than is necessary from day-to-day, and I will happily direct that high word count at anyone willing to tolerate it. However since living in Spain, the pool of people available to absorb my chatter has been reduced to one. It’s actually been frustrating for me, not being physically able to make myself understood to anyone. So many times I will be in a situation where normally I would say something, and my brain will fire up the teleprompter, and my eyes will read the words and I’ll even open my mouth- but, like a jammed printer, nothing comes out. But only I notice; only I know that I have something to say! Even if I have the wherewithal to pluck at Laura’s sleeve and ask her to quickly print out some Spanish for me into my ear, the moment is usually gone and it doesn’t matter anyway. So I tend to resort to smiling broadly, hoping that speaks for me instead. I’m assuming the suspicious “What have you done / what do you want” looks I get back from most Spaniards after my “I don’t speak Spanish but if I did I sure would be asking you what that small machine with the blue light that you just used to scan that €50 note is for” smile are simply misinterpretations on my part.

But I’d just spent over an hour hammering a tap into my very full conversation keg, and it was so so good to let some pressure out. It was just what I needed. I cannot wait for tomorrow when I get to go to Penamea again and see Luis and Pedro and Co. and learn more with them as we just talk.

Guys it was just so much fun.

Definitely one of those moments.

1 house
2 table
3 hour

Soon I will write a sort of ‘Part Two’ for this post, and share how my first Spanish lesson with Arturo went!

26th Nov, '13   |   by Laura

Dave gets confused sometimes, and instead of saying, “This is delicious!” (Está muy rico) he says, “You’re delicious!” (Estás muy rico). The look on the waiter’s face is priceless.