Tuesday, December 11, 2001

The Day After the First Night

The Day After The First Night

The bed is comfortable, the apartment is warmer than we expected. Each room has it’s own heater and each can be adjusted to suit our needs. We slept well, but Szylvia was coming at 10:00 to take us to the telephone company. I was up at 6:30. CNN International and BBC News are interesting and they are what I miss most when in the States, but when it is the only thing that you can watch that you can understand, it gets boring. There was no one to get our breakfast for us and there was no coffee maker yet, so I drank tea all morning. We have a microwave, but the pots have not arrived yet.

Szylvia was here almost on time and took us to the mall. That is where the telephone company has an office. The mall is the largest in Eastern Europe and is four floors, the first being underground at the subway entrance. It is a huge mall by any standards, so it was a long walk to the telephone store. Ron suggested we could come to this mall for our four mile walk when it gets too cold to walk outside. Two laps around and we would have reached our quota for the day. It is beautifully decorated for Christmas with giant gold tree ornaments hanging from the ceiling with large boughs of gold garland. There is a life size Santa sitting on a bench leaning over a large present, looking as exhausted as a last minute Christmas shopper. Open cafés are numerous in the center area of each floor. However, Szylvia is about half our height, but she is a fast walker. The stores and shops passed by with a blur, so we will have to return to really see what is there when we have a full day and great stamina to explore.

After reviewing choices, I decided that unlimited access from 6:00 pm to 7:00 am weekdays would be my best option for $14.00 a month. I filled out the paperwork and fifteen minutes later, we were out the door with my installation CD-Rom in hand. Not wanting Szylvia to feel like she needed to baby-sit us, we told her we were going to explore the mall further, but we stopped for coffee and then left. We had shopping to do.

We need some area rugs and do not want to be enslaved to what the management company would provide, so we hunted for them. There was nothing we liked that was cheap enough to leave behind when we go. Then we comparative shopped for coffee pots, but still did not purchase one yet. We did buy three Teflon frying pans for $8.00 and a Christmas potholder glove. Then it was getting to be time to think about buying our daily needs for dinner.

When we went home to drop things off, the people from the management company knocked on our door and they had goodies for us. They bought us two new sets of sheets, new pillows, a chair, two pots, kitchen utensils, and a drying rack for clothes.

There are no dryers in Budapest apartments. There is no way to vent them. We have the washing machine, but the clothes have to be dried on racks that are similar to what my mother used when I was a child. We were told that launderettes do not exist here, so there was no chance of bringing our clean clothes to the laundry to dry. This explains why I could not find dryer fabric softener sheets in the store. Even dry cleaners are few and far between, since they are expensive for the population. We were assured that they did not forget the rest of our needs like sharp knives, wastebaskets, and an iron, but they have to purchase those yet.

At the grocery store, it was tough figuring out what we could cook without too many questions about measurements or adding ingredients. We took the loser way out and settled for macaroni. The only sauce they had was Uncle Ben’s brand. I could not find grated cheese and did not feel up to playing charades. Ron picked up a can of what we thought was tomato paste and we grabbed a bottle of olive oil and rolls for breakfast.

The tomato sauce was survival quality, not great. At my worst, I have made far superior from scratch. Ron wanted to add Blue cheese to his since we were short on Parmesan, but I nixed that idea for my serving. The grocery did not have anything that looked close to Italian sausage, so we did without that too.

In the bathroom, there is no storage space and a mirror without a medicine cabinet behind it. We did not want to live out of our toiletry bags, so I had the idea of getting wicker baskets and putting all of our daily needs in there and leaving them on the washing machine. After dinner, we went to the Christmas market where we had seen a booth with wicker. We found two perfect baskets there and a Christmas candleholder at another booth. I had just asked Ron if he was ready for some hot wine, when this woman grabbed me and said, “Wine, here” and pointed to a booth. They were serving hot-spiced white wine and we ordered two. The cost was a donation to a women’s club that holds charity functions to raise money for retarded children. It is called the Zota Club and she said it started in the United States. I put money in the jar and then later put more in with the thought that is was for a good cause. What a way to rationalize your drinking habit, “I am doing it for charity.”

By 8:00, I was ready to launch my Internet connection. I take out my phone cord and the snap phone connector that we use in the States fits the phone outlets here without an adapter. I bought a phone adaptor from Rand McNally Travel store for no reason. But then I am looking at this small black flat piece that is suppose to go into my computer. I have a recollection of using it thousands of times in the past for logging on to the Internet, but for the life of me, I cannot figure out where it goes in the computer. I pulled out the manuals for my laptop and there is no reference to it. Flipping the computer over more times than a gymnast at a practice session, I cannot find a hole for this thingy to fit into. Perplexed and feeling inept I plug the phone line directly into the computer and viola, it fits fine. Concerned about memory loss, I continue on with the installation. As I put the CD-Rom in the drive, I held my breath not sure of what I was facing, though I had been told it was in English. Well, the button to press to get it in English was in a light orange and I search through a lot of Hungarian before finding it. When I did, it was simple, though the America Online program I have on this computer kept opening up and aborting the CD from loading. Once I figured out how to avoid that it was a simple process and I was online without having to call tech support once.

It was such a privilege to sit in our own warm home, surf the net, read and respond to e-mail and not have to go out to an Internet café and worry about time charges. After an hour, I went into a panic not sure whether or not I had put in the local connection number or the international number. Visions of a month’s budget going to the phone company struck fear in my heart and wallet simultaneously. Logging off and checking, I had done the correct one, I hope! At least the 011 was not in front of it, so here is hoping.

Ron has worn himself out. He started getting a cold. At least it has slowed his desire to run around all of the time. Being here for a length of time, we can pace ourselves in a way that we have not had the luxury to do in the past. Perhaps, he will realize that we cannot keep up that tempo on a regular basis. We need to settle. He has this travel bug now worse than I have ever had it. He is already thinking about where to go next, but since we have the Europass that needs to be used before February 3rd, we will have some journeys, but at least an apartment to leave most of our things and we can travel with carry-ons only.

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