Monday, December 17, 2001

One Week Anniversary

One Week Anniversary

Happy Anniversary to us! We have spent one week in our new apartment. It has been an easy adjustment for me, but Ron is still a bit shell-shocked. Discovering that doing a load of laundry is a day long process is less than desirable, but we have adapted to the clothes hanger in the living area most of the time. The washer takes about an hour and fifteen minutes to toss around a load of clothes, sometimes longer if we are setting it correctly. We are still not sure we are getting the little picture instructions correct, but the clothes come out wet and smell better than when they went in, so we must be doing something right.

When the clothes, especially towels come out of the wash and dry on the rack, they have the texture of medium grade sand paper. At some point, we will have to learn how and when to add the fabric softener. Since it is a front loading washer, we cannot arbitrarily open the lid and dump it in. In the meanwhile, we are softening off those dead skin cells in the shower and then sanding them off with the towel during the drying process. It would not normally bother me, but when we finish drying off, there is a small pile of dead skin on the floor as if we had ambitiously power sanded a small tree to a toothpick. Maybe this explains the continued weight loss.

Speaking of weight loss, my buds are back. They returned with the same swiftness that they left with. One morning I woke up, had breakfast, and realized, I actually tasted the food. I immediately threw out that cereal. Now that I can taste it, I realize it is really gross, life little bales of hay that stayed on the farm for too long. That explains why Ron would not eat it after the first time, but he bypassed sharing that information, not that it would have mattered at the time. With taste buds comes the battle of watching my weight once again. I have trimmed down to being able to wear my 34/34 slim fit jeans with room to spare. They are actually a bit loose, so I am pulling them up all of the time. With full ability to appreciate the combinations of sweet, sour, bitter, and salt, is a real incentive to find the delights that I have missed.

The explanation for the return may be that the heat here is gas, which dries the air out. We have water near the heaters for humidity, but I have found that I can skip days of my sinus medication without any negative effects. My nose stopped running like Niagara Falls and the savings on tissues is significant. As well, I discovered a cure for snoring. When Ron was ill with the symptoms of a cold, in desperation, I suggested he take a Sudafed. Not only did it clear his head, he stopped snoring. At first, it seemed like a coincidence, so I did some scientific testing. Giving the lab specimen a Sinutab, three nights in a row produced three pleasant nights of sleep for this researcher. On night four, the lab specimen was sent to bed without a pill. The researcher was kept up all night and was a bear in the morning. Once again on the fifth and successive nights, the lab specimen has been administered with a pill, thus creating 99% less decibels during nocturnal hours. The researcher is pleased with these results and will be writing an article for the next edition of “The Nasal News For Those Traveling Through Foreign Countries”. It is this researcher’s expectation that the Nobel Prize for Reducing Noise Pollution is imminent, thus propelling him to the cover of Time and Newsweek magazines. Do not forget you read it here first. In the meanwhile, this will not prevent the researcher from begging all of you to send one package of Sinutab to us, if we are not able to find it or its equivalent here.

For those of you with inquiring minds, it was indeed pepper that was in the package produced after playing charades for a half hour. Ron wanting to fill the peppershaker, is holding the packet over the sink, but I hear a moan while he is doing it. When I question what happened, he shyly responds with the fact that he forgot to put his finger over the shaker hole, so it is all spilling out the top as he is filling it from the bottom. Real gratitude for all of my work! Well, you had better save that package for next time, Mister!! We will be bringing pictures shopping from now on for Show and Tell me where it is.

I have told you that we have three channels in English. CNN, BBC News, and the Travel Channel are the only three we can understand fully. Sadly, Ron continues to channel surf to see if a translator box has secretly been installed on the television and he will get to watch five year old episodes of “The Nanny” in English. He has done a proper and thorough investigation of the cost of renting a video player. We only need to bring in our passports, our lease agreement, our drivers license, a ticket either train or plane that shows when we will be leaving Budapest, our fingerprints on an official police card showing that we have no record of stealing VCR equipment in other countries, two home visits by Hungarian Social Workers to make sure our home is a suitable environment, one of which is scheduled and the other is a surprise drop in visit to make sure we are not hiding anything unbefitting their equipment. The last time I saw Ron, he was on his way to be fingerprinted at the police station. They sure do take a long time doing it.

BBC News had a report of the winner of an art contest from the Tate Museum in London. If you remember, or to be more specific if you have done your reading, you will know that the Tate was not one of my favorites. It had some modern art that…well never mind, if you don’t remember go back and read it again. Back to the story at hand, the Tate awarded this ‘artist’ $30,000 for his submission to the contest. It is an empty room with a boxed ceiling light that goes on and off at random times. When they interviewed the artist with hopes of finding some substantial rationale for his work, he stated without a trace of embarrassment, “I can’t explain it; it is lights going on and off. When the lights are on, you can see people. When they are off, you can’t.” Fortunately, the reporter was as incredulous about this explanation as I and went further into questioning one of the judges of the contest. The judge justified his vote by saying, “It was a new, clean, bright approach to art.” What the reporter failed to report was what drug contest these judges were arbitrating prior to this contest. This should be proof positive to every North American that the British do indeed have a sense of humor.

I just finished another book well worth recommending. Miss Garnett’s Angel, by Sally Vickers was a remarkable story. I bought the book in Bath, but I would imagine it is available in the States. It is a parallel story of an elder unmarried woman who takes a vacation to Venice and at the same time, there is the telling of a story from the old version of the Old Testament. Miss Garnett’s experiences in Venice run congruent to the biblical story. It is beautifully written and well worth finding. Ron was reading it before he set off to the police department for the fingerprinting. I do hope he is able to return to finish it. It would be a shame for him not to know the outcome of the book. Venice is a possible destination now for a get-away.

            My friend Howard, who is a professional musician and is living in New York, sent me some information about the broodje that I referred to in the Amsterdam chapter.  He has a friend who lived in Amsterdam and married a Dutch woman, so Howard asked him to shed light on it.  This was the response: “Great description.  "Broodje" literally means "little bread" and is simply the Dutch word for a sandwich.  Your friend's description of mystery glop injected into a roll is unhappily accurate and typical.  The glop was almost certainly mayonnaise with chopped vegetables and mystery meat and cornstarch thickener.  It tastes as appealing as it sounds.  As far how they make it, it was probably injected despite the lack of a visible hole.

Tomorrow, Myrtis, Randall, and Rachel are coming. We are so excited not only to have good friends visit, but friends who are fluent in English is mentally orgasmic. Since our largest cooking pot is not big enough to hold a toy poodle, we are destined to eat out, but we will be able to fix breakfast here. With that in mind, we went out for eggs, yogurt, milk, and we will get pastries fresh in the morning. Ron called the rental agent to remind them that we still have not had our delivery of glasses, a can opener, a double blanket, and a host of other things. Regrettably, someone in the office is hospitalized and he was not able to understand the whole tirade, but the bottom line was there was no one to shop for the things we had been promised. With great foresight we kept four matching mugs from the Cologne Christmas Market, making the sacrifice of drinking the Gluhwein, so that we could entertain properly in the future. Our four mugs now serve as coffee cups, water goblets, wine glasses, beer mugs, a laundry detergent measuring cup, and a ladle. Leave it to the Germans to create something so multi-purpose; God love them.

It is amazing how international living can change your thinking. If this were our home in the States, I would be humiliated not to have the suitable supplies and decor for company, though we had been known to have borrowed wine glasses from friends for Thanksgiving dinners in the past. But, here it is definitely a case of what you see is what you get without apologies. Myrtis and Randall have done considerable international living and are not surprised, shocked, or dismayed at anything they find. They are veterans of the ‘do without’ culture. They do not have a television where they are now living in Slovakia. I can just see Ron in that situation sitting on the sofa with a remote in his hand pointing it at the wall, clicking away praying for miracles.

I put a load of clothes in the washer at 7:30 this morning, setting the control on ‘A’. It is now noon and the washer is still going through its cycles slower than a crab sheds it’s shell. We have bypassed ‘A’, moved through the entire English alphabet and are now working our way through the Cyrillic one. These Hungarians do like their clothes thoroughly cleaned, you have to say that for them.

At six o’clock in the evening, I get to use the Internet. I get so excited knowing I have the ability to be able to read e-mails and roam in cyber-space without leaving home. Our travels have provided a number of ideas for children’s books, which I will continue to work on. Having the Internet gives me a freedom to do research for information that I need. For instance, I needed to know the names of parts of an umbrella. After searching dozens of sites unsuccessfully, I posted the question on a Writers of Children’s books group and within two hours received half dozen responses with the information that I needed. One of the problems is that I have to be up until the wee hours of the morning in order to read and respond to e-mails, do my banking, bill paying, research, and assorted other things, but these are interrupted by dinner and Ron’s wanting to go to a movie since he can recite verbatim what has been on CNN for the day. The one slow down that has been intolerable is letting Ron use the computer to read his e-mail. Being the problem solver that I am, I realized a solution. Now I download his e-mail to a disk. He is able to read it during his waking hours, write a response saved to disk, and then I upload it when I get back on the Internet. That resolved that issue. For a taste of home, he also likes to read the columnists that he relished on a daily basis at home in California, so he surfs on over to the San Francisco Chronicle online to read their columns.

With our new lifestyle, I have decided that we have defined our roles into Ministries, not religious ministries, but those of different departments and the responsibilities thereof.

Ron - Minister of Defense – Making sure the door is locked, especially when we go to bed at night.

Ron - Minister of Geographic Affairs – Reads the map

Ron - Minister of Nutrition – Cooks dinner

Ron - Minister of Cultural Affairs – Seeks out cultural events, movies, and coffee shops in which to partake in cultural enrichment or social enjoyment

Ron – Minister of Religion – Finds local churches to tour and attend

Ron - Minister of Transportation – Domestic – Decides whether to walk or take at tram or subway

Ron – Minister of Literature – Minor – Purchases English weekly and borrows’ other English papers when found

Ryan - Minister of Economics – Maintains the bank accounts, handles transfers of money between accounts, pays bills, maintains budgeting

Ryan - Minister of Cyber-Communication – Maintains the Internet connections and communications overall, has the task of finding needed information on the web

Ryan – Minister of Tourism – Searches for and completes the necessary cyber searches for budget hotel accommodations, maintains train passes, passports, tickets and continually consults with the Minister of Economics in order to stay within the budgeted framework

Ryan – Minister of Transportation – International - Researches and procures the means for international or long distance travel

Ryan – Minister of Education – Teaches the other Ministers how to perform their responsibilities in a more productive manner

Ryan – Minister of Literature –Major – Procures books for entertainment and intellectual Fulfillment

Ryan – Minister of Literature Production – Produces literature to be distributed to the masses for entertainment and educational purposes

Ryan – Minister of Short Term Memory - Maintains the memory of the other Ministers for all of the functions that they have forgotten from moment to moment

Ryan – Minister of Teaching Old Dogs New Tricks - May need to be replaced from this position since the old dog is winning out.

Ron and Ryan – Co-Ministers of Social Affairs – Begs people to come visit

Ron and Ryan – Co-Ministers of Importation – Procures food and non-perishables for the household for nutritional and cleansing value

Ron and Ryan - Co-Minister of the Interior – Does purchasing for the domicile

Ron and Ryan – Co-Ministers of Domestic Affairs – Does the laundry, cleaning, changing the sheets on the bed, washing dishes

Back to the Teaching Old Dogs New Tricks, there are a few of you Ron correspondents that are falling into to this category too. It must be an Iowa thing. Ron does not know how to open zip files and other attachments are sometimes difficult to open in AOL, for some reason. Even when I have unzipped files such as photos for him, they are too small to see, so I have to put them into a photo-viewing program and re-open them there. What I wind up having to do most of the time is forwarding them to my account anyway. Since this uses valuable Internet time, I am reminding you that it is easier for me if you sent them to the Yahoo address and sent Ron a note to his account saying that you did. If you comply, I will send you a biscuit for learning your new behavior.

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