Thursday, November 29, 2007

Fill'er Up


It was that time again when we had to have pages added to our passports. We had them added once before and had the standard numbered pages and then the alpha pages. So many countries require a full page for their Visa, filling up the pages fast. We had a full page for China in the past and one for Chile. Now the Zimbabwe and yearly Hungarian Visas have pages all of their own. Then the Vietnam Visa required a full page too. We called the embassy here in Budapest and found that we could download the application for more pages and bring it in. It is form DS 4085. I had to have a letter from Ron saying I could have pages added to his passport to save him from having to appear too.

The embassy has the x-ray machines like at the airport and this is long before 9/11. I purposefully left my mobile phone at home; they make you leave it with the guard. After x-raying my bag, the guard pointed to a small object on the machine, but I could not make out what it was. I opened my bag and told him to have at it. I guess they can't do a search. He called someone over to interpret. It was my nail clipper. They made me leave my nail clipper there while I was inside. God forbid I should suddenly go crazy and do manicures while I am waiting. Adding pages is free, but time consuming, especially if you have to mail it in. It can take up to two weeks. I took a number from the automated machine; only one option for US citizens. The wait was 20 minutes for my number to be called. I tried reading my book while I waited, but eavesdropping was too much fun to pay attention. I had to listen to everyone's story. With the forms filled out and tucked into the passports, the guy looked over the application and the passports and told me to wait for my number to be called again. I had to wait for 45 minutes and we now have beige and white picture pages of American scenery in our little blue books.

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Saturday, November 24, 2007

Which Euros Did You Want?


We have a guest coming here from the States. We had advised her that we prefer payment in Euros even if Hungary has not converted over to them yet.

She sent me a note today stating she went to the bank to order Euros and THEY, the bankers asked her if she wanted Italian, German, or French Euros since they could not get Hungarian Euros. Holy smokes!! A bank asking these questions blew my mind.

It gave me a big laugh, but I did not laugh at her when she asked which we preferred. I could understand her not knowing, but any banker should obviously be up-to-date on this information.

If this leaves anyone scratching their heads, I will save you the time from Googling it.
From January 1st, 2002, twelve of the fifteen European Union members completed their conversion to using the Euro instead of their own national currencies. These twelve states comprise the Eurozone, sometimes called Euroland. The Vatican uses the Euro, but does not circulate them. They are sold in sets. Finland does not circulate the 1 Euro cent coin, but stores sell it for an inflated price. San Marino has its own set too.

All Euro bills are the same regardless of the country. The coins are all the same design on one side, but each country has their own design on the other. All currency is legal within the Euro zone regardless of the country of origin.

There are 27 countries in the European Union, but the last 12 to be admitted will not be able to use the Euro for some time yet. Hungary like the
others, need to meet a set ratio of debt vs Gross National Product for two years before being allowed to convert to the Euro. In Hungary, it is estimated it will not be until about 2012.

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Friday, November 23, 2007

Another Thanksgiving Over


Well it is post our Thanksgiving feast and we were actually able to do some feasting after all. Our friend Dawn brought us pumpkin, condensed milk, and cranberry sauce on one of her trips here from the States. Ron has a fellow Art Museum docent whose husband works for the US embassy and she was able to get us a whole turkey from the embassy commissary. How I would love to go wild shopping there, but no one is allowed in if you are not an embassy employee or relative. One of my students went to 7 butchers trying to get one before we scored one, but no luck. To order one would take one to two weeks. As one of the commentors stated, even in the UK, it would be difficult to find a whole turkey until Christmas. Having them available all year round in the US, you never stop to think of differences elsewhere. However, in years past, we have regularly taken note of it.
Our dinner included turkey, stuffing, fresh mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, green beans, and pumpkin pies. It was not nearly as impressive as my holiday spreads in the States and certainly not served on the special dishes and platters, but with two
Hungarian students joining us, they did not know any differently and were thrilled to be included. One of the students was the turkey hunter.
After dinner, we taught them Cribbage and they loved it. We played two games of that and one of "Bullshit" a game they taught us. The evening ended at midnight. It was truly an evening to be thankful for.

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Pre-Thanksgiving Post


Yes, tomorrow is Thanksgiving and it is the holiday that I miss most not living in the States anymore. This picture could almost pass for our past holiday celebrations, except we had more food that is pictured here.

Alas, living here, I have to teach tomorrow. We did score a WHOLE turkey, quite the anomaly here. One of my students went to seven butchers to see about ordering one, but it would take over a week. Since he started this pursuit on Monday, there was not enough time. Ron has a loving friend who is also a docent at the Art Museum, whose husband works for the US Embassy. She offered to us one at the commissary. Yipee!

We had a friend bring us cranberries, canned pumpkin, and evaporated milk, none of which are available here. I will make stuffing from scratch. After some shopping around, Ron managed to find four sweet potatoes. I will make fresh mashed white ones too.

We have invited two of our favorite of my students to join us for an American cultural infusion. I do miss decorating the house, the days of cooking and preparing, and having a half dozen of friends over for dinner. This is a great replacement.

For all of you who celebrate, Happy Thanksgiving!!!

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Monday, November 12, 2007

Good Morning, Vietnam


How can 22 different embassy web sites be wrong, I ask you? After looking for the Vietnam embassy address, we found the same listing on all web sites, but when Ron went there, they were no where to be found. A call into the US embassy did the trick, we found the corrected address and this morning, we went to apply for our Visa for December. First we had to have pictures taken in one of the photo booths in the subway. Two photos per application please! This was a comedy of errors since the machines are obviously made in Italy. All of the signs are in Italian. Of course, we had a late start and was fumbling for change once we were at the booth. Our plan was to have two snaps and immediately change seats so we could get 2 and 2 with the same amount of money. BUT we were fooled. The flash only goes off once and you get four of the same shot. Better look pretty the first time or you are out of luck. After scrapping for more bills (recommended) and the balance in change, Ron had his chance. Off to the embassy, tiny, but orderly embassy with two women and one man working, we had our applications in and were out of there in 20 minutes time. One sheet, easy to fill out application and two photos was all it took. They keep our passport until it is completed. We can return on Monday for them. Viola!! Simple. The Visa is 9,000 Ft each. Our Visas for Cambodia and Malaysia can be obtained at the airports.

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Sunday, November 11, 2007

Hark, the Herald Angels Sing


Oh, wrong month. I am getting ahead of myself here. We are having our first snow of the year, much earlier than last year. They were flakes the size of hubcaps, but now they are the size of one forint coins. It will not stick, it never does. Today is St. Marton's Day. It is a big deal in Hungary and the legend states you must eat goose today to ensure you do not go hungry for the rest of the year. Yesterday, Ron and I went to the St. Marton 'festival' in City Park. Ten booths does not a festival make. It took ten minutes of freezing to realize it was not worth more time.

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Friday, November 09, 2007



One of the tour companies in Budapest wanted to give me a free tour since I included them in my tour book. Although, it may seem you should experience everything you include in a tour guide, it is really impossible due to time constraints. In this case, it was not only time, but the fact that I have lived here for six years and have been on 7 different tours already. I had my doubts that this tour company, regardless of their claims of uniqueness, could have shown me anything new and different. However, when they insisted they show me their talents as a thanks for being included, I gave in. The arrangement was for me to meet their guide at the TourInform office at 10:00 am today. I was there by 9:40 with the intentions of grabbing some maps, brochures and other things for our guest supplies. Having written the book does not mean you remember that the offices do no open until 10:00 am. When the magic hour rolled around the clock, I waited not wanting to miss my guide while I was submerged in maps, pamphlets, advertisements, and other new offerings. I forgot to mention that it was cold and raining today, the chill working its way into my bones like termites into a luscious ceiling beam. By 10:30, I succumbed and went into the TourInform, just to relieve some numbness that was working its way to hypothermia. But, when I left, still no sign of a late arrived tour guide with apologies on his lips. Since I was close by, I decided to investigate the Black Tulip, a new "men's only" salon where they do facials, manicures, and body fat reducing treatments. I had read about it, but never knew exactly where it was. Not recalling the exact address, I wandered streets until I discovered the small sign that said "Ferfi" with a black tulip logo. Their display window looks like a gay S & M establishment, reminding me of the Black Tulip in Amsterdam, which is just that. Covered in black gauzy material, there is an over sized television screen showing feminine hands preparing a young man's face for facial treatments. Amongst the draped gauze where what else, but black tulips, and the products that they sell. The young man in the video could not have been more than 22 years old, was dreamily handsome, not a speck of complexion problems visible, and with the quick little smiles changing his lip contortions, were definitely self-conscious about being video taped. As I am freezing watching all of the procedures these disembodied hands are providing for this youthful model quality face, I am wondering how could anything they do improve on what nature has already created. The proof of their magic would be to have a the before, during, and after pictures of someone my age. Those stages if they worked at all, would definitely be dramatic and telling of their talents or magic. The door has a glass window, but this too is covered in black gauze preventing any view inside, thus intimidating me from entering. My fantasies remain on entering this magic kingdom only to finally make my exit looking 10 years younger. I dawdled home going this way and that, realizing I had not been on these streets since I finished the book and wanted to make sure nothing I wrote about had closed. As I was on the tram at 11:20, my phone was alerting me of a call. It was the tour guide with apologies. We have rescheduled for next week. We shall see.

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