04 August, 2012
Today is what we call a DONSA in the Army. It means “Day Of No Scheduled Activity”. To normal people, that would mean sleeping in/leisurely “start-the-day” kind of stuff … Nahw! It was “meet me downstairs at 07:30 so we can get to the market” (we had run out of “green groceries”). A quick bus ride to the city center put us at a HUGE outdoor market. One of the things you learn pretty quickly here is that if you want good, cheap produce go to the open markets. This particular one is what all the Farmer’s Markets in the U.S. strive to be! Vegetables, tree fruits, vine fruits, berries, nuts, tubers, beans, grains, herbs, spices, baked goods … whatever you wanted or needed was there and in abundance. As always the cost of the produce was well below that which I had expected to pay and the quality so much higher than I expected to find. After taking our stash back to the apartment we were told that around lunch we would take my suit to the cleaners. One of our drivers had done research on dry cleaners here in the city until he located one that used “American style” cleaning processes and guaranteed that they could have it back by Tuesday (just another example of how most of the people here are anxious to help and will often go well beyond what you ask or expect). The cost was about the same as you would pay back in the U.S.. While we are talking about funds let me make this recommendation: at the very beginning of your process set up a separate adoption funds account at your bank. This is the account that all of your grants, FSP, direct donations from friends, etc. monies will go to. That way you have clear separation of accounts for expenses that are directly related to the adoption (USCIS, fingerprints, facilitation fees, travel expenses, etc.) and other incidental expenses (toys for the kids, gifts for friends/relatives, a special meal or event, etc.). This way you can clearly show to anyone who may challenge you that you did not “inappropriately” spend any of the donated funds. As sad as it is that people would think this way, it does happen. Using the ATMs here (known as the “bankomat”) is no more hazardous than using the ATMs at home. They are very convenient since you automatically get the day’s exchange rate, they are never on an extended lunch, and you don’t have to turn over your passport for scrutiny each time you would like to get additional funds. Do confine your ATM use to those that are either inside a place of business, or one of the major banks here and exercise the normal precautions that you would take in the U.S.. Something to remember while you are here is that a little gratitude goes a very long way. Always be polite and thank people when they do anything for you, regardless of how small. When appropriate, a small gift (plants and flowers are good choices since they are relatively inexpensive and have no real monetary value of their own) that can be displayed and will act as a reminder to the person of your gratitude can smooth many “bumps” in the administrative road. Since this seems to be taking on the flavor of an advice column, here’s a couple more:
Eat salads as often as you can. Not only are they good and good for you, but they will help you remain hydrated and balance your electrolytes. It is very easy to become unbalanced (in oh so many ways!) during international travel and water is not always conveniently at hand.
Drink the bottled water in moderation. While it is perfectly safe, it is still different so you need to spread it out over the day so your GI system can adjust. Be aware that it comes in “gas” and “no gas” so order appropriately. Your water intake should be about two liters a day (about 64 ozs for us Americans) which very few of us get just from drinking.
Pancakes here = Crepes at home. They come in sweet and salty/savory. Do eat them when you are here! (Onion, mushroom and cheese is a personal favorite!)
Order your pizza with ham or salami. Pepperoni does not seem to have any definitive definition here and you are pretty much rolling the dice on what you are going to get if you ask for it.
DO NOT JAYWALK!!! Pedestrians in the crosswalk have the right of way; pedestrians outside the crosswalk are aiming points. The penalty for jaywalking here is death and the sentence is usually carried out immediately!
Jaywalking - part deaux; If the crosswalk does not have electronic walk/don’t walk signs you can cross when you would like. Even though it may not seem like it, the traffic WILL stop. If the crosswalk does have electronic walk/don’t walk signs, OBEY THE SIGNS! (see above for penalty of violation)
All for today, time for dinner … Yum!!