DONSA number two. We actually got to sleep in this morning for a change which was really nice since we had taken an evening boat cruise on the Neipper River (costing us only $5 for over an hour of cruising!) with another family that is in region and then had a late dinner. After getting back to the apartment around midnight local time, we called the kids at home via Skype and talked for nearly an hour. After getting up, we had brunch at the Celentano Pizza Restaurant (“Pectopah” for those Americans who don’t read Cyrillic). I had a wonderful ham, cheese, and mushroom “pancake”, Erika’s had Nutella and nuts.. Since it was such a nice day, we decided to walk to the market to look for some clothes for the kids. The market here is roughly divided into three sections: food stuff, clothes stuff, and “stuff” stuff. The food section is up front, the clothes section is in the back, and “stuff” is in the middle. Occasionally you run into areas where they don’t seem to know the rules, but for the most part you have a fairly good idea of where to look for what you want. Since prices are set by the individual vendors they can vary greatly so don’t grab the first item you find unless you are in a hurry. The vendors at the market will negotiate for price, but only a little since they price pretty close to their bottom profit margin to begin with. Since we are unsure of the kids’ actual sizes we didn’t buy anything for them at the market and went to one of the clothing stores in a nearby mall. While the prices are more expensive then what you would find in the market, the advantage is that you can make an arrangement with the shopkeeper to exchange if it is the wrong size. However, you must make this arrangement at the time of purchase, and you must do it on the day that the shopkeeper sets for the exchange. When we were done we grabbed a bus back to the apartment. You only have three options for getting around when you are in region; walk, use a driver, and take public transportation. The easiest of course is simply to walk and this works fine if the weather cooperates and the distance is short, but for longer travel, or if the weather is bad you may need transportation. You can use the driver that is provided for your “official” adoption travel, but that can cost you as much as 700 GVN ($87.50 U.S.) a day, and it not only ties up a driver that another family may need for official travel, but the drivers have lives and families too. Public transportation here (and in the last region we were in as well as Kiev) is well developed, cheap (2 GVN will get you anywhere in the city), and reliable. It is no more crowded, hazardous, or dirty then the Metrobus system in Washington, DC. Each of the major bus stops has a route map that even Americans can figure out, and the busses are clearly marked. All the numbers are the same as ours so if nothing else you can just see which bus services the stop nearest your apartment and that’s the one you take to get home. Just like any major city there are “rush hours” where the buses get crowded by people going to and from work. If the bus is too crowded for your liking, just wait. There will be another bus in a few minutes. The only tricky part is when you pay. What we have learned is that on the yellow buses you pay when you exit, the white ones are pay when you board. We also learned last night that the buses stop running at 22:00 (I love the fact that they use a 24 hour clock here, although it does drive Erika a little crazy).We are finding that this region is no more expensive than our last adoption and actually the apartments are a bit cheaper. The apartments are, however, very similar to living in an IKEA display. We went for a walk down by the river in the early evening. The river is definitely a gathering place for the people who live here as the heat of the day begins to fade. They go there to fish, swim, walk, or just sit and enjoy watching everyone else. One of the interesting things that we saw was this young man in his late teens/early twenties go running across the sidewalk, dive over the guard rail along the river edge and, as he was heading for the water, shout in heavily accented English “I am Superman!” His buddy then ran across the sidewalk but, being either more cautious or saner, stopped at the guardrail, stepped over it and jumped feet first into the river. After our walk, we went to what is becoming one of our favorite restaurants. Something to note here is that you do tip here, and 10% seems to be the standard. One thing you may want to bring with you is a small pocket calculator, not so much to figure tips and exchange rate but to make price offers or have the vendor type in the price for you. It makes it much more convenient then trying to hold up fingers or read some bad Cyrillic script.
The evenings are cool and the streets are safe, even at 2300, which is when we were finally heading back to the apartment.