Friday, January 24, 2014

Today it is snowing, and I switched my big heavy coat for a down one that packed more easily. Not a good choice on reflection while walking. I have not been writing much because I have not done much. I have, however, established a daily routine, at least until I begin teaching in the middle of February.

Our alarm goes off at 6:30am and my son and I get up, eat breakfast and gear up for the walk to the bus stop.  It's about a 5 minute walk- not that big of a deal.  We try to make the 7:24am bus (but sometimes have to take the 7:54) to go about 5 stops to his school.  I then walk back.  Depending on the route I take, I am back in about 20-40 minutes.

I then work for a few hours (readying papers for upcoming presentations) and then head out about noon to explore.  I then head back to the school to pick up my son by 2pm. After school we do errands, or explore/play etc.

Sounds pretty lame.  However, I determined it was more important to put him in school and give him structure, then to traipse around all day long.  Once I begin working, I will have much more to do.

A couple of points about living here:

Grocery Shopping:
Having no car means I can only get groceries that I can carry.  This means we go to the story about every third day. Going to the grocery store is like a 45 minutes deal, because it takes me forever to determine what I am purchasing due to the language difference.  For example, Caden wants pancakes for breakfast.  They do not have pancake mix (that I can find), so I buy flour and baking soda/power etc.  Finding baking soda and power was a quest in itself!  Finding good bread is also difficult- and I have not mastered that yet!

One of the smartest things I did was bring re-usable bags with me.  (This will be the first and only time I thank Joseph Roberts for the plastic bag ban in Barrington.  Because of the ban, I got a bunch of Shaw's reusable bags for free--and they are with me in Nitra.)  These bags make it much easier for us. As you can see, I am quite stylish carrying my American bags home from the store.

They have grocery stores, and they have Tesco's (think Walmart).  There are two Tesco's in town: the little one and the "big one".  The big one is similar to a Super Target. They have American brands there. THis last fact is important when it comes to Ketchup. Slovakian Ketchup is almost like weak cocktail sauce.  We had to go back to get good ol' Heinz.

I don't feel things are expensive here.  Eggs are a bit more then home, and the frozen food is also.  Other then that, most food is cheaper.  I will say, however, the portions are much smaller.  So, I guess pound to pound it's about equal.

The busses here are great!  They go often and to everywhere. They run pretty close to schedule, and cost .70 Euro per trip for me and .40 Euro for my son.  However, we bought a bus pass for three months (50 Euro for me, 30 for Caden) that allows us unlimited use.  The card is a hard plastic card that you just put on the scanner every time you enter.   We can add months to it to get us through our stay here.  Caden's has his picture on it as he is a minor.  There are no school busses, so kids take city busses.  from about fourth grade, they appear to get themselves to school and back. Despite this, I will take Caden to and fro every day. Purchasing the bus card was a bit difficult, and the only way I figured it out was because we met some Mormon Missionaries our second day here, and they were able to assist me. The place to purchase the passes is in a building with a bunch of stores and flea-market stuff.  It's was on the top floor, in a corner room and the stair cases were hard to find!  Once there, they spoke broken English, but we got it done.  You have to bring your passports to do all of this, which I had luckily read on a blog somewhere.

It's EVERYWHERE.  I hate it, and I can't escape it. You have to be 21 one purchase cigarettes though- and apparently it's a rite of passage here.  There is NO anti-smoking propaganda.  Also most of the cigarettes are American.  This in itself makes statement about American tobacco interests....

The washing machines are tiny. Seriously.  They also take a very long time to wash, and I have a new one. Dryers are rare. Hanging racks are required.  Mine is a big one, and pretty much hangs out in the living room as I do laundry about every other day, and it takes a day to dry.

It's difficult. Some people speak German, so I can get basic things (not that I know German, but I know words for things: bed, tree, shoes, my name is, where is, etc), but Slovakian is difficult for me. Lots of hand gestures. In all seriousness, I know about five words:

Thank you:  (Dak-we-em) ďakujem
Please: (proseem) prosím
Constantine  the Philosopher University; (ooo-Ka-F) UKF
Hello: (ahoy) ahoj
Goodbye: (zah-bo-home) zbohom
Good day: (Dough-brie jen) dobrý deň.

As it's a university town. there are students all over the place.  Most of them speak English, so when I need help, I ask the college student demographic. Also all kids here learn English in school. From about sixth grade, most can speak fairly well. I have had conversations with many of the young kids waiting for the bus.


Anonymous said...

Hello-- I am an adjunct prof with RWU's education dept who is reading your blog on Slovakia with great interest. My husband's mother was of Slovakian heritage, and it is one of the countries we would like to visit. I just thought you would like to know there are many ways your blog touches others. I wish you and your son a wonderful experience. Keep your excellent descriptions coming!

the old man in south texas said...

Ahhh the fun of living in Europe. The memories I have of doing that some good and some bad. When people go there on vacations they stay for a short time where there are tourist all the time. But when you have to live there and in a town that is away from the usual touristy things for any period of time its a lot different. When you get back to the U.S. remember what you had to do to say just do your laundry. And then do it here you'll notice the difference. Just think before you know it, it will be time to return home. Keep smiling and hug the Wildman for me.

carmen de leon said...

Goodness, I always think of Slovakia as a place where there are thousands of crisp, sugar, syrupy cookies. I wish I was walking in your shoes. It is so warm over here, I have worn my cape about 4 or 5 times. The weather is crisp above 38 degrees.

Betsy said...

Mormon missionaries to the rescue! That's funny. Glad you found someone to help.

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