This is the third time that I have moved and settled in to a new country. Some of the things I have learned while doing this:
1. Ikea is in almost every country in the world and it is amazing. It is so nice to have a familiar home and furniture store to go to where I can find what I need.
2. Feeling “settled” is key to feeling more at home and comfortable. This time I have had the opportunity to get “settled”. Because I do not have a job yet, I was first unpacking and cleaning and arranging furniture. More recently, I have been making final trips to Ikea and other stores to get the last items we need. Being far away from home in a new country where I don’t speak the language is tough so it is important to make a place that is home for us.
3. Running errands is a momentous job at first. To figure out where to get passport photos taken, get a key cut, get good vegetables and fruit, or get a pair of rubber boots can be almost impossible when you don’t have a department store or if you don’t know the name of the store. I have made 3-4 trips to a place called Mammut in Budapest. It is a mall. There are two of them across the street from each, Mammut I and Mammut II. I have gone around and around these buildings searching for the places I need to go. Luckily there are maps that I can use but usually when I figure out where I need to go, I find out that I am about as far away from that point as I can get. So I walk to that place, then I find that happens for the next place I need to go to. I allow myself plenty of time for these trips to Mammut! I am most grateful that most of the “errands” I need to go can be done be in this one location. I am also grateful that the maps in the mall are available in English and that most of the people who work in the mall speak some English so I can ask for help. Yesterday, I had a wonderful new friend give me a guided tour of the mall and the market that is behind the mall, as well as a small spice shop where I can various items that might not be available in other stores. She showed me great places to get certain things and it makes me so happy. It makes life so much easier! I think my perspective of this task of “running errands” is somewhat jaded since I am coming from Shanghai where doing these types of things tended to monumentally difficult because there were no malls and few people who spoke English. It was often easier to just not do the task! I am so thankful for many of the little things that are so much easier now!
4. Figuring out the lay of the land and how to get around is important. Until I feel comfortable moving around the city, knowing I won’t get lost, I usually stay very close to home and miss out on exploring a new place. Learning how to move around Budapest has been greatly enhanced by a smart phone app called “Smart City”. I use this by inputting the address I am starting from and the address I am going to, and the app calculates the best route to get there by public transportation. It tells me exactly which bus, tram, or subway to take and how long to walk to the final destination. The best part is that it will track me while I am on the journey so I know immediately if I am taking a wrong turn. I have used this app numerous times and I can easily get almost anywhere in the city. The ease of the public transportation system also helps to make moving around the city enormously better.
5. Niall and I have been exploring our immediate neighbourhood. We did a mini pub crawl last Monday night and we discovered several great little places to go to that otherwise we would have completely missed. The first place was a very modern and classy bar. The second was a much less classy, bar/dance club. The third and fourth places were both pub/bars where we walked downstairs to the basement and there it opened up into a clean, nicely decorated large room. Each of these places looked run down from the outside but great on the inside. Both of them are across the street from us and just do not look like what I expect a place like that to look like. Lesson learned: explore everything because you don’t know what kind of gems you can find.