Monday, October 12, 2009

October 12, 2009: The best-laid plans o' mice and men...

Our plan today was to go to the U.S. embassy in Nikosia to apply for a new passport for me (according to the website, only open from 7:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.), and then to Ikea for a growing list of "needed" items. One potential item was some sort of brainstormed idea for a hamster cage, cheaper (or at least bigger and nicer) than the only hamster cage at the pet store we visited last week, so on the way to Nikosia, we stopped at another pet store in case they had more acceptable hamster cages. We also had something to pick up at the post office, so not knowing if it might be something big, we thought it would be better to drive there than to walk.

However, this was what happened...

We started with the pet store that we'd gone to specifically because they were reputed to have the most hamster supplies--no hamster cages at all.

Then we went to the post office. As one street was blocked off, we turned into another and I jumped out and walked to the post office. It was only an envelope, but it had come open, so I had to sign for it. (It was the invitation to my host sister's wedding in Costa Rica, which is of course cool, but as we can't go, it made me sad...) Then when I walked back to where I thought the car wasn't there. I walked back to the post office and retraced my steps, totally confused, wondering how I was ever going to figure out where we were parked, since I had obviously gotten it wrong. I wondered around several blocks, and as I returned the third or fourth time to where I thought the car had been, Jörn came driving around the corner. That WAS where he had been, but he'd had to move, because someone parked (and left) their car just opposite ours, in the narrow one-way street, so nobody could get by. Because of all the one-way streets and several of them closed because of construction, it took him quite awhile to get back--he couldn't just drive around the block.

Already running rather late, we finally headed out of town, with Helen screaming. We sang all of her favorite songs and a few others, and I finally said that it didn't matter whether we made it to the embassy, but we HAD to stop. So we stopped, filled Helen up with mama-milk, and then kept going. I suppose there were speed-limit signs on the freeway, but I didn't get the impression that my husband paid any attention to them. For that matter, nobody else did, either--we were being passed more often than not.

We found easily enough the place labled on the map as "U.S. Embassy", arriving at 10:55 a.m. Rather than try to find someplace to park, I jumped out of the car while Jörn waited, to ask if this WAS the embassy (there was plenty of barbed wire and several soldiers on duty, but it seemed rather strange that there was a Cypriot flag and a Greek flag, but no U.S. flag...), and if I could still get in 5 minutes before closing time. Well, it wasn't--it was a Cypriot army base, and has been for a very long time. They could tell me that the U.S. embassy was somewhere completely different, but not how to get there.

So although now it was obviously too late, we thought we'd at least head for the other side of town, near the presidential palace and the German embassy, to see if we could find the U.S. embassy to be able to get there more easily another day. We actually found it very easily--it had a huge flag, flying high, which my husband spotted from the next street. (And my German-born children started singing "The Star-Spangled Banner" when they saw it, which despite my 19 years outside of the U.S. and my general lack of patriotism, I thought was pretty cool!) Again, my husband stopped the car and I jumped out to ask the lady on duty if there was any chance that the website was wrong and I could still get in, although it was 11:15. Well, the website was wrong: for U.S. citizens, the embassy is open from 7:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., every day except for Cypriot and U.S. holidays. Today happens to be a U.S. holiday. I thought about it for a moment and said, "Oh...Columbus Day?" but the lady didn't know--she's from Romania and has lived in Cyprus for 20 years. This happens to be my 20th October outside of the U.S. (making it more than half of my Octobers, as this is my 39th October...), the 19th consecutive one, so I'm not too up on U.S. holidays.

Back in the car, and we went to Ikea. We did find some of the stuff on our list, and some that wasn't, but several things that were on our list were not to be found. That's fairly typical of a trip to Ikea, so I suppose not so bad. And I'll be going to Nikosia again at least twice in the relatively near future--once to apply for my passport and once to pick it up--so I can stop by Ikea again.

I did get something to use as a base for the hamster cages (Jacob and Lukas are both getting hamsters...), but still have to go to a hardware/DIY store for heavy wire mesh, and then figure out how to attach it, etc.

When we got home, I wanted to put the passport application and all of our passports away, and couldn't find the photos that I had taken last week. They were nowhere to be found--not in my bag, not in the car. I even looked through all of the pages of all six passports (Jörn had his own in his own bag--I only had the children's and mine) and the three books in my bag, and finally cleaned out the car. I had everything on my lap between the not-embassy and the actual embassy, and my suspicion is that when I picked up my passport, wallet, and passport application to jump out of the car the second time, I missed the photos, so they fell off my lap (and out of the car) as I got out, and are now on the ground across the street from the U.S. embassy. I HATE having my photo taken, and it was actually the best passport photo I'd ever gotten (depsite the huge pimple on my chin), because Jacob was with me and made me laugh right before the photo was taken. Now I'm feeling sulky (because of the cost and the fact of another photo at all) and have to go get more expensive stupid-sized photos taken, so it will be a much more typical photo that I'll be stuck with for the next 10 years. (The U.S. requires 5 cm by 5 cm--and then CUTS THEM DOWN TO THE EXACT SAME SIZE AS EUROPEAN PASSPORT PHOTOS!!!! So I always have to pay extra for the weird size and only get two photos instead of four. For a short time (I think Marie's second passport and Lukas's first, in the summer of 2002), they did accept European passport photos, but mostly I've had to get the U.S.-size ones--that's 11 passports just in the last 12 years, and two more are due for renewals next year.)

I was about to say that I'm finished with my whining for tonight, and then the computer erased that sentence for me, which reminded me that I'm on the "new laptop", which likes to erase things if I bump it just right, because the "old laptop", which I like much better when it is working, is not working again.

Now I'll stop, and go to bed early. Tomorrow has to be a better day.

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