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
was...it 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
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.