So I’d arrived on a Sunday, two days before a holiday, to find a nice apartment which was lacking several things I’d need on a day to day basis: dishes, kitchen utensils, sheets and towels. The plan was to comparison shop for these things before buying. My boss and I would stop first at a nearby international supermarket chain, check out Ikea, and then return to the first place if necessary.
The supermarket was in a shopping mall, and I immediately felt like I was back in the US and not in Eastern Europe. We first bought a city map and had a coffee while locating all the important landmarks like my flat, the school, and a few grocery stores. I made careful notes so I would avoid the constant “getting lost” phenomenon which has plagued me nearly everywhere I’ve traveled or lived. Next we bought a SIM card for my phone because the apartment didn’t have a landline. And then onto the business of stocking my kitchen. Ikea had the best price on everything except pots and pans. As we passed through several sections, I surprised my boss by more or less insisting on the cheapest option, adhering to my budget traveler philosophy.
He pushed the cart and I walked alongside. I was glad to have help and it probably saved me several hours and return trips, but really, picking out bedsheets and pillows with the new boss I’d met a few hours before was odd. It was time to wrap things up.
By the time we had checked out of Ikea, the boss paying and letting me know we would split it and work it out when I got my first paycheck, I was definitely waning. I’d spent the last two nights in transit and was still adjusting to a seven hour time difference. But we still needed to have lunch, buy the pots and pans, activate my mobile, and identify the grocery stores that would be open on a Sunday.
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All this done, I returned to my flat. It was larger than any apartment I’d lived in while in the US, with an entryway, bathroom, two closet-like rooms for the fridge and for the toilet (all by itself), a large kitchen and combination bedroom and living room. There were no less than five armoires which were similar but not identical, and a couch and two armchairs. And something which makes an Eastern European flat truly special: a washing machine. It was not working at the moment, but that didn’t take away from the excitement.
The first order of business, however, was a nap.