(Posting by Ray)
After a crazy whirlwind of a week, I stopped by the little convenience store at the Embassy and purchased some comforts of home — an over-sized American coffee creamer (I call it Creamate; bought some for our new friends who were admiring ours), as well as a large box of microwave popcorn, and some peanut butter. Everything here is miniature. Take all of the groceries you usually buy and shrink them to 2/3rds the size. Also, everyone visits the grocery store at least once per day to pick up their daily staples. Initial observations: cheese and bread are delicious, everything is much smaller in size, and you can get by with much less than you think you need, buy in bulk to save trips, also everything is SUPER EXPENSIVE! We have several local grocers and supermarkets within a mile of our house. The grocer is like a blast from 1950 — the corner shop, everyone knows the owner, and it is a maze of products — a handful of each — stacked up to the rafters and probably through the ceiling. If you are looking for something, they probably have it — it may be the only one in the store, however. The “proper” supermarket has everything. We have a Marks and Spencer supermarket nearby which Krista has equated to Trader Joe’s and a Waitrose which she has equated to Harris Teeter. (Ray still has not been to the proper supermarket yet, however, he aspires to go.)
The British have unusual descriptors for food and inanimate objects such as “glorious” and “beautiful” as well as the commonly used “brilliant.” For example, their produce really is beautiful. Taco Bell — just love it, brilliant. For products where there is no identifiable American equivalent, just roll the dice and try to use the pictures on the box to make an assessment as to if it is what you think it is, and if it is of good quality. In short, grocery shopping is somewhat of a sub-culture — you have to learn the ropes. They also have various “schemes” to save you money (shopper’s cards, etc.), however, at the moment that is a bridge too far, even for experienced Arab traders like ourselves. We also spent a good chunk of time trying to figure out how exactly to use our appliances –a real challenge. Our first load of laundry took about four hours to wash — not sure why. Hot and Cold Water handles are on opposite sides — which can pose some natural challenges. The dryer took equally as long. There are buttons we have never seen before. One button on the washer says 100 — that would make the hot water something like 240 degrees. Seems a bit too hot for laundry to me. The dryer makes a nice soothing sound and provides white noise (good to sleep to) — but that’s the problem, it never turns off! We also have an “electric kettle” which are phenomenal — why they don’t exist in the States is beyond me. You can boil water in what seems to be seconds — miraculous.
When they say it rains a lot here the mean it! It has been raining since we arrived with bursts of glorious sunshine every now and then. Our neighborhood is wonderful — feels a bit like America meets The Shire. We have hedgerows everywhere and lots of interesting homes and gardens. Zach’s new best friends Olivia (Olly) and Alex are coming over to play — they are going decorate the large air freight boxes turning them into works of art. We are taking it easy this weekend — recuperating. We have a neighborhood welcome BBQ tomorrow. I can hear Zach outside right now — it has been a wonderful sight watching him ride his scooter up and down the sidewalks. He has acclimated just fine. He is having blast with his new friends. Today we constructed houses out of our over-sized air freight boxes. The children each made their own “designer” Hampstead Garden Suburb home. They had mail slots, window panes, welcome mats, aquariums, buzzers, and flowers. Krista and I spent most of time cutting out doors and windows and sending the children “mail” in their slots with messages concerning ice cream and tea. At the end, they put the houses together and created a neighborhood complete with a blanket over the top for good effect. Cute!