Our Grocery Delights At 10:00 this morning, the phone was ringing. It is still a strange sound to us when it happens in our own apartment. Since we know so few people, we are strangely suspicious when it rings. Who could be calling us, we wonder? It was a language school calling in response to my e-mail. The female director is interested in my skills. They offer classes to businesses, exclusively. The school only hires contractors, not employees, a move I can identify with having done the same with my own business for the last ten years. She would like to interview me around the middle of January. That is perfect timing for me. I explained that we did have Europass train tickets to use before they expired, so if I did not hear from her, I would call. Shortly after the first call, the phone rang once again. A headmistress of a gimnazium needs a teacher for September. This is a high school. We too arranged for an interview for later in January. Her concern was that I would not be around by September. I shared that my concern was not finding something in the meanwhile that would allow me the needed paperwork to stay around until that time. Hopefully, this tread of calls will continue. I did received a couple of e-mails that stated their school requires a certificate for Teaching English as a Second Language regardless of what academic credentials you have earned. For these, Ron is the perfect one to do some follow-up.Iboyla had told us that there is still a whole other world of grocery shopping in the basement of the great market. We had never gone down there, so we were eagerly anticipating what we may find, lured with the assurance that we would find such riches as balsamic vinegar. Who could resist such a treasure hunt? With our shopping bags in hand, off we went to the market to fill our sparsely filled cupboards with yet more staples. The market itself is huge and overwhelmingly filled with booths of butchers, bakers, vegetable and fruit stands, fish marketers, candy sellers, and spice traders. We have never completed the entire offerings, since before we were residents, the tourist novelty wore off long before we completed a circuit. Now that we were temporary citizens, we do not have the patience or memory to do the comparative shopping of the expert ladies that can make a beeline to their favorites. We are still working on determining who will be our favorites and win our loyalty for the long term. By-passing the first floor to dig deeper into the underground of new discovered booty, we take the escalator to the basement. At the bottom of the stairs is a Smatch store. This is the local chain grocery store where we sometimes shop within our neighborhood. Fully disappointed in finding an ordinary store nestled under the non-traditional market above, we baited by and cheated by the mundane offerings of convenience. That was a fleeting moment though, as we soon realized that to the side of the Smatch store, there yet existed another world. A world that included the commonality of established shops with the diversion of sellers in their makeshift booths co-existing side by side. It was there that we found vegetable stands that sold sauerkraut fresh from the barrel and sold by weight, stuffed peppers of various types filled with sauerkraut, different types of coleslaw, pickles, olives, and some cheeses. There was a traditional store that sold brands that we recognized and items that we knew how to use. One wall was lined with spices of every imaginable type in little cellophane packets, but identified with letter combinations that were incomprehensible to us. It was here that we found endive for twenty-five cents a head, chili spice mix, balsamic vinegar, six types of rice, couscous, and assorted other goodies that we have felt deprived of, some not until we saw them sitting on the shelves. We filled our hand held basket and then filled our shopping bags with our reward from investigative shopping. We trolled the booths looking for more goodies that we may not have been able to live without once we identify them and the price. We bought a flecked black and white enameled baking pan for $2.00 at one booth, at the butcher’s three types of sausage found their way into our basket. It was getting close to Christmas, so we felt a need to stock up more than usual. Christmas falls on a Tuesday this year, so everything will be closed by 1:00 pm on Christmas Eve, then closed Christmas and the day after. It is not called Boxing Day like in the United Kingdom, but it is an official holiday. We will not starve for the next few days. Another discovery that was worth its weight in gold was finding fabric softener. The cute little Snuggles teddy bear picture was on the label. That was the first clue as to the contents of this bottle of lime green liquid. The Snuggles bear was caressing a soft looking blanket, so we felt satisfied that this was indeed some ingredient that would make our clothes and towels feel softer than gravel. We had a choice of Mandarin and Green Tea scent or some other exotic combinations. With our loads in hand, we walked to the Central Café, one of the oldest coffee cafés in Budapest for a bit of relaxation prior to trekking home again. It is a beautiful building that reeks of elegance and is obviously, where the people of money congregate to sip java and tea. As we were leaving, we realized that we seated ourselves in the restaurant area and the coffee only area was on the other side. That explained the look we received when we said we did not want to order food. Now we know for next time. On the way home, we stopped at the Christmas market to pick up some cookies. Our friend Dawn had given us the name of a co-worker of hers, Hugh, who lives in Budapest with his partner, Mark. She said they were going to be around for the holidays and we should get in touch with them. When we arrived in the warmth of our apartment, Ron made the call. They are coming over tomorrow and we will go out for coffee. We booked a Christmas Eve dinner buffet at the Inter-Continental restaurant. The cost was about $20.00 per person and the menu was quite extensive. It will give some festivity to the holiday, we hope. Speaking of which, the Christmas market had a living crèche complete with burros, cows, sheep, and people. While we were there, they had a live reenactment of the holy scene. Two walls of ‘boulders’ covered the crèche. An adult angel opened the walls with the assistance of the littlest angel to expose Mary and Joseph with what I hope was just a doll. If it was a real child, it was a case for child abuse considering the temperature. Shortly thereafter, three wise men all decked out in colorful costumes, fancy headdresses, and dripping in gold ornamentation arrived with three live camels which looked less than thrilled to be here. They reenacted the story that we are all so familiar with and they presented their gifts to the family. It was short, but impressive as they went to quite a bit of trouble to make it look so authentic. This prompted Ron to check out the times for midnight mass at the church that was having services in English, so I took the goodie bags home. When he returned, he was disappointed to find that the church was Scottish rite and not Roman Catholic.