In order to keep my U.S. phone number, I switched it to a prepaid account and have to top it up every three months to keep it active even though I'm not actually using it (haven't turned it on since the first week I arrived). I tried to top it through the T-mobile website and that failed. I tried it again and it failed. I discovered it is free to call toll-free U.S. numbers through my Viber app, so I called the refill number which the online chat rep had advised and tried that way which failed. I called my credit card company to make sure it wasn't on their end. I then called T-mobile's customer service number and after three people and having to go through a credit card verification (which was the reason it was failing), it finally worked. So, the point of sharing this is to advertise the good news that while abroad, if you have internet access, you can call your credit card and other customer service companies for free through their toll-free numbers with the Viber app.
While we missed out on the Black Friday shopping experience, one of the Walmart-like stores here, Warehouse, which has a red logo, had a "Red Friday" 1-day sale on Friday. There were more people there than usual, but Warehouse hadn't quite learned the tactic of placing the deals throughout the store to force you to go through the store and decide to pick up other things. All of the deals were on pallets up at the front. So we grabbed the two folding tables we wanted, checked out, and were out of there in 15 minutes. Not too bad.
That evening, we went to our first Operation Friendship dinner for international students hosted by a local church at one of its member's houses. We also had to bring a wrapped gift for a gift exchange since it was the last one of the year. There was a sizable group - 45 - with international students from all over (Iran, India, Korea, Malaysia, Serbia) and older folks from the church. They encouraged mingling through a meet-as-many-people-as-you-can game. Dinner was a potluck of leftovers from someone's Thanksgiving party and other dishes like casseroles and vegetables. Dessert included chocolate cake and ice cream which I haven't had in a long time. I enjoyed meeting a variety of new people and had a somewhat intense conversation about U.S. immigration policies with a guy from India. He said it was good to get a different perspective than the media's.
This theme has been increasingly apparent as I realize how much we are all at the mercy of what gets reported in the news. I may be quite ignorant of a lot of what's happening in the rest of the world - especially since we aren't subscribing to a newspaper anymore - but most people know or at least think they know what's going on in the U.S. because certain stories make headlines. Yet I find that people's opinions are so often just based on a tiny snippet of information and nowhere near the whole story, or are missing a crucial opposing viewpoint, at least in terms of my perspective as it's my home country. This is good in a way because it forces me to reflect that this happens in reverse when I see media coverage of something happening in another country and think I have it figured out or form an opinion based on one article. It doesn't mean we can really help it, but it can help us keep an open mind when someone challenges our beliefs or opinions.
Saturday was the American Club's annual Thanksgiving party where they supplied the turkeys (super expensive here - $50-$70) and we all were supposed to bring a plate of food to share. I made pumpkin cheesecakes (gluten-free with some yummy hokey-pokey flavor cookies for the crust) in cupcake liners and they turned out great. We met up with the cool British couple and their kids whom we had met at the Halloween party last month. The guy even lent me a couple of his British science fiction books to check out. I let myself indulge a bit and got a big plateful of food and tried several desserts (pumpkin pie with whipped cream, warm berry pie with whipped cream, some kind of meringue-type cake, and a brownie).
|notice how plain the picky eater's plate is|
Tomorrow begins the last month of the year. December already!
|uncovered strawberry plants|