Monday, June 13, 2005

Tests & Trials Along with a Few Surprises

Hi there! Thanks for coming back. I'm sorry I've let a week pass by. My family and I are getting ready to go on vacation, so things are a bit crazy at the moment and will remain so through mid-July. I plan to keep posting while on vacation, so be sure to keep checking back.

For those of you regualar returnees, thank you. My prayer is that this blog will bless you as you see the mighty hand of God. And a mighty hand it is indeed. If you're a first time visitor, my prayer is the same. May you all be richly blessed by God. He is AWESOME!

So, it's time to transition into a slightly different direction. You've read so far how my family and I wound up living in Switzerland. Now I want to tell you about some of the amazing things God did while we were there.

Here's one of the first ones.

Shopping in Zürich can be a real challenge for an American. We have grown accustomed to getting what we want when we want it, even at all hours of the night. This is not the case in Switzerland, and in most of Europe for that matter. Shops close early during the week, though some might stay open until 8pm on Thursday evenings. This is a recent consideration to accomodate the working class. Otherwise, the main day for most people to shop is Saturday. And only until about 4pm. Needless to say, if you work full time in Switzerland, your Saturdays are spent fighting crowds, and I do mean crowds, just to get your staples for the week.

I don't like crowds. I don't like grocery shopping. I was very thankful I could do it in the morning during the week. Lighter crowds then. Let me expound on crowds a moment. You know how your favorite mall gets so crowded at Chistmas time? I mean, December 24th-crowded in a densley populated US city? Well, guess what? That's a normal Saturday in Zürich to shop. What's it like at Christmas time? Ever opened a sardine can? I think you have the picture. And I can reassure you, I am NOT exaggerating.

Okay, back to the first of these interesting stories. I was, guess where? Yes, grocery shopping. Mom, the girls and I found this shopping-mall-like-place (malls are a fairly new concept there). We shopped a little, then went to do our grocery shopping at the Migro, which is like saying Albertsons or Kroger.

Funny thing about Migro. They came in all sizes. If the store had a single large M outside, is was a basic store. Sometimes as small as a large living room. Two Ms meant a bigger store with larger selection. Three Ms was a superstore, which included household items as well. This was a two Mer. I was actually relieved to find a bigger store with more choices. Our US grocery store aisles devoted only to hair products would be considered outrageous there.

I happily filled my cart and got in line to pay. This was one of my first times to shop without the security of my husband, so I really wasn't completely aware of how things worked. And I had no clue how much money I was spending since I still was unaccustomed to the Swiss Frank. I went through the line, and guess what? I didn't have enough money. And all I had was a bank card, which was only usable in an ATM machine.

I knew how this worked in the US, but what about in a foreign country? Did they arrest you, get mad at you, throw you out? I tried not to panic. I looked the young woman in the face and did my best to explain what happened. Well, you don't put things back there. I couldn't anyway, because I was way over the cash in my wallet.

Luckily the mall we were in had a branch of the bank we dealt with, and ATM machines. I only had a bank card at the time, which meant I could only use machines that belonged to my bank, UBS. I asked if I could quickly run over and get some cash out of the machine. The cashier told me, no problem. She even smiled at me. Whew! I left my girls with my mother and trotted off to the ATM.

Relieved that a potentially sticky situation had been so easily diffused, I stuck my card into the ATM machine and got my finger ready to punch in the code. The machine promptly spit out my card and told me I couldn't use it there. Why? I had before. I looked at the bank doors and saw they were closed. I walked up closer to read the posted sign.

My heart dropped. The bank was no longer UBS, but CO-OP. There I stood, stranded. No money, a basketful of unpaid gorceries waiting with my family, and absolutely no idea what to do next.

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