03 November, 2009

Today - the scary stuff

And I don't just meant the coffee shop we stopped in on what turned out to be a seedy section of Market Street. Actually it was fine, but let's just say that we wouldn't want to live round there.

Anyway, to begin at the beginning. We had "business" to do today which meant the day was incredibly dull for the girls and very stressful for us. We still haven't solved the phone business and as my old one doesn't work in the States, we are doing everything together.

First stop was the MUNI. I'm still uncertain whether locals say "Mewni" as in cats or "Mooni" as in cows. Either way this proved to be the day's first challenge. Please, any SF locals reading this don't take it the wrong way. I'm sure you are way ahead of the rest of the States in terms of public transport, but well, your ticket purchasing systems have left quite a lot of room for improvement. We were using the "underground" or "light rail" system into downtown. You put quarters or dollar coins into the slot on the actual gate. The office at the station doesn't give you change or the ticket. And there's a machine to "make change" but it only takes 1 dollar and 5 dollar bills. So there we were with 20 dollar bills unable to buy tickets.

There are other ways to get tickets. You can get a monthly pass. When they say monthly, they mean calendar month. You can only purchase them online at certain times of the month as they start on the 1st for everyone. Buying one on any day and having it expire one month to the day later is a concept which hasn't reached the MUNI. No comment.

You can also apparently buy an electronic card similar to the Oyster of London. I heard about this from the nice man at my bank in Burlingame. You won't get any information from a MUNI station because they don't carry any. And naturally they can't sell any to you. It's also not entirely clear how much of the MUNI transit system it covers yet but as a fan of Oyster (apparently Hong Kong has the Octopus which is the same) it is what I want. We shall see if I ever manage to get one.

Anyway, once we'd made an unnecessary purchase in order to get enough small change, we got our tickets and got on the clean, quick and relatively empty train into town.

n.b. On the way home, we had to get change again and this time there was no machine to change 1 and 5 dollar bills. You have to use the BART machine to do it. There's no sign that I could see telling you this, you just have to know...

First stop was the San Francisco Unified School District. They were very helpful and it turns out we came in the right week as it was quiet and we could see someone straightaway. Next week will be manic. She was also able to give us a list of schools with slots for both our girls. I won't go into which or where or whatever. Suffice to say, it isn't long and includes lots of schools we aren't interested in and few that we are. We shall see. At least we know now and can visit accordingly.

Next stop was the Social Security Office so we walked down Market Street. Not nice at this particular spot. And we couldn't find the office until a very nice man helped us out. We keep meeting very nice and helpful friendly people. He was lovely. So was the security guard at the SSO who tipped us off that 4pm was the quickest time to visit. We left after a long wait and no luck and two increasingly difficult children. Social Security Offices are never pleasant places to be. It's been a while since I had to go to one in the UK - it is hard to watch unfortunate and desperate people not getting what they want and not getting it slowly.

That almost wrapped up the day apart from a stop in the Verizon wireless shop to discuss yet another phone option. They don't want my first born but the deposit is still substantial. They were also thoroughly pleasant, helpful and friendly.

And then homeward after a brief lunch and a visit to Borders in Union Square which though only a few blocks from Market Street and 7th and 5th, is a completely different world. All designer labels and smart hotels.

We walked a lot today. More than most people would have but we were being resolutely British about it. Now my feet ache.


BilboWaggins said...

Excellent post Elaine, this is the real and unreported side of relocating to another country. It's hard, it's difficult and it is exhausting. What do the girls make of all this?

Thinking of you, all the way from completely water-logged Cumbria.

just Gai said...

It sounds as if you are having a hard time settling in to your new life, but I hope that the lovely people you are meeting along the way will keep you going.

And keep blogging about it. I feel sure it will help.

Elizabeth Musgrave said...

Glad to know you are meeting friendly and helpful people. I remember so vividly from when I was a child and we emigrated to New Zealand and everything was strange. Essentially it was ok because my family was my security. Sure it will be the same for your girls. Good luck with it all. Hope you are having the odd glass of wine in the evenings!