|Living here is an adventure! It's really not
as difficult as you may think. Somehow, people live, and even flourish here.
How they "flourish" is another subject all together... Anyway, let me address
some problems you may meet here.
The majority of problems will be of the measurement kind, especially if
you are not European. We don't have pounds here, but kilograms; not inches
- centimeters, not feet - meters, not miles - kilometers. And we have sizes
for every part of your body... I personally don't even try to remember mine,
I simply ask consultants at the store - they know everything. The only size
I know is the size of my shoes. Next comes currency and money.
This part really is an adventure. In the Republic of Belarus, there are
several rates for each currency. The National Bank's rate, a Commercial
Bank rate, a Commercial Bank Non-cash rate, and a black-market rate. The
last was the best deal... Now they are more or less equal, though only several
months these were 4 different rates:
NBrate $1=1040 Belarussian Rubles
CBrate $1=1050 BR (this is also a credit card rate)
CBNrate $1=1050 BR
BMrate $1=1100 BR
You may ask me, "What is this all about? Is it a math class?" Well, before
coming here, brush up on your arithemetic, anyway. Several stores accept
USdollars as a method of payment at a rate which is close to that of the
Commercial Bank rate. You can bring not only cash, but travellers checks,
or a credit card (i.e. Visa, MasterCard, American Express). Banks accept
all of these. Here are the names and addresses of banks which will take
your travellers checks, cards, etc. and help you to transfer money anywhere
in the world (via Western Union):
Belarus, Minsk, Moskovskaya str. 13, 2nd floor
Belarus, Minsk, Myasnikova str.32
That's about all for money. Questions? Write
me, I'll try to answer.
Next comes housing. Housing is even more fun. You won't experience any problems
in finding an apartment here. You can rent a one-room apartment for $40-$300
per month. The latter figure stands for an apartment in the center of the
city with phone, security system and stuff like that, and the former figure
stands for an apartment in desperate need of renovating and is located somewhere
inconvenient to public transportation and civilization. Fortunately, there
are many apartments that can be found in between those figures. Two-room
apartments start from $70/month. Will you need more than 2 rooms? How many
of you guys are coming here?:)
In a dormitory, you'll pay about $5 dollars for a bed in a room with 2-3
more people. Almost all dormitories were constructed not long ago, so most
of them will probably have electricity ;))) joke. Jokes aside, let me make
a note-- most dormitories do not have phone lines in the rooms, so if you
have a computer, you won't be able to get a connection from your dorm, nor
will you be able to have your own phone number. Phones are located on the
first floor of the dorm, or outside the building. You also have to share
a bathroom with everyone on your floor. Mmm...public soap...
Food. Costs peanuts. I mean, nothing. For you. Well, for instance a family
of 4 people can survive on $70/month [key word here is "survive"]. That's
how much people earn here. Yeah, seventy dollars per month. Both parents.
So, you can imagine what food should cost here. Though, if you prefer restaurants
and cafes, there are a couple of decent ones here. But I won't advertise
them - discover them yourself (this is an adventure, remember?). I can mention
that we have restaurants which feature Spanish, Mexican, Italian, Indian,
Chinese, and Belarussian cuisines. You will have choices, that's for sure.
Communication and Transportation. To start with public transportation, you
will find all possible kinds of public transport you can think of - buses,
trolleybuses (those with antennae on top), trams, the metro (subway), cabs...
A ticket for a student these days costs 1 UScent for a trip by anything
(except for cabs, of course). A monthly "multi-pass" costs $0.70. I would
say not much. Concerning cabs, you can travel from one end of the city of
Minsk to another one for maximum $3.50 . But prices for cabs change pretty
often, so it may be $3.80 next month...
About communications with your parents and friends abroad: we have only
one state telecommunication company which is BelTeleCom.
But this doesn't mean that you will have problems calling your mom. I won't
count all the public places and provide you with their addresses, but I
can't say that we experience a great deal of problems calling anyone abroad.
Plus public Internet places (though I was using an Internet
provider while making this page - there are several of them here). Internet
is a minus. Here it is quite expensive and slow :(. But if you really want
to have access, you will have it. Plus cellular phone operators. Plus FedEx
and DHL services. You may not worry about your Mom and Dad. They'll be in
touch any time you want.