Sunday, January 31, 2010

Adventures in shopping . . . or, I miss grocery shopping in America

There are few things in my life as unpleasant as the realization that I need to go to Carrefour on a weekend (admittedly, my life is pretty easy if that's what's dragging me down). I generally try to go to our local grocery store on Saturday morning. It might be, inexplicably, the only place where people don't shop on the weekend here, so it's relatively calm. And for the most part I can get what I need there. Then on Sunday after church we go to the Lion Mart, conveniently located AT church, to pick up any random imported items we can't find at the local store.

But this weekend, my regular plans were sidetracked by a wedding yesterday and the absence of our family from church. Add to that our desperate need for chicken, and I knew I had to make the trek to Carrefour. Because everyone in town should know (and now you do, if you didn't before) that the cheapest, best grocery store chicken can be found at Carrefour.

Here's why Carrefour is a life sucker on the weekend. On any given day, shopping at Carrefour is akin to shopping at Walmart at Christmas time, only people are less polite and the aisles are narrower. The only saving grace in the whole store is that the women who weigh the vegetables for you will not let others budge in front, even if you, the foreigner, are trying to have 10 different bags of fruits and vegetables priced. If they didn't do that, it could get ugly.

But Carrefour on the weekend is like shopping on Black Friday 1999, with Y2K and certain doom looming in the future. It's every man, woman, child, and grandma (because no one leaves grandma at home here) for himself. There are places where you cannot navigate at all because the carts are bumper to bumper. You have to REALLY want to eat.

This kind of craziness used to drive me over the edge culturally, but something's changed over the years. Maybe I'm just used to it, maybe the Spirit's actually got a little more control over me (let's hope it's that), maybe I'm just desperate for tender chicken, but I just put on blinders and trudge my way through it. I even let a man in front of me in line because he foolishly came only to buy lunch. He was going to jump in front of me anyway whether or not I gave him permission, but I felt better having waved him by.

Of all the ways I wanted to spend my Sunday, that wasn't my favorite. That's why I bought such an obnoxious amount of chicken that I got comments about it. I'm thinking I should have bought more. I wish it were possible to go to one place, once a week, to get everything we need here, but it's not. Carrefour has chicken and Land O' Lakes cheese but no canned soup. Metro has economy size popcorn kernels and oatmeal, but their meat isn't great (except the delicious steaks). Jenny Lu's is prohibitively distant and expensive. Our local store has no imported goods. Lion Mart has no milk. Where's a Walmart Superstore when we need one?

But I could manage to do a once a month drive by attack at Carrefour and buy an even MORE obnoxious amount of chicken. That is my plan. Here's to the quest for non-stressful shopping in Asia! Cheers.

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