Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Curses and Cucumbers and Carrots, Oh My!


I know I’ve talked about grocery shopping in Sri Lanka before (here), but now that I’ve been here a while, I feel like it’s time to revisit it, specifically with my trip to the store yesterday.
I do know that we are fortunate to have actual grocery stores here. For that, I owe a HUGE shout out to British colonialism and David Sime Cargill who started a warehouse, import, and wholesale store in 1844. In most other countries in this region, getting groceries means going to a shop that has meat, then one that has bread, then one that has produce, then one that has eggs, and then who knows how many other shops to find everything one needs. I could definitely do that here, as well, but thanks to Mr. Cargill, I have Cargill’s Food City and one or two other chains of grocery stores to frequent. Since I also have three Little Explorers and approximately zero patience, I am eternally grateful to Mr. Cargill.
All that being said, getting groceries in this country still is no easy task. I used to be an obsessive menu planner and coupon clipper. I actually enjoyed the whole process of making a list, putting coupons in order, and knowing what was for dinner every week. That all came to a screeching halt when we moved here. First off, there are no coupons. Fine. I can deal with that. The real issue is that, while I make a list, I can no longer be bound to it, nor make a menu based on it. I can’t guarantee that the things on my list will be in the store, even if they were there last week. I don’t know which produce will be fresh and which will be a bit past its prime. I just don’t know what’s going to happen once I push through those doors and grab a shopping cart. Shall I demonstrate with an example? Allow me to take you inside my head during my most recent grocery buying experience:
Thanks, old dude in the white sarong and jacket whose job it is to open the door. I’m going to miss you. Have you considered getting your visa and moving to the States to be a greeter at Wal-Mart? I’ll bet they let you keep the sarong with the uniform blue vest.
Oooh, the produce looks nice today. I love living on a tropical island where the fruit is so yummy and tropical. Pineapples are in season. I wish I wasn’t allergic. Perhaps I’ll get one for the rest of the family. Dragonfruit. I love dragonfruit. Here are cucumbers. I’ll get a bunch of those for Gertrude Bell since she loves them so much. Carrots, check. Apples, check. Mangoes and papaya, check. Onions and bell pepper, or as they call it here, capsicum, check. Capsicum is a weird word. Ok, now to line up and get this stuff weighed and priced.
I’ll just get behind this old lady with the cart full of produce. Maybe it won’t take as long as I imagine. I’d better push my cart up to the side to be out of the way of other shoppers. Ooh, I guess I should get closer before that lady in the red blouse cuts in front of me. Obviously, I’m not in line if there are more than three inches between me and the old lady. The International Man of Intrigue uses the euphemism “butts to nuts” to describe lines here, but, as I have none of the latter, and as my brain is supposed to be PG, I’ll refrain. Good, the old lady is finished. Wait, what is she saying? Something in Sinhalese. Oh, that is a scary look. What? WHAT?? Oh. My. God. I think she just cursed me. She did! She gave me the evil eye and cursed me and I was just trying to buy cucumbers! What the heck?! I’m sorry I’m foreign! I’m sorry I smiled at you! I’m sorry I have to buy groceries and now I’m cursed! Aaaagh!
Okay, the produce is weighed. Calm down. On to the noodles. I really want some soba noodles but I bet they don’t have those here. Nope. Tons of ramen. What are these bags? “Special Noodles.” More “special noodles.” I have no idea what that means. Hey, Sri Lanka…If you tell all the noodles they’re special, they’re going to think everything they do is perfect. You want a bunch of noodles who think they all deserve the tee ball cricket trophy just for participating? No? Well then stop labeling them all special. While you’re at it, maybe consider getting some soba noodles, okay?
 


Mmmm. Maldivian dried fish, complete with eyeballs, on display on an endcap. Won’t see that in the States.
I’m hot. Why is it that I sweat as much getting groceries as I do exercising? Move over Jillian Michaels and your 30 Day Shred. Dorothy Gale’s 30 Minute Shop is coming for you!
Okay, now I need yogurt and cheese. Aaah, they have lots of curd. Who knew it could somewhat replace both Greek yogurt and sour cream in my diet. I’m glad there’s no nutrition info on the side. Here’s the brand I like. Should I buy the stuff in the terra cotta pot with the rubber band holding the cover on or the one in the unsealed plastic container? We’ll base that on expiration. Well, this one is expired, so the plastic tub it is! Good. Now, cheese. I really want some feta cheese. I don’t care if it costs nine dollars. I am totally hungry for pasta with feta cheese. NO! Of course! The one day I am willing to pay exorbitant prices for feta cheese and there is none! Fine. Just fine.

What am I listening to? What is this music? I can’t possibly be hearing what I think I’m hearing. Oh, but I am. Get a load of this. Traumatizing, at best.
 

Frozen foods. Five hundred kinds of chicken sausages. One brand of chicken nuggets, and why are they so tiny? I mean, it would take an entire box just to fill up Arthur Dent. Maybe they’ll have those yummy chicken fingers stuffed with some sort of curry mashed potatoes they had last week. Nope. Of course not. What I wouldn’t give for frozen pizza. Oh, well. Really, I just need to finish my shopping. I need to get out of here before I lose my mind, or before that curse kicks in, but first I have to grab eggs off the unrefrigerated shelf. Hmm. That doesn’t really bother me anymore. Weird. I guess that’s a good thing.
CHECKOUT! I made it. No, lady, I do not have exact change. What is it with the fascination for having exact change? Every single place I go, ever, wants you to always be able to magically produce exact change. Please, stop trying to look into my wallet like I have it, too! I need those small bills sometimes, okay. Don’t make me feel guilty. I’m already cursed. Doesn’t that count for something?
And there you have it, Fellow Adventurers. Exhausting. I’m going to put my feet up and sip on a Coke Light while I cool off. Think of me when you’re cooking dinner tonight, especially if you’re making frozen pizza.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Happy Columbus Day, Fellow Adventurers!


Did you ever wonder what it’s like celebrating Columbus Day in another country? Me either. I’m going to tell you a little story anyway.
The following is a (mostly) true conversation that The International Man of Intrigue had with his co-workers on the subject of Columbus Day. One co-worker is an American we’ll call Glenda the Good Witch. We do have a Wizard of Oz theme going on in this blog, and also Amelia Earhart and Gertrude Bell think she really is Glenda the Good Witch, just in hiding from the Wicked Witch. Why do they think this? I’m not sure. Maybe it’s because Glenda the Good Witch told them so. The other co-worker is Sri Lankan and perfectly dapper, with an impeccable British accent. We’ll call him Sri Lankan James Bond, because he is also ex-military and I’m pretty sure he likes his martinis shaken, not stirred.
Anyway, on Friday, The International Man of Intrigue, Glenda the Good Witch, and Sri Lankan James Bond had the following conversation:
Glenda The Good Witch: “We have Monday off work!”
Sri Lankan James Bond: “Why?”
International Man of Intrigue: “It’s an American Holiday.”
Sri Lankan James Bond: “What holiday?”
Glenda the Good Witch: “Columbus Day.”
Sri Lankan James Bond: “But Columbus didn’t discover America.”
Glenda the Good Witch: “Don’t tell anyone or we’ll have to go to work.”
Sri Lankan James Bond: “Understood.”
International Man of Intrigue: “I plan on observing Columbus Day by rowing out to a sparsely populated island in The Maldives and claiming it for God and Country.”
I should let it be known that The International Man of Intrigue did not, in fact, take over an island in The Maldives. Instead, he took time to sit back and enjoy a day of leisure. By leisure, I mean we cleaned out closets and went through the kids toys and got rid of things they don’t use any more. I’m not sure how Glenda the Good Witch spent her day. Probably hiding out from flying ninja monkeys.