My biggest challenge living here is grocery shopping. Back home, there were more than a dozen different grocery stores within a 10-mile radius of our house. Pretentiously over-priced fine food stores. Nationwide run-of-the-mill chain stores. Whole food, organic markets with visions of sustainability and green energy. And, family-owned and operated stores struggling to survive. They were peppered all around me.
The only option for grocery shopping in Tembagapura is the Hero grocery store, which is about the size of a typical Walgreens or CVS. The primary advantage that I have when shopping at the Hero is that I’m a daily shopper. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m too lazy to plan a weekly menu, or if I just like to buy the freshest products available. Probably a little bit of both.
Daily shopping is an advantage because very few things at the Hero are constant; what they have today may not be there tomorrow (or, ever again, for that matter). I’ve even been warned that hoarding is common practice among the women here!
I visited the Hero this afternoon with a fairly short and simple grocery list – tomatoes, peanut butter, maple syrup, canned black beans, and eggs. There were no tomatoes. The empty spaces where peanut butter and maple syrup are sometimes stocked, were just that, empty. I didn’t even see a single can of black beans.
It was a futile and frustrating shopping experience that almost turned hostile when I walked down the center isle and saw six shelving units completely stocked, from top to bottom, with beng-beng chocolate bars. It was such an incredibly absurd spectacle that I couldn’t help but stop in my tracks. I set my empty grocery basket down beside me, rifled through my backpack until I found my cell phone, and then figured out (right then and there) just how many chocolate bars I was looking at. Six shelving units, seven shelves on each unit, twenty-eight boxes/shelf, and twenty-fve bars/box = 29,400 beng-bengs.
I left the store with one dozen eggs and a beng-beng.