Someone once told me, “You don’t know what your expectations are until they aren’t met.”
I’m not sure what my expectations were, but when the basic food groups weren’t readily available, and we didn’t have cumin, I began to deflate.
We have a small kitchen in our pleasant little nest. It came with a few utensils, pots, pans, dishes, cups, cooking and eating utensils. Thankfully, we also have a rice maker, small table top oven, refrigerator and microwave. We also have a gas stove – something new to me, as I’m used to the electric stove at home. Our previous renters left a few staples such as oils, soy sauce and other cooking sauces, with a few seasonings and spices.
The first thing upon our arrival, after a few hours rest and unpacking, we were driven to the Metro. It’s something like a Costco and only businesses and foreigners with passport are allowed to shop here. Our friend showed us how to show our passports and obtain our entrance papers, and then said, “Your translator (who was with us) will get you home.” And….he…left.
Since we had a short time to acclimate, I really didn’t know what was needed for food, or how to shop for the basics. How does one stock a kitchen when you don’t know prices or read labels? Finding ourselves in this huge store, buzzing with foreign speaking…rather…Chinese speaking…people…not knowing where to go for what….not being able to read labels, and depending on our young guide who didn’t cook….well….do you hear the panic of culture stress?
We managed to get instant oatmeal, a huge bag of rice, bread, a few veggies, a carton of juice, milk and toilet paper. We had our backpacks and a large shopping bag filled as we left the store and waited for our translator to flag down a taxi…and we waited….and we waited…Finally we went to find where she went. Well, she was not having success. As it turned out it was the time of night for shift changes and so no one wanted to stop. We weren’t that far, but it felt like it. Hauling heavy groceries while crossing heavy traffic, where pedestrians do not have the right-of-way, proved to make our adventure challenging. But, arrived home, we did.
Since that eventful night, we’ve shopped at other recommended grocery stores. But, even the WalMart near our home proved to be an emotional challenge for me. I can cook rice…but, with what? I just had very few items in the cupboards, but not the “usual” stuff. I was afraid to buy meat – any meat. Fruits and veggies must be washed thoroughly, or soaked in vinegar before consuming. Boiling or cooking these foods thoroughly is the norm.
Food shopping proved to be the most overwhelming task in my case. I felt so inadequate.
Eating out is always an acceptable option, and often more affordable than cooking at home. But, cooking a meal or two is very important for me in order to feel somewhat at home.
And, so, we persisted – my dear husband and young translator did their best to help ease my pain.
We eventually learned that going to any particular store early in the week, and early in the day, allowed me to take my time and explore the aisles without crowds. We eventually returned to the dreaded Metro – taking a taxi – and, actually enjoyed taking our time with minimal discomfort. This trip we found “foreign” foods to would work for our taste buds, and still find food our little gal could enjoy, too. It felt like I finally cleared another hurdle. And, we got a return taxi immediately when exiting the Metro!
Pot roast and baked potatoes on the menu for dinner!
I think I’ve got it now.