Welcome to my blog. I write about fitting in, sticking out, and missing the motherland as a serial foreigner.

Thoughts I have at Carrefour

Of the big three multi-branch hypermarkets in the UAE (Carrefour, Spinneys, and Happy Hyper Panda), Carrefour has my allegiance. For now, anyway. Magdalena and I go there once a week, every week. It can get pretty mindless walking up and down those aisles, so here are some thoughts that sometimes creep in to fill the void.

Every time I walk past the Choco Pies, I cannot resist singing the "choco choco choco choco pie" refrain, out loud.

It continues to be really hard to go without candy here. I seem to recall American grocery stores having a candy section, or a portion of an aisle that is also shared with chips and cookies. Here, candy gets both sides of an entire aisle. It is glorious and fearsome to behold. Chocolate is separate from candy, by the way. It has its own section by the coffee and tea aisle (yes, coffee and tea fill an entire aisle).

American Christmas candy (Hershey's kisses, etc.) is still on sale here. It's not on clearance or anything. It's just there with all the other candy.

Shopping carts cost one dirham (about 27 cents), which is returned automatically when you return the cart. I'm sure it works out well for the store but it also means that the car-wash guys hang out, vulture-like, as I'm unloading the groceries into my car. At the first second of opportunity, they jump at the chance to return my cart for me.

Speaking of the car-wash guys, there are car-wash guys hanging out in the parking lot (almost any parking lot here, actually, not just at Carrefour's). And man are they pushy when it comes to asking you if you want your car washed while you shop. The first time they ask, they do it all casual and low-key. But if you say no, and your car is the slightest bit dirty, get ready for some incredulous looks and an audible scoff. The message is, "I can't believe you're driving around with your car looking like THAT." Then they ask you again. I haven't fallen for it yet, but they will break my will one of these days. People here do like their cars to be shiny at all times.

I'm almost used to the reek of the extensive fresh fish section. I'm almost used to seeing tripe and animal stomach and "beef offal" and whole lamb carcasses hanging in the butcher's case right next to the chicken I need to buy. I'm almost used to the, uh, feminine product system they've got going here where the familiar hassle of deciphering wings, absorbency, etc. is compounded by a little friend called Arabic.

I am decidedly not used to the store being out of at least three items on my list on any given shopping trip. There are a few repeat offenders, like certain kinds of cheese, crackers, and cereal, but every once in a while it's something like mushrooms, or kitchen trash bags. This week, the only product on the shelves that resembled the canned diced tomatoes I needed were a few dusty, scattered cans of peeled plum tomatoes. Whatever. Close enough, I guess.

Meanwhile - thank goodness! - the shelves were stocked to bursting with multiple brands of canned corned beef, whatever THAT is.

Sometimes the store temporarily runs out of items. Sometimes those items disappear forever. When we first moved here, I found some delicious fruit leathers that came in strawberry, apple, and something like sultana. First I bought the strawberry kind, until Carrefour ran out. Then I bought the apple ones, until they, too, disappeared. We didn't like the sultana ones too much but when it came down to it, I bought them until they were no more. They haven't reappeared on the shelves since. Sad day. It makes it hard to cope with the temporary outages, too, because you never know if they're out of Cheerios just for today, or FOREVER.

Still, grocery shopping here is the absolute easiest I've ever had it in a foreign country. It still makes me feel guilty sometimes. I should be glad the store runs out of Parmesan cheese every now and then, just for the sake of keeping a whiff of hardship around.

I hate most of my clothes

(Literal) School shopping, THE END