Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Shopping; Indonesia Style

Shopping in Indonesia is an endless scavenger hunt of squeezing between small stalls, laden with vegetables, and prowling the aisles of gleaming grocery stores, filled with processed products crammed into plastic wrappers. You learn to ask people not where the store is, but where you can buy a specific type of food. You begin to notice people with shopping bags, and note the direction they came from. It’s so different from shopping in Australia, or America, or Canada. There, you find the grocery store, and with it, everything you need. Here, you have to work for it. First you find the market. That can sometimes take all day, and as markets are busiest in the mornings, when you get there in the afternoon, there’s likely nothing left. So you go the next day, and haggle with cheerful women in bright headscarves that laugh at your attempt to bargain. You return home with colourful fruits and vegetables, pleased with your purchases. But wait! Fruits and vegetables, while, delicious and healthy, do not exactly a dinner make. So you go to the grocery store and find flour and canned goods and perfume and socks. You hunt through the shop, looking for the refrigerated meat in cold, misty cabinets. Consulting the cashier doesn’t help either. She will shrug helplessly and smile hopefully, putting her hands up sadly.

This is the story of our day long quest for chicken. An epic tale that will take you, the reader, from one end of Lauban Bajo to the other, while following, me, the author, and my trusty, yet simple companions. We started in a bemo, the small decorated, bejewelled mini vans that have been outfitted with long benches and pressed into service as taxi/buses/transport things. My trusty, yet simple companions and I could not sit upright in the bemo, which proudly declares that it loves Jesus and Elvis Presley. We requested to be taken to the market. We were taken to a sloping hill with a few stalls, where the market appeared to be almost finished. My trusty, yet simple companions and I leapt heroically from the bemo and dashed to buy the few green offerings. Now, unfortunately, we were stuck on a hill a ways from town while the cruel sun beat down upon us. “Why did you bring us here?” I chastised my trusty, yet simple companions. They had no answers. We hiked for a while until we found a bemo whose clearly flamboyant personality was smothered and repressed under a coat of silver paint. I sympathized.

 My trusty, yet simple companions asked to be taken to the fish market. The fish market! There was a mutiny going on here, and none but I could see it. Fish market indeed. We arrived at the fish market (I can feel my fingers shrink from the words as I labour to write them) and my trusty, yet simple companions bought plantains. An oppressive smell strangled my nose. If a grocery store smelt like this market did, it would get no customers. It smelt like a place where rats hung out. And in fact, they did. My trusty, yet simple companions led us to this hell hole. From now on, they are no longer trusty, just simple. My simple companions led me to the back of the market where they bought mangoes and bananas. Their trusty status has been resumed. However, there was no chicken or beef. Just dried fish which my trusty, yet simple companions turned up their trusty, yet simple noses at.

Our first and only chicken that we found in the market

 We then travelled to the grocery store, and searched half-heartedly for chicken or beef. But then, one of my trusty, yet simple companions found a hidden freezer, shunted to the side in shame. Inside, were large round shapes cloaked in black plastic. They were the size and shape of human heads. I declined to look inside, instead, inquiring of the cashier, what the suspicious shaped black lumps were. “Beef” she whispered in a horrified, revolted tone. We bought one lump of beef. We then continued on our hunt for the elusive chicken. First, we stopped in a European bakery where I got a fruity iced tea and a slice of the best lemon poppy-seed cake EVER, and my trusty, yet simple companions indulged in a ginger coffee. One of my trusty, yet simple companions had the bright idea to ask where we could buy chicken. The cook gestured towards a young girl who had just brought us our food. The girl drew a hand across her throat and made a gagging noise, and then clucked and flapped her arms. My trusty, yet simple companions hastily requested two dead chickens, and promised to be back at four. And there ends the heroic quest of a brave girl and her trusty, yet simple companions.

Today they lied to me and told me it was Friday when it was in fact Saturday. Evil !@#$%^&*()(*&^%$#@@@@@#$%^&*&&^%$%^&$#$%^&*^%$#$@#. I swore to my father that one day, I would smother him in his sleep. Make a note of that

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