I just returned from shopping at our nearby Chinese grocery store, Century Mart. As we've mentioned in earlier posts, the domestic shopping market in China is manic and infuriatingly volatile. Inventory and price fluctuation are as steady as walking on a waterbed. Add in the crowd factor, and the whole grocery shopping experience is less than savory. Thankfully over the past few years, I've figured out how to find most products we need from alternate venues: shopping online at Alibaba's site taobao.com (a combination of Amazon and Ebay type shopping), as well as using expat friendly grocery delivery services.
There are a few items, nonetheless, that still require us to pop into Century Mart every couple weeks. Today happened to be the lucky day for my latest visit. Over the past few years, I've come to increasingly dread these Century Mart excursions.
As the chaos of Chinese grocery shopping washed over me yet again this afternoon, a novel thought occurred to me: let's make this experience into a game! I cajoled myself to turn my frown upside down, and heed the sage advice of Mary Poppins.
* Guard allows me into Century Mart without chiding me that my bag is too big: 10 points.
* I discover Century Mart has recently undergone (yet another) major overhaul of inventory, completely re-organizing the top floor, and no longer carrying our favorite cereal and pretzels: -20 points.
* Chinese grandma elbows past me so she can rush to get some pears on sale: -10 points.
* I'm able to translate that "charqui" is the jerky aisle (yes, an entire aisle for dried meat): 20 points.
* I find the "south cargo" aisle. Amusement factor: 10 points.
* Even after translating the characters and seeing the highly processed, packaged items on that aisle, I still have no idea what "south cargo" is: -10 points.
* I chat with a nice staff guy (who correctly guesses I'm an American) on the cart-friendly escalator: 15 points.
* I successfully find bottles of our favorite mouthwash: 25 points.
* But the mouthwash now costs 1/3 more than it did two weeks ago: -15 points.
* I pass a highly racist brand of oral care products that is prominently displayed: -100 points.
* The salesperson (undoubtedly working for a commission) tries to coerce me to buy this brand's version of mouthwash: -100 points.
* I quickly exit the oral care section and seek solace among the fluffy toilet seat covers: 25 points.
* I find a cashier who has just opened, so I can walk right up to the register to check out: 45 points.
* As I exit the store and head back to my apartment, I pass the popular Kung Fu fast food joint. Even though I abstain from going in, I still feel pretty bad@$$ and throw a few punches as homage (seriously! :): 35 points.
Actually, today's shopping experience was overall a positive experience--maybe it's the amazingly sunny and clear weather lately, or maybe it truly was the fun of making the ordeal into a game. Whatever it was, I think I should trust Mary Poppins in more of my tasks in this country! :)