Monday, August 15, 2011

The Drama (Love, Hate, Tragedy) of the ONLY Grocery store in Northern Mozambique

Me and Yohani, Victor, and my dad in Shoprite almost a year ago.

I know that my posts have been sadly (or pathetically) lacking good content/details for over a year now and that a grocery store is not a subject that suddenly deserves some actual writing.  So sorry about that.  But anyway . . .

There is only ONE grocery store in the entire northern half of this country.  To put this into perspective - it takes over 12 hours to drive to the next closest grocery store.  Our little grocery store is called Shoprite and I think that everyone who lives here who is from somewhere else has a love-hate relationship with this store. 

We LOVE the fact that a grocery store exists at all and we are extremely grateful that we can live here and still get some of the little luxuries that we so took for granted back home.  Decaf tea, (edible) canned tuna, ground beef, baked beans, sometimes grapes, lunch meat (chicken, turkey, ham, salami), feta cheese, cereal, split peas, mustard, salad dressing, Worcester sauce, cough drops, kitchen appliances, and tons of other little things can ONLY be found in Shoprite.  Also – like all grocery stores – you can basically do ALL your food shopping in one store.

And the hate part . . . well . . . outside the grocery store it is intensely crowded with dozens of men begging or selling things and harassing you to buy or give, endless lines of people standing neck to neck in lines for banks, aggressive taxi drivers taking up every conceivable place to park in front of the store, impatient drivers of gigantic vehicles yelling and honking and almost hitting each other and any pedestrians.  Getting to and from the store is the greatest most uncomfortable hassle there is in the city (in my opinion).   You feel irritated or angry at the aggressive men trying to sell their stuff.  You don’t know if you should feel sympathetic towards these guys because you know there are NO jobs in the city or if you should be against them because you have seen some of them rob people.  To top it off there are at least a dozen street kids who should be in school but instead are begging or trying to get paid pennies to wash or guard your car.  Street kids make me feel mad and guilty at the same time – first I feel mad that the kids are not in school and furious at whatever adult should be caring for them, and then I feel guilty because I am in such a good situation (to say the least) compared to these kids and I can only imagine what kinds of conditions have caused them to end up here.  And then finally – the very worst thing at Shoprite is this TERRIBLE man in our little city whose only goal in life is to kiss white (or lighter skinned) women.  He spends 100% of his time roaming the city looking for white women to kiss and then tries to kiss them.  Every foreign woman here hates having this guy around and he spends 90% of his time outside Shoprite.  I am irrationally scared of encountering him and have seen him many times.  My one single run-in with him ended with him and two police officers in our car with us, Victor in a foot cast, and a “trial” in court that was crazier than a three-ring circus (previous blog post).  Anyway - this guy always being there (hiding so you don’t know he’s there until it’s too late) makes some (like me) hate going to Shoprite as much as I feel grateful that there is a Shoprite.

And for the tragedy part . . . one morning a few weeks ago Yohani and I went outside to play with the kids and one of the girls immediately ran up to us and told us that Shoprite had “burned down.”  Throughout the day everyone was talking about it and then we saw that there had been a big fire in the store.  It didn’t look like anything had collapsed but all the walls leading into the store were black.  I still don’t think that anyone knows what actually happened but it’s now several weeks later and it doesn’t look like the store is preparing to re-open anytime soon.  One of our friends wrote to Shoprite and asked how long it would be and Shoprite wrote back and said 18 – 24 months minimum.  So basically – it’s just OVER and we no longer have a grocery store here.  Just imagine if your local grocery store burned down and the next closest one was a 12 hour drive away!!!
In front of the store on one of the few days when the police had cleared all the sellers and everyone else away.

2 comments: T-shirt Printing said...

Wow a shoprite in your area, my things have progressed since I was last there.

Do you still need to leave a guard at the car?

I would suggest getting more followers to your blog by following other blogs, Facebook and friends.

Your stories are great and I always look forward to your next blog.

Jamie Bagge said...

Oh my goodness, Christina! I feel your pain!!!! I have been to Shoprite in Ndola, and they have the same beggars there outside the store. They have a fenced in parking area in Ndola, though, and your car is protected by a security guy. I'm so sorry your Shoprite burned down! It kind of made me laugh when you retold your fear of that guy that hangs out in front of Shoprite. And it is frustrating when things take so long to get rebuilt there isn't it! It just isn't America...we get so spoiled here.