One of them is Coke Zero.
I know it is not good for me. I know there is no nutritional value whatsoever. I know it's bad for my teeth, and we get delicious and clean water delivered. I know all this.
But I love my Coke Zero irrationally and without any sign of abating. There are some things that aren't worth fighting.
Oh Coke Zero! You make the worst days seem not so bad...
There is a problem now, though. We used to be able to order Coke Zero anywhere. At Nando's, at Galitos, at the various local restaurants (such delicious Indian food - who knew I would find such wonderful curried delicacies in Africa?). I could get it at the supermarket and at the small stores - bottle or can, Coke Zero was everywhere.
It was a beautiful time.
All good things come to an end, however, and my dalliance with Coke Zero was no exception. We've been able to find it in glass bottles in a few places, and sometimes the cans are available at one grocery store or another. But lately the pickings have been sparse and far between. It has been a bit of a let-down to indulge in a Peri Peri wrap at Nando's and wash it down with water.
Spoiled, I know. But it was the experience of the whole thing, and that experience included Coke Zero.
It makes me a little nervous. I know there is no Coke Zero shortage in the United States - actually, I usually go with Coke Zero Cherry there, which I refer to as Coke All the Things! - and I'm fairly sure Coke is not in any imminent danger. But then, I didn't see the death of Hostess coming, so my business sense might be off-kilter. I'm not sure when I'll recover from that one. I would have stockpiled if I had known it was coming.
Which leads me to the African shopping (for food) experience.
I currently have 8 packets of Butter Chicken sauce in my pantry, six packets of mushroom sauce, several gallon sized bags of Splenda packets, and nine different types of noodles (just a sampling). In the United States we call people with these sorts of numbers hoarders and humiliate them on national TV before sending them to treatment programs. Here, it is a necessary survival mechanism.
For instance, last week the husband and I were at the store getting the necessary items for dinner when I spotted the packets of mushroom sauce.
Me: WHEN DID THEY GET THESE? HOW MANY ARE THERE?Husband: SixMe: Take them all! Quickly! Before someone else sees we are interested in them!
The husband quickly grabbed the packets just as another woman was swooping down upon us, sharp eyes spotting the sauce from the other end of the aisle. I was familiar with her glare - I've given that look many a time myself when someone else has snagged the last bottle of teriyaki from under my nose. It's the look of a practiced Third World shopper - someone who knows that, unlike a US Safeway, that may be the only cornstarch that ships in for six months. You have to act now and act fast if you plan on making any pie.
It took me one week of living here to go full-shopping-commando. One week.
This means that trips to the grocery store are never for one item. You never buy only milk or yogurt - excuse me, yoghurt. And anyone who runs in and out of the store without perusing every aisle is crazy. You might miss the pretzel sticks!
Don't get me wrong - there is plenty of food here. A person is not going to starve - there is always some sort of fruit and/or vegetable, always meat, always mayo, always mealie meal, always flour, etc. It's the specialty items that cycle in and out, seemingly on whim. And the prices of some of the things we take for granted in the US - like Crisco and Spaghettios - are astronomical.
Did I mention tuna? Dolphin safe tuna in cans that aren't expired can get pricey as well. One of the local stores had a special on tuna that saw me battling it out with another lady for the last four cans. The Hunger Games had nothing on the scene that unfolded in Game that day.
You develop an entirely different attitude living here when it comes to shopping and food preparation, even children's clothing! And I can't say that it's affected us in a bad way.
One thing I appreciate about my children, about the people we meet living here who are originally from the US and Europe, is that there is a sense of absolute appreciation for how easy things are back home. It took coming to live here for my kids to understand you can't always solve things with a trip to the grocery store.
Unfortunately, it also means that every trip back to the US involves about four hours staring at the many varieties of salsa in Target.
Whatever. Six months ago I would have thought that hunting for Coke Zero and buying ten packages of Bolognese sauce would be the end of the world. Now I see finding and bringing home the last six packages as a form of victory. It's the new version of completing a successful hunt. I launch myself out of our car and dash into the house, purchases held high and bearing the scars of battle, shouting, "TONIGHT WE WILL HAVE LINGUINI ALFREDO!" And the children greet me like a conquering hero.