Making your way to Nepal and being fed daal-bhaat every day, couple times a day sounds exciting! And it is, for the first couple of days. Then you start realizing that’s all you’ll ever be fed, and your excitement kind of flattens. Don’t get me wrong, daal-bhaat is really tasty. And I love it. But not every day; not all the time. I am used to a very diverse menu. My mom made sure that she always kept lunches and dinners interesting and new, and I loved it.
Now that daal-bhaat is out of the question, or at least limited to once or twice a week, it’s time to go grocery shopping. I have a confession. You’ll think I’m weird – I like grocery shopping. Actually, scratch that. I LOVE grocery shopping. When Mr.B. and I lived in US, grocery shopping would be my favorite thing to do. I had this whole shopping plan that I followed religiously every week according to the pantry/fridge needs and our budget. Several times I brought Mr.B. with me. I thought it would be a fun outing for us. He did not get excited about it, which I can understand to a certain extent – it was a grocery store after all. After he had a number of tantrums in several aisles (namely, dairy and frozen foods), I stopped inviting him to share with me this activity so close to my heart. I realized I enjoyed it best in my own company.
Now, grocery shopping in US is easy. Aisles are clearly marked, products are arranged neatly and logically, prices are displayed, and store usually smells like fresh bread and strawberries (or something). Grocery shopping in Nepal is, ahem, a bit different. I started grocery shopping on my own after gaining my independence back in March 2014. Mr.B. gladly gave up his responsibility of taking me to the store when food supplies run low. I shop in two different stores: Bhat Bhateni, and Saleways. Bhat Bhateni caters more to the typical domestic shopper, while Saleways prefers internationals. I go to Saleways for meat and dairy products, but everything else I buy in BB as it’s a lot cheaper. What both of those stores got in common is the total confusion that lingers from the moment you walk in the shop. Aisles are tiny and filled with stuff. Shelves are totally full, but then the other stuff is just kind of arranged on the floor. Steering the cart is a challenge, believe me.
There seems to be no logical order of arranging things on shelves. Chips and snacks often share their shelf with shampoos, and rice is sometimes found right next to the toilet paper. My favorite part of grocery shopping in Nepal is the surprise factor! You haven’t heard about the surprise factor? Oh, let me tell you aaaaalllll about it then. Every time you walk in the store, you have no clue what to expect. Some times the shelves are moved around. Sometimes the products on the shelves are switched around. Sometimes you find yourself wandering around for hours trying to find things, convincing yourself you have not gone mad, as just last week Oreos were on a cookie shelf, and now you are finding them in the pickled vegetable section. It’s exciting walking in and not knowing how long the whole grocery shopping ordeal will take.
On occasion you come across a product that you particularly like. What you need to do then is buy all of it. Completely clean up the shelf and stock up like a true doomsday hoarder. Chances are, you will never again see this product in Nepali grocery stores. It’s curious really. It’s as if though they have this huge catalog of groceries and they made a point to order different products every time, just to try them all or something. You never know what you’ll be able to find in the store, and whether you’ll come home empty handed, or with a pathetic small bag of canned tuna and peanut butter.
Grocery shopping in Nepal is fun. Not only you never know what awaits you in the shop, but people act just like they do in traffic – pushing and shoving their way through trying to be the first one to the cash register. It’s a competitive little game, but then again, life in Nepal is a competitive game.