Culture Shock: Availability and Abundance

Some of the hard to find items I got my hands on at the rig already half used.
The milk I got by pure luck because the taxi driver had connections at the grocery store.

After living here for about 2 months I would like to discuss a very particular aspect of some culture shock I have experienced.  It has to do with the lovely sanitary tissue that everyone uses on a daily basis. This nice little role of paper that is present in your bathroom is probably not something you think about often. Well at least, not until you accidentally run out and have to become creative in your sanitary upkeep. It is a dark time when you have to quickly use your improvising skills and use what is on hand such as paper towels, a garden hose, the shower, etc. Luckily the concern doesn’t last for too long, because as soon as you can you will run down to the closest convenient store, pharmacy, or supermarket and pick up some more. However these dark times get even darker when the stores in town are also out of this magical tissue item. This is the time when hoarding and frugality skills become handy.  

Growing up in the land of supermarkets and brand names you tend to take for granted how many choices there are and the availability of a countless number of items. It becomes a humbling experience when the crowds at a store resemble those found on Black Friday in the USA because the new shipment of toilet paper was received that day. The only time of year I am used to expecting things being out of stock and long lines are during the holidays. So when I moved to a country where this is an everyday occurrence because of toilet paper, chicken, flour, P.A.N. and butter I had my first bout of culture shock.  

There are lines everywhere forming everywhere. They begin appearing early in the morning outside of store fronts and end up wrapping around buildings. The people will wait patiently for hours to get into the store while talking with each other and their kids running around playing. The security will be stationed outside of the store managing crowds and controlling the amount of people coming into the store. Once the people in line are let into the store they are only allowed to buy a set amount of the item they are there for which will be handed to them at the cash register. I have not yet had to brave one of these lines, and I have been fortunate enough to  get most of my necessary supplies while I have been working on rig sites nearer to other cities.

So, next time you find yourself in the toilet paper aisle in Wal-Mart contemplating if you want the brand with the cute little puppy, the grannies that quilt, or the one with the bears take a moment to appreciate all the choices you have and the abundance of availability. Don’t stop there though also appreciate the vast amount of veggies and fruit that look as if they jumped out of a magazine and landed in your shopping cart. It is simply amazing. 

When was the last time you stopped to appreciate how convenient and abundant your options are?

*Black Friday - An infamous day after Thanksgiving that is known for its long lines and cheap deals.
*P.A.N - a premixed corn meal base that is used for foods such as arepas and other local dishes.