Joburg Expat: A Typical Day of Shopping in South Africa

December 2, 2011

A Typical Day of Shopping in South Africa

It's a Saturday morning and I set out with a simple enough shopping list. In fact, it's the kind of list I would, in my former American life, have tackled with a brisk 30-minute excursion to Target:

New water filter
Picture frame
Exchange Jabulani's swimsuit
Groceries

But, as by now you will have guessed, nothing is ever quite so simple here.

The new water filter for the fridge has been on my mental to-do list for a while, but until now has fallen victim to my not knowing where exactly to get it. After we had just moved here, I would furiously add items to long lists, just to discover months later that they were still there. Having acquired a more relaxed "this is Africa" attitude since then, I simply don't put these kind of items on lists anymore. But it's back on a list now because the water from the dispenser - the little drizzle of it that makes it through - is tasting truly awful.

The picture frame is to house Jabulani's 13th birthday group picture which thanks to my new experience with Photoshop turned out awesome (if a bit over-sharpened, according to the guy who printed it for me - oops!), exchanging the swim suit was necessary because with our rather skinny kids a 13-year old needs size 10 pants, at most, and groceries are simply always on my list. I practically live at the place.

So I think Game, where you can buy refrigerators and lots of household stuff, is a good place for the filter. Wrong! No filters there. But try Stax, a clerk helpfully suggests. But before I venture to that side, I decide to tackle my other errands at Fourways Mall first. So back across the parking lot, where I had to hunt for a spot ealier, this being a Saturday and everyone out and about, into the car, cruising around for a new spot which it turns out isn't any closer than the old one, and into the depths of the mall. I do get lucky with the picture frame, but another swimsuit cannot be found at Mr. Price. I'm not sure why this should surprise me, as I have never once in my life found anything at Mr. Price. The place is simply awful. It's as if a truck dumped all the clothes into an empty building and this is how you find them there as a shopper, in big heaps and completely unorganized.

While I'm already there, I figure I might look into Checkers Hyper and see if they have the water filter. I manage to pick up some cleaning supplies I remember are needed by our domestic as well as a special candy bar Zax has informed me is requested for the school Christmas hamper, but the water filter remains elusive. So back into the car, another R2 donation to the parking guard stubbornly waving at me from directly behind the car, where I can't possibly see him if it weren't for my parking camera - get the irony - and into the fray trying to cross William Nicol to the other side, where the relative calm of Fourways Crossing beckons. However, as you might have guessed, no water filter at Stax either. Samsung yes, LG no, so sorry.

Are you already fidgety, just from reading this? The thing is, you can't allow yourself the luxury of becoming impatient with these things. I learned a very expensive lesson in that regard when I busted the tire of my car when trying to get an unwanted errand over with quickly instead of patiently.

And, like any good fairy tale, my story has a  happy ending and a moral to boot. The water filter was to be found at Hirsch's. Duh! It was me, after all, who told you to go to Hirsch's for all your electronics and appliance needs, because it is the most likely place you'll find those things and has the best service. I just can't seem to follow my own advice. We now have fresh-tasting water gushing forward like a mountain stream, which in retrospect makes me cringe at all the nasty stuff that must have come through or rather around the old clogged filter.

And the moral? It is this: Don't despair, something good will come out of most situations, however unexpected. Because what should I find on the bottom shelf at the Pineslopes Spar (where I never go, but I still needed my groceries, remember, and it is right around the corner from Hirsch's)? A giant bag of Starbucks Espresso Roast coffee! I felt like stopping every shopper and shaking their arm to point out this unbelievable find. The funny thing is I don't even particularly crave Starbucks beans anymore, having long found substitutable coffees like Bean There, but it is just the very American-ness of Starbucks that I miss, much in the same way I jump from joy when I hear an American accent.

Unexpected find at Pineslopes Spar

I didn't buy that bag of coffee that day. Because, did you see that price tag? That's about $45. Plus I have indefinite supply anyway from our steady stream of visitors.

But just seeing that bag of French Roast on the shelf made my day.

3 comments :

2summers.net said...

That's the largest bag of Starbucks beans I've ever seen! Crazy.

W. A. Jeffrey said...

Your shopping posts are my favorite. Sounds like an adventure even though you don't enjoy it.

Sine said...

So funny. Now I wish I had written more about it. Always meant to, but travel always got in the way:-) I think the reason they're so entertaining is that they almost never were straightforward.