When I asked for suggestions of blog topics a couple of blogs back, our friend Ed came back at us with more than a dozen ideas. So Steve has been busy writing about some of those subjects. Here's his first installment on "Shopping."
We have fallen into some shopping habits that do not have much rhyme or reason here in Dangriga. Most of the grocery shops in Belize are run by ethnic Chinese. The stores have the generic name of “a Chinee.” One of our favorite places is the Garden Store, about three blocks away. The shop is small, but it is sort of like the convenience store for neighborhoods in the states. The biggest drawing card is Ms. Lilly and Mr. Lew who own the store. Their English is much better than our Mandarin, but Cathy is trying to learn a few phrases when she shops there. They are very nice and always pleasant. When I go there, she always asks about Cathy. We allow ourselves a soft drink most days at lunch, and Ms. Lilly knows that Cathy likes Coke Lite (diet soda) and keeps them in stock. When Ms. Lilly is there by herself, she locks the burglar bar doors, and people shop through the bars for things that she brings them. We can count on them being open even on Sundays and holidays.
|The Garden Store, just a block and a half from our house.|
There is a store out on the highway coming into town that is like a Belizean-style Walmart - Gregalezean Shopping Serter. (That would be the Chinese bad-spelling sign maker's version of Grigalezean Shopping Center.) The store is convenient because they have a lot of merchandise, but the people are not very friendly. The selection is much larger than the Garden Store, and it is on my way home from the clinic, so we get some things there. They also have household things there and a limited selection of hardware stuff.
A lot of merchandise doesn't mean that it's GOOD merchandise. I once got a light bulb there, and they were nice enough to test it before I paid. It did not work, so they put it back on the shelf. The same thing happened with the second one, so I changed my mind about needing a bulb. Cathy told me that one time she was checking out with a plastic tub to use for washing the dishes. As they put it in the bag, it cracked, so she said she wanted to get another one. One of the guys walked back to where they were (I guess to make sure she didn't pick up a more expensive one). Of course he put the cracked one back on the shelf, and she picked out another. But then she noticed that it was cracked, too. So she walked back up to the front and said that she didn't want ANY tub, that she wanted her money back. The guy at the cash register didn't want to give her a refund, even though she hadn't even walked out of the store yet! After a little bit of "discussion," the matriarch came up, grabbed the $5 out of the cash register, and shoved it into Cathy's hand.
|The Gregalezean Serter|
Our other store, The Price is Right, is downtown next to the river at the most dangerous intersection in town. They are intermediate in their friendliness, and have a pretty good selection. We probably shop there the most.
|The Price is Right (also about a block and a half from our house)|
Right across the river is the town market where we get most of our vegetables and produce. The shopkeepers mostly speak Spanish as their first language. They are helpful with selecting the best stuff. There are also booths that sell clothing. The prices there are great. Most of it is second-hand, but pretty good. Shirts are about BZ $3, and pants are BZ $10. I think shoes are more expensive.
|Dangriga Market (meat, fish and vegetables|
Also next to the river on the other side of "the Main" is the chicken place that advertises, “Dis dah fi wi chikin” (This is our chicken or this is the chicken for us).
Another block north is the bakery that we adore. They don't do the baking there; it just the store. The bakery is one block behind our house, but you can't buy from there. It's called the Grigalicious Bakery, and they are kind enough to share their delicious aromas with us throughout the day. One of the sales people at the store is very nice and gives us the Belize price rather than the gringo price. She even gave Cathy some of their reject cookies that had gone a little stale (still good enough for me). They have sliced whole wheat bread, and slightly sweetened bread in a loaf (called bun). It makes great toast, and is almost like eating dessert for breakfast. They sell out before noon, so we try to go early in the day.
Sometimes we are fortunate to get bun when we ride the local bus to and from Belmopan on the Hummingbird Highway. Near mile 15 to 20, a young woman gets on with a tray on her head. She rides for several miles and sells bun, and then gets off to replenish and ride the next bus back to her first stop. Vendors along the highway also sometimes have boiled corn. It is delicious and very reasonably priced.
Here's Cathy again with just a few comments. We go to some store or the market every day. Our refrigerator is small, and we like fresh vegetables. Some things that we can buy in quantity in the states are not available that way here (unless you count a package of toilet paper or a pack of gum). Beer or sodas are sold as singles, eggs (most stores provide the styrofoam cartons, but not all). Dog food is sold by opening the bags and sold by the pound. And in some cases, especially with soap products, it's obvious that each bottle of a certain product (for example, Joy dish detergent) is a couple of ounces low or have been watered down.
As far as "how we spend our money," most goes to rent, food and household, then Internet, and utilities - kind of in that order. We don't have any left over for travel. A lot of other PCVs really skimp on the housing and other accommodations to save up for travel.
--- Steve and I are in a state of flux with our work right now , and we have LOTS of time on our hands. Today is yet another holiday (Columbus Day), so another short "work" week. We'll have more news in our next entry. In the meantime, please continue saving us your dimes so you can come see us!
Just so you don't think that we only take pictures of buildings, here's a snapshot of our pretty downstairs neighbor, Rafi.