Last week, Geoffrey, my site mate, and I recently discovered A BRAND NEW EUROPEAN-STYLE SUPERMARKET IN TOWN.
To those of you who haven't been to a place like Ukraine this may sound like a mildly pleasing but ultimately unexciting event.
The rest of you know that this is more exciting than gossip involving a major political figure and teenage prostitutes.
It's not that Ukraine doesn't have STUFF, it's just that the variety, quality, and most importantly ACCESSIBILITY of stuff here is, to put it mildly, a bit modest. There may be four shops located within twenty seconds of each other, but that by no means guarantees you a beautiful comparison shopping experience. In fact, you are likely to walk into all four stores and find the exact same products being offered in each, identical in price, brand, and age.
Then, to really make it interesting, NOTHING is self-service. Ukraine makes New Jersey, with its gas pumping situation, seem cutting edge. Here, whether you want a roll of toilet paper, a bottle of shampoo, a bottle of vodka, or a kilo of raw pork fat, you have to ask for it.
All the merchandise sits on floor to ceiling shelves covering all available wall space, or glistens under glass cases that edge around the walls, trapping a two or three "shop assistants" in a U-shaped track. You, customer, wait in line to ask these assistants to get down what you want... and these ladies don't like to wait. You have about three seconds to blurt out what you hope they have in stock before other customers take your place. There's no browsing, no lingering over choices or musing "fettuccine or linguine?".
If you are brave (read: crazy/stupid) enough to BREAK THE TABOO and lean over the counter or open one of the freezer cases yourself you will be KICKED OUT OF THE STORE, since you are obviously a THIEF. (Thanks to Geoff, for "testing" this theory...)
Obviously Ukraine was not created with the mental health of medicinal shoppers (i.e. me) in mind.
The new supermarket, however, IS IS IS. It is expensive, YES! They have CAT FOOD, and it costs 11 hrivn ($2.20) a box instead of 8 hrivn ($1.60). But expensive means EMPTY, so you can walk up and down the THREE (3!!!) aisles and muse over which type of chocolate to buy to your heart's content.
Also, they have amazing IMPORTED food, like olive oil, balsamic vinegar, lasagna, and, best of all: BRIE.
Okay, Danish Brie, which, whaaaaat?
BUT STILL, BRIE, PEOPLE. I AM IN THE PEACE CORPS AND I CAN EAT IMPORTED BRIE CHEESE, FOR ONLY 20 hrivn ($4) a pop.
This is not what I expected.