A shopping trip 14 January 2011

Woke up today at 6:30 am after a very good night’s sleep. I had come to Accra for blood, urine and stool tests because I have been tired and feeling bad since the bacterial infection I had at Christmas. (I am writing this two weeks later and the tests have come back negative. I am also feeling better. I think it just took a long time to recover from the bacterial infection, that’s all.)

The med unit at the Peace Corps office in Accra is by far the best lodging offered by PC, at least for me who enjoys solitude. I have been staying in an air conditioned single room with a twin bed, two night stands and a chair. I have access to a kitchen with a microwave, running water, and a fridge. I am not bothered by people coming in at all hours of the night or leaving to catch transportation, as in the PC bunk house at the Swiss Rest Hotel or the PC sub-offices.

Even though there is no stove I have eaten very well. On Tuesday when I arrived in Accra I stopped at Max Mart, a grocery/department store. The bottom floor is filled with food wonders I can only dream of when I am in the village. Dr. Pepper is on the top of the list when I go to Max Mart. At Max Mart you can have anything you want for a price. My two extravagances are Dr. Pepper 2.65  Cedis for a 12 oz can (most sodas are 1 cedi) and cheese. Please remember I get about 10 Cedis per day while I am here so spending more than 1/5 of a day’s pay on empty calories is an extravagance!

So I entered Max Mart and picked a hand held basket. I know enough not to get the grocery cart because it just cries out to be filled! My first purchase was my beloved Dr. Pepper. It was the last can on the shelf. I hope there will be some next time I go to Accra. Then I moved to the furthest aisle to the left where I can find American cereals. At Christmas time I discovered serving size boxes of Kellogg’s cereals for 1.50 cedis. I chose Frosted Mini Wheats and Fruit and Fibre (yes it’s Fibre cause Ghana is English English not American English!) Then I turned around and took a box 20 of Lipton Yellow tea bags for 1.60 cedis.

The next aisle is very dangerous – chocolate and American candy bars – but the prices are out of this world (Regular size Milky Way is 5 cedis) so its easy to bypass these things for other treats. That day I did buy something, a white chocolate bar, for Werner’s birthday on the 21st of January. But that was all and I escaped with very little damage to my Accra food funds.

At the beginning of the next aisle I found Knorr dried soups for 1 cedi each. Even if I didn’t eat them while I was in Accra they would be nice to bring home to site to eat with rice. I picked two, cream of tomato and cream of mushroom. My next stop was cooler section. I chose two single serving strawberry jams and 4 pats of salted butter – at 50 Pesewa each they were dear but not as dear as half a pound of butter or a whole jar of jam!

And now the cheese. Buying cheese at Max Mart is like shopping in T.J. Maxx. You can’t go to the cheese section with a particular cheese in mind instead you go to find the sale item. One time I got a small wheel of brie for 4.50 cedis, and another time there was 2 oz of shredded swiss for 1 cedi. I scanned the sale signs.

Three oz block of cheddar for 6 cedis – no.

A small wheel of brie for 7 cedis – no.

Eight Slices swiss for 8 cedis – no.

Oh was I not going to find any good deals today? Ah but at last eight slices of Havarti cheese for 4.45 cedis.

The yogurt was in the cast next to the cheeses. There were four flavors of a Greek style yogurt on sale for 1.05 cedis. I choose apricot and black cherry. I thought the Kellogg’s Fruit and Fibre would go well in one of those yogurts.

Now on to the condiments. I got a 13 oz jar of Dijon mustard for 2.85 cedis and a ten oz jar of mayo for 1.60 cedis.

And now on to the bakery. What sensual delights fresh, whole grain breads, croissants, donuts, cookies, and cakes. Things I hardly ever see in Ghana. You will be surprised to know that I crave the good bread when I come to Accra and can leave the cake behind. It is somewhat practical because I can buy a whole loaf of whole wheat bread for 3 cedis and only one slice of cake for the same amount. But more than practical I more satisfied by good bread than dessert. Today along with the whole wheat bread I bought a hot dog in a wrap, and one croissant. ( Because I enjoyed the hot dog with mustard so much Thursday I purchased another hot dog in a wrap and it’s cousin, a sausage in a wrap. The sausage was almost like my Meme’s sausage, spicy with pieces of onion and lots of meat! This sausage is now on my must buy list along with a Dr. Pepper and cheese.)

As I walked back to the registers I dreamily scanned the deli meats and the gallons of ice cream. All way beyond by budget but still nice to see. At the register there was CHEX MIX! It wasn’t called Chex Mix but it looked like Chex Mix and it was on sale for 1.85 Cedis. In my basket it went.

Max Mart is fully automated. The clerk scanned my items into the register, totaled my sale and handed me a printed itemized receipt at the end of the sale. The bagger was just like in America too. Where she could have used one  plastic bag for my things she used three. There has to be a conspiracy by the producers of plastic bags to train baggers to use too many!

The walk from Max Mart to the PC office is about a mile. Just before I reached the med unit I stopped at a small provision store for the last of my supplies. I bought sugar, powdered milk, a coke, a sprite, a small juice, and cream crackers. The shopkeeper added my purchases in her head – no computer printout here but lots of friendly customer service.

Now that I was provisioned for a few days I went to the med unit for tests and rest.

-vc

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