Wednesday, July 01, 2009
I have a new friend, one who has lived here all her life and has a son M's age. She's married to an expat, so in the many lines that are drawn and dotted here she straddles a number of fences, she's risen out of poverty but she hasn't forgotten it, she's familiar and comfortable with some things western and she's also deeply ingrained here. She's honest and she's unassuming and I like her very much.
We've agreed to get out of town once a week in pursuit of other scenic vistas, determined to show our kids more of the country and allow them to experience new things. Our first outing was today, we'd decided to go to an eco-park where the kids can play and swim. She offered to tack on a grocery shopping trip at the end of the day since we were close to the City and I happily agreed because dusty shelves filled with vienna sausages and pork and beans lost their appeal months ago.
So after a day of sun we headed into the City and parked the car. We walk across a busy street into an old garage, a dirty nondescript place where she promises we can get the best produce in the country so I follow her laughing inside because I'd never have even come close to this place on my own nor would I have ever had the slightest idea there was anything inside. So we walk into this dark and dirty place where a couple of guys are unboxing fruit. They nod at us and she heads back to a walk in freezer, a big one and she moves the log that was bracing the door aside. We walk inside and I realize suddenly it's my mecca, all the produce that never makes it to the villages is sitting on the shelves. Boxes of yellow peppers and baby carrots, heads of romaine and cherry tomatoes. Green onions. So I look at her and she's going through the boxes and taking out things she wants and making a neat little pile on the floor so I figure I will do the same and so I peek inside a box and then I see it, I see bundles and bundles of asparagus, something I've missed so much and have never once seen.
I grab a bunch and I must have squealed because she's looking at me now and she's laughing it's like the angels came down and shined a white light down on your face when you saw that asparagus and I started laughing too but not before I started singing hallelujah and gently caressing the lovely green stalks against my cheek. This makes her laugh even harder and I am pretty damn happy and even as I realize it's silly and these vegetables cannot possibly be local I still make a little pile for myself. Oh my god, I see blueberries.
I forget we are in a dirty nondescript little garage and when we emerge from the freezer I realize I have no idea what to do next but there's a guy there who weighs each thing and writes it on a scrap of paper with a total and we pay and as we pay we are still laughing one because I am such a giant dork and two because we are both happy with our bounty and our day and the knowledge that we'll bring these things home to our families and enjoy their wide eyed appreciation. This is followed by a trip to a real grocery store, one with real food on the shelves where I bought ricotta cheese simply because a lasagna has been a long time coming in this land of rice and beans.
My other happiness has more to do with realizing this is one more thing I've figured out, in a country with very few addresses or stoplights or signs but plenty of word of mouth I found a little treasure and amidst all the change and poverty and adjusting it's this, this way of digging deep and figuring out and being off autopilot that I appreciate the most. Well that, and a well stocked walk in freezer in the middle of nowhere.