I have received criticism from certain quarters over my poor steppe-related pun from that last post here, so in response I have elected to make all of my posts from here include ever more cringeworthy puns. Sorry everyone - blame “nojer”.
Today, I went to a supermarket for the first time. It was an interesting experience. Wagner (my co-trainer and house mate) and I ventured in to stock up on basic essentials (coffee, beer, bog roll, etc) to survive on for the next few days. It was a fascinating experience. Firstly, very few people here speak English. Secondly, everything is written in Cyrillic. Some things are fairly straightforward – toilet paper for example, is recognizably toilet paper, whatever the script on the packaging. Likewise with beer. Other things are a tad more difficult. We spent ages acting out the difference between instant and regular coffee before we finally settled on what we thought was real coffee.
One peculiarity was with the whole supermarket concept. It looked like a supermarket, and had all the aspects that you might expect in such a place – trolleys, baskets, various aisles and sections for different kinds of goods. But taking a closer look revealed an interesting omission – no checkouts. In fact it seemed that each little section of the shop had its own woman armed with a calculator and a pocket full of Som (Kyrgyz currency), who charged you as you moved about the place and bagged your different prizes. It was a little bit like it was a series of market stalls inside what would normally be one supermarket. When we reached the last girl-with-calculator near the exit it became clear that we had erred and in fact had managed to walk out of some undefined area of the shop without paying the section controller. Our girl was shocked at our mistake and attempted to explain, but it was clear that we had no idea how to rectify our error, so she called the woman over from the relevant section, added everything up in one go and charged us accordingly. As we left, the two of them were exchanging money between them to make up for our foreign stupidity.
Still we managed, and ended up with everything we intended to get, and came home to crack open our beers and celebrate. We are drinking СИБИРСКАЯ КОРОНА ПИВО, which I’m sure you’re aware translates as Siberian Crown beer (My limited knowledge of Cyrillic tells me it actually sounds more like Sibirska Corona Pivo, but it means Siberian Crown). I have no idea whether my carefully constructed Cyrillic will come across on your screen, but if it doesn’t, believe me - it looked good when I typed it. Not only did they stock Siberia’s finest, but also a fair smattering of international non-cyrillic beers, including Budweiser (the real Czech one, not the bland tasteless American pisswater), and other appealing brews. It could be a good month.
In addition to some good beers, I also managed to buy a can of Heinz baked beans. Outside of the UK and Australia I have never encountered such things. (Well, they are available in those little “British goods” shops scattered around the US in which you can buy McVitie’s biscuits and pickled onions and things, but normally baked beans in the US are a disgusting sweet affair*). This was very exciting to me and I had for my dinner the great meal of beans on toast and a bottle (or two) of beer.
* I should perhaps clarify here having slagged off two American things in the last two paragraphs that I am not against all things American. To sum up: Budweiser – shit. Baked beans – shit. George Bush, his government, and everyone who voted for him – extremely shit. Sierra Nevada Pale Ale – non-shit. The Simpsons - non-shit. Noam Chomsky - non-shit. Pacifica Radio - non-shit. Smoky Robinson and The Miracles - non-shit. I mean, I could go on.