Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Day in the Life: Shopping

For those of you who have always wondered what our day-to-day life looks like here in Moscow, I'm happy to present a series entitled "A Day in the Life."  For the first installment, I'll show you what a big grocery store run looks like.  As I've learned, this approach to shopping is a bit counter-cultural as most Russians make a quick stop into a local store to pick up what's needed on a daily basis.  Day-to-day shopping and eating makes a lot of sense here, especially without a car, and I'll often pick up a few last minute items in this fashion on my way home from the metro.  Moscow is peppered with grocery stores, convenience stores, kiosks, and fruit/vege stands appropriate for this kind of life-style, but most of these places don't mind charging a little extra for the convenience.  When keeping a tight food budget, I try to stock up on staples and big price items (meat, cheese, milk, etc.) at our nearest warehouse-type-super-market (a mix between a Safeway and a Costco) called Ashan.  I try to make one of these big store runs once a month or once every two months.  It's about a 3-4 hour round trip (give or take traffic that day) and every time I get home, I wonder why I do this in the first place.  It's quite a work-out in every sphere of my life:  physically, emotionally, spiritually, financially, philosophically, grammatically, etc..  But Dan's beaming face always greets me upon return:  "Ashan Christmas," he calls it, as he eagerly unwraps bag after bag of provisions for the next month or two.  Perhaps if "Ashan Christmas" came as seldom as regular Christmas, I'd look forward to it with as much anticipation as Dan.   


I'm just headed out the door with my very non-Russian looking backpack.  Inside I have my wallet and two other large hand-bags to fill to capacity.  I make my way to the bus stop - if I've timed my food run well, the bus is just slightly quicker than the metro and takes me just a tad closer to my destination - more important on the return trip with 3 heavy bags.  


That's my ride, the number 72 trolleybus.  Corners like a dream and picks up speed as subtly as a hurricane.  A bus ticket is 28 rubles, just under $1.  I'm in luck, the bus isn't too crowded today.  Standing room only is fairly typical here - public transport being much more popular than in the States.


On one's way to the store, one can pick up fisherman's pick straight from the Moscow River.  Actually, seeing fish sold on the street is the true sign that winter has come to the city.  It was a bit pricey for me today, so I just walked on by.




Upon entering Ashan, the first thing one's obliged to do is seal any personal bags or belongings.  It's a theft prevention method reminiscent of those infomercials which allow you to make your own ziplock seal.  Good times.  Here's my newly wrapped backpack in my cart.





Finally entering the shopping arena, it's every man for himself.  Particularly approaching the winter holidays, Ashan can be a bit of a mad-house.  Typically here, you keep your cart close by.  You never know who may be shopping right out of your cart if left unattended at the end of an aisle.


What a nice surprise!  Peanut butter!  This is the first time I've seen Peanut butter at Ashan, good thing I had a camera on me!  (If you're curious, this small jar is 180 rubles, roughly $5.60.)



Whew!  After a long line at check-out, I'm finally bagged up and ready for the commute home.  This is roughly 50-60 lbs of food goods to haul home and will last a month or two.  Home again, home again, jiggity jig!  Hope you enjoyed your trip with me!  Let's do it again in a month!


Friday, December 2, 2011

While we were away...

Tens of thousands of people stood in this line.


For this.


Why?

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/24/world/europe/virgin-mary-belt-relic-draws-crowds-in-moscow.html

Apparently, we've missed quite a bit.  We're still catching up.