Shop Till You Drop

While staying at the orphanage in Guatemala City, I was able to access a variety of stores to supply the needs of my sewing classes. My shopping buddy was usually Señora Irene, one of the capable ladies who organize things at the orphanage. Whatever I needed, Señora Irene knew where to get it. My trusty cab driver, Jose, took me wherever I wanted to go, waited patiently while I shopped, and managed to stuff my many purchases into his small cab. Shopping in the small, rural town of Nueva Concepcion, is a different experience. Here, my driver is Charley, the jack-of-all-trades who takes care of everything at the Orthodox seminary where we are currently staying. A former police officer, he never leaves home without his trusty sidearm. As in the city, stores are usually guarded at the door by unsmiling men, carrying BIG guns. It is a wonder to me that anyone would attempt a theft, considering such a presence of righteous firepower. And yet, robberies do occur. There was a robbery at one of the gas stations that provides an income for the local church. The attendant was shot and critically wounded. He survived and was able to identify his attackers. The police caught up with the perpetrators and shot them dead on the spot. I guess they don’t have a backlog of court cases here. There are many stores in Nueva Concepcion, each carrying a very limited supply of very specific merchandise. Each item on one’s shopping list must be carefully sought out in a variety of locations until its serendipitous encounter. This can be exhausting! There is an area that they call the “Old Market,” reminiscent of the ancient markets I encountered in Jerusalem’s Old City, and the bazaars in Istanbul and Cairo. One day, in search of an ironing board for my sewing classroom, I combed the shops of Nueva Concepcion in vain until I finally came upon a man carrying ironing boards on his back and selling them along the streets. It is times like this that make me appreciate the convenience of Walmart. Because I had a long list of things to buy for my classroom, I was offered a ride to Paiz, a large supermarket, affiliated with Walmart. I eagerly accepted. This shopping trip launched us on a more than 3-hour drive over rocky, unpaved roads, past fields of sugar cane and corn, and along groves of banana and rubber trees. Horses, cows, and pigs grazed serenely along the roadside, while cloud-shrouded volcanic peaks ringed the horizon. This scenic drive would have been reward enough for the day. In addition to this joy, the Paiz store offered shopping carts, satisfied all items on my shopping list, and had a quick and easy check-out. What more could a shopper ask for?

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