Monday in a Picture – An RPCV Goes Grocery Shopping

One of the things that we were warned about before finishing service in eSwatini was the overwhelming-ness of the grocery store. American grocery stores are filled with stuff. Some stuff is slightly different from other stuff. Sometimes, the differences are so slight that it’s difficult to tell why all of the stuff exists. With an abundance of options, it can be difficult to make a decision.

Then, there are the prices. Shortly after arriving in eSwatini, I walked through Swazi grocery stores converting everything into US dollars. Now that I’m back in DC, my mind readily converts everything into emalangeni. I’m sure I’ll break the habit eventually, but initially, the sticker shock is real.

Recently, I was walking through a local grocery store and thought, “why are there so many kinds of Oreos?” Cold brew coffee is a big thing now. As a less than occasional coffee drinker, I was perplexed by all of the bottled cold brew coffee on offer in the store. The above picture is of most of the yogurt options. So much choice!

Be kind to yourself.

P.S. – I felt like Andy Rooney, on his closing 60 Minutes segment, as I walked through the grocery store. Many times, just wondering, “why?”.

P.P.S. – Walking through the grocery store pales in comparison to walking through Wal-Mart.

Monday in a Picture – Bend and Pick

I love thrift stores. There’s some magical about spending copious amounts of time looking through any and everything. My mother said that I get this trait from my grandmother, who also loved thrifting. Shortly after arriving in eSwatini, I found Thelma who owned a small thrift store in Manzini, eSwatini’s biggest city. Thelma spruced up my wardrobe with a few items. Due to rising business costs, Thelma had to close her store.

Some PCVs in the prior groups told me about a wonderful swap meet known as Bend and Pick. Every Wednesday and Thursday (excluding some Swazi public holidays), vendors from eSwatini and the rest of southern Africa converge on the Manzini bus rank with their wares. Bend and Pick is the largest regular flea market, that I know of, in eSwatini. If it can be worn, you’ll probably find it there. I’ve found several gems there including my super useful fanny pack. The prices are reasonable, even on a PCV budget. I’ve found that prices tend to be better the deeper you go into the market. Unlike most places in eSwatini, you can negotiate at Bend and Pick. Like thrift stores, Bend and Pick is not for folks who are in a rush or impatient. I’ve also found that as a man of size, Bend and Pick tends to be better for finding clothes that fit me. The picture above is from Bend and Pick a few weeks ago.

Be kind to yourself.

Sweet Dreams – Cell Phones and Road Trips

Because I am posted in a country where I might contract malaria, I have been given an antimalarial medication called, “Mefloquine”. One of the side effects of this medication is vivid dreaming. The following is what I dreamt last night (as best I can remember). 

I was on a road trip with an indiscriminate number of friends. We may have been returning home. We ended up stopping by a cell phone super store. Think Wal-Mart, but only mobile phones. There was a section in the rear of the store that was dedicated to mobile phone repairs and servicing. I wandered back there and started chatting with the sales associate. She had a pleasant demeanor, but was not very helpful. 

I ended up browsing the store, including the latest mobile phones. I tried to buy a glass screen protector for my phone, but they were out of stock. We got back on the road. A few hours later, it was time to drop off one of our road tripping friends. She invited everyone in for family dinner. We started discussing mobile phones after dinner. My friend’s mother seemed to be shying away from the conversation. I asked the mother if she had a phone. She stated that she did not. She went on to say how complicated they are. My friend told me that she had tried to get her mother a phone to no avail. 

I took my friend’s iPhone and showed her mom the maps and how she could save her home location so that she could always navigate home. Her mom was excited and intrigued. I told her mom that she was less likely to get lost if she had navigation, and that if she did get lost, she could call for help. Her mother said that she would think about getting a cell phone. 

Be kind to yourself. 

Sweet Dreams – College Days

Because I am posted in a country where I might contract malaria, I have been given an antimalarial medication called, “Mefloquine”. One of the side effects of this medication is lucid dreaming. The following is what I dreamt last night (as best I can remember). 

​I was in the college bookstore. It may have been around homecoming. I’m not sure if I was a student or not. I don’t think I was. It was definitely Livingstone College (my alma mater), but not the one that I remember. The book store didn’t have any books. It looked kind of like a convenience store on the inside. 

I had decided that I wanted some college swag. I was looking at hats. I didn’t see any baseball caps, so I checked out the knitted winter caps. They were really, really nice. I didn’t see a price anywhere, so I asked the guy working in the book store. He didn’t tell me the price, but he did say that I was lucky and the hats were ten dollars off today. I asked for the price again. He repeated himself. I looked on the inside of the hat. The tag said that it was 100 percent wool and that it was $220. I asked the guy if it was really $220. He reminded me that I got ten dollars off. 

Then, I went to the cafeteria. It was almost closing time. There was a line of students (I’m guessing) coming out of the door. I stood in line. They were serving spaghetti with meat sauce. Some of the people seated choose to the serving line invited me to sit with them. They all looked vaguely familiar but I didn’t know any of them. 

There was a pitcher of orange drink sitting on the table. I wanted to get some soda from the soda fountain in the back of the cafeteria, but I noticed that the soda fountain was in a different part of the cafeteria. It was separated by a glass wall, and I couldn’t get over there. 

Be kind to yourself. 

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