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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Shopping (03/01/07)

TITLE: Shopping As It Should Be
By cindy yarger


I stood in front of the apples in complete despair. There they were piled high in all their shining glory. Each one seemingly saying, “I am perfect.” I moaned and hurried off.

Years later I was again overcome. It was in the juice aisle this time. I tried very hard to concentrate (no pun intended) on the various choices in front of me. It was no use. I threw up my hands in total exasperation and fled. I may even have been murmuring aloud.

Through the years I have found that I am not alone in this. One friend said that she almost had a nervous breakdown in front of the bread section. A long time pen pal said that she nearly broke down in tears by the peanut butter. She actually counted every type and every jar. I have a sneaky suspicion that some of you reading this may be able to relate as well.

This syndrome hasn’t a name, it is not catchy, and will not debilitate you (at least not for long!) It is shared though by many who have lived in a foreign country. There is something about shopping in a grocery store in ones home country, once you have returned, that triggers these episodes.

Apples, in Mexico, were sold from bins. They were not shiny and none were perfect. You had to pick through them to find the ones that you wanted to buy. They didn’t “seemingly say” anything at all.

Juice, in Vietnam, never came in bottles. You couldn’t even purchase it in a store. It was sold in restaurants or roadside stands – freshly squeezed from the fruit.

When my pen pal told me about her peanut butter experience, I immediately thought of shopping for peanut butter in Vietnam (since that’s where I was living then.) When I went to get peanut butter in our grocery store there, they had only one jar in the whole store.

For many of us, our “home country” grocery store enables us to make hundreds of choices. In America, the cereal aisle alone can devastate you, boxes and boxes to choose from. The longer you’ve been away the worse it is. My advice? On your first trip make your list short.

I’ve been home for a while now, so I don’t have any trouble in the grocery store. Well, that is not entirely true. There is trouble of a new type. With all of the choices available I have found that one store carries our favorite bread, another store carries our favorite bottled water, but not the bread, and yet a third store has the best produce but not the water nor the bread.

May haps that is, as it should be.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Jan Ackerson 03/09/07
I loved the beginning few paragraphs of this--you kept us guessing as to why apples or juice caused you such distress....and I've often thought, while in Meijer, that the contents of that store could feed an entire third world town for a year. How overwhelmed they'd be! Really good piece, both witty and thought-provoking.
Joanne Sher 03/09/07
Enjoyed all the details in this - did a great job of helping us see how spoiled we are here. This flowed very nicely.
Marilyn Schnepp 03/11/07
Amen! Ditto! After standing at the cereal section trying to choose - while a taxi meter is running up big bucks; makes one long for the days when it was either Wheaties or Corn Flakes. Ah! How true, and written with wit and honesty. Great entry on Topic! Enjoyable!
Jacquelyn Horne03/12/07
What an enlightening story. In America, many things are taken for granted. I can't imagine not having a choice. Makes you want to pray harder for our service men and women and our missionaries. Good writing.
Jen Davis03/15/07
Pun intended or not, having a hard time concentrating on the juice aisle was really cute. The choices we have certainly can be overwhelming. I had to laugh when I though of the cereal aisle at my Walmart—both sides of one entire aisle from the floor to the top shelf. Outrageous, isn’t it? A very enjoyable read. I’d say more, but I have an errand to run. Can you guess where?