Monday, October 11, 2010

Sam's Club Day

Every few months I have a full morning of "sam's club" shopping.
Today was my day. Not because I can't find these things at the regular grocery store, but I can get them in bulk and at a much better price if I make the rounds.

I dropped the kids off at school, and then started on my way downtown. I stopped at the ATM machine to get out some cash. The account we have here was still holding the funds for a few more days I guess, because hardly anything was showing available though there was sufficient amount in there. I then had to drive home to go and get my other bank card for the ATM for our bank in America. I try not to carry too many cards or cash if not needed, since there is always the real threat of being pick pocketed, moreso downtown than other places. So since Grace had already cried once when I left I didn't want to come back 30 minutes later to get a card and then have her cry again. Enock opened the gate and then Emma came out and we exchanged cards.

Back again to the same bank and then I was able to get the money out. We headed first to the Social welfare office to pay the fee to record the adoption forms. We should hear sometime of our court date.
After there we went to the first of 5 stops on the bulk shopping trip today.

National Milling Corporation.
I buy flour in bulk so we pulled in to the parking lot after the guard took down my name and license plate number. I had been there once before with my friend Janet but today she was not with me, it was just Enock and I. He helps carry things ( as you will see) stays with the car when there are things bought and also helps to navigate around downtown. And as I mentioned before it is best not to go alone.

So In order to buy flour in bulk- I go first to a sales office. I walk in and say hello and then order the flour. I then get a piece of paper and go to another window to pay at the cashier. Then I am sent back to the first window to show that I have paid and am given an order form and receipt. I then walk outside across a couple parking lots to another building. Once there I walk up the steps of the factory into another office building. There are a few men in the office there and so we greet one another and then I give the order form. The man asks why I need all this, am I going to sell the flour?
I told him no, I have a big family and use it to make pancakes, breads, muffins, cookies, scones, cakes…
He then asked if I had adopted some of the kids and then told him yes, one of them.
Then he said well I want to be in your family. Because of all the baking.

He then asked what is common to be asked sometimes, and that is what language am I learning or do I know.
Unfortunately not any really but I would like to learn Bemba. I then asked what tribe he is from and area of the country. He then told me which language was his language and then handed the form off to another man who then went to get the sack of flour.
He brought the sack in gave the from back to the man at the desk and he stamped it and then gave it to me and said a few more things and then I was on my way. The man carrying the sack of flour to the car. Enock was waiting, opened the trunk and then we got in to go to the next place.

Enock drove since he was more familiar with the area and it is more in the city market section of town.
We arrived at the warehouse that sells potatoes. I got out of the car, he reminded me of the price ( so I wouldn't be "taken") and then I started looking around at the people and line / queue that was forming.
A man that worked there saw me and came over to ask what type and how many bags.
He then took me to where all the potatoes are laying around on a concrete floor warehouse with lots of people all around looking over them and showed me what I was looking for.
I then walked back outside across from where the car was parked and Enock was waiting. I couldn't tell where the line was starting and ending at the window where you pay for the potatoes and get your order form. So the man said, one side was where the women wait and the other side was where the men wait.
Very interesting. SInce I was only ordering one bag, he told me to stand in the "mens side of the line behind another woman. A new man came up and told me I was in the wrong line and asked why I was there.
The woman then turned to ask how many bags of potatoes I wanted, and since it was only one I paid her and then she added one to her order of 10 bags.

Many people come there to buy the potatoes and then re sell them all over town.
I was just looking for an inexpensive bag of decent potatoes for our family.

After she got her order form I walked with her and Enock came out at that point and we went to get the potatoes. But since I was on her order I had to wait until she picked out the 10 bags that she thought were best and then I added my one bag. We then walk back toward the entrance and wait for the man at the front to check the order form and count the sacks of potatoes. Once that is cleared we take our sack and head back into the car. Onto the fruit!

I remembered how much I paid for a box of apples last time since when we were there with my friend they tried to charge me more being the muzungu. (white person). As soon as we drove up to the shop, there were about 10 guys sitting around in front and so I asked Enock to come in with me. Whatever was in the car would be fine at that point, I wanted to make sure I was going to be fine.

The price for a case of apples had increased from 120,000 kwachas to 165,000.
I talked to them for a little bit asking why the increase and they said they are no longer in season…
I reminded them I bought them last time at 120 and so asked for 130. Reluctantly they agreed.
I then asked about the oranges and they brought out a 15 kg sack and said it was 65,000.
I offered 50,000 since I was already buying apples from them. He said yes, we already gave you a good price on the apples. True enough, so I offered 60,000 and it was a deal.
While we were in the shop a man was walking around the car- the PRADO- touching it and saying, "Nice vehicle". He repeated it a few times until I just finally said, "Thanks." and got on with the fruit buying business. I walked out with a case of apples and sack of oranges.

Next stop was the wholesale shop.
The traffic was very heavy all morning long, since it was a monday. We arrived to where the shop is and couldn't find parking. Enock was going to stay with the vehicle and then hope to find a parking place when one came open.
I went in and started my "shopping".
Shopping is standing in front of the caged area looking up high at all the shelves and then telling one of about 20 guys working there behind the cage, all scurrying about, what things I wanted. If I was fully prepared I would have a detailed list of brands and sizes and how many. But I wasn't. I had a partial list that he took and brought things to the floor behind the counter and started my pile. Other guys are doing the same thing and the counter is always crowded with people giving and waiting for their orders. And piles all over the place. As I was standing there another guy that worked there was standing next to me catching boxes and then throwing them on.

One man behind the counter threw 2 or 3 boxes down for him. He then took 2 at a time threw them to another guy standing in the "store" ( and I say store but the place you all stand is no bigger than an average living room)
The third guy caught the box and set it down making piles on the floor in the store. Right behind where I was standing. (Personal space is not something practiced here)

I watched them working as I waited on the order. Finally it was completed and then it was counted out to the cashier and placed on the counter. At that point I phoned Enock in the car for him to come and help get the items. They are not packaged in boxes so you need to have someone stay with the things and another person take the things to the car. Enock came in and told me that the vehicle was clamped for parking in the wrong place. My first thought, "oh no…" and then he said, the man said if you pay 20,000 kwachas ( like 5 dollars) he will unclamp it rather than officially take it in for 450,000 (close to a hundred dollars).
I let out a sigh of frustration and then gave him the money to pay the collector.

He came back in got the items and loaded the vehicle. I walked out and the man was standing there in front of the car. He seemed friendly enough but I asked him, if he was with the vehicle the whole time I was in the store why was it clamped for wrong parking. He was just waiting with it.
he then told me that if he had been waiting in the drivers side it would have been ok. But for some reason he was waiting in the passengers side. Another sigh of frustration. The man gave me the receipt and then I briefly talked with Enock. We got in the car to drive to stop number 5.
It was pretty quiet and I had told him next time to stay in the side so if he needed to move the car he could.
Ended up he was sitting on the other side talking with a friend out the window while he was waiting for me.
He made a comment about it spoiling the day, and how the guy was just out to get us and get some money.
Which could be entirely true. There is much corruption in govt and down. As we drove away he pointed out another vehicle that had the tire clamped. I told him it was fine.

The Milk factory was the last stop. Parmalat.
I get butter, cheese, milk, cream and juice here.
You never know if they will have what I want in stock like mozzarella cheese or cheddar.
You walk into a small office/room and order and pay. You then get the order form and wait in another line.
It was rather long today, different people in there buying their items to re-sell. I waited quite awhile and then someone came to take my form and start collecting the items. It smells a bit like sour milk at times.
We gathered up the items they checked off the list and we loaded up to head for home. By the time we get back to the house I will have been gone over 5 hours.

As we drive out of the gate, the guard stops us to check the order form see that it is paid for and then opens the trunk and looks in it to see that what we have bought is paid for and nothing more has been added.

And THAT part reminds me of Sam's Club. As I push my "buggy" or "trolley" out of the store. At Blankenbaker The man in the wheelchair stops me, says hello and takes his orange highlighter and draws a line down the side saying that all the items are there. He turns it over and draws a smiley face on the back of it and shows it to one of the 5 (now 6) kids that have tagged along for the shopping trip that day. We have enjoyed the free samples along the way and I have found everything I needed in my one stop bulk shopping, in under an hour!
Sam's club--oh, how I do miss you.

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