Saturday, April 10, 2010

Would you like gum or matches?

One of the most interesting places in Paraguay is the local Almacen (the little store around the corner). Every neighborhood has at least one - sometimes there are more than one on each block. Sometimes, they are stand alone little stores and sometimes they are simply a room in someone's house where they sell things. The sell everything from fruits and veggies to flour and sugar. They also have all sorts of candy, frozen chicken, milk products, and wine. In fact, they have an impressive stock of wine - really cheap stuff - just enough to get a person drunk (which unfortunately is the reason).

You can buy most everything you need at the Almacen. Every day our neighbors go and buy what they need for the day. 3 eggs. 1/4 cup of flour. 1 bag of milk. Last week a woman came in with a 4 or 5 month old in tow and bought two diapers. That one was a shocker to me. 2 diapers!! What are you going to do with 2 diapers!?! It has been a couple of years that I have had a baby that young in the house, but I remember that 2 diapers would last about 3 hours. Does that mean that she will come back to the store again later and buy two more?

The one thing they don't have is change - so, regardless of what you buy you are "supposed" to come with exact change. And you are not supposed to give a large bill (about the equivalent to $10.00). Today, I went to the store and bought a Kilo of sugar. It cost about $.90. He didn't have change for my $1.00 and offered me a box of matches instead.

Alison, who was with me and usually is the one we send to the Almacen to get our groceries told me afterwards. "Dad, your supposed to bring exact change. They do that to me all the time. But, for me they ask, 'Would you like gum or matches?'"

Bummer - I could have had gum!


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