The other day after class, Grant and I went back to the apartment, ate lunch, and began checking things off the to do list. We picked up a package at the front desk (the loaf pan, muffin tin, and cooling racks I decided we could no longer do without), took Scarlett for a nice walk, and did some shopping. Online shopping, that is.
I love online shopping. Of course, I love any kind of shopping, so that’s not saying much; the convenience of online shopping makes it incredibly appealing. Not only can I avoid the crowded roads of Northern Virginia but also I can make more informed decisions. It is nice to be able to compare prices and read reviews of items before actually purchasing them. Foreign Service life really taught me how wonderful Amazon.com is. With Amazon Prime’s free two-day shipping, it felt like we would get our items much more quickly. The diplomatic pouch (mail) typically arrived in Tashkent twice a week and was reasonably fast, with times that averaged two weeks or so. (Friends and family who sent us letters and care packages: thank you! Getting a little piece of home always made us smile.)
In Uzbekistan, most western items were either not available or were ridiculously expensive, and since our mailing address was in the States, we were able to take advantage of all that Amazon.com has to offer (with some restrictions, of course — nothing too big or heavy, no glass, no liquids, etc.). This is a huge benefit and not something the average expat enjoys. Needless to say, we did a lot of online shopping.
Which brings me back to this particular afternoon: I was having difficulty finding the exact item I wanted. When I finally voiced my frustrations, Grant said, “you know, we could probably just go to CVS. Or the grocery store. Or any number of places.” Um, duh Sarah! I had slipped back into the mindset of someone who used Amazon.com for nearly everything. But I’m back in America now and can just go to the store if I need something.
Of course, what is available will be completely variable depending on the particular post. This can even be true of a country and the availability of specific items in different areas. Take pizza in America, for example. Outside of the New York/New Jersey area, it becomes much more difficult to find really good pizza. I mean really good pizza. 2 Amy’s is the exception, since it is in DC and happens to make some of the best pizza in the entire world. Pizza preferences aside, I know many more items will be available in Serbia than those we could find in Uzbekistan, which is pretty isolated geographically.
Shopping is just one of the many challenges a foreigner must overcome in a new country. Until the next new country, I will enjoy shopping in one I know and understand.*
*Since when does CVS employ a predominantly self-checkout service? It definitely threw us for a loop when we first went into one when we got back this summer. What happened to using actual people??