Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Shopping at Midnight

My desire for unobtrusive photography isn't quite up to standard yet, but you get the idea.

Pour yourself a cup of caffeine and settle in for another riveting episode of "John and Pam Try to Set Up Life!"  (Insert ooooohs and aaaaahs here.)

Diet Pepsi Ramadan Art Edition
Our friend called us yesterday to let us know that the original starting time of 8 pm for shopping wouldn't work.  Most stores won't open for Ramadan hours until 9 pm.  We told him that would be fine, so we propped ourselves up and waited for his call.

He arrived just when he said so we jumped into his little white Fiat for an evening of appliance looking and air conditioning investigation.  The flat we're interested in doesn't have those things so we thought it would be good to get an idea of the cost of things around here.

We first arrived at Aswan's version of "Best Buy."  It's located in the downtown district right on the Nile and was jam-packed with shoppers.  We walked into the brightly lit store and began perusing the "cookers" aka stoves.  I didn't recognize one name brand, but our friend (Yusef*) schooled us on good names, not so great names, etc.

John had his phone and tape measure out calculating prices, areas, circumferences and I don't know what all.  I just said, "Ooooo, this one's pretty."  They both looked at me.  "Well, it is…" I muttered.

I had told John in the beginning that a good stove, fridge and a/c were primo important for me to be able to psychologically adapt.  Now I am fully willing when necessary to rough it and some day soon we might need to, but if it's available…

We gathered prices, model numbers, etc. and moved onto the next location.  The streets were packed with families laughing, talking, shopping.  Yusef adeptly navigated through the pedestrians, donkeys, honking cars and took us to the front door of another store.

An unfortunate Google Translate victim
This one was smaller but still full of people.  We looked at similar items, but also included a water filter in this run.  The man who owned the store said he had one, but that the good one he liked better (made in England) was at his other store.  He told us to wait 5 minutes while a worker ran to get it.  Another nice man brought me a chair to sit in while I waited.

We continued to wait around for another 15 minutes and realized that maybe it was going to take longer than we anticipated.  Yusef suggested we continue shopping and return later.  We agreed.

He asked if we needed groceries (which we did) and volunteered to take us to a store nearby.  Yusef's wife had called earlier so he could take care of his list and help us at the same time.  I had a little basket and was shopping for a few things when John came into the store and said, "You are never going to guess who I just talked to!"  He was right. I couldn't.  We only know 8 people in Aswan.

"Hussein*!  He saw me walking in and stopped me!"

I couldn't believe it!  Hussein?!  The short story is that we had met Hussein during our first visit.  He was a conservative, Arab M*slim in his 30s who had just retired from the U.S. Army and recently relocated to Aswan.  His English is brilliant and he's very personable.  His life story still baffled me and I wasn't quite sure how to proceed.  Yet here we were.

John told me that Hussein volunteered to help us with our visa since he had just gone through the process himself.  Wow.

I finished my purchases (including a jar of Extra Crunchy Jif–woot!) and started walking toward the car.  I thought John and Yusef were behind me but I didn't see them.  I waited a minute when John came running up.  He said, "Sorry.  Hussein stopped me on the way out to give me this!"  In his hand was a large box of helawa or sweets.  I couldn't believe it.  So kind!  Hussein presented it to John and said, "Welcome to Aswan!"
So kind!

We put the groceries in the car and checked back by Water Filter Guy.  Still nothing.  Yusef said we should now go to the mattress store and check our options.  There are 2 choices:  soft and canoe-like or hard "medical foam" as they say.  We didn't make a decision because we didn't measure the size of the bed frame.  No twin, full, queen, etc. here.  It's all in centimeters.  Stupid metric system.

Yusef's wife called again and asked him to add some fruit to his list.  He asked us if we'd like to shop for fruit.  We smiled and said, "Yes, of course."  I picked up some mangos while Yusef completed his Honey-Do List.

One more stop by the Water Filter Guy proved successful.  Now price didn't really matter.  We had a lot of time, effort and benzine (gas) invested.  John came out the proud owner of one England-made water filter.

By now, it's around midnight and I'm beginning to lag a bit.  We had one more stop to check out air conditioners.  It seemed a rather straight forward task, but we were there for 30 minutes discussing the virtues and contrasts of the two brands offered.

Yuself declared our shopping trip a success.  We told him that we would add up all the prices and determine what we could purchase right now and what would have to wait.  Then we would exchange our USD for Egyptian pounds and go from there.  He seemed to think we could have it all transacted within days.  That's exciting!

We arrived back at the flat around 1 am feeling so happy to be here, to make a little progress, to meet Yusef and Hussein, to be treated so kindly by strangers, to see the beginnings of friendships take place.

Tomorrow we'll try to get a little further down the list, but I won't worry about that now.  I've got ALL day to prepare.  No one will be out until evening anyway.  Sing with me..."Oh, I love the night life.  I've got to boooooogie!"

*Not their real names

Alas, we did not have time to stop at the Romance Store...

My view while I waited for John to get the water filter...

Today's BOGO Blog:  Our First Egyptian Concert

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