The Bodegona (literally meaning large warehouse) is, I suppose, the nearest thing Antigua has to a supermarket, but that is stretching the term somewhat! It is more a ramshackle collection of things organised in a way that still defeats me (they keep moving things around). Some of the aisles are impossible to get down with your trolley, and trolley plus baby, absolutely forget it. You need to abandon trolley and make a kamikaze style manoeuvre to get what you need.
Hygiene standards are not their forte. The latest rumour, and I almost have CSI type evidence, is that they turn the fridges off at night, which is a tad worrying to all of us who live in a country with more than its fair share of tummy bugs.
The place has however improved a lot in the last year or so and at some stage a visit is a necessary evil. Now they have proper checkouts and trolleys and there is even a private carpark opposite, so when you are desperate you have the option of paying 6q to park so you don´t have to walk 2 blocks with all your shopping and a baby strapped on. That said, I usually find some 10 year old hanging around the door who wants to earn a couple of quetzal carrying shopping. So there are advantages to third world supermarkets!
However, all things taken into account, I have grown used to this strange place and it is often the only time I bump into expat friends and neighbours who I wish I saw more. I also have been treated with extraordinary kindness, especially by the people who work there. I can´t imagine it is a great place to work, but generally they all seem remarkably cheerful no matter how grumpy I am when I make it to the checkout. (By the way the 10 year olds that collect the rubbish (trash that is) look fiendishly happy too, a subject for future investigation I promise).
Last Friday, I was dragging myself around the supermarket when I should have been having my first glass of wine of the weekend and with that in mind was cheering myself up, selecting a bottle of my usual Chilean delight when …….. some weird looking guy sidled up to me. I sidled away from him in what I thought was a graceful manner but no. I smashed a bottle of unidentifiable liquor on the floor. It caused a palpable little flurry of excitement around the booze aisle. At that moment a neighbour (British Belize) appeared next to me with her new gorgeous baby boy, after a brief, ooh ahh cluck cluck mummy session, we looked down at the booze on the floor, which by this stage seemed to be burning a hole in the cheap dirty lino. As we were both marvelling somewhat at this, I admitted to have never done this before, and not knowing what the supermarket etiquette was, here or anywhere on this matter, I was biding my time.
At that point I noticed the gap in the shelf where said bottle had been, and believe me, it did not look up to supermarket standards, in fact it looked as though a dog had been chewing it! Some poor guy who had been chosen to ´come and admonish the tall gringa´ appeared at my side.
Hombre, fue muy mal puesto which translates to something along the lines of mate it wasnt very well shelved.
I offered to pay half and the deal was done with all parties happy. What was it? I still dont know but it was luckily very cheap and I will never be drinking it after what I saw!
Five minutes later when I had finished buying all my things and was saying goodbye to my neighbour the same young guy dropped what was left of the bottle all over the floor in an even more spectacular fashion than my earlier attempt. At this point everyone around us was laughing. Mire, es vivo, yo te dije! Look, I said, I told you it was alive.
Me and my little ´half pint helper´ chuckled across the road to the car with the groceries with him muttering under his breath es vivo es vivo and shaking his head at my rather successful little joke!!
To follow will be a more sensible blog on food shopping in Antigua for Mums. I don´t think it will be blog that will have global importance however I shall write it as if it does!
For those of you who don´t know quetzal (q) is the currency in Guatemala as well as the national bird that nobody has EVER seen. There are around 7q to the dollar I think.