Monday, August 27, 2007

What a "Mega" Pain... (but I'm so glad to even have it...)

Katya's birthday is next Monday--which also happens to be the first day of school. Her teachers said that it would be nice if we did a little something that day to celebrate it--and Katya decided that she'd like to keep up our tradition of making a pinata (again--wish I knew how to add the "~" over the "n" on this computer!). It takes time for the pinata to dry (twice--the shell and then then once decorated), so we had to get big balloons TODAY in order to be ready. I hadn't brought back things to fill the pinata, either...

So... We had to go to Mega Mall. Not exactly my first choice of what to do on one of the last great days to be outside... (We had however, spent the early afternoon outside with another American family, and the kids had enjoyed the sunshine). The trip to Mega Mall was necessary because Katya's teachers also just informed me of items she needs for her gym uniform (sneakers more like Keds, navy or black shorts) that are actually very, very hard to find. I lucked out and got the shoes, but shorts were NO WHERE to be found, not in a single children's clothing or sportswear store. Argh! How is it that the teachers thought it would be no big deal to find shorts at this time of year? And I thought I was all set for shopping when we got back from the USA...

Mega Mall is actually pretty great, though. The kids used to love the indoor playgrounds. Now they love the ice rink. Another great feature is the huge silver rocket ship at the main entrance that houses a "Kids' Club." Katya is technically too old for it, but they let her in. I paid 300 rubles for two hours for both girls to play there, supervised by four nannies. Katya hasn't been allowed in the play area at IKEA for over a year, so she enjoys going to the club. We had already made the rounds trying to get the items on our list and the kids welcomed the time to just have fun.

I'm very, very thankful that the girls could play there because I had one stop left which is THE WORST--the French equivalent of Costco, Auchon. This is how crowded the Auchon at Mega Mall ALWAYS is (unless you're there at 8 a.m. on Saturday as friends have advised):

It's ridiculous--the store is so packed that you can't even push your cart. You have to zigzag in and out of unruly crowds, constantly executing sharp turns and fast stops. Many aisles are completely inaccessible and you have to either eliminate those items from your list or leave your cart and carry everything back to it--still negotiating the dense crowds of people doing the same thing. To get everything on a normal list that includes all food groups and household items can take three hours. Then you get to wait in line.

So why would anyone shop there? The prices are fantastic. Best in the city. The quality is outstanding. Everything is ultra-fresh because of the rapid turn-around. The selection is extremely broad, including many foreign items. They tend to have pretty much anything you'd want on any given day (but, of course, there's always the day when they're out of that one key ingredient and you're stuck going elsewhere afterwards...). It may take half the day to get in and out of there, but that's better than making four trips to other places instead. As long as you can go without any children, it's worth it. I wish the carts were bigger, though--or had a bottom rack so you could fit more in. (If you're going to go through all that effort, you want to stock up as much as possible to prolong having to come back...).

Today Auchon was much more crowded than even I expected; I guess it had to do with back-to-school. I quickly gave up on most of my grocery list and just stuck to the things I knew I could only get there (and which were on aisles I could actually get to). I managed to rush through the store in 20 minutes. I then looked for a line, and every single cash register--and there are over 30--had lines as deep as this. There were 14 carts in front of me and we snaked back from the register into the aisle. One hour and 15 minutes later, I was finally done.

Daily life is so complicated here that it's almost impossible for anyone in the USA to understand... It's funny, though, how differently I react. I've been here long enough that I expect the difficulty--and when it goes much better, I'm pleasantly surprised. Having lived here in 1991 and 1999, I'm also simply grateful that one can FIND most necessary items at all. Sure, you might spend a long time looking, but you can actually count on eventually locating anything you have to have (and by then, after all that effort, you don't even care what it costs).


Tina in CT said...

What's wrong with Vonage that the phone is not working?

Lori said...

And I thought grocery shopping in America was exhausting.
By the way, I liked your comment you left me, had a little difficulty deciphering the Spanish, was tempted to have a spanish and english speaking girl in the ER translate it for me at work last night, but decided against it. Today Rach, my non-Spanish speaking sister, helped me out, I think we figured out most of it.