Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Borneo: Day 2

For me, one of the highlights of visiting another country (or even another suburb) is visiting the supermarket. In my opinion, this common act is an insight into how the people live and operate, and also how they like their everyday items presented. I love seeing it.

Our first encounter with a downtown Borneo supermarket was on the ground floor level of a five story complex, not counting the basement where the food court was which proved to be an experience all its own. The supermarket would wait until after lunch.

Down in the underground it was like one big giant smorgasboard of Asian food and more rice than you could poke a pair of chopsticks at. Our senses were assaulted with every sight and smell, and the heat was unbelievable. Imagine your local mall basement is turned into a grand scale eatery with all the food on open air display, not a caucasian in sight, and you're the only person not wearing sleeves on your tee shirt, and you've got the general idea. The shell-shocked kids in our midst settled for bowls of 2-min noodles.

Our bare arms earned us ladies quite a few looks and we felt a bit conspicuous. We felt better when a woman with shoestring straps came down with her husband and did the rounds of the stalls. Phew! It wasn't just us.

After this late lunch we went upstairs and I got my meander through the supermarket. Mainly we bought drinks and sweets, but this is the best part. I love seeing how they shop, what they buy... Do they fill their trolley or grab just a few items? Is the food unhealthy or strange or cheap? How is it displayed? How much does it cost? How is the packaging different? etc.

I must admit that when one of our friends pointed out the neatly plastic-wrapped apples displayed on what we use as a meat tray back home, I felt this was unusual indeed. It took me a few days to work out they don't buy their fruit at the supermarket but the actual street markets, which is better value and much tastier. Off the shelf, however, I picked up mango and lychee juice boxes, but also snavelled a pack of M&Ms. Hilarious!

The best part was seeing an in-store advertisement for Sunsilk over the shampoo display. Sure enough the woman on the placard was grinning like women do in hair commercials. Her skin was a flawless shade of soft light brown. Her eyes were glistening a deep, alluring shade of chocolate. Her hair? Hard to say. Her entire head and every lock upon it was under a headcovering. Being split between Muslim and Christian, headcoverings in Borneo are a dime a dozen.

I guess we'll just have to take her word for it.


Decide: What do you take for granted everyday that someone else would find delightfully unusual and even inspiring?

"You discern my going out and my lying down;
   you are familiar with all my ways." Psalm 139v3

Tu sais quand je marche et quand je me couche,
      et tous mes chemins te sont familiers.

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