Sunday, July 18, 2010

From my window I see a Chinese flag, a satellite dish, and a carefully-tended, most likely illegal garden on my neighbor's fire escape.

Taking stock of the contents of my fridge this morning (a single can of Coors Light, a lone Corona, and eight jello-shots left over from Friday night’s festivities, alongside a half gallon of spoiled milk and a nearly-rotten head of lettuce) I decided it was about time to make another trip to my neighborhood grocery store: The Hong Kong Supermarket.
This was my third trip to HKSM, but the experience was as overwhelming and eye-opening as my first. Hard as I tried, I just couldn’t not stare at the guy in front of me buying nothing but chicken feet (yes, chicken feet!) and pickled vegetables. The same goes for the buckets of live frogs alongside the shrimp in the fresh fish section. Live. Frogs. Just hanging out in buckets.
I also can’t get over the crazy abundance of some things in relation to a lack of others… for example, two entire isles are devoted to various brands and types of soy sauce, but there is no vinegar anywhere in the entire two-story building. Believe me. I’ve checked everywhere. And there are double the number of preserved duck and quail eggs for sale than regular eggs. W. T. F. ?
Also rice and noodles vs. loaves of bread—there are more varieties of rice and noodles available at this place than there are grains of filthy sand on the beach at Coney Island; but regular ol’ bread? Let’s just say I purchased potato bread today, not because I prefer potato bread to wheat or white, but because it was the only type left in their meager bread section, aside from raisin bread, which I was fairly certain would not be ideal for pairing with the turkey and cheese slices I’d selected for sandwiches. Why no wheat or white bread today? They keep so little in stock; all of the “regular” bread had sold out.
Finally, the cherry on the sundae (not that I could find candied cherries at this place…) is the “appliance” section downstairs. I was really excited the first time I came upon this section. I thought it was random, but convenient, and considering I’d been living the past month without a microwave I couldn’t wait to purchase one there and enjoy cooking Ramen the regular way. I’d lately been resorting to using my coffee maker to do the job; though the Ramen comes out just as delicious, it’s admittedly pretty weird and I was ready to give up this practice.  
But, there were no microwaves to be found in the appliance section. Just rice cookers. As far as the eye could see, rice cookers. The isle may as well as been called “rice cooker” isle—appliance isle was NOT the right word. And so my Ramen and coffee maker relationship continues…
I may sound like I’m bashing the HKSM, but the truth is I’m fascinated by it. Every trip there has been both an adventure and a challenge. Things I could previously recognize easily by their shape and labels—soup, for example—are now heavily disguised beneath Chinese characters and in little pouches beside different mixes and seasoning.
Figuring it all out has been pretty fun. And with groceries in the fridge, the apartment feels more like a home somehow.
It doesn’t hurt that Tyler’s dad came in town last weekend and performed what can only be described as the most miraculous of miracles here, hanging up pictures and putting together furniture like nobody’s business until our space actually looked like a place where humans could potentially live rather than the extremely cramped storage unit it barely passed for prior.
A month into moving here, it’s all finally coming together. Had a grilled cheese sandwich for lunch and sliced oranges foraged from the wilds of The Hong Kong Supermarket—so, it’s safe to say that right this moment, life is looking pretty good :)