Although I've been too busy to take care of getting my driver's license here, I do feel comfortable driving to a couple of regular spots. One of these is the SVS at Harbour City. I still get a lot of "looks" when out driving alone, but it's stopped worrying me so much. After working for a few hours this morning, I stopped by one of the banks and pulled out some cash at an ATM. One of the security officers took a particular liking to my bilum, and wanted to talk about it, but I could understand very little of what he said. Still, I smiled politely and patted my bag to let him know I knew what the conversation was basically about.
After the bank, I headed for the grocery store. I'm not sure what they call it here, but "grocery store" is not it. I tried calling it the "market", but that seems to refer to a different type of store. The SVS I go to is one that is frequented by expats. It's a bit different than the Stop 'n' Shop I go to downtown, at which I rarely encounter other whites. I like shopping at both, but for different things.
Although every week I look at the beef in the packages and think I will "treat" myself to something, even if only a hamburger. And every week I shake my head at the high prices and move on. In the vegetable section, I try to buy only locally grown foods. That may seem silly, but the prices are much better, and I just feel like I have a better chance at settling in here by sticking to local products. So, I bought a couple of nice eggplants and can't wait to get home and cook them up. I also bought some locally grown potatoes, which look and taste delicious, but are rather small in size and cost a bit more when you account for the amount of dirt still on them. I bought some local tomatoes, and a small version of what we would call "bell peppers". Here, they call them "capsicum" and I believe they are going to be a bit hotter than the larger, local varieties found back in the states.
Going to the store alone gives me quite a feeling of independence as I am perfectly at home there now. I know where to go, what to buy, how to act, how to check out properly, where and how to park, and regularly encounter people that I "know" from other trips to the store or from other encounters in town. I continue to be amazed at how many people want to extend greetings to me, young and old alike, and how much pleasure they seem to get from me spending a few minutes exchanging words with them. It's a bit funny that I didn't realize how much I missed the independence when I had to rely on a driver to "escort" me there, but I really do love my trips to the market.
When I left, I stopped by the petrol station to top up the tank for the day, then headed back to the apartment to unload my goodies. After that, I came back to work to finish up some tasks and try and get ready for tomorrow's adventures. Oh, although I try to shop "like a local" as much as I can, I generally do splurge on something, some little item, while I'm there. For the past couple of weeks, my splurge item has been a box of pop tarts. Yes, that's right...Pop Tarts! Yum!
And now that I am settling into life in Moresby a bit, there is one little drawback. It seems that since my business associates have figured out that I don't have to use their help so much any more, they don't feel responsible for making sure I am taken care of all the time. In other words, my independence has resulted in a bit of loneliness for me. The solution, of course, will be for me to make some new friends of my own. But this is not as straightforward and simple as it might seem, especially for someone as socially challenged as I am. Still, it's all progress and I'll learn to live with it and learn to deal with it. For now, I'm just trying to deal with the basic tasks in life, like grocery shopping. And by golly...I actually seem to be doing just fine at it.