I walk slowly into the Kaufland, glancing first down at my list and then at the people around me and the piles of fruit stacked in crates to my right. “I think I will need a cart afterall,” I think to myself. I walk toward the shopping carts (or, “trolleys” if you’re British) and remember – I need one złoty (a coin) to place into the „meter” in order to use the trolley. I open my change purse and pulled out a 20 cent Euro piece and click it into the meter. Success! The trolley comes off of the one in front of it and I am on my way to grocery shop in Poland.
In the past, I’ve gone into stores to buy certain things I needed or just to look around. But this is my first time shopping for food to cook in my flat (British for “apartment”) – food to live off of. Actually, this is my first time shopping for myself to cook in a full kitchen of my own. And I’m in a foreign country. Great – not only can I not understand what anything says, but I might not know how to cook it even if I did. I look down again at my list. I have written: “mleko, herbata, chleb, sok…” these words I know: “milk, tea, bread, juice…” I walk up and down the aisles looking at all that is around me. “Before I leave,” I think to myself, “I want to try and cook a real Polish meal.” Now, that may be being too optimistic, but I relax and merely survey my surroundings for the time being.
Pasta! I find pasta (“makaron”) – this doesn’t even need directions to cook. Now, I just need to find the sauce (“sos”) to go with it. As I am looking at the pasta, a woman comes up to me and we joke about how many boxes of rice there are to choose from. At least, that’s what I think we were laughing about.
I find the bread and the jam (dżem), and just next to it is the tea! Tea! Something I can understand! I put in my cart the ol’ familiar, Liptons, just for a taste of home. I admire the fact that I can get a box of tea for the equivalent of 1 dollar and then I remember that I’m working off of złoty right now, and I should stop dividing by three every number I see, it’s really giving me a headache.
Next, I get a little creative. I find a packet to make chocolate pudding. “This shouldn’t be too hard,” I think, “all I need is milk!” I throw a packet into my trolley. Where to find the milk? In America, it would be on the side by the wall because it is in the refrigerator. I know enough not to look in the refrigerator, and I find boxes of milk piled near the center aisle. Now I get a little overwhelmed. I realize just what people mean when they come from foreign countries into the States and are overwhelmed by the food choices – because not only are there a lot of choices, but it’s all in a different language! I locate the milk that is on sale (I can tell it is on sale because of the bright yellow tag and the word that ends in an “!” – at least, I hope that’s what it means) and I find one with 1.5 percent fat, though it is labeled “1,5” because commas and periods are opposites here when it comes to numbers. Next to the milk is Polish ramen. You better believe I grabbed a pack. Or two.
Now you’ll really be impressed. I found a packet of spices and on the back shows a picture of the spices with thin noodles. “I’ve seen these noodles just a few aisles back!” I grab a pack of spices and a bag of noodles – only 3zł or 1$ – but I said I’d stop doing that. This should make for a good step toward making Polish food.
I pushed my cart toward the cash register and greeting the attendant with a polite, “Dzien dobre” as I stacked my items on the conveyor belt. I reached for the money I recently took from the ATM and handed it to her as I loaded my items into my large purse (except for the milk, I carried the milk). I received the change and nodded saying, “Dzenkuje, dowedzenja” (I hope I can say it better than I can spell it!). Walking out of the store with my bag full of victory, I felt accomplished. All this for just 27 zł. Go ahead, divide by three.
Next feat? Trying to get a cell phone. I am thankful for the large mall just around the corner (ah, the modern conveniences of Eastern Europe!) and the young workers who speak English. Oh and also, I forgot to buy yogurt.