Saturday, October 11, 2014

Psuedo western shopping

Shopping in the larger “more Western” stores in Kupang is like trying to find groceries or construction supplies in a wild rave. The two largest stores in town are a sitcom caricature of a Wal-Mart, called Hypermart, and a schizophrenic impression of a Home Depot, called the Sinar Bangunan. The Hypermart is most easily accessed by flagging down ojeks (motorcycles for hire) or scooters who will give you a ride directly to the store for a fee usually under a dollar (about 10,000 rupiah).  The ride there can be terrifying at first but once you’ve got a good grip on the bike and start to relax it can be a lot of fun. Zipping along in a current of mopeds, some of which have up to 4 people on them, and similarly overloaded cars like fish, by the time you get to the store you’re almost sad the ride is over. Be careful about overpaying your driver; many Indonesians are extremely uncomfortable about being tipped or overpaid because the extra money seems more like swindling to them and cheating people out of money here appears to be very taboo. Upon entering the store two things become immediately apparent: the radio (mostly Western pop music) is well beyond uncomfortably loud and there is an employee-to-customer ratio of approximately 2. The platoons of brightly dressed employees wander the aisles and cluster around the register, some desperate for something to do and some apparently lost in what little thought the blaring music can afford. It’s hard to think under any circumstances with Katy Perry throttling your skull but in a store with an organizational scheme that is still largely a mystery to me and in another country with very little local language at my disposal, I find it nearly impossible to concentrate. 

Experience the joy of Sinar Bangunan...

In Hypermart, Past the overflowing shelves of skin whitening products, towels sold by the kilogram (really), and next to the display of salad dressings packaged in Ziploc bags there is a mountain of delicious juices that makes the whole dizzying adventure worthwhile. I’m especially fond of guava (which also happens to be a handy home remedy for fever and warding off malaria) but there’s a type of “Jungle Juice” for everyone. I’ve all but given up on finding nice peanut butter and/or cow milk but the Hypermart boasts an impressive stock of sumptuous candies (Silver Queen cashew and chocolate bars are my favorite thus far), apples, and ramen! As a Westerner, shopping here entails being ogled by the staff and customers alike throughout your hunt and especially at checkout. Weighed down with bags and dreaming of the exotic fruits we just bought, we typically flag down some more motorcycles and hitch a ride back to our apartment building, holding the groceries somewhat at arms length to the sides and drawing many a smile and “Hey, Mister!” from the locals doing exactly the same thing. Whereas the Hypermart is both tolerable and essential, the Sinar Bangunang hardware store is truly excruciating to visit and worse products at higher prices than the local supply shops so we don’t go there anymore.

Pure satisfaction, a perfect contrast to the sweltering heat.

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