After thirty one days filled with endless PowerPoint slides, way too many personal comments from some class members, one hundred multiple choice test questions (only two of which I missed and one of those I blame on orphans!), enough fake interviews to know the visa line may not be the place for me and one tedious make-up day (long story!), I can officially cross ConGen off of my list of things to do before we head out to China.
(Short version of the long make-up day story: Because of the classes I missed when we went to Aunt Karin’s funeral a couple of weeks ago, I had to make up the two sessions of training from that day. They were the introduction sessions to American Citizen Services. The thing is, I had already taken the final test on that section, and all of ConGen for that matter, and was just putting in seat time. The first session was fine, but the afternoon one was possibly the longest hour and a half of my life. You see, that session was computer-based, but there were not enough computers and since my class had already “graduated” from the program, my user login was no longer valid. That meant that I took up residence on a spin-y chair at the back of the room. I sat directly behind a young man who obviously was totally uninterested in the lesson. He spent the ninety minutes chatting on G-mail with a friend of his, mostly complaining about these new rumors that Whitney Huston had an affair with Jermaine Jackson. To quote him directly, “Can’t they just leave Whitney alone? She’s dead. She’s the queen. Let her be!” Whenever he wasn’t decrying the media’s vilification of ol’ Whitney’s morals, he was posting links on his Facebook page to articles about when “douche-bag” became an insult-apparently a novel in 1939 introduced a pimp named Johnny Douchebag, and it was all downhill from there. So did I learn anything about serving American citizens abroad during this required make-up session? No! But, the facts I came away with are rather intriguing. I love picturing an old person, born in say the 40’s, busting out the ever so classing d-bag epithet. Makes me giggle every time.)
So now that my days are FSI are mostly over (mostly, because I do have to haul my arm back in for a few more shots later this month), it is time to get crack-a-lackin’ on all of the to-do lists I have formulated over the last six weeks. Today’s check-mark goes to “Costco Reconnaissance Trip.”
Chengdu is a consumables post. (I have no idea why, but I’ll take it!) That means we can have about a ton (literally) of food and other use-up-able items shipped to China for free. Obviously, we have to purchase them, but then the shipping is on the department. Thad can’t wait to eat Sichuan peppers for the next two years, but my eating habits will be better served with an occasional treat from home. With that in mind, I thought I would do an initial trip to Costco to make a shopping list that included prices and weights so I could mull over my options before actually making any purchases.
I gathered my handy-dandy notebook (not the blue spiral one featured prominently on Blue’s Clues, but rather a cute cream colored one with stylized flowers and vines twisting their way across the cover), a sparkly purple pen and marched myself the block and a half to Costco. As non-card-holders (don’t even get Thad started on the idea of paying a corporation money to shop at its store), this was my first visit, even though it is a mere five-minute walk from my front door. I figured the best way to tackle the daunting cavern of a store was to just go up and down each aisle, skipping the fresh and frozen foods, as they aren’t going to do well sitting on an airport tarmac for undetermined amounts of time.
Here are just a few observations from my warehouse field trip:
*Apparently, Miracle Whip is not popular on the east coast. (Does it fall into the same category as fry sauce?) There were several varieties of mayonnaise available in trough-sized jars, but no Miracle Whip anywhere to be seen.
*People look at you a little strangely if you stand for too long in the cereal aisle, counting unknown items out on your fingers, mumbling quietly to yourself.
*You can buy bras at Costco. Their packaging claims to guarantee a perfect fit. How is this possible? (Also, said bras only come in larger sizes. Is this in homage to Costco’s giant-sized everything? Do boobs come in bulk?)
*It takes roughly two hours to wander up and down every aisle of Costco, making a three-page list and checking it twice.
*People buy weird stuff in bulk. It is fun, as you wander the aisles, to try to figure out what each person’s deal is. Look in their gigantic shopping cart (or flatbed wagon!) and take a guess at why exactly someone needs that many oversized muffins and three gigantic bottles of shampoo. The possibilities are endless…
Now that my item, amount, weight and price columns are completely filled in, the contemplating begins. What do I want for the next two years? In reality, I can get pretty much everything I would want in Chengdu. This isn’t Peace Corps after all. We will be making real salaries, be in a huge town and have easy access to supermarkets carrying at least some basic western foods. Whatever I eventually decide to ship will really just be frosting on the cake. (By the way, both frosting and cake are on my list!)