I am having a WEEK.
Not a week where everything happens at once or where it’s bad news or bad luck or anything truly monumental is happening. No, not that.
I’m having a week where despite my best efforts to be cheerful and look on the bright side…I just keep getting dealt teeny tiny little blows. Individually, absolutely nothing that has happened is really even worth a proper complaint. Truthfully, none of these little assaults would qualify for a blip on catastrophe scale. But all on top of one another, I am feeling pummeled by incompetence, inconvenience, and frustration.
In brief: I’m suffering from a severe bout of First World Problems. Only, I’m fully and completely not in the First World. Lest I forget, I live in a bizarre, deceptively disguised little bubble smack in the heart of a what I will generously call a Developing Country. Despite (and probably because of) the best efforts of those who designed and erected our little island of Western Culture in the middle of a Bangkok suburb- I must never forget that even though it looks a heck of a lot like Southern California- I really have to stop expecting things to WORK.
I really and truly subscribe to the opinion that happiness is a choice and that in order to find the good in life, you not only have to choose to look for it, you sometimes have to really and truly search. I think that being positive about what happens in your life has a tendency to change the way you think about everything in your life. I think that positive people are more fun to be around and happy people attract other happy people.
After nearly four years here, I don’t really get my feathers ruffled by everyday inconveniences anymore. I actually expect that if it rains, we will lose power for a few hours. I know that by 7pm, the entire bandwidth allotted to our neighborhood will have been exhausted and my processing speed for all electronic devices in our home will run at approximately 72bps. Regardless of the fact that we pay an exorbitant additional fee to True for “high-speed” internet. I know that our property management contact will answer “yes” to everything I call and ask for. And I know to be excited if a technician actually comes before I have to call the fourth time. I know that the family of rats/squirrels/monitor lizards/gremlins(?) that lives in our backyard will migrate through one of the multitude of tiny holes in our foundation every evening at 8:30pm and have a wild game of tag in our air-conditioning ducts. I also know that by 8am the following day (ha!) when a technician comes to “remove them”, they will have migrated back outside and left only their leptospirosis-ridden detritus behind. I know all of this. I don’t make a habit of complaining about it. I really try to not freak out and I honestly only call the property manager once a day (MAX). Sometimes I only text-because I know they will ignore 4 of those, but I can just copy and paste the last 4 texts and I can save my breath.
Here’s the rub. Even though I’ve made a conscious choice to be happy and not bitch and whine about the little things-sometimes it’s something really tiny and crazy that pushes you over the top. The proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back, as it were.
This week, my straw wasn’t the Rat Poop Parade happening overhead, or the inability to watch the latest episode of The Americans on AppleTV because our internet was too slow to load even a basic webpage. Nope. What pushed me over the top was the Big Tease by our local grocery store. It’s the Great Bean Embargo of 2015.
For anybody that hasn’t had the privilege of living in a Foreign Country, grocery shopping outside of the US is really and truly an entirely different process. One has to accept (and quickly) that you cannot expect to find 700 choices of salad dressing, or cereal, or yogurt…or frankly anything American. In Switzerland, the yogurt thing was blatantly untrue-we had an entire aisle, but we had only one choice for things like pasta sauce or salad dressing. One quickly learns to deal with it or compensate. I figured out how to make my own sausage-Seriously.
I actually think it’s easy enough to accept what you cannot have, so long as you understand what it is you can have. I have found the Thai (ExPat) grocery store experience to be absolutely mind-boggling. There is, much to my surprise, a wide variety of Western food options available. There’s an entire aisle of breakfast cereal and a large selection of cheese. Neither of these things are indigenous to the Asian diet. I can buy gluten-free pasta and pre-packaged quinoa. I can even get Kraft Macaroni & Cheese if I so desire (I do not). It does bear stating that these foods that are abjectly Western come at a premium. For example, a box of Honeycomb cereal will cost you about $10. That box of Kraft Mac & Cheese?? It will run you a cool $7. So, you can have it-you just have to want it enough to pay for it. I once found fresh figs in the produce section and had 3 of them in my cart….dreaming of the gorgeous spread of cheese and wine I was going to have for aperitifs that evening. Until I realized they were 1500 Baht per kilo. That’s $50, folks. Back went my gorgeous figs. But I do pay $4 for a bar Lindt Sea Salt Chocolate. Because…oh come on…it’s a necessity.
I have to say, it’s actually really great to have the ability to find an purchase so many things locally. If we want to make something completely, outrageously American (Stove Top Stuffing) and want to pay for it ($10) we can. I mostly do not. But I have a few things that we do regularly buy despite them being ridiculously priced just to gouge the farangs. We keep berries in our refrigerator year-round. I know this is not proper seasonal eating behavior and that it is far too hot to grow berries in Thailand. But my kids love them, they are good for us- and so I shell out between $5-$10 per little carton for the delicious little treats. So, when our grocery store runs out of them, I find myself both puzzled and annoyed. Obviously, the profit margin is sufficient to allow them to continue to purchase and stock them.
Having grown up in Colorado-in close proximity to the Southwest-I have a deep love of Mexican food. I always have both black beans and refried beans in my cupboard. And for the past 4 years, our Thai (expat) grocery has stocked a minimum of one brand and at times 2 or 3 different kinds. I had a favorite Organic Black Bean, in fact. Upon our return from the US after the winter break, I discovered that I had depleted our stockpile at home and went out to get more. Only to find that the grocery store is out of beans. Not just black beans. Refried beans, too. And all but one kind of cannellini beans.
Okay, no big deal. I’ll just make some. I’m a Girl Scout and a problem solver. Just show me the dried beans and legumes and I’ll figure it out. But, there are no dried beans, either. Hmmm.
At this point, I’m just scratching my head. They will get them back in stock. They always do. The Americans like to put runs on things. I like to joke that you can always tell when an American holiday is coming because you’ll see the ladies in the grocery store with 10 cans of cranberry or pumpkin in their cart because they are afraid that the store will sell out. Never mind that their hoarding of said specialty products is exactly why the store runs out.
Only, here we are. It’s nearly March. And there are no beans to be found. I asked my girlfriend that orders food from the restaurant supply store to order me some a few weeks ago. Guess what? No beans. WTH? Is there some kind of a Bean Shortage? A Bean Embargo? Why the sudden lack of beans, people?
I did some google research. it seems that in the summer of 2014, Costa Rica did have a black bean shortage. But that should not have affected bean supply elsewhere. And they don’t export, really. I have no answer.
I also have no beans.
But, dammit. I want some beans. My girls have become accustomed to Taco Tuesdays. We haven’t been able to have them since Christmas. We go to the local “Mexican” restaurant…and they have beans. (I tried to buy a few cans from the owner, incidentally…he thinks I’m insane now). Did I mention that my girls perform a Taco Dance for me before Taco Night? It’s really special and I miss that, too. Bookworm would be a vegetarian if I would let her. She would eat nothing but fruit, vegetables, cheese and pasta if that were allowed. But she is skinny, and hungry and growing and that brain needs protein. She won’t eat eggs. I have to negotiate any meat consumption on a per-bite basis. But my big girl loves legumes. Beans, lentils, dal, chickpeas, etc. I have a go-to after school snack that they both devour happily that requires a can of black beans. (Black Bean Brownies-do not scoff-they are absolutely divine.) I cannot make them and I am noticing an uptick in hungry breakdowns just before dinnertime.
Why? Because of the BEAN EMBARGO, which was my undoing this week.
It would be okay if they were never available here. I’d have figured something out. I’d have packed a Costco-sized bag of dried beans in my suitcase and have a regular schedule for making beans. It’s the Big Tease. The fact that the grocery stores sometimes have beans. Or sometimes have bagels (that’s a whole other Oprah). Don’t tease us! Either carry it or don’t. I can’t deal with the unpredictability.
So, I’ve had a little “moment”. It’s been a long time since I had one. One of those little fits where you stomp your feet a little? Rant? Unleash a torrent of obscenities directed at the powers that be? Yes, one of those.
And I even said (just to The Husband), “I feel like the Bean Embargo will be the thing that makes me hate it here.”
To which he replied, in classic and entirely predictable fashion, “Suck it up, Buttercup”.
Good thing I have a bar of Sea Salt Dark Chocolate in the refrigerator.