Thursday, December 08, 2005

Sara Goes Shopping

Went shopping with the Khanum (Elahi) to get house stuff (squeegee, mop, toilet bowl cleaner, grater, mixing bowls, clothespins, food storage containers, clothesline, hamper, hangers, serving spoon for rice, cooking spoons-- because so far I’ve been doing all my cooking with silverware-- chopping board et. al.). It’s quite interesting. It’s a big place (warehouse-y looking) with different “rooms” or areas, distinguished by counters behind which men stand and take orders for what people want. There are no lines, so everyone crowds around said counters calling to him and waving their list in the air until he notices them and takes the list to make a receipt.

There is a lot of waiting involved, and also a good amount of shoving and pushing, despite the ubiquitous “bebakhsheed” (excuse me), which is the uber-polite utterance used for everything (if I step in front of you and you have to see my back, bebakhsheed; if I need your attention, bebakhsheed; if I am leaving your store/house/presence, bebakhsheed). Annoying. If you must shove and push and poke and prod, don’t bother saying anything at all. Apparently Islam and the etiquettes for the good character it tries to impart don’t apply in stores (neither the customers nor the vendors are all that polite), traffic or when there are young women walking around alone who would rather not be gawked at, kissy-faced at, honked at, or chatted up.
Anyway, once the man behind the counter writes out your receipt, you take it back to a central hub of cash registers where they put it into the computer and you pay. They pop out a printed receipt and stamp it and hand it to you to take back to the man at the counter (more waiting) and he gets you the stuff. You do this for all the different “rooms”. So we did one for the plastics, one for pots/pans/silverware, one for fabric (I got my chador fabric today!!), and one for soap/detergent/shampoo/lotion. My total including chador and home goods was USD 33. 327,400 Iranian Rials. Ouch. That cleaned us out. My chador fabric was USD12. I think.

Anyway, we decided we would leave all the house stuff with them and go get food before they closed for the noon prayer (Dhuhr)

Downstairs is the food market, but mostly for prepackaged stuff like cheese, jam, bottled stuff, snacks. I didn’t see any produce, but at the end of the room there are ‘fresh’ fish, chickens and eggs. They were out of chickens. The fish are a little smelly and glassy eyed. I can’t remember how to look for fresh fish, but I don’t know if I would get the ones there. Mostly because I have no idea how to gut it, de-spine it, de-scale it etc., despite having watched a BBC show on it. I think I was more entertained than educated. But anyway, if the Khanum is getting it there, maybe it’s good fish. She knows her stuff.

We came back up just as things were settling out and people clearing out and I waited with our foodstuffs while she went and picked up the plastics. It ended up taking forever because they lost the receipt. Apparently they looked and looked, and finally went to their computers and looked it up and got her the stuff. I felt bad because it was our stuff.

We left and went looking for a store that would have wooden spoons for my Teflon pot and pan. That wasn’t fruitful, so we kept going and she showed me where her law office will be. Very cool! It’s not big, but it’s nice and in a fantastic location. We also picked up some yogurt from the yogurt/milk/butter store. That’s all they sell. Yogurt, milk and butter. They were out of milk. That’s the other weird thing, being out of something basic like milk or meat before lunch.

When we got home, she realized they hadn’t given her my bag with the grater, silverware and mixing bowls from the pots/pans room. So we decided we’d go back at 4pm. When we went back, it was all still closed and she realized then that it was Thursday and on Thursdays after the noon prayer, most of the stores are closed through the weekend and reopen on Saturday. Bummer. On the upside, she did send over a pair of her potholders that her mom (who lives in Kerman) made.

Traffic was awful (we spent 10 minutes stuck at one roundabout because the lights weren’t working). We went to the bazaar near the Holy Shrine to get a pot and 2 wooden cooking spoons. We also bought a whole chicken for her to teach me how to cook fesenjan. I ran out of Iranian currency. Then we went to the vegetable market.
We still need a vacuum cleaner that works, drinking glasses (we have 3 right now, which is fine for us but not if we end up having people over), and rags and sponges for random cleaning jobs.

What was fun at the market was seeing people from all over. I saw some *very* East Asian looking people. Not even Tajik with some Asiatic features, but completely totally Chinese. (They looked more Chinese to me than Japanese or Korean or Southeast Asian.) What’s funny is that they may still be Iranians (I think because they spoke Farsi) from the north (where Mongols invaded, I think?). The lady was in her chador and the man was actually a cleric. That was very cool, seeing a Mongol-featured man wearing the “ayatollah” garb. Who knows, it could always be people from other countries who came here to do traditional studies and became clerics.

I also saw one black woman. She was definitely of African descent. She was tall and stood out in the crowd despite her chador. I know AliBob saw lots of Asian and Black men at the Imam Khomeini Institute where he went for that first lecture on cloning, but I hadn’t really seen much of anything until today.

I also actually saw several women in burqah (where the face is covered and you only see their eyes), which is less common among Iranian women. Pakistani/Indian maybe? Or Arab.

I also saw the 3rd ranking official of the Iranian government, Ayatollah something-or-other (can’t remember). He’s the head of the judicial system of Iran. Actually, I lie; I saw his caravan of tinted Mercedes Benz escorts and Mercedes Benz police cars. He comes to Qom on the weekends from Tehran to answer people’s gripes and grievances.

What a busy and eventful and mostly productive day.
Oh! And the Khanum said that Fatemeh had gone home last night and raved about Sara Khanum’s most delicious lentils and eggplants. Score!


Blogger huma said...

it would seem like the most efficient thing would be to stock up on stuff -- but food would be kind of hard i guess (i don't know if i would eat that fish)-- you're probably getting fresh food though

10:19 PM  

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