04 October 2009

Mall Culture Shock

I'm in Nairobi for a couple days. I arrived this afternoon. Tomorrow I'm taking a work-related exam that I've been preparing for for weeks. Nay, months probably. Today should be a day of relaxation and mental preparation. I was doing fine with the relaxation bit until I left my hotel this afternoon to explore the shopping center next door. It's been a long time since I've been in a big mall-like atmosphere and I was looking forward to the change. 

I barely lasted an hour in the mall-slash-food-court-slash-supermarket -- with a movie theater, gym, water slide, and mini-golf course -- before I'd had enough. While I enjoyed the novelty of shopping in a gigantic grocery store and picking up some Thai take-away, I didn't enjoy the crowds. A mall is a mall, and the crowd in Nairobi is just as obnoxious as the crowd at Potomac Mills in Northern Virginia. At the time I was there, the mall seemed like it sprawled on forever. But now that I think about it, I don't think it was anywhere near as big as Potomac Mills. 

I spent most of my time wandering around the supermarket. It was like a Wal-Mart, with food and other groceries alongside electronics and other household goods. I just wandered around, marveling at how much stuff there was. There's so much stuff out there to buy! What do you do
 with it all? Where did it all come from? I've found that I don't notice I'm missing things in Bujumbura until I go someplace else and see them. I realized that there were many things I wanted, but very little that I actually need. I was completely paralyzed by all the choice. I managed to remember the snacks I'd intended to buy, just before throwing up my hands in frustration. I'm at the point in overseas living where I can't tell the European brands from the American grands anymore. But I did get a kick out of the Malaysian version of Pringles, Mister Potato. (Unfortunately they contain gluten, just like their American cousin.)

But even as I was trying to ward off panic attacks, I was still thinking about how I want to go back to eat dinner at either the Chinese or Japanese restaurant tomorrow night. And how I want to pick up a few groceries for Mike since I have the opportunity. I'm hoping that just like in the States, Monday night at the mall will be a tad slower than a Sunday afternoon.

(The photo is from A Geek in Korea. Mall security guards where eyeballing me all over whenever I pulled out my camera. I decided Mister Potato wasn't worth jail time or anything. I managed a couple shots of the mall, which I'll show off when I get home and have my uploading cable.)

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