Saturday, January 21, 2017

Kamchatka shopping adventures

Any shop worth its salt will have many versions of canned
fish.  This photo is from 2017 in an "open aisle" shop.
When I first came to Kamchatka, shopping in our (American) bourgeois, capitalistic style was quite new.  In fact, I didn't really "shop" myself for starters, ... shopping was a recondite process, and my red-blooded American desire to buy whatever I needed, whenever, was quashed -- I said I wanted to go buy a toothbrush (I had forgotten mine), and Tanya instead sent our friend Roman Spitsa to buy one for me, ...wherever that was.  My flat was in a rather uncommercialized part of the city of Petropavlovsk, but finally, at the end of my first summer field visit, I braved the local shop to buy a few things for a party.  A "typical" indoor shop at that time was a single room in an apartment building, with the possible items to buy all behind counters.  My Russian was primitive, and the words I knew, such a "bread" (xleb) I pronounced poorly.  I ended up pointing and saying, "Ya xochu eta" (I want that).  Within hours, it was all over the village that a foreigner had come into this little shop and bought some items.  Tanya thought I was so brave!  I don't have a picture from then.
This brand new building is a collection of shops,
with a supermarket on the basement floor.  Many
of the shop spaces are still vacant.  There is good
seismic engineering visible inside.
     That was almost 20 years ago.  Now Russia has grabbed shopping by storm, or at least the selling part of it.  It's hard to see how so many shops can stay in business.  All sorts of shops, from very traditional corner shops and outdoor kiosks and bazaars to supermarkets and even a "gipermarket" (hypermarket--no "h" in Russian).
     Since I arrived this winter, I have gone shopping a number of times, mostly just for groceries, which are relatively easy to shop for.  While it's easiest for me, a not-very-good Russian speaker/listener/reader, to shop at a supermarket with open aisles and shelving--thus no one waiting while I try to decipher if I am buying shampoo, conditioner, gel, or something else (it's easier than Japan for me, at least I can read the letters of cyrillic).  Dish soap or laundry soap or dishwasher soap (my flat in 2017 has machines for washing laundry and dishes!).
The Krushchyovsky-type apt building that
 the shop "Maria" is in has a relatively
new facade. I thought I took a picture
of the interior, but it's not on my camera...
I am not very good at snagging shots.

The nearest shop to my flat is "Maria," a standard one-room, behind-the-counter place near the institute.  First time I went in this year, I wanted apples and asked for "apelseen" which are oranges!  Oh well, I pointed and got what I wanted. Today I went in here after failing to find eggs at several other shops, and sure enough, "Maria" had them.  Even though the "rent" at these shops should be small, there is still an economy of scale, so that these small shops are quite like our convenience stores, with higher prices.  At the nearby bus stop there is now a compact, open-aisle 24-hour market packed into a narrow space.  I bought laundry soap there for
This convenience store, near my nearest
bus stop, is open 24 hours.
120 rubles, just to buy something while snooping around (I mean doing my shopping reconnaissance) and taking pictures.  Later I priced the box of powdered soap (Tide for color) at 106 rubles at a medium-sized market and 86 rubles at the big Shamsa supermarket.  I would like to patronize local shops if they have local owners, but that's really hard to judge here, unless you are buying "domashni" (home-grown) produce at an open bazaar.  Not the time of year for that!
The "W" looking letter is "sh" in Russian
and "C" is "s" for that's Shamsa's name
at the right.  The sign in black top center
says "rive gauche" in Russian!  BTW,
most of these cars are used, from Japan,
with wrong-side driving for Russia...
Shamsa from the second floor of mall.
This "half" is mostly non-consumables
but lacks key items (see blog).  So many
choices, urrah for capitalism!?
     So most of my grocery (produkti) shopping has been at the supermarket "Shamsa,"  which has doubled in size since I was here in 2010, and has many other smaller, specialty stores within its complex (we might call it a "mall").  One might think that one could find just about anything at Shamsa, but... not counting the facts that I can't read Russian well, am generally inclined to keep looking rather than ask a question, and the store is huge, ... one cannot find a nail clipper here, e.g.  Or a coffee grinder.  Definitely shampoo and other soapy things, various paper products, dishes, toys, lots and lots of produkti, and of course a huge liquor selection, which I have yet to sample.  There are racks and racks of herbs and spices of various kinds and brands, including pre-mixed versions for borsch, shashlik, riba (fish), grechka (buckwheat groats).  It took me awhile to find oregano and
A "spice rack" to choose from--
one of several in a single shop.
 even to locate dill (ukrop), the latter being very standard, though it's no longer pickling season...  Still, this is one of my more favorite things to do is to try to read all these labels and find what I want.  Years ago, in an open bazaar, I was at a herb/spice (only!) kiosk and asked for a curry powder.  He did not understand (the "ur" sound is very foreign to Russians).  I tried to explain in Russian that it was a mix/blend and came from India.  Finally, he said, "oh, karri!" and implied it came from China not India.  Whatever.  Got it.
     One of my most favorite Kamchatka foods/treats is brusnika  -- known as lingonberry, or tundra cranberry; it is smaller with more intense flavor than bog cranberry.  So upon arrival I bought some frozen brusnika and made my own jam for bread and for muesli/kasha.  You can buy lots of frozen items in shops, of course they are easiest to keep in winter, just put them in the snow or in a box outside your kitchen window.  You can buy frozen blini, pelmeni, ...
Brusnika upper right, pelmeni lower left.
Lots of frozen goodies to choose from.
 I am not sure of my freezer here, so thus far, I have not bought too many frozen items.  Tanya started me out with a big, frozen slab of king salmon (chavicha) from one caught by a friend of hers.  I've made two soups, mostly from root vegetables, which are definitively the standard here.  I added some salmon after I had had it a few times straight up, and thus made a chowder.  Now I have pea soup.
     So--what were my challenges this time in shopping?  Three items eluded me -- a thumb drive (I forgot mine!), a nail clipper (ditto), and a coffee grinder--I brought beans from Moscow Starbucks...        I found the thumb drive first, but not before some failures.  Finally, I located a large electronics store in the basement of one of the new, multi-story malls.  But I didn't know the word for thumb drive, and my dictionary is older than thumb drives.  I tried to explain "small memory" (like memory stick), then figured to say "oo ess bay" and he responded, "ah, flash" -- that's it!  Too many words for those little suckers.
This is an unimpressive view of the "gipermarket" (hypermarket)
red and white) also known as "druzba" (friendship, sort of).
I was on foot, from downhill, when I took this picture,
though Tanya and I had seen it from the road/her car as
an impressive structure on the hill.
     Next, after several strike-outs I finally "found" a nail clipper -- in a shop specializing in all things finger-nails... [but missing from another such shop, one even larger].  Problem was, the clipper was behind a counter, there were several customers ahead of me, and I chickened out. If it had been Seattle Bartell's they would be right there at the cashier's desk...(thought I)    
Coffee grinder.  First I found an appliance store at Shamsa, but it only had fancy, 7000-ruble grinders (more than $100).  Then Tanya sent me to "8 kilometers" which is one of the wholesale bases for the city of Petropavlovsk, even since Soviet times, and where there was a large indoor store of home goods.  Nothing doing.  Electric kettles, egg beaters, simple blenders,...
But at another applicance store where I struck out, a helpful man told me to go to
At the gipermarket druzba--the whole
 top row is coffee-bean grinders.
 "Friendship" -- indicating it was down the road, down the hill.  I didn't have time on that day's excursion to make the trek, so a couple days later--ground coffee running short!--I made another "shopping excursion", taking photos, etc., for this blog.  When I arrived at this store ("Friendship"), OMG, how many appliances could there be!  A helpful store worker said "Can I help you?" but that was most of the extent of his English.  Cofye-moli... some ending --I tend to drop my Russian endings because they are so complex.  We figured out what I was looking for, and lo and behold, so many coffee grinders, I had to struggle to make a choice!  I confess to choosing a German one (rather than Chinese, which was cheaper).  Well, I don't think there was a Russian one.
My receipts for the coffee grinder,
photo taken later, at home.
Then the process of purchase.  Sales clerk went to get the box and warrantee, instructions, made some notes; sent me to cashier with a printed form, which she used to ring up the sale (I used a credit card--also new since I was last here!), and she signed and I signed on several lines, then she stamped over three combined receipts, tore off one half for her and gave me the other!
    Still don't have a nail clipper, my toenails are going to destroy all my socks soon...

Below are a few more photos of representative shopping here.
A fairly typical street kiosk, this one selling cheese ("ciir" an impossible'
word for me to pronounce, the "i" is soft)

I took this for the sign, which transliterates "Lady Big"

A pharmacy (aptyeka)  -- even "over the counter" medications are behind the counter here.

A kind of "home depot" -- everyone is either renovating or building here.

Part of the wholesale base at 8 kilometers, many nondescript shops.
This is typically where geologists buy supplies for their summer field.
Cases of cans of meat, corn, sardines; large sacks of flour and sugar,
cases of crackers, cookies; large sacks of potatoes, cabbage, carrots.

Inside of one of the larger wholesale markets.  Smaller shopowners buy here and resell.
I man asked me what I was doing taking this picture, I tried in fractured Russian to tell him
I was an American and I wanted to show my friends how to shop on Kamchatka.  Tanya'
later advised, just say "Amerikanka,... Facebook"...  I don't wanna go to jail!

An outdoor, smaller wholesale shop at 8 km.  Anyone can buy here.
And you can commonly buy smaller amounts.  So many different ways to buy!
[that's my January midday shadow]

Agrotek is the local company making kielbasa.  Buy local!

This little shop specializes in sweets--candy, caramels, cookies, ...

At 8 km, there are a few places to buy hot food, this one is an "Uzbeki kitchen"

This is "Svarog" -- used to be an open-aisle market, closest to my flat;
now it is a whole series of mostly behind-the-counter specialty food shops,
including meat, bakery goods, deli, candies, fruits, bakery good, vegetables, meat, candies, ...
[yes, there is repetition, several little shops selling mostly the same stuff]

Another one of the aisles of Svarog in its current configuration (see above).

A small outdoor bazaar (rinok) at 10 km (that's 10 km from the
center post office), near the bus station.  More will be open in warmer weather.
Seems like these places keep going, despite all the other kinds of shops.
Some things here can be cheaper, but sometimes I think it's a preference of
traditional shoppers.

Today I found this specialty shop for coffee and tea, near Shamsa.
But no coffee grinders!

I took this photo for Megumi Sugimoto.  This shop,
specializing in beauty products, is named "Megumi"

One more view of a row of "traditional" little shops at 10 km.
Note that "traditional" mostly still means post-Soviet.
 But I'll ask my colleagues for more about that.

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