Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Moscow (Part XIII - Supermarket)

Click here for Parts I, IIIIIIVVVIVII,VIIIIXXXI, and XII.

I woke up at 11 am, feeling incrementally better than the night before.  At least I was headed in the right direction, albeit slowly.

On my way out of the hotel, I purchased access to the internet for the day, emailed Jerusalem to exert some more not-so-subtle pressure on my friends to go to my apartment and get my PIN code for me, and then headed for the supermarket I’d found next to the money-exchange place the day before.

My first order of business, now that I had some cash, was to get toothpaste. All this time – since I’d arrived a day and a half before – I’d been brushing with water to protect my teeth, and gum to protect my breath. I would have traded my kingdom for some Colgate.

While looking for toiletries, I took the opportunity to examine grocery prices here in Moscow. The store was long and narrow, so I had to walk the entire length of it before I found the dental items at the other end. I picked up a banana and some milk, and looked around at the prices on produce, meat, packaged foods, and dairy products.

Many people had told me that Moscow is an expensive city, but I found the prices here to be quite reasonable.  The prices on the food were certainly no higher than in Israel, and in most cases a bit lower.

Of course, everyone knows that food prices in Israel are ridiculous.

Furthermore, I later found out from someone I met at a Shabbat meal that an educated person in Moscow can expect to make only about $1,000 per month, about half of what an educated person in Jerusalem makes. So if the prices on food were only a LITTLE lower than in Israel, I could see why so many people who had an opportunity to move to Israel were taking it. (The admissions prices to museums, by the way, are also reasonable, all things considered, generally the equivalent of about 35 NIS / $10 or so.)

By the way, it appears that Russians, like many Europeans (I think?) are not in the habit of using floss. There were about four different kinds of toothpicks, and many brands of toothpaste and mouthwash, but no dental floss. Also, by the way, trying to mime dental floss to store employees  feels rather ridiculous.

When I went to pay, the cashier swiped the toothpaste and the milk, but not the banana. She didn’t speak English but motioned that there was something missing from the banana. I figured out that here, you are supposed to weigh the produce in the produce section, get a sticker with the price, and then bring it to the cashier – they don’t weigh it at the cash register. I felt bummed that I didn't even know how to buy a banana in this place, but did recognize that not having a banana was a much higher-order problem than the ones I'd had the day before.

You live and you learn. Weigh produce first. Know your PIN code. Pack your own dental floss. OK.

Now that the shopping was done, I had time to see a tourist attraction. I considered going to the Matrushka Doll Museum, but with Shabbat coming, and my still feeling woozy, I figured it would be smarter to stay closer to the hotel. The Matrushka dolls would have to wait until Sunday or Monday.

Next stop, just a few blocks away: The Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center.

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