Our neighborhood in Bogotá is walkable, or “bien comunicado” as they say here. Within just a few blocks radius, we have a grocery store, drug stores, a mix of inexpensive and fancy restaurants, a few parks, lots of big trees, cute (but expensive) shops, and a fun nightlife area (not speaking from experience, unfortunately.).
It’s the new American dream. To live in a walkable area where your butcher knows your name (and you have a butcher). It’s reminiscent of a time before suburbs and driving everywhere.
Don’t get me wrong – I wouldn’t trade our walkable, wonderful neighborhood for anything. But since I am limited by what I or my stroller can carry, and my husband eats food faster than I can buy it, I feel like I live at the grocery store, and the cashiers are my best friends. It hasn’t even been two months, but it gets a little old.
Knowing this, maybe you can understand why I almost cried tears of joy when I went to Price Smart for the first time a few weeks ago. Price Smart is the Latin American equivalent of Costco. They carry lots of familiar American brands, but you’ll find buñuelos instead of muffins, and a bag of eight avocados only costs $2.50. I walked every single aisle reveling in the glory of bulk shopping and the ability to buy some things that are just cost-prohibitive at the local grocery store (nuts, for example.). I actually had to stop myself from grinning like a fool upon finding Sabra hummus! Wonder of wonders!
In order to truly understand the magnitude of this trip, I have to give you a little background.
Price Smart is at least 30 minutes away from home. Bogota has zero roads that I would recognize as highways or major throughways, and any trip takes twice as long as Google Maps estimates. There is no metro and the Transmilenio bus is notoriously overcrowded. Thus going anywhere farther than a mile is a hassle. Add in that while we have our car here… we do not yet have our diplomatic plates, so we are not allowed to drive it. Our only options are taxis and Uber.
After class on Wednesday, I took an Uber for 45 minutes to Price Smart. It was the week before Christmas and Bogota was one giant gridlock. This trip included talking to my driver and even helping with directions. He asked me if I liked Trump and then told me that his wife has a crush on Obama.
I arrived at Price Smart, emboldened by the conversation with my Uber driver, marched in the door and asked the first employee I met where I could find customer service.
In Spanish, I figured out how to become a member, in Spanish I talked to the cashier at checkout, and in Spanish I negotiated my transportation home.
All of this was 100% successful, under 3 hours, and I made it home before my nanny had to leave.
This is truly a Foreign Life, where simple things like grocery shopping are a huge undertaking and feel like a big accomplishment when you have completed them.