Some say life is like a box of chocolates… You never know what you are going to get? I say, when you buy a box of chocolates from a local Japanese grocery, then you KNOW you are getting yourself into some nasty-tasting trouble.
For two weeks, I have been walking down a block from my apartment to the local grocery to buy, what seemed to me, ‘Polly Pocket’ miniature food. You could purchase a bite of chicken… or maybe you would rather have an ounce of noodles to go along with your 3 green beans. I emptied a whole box of Japanese granola-rice cereal into one bowl. There is a reason no one is overweight here.
I am blessed that I have a grocery store a block from my house. However, every time I partake in the shopping festivities, I do leave frustrated from trying to read Japanese symbols. You’re probably thinking.. It can’t be that hard? Trust me! The packaging label’s mission of every food product is to disguise it to make you believe you are buying something different. It is nearly impossible to try to match up a Japanese character to your Japanese character on your iPhone translate app. Plus, there are no name brands that we Americans are used to in any local grocery.
I normally live off peanut butter. After days of searching, I finally found a small tub of what I believe is peanut butter from the packaging label that clearly has peanuts and butter pictures all over it. I jog back to the apartment amped and hungrily lay out my bread. Spread one side with jam. Open my peanut butter, ready to devour this classic PB&J and wouldn’t you know….. It is peanut caramel! Distraught, I devoured the caramel and strawberry jam sandwich anyway. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone, but if you are brave you can try it.
Since I’m not a fan of shopping to begin with, I have been playing games at the grocery store to keep things interesting and my appetite buzzing. The last game I played was “Where’s Waldo,” but I entered each one of my grocery list items in the place of Waldo. For example: “Where’s Soy Sauce?” From the picture on the right, you tell me which one is soy sauce! Each minute it took me to find the item was a deduction to the product. The winning product would be the item I could find the fastest. The winner was bananas……. Go figure!
Costco in Japan??! You have no idea how excited I was to walk around in an American-based store and see so many great foods that I grew up eating back in the States. If you had seen me this morning, you would have thought I was on my way to Disney World! I had that sneaky grin slapped to my face all day. If you had recorded my sleep the night before, I’m pretty sure you would have seen me cheesing, dreaming of roaming the isles of Costco. When something as simple as American food is taken away from you for 9 months, a slice of Costco pizza tastes like you are eating at Ruth Chris Steakhouse!
As soon as I stepped foot in the store, the layout of Costco and freshly baked smells flowing through the warehouse instantly brought memories from back home. I can remember begging to go to Costco every Sunday after church, solely to eat the free samples! (by the way, the best samples are always on Sunday) It was as if I was in a dream, playing the role of a conquistador who just found his treasure of food. Frozen, I stood at the entrance to my loot, palms trembling, jaw dropped until reality struck me in the arm… or my translator slapping me saying, “Cum on Darew, we do nots have all day!”
I snapped out of it and took off like I was competing in a mad dash to the shopping carts. I sauntered down every single aisle, not because I needed to buy everything in Costco, but because I got a quick high when I would see a name brand or item that is sold back home. Customers at Costco must have thought I had a screw loose when I let out a shrieking “YESSSSS” after I rounded the corner to see a gigantic box of Honey Nut Cheerios staring back at me! Up to this point in my life, I must say, it was the greatest grocery shopping trip I’ve ever had. I was that kid in the candy store. It was every bit worth the hour and half drive to buy enough delicious groceries for months!
Sadly, it will be a long time before I get to return to my safe haven of Costco. From now on, I’m back to my daily, ordinary trips of adventure at the local grocer. Now it is time for me to make the most of the routines I have in front of me.
Everyone knows life gets boring when you are stuck in same routine fog of frustration day after day. Why not look at your ordinary trips, ordinary things, ordinary days and try to creatively make them extraordinary? Every situation has some sunshine; sometimes you just have to move the shadows surrounding you to find it. When I’m not having fun in the small things, that’s when I know I’m not living each day to the fullest and taking advantage of every opportunity thrown in front of me, even if it is eating caramel and jam sandwiches.
Life can be a box of chocolates, but let’s just wait and buy those chocolates from Costco!