Cross-Cultural living is never an easy thing. It can be very stressful even years after living in the new culture. There are still some things that I struggle with here. Like take today. Monday is grocery day. Getting groceries in Uganda is nothing like getting them in the States. The store itself is about the size of Aldi's, and there's no Walmart in case I don't find what I need. I come with list in hand hoping for the best, but many times most of what I'm looking for is out of stock. (I have been looking for sour cream for over 2 months now.) Once I've got enough food for the week (it took some time but now I have it down to a science), then I head to the check out. I stand in line behind a woman with 4 items. The cashier looks right at me before she starts scanning those items. Slowly. One. By. One. As the woman in front of me pays, the cashier abruptly puts down the "lane closed" sign and gives me "that look." You know the one I mean. That "I know you've been standing here for 5 minutes while I scanned this lady's 4 items but you need to go to that other line with 7 people in it and wait there." And I have to try my absolute hardest not to return her snooty look with my own look. You know the one I mean. The "If I weren't a missionary and if this weren't security officers around I would hit you so hard" look. (Yes, even missionaries get that look).
So I choose another line and stand there when suddenly I feel something cold on my arm. I'm in the middle of Africa so this seems strange to me, and I turn around and stand, quite literally, face to face with the woman behind me. She's standing so close that someone could mistake us for conjoined twins. So now, quite annoyed I resist the urge to use my hips to push her backward. Instead I take a deep breath and allow her to go in front of me to pay for her juice for which she paid with a large bill when they had no change.
I start putting my items up on the table. It's a table, not one of those fancy belts like grocery stores at home have. So when they can no longer reach what you've put up, you have to push it into their reach. (For the record the table is only an arms length long so they can technically reach it, but they would have to stretch and apparently that's not in their job description). So the cashier (remember it's a different one from the first one), starts scanning my items. Slowly. One. By. One. She uses only one arm while I resist the urge to make a sarcastic comment about God giving her TWO arms. When she finally finishes she doesn't tell me my total. I have to read it from the screen. I give her my money and she starts to count it while I try not to EXPLODE. She counts it one by one, placing every bill on the table, arranging them so they're all facing the same way. Then after counting them the first time she counts them again one by one, placing every bill on the table. She pauses. She looks at the total on the computer. She pauses again. She types the amount I gave her. She pauses. I start daydreaming about the miracle that is the self-checkout. A distant memory for me. She hits the "ok" button. The cash register opens and she opens every one of the little flippy things where the bills go (is there a technical term for those?). Now, I only gave her 10,000 shilling notes (10,000 shillings equals about $4), so there's no need to open all of them. Then she tries putting them where the 20,000 notes go, realizing that it's not the right place. Meanwhile I am trying not to bang my head against the table while whimpering softly. She finally gets it right and goes to get my change. But wait, she forgot what it was so she has to check the receipt again. She then searches for the right coins, and I again resist the urge not to shout as loud as I can "IT'S 700. GIVE ME A 500 AND A 200!" I resist, she gives me my coins and receipt, and I walk out of the store with my 4 bags of groceries while quoting Barney Stinson. "This is SO going on my blog!"