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Day 19: Poor Kilo


I stood at a vegetable stand at the farmer’s market and watched as other people bought their food. As far as I could tell, most people got a kilo of produce at a time.


I’m here alone, a kilo is just over 2 pounds. That’s a bit much for me.


Did they take credit cards, or would I need to use cash?


I picked up one zucchini and handed it to the vendor, an older Polish man who wasn’t in the mood to pantomime.


He pointed to the other zucchinis.


I thought he was asking me how many more. I shook my head, no.


He returned my carefully chosen zucchini to the bin.


Should I get out my translate program? Surely it is okay to buy one zucchini.


I haven’t bought vegetables since I arrived. You have to weigh them on a scale in the produce department and then print out the price before you pay for it. The instructions are in Polish.


Yeah, no.


I sent a message to Norway, a woman who volunteered in my same program, and asked for her help from afar on how to weigh vegetables at the grocery store.


She messaged me back and said that in Norway the clerk weighs the produce at the register, so she had no idea how to print out the price on a machine when the directions are in Polish.


She said her only European advice was for me to buy less since I had to carry the bag home.


Um, how did she know?


It isn’t just weighing my food that is a problem, I can barely manage to buy my groceries in the self-checkout lines.

The egg shelf in the grocery store is not refrigerated.

Earlier today I went to the large grocery store to buy eggs and more yogurt and got stuck in the self-checkout line. I pressed the button to call for an attendant and a mechanical voice shouted out in Polish from my register. Everyone turned and stared.


The attendant ran over and after several awkward moments was able to hush the alarming voice.


No, I don’t think the voice was shouting, “Stupid American,” but you never know.


At home I never have to sign my credit card receipts. Here I always have to. Why? Why?


So I can’t use the self-checkout lines because of the signature requirement, but if I pay with a credit card, I have to start in the self-checkout lines, then let an attendant swoop in and save the day by sending me to a clerk for checkout.


It’s the circle of shopping despair. Why? Why?


It makes me what to eat out.

Only a 15 minute walk to the farmer's market.

That’s why I wanted to go to the farmer’s market where they would weigh my food for me AND I wouldn’t have to use fight with the registers.


A woman standing next to me in a bike helmet asked in broken English how many zucchini I wanted.


“One.”


“One kilo?”


I asked her if it was possible to buy just one squash.


She said something to the man. He put the squash into a bag.

I bought the largest cauliflower they have. Now I will eat cauliflower for days.

I handed him a beautiful head of cauliflower.


The woman said, “That is the price on the vegetable. Is that okay?”


“Yes. That is what I want.” 5 Polish zloty = $1.06 USD. An amazing price.


Was I supposed to haggle? Sorry, not in the mood.


At home I normally buy organic produce, but in Europe the agricultural regulations limit pesticides on produce. I am willing to eat conventional produce here.


I pointed to the yellow beans and asked the woman if I could get a half a kilo.


She told me how to say it. “Poor kilo.”


“Poor kilo.” That is probably not the Polish spelling, but it sure was easy to remember.


The man gave me ½ a kilo of beans and I ordered another ½ of cucumbers.


I haven’t been eating enough vegetables; maybe I’m undernourished. Maybe this is why I’ve been so tired.

A flower shop next to the farmer's market.

Today was a day off from volunteering with Ukrainian refugees. After breakfast I napped for six hours which is not the way I care to spend my time off.


I can sleep when I go home.


Ok, undernourished is a bit of a stretch. But if I buy vegetables, I’ll eat vegetables.


I picked up one Jerusalem artichoke. The vender rolled his eyes and added it to my bag.


Does he think I should eat two Jerusalem artichokes? Maybe he is a health food advisor and now I’ve blown my chance for health by buying only one.


This white shopping bag that he supplied was the very first plastic bag I’ve seen in Poland.


I pointed to my translator’s bike helmet and said, “This is the first bike helmet I’ve seen.” (Implied meaning: in Poland.)


She and her two young boys were all wearing helmets.


She didn’t react to my words and later I thought that maybe she thought I had never seen a bike helmet anywhere on anyone. Did she think I was making fun of her?


Language barriers can be difficult. I miss bantering with strangers.


I paid the vendor in cash and moved to another vender. I pointed to the strawberries and said, “Poor kilo.”


She picked up an enormous basket of strawberries and dumped them into a blue plastic bag.


Did she think I was making strawberry juice?


“Poor kilo?” I raised my voice at the end of the sentence, so she would be sure I was questioning the weight of strawberries in that bag.


A flurry of angry words left her mouth as she poured most of the strawberries out of the bag, then shook the bag to ensure I was buying mashed fruit. She shook it again.


Note to self: Never buy strawberries from her again—even if the berries appear to be vine ripened.


How do you say, “No thanks?”


Maybe my suggesting that the strawberries were poor was a bad idea, like some instantaneous Law of Attraction zinger. Shazam. Now these are poor strawberries.

I wasn’t sure if I could walk away, so I paid her and pocketed the change. Now I have coins if I need to use a public restroom.


#relief.


Back home I unpacked my booty.


Rinse veggies. Eat veggies. Rinse veggies. Eat veggies.


The strawberries were a mess. I was trying to remember if strawberry juice stains or not.

Eating pre-mashed strawberries from the farmer's market.

I opened a tub of yogurt and added some pre-mashed strawberries.


Other than picking out the green stems, the juicy mess was ready for eating.


What a treat.












Beautiful produce.

The names of the apples in Polish.

A magazine vender at the market.

Walking home.

Bench friends.

The closer I get to home, the more people there are.

 

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