Tag Archives: Shopping

Grocery Shopping in French

“Ground beef. Like, beef– cow meat– but it’s all ground up in little bits.” I did my best unofficial international sign language to accompany my explanation.

“Ah! Bœuf haché?” The grocery store employee led me to the freezer and pointed at the package of meat, eyebrows raised. “This?” He asked. It didn’t look exactly like the ground beef at Walmart, but it appeared to be ground beef nonetheless. I smiled and thanked him, placing the package in my cart.

There are only a handful of affordable grocery stores on the island of Sint Maarten, and my options are to pay $170 a trip to shop in English or $102.75 to shop in French. I choose the language barrier and saving seventy bucks.

I spend a lot of time staring at labels, trying to make out what this can or that box holds. I’ve become pretty good at guessing, and I’ve even picked up some French in the process (although don’t ask me to try to pronounce it). Whenever I learn to speak French, I’ll have a head start. I will know the word for every single food item ever invented.

Some of the labels are easy. I babysat for a bilingual family, and their kids called milk lait at all times. The cow on the front also helps.

IMG_7018 (1)

Others aren’t so easy. I always thought fromage was just the word for “cheese,” but apparently it’s the word for every single dairy product on the planet.

This is not cheese. It’s yogurt. When I bought it, I needed yogurt, but it looked like it could be  cottage cheese or whipped cream. I decided that the risk was worth it. Ben hoped it would be whipped cream, so he was disappointed.

IMG_7015

This does not say fromage, but it IS cheese. Thank goodness this bag is see-through, or I would have been even more confused than I already was.

IMG_7016

The hardest products to find are the ones I don’t know the French word for, can’t see through the packaging, and don’t even recognize the packaging. It took me a few trips and some asking around to find baking soda. I was looking for the small orange box, but apparently Arm and Hammer doesn’t do French.

IMG_7022

I suspect the packaging issue is why I still can’t find baking powder. My friend Aqiyla went shopping with me yesterday, and she couldn’t find it either, although she speaks French. You don’t realize how powerful branding is until you’re dropped in the middle of unrecognizable foreign brands.

One thing that is not hard for me to locate, however, is Nutella! I think I have a Nutella radar built into my brain. I’m OK with becoming more European, if it involves chocolate for breakfast. Yes, please!

IMG_7021

I have encouraging moments, too. I’m getting to the point where I can read a lot of French words, even if I couldn’t use a single one in conversation. I can understand most French signage around town, and I can tell the difference between all-purpose flour and pastry flour. I can even scan package ingredients for allergens and be fairly confident that I won’t send anyone into anaphylactic shock.

IMG_7023

I never thought I’d say this, but there are days that I really miss Walmart. But at the same time, I’m glad I have the chance to make shopping a bilingual adventure. After all, I never quite know what I’m going to come home with…

IMG_7020

 

Seven Chinese-English Translation Fails

One of the things that I find most entertaining is Chinese-English translation fails. Zero judgment on the people who created these interesting translations– regardless of how grammatically incorrect the translations may be, the translators still speak a foreign language way better then I do! I have huge respect for any Mandarin-speaking person who can learn English and vice-versa. Still, these phrases are pretty funny. The Chinese market next door to our apartment complex carries plenty of plastic imports that make shopping a little more fun. Here are a few:

IMG_9156

The Wonderful Life plastic food container. I’m not sure if it’s trying to remind me that my life is wonderful, so I should be happy, or if being happy every day makes life wonderful.

IMG_9161

“Happy diary. If you often have smiles on your face good lucks will naturally come to you.”

Matching the positive thinking of Wonderful Life food container is the happy diary. Maybe you can only write positive things in this book. On one page record what makes you happy, and on the opposite write all the naturally occurring “good lucks” in your life. If you think about it, this actually makes sense. I’ll bet that if I wrote down all the happy things in my life and smiled more often, I’d quickly recognize how blessed I am.

IMG_9163

The Huahu pitcher!

“Huahu daily-used will become us living of a part, let’s enjoy living for every day.”

I don’t know what “huahu” is, and the rest of the poem doesn’t make much sense, either.

FullSizeRender (7)

Cookie bear tub

“Cookie bear, Baby happy baby, I want.”

Does the bear want a cookie? Or does it want a baby? Or does the baby want a bear or a cookie? Or is it a baby bear wanting a cookie?

IMG_8053

Mini desktop drawers. There are three drawers in this set, and every one of them has the exact same poem:

“Flowers of Happiness. Flowers, dreams can’t answer. Where has, The only way to obtain happiness, boy and girl, wandering in the world, no matter is the numerous hills and streams.”

IMG_9157

Toilet soap. Not really for toilets.

IMG_9165

Notebook- “There is something better in writing.”

Is it trying to remind me that there are a whole lot of writers out there who are better than I am? Or just that writing is better than not writing? I don’t know whether to feel insecure or encouraged.

That’s all for now, folks! “There is something better in writing” coming in future posts. Stay tuned and please subscribe!

Eight Things You Won’t Buy on Sint Maarten

When we first moved to Sint Maarten, I was expecting to be forced to go without some of the things that I’ve always been used to having. Not the case. In fact, not only do the stores here carry virtually everything you could possibly need, they also carry some things you could never, ever possibly need in a million years. For your entertainment, I have compiled a stack of photos from the Ace Home Store.

IMG_8788

First is the Palmpeeler. Basically, it’s a ring with a carrot peeler on the inside. This in the answer to one of the great questions of life: What would Larry the Cucumber buy his girlfriend for an engagement ring?

IMG_8787

The Garlic Keeper! For only $5.95 (plus tax!), you can keep garlic clove halves fresh. It will only take a few years for this thing to pay for itself.

IMG_8783

The Easy Twist! Works on pretty much every jar anywhere, and you’ll never have to ask your husband to open a jar of pickles again. Of course, you could just get one of those circular grippy things (or a kitchen towel), but why save kitchen drawer space when you could have a cool new toy?

IMG_8780 (1)

A lime squeezer, a lemon squeezer, and an orange squeezer. I get the need for  an orange squeezer, I get the need for a lemon squeezer, but I don’t get why you’d need both a lemon squeezer and a lime squeezer. Just to have all three colors? And how often do you really use lime juice in cooking, anyway?

IMG_8786

Because we wouldn’t want to lose our silverware, now would we?

IMG_8779 (1)

Here’s what every kid wants at her birthday party: two creepy centipede balloons with bunny ears.

IMG_8784

The jar safe! It’s an empty jar with the inside painted to look like it contains fresh strawberry preserves. This is a great idea, but it should probably be a Pinterest pin, not a twenty-dollar retail product.

IMG_8785

Bagel slicer. Because knives are super hard to handle.

That’s all, folks! Tune in next time for Chinese-English mis-translations on plastic imports, brought to you by the Asian market next door.

FullSizeRender (7)

What to Do for a Week in Sint Maarten

We have now been living in Sint Maarten for a week! We have a week yet to explore and enjoy before classes begin for Ben at American University of the Caribbean. We’re going on as many adventures as we can on our beautiful island home. Here are some of the fun things we have done. If you ever come to Sint Maarten, take some time to try a few of these!

1. Mullet Bay Beach

We love Mullet Bay Beach! I can’t believe we live just a short walk away. Mullet Bay has gorgeous fine white sand, warm clear water, and best of all, not too many people. There is even a little beach snack shack with umbrellas and chairs for rent.

Mullet bay Beach
Mullet bay Beach

2. Fort Louis

We took an excursion to the French side of the island last week. On the north side of the town of Marigot, there is a short hike to the ruins of an old French fort. I’m not sure if the best part is the view or the awesome vintage cannons.

Ft. St. Louis
Ft. Louis

3. Fishing

I’m not sure about the French side of the island, but on the Dutch side, one does not need a license to fish. And the fishing is good! We’ve done just about every type of fishing you can imagine. It’s fun, but the downside is that most fish aren’t edible. The majority potentially carry Ciguatera, an incredibly toxic virus that affects people quite badly. Fortunately, the little ones and the herbivores are generally clean. We made fish tacos last night. They were delicious.

Ben catches a barracuda. Can’t eat these, unfortunately.

4. Shopping

Both the French side and the Dutch side have great shopping. Most of it is pretty expensive, but what do you expect on an island? Our shopping has been limited to fishing equipment and groceries for the most part.

I'm not sure what exactly this is useful for, but I've always wanted to be a mermaid!
I’m not sure what exactly this is useful for, but I’ve always wanted to be a mermaid!

5. Snorkeling

The fish here are beautiful. There are few things more fascinating than watching tropical fish go about their little fish lives. The variety and color is amazing! So far, the coral we’ve seen is a bit drab, but the fish make up for it. The other day, I saw a scary huge barracuda and the biggest granddaddy spinefish I’ve ever seen!

One of three good watersports stores we discovered in Marigot
One of three good watersports stores we discovered in Marigot

6. Casinos

I wouldn’t recommend the gambling, and a definitely wouldn’t recommend the bars. I’ve heard of the sketchy and dangerous things that happen in some of these bars. However, the casinos sometimes have pretty great food for a reasonable price at their restaurants! We ate at Thai Savanh’ in Stars Casino for Ben’s birthday. They have a nice patio for dining away from the smoke of the casino.

Thai Savanh'
Thai Savanh’

7. Hiking and Running

We went on Guana Bay hike with friends yesterday. We loved the views! There are so many little islands that you can see from this trail. This is just one of many hikes on the island. There are good opportunities for running, too, whether on the beach or the golf course.

Guana Bay hike
Guana Bay hike

8. Surfing

Surfing in the storm
Surfing in the storm

Ben and his friend Matt bought a couple of surf boards today and took advantage of tropical storm Erika’s big waves. There aren’t too many days with good surfing, so today was lucky. Unfortunately, Ben ended up getting thrown onto a sea urchin, so right now he’s experiencing the bad side of the:

9. Wildlife

The flora and fauna here is awesome! Ben climbs coconut palms so we can have fresh coconut milk. There are a few fruit trees here, too. I’ve already mentioned the fish, and in addition to sea creatures, there are interesting land creatures, too, like the giant iguanas that sun themselves on the golf course.

Caribbean iguana
Caribbean iguana

Until next time!

Worst Shopping Trip Ever

It’s funny now, but it wasn’t funny when I was in the middle of it. Our first full day in Sint Maarten did not include the beach, fresh seafood, or any of the things you probably thought I’d do as soon as possible. Instead, we spent pretty much the whole day on biggest shopping fail I’ve ever experienced.
One of the blessings of living in or complex is a little Chinese general store just a quick stroll down the hill. It has most of the things we needed to buy, including cups, canned food, and even plates (they say “love apple” on them, whatever that means, but hey, they’re plates). It also has a lot of things we don’t need, but were very entertained by– plastic cups with anime bears, and a set of tiny drawers with the same badly-translated Chinese poem on every drawer.
IMG_8053
We bought some of the things we needed, but we had heard that a discount store in Philipsburg, the capitol city, was having a killer closing sale. We didn’t know how to get there, so we asked our complex’s maintenance man where the bus station is. He offered to give us a ride to Maho, where buses leave more frequently. We gladly accepted his kind offer, and he actually drove us all the way to Philipsburg, so our bus ride to the end was short. Our first stop was Cost U Less, where things might cost you less on the island but definitely cost more than in the States. Let’s just say we won’t be buying cereal here. We bought a few things and moved on to the store with the sale, Save A Lot, and found decent prices for many of the things on our shopping list– sheets, comforters, couch cover, curtains, knives and block, pillows, doormat, etc. The selection wasn’t so great, but at least we got things we needed and liked.
Or so we thought.
We took a taxi home, because no bus would be able to take us and our bulky bags. We finally made it home, and began to unpack.
Our first problem was that the curtains I chose did not fit on the rod in our bedroom. The second problem was that they looked ridiculous in the living room. We despaired of our curtains and moved on to the bedding. We slept on my wrap-around skirts last night and used clothing-stuffed bags for our pillows, so you can imaging how happy we were to have sheets. One problem: they did not fit. The sheets said that they were for a full bed, but they were about a foot too short! We bought three sets, sadly. This also meant that the blanket we bought did not fit. The door mat didn’t work either– every time the door opens, it sweeps the mat to the side.
At this point I was feeling pretty discouraged. I flopped down on our half-sheeted bed and stared dejectedly at the ceiling. Ben walked in, carrying the box that held our new knife set. “Are you OK?” He asked. I said that I was frustrated because everything we made the trip for we couldn’t use. “It’s going to be OK,” he said, as he opened the box. He slid out the knife block  and, lo and behold, no knives. Just an empty block and the cutting board that came with it. We stared at it and I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry. Ben shook his head and burst out laughing. I laughed, too. Sometimes, you just have to have a sense of humor.
We ended up using the bedspread as curtains, the top sheets as fitted sheets, and the doormat as a rug in the kitchen. We went shopping again today and found sheets that actually fit. I don’t really know what to do with an empty knife block or those silly curtains, but sometimes you just have to take things with a shrug and laugh a little. As Ben says, stuff like this comes with being a foreigner. You just have to make mistakes and learn. You just have to let those annoying things that are different from “home” roll off your back. It won’t always be easy to laugh at the things life throws at me, but at least I’m learning.
View from our apartment
View from our apartment