Saturday, March 29, 2014

The cost of comfort.

Sometimes when Nick and I are in conversation, I make suggestions for him on who he should marry should I meet an untimely demise.  When people hear us having these kind of discussions, they often think that is morbid, but I think it's practical.  (People, I live in HAITI!) During one such conversation, I was mentioning a particular Haitian woman that was a friend of ours as being future wife material.  Nick paused and said, "Yeah, I don't know."

And so then I said, "What, don't you think she's pretty? I do.  Plus,  I think she'd be a good mom.  And I think she can handle the crazy-town family we have."

Nick quickly (almost too quickly if you ask me) replied, "No, it's not that.  I think she's very pretty." (Notice he said not just pretty but, VERY pretty.)  He paused again and finally said, "Here's the thing, when I am sick, I want my wife to make me chicken soup.  I don't want her to make me bread soup."  

I immediately understood Nick's point.  And it wasn't about the kind of soup at all.  It just comes down to the he drawing comfort from familiar things.  Y'all, cross-cultural living is insanely hard.  It's seems like for everyone one thing you begin to understand, you discover 6 more things that you do not understand.  That makes me realize how very difficult cross-cultural relationships must be.  I have known several people in cross-cultural relationships & marriages.  And some have really good relationships.  But a lot of these relationships just don't work.  And I wonder if the reason that so many of these relationships fail has to do with the fact that different cultures draw comfort in different ways.

Where am I going with all of this?  Hang on, I will get there.

A little over a year ago a new grocery store came to Jacmel.  It's called Star Plus and it's an import store.  Sure, there are some Haitian items as well, but the majority of its stock is imported.  And every trip to Star Plus is very Christmas-like for the ex-pats in Jacmel who used to have to travel 3 hours to Port Au Prince to get access to these imported treats.  The point of these items isn't really that they are any better than their Haitian counterparts.  Although some definitely are.  (And many items don't have a Haitian counterpart.)  The point is that there is something very comforting about eating a certain cereal you used to eat in the States.  Or having your clothes smell like a certain brand of laundry soap, or even just wiping your butt with a fluffy quilted toilet paper when you have giardia.  It brings you into a place in your mind where things make sense, even if just for the very briefest of moments.

But here's the problem.  

Comfort costs.

A lot.

How much, you ask?  Well let's me give you an idea.  Here's a few pics I snapped in my beloved Star Plus last week.  All prices are listed in Haitian gourdes on the the product and I changed that into US dollars with an exchange of 43 gourdes/dollar.  (The current exchange rate.)

Philadelphia Cream Cheese- 8oz. - $6.16

 Cheeze Whiz- 8 oz. - $7.55

Six-pack snack size Swiss Miss pudding -  $5.93

Cheez-It- 13.7 oz. - $7.90

Kellogg's Corn Pops- 12.5 oz. - $8.95

Borden Sharp White Cheddar - 8 oz. - $6.16

Kellogg's Special K - 12 oz. - $10.11

Country Daybreak Eggs- one dozen- $5.23

 Palmolive - 25 fl. oz. - $6.86

Gain Laundry Detergent - 1.17 Gal - $40.81

Tide Laundry Detergent- 1.17 gal - $50.58 (not a typo)

Clorox Clean-Up- (can't see how many ounces, but it's not big)- $8.72

Purina Dog Chow - 4.4 lbs (read: the smallest bag) - $9.53

Kraft Macaroni and Cheese- 7.25 oz. - $2.67

Prego Spaghetti Sauce- 24 oz. - $5.69

Always Maxi Pads - 26 pads - $16.16

Johnson's Baby Shampoo- 3 sizes - $8.72, $5.58, $3.48

Huggies Baby Wipes- 72 wipes - $7.67  

Head and Shoulder Shampoo - 2 different sizes - $16.51, $22.43

Crest Toothpaste- 6.4 oz (one tube) - $6.62

So as you can see, it's tough to afford comfort, particularly because most of us ex-pats who work down here are on a tight budget.  But every now and again buying a block of $6 cream cheese feels like a dream come true.


  1. I get the stream of what you are saying but you started off talking about relationships, then come to food. Wish you had related it back to relationships. I get it as 17 years in Haiti and married to a girl from the mountains. Believe me, I get.

    As for the food stuff, for me it is chicken breast, cheese, canned diced tomatoes, pickles, and Tostitos. Fortunately, i do not get to PAP very often.

    Tom in Verrettes, La Artibonite.

  2. I think that the start off really blends in with the topic, to make sure you get THAT feeling of comfort. Great inside picture of reality, completely agree!


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