I have always hated shopping. I have come to hate shopping in Peru even more. Especially when the task of buying something simple is made extremely difficult by the inexistence of familiar products. Take writing paper as an example. Today, I went to a supermarket called “Wong” in search of a cheap A4 notepad and foolishly assumed that this would be a simple task. It was anything but simple. Horizontal lined paper with a margin and a metal spiral at the side does not, seemingly, exist in Peru. Double and triple lined paper, graph paper, blank paper, paper with Justin Bieber on it and a rather strange, non-standardised size of paper all exist, however. In fact, every imaginable variety of weird and wonderful paper seems to exist, except the kind that most of the world has become accustomed to using. Shopping for writing paper should take approximately one minute. Today, it took me about 45 minutes and even then I baulked at the prices on display. Seven soles (£1.50) was about the most reasonably priced pad I could find. Others were on sale for between four and five times this amount.

While all of this might seem like a highly trivial matter, it was enough to agitate me to the point where I felt it necessary to seek out the section of the shop selling booze. Once again, this was not a simple task as upon leaving the stationery aisle, I was confronted by a bloke dressed as Charlie Chaplin who refused to move out of my way. Given that I a) don’t speak Spanish and b) Charlie Chaplin is mute, it was impossible for me to communicate to him that he needed to yield. Back to the stationery aisle for some more pondering. Eventually, I settled on a pad, albeit an unsatisfactory one (no margin and spiral at the side) purely because I was desperate to leave Wong at this point. My mood did not go unnoticed by the nearby shelf-stacker who looked at me as if to say “buy a pad, stop moaning, and fuck off”. And I did but not before being snubbed by Chaplin on the way out. Standing at the checkout, he felt it necessary to pop a free chocolate into the basket of lady in front and then walk away when he saw me, despite being in possession of many more chocolates. Bastard.

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My shopping woes were not just confined to today. Yesterday, I made the journey into Lima centre to visit a discount electronics shop, only to find it closed on arrival. Similarly, this morning I ordered “desayuno Ingles” (English Breakfast) only to be told it was unavailable. So I ordered something else. That too was unavailable. Right now I am drinking the Chilean wine I bought to overcome the trauma of shopping for stationery.

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