Sunday, 24 February 2013

LIFE OVERSEAS: Adventures in the aisles


Living in Ireland, I have had several people approach me to ask if I had come from the United States because of my accent. It is pretty amusing as I have never step foot into that country but I guess it is pretty common for certain Malaysians to sound American when they travel abroad.

Why? I personally think it is because of all the Nickelodeon and Disney cartoons I watched growing up as a kid. For some reason, the definition of clear English to me was what was heard on the television.

However, recently I was given the golden opportunity to go to New York, the ‘concrete jungle where dreams are made of’ quoting the Jay Z’s song, Empire State of Mind.

What places do most people plan to visit when they go to New York? The Statue of Liberty? The Empire State Building? Central Grand Terminal? Certainly those places are the must-gos, but what about the places that are not typically on the list of tourist attractions?

When I reached the hotel which was actually situated in New Jersey, I asked the hotel concierge about what were the local attractions I could visit. He listed out different department stores such as T. J. Maxx and several restaurants. What caught my eye however was, Walmart.

It was a 10 minute walk away from the hotel and there was even a free shuttle service provided if my laziness became more prominent at that moment.

Walmart is a place I have only heard about and dreamed of. What is Walmart? It is basically a department store that sells practically everything.

When I say everything, I mean everything.

I arrived at the store not knowing what to expect, only to find out that the place was so humongous that I had to spend about 4 hours to cover half of it! What really intrigued me was the variety of products that were there.

There was fresh food, cooked food, clothes, toys, electronics, furniture, cosmetics and even jewellery, to name a few.

My personal favourite however, was the food section. To me, the food was not just for eating purposes. It was actually entertaining to analyse each product on the shelf as some made me gawk in awe or burst out in fits of laughter.

Take for example, the one long isle solely for salad dressing and sauces. Usually in supermarkets, you would see one section for this, but I saw bottles upon bottles of Ranch, an American favourite.

Next was another long isle of breakfast cereals. Extraordinary unheard of flavours of cereal were to be found. It ranged from apple cinnamon sticks to marshmallow coated cereals to ones that I have only heard of in comic books – Cap’n Crunch’s Peanut Butter Crunch.

I probably looked rather queer to the shoppers and workers as I had the camera slung around my neck and I never stopped snapping photographs of the food while I was roaming around.

They even had Spongebob Squarepants’ shaped macaroni and cheese. I thought it was too good to be true as that exact cartoon is definitely my favourite till now. The best part was that the prices were not exorbitant! They were actually rather cheap and affordable.

Sadly, my luggage could only fit that much, so I bought a minimum amount of food that I have never tasted before as a delightful experiment.

However, my favourite part about the adventure in Walmart was the people in it. All the workers were eagerly running around helping every single shopper with a broad smile on their face. You just knew that they loved their job whole heartedly. What was even more amazing was the fact that non personnel were helping me too.

There were a total of 3 strangers who helped me find random things that I could not seem to find as the place was too big. At first, I thought that they were all workers only to find out that they were not! The friendliness factor definitely left a lasting impression on me.

I left Walmart only yearning to return once more.

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