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the art of consumption

After more than two months at sea, our HHE shipment from DC is due to be delivered next week. More than anything, S is excited to have her maternity clothes. Her estimates — both regarding how soon the shipment would arrive and also how soon she would start showing — appear to have been a bit on the optimistic side. We’re also looking forward to unpacking our consumables.


Unlike Nairobi, where we had access to a diplomatic post office and could order online the few items we could not buy locally, Chisinau is designated as a “consumables” post because it does not have such facility and the local stores can be limited, especially when it comes to American brands. We did not know which products would be unavailable, but we were sure that we would not be able to ship in anything liquid via pouch — the only mail service to which we’d have access for the next two years — and stocked up accordingly.

We’ve met FS families who have elaborate spreadsheets, calculating precisely how much toothpaste, hand lotion, pancake syrup, etc. they consume during a two-year tour. We are not quite that organized yet, though after this summer’s shopping we might be trending in that direction. Although we were entitled to ship up to 2,500 pounds of consumable goods in addition to our belongings, we tried hard not to overstock, which is all too easy to do if you’re shopping at COSTCO. It made sense to buy some things in bulk — the 50-pound bags of dog food, for example — but other items were too bulky to buy even if we wanted them. What would possess anyone to purchase a 20-pound jar of relish or a three-pack of 5-pound condiment containers, we wondered while strolling down the aisles; it would only make sense if one operated a hot dog stand.

Three times a year, the Embassy organizes a shipment of dry and frozen goods from Rammstein, but the Rammstein base suffers from the same problem as COSTCO. To order cream cheese, for example, we had to find three other families who wanted to split one package, which contained 32 8oz bars. We put in a small order in September, but given that we’re unlikely to see any of things we purchased until Thanksgiving, we’re not sure how much we’ll utilize this service in the future.

Much like stores and restaurants back home, Chisinau businesses offer discounts to customers who have membership cards, which would be great of these cards were not nearly impossible to acquire. The local supermarket chain, for example, only issues membership cards when a new store is opened. This does not happen often, but at least it provides some clarity. More often, restaurant staff ask if we have a discount card but are unable to offer any guidance on how one can be obtained when we reply that we don’t have a card yet and are interested in acquiring one.

For the most part, D has been content to shop at the local supermarkets and grocery stores, but that likely owes to the fact that he grew up on Russian dishes, which feature prominently in Moldovan cuisine. S, on the other hand, prefers a bit more variety. As excited as she is to unpack her maternity pants, she is also looking forward to being able to make the full range of her recipes, especially the Mexican dishes we love and cannot get here.

5 Comments Post a comment
  1. This is so interesting. I’ve never had to pack/prepare/order/track consumables like this, but I’d be curious to see the results if I did. I’m sure it would be quite eye-opening.

    October 18, 2013
    • Quite honestly, we’re curious too to see how some of the things we bought fared in trans-shipment.

      October 18, 2013
  2. Elizabeth #

    Where are you guys going to store this stuff?? Even in our NBO house, I have trouble fitting 1 new and 1 almost-used ketchup in my fridge!!

    October 19, 2013
    • I did/do worry about the storage space factor a bit, particularly because Moldovan houses don’t have *any* closets. But one of the perks of USG housing is that they tend to come with more American-sized fridges and/or you’re sometimes given an extra fridge or freezer or both. But most of what we sent will end up on a shelf (at least until we open it). The kitchens don’t usually have pantries or closets so we have to use bookshelves for storage. In Nairobi, we had a walk-in pantry, which I truly miss.

      Good to hear from you, Elizabeth. I loved the Little Film from Scarlett’s birthday party. So cute!


      October 19, 2013
  3. bottes de pluie fille #

    Very great post. I simply stumbled upon your blog and wanted to mention that I’ve really loved browsing your blog posts. After all I’ll be subscribing in your feed and I am hoping you write again soon!

    November 6, 2013

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