Thursday, August 28, 2008

It's that time of year once again...

Come the end of August, something special happens in the stationary and paper stores of Ecuador. It is the dreaded SCHOOL SUPPLY SHOPPING, and it is back! You may remember my experience school supply shopping last year - what started out as a fun, exciting moment of my eldest being old enough to go to school, turned into a hair-pulling, four-hour long ordeal. Aside from the general lack of product in the stores ("Thin wire? No sorry, we're out. Nope, don't have shiny foam either. No, I've never heard of PLAID fabric paint. We don't carry small rolling pins, and we ran out of markers and colored pencils and modeling clay yesterday"), the fact that the list itself reads like Morse code (1oo hjs papel bond tamaƱo INEN 75 gr.), and the lines that go to the back of the store, there is an additional problem: everything you buy wrong (brand, size, color) IS SENT BACK! Needless to say, school supply shopping is a small science here, and so this year I came prepared: I brought a translator (my Spanish-speaking and Ecuadorian-raised husband), and I got the list the week before classes started.

Despite my preparation and general prudence, there were still large crowds. My translator was indispensable, and although he does not enjoy this type of shopping at all, I will never again go on my own. Me: "Boxed pencil sharpener?" (He grabs it off the shelf and puts it in the cart. ), "Cheese eraser?" ("I saw those over here..." as he goes to get it), "2 HB pencils? 1 imitation rapidografo, black? 3 large sheets of "comet" paper?" (Hubby scurrying from aisle to aisle, grabbing normal things like fine-lined pens and pencils and tissue paper off the shelves.)

We were in and out within an hour, although we only had half of the items. Since then I have been briefed on what to look for ("brilliant foam sheets" = foam with glitter in it, "thin rope" = thin corded ribbon", etc.) so that over the next few days I can be on the lookout for specialty items, hopefully available in some of the smaller stationary stores. I am still struggling with a "non-traditional story book" (Pinocchio? Aladdin? The Three Bears? What is considered "traditional" here?) and finding a junior-sized rolling pin. Oh, and reusable paper towels - do such things even exist?

And the ever elusive PLAID fabric paint - which I have seen in the U.S. but never here.

So, the hunt will continue and come Monday, will we be prepared? Come back to see!

Note: You may remember from last year that cotton balls were a popular item. It seems that teachers get into fads, since they all ask for the same thing. This year there are no cotton balls on our list, but we have been hard pressed to find the glittered foam sheets and yellow folders. Who says teachers don't succumb to peer pressure?