Because I work at the American International School (which is part of the Embassy) I am entitled to sign up at the commissary. I could have done this months ago (and I should have!) but this weekend, I finally decided to go and get my paperwork in. It’s not enough to simply be American to join the commissary. You need to be a card-carrying American School teacher (and a U.S. citizen) or a direct or indirect U.S. government employee. And they are very strict about it…if you are found buying stuff for non-members, they can kick you out of the super-sekrit club!
Getting to the Commissary is like going on a spy mission. You have to know where it is. It’s on a residential street, there is no sign outside the gate and it looks like somebody’s house from the outside! You almost think you might have to know a password and secret handshake!
The commissary is a terrific resource for Americans here. They get four shipments a year of all of your favorite American foods/brands that you can’t get anywhere else. You can even request certain items, or put in for a full case which gives you a discount. (For instance, you can buy 6 bags of Starbucks coffee beans and get 10% off the price!) Although I have been pretty satisfied with what I am able to buy at the local shops, it was a real pleasure to see some “stuff” that you just can’t find here! The prices at the commissary are very reasonable and in a few cases items are cheaper than they would be at the local grocery stores. Of course, other things are more expensive but not outlandishly so. And it is all “duty-free” – one of the reasons they are so strict about who gets to shop here!
Never thought I’d be so happy to see Campbell’s soup…or decent paper towels! (The paper towels here are more like thin toilet paper.)
And honest-to-god laundry detergent and household cleaners!
They also rent DVDs – TV shows and movies. $2.50 a day, but if you rent on a Friday, you can keep it all weekend!
They have a great selection of liquors and beers…however, teachers are not allowed to purchase these! Apparently, these are considered “luxury” items and everyone knows teachers don’t need any luxury! (I tried to tell the guy who runs the commissary that booze is a necessity for teachers…he laughed, but wasn’t moved.) So all I was able to do was look with great longing.
(On the way home, I was waylaid at the stop light and ended up buying 5 beautifully ripe avocados and some grapes the size of golfballs…)
I am glad I finally joined the commissary – my only regret is that now I am likely to spend more money on things I didn’t even realize I was missing!