[This post is not intended to fascinate you with our shopping trip but to show you how something as minor as going shopping - not a big deal back at home - can be much more involved in our situation.]
Now that we were in our new place, we realized that “fully furnished” was only a good start. It was quickly apparent that there was a lot of stuff we would need to make our apartment fully functional. All the little things you take for granted at home would need to be purchased.
While we were at the B&B, we started compiling a list of things we would need, in order to stock our casa. The list became pretty extensive. We knew we’d have to go into Alajuela (The City) to fulfill our shopping list. Between Pricesmart (a wholesale membership club like Costco, and, if fact, owned by Costco) and Walmart, we figured we could get almost all the things on our list.
Knowing how long it takes to shop (locating items in the store, labels in Spanish, price conversions, etc.), we decided we needed a “dry run.” We took the bus to Alajuela on Saturday (9/6), armed with our extensive shopping list. We weren’t there to buy, necessarily, but rather to scope out the things on our list and make our real shopping trip more efficient. One limitation was that we had to travel back by bus, so we couldn’t take that much stuff with us.
We spent several hours going through both Pricesmart and Walmart, identifying the things we would purchase and making notes for our return. Since we needed a membership at Pricesmart, we took care of that while we were there. We bought some of the smaller things on the list and things we could use right away (at the B&B). We returned on the bus in the late afternoon, with a couple of boxes of products.
Tina wrote up two separate shopping lists, one for Pricesmart and one for Walmart, with the specific products we wanted to buy. We put together a plan for how we would be able to shop at both stores (they are about 15 minutes apart), without hauling all the products from one store to the other, and, very importantly, how we would get all the stuff back to Atenas.
- · Start early
- · Take the bus into Alajuela
- · Take a taxi to Walmart (the farthest away) – both of us
- · Do the Walmart shopping together
- · Tina stays at Walmart, with all our purchases
- · Mark takes a taxi to Pricesmart
- · Mark does the Pricesmart shopping
- · Have a prearranged driver pick up Tina and the products from Walmart, then come to pick me (and the other products) up at Pricesmart
- · Have the driver take us back to Atenas
One of the key pieces was finding a driver to pick us up for the return to Atenas. We asked Alphonso and he gave us the name of a driver he uses – although he only speaks Spanish. I called Alex, our rental tour driver. He was too far away and would have been expensive (he suggested just negotiating with a local taxi driver). I got the number for the driver the B&B owners used to pick us up at our hotel in San Jose and drive us to the B&B. He was a really nice guy named Janni (Brazilian version of Johnny, pronounced the same). He was more than happy to pick us up and quoted us a very reasonable price. We really like Janni. He is very professional - the only driver we have had in all of our rides who wore a dress shirt, tie, and dress slacks. He speaks excellent English, is punctual, and is very accommodating.
On Wednesday (9/10), we launched Operation Stockup. The plan worked great. The “dry run” turned out to be a huge time and stress saver, allowing us to complete our shopping much faster. We filled up an entire cart at Walmart --->
I headed off to Pricesmart and maneuvered my way through our shopping list, with a few curve balls (just like Costco, some products that were there on Saturday were not there on Wednesday). I had another full basket of purchases --->
In case you’re wondering why we would possibly need this much stuff for a fully furnished apartment, here is a sample of our shopping list:
Computer printer – printer paper – office chair – bed pillow – kitchen towels – hand towels – bath towels – laundry detergent – sponges – garbage bags – toilet paper – syrup – breakfast cereal – oatmeal – lunch meat – cheese – margarine – shower soap – shaving cream – bed sheets – plastic dishes – kitchen cutlery – bath mat – surge protectors – pasta – pasta sauce – air fresheners – paper towels – clothes hangers – clothesline and clothes pins – pancake mix – better quality cookware (the cookware in the unit was very cheap) – cooking utensils – desk light – mirrors (for bathrooms) – sunscreen – toaster – spices – cooking oil – ice cube trays – shelf liner – placemats – extension cord – bottled water – etc.
This is just a partial list.
I called Janni when I was done. He picked up Tina and her stuff and then came to pick me up. We had forgotten how small Janni’s car is. We packed the trunk and most of the back seat (leaving room for Tina), managing to fit all of our purchases in the compact auto. He drove us back to the apartment and even carried a lot of our stuff up the stairs to the 3rd floor. He got a very nice – and well deserved – tip. I’m sure we’ll be using Janni again in the future.
We left home about 7:30am and arrived back home about 3:30pm. It took a full day – even with the “dry run” and pre-planning. It’s one of those things that doesn’t seem like a big deal, if you were doing it at home. Being here, and not having a car, it’s a much more significant endeavor.
Posted by Mark
[To find Atenas, where we live, on the map below, drag the map a little to the right. Atenas will be to the West (left) of Alajuela, and a little south.]