However, there are some differences, so today I'll tell you about grocery shopping.
Just like in the US, there are various places I get my groceries: Carrefour (like a Super Wal-Mart, but French), the Commissary, and Rere. Every Sunday I give Rere a list of fresh fruits and vegetables that I need for the upcoming week, and on Wednesday she shows up with whatever I asked for (she also buys the eggs and aeesh [pita] bread). That's my favorite way to shop.
However, there are some things that one can't get on the local market or are cheaper at the Commissary - like all dairy products. Since our family drinks a lot of milk, I have to go to the Commissary every two weeks for milk as it costs about $2 a gallon less (and is a lot tastier) than Egyptian milk. While I'm there I pick up other things that are more expensive on the local market, like cold cereal, butter, cheese, ice cream, shampoo, and laundry detergent or I just can't get, like brown sugar, cream of tartar, powdered sugar and dryer sheets.
The Commissary, as some of you may remember, is in one of the ubiquitous walled compounds that all American facilities are in, and has restricted access. We don't have a car, and so I have to take other transportation to get there. Local black-and-white taxis aren't allowed so we use a private driver/taxi service that did something to allow them access to all of the compounds (baksheesh? who knows? I don't care as long as it works).
So, my trip to the Commissary starts by saying goodbye to the girls because I only go shopping on days that Rere comes (one of the perks of living in Egypt), after which I go four floors down, and say hello to the two or three bawabs hanging out in the entry to my building. I go outside where the car is waiting and get in with perhaps a brief greeting, perhaps not. The drivers are not very talkative.
Then I sit in the backseat and watch the cars swirl around me as the driver deftly maneuvers through traffic. We drive out of Maadi and under the Autostrade, past fields of trash and rubble, past the newspaper-sellers table with rocks holding down the newspapers, past a mosque, and past several sleeping guards. When we get to the compound, the car goes through the customary explosive-sweep, after which we drive through the compound and I get out at the door to the Commissary while the driver parks his car.
While in the Commissary I can pretend that I'm in a deserted small Safeway in the States (more often than not I'm the only person there) as I peruse the aisles looking for Malt-O-Meal cereal and Bounce laundry sheets. All of you know about that part of grocery shopping.
After paying for my groceries, I make sure to tip the baggers who then wheel a cart with the bags out to the car while the bagger and driver put the bags in the trunk. I'm still not quite sure what I'm supposed to do at this point. We take the same route home and the driver stops at the entrance of the building. I get out, and one of the bawabs (who we pay 50 pounds a month apiece to do this) helps the driver get the bags out of the trunk and into the elevator. I pay the driver, and then get into the elevator with the bawab and ride up to our floor where he helps me take the bags inside. And then I put the groceries away.
So, now you know about grocery shopping. I told you that my life isn't very exciting.