Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Where has all the milk gone?

Living in a land where I've grown accustomed to not being able to read labels on items in stores, I've learned different ways for identifying products. I know that my salt is the one with the orangeish reddish picture of the Great Wall on it. (An important thing to remember, lest I end up accidentally purchasing the more common, but similarly looking, product of MSG.) The cooking oil I like has the green label with the gold fish. The chicken strips I like are in a green bag with a cartoon yellow chicken (not to be confused with the red bag--those are too spicy). Packets of yeast have the one English word "Angel" on them. The milk I bought my first two and a half years in China was white, green, and blue with pictures of cows on them. Each box of milk (yes, milk comes in an unrefrigerated section in boxes) has two half-cows on it, so that when the boxes sit next to each other on the shelf they form whole cows. Anyways, back to my story; I apologize for the multitude of tangents. Like I was saying, I have been buying this milk my whole time in China. Consequently, when this brand of milk mysteriously disappeared from the shelves a couple weeks ago I was understandably distraught. However, I recovered from my grief and settled on the only other kind available in the large box size. These boxes were red, green and yellow with pictures of people running on front. I was a little disappointed with my new milk, but soon grew accustomed to the change. Until this milk began disappearing as well. At the grocery store near my apartment, all that was left were little bags of milk (think elementary school cafeteria) or juice-box-sized boxes of milk. I subsisted on these small packages for a couple days until I could find time to go to the larger grocery store downtown. I thought our small store had just run out of large cartons. But alas, the large store had no large boxes either. As I stood in the milk aisle staring at row upon row of tiny milk boxes, I decided to ask the worker who was stocking the aisle if there were any big milks. Who knows, perhaps they have been moved to a different location in the store, I thought. Yet the worker replied that indeed, there were no large milks. In the frustration and bewilderment of the moment I stooped down to ask the question I have learned never to ponder in China--WHY? The worker obligingly gave me an answer, but it was beyond my ability to comprehend. So I sadly tossed a few tiny boxes in my cart, and wheeled the cart away wondering where all the milk had gone.

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