Things can be deceptive in this part of the world; so much seems so familiar to a Westerner that it can be easy to forget just how far away and very much not-home it is.
For example - and yes, I am going to whine and moan here - we have more chains and franchises places that you can count. The local rejoicing at the arrival of Dunkin Donuts earlier this year was universal and prolonged. We have McDs, we have Hardee's, we have KFC, Baskin Robbins, and DQ.
And Oh, Boy, do we have coffee. There is Second Cup, and Costa, and, of course, we have Starbucks. Sometimes it seems like they're all gathered in nodes around town, so you're never further than a half-kilometer from at least three coffeeshops. There are at least two more chains about to open; a new mall near our house looks to have six coffeeshops out of only 60 stores.
But Toto, you are not in Kansas anymore, and here's my gripe: at the moment, at least, it's impossible to buy any decent coffee. I'm mean the stuff itself, as in beans that they grind for you and you take home. We don't take our coffee lightly in this house, and children, you don't want to see me if i haven't had two mugs, black, within an hour of rising.
Costa has some bags scattered around its premises, but they're clearly decorative. Last time we tried to make a purchase, the clerk looked panicked and said he'd try, but they can't grind and the manager who knows the price might not be back for a week or so. We got some at Second Cup once, but the resulting brew was so vile that I'd rather brave the stale brick of cheap Italian espresso powder the supermarkets peddle.
Starbucks, whatever else one things about the chain, its hegemony, its global business model, et. al., has been our savior. But today, I've been to three Starbucks - out of about six in town - and they don't have any coffee. How is this possible?
I was finally reduced to asking a clerk - no barista pretensions here, at least there's that to be grateful for - if they could sell me some of the coffee they were using (there's clearly some in the country, I mean they're still serving made coffee, for God's sake), and he looked at me like I'd asked to buy his sister.
Oh, no, sir, we only sell packaged coffee.
But there isn't any!
When will there be?
I suppose, given some of the places I've lived, I should just focus on how nice it is to have all these choices and little luxuries. But isn't it possible to have something operate the way it would in a real place?