‘Tis the Season…

Yes, I realize Christmas is less than 5 days away, so last Sunday should not have shocked me. But let me preface this by saying, I never want to hear anyone whine and cry about having to wait in line at Walmart for 10 minutes again. OK?
I was part of an intrepid shopping team with the goal of buying Christmas presents for 80 deserving kids in our Wednesday night program. Armed with a list and a plan, we headed to Chinatown, the best place to buy items in bulk. At the center of Chinatown is NCCC Uyanguren (pronounced “ooh-YAWN-gir-en”. Just saying the name, let alone shopping there, is exhausting). It is a multilevel structure, selling everything from school supplies to appliances to clothing to groceries. True one stop shopping! We started on the top floor, in school supplies. Despite wall to wall people, reminiscent of Black Friday, we filled that part of our list quickly and smoothly. It gave us false hope that the rest of the day would go so seamlessly.
Downstairs to groceries. The grocery store is always crowded on the weekends, but even after two years of dealing with crowds and chaos, this was a new level of culture shock for me. It left me shocked, shaking, hungry, and a bit afraid. OK, maybe not, but it was nothing I’ve ever experienced. After begging and pleading for about 15 minutes for a grocery cart at every register (all 30 of them), we finally scored one, not that we could navigate it down the packed aisles, but hey, it added an extra level of adventure. After splitting up, we loaded our cart with snacks and hygiene items, and pushed our way to the registers. You know when you go to a store, and it’s crazy busy, and half the registers are open? It’s a major pet peeve of mine, and that is one thing I have to give NCCC credit for. Every one of the 30+ registers was open, and every single one had a line. We strategized, scoped, and jockeyed for the best position, but it quickly became obvious that it didn’t matter which line we were in, we might as well have brought a lawn chair and a barbecue, because we were going to be there for a while.
We parked our cart sideways, to keep from spilling out into the main aisle, and the wait began. The little girl in front of us quickly spotted that one of these things is not like the others, the “thing” being me. I desperately wanted to say “close your mouth Michael, we are not a catfish”, but common sense got the better of me. My two shopping companions quickly noticed the extra attention I was receiving, and we had a good giggle. We spent the next 40 minutes (um, yes, 40 minutes) chatting with this cutie, who was left to keep place in line while Mom continued to shop. Every few minutes, a music box style chime would ring very close to where we were standing. I soon realized that it was the customer service/management request tune, and would you believe our luck, the same speaker chimed for all 30 registers. Meanwhile, the teenage boy standing behind us decided this was the perfect time to harass his hungry and exhausted toddler aged brother. So, we got to endure screaming, shrieking, and pushing from behind, and that was all from Mom, ironically reprimanding the boys for being loud and disruptive. We finally reached the belt, slapped it victoriously, and piled all of our goodies on. After waiting patiently for our box boy to package everything like this, we moved on.
Final stop. Toys, the fun part! We hit another variety shop, and they had everything left that we needed (bless them!). Headbands for the girls, and battery operated toy cars for the boys. They were such a great deal, and we were excited about our score. 34 cars, which translated to 34 battery tests. In the Philippines, any electronic purchase is tested before the sale is final, and I do mean any. Televisions, toasters, lightbulbs, and yes, $1.00 toy cars. Honestly, it’s a good idea, it saves unnecessary returns, etc. But, at the end of the day, having the owner’s son sit and open 34 boxes was pushing my threshold. He happily obliged, and I reminded myself that it was probably the end of a very long day for him too. I just sat with a smile, knowing how crazy excited 80 kids will be Wednesday night when many of them open what will most likely be their only Christmas presents. But as for next year, Amazon.com is sounding pretty good.

80 Gifts...Ready to Go!
80 Gifts…Ready to Go!
"Santa's Yellow Sleigh" arriving at the church
“Santa’s Yellow Sleigh” arriving at the church
Yep...definitely worth it!
Yep…definitely worth it!
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