The Paper Problem

If you are a book lover and often carry a book to read while on a trip to China, Europe, Mexico, Central and South America, and maybe other places that I don’t know well, you may think—not a problem, countries all have book stores and some are super (like Hastings in London).  And surely they are all in English. (Oh, you know better than that, unless you are in a store that caters to English-speaking travelers, and they are found only in major cities, like Mexico City.) But it’s not the availability about which I want to warn you.

There are plenty of books in Mexico City, even more books in London, etc., but a paperback that would cost you $9.95 plus tax here, suddenly has a price tag of …oh…$15.00 or more!  Suddenly, even the ratty TV set in your hotel room looks better than reading.  But you are unhappy.

Better carry that paperback which you tossed out when you planned to “pack light.” Or pay the $15 or $18 dollars, and complain about it forever.

I speak from bitter experience.  A solo woman in a large city shouldn’t be walking the streets at night, and maybe the TV is in a language other than English, and it’s not even remotely understandable.  What is my first solution?  Find a bookstore, choke at the price for the English translation of a novel that is about three years old (publishing date) and either buy it or pout. Neither a pretty picture either way.

The numbers may be slightly off, but the problem is the same.

Then there’s the idiot (me) who, after selling travel articles to the Los Angeles Times, thinks she may make a career of it.  So, I went to live in a smallish town in Mexico, driving my car, loaded with “stuff” and one item….my typewriter.  (No, we didn’t have computers in those days! At least “civilians” didn’t.)

But, I didn’t bring a ream of typing paper.  Most of my articles would run about 12-13 pages, but I figured I’d just find a shop that sold typing paper and buy some. Wrong!  Oh, there were such shops, not many, but some.  And clerks were pleasant. And I soaked up the environment.  Until I got soaked at the checkout counter.

The price for a sheet of paper was $1—yes, you read that correctly.  One sheet—a hundred pennies.  A ream, which wasn’t offered, would cost me…now, don’t breathe….$500—hey, there are 500 sheets of paper in a ream.  True, this was a few years ago, but I can’t trust that much has changed.

Then on a later trip to London; the same result.  Paper is expensive in most places in the world; some countries don’t even pretend to have paper for sale.  Maybe things have changed.  If so, just consider that I’m behind the times.  But if it hasn’t changed…..better bring your own paperback and your own roll of almost empty toilet paper.  Or smash a fuller roll for easier packing. ‘Nuff said.  Gee, have a great trip!