|example of an on-shift pharmacy in Iquique|
This is a rabbit trail before my story's even started, but have I ever mentioned that the 80's never died in Chile? Grocery stores are especially great for reliving musical memories of that iconic era (the longer the shopping trip, the better!) All that to say there's an 80's song somewhere out there with a catchy phrase that goes, "You don't know what you got, until it's gone ... and I found out a little too late ..." which sums up my recent Iquique pharmacy adventure pretty well.
It's an odd but true fact that newborn baby formula is not sold in all grocery stores in Iquique. In fact, the one store that carries the doctor-recommended brand for our son Silas keeps each can in a security device that must be unlocked before purchase. So we learned early on that pharmacies are actually the place to buy baby formula. But, it has to be requested from the pharmacist for retrieval from its safe storage behind the counter.
Now another odd but true fact in Iquique is that although the city never seems to sleep, there is no such thing as a 24-hour grocery store or pharmacy. The closest you can get is the farmacia de turno or the "on-shift pharmacy." Each day, one pharmacy in the entire city of around 250,000 people is designated to stay open through the night. Presumably the pharmacy is listed in the daily newspaper or online to make customers aware should the need arise.
My introduction to this pharmacy phenomenon came on the heels of Pedro's return from a one-week trip to the USA. The kids and I were so excited for his homecoming and welcomed him back that evening with a yummy Chinese dinner. By the time we were done and the kids were headed to bed, it was well past the 10 p.m. closing hour of Iquique's stores and pharmacies. Only then did I realize to my dismay that we no longer had baby formula for Silas! (Epic mommy fail.) My poor husband was so tired and we were hitting dead-ends with our internet search for the on-shift pharmacy. We even posted to our Whatsapp groups and Facebook for help without an immediate response. Finally I drove off in the van to look for a needle in the proverbial haystack.
I had passed two closed pharmacies and was headed towards a third when my husband called. To my utter relief, he directed me to a location just a few blocks from where I was and less than five minutes from home. It could have been such a different story! There are some parts of the city which are just better avoided at night and I had feared ending up in one of them. I immediately prayed and thanked God for His merciful provision.
While still not a great place to be after dark, the shopping strip where the pharmacy was located was well-lit and at that hour still somewhat crowded. I just couldn't figure out why the metal door of the shop was already sealed and closed! My confusion must have been evident as I stood outside and stared at it, because a passerby told me to knock on a small, inset metal window. The window slid open and voila! a friendly face appeared and my order was taken by a young pharmacy assistant. It felt like a covert operation under cloak of darkness and I couldn't help but feel amusement alongside relief.
What an encouraging reminder of God's provision even in the small details of life. It was also a slight cultural collision that will certainly keep me grateful the next time I have a 24-hour neighborhood pharmacy nearby!