Thursday, January 8, 2009

First week in Otavalo

Well, I guess it takes me longer to write it than for you to read it, so here goes. Lots of thoughts today. NOTE: some graphic language today, and an answer to a query Brother John placed in a comment the other day. (Hint, hint)

Food: Always a fascinating topic in any country, including one’s own, and one that I keep finding myself interested in. Yesterday I peaked the family’s “gross food” meter with the cholos for sale on the square. A small bag, seasoned with lime and salt, of tiny snails. Like escargot, except more the size of marbles. You eat them by picking each one up and sucking out the protein. Yum. Today I moved past that personally with the visit to the meat aisle at the local outdoor (though covered) marketplace. It's the same level of indoors as the tent at a huge wedding reception. I watched a woman in native garb, including mid-length decorative frilly sleeves, running the bandsaw on the room temperature side of beef. Cow heads, tubs of liver, tubs of intestines, tubs of pork skin, you get the picture. Awesome, real, and very very disgusting. It’s the same fundamentally as how our meat gets from hoof to us, but in our country the consumer never sees any of the steps. Aldo Leopold, ecologist extraordinaire, reminds us, “The fundamental risk of living in the city is the mistaken understanding that food comes from the grocery store and heat comes from the furnace.” Amen, brother. Other fairly stunning sights included crabs, live, tied into rectangular bundles with string and then boxed, 4 bundles to the case, into very rectilinear, normal looking shipping cases. Wow, sorry I didn’t have my camera at the moment.

Of course, another side of the food scene is that on the equator, you can eat local strawberries (for $0.50 a pound) in every month including this one, though the cherries only come in December/January. Any botanists who can clarify the why of that would be welcome. I also saw, piled on the cart on the street corner, some lovely, small green fruits with a pointed end on them bearing the familiar sticker Gordy, you should be proud! Fun!

Affordability: Another area of interest to me. For us certainly the largest cost of this adventure, far and away, is the forgone income, ie the not working. Living here is far cheaper than the states, but how much cheaper? We stayed for $60 a night in Quito, which felt like plenty to spend to stay out of a gritty place, and we were very pleased with that comfort level. We’re temporarily in a hotel kitchenette until we find a better place, and this is $40 a night including breakfast. Now, a $1200 mortgage payment puts you at $40 a night, so this is no more expensive (nor cheaper) than at home. We have been told that we can find an apartment for $90, $150, $180, just looked at one for $230 a month. That’s like $3-8 a night. Interesting. So that’s the largest expense in one’s budget (though the $3.5k in airfares doesn’t amortize down very quickly), though going out to eat can easily exceed that (a simple dinner can be like $5 a person, so $20 would be 0.5 – 8 nights of rent). A kitchenette is certainly an economical tool to have in one’s possession.

Girls at school for day 2 today, some tears yesterday, brave souls getting a truckload of compassion bootcamp. They sit at the desk mute. Althea was quite distressed to not even know which class was which (Is this math? Science? Language Arts?) Rosie taught a hand clapping game to a new amiga Leslie; sweet. They're being brave, I'm very proud and anxious for them. We didn't go with them on the bus today, took them to the stop and put them on. Wow.

Huge shoutout to brother David for slashing his way through some thorny computer issues; more precisely, the local WiFi ISP would not permit us to connect to our SMTP server to send email through Outlook. Several trips hoofing crosstown with the laptop, countless clicks of send/receive, reinstalled email accounts, changing server settings, authentication requirements, google searches, pleasant visits to, you get the idea. Davey, you rock!

Hugs all. P


John B. said...

Thanks for the new update.
Looking forward to some photos of the various shopping images.

I see from some other sources that the Otavalo market is one for the ages. So would be interested in your commments about it compared to any others you have been to.

John and Cindy

Kay said...

Wow - déja vous! The first days of school for our boys in Portugal, the computer problems, the funky camel heads and assorted meats in the Moroccan square. Only we didn't do a cool blog. Did I tell you yet how COOL your blog is? Cool, cool, cool!! Well, alrightly then. Not much to report here but an exciting deck project. ;) Carry on, bloggers!

Chuck W said...

Paul... you're hired at Sunrise for slaughter next fall as an experienced hand. I still recall a market south of Quito in '96 where the cows walked in one side, the beef was sold on the other side, and the only thing in the middle was a 4'6" indigena wielding an axe.

Latest Comments