New Base

We survived the move yay! During Carnival! Actually, turned out to be great timing. The bustling streets were mostly barren and other than a close call from a drive by with a little assassin about 6 or 7 years old, who took her task with her supersoaker very seriously, and a near miss where we were secondary targets and they didn’t have time to shake their foam cans back up to full pressure, we came out unscathed. Although they did blast our doorman at the new place pretty good. Having just arrived to work in his uniform, he was not pleased.

Here’s a picture of the new place from the outside.

We’re in the apartment with the 4 windows highlighted. It’s an old colonial building that has been totally restored. I love the high ceilings. Miko is not too crazy about the rain shower fixture (which really does feel like taking a shower in the rain, and takes a little longer.) I’ll put some pics up of the inside once we’ve got things unpacked.

We only expanded possessions from the last place, besides the 4 large suitcases and 2 carry-ons, we packed about 4 grocery sized bags and a couple of backpack loads. Mostly food stuff. We plan to stay at this place for a year if things go well. Each place we’ve been has a different interpretation of “fully furnished.” E.g. in this place, one small frying pan is the sum of the cooking utensils. But we did score a blender, so that’s a plus. Tomorrow we might even find us a pot to cook in. Until then, happy carnival!

 

Carnival Cometh

It’s been several days since my last confession. Since then we both got haircuts. Rather strange haircuts at that —nothing that a little time won’t fix, meanwhile I look slightly Ecuadorian 🙂 Our network connection has been a bit flakey, but have had some good skyping with family. Just got back from an evening stroll to town square where all sorts of craziness is underway. Carnival is starting and it’s a big thing here. We went prepared. Rainjackets and nothing that couldn’t get wet… suffered only a little collateral foam damage. Entire swaths of people though were covered in foam, water, silly string, etc. Saw a neighbor across the street, on the second floor earlier in the day testing her bucket of water out on a hapless ground walker. (Saw a vendor actually walking down the street with stacks of buckets for sell for this.) Craziness comes from all sides for the next 4 days, above, drive by, knee high pranksters with supersoakers bigger than they are. They call them diablillos, or “little devils.” Here’s a finer article on its tradition than I’m going to write here.

Monday, our moving day, is smack in the middle, so it’s going to be like carrying stretchers (aka suitcases) through a war zone to cross the 2 blocks south and 2 blocks east to the new foxhole. I don’t care if I get soaked though and the adrenaline should make wheeling the bags faster.

Picked up another movie (dvd) on the way tonight. I haven’t really missed not having reliable streaming for movies since I can get the latest releases for $1.50 and the quality is excellent. Might have a problem trying to bring my collection back to the US however.

So Saturday we are probably having a Valentine’s dinner with another couple, complete with champagne. Really appreciate the awesome card Charlie made and sorry about the crazy video we sent to select people. Truly there’s no need to worry about our sanity. Any more than usual anyway. Wishing you all a happy valentines from the “other” americas.

Report

So I’m back briefly to report on the Chirimoya of last post. I wouldn’t say it’s the best fruit known to man, but it’s definitely up in the top 5 I’ve ever tasted. It’s like a citrusy custard. Could easily satisfy ice-cream cravings. But it’s fairly expensive, about $2 a fruit, so I think it will be an occasional treat.

We also cut up a big papaya last night and squeezed lime juice over the slices before eating. That was most excellent as well. It’s not hard to get a fairly varied diet of daily fruits. On the table and in the fridge at the moment are: papaya, capuli, pepa de zambo, beets, broccoli, cucumber and sweet potato. There was an avocado but I used half on my hair last night as conditioner and ate the other half with tuna fish. I thought I’d add a little oil to the tuna fish so I used Sacha Inchi but that turned out to be a mistake. I ate it anyway. Only way to learn 🙂

Coca Cola – It’s the Real Thing

Today’s escapade started with a thirty minute walk back to the Civil Registry office to pick up our long awaited cedulas. We almost had it nailed yesterday, but their printer went down and it was unclear whether they’d be caught back up by 5pm when they closed. We could take a gamble and wait another hour or come back the next day. We choose the later. On the way back today we stopped to eat lunch at a little place we noticed the day before. (For some reason I’m obsessed with these little Almuerzo places and check the menus of each as I walk by for future reference.) While we were eating I noticed these unusual bottles of Coke behind us.

The manager said he got the collection from his Dad, they are the actual Coca Cola back when they used to use coca leaves as the secret ingredient. (Coca Cola has some sordid history in South America: Colombian paramilitary, Guatemalan death squads and such, which you could read about here  if you’re a history nut) They were each about 2% cocaine, which makes them pre-1903 when they reduced it down to minuscule amount. They finally took coca out completely in 1928.

And speaking of history, I picked up a Chirimoya today. You might recognize the name from the set of links on the right. It looks kind of like a dragon egg, to me anyway. Even feels kind of leathery. I’m gradually expanding my fruit repertoire and have been waiting for the right moment for this one. And historically, it was no less than Mark Twain, in the The Sacramento Union newspaper, who claimed that the Chirimoya was “the most delicious fruit known to men.”

It is currently chilling in the fridge. My plan of attack is to eat scoops of it later tonight like ice cream to celebrate our official residency status in Ecuador. And see if Mark Twain was telling a yarn, as he was known to do sometimes, or whether he was actually on to something. I’ll let you know.

Mysteries

Seems like we’ve been busy, can’t exactly pinpoint why. I’ve noticed a couple of mysterious things about this town. One is that thunder is to car alarms what vacuum cleaners are to dogs. A peal of thunder rolls in and car alarms all down the street freak out. I never noticed this before, I think I’ve been kind of overwhelmed with just its sound, but thunder can also be tactile, kind of like a mini-earthquake.

The second mystery: finding places is sometimes an art. As in, sometimes I swear they just disappear and you have to be there the right time of day, phase of the moon, and frame of mind. Part of the problem is that little shops shudder up and become nondescript parts of the building. No signs, sometimes even the door is hard to notice as a door. But the other part of the problem is magic, I’m pretty sure. Spent an hour and a half walking last night trying to find a Kendo dojo. I had the exact address and which two streets it intersected near. I was pretty sure with that info and my GPS I could find it. I was wrong.

Went to another class with Alexandria, the local herbal lady. This one was on special plants used for blessings. Like whisking bad mojo out of your house, or touching to a baby’s lips to help it learn to speak. One of the fun parts of these classes, besides the weird, experimental teas and snacks she serves, is the stories about the traditions in the area of the use of the plants and customs, etc. 

We’d see indigenous people beside the Tomebamba sometimes with clothes all spread out and assume they were doing laundry. And sometimes they were. But sometimes it could be a custom of washing all the clothes of the recently deceased in the river on the 5th day after their death. On the 5th day also, there was supposed to be a moth that would appear. And based on what the moth did, who it flew to and what it alighted upon, it was read as the “will” of the deceased. So forget all the paperwork and lawyers and estate nonsense, just watch the moth and it would tell you anything you needed to know about the last wishes of the deceased.

And a couple of days ago, when we were at the mercado, we walked past these amazing displays with magical items. Someone from the class bought a few. This one, for example, is “7 Aromatic Smokes” and was fun trying to translate… evidently it has many uses, including helping with business, bad luck, harvest, problems at work, finding the road to tranquility and peace and happiness in life.

Last part of class there was a table of herbs and flowers for making a dream sachet. I put some cool stuff in mine, like datura (which grows all over the place here!) May test it tonight. Well, that’s all for now. Have a most excellent weekend!
 

 

Dangerous Cooking

Went to the Mercado. I’m starting to enjoy that place, it’s like a treasure hunt. Found a whole new section on the 2nd level that sold plants, seeds, medicines, curios from the amazon. We were looking for seeds of the zambo, a kind of spaghetti squash to try and roast them. We also needed to find some sea salt. Good thing I had bought a backpack the other day, because we ended up with a few other things as well. Sweet potatoes, onions, chicken and some palo santo sticks.

Several shoe shine kids were very concerned with the state of miko’s boots and offered assistance. About halfway back miko had to feed her packhorse (that would be me) and we grabbed an almuerzo lunch of soup, juice, main courses, desserts and a strong coffee for $9 total. We were sitting outside and had a rare, I’m sure, opportunity to buy some  ancient Aztecan artifacts from a dusty looking tomb raider that was passing by. Had to decline, we had other, more urgent experiments pending. Like roasting those green zambo seeds.

It started out well. Miko was warming up the pan, I lit a piece of the palo santo from the gas burner to purify the space, smelled pretty good, like a cross between frankincense and myrrh. Meanwhile, miko was swishing the seeds on the pan and they started to pop! Wasn’t expecting that! So while she was cooking and swirling I was chasing jumping seeds all over the room and tossing them back into the pan for further abuse. We decided we probably need some screen thingy in the future. The small bowl of the finished product disappeared alarmly quickly, which prompted some research on what happens if you eat too much of these. According to the Internet, we should be ok.

Well wishes to Dad and Theressa who got lambasted with the flu! Even after having the shots in October. Talked with Dad but didn’t want to pester Theressa in ICU and he filled us in. Hoping this is just a “bump in the road”, although Dad says that to just about anything serious 🙂

Semi Purple Sweet Potato

My breakfast. Well, besides the banana.

It needed a little panela, keep forgetting to pick that up. So I got one more link up on the right from the classes (Native seeds and oils.) Everything over there on the right now just constitutes notes from 2 of the 7 classes(!) Someday, in the distant future, before the Sun melts, I may have them all written up.
Some quick take-aways though if you don’t want to slog through:

Avocado Anti-Rheumatic Lotion

Fill a bottle with pieces of avocado seeds (crack ’em open with a hammer or nut cracker) and cover with alcohol. Put in a dark place, shake once a day. After 3-4 weeks, drain then apply as a rub as needed.
For Sore Throats
Melt some Cocoa Butter and swallow a warm spoonful (best cough syrup ever!)
For a Hair Conditioner
Use the “flesh of the avocado and strain any little threads out and apply directly to hair like a conditioner, (I’ll let you know how this goes. One lady from class asked her local hair dresser about this and he said it should only be done for darker hair, for lighter hair, use an egg yolk mixed with a little water and rinse it off in 20 minutes or so when it’s all dried out.)

For A Facial.. so, this may be a little iffy, but our teacher had an Uncle that lived in the amazon that used to come to visit and he had skin like a baby’s at 80 years old. He showed them his secret that he learned there which was to score/slice a green papaya lengthwise and apply the ooze that will come out to the face. So her maid heard this and decided to try it and the next day it looked like she had a killer sunburn and she was kind of freaking out. But the next day, the skin had peeled and looked amazing. So try at your own risk, don’t freak out if you look like a beet for a day or so, and remember that papaya enzymes are also used to tenderize meat, which may or may not help you decide whether to try it or not.

A Little Break

Since the last post we moved out for a day, then moved back in Sunday. Survived a torrential downpour (which sounds very nice when laying on a bed taking a nap versus slogging through it on a narrow street ducking tidal waves from el autobús) Yesterday (Monday) went to class but our afternoon meeting at Registro Civil was rescheduled for Wednesday and our class today was rescheduled for tomorrow, so I tried to catch up on my notes for the fruits of Ecuador (on the right here in the blog.)

And I did. Yay! But then I made a mistake and decided to check out maybe the couple of fruits I might of missed —yeah, right. I think I’m missing about 21+. The very next one I stumbled across to research was the Lucuma and that took up the rest of the morning.

The Lucuma looks like a boob, according to some, and  “tastes like a blend of pumpkin, caramel, maple and sweet potato.” It’s the most popular ice cream flavor in Peru, beating out chocolate and vanilla. So I’ve added it to my quest log and made some notes about it here.

We wandered around a bit and had lunch at the magic spoon (cuchara mágica) —check out their cool lantern tree:

Then hit the mercado to see how many fruits we could recognize (about 80% now!) and picked up some capulu and fresh moo butter.

Also passed a little shop on the way to the mercado, I got a blended juice and bought a box of Guayusa tea.

Lunch

Trucha y papas. With soup, salad, and dessert: $6.50

Unrelated…

One of the fun things so far here is the way information is networked. No yellow pages or google can find things like the guy who has a vegetable stand just outside the right and to the back of the mercado, with one eye that’s kind of funny, who sells camote (sweet potatoes) from peru that are the best you’ve ever tasted in your life. Or the shop where you can find a certain herb that’s 3 doors down on the corner of street x and y that has old test tubes and dusty medical stuff when you look in the darkened doorway and be sure you know the spanish name for what you’re looking for. Talk about quests…