Juggling School, yeah right

We do see some odd things going on at times on the beach or malecon. On this afternoon Joe saw these tents set up near the yacht club side of the beach. Low and behold each of these guys standing in front of a tent started to juggle. Two are juggling pins while the one is juggling balls.

Animation of 3 ball cascade , also known as a ...

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On my trips around town or to Libertad I have seen several jugglers who will walk out in front of stopped traffic at a light. They will juggle for a minute and then walk from car to car looking for tips. I guess it is better than trying to wash your windshield with a dirty rag.

Things not to purchase at Hipermart

We arrived in Salinas with five suitcases and nothing more, so we had to buy many items to make our home livable.  I have been disappointed in several items that we had purchased and below are some of them.

I never really looked to see what this ironing board was made of, but after about three uses the tip started to sag a bit, then it became almost a joke to try to iron on it.  The photo shows just how much the tip of the board dips when just sitting. It is like a ski slope (and I’m not talking the Bunny Hill either). When you try to iron, it is leaning so far forward that it actually wants to tip over. My suggestion if you decide to buy one is to get the metal one. This obviously is some sort of wood and with the steam of the iron it started to warp and slant towards the floor.

Now these chairs looked like they were sturdy and functional for our computer table. I don’t think we had them two days when the first one started to sag a bit and after about 2 months the second one did the same.

My suggestion is not to buy either of these products as you will be very disappointed.

Finding Ingredients

I assumed, because we came from the United States, that everywhere you live and every store you shop in has the same ingredients that you grew up with. Yes, I was naive! But our time in Panama taught me a great deal.

There are some products, like processed  horseradish, that just do not exist in Salinas. Actually I have never seen a horseradish root in Ecuador or Panama. Sour cream is another item that I have not seen in the cooler at SuperMaxi or Mi Comisariato. Anis flavoring is yet another, but they do have anis seeds in abundance so that is what I will use for my Italian Christmas Cookies. You may know from one of my other posts that baking soda is sold in tiny little packets at the pharmacy and is called Bicarbonato de Sodio.  I remember being able to buy what seemed to be a pound box for under a dollar in the states; here this tiny packet of 15 gramos is .45 cents.

With the help of some great folks on the Expat Exchange, I have been able to find two additional ingredients needed for my Christmas cooking and baking: food coloring and plain gelatin.

I love making bread & butter pickles – I’m finding it difficult to locate ground turmeric, mustard seed and celery seed.  A fellow expat at the Thanksgiving feast told me that the turmeric is called polvo amarillo and can be found at the Libertad Mercado. Guess where we are going this weekend?

Thanks for reading about our meanderings.

Expat Exchange can be found at:  http://www.expatexchange.com/expat/index.cfm?frmid=202

Lomo Fino

Saturday Joe and I headed to the La Libertad seafood and veggie markets. I had my list. I wanted lomo fino (tenderloin), marlin, shrimp and a bit of veggies and fruits.  We found a beautiful two-pound piece of marlin at $2 per pound and extra-large shrimp at $5 per pound which was only 6 shrimp (they were big boys). I also purchased two pounds of regular sized shrimp for $3 per pound.  I freeze some of the fish and shrimp and try to use it up within two weeks. If you defrost under running water it is comparable to fresh without having to buy fresh each day. For our evening meal on Saturday I made marlin steaks with a dipping sauce of fruit juice, soy sauce, garlic and ginger. Appetizers were hot & spicy sautéed shrimp. Perfect! Not every meat stall has lomo fino. We found this beautiful tenderloin – a bit over six lbs total – and purchased it for $14.75 total.  I cut both ends off and will thinly slice to make either stir fry or fajita, eight steaks and a Chateaubriand. I made the fajita on Tuesday night and they were a big hit. Meat was so tender and juicy – excellent meal!  You can also find several vendors selling pork or chicken.  We love walking the stalls in the mercados and the surrounding streets looking for the best fish, shellfish, meats, vegetables, fruit and fresh herbs available that day.

For 25 cents I found a large bunch of fresh lemon grass for soup and Malaysian Curry Chicken.  Fresh large strawberries were $1 for 1 1/2 lbs., 25 limes (called Limon here) for $1. A bag containing  four small tomatoes, two green peppers and three red onions for $.50.

La Libertad Mercado

This morning we decided to go to Libertad for fresh fish, fruit and veggies.  It is a $2 taxi ride from our apartment and worth it when you can get so many fresh items. There are two separate municipal buildings – one for fruit, veggies and meat and the second a short block away has fish and shellfish. There are vendors with carts and store fronts all along the streets surrounding this area. And you can get great deals on many items buying them from a vendor on the street.

We start off in the vegetable and fruit market and work our way down the streets towards the fish market.

We took our time and walked the entire market before we picked our produce.

Beside fruits and vegetables you can buy clothing and shoes.  There are also stores that sell rice, corn and beans plus other household supplies like toilet paper, laundry detergent, vegetable oil, cereal. It’s just like a supermarket. I picked up a pound bag of crushed corn that looks like polenta so I am going to try to see if it can compare to that in the supermarket. The cost for the bag was $.25.

I love to see the fresh chickens with their feet and heads still attached – the feet are great in soups.

One entire section is prepared foods. First thing in the morning a big bowl of soup with a plate of rice with fish or chicken must hit the spot.

This is our purchases: starting at the top left –

12 mandarinas $1, one pound of fresh peanut butter no additives $2, bag of raspberries two lbs. $2,  bag of sweet potatoes five lbs. $1,  Corvina (sea bass) two lbs, $6., marlin two lbs, $4,  Strawberries (frutilla) two lbs. $2,  guanabana $1,  ripe avocado .40,  two mamay .60,  fresh cleaned crab meat $3.,  seven apples $1,  20 limes $1.,  six tomatoes, three red onions (I forget to put them in the picture) and six green peppers $1.  Total $26

I also forgot to add these to the picture the cost for five peppers $ .25.

On our next trip to the fish market I will take photos – I was just so busy searching for corvina and crab to think about pictures.

Banking in Ecuador – our experience

I can only tell you our experience so far on things that we have seen and done while in Ecuador.  Banking has not been a very happy experience until now.  Our first introduction into the Ecuadorian world of banking came back while we were still living in Panama.  We were given a recommendation of  a bank that would open a savings account for us before our move, this sounded great just what we needed to have some security before moving. Well saying it was too good to be true would be an understatement, after months of going back and forth, phone calls, emails, completing form, emailing form, faxing forms, emailing copies of our passports, drivers licensees, and then having to get originals of everything sent by courier — we never got an account.  Our second encounter with banking happened after we had been in Ecuador for a few days, again we were given the name of a contact at another bank.  Again we send copies, filled out forms, signed documents and again no account was given.  Joe had worked in banking in the states before his retirement and I worked as a financial manager and worked with banking issues every day of my working career.  We were very disenchanted in the system and actually were resigned to keeping our accounts in Panama and moving on to more important issues.

Months later while working with a realtor in Salinas he asked why if we had our resident cards that we did not have a bank account, we relayed our tiring story of the two attempts.  He said let’s go to his bank because we could get an account within 30 minutes.  We could not believe it but had 30 minutes to spare and he was exactly right. Our new bank Banco Boliviariano took a bit over 30 minutes but when we left the bank I had a savings account opened and a promise that both Joe and I would have cash (ATM – Clave- tarjetas ) card within three days. We did not know enough to ask for the debit cards to be international but while we were at the bank a few days ago it was taken care of within three minutes so we now can travel using our ATM card anywhere in the world.  What we were told happened which was a change from the other experiences. We decided to see if we could open International VISA accounts.  This was a matter of putting up what they call an insurance policy which is actually a certificate of deposit for one year which we will need to go into the bank to renew each year. Current rates are 4.25% – we put up $5,000 to get a credit card with a $3,500 limit.

A few extras that we did not think would be available with banking in “a developing country”.  We can pay our electric, telephone and water bills directly from our account on line, their system is in Spanish but once you have done it a few times it’s a simple system and works very well.

They still use a pass book system so when you do go into the bank they update your book to show all transactions since your last visit. Old fashioned basic but we are attempting to slow our world down a bit and go back to the old fashioned basic way of doing things. This bank and their systems are working for us.

Banking is a very stressful subject so to calm your nerves here is a picture of the sunset from our back balcony.

Salinas Sunset

Salinas Sunset

Working with a “Facilitator”

Well that’s what I call Amy – she is going to facilitate us getting things done in a place where things move slower and with the obstacle of not knowing the language, she is going to be worth her weight in gold!  We met on Friday for around three hours to go over my “to do” list. She was not fazed by any item and actually gave me so many helpful hints for daily living in Salinas that I felt we had a very successful first meeting.  We scheduled to met the next day at 10am to go to La Libratad to the central market.

First thing she instructed me was on how to get a route taxi – I had never heard of this form of transportation so we gave it a go.  There are taxis that are designated as “route” taxis they stay to a specific route from the military base at the end of the peninsula to La Libratad, picking up a max of 4 passengers – this cost .50 per person. A regular taxi would cost $2 to go to La Libratad.  It was kind of fun!

When we got to the market area I was just amazed it covers probably 8 blocks, store after store, filled with veggies, fruits, basic food items. fresh herbs, rice, beans, clothing, housewares, it was a treasure of wonderful items.  Then we arrived at Buena Ventura Mall this is an enclosed two story mall sectioned off into small stores, filled with all types of clothing, shoes etc. It also has a food court and out on the patio folks were doing manicures, pedicures and dying hair.  There are two separate central Mercado one for fruits, veggies and meat and a separate one for fish.  We never made it to the fish market.

La Libratad Market Area

La Libratad Market Area

Joe and I will be making this market a regular stop.  I’m not sure it will be on a Saturday as the number of people shopping was overwhelming!