Grocery Shopping

We just got home from our Thursday afternoon trip to the grocery store. It takes quite a bit of effort to go shopping here. Since we don’t have a car, we typically walk from the school to the store and then carry the bags 1/2 a mile or so up the hill to our apartment. The stores themselves are also different here. There’s a lot that’s familiar, but there’s also a few oddities.

For instance, at Santa Maria (the name of the grocery store), they leave giant hunks of meat lying around on a large metal table in the meat section. The meat is not covered or refrigerated and sits out where customers are walking. Anyone can apparently pick it up and purchase it. Needless to say, we don’t usually buy our meat from this pile.

All the labels are in Spanish, of course. Angela naturally does quite well with the Spanish labels, but it’s a bit tougher for me. I’m learning though. Here’s a few that I know by heart now:

maíz = corn
manzana = apple
miel = honey
leche = milk
cilantro = cilantro

Jamón supposedly means ham, but it also seems to refer to chicken, turkey and other types of white meat. So, we never really know what we’re getting when we purchase lunch meat.

Checkout is also a bit different. This particular store fools me every time because they don’t have a conveyor belt in the checkout lanes, just a long counter. Today, I unloaded about 2/3 of the cart onto the counter before Angela reminded me that it doesn’t advance on it’s own. So, we were left with a huge pile of food at one end of the counter that we had to manually push forward so the checker could reach. We also have to bag the groceries ourselves and are slowly learning to keep heavy things away from easily bruised vegetables.

But once we get the groceries out of the store and home, we’re not done. We have to unload them, obviously, but we also have to go through a special vegetable cleaning routine that involves a 15-minute soak in a bleach bath followed by a thorough rinse in filtered water. The process eradicates dirt, bacteria, and all living things within a 10 foot radius and it has kept us from any sort of food poisoning so far. It’s not the funnest job (and to be fair, Angela does it most of the time), but it works.

So, our shopping days are a little different than they are in the U.S., but we’re still (mostly) enjoying every minute of it. It’s true that some parts of life are more complicated and time consuming here, but other parts are easier and less stressful. It’s actually a blessing to NOT have a car. Life is simpler as a result and we get most of our daily exercise without even thinking about it!

Lastly, I’ll leave you with a short video I took when we were shopping a few weeks ago. The nice thing about some of these stores is that they’ll play American music over the loudspeaker. It’s a nice little comfort. If you listen closely, you can hear Bruce Hornsby…

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doug September 27, 2012 Ecuador