Thursday, Sep 1, 2016

We met our friends Scott, Colleen, and Aurobindo for lunch today. Initially me and the fam left the house and headed to the bus stop on Loja. We are trying to learn the routes, and it became clear we didn’t give ourselves enough time. The bus that pulled up as we waited there didn’t look like it would get us to where we were going, so we let it pass. After waiting another five minutes and no bus in sight we flagged a passing taxi and jumped in. I don’t mind traveling on the bus in Cuenca but, with my current understanding of the routes, it requires a buffer of time if I’m not going to be late getting somewhere.

IMG-20160829-WA0000We had lunch at El Colcado restaurant next to the Tomebamba. This place has great seating outside next to the river, but since it has been raining all morning, is overcast and cool, we decided to eat inside. It turned out the table that would fit all of us was on the second floor outdoor patio anyway. Regardless, it was a nice view. I ordered some coffee to warm me up and the seven of us had a great time catching up.

Auro has been at a month long yoga retreat in the Yungilla valley. He participated in the yoga, and taught meditation to the guests. The location was grand, with a couple of swimming pools, fantastic vegetarian and vegan food, warm pleasant weather, and interesting people from all over the world attending.

Colleen was supposed to be in South Africa visiting family but on her way she ran into a snafu at the airport in Sao Paulo, Brazil. I have to say this is a tough-ass airport. It is the same one where Chase’s friend Jenni was unable to board her flight to Quito because she did not have a return ticket out of Ecuador. Colleen did not have her vaccination card showing she had her Yellow Fever vaccine.

Evidently, because you are coming from Ecuador, other countries require proof of Yellow Fever vaccination. Scott and Colleen live in Cuenca and haven’t been to any areas in Ecuador where Yellow Fever is a risk, ie the jungle. This was Colleen’s first trip to South Africa from Ecuador, having made numerous trips there from the States previously, and she had no idea this was required. She hadn’t had a Yellow Fever vaccination so she was denied flying into S. Africa, and is back in Cuenca getting her vaccine and waiting the required 10 days to have it in her system. Travelers leaving Ecuador beware.

When Heidi and I visited Ecuador in 2014 we checked to see what, if any vaccines we would need based on where we were going to be on our trip. We weren’t going to be in any Yellow Fever areas, and I don’t remember if the vaccine was optional or mandatory, but we got it. The interesting thing about the two trips we have made here, no one has ever checked to see if we have had our Yellow Fever vaccinations. Both times our exit and entry point between the States and Ecuador has been Miami. What I do now know when traveling, I will avoid the Sao Paulo airport in Brazil at any costs.

After lunch Heidi, Chase, Easton, and I jumped on a bus to go to Feria Libre and pick up some produce and meat. I have come to really enjoy the meat isle at the market. It seems so “primitive” to my sanitized, plastic wrapped, and neatly displayed concept of buying meat. In this place I feel I have definitely left the US.

There are piles of raw meat and chicken on countertops, stacked on trays, strung hanging from the ceiling, and basically, it looks like the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse. I especially appreciate the huge piles of intestines that some vendors have sitting in front of their stands, and having tried it once in a soup, never again…at least if I am not on the verge of death from starvation.

Today I saw the biggest liver I have ever seen proudly displayed filling an entire cookie sheet type pan. The woman behind the counters are busy chopping, cutting, and slicing…all with bare hands. Today I wanted boneless chicken breast. The first stand I went to told me no. They only sold it with the bone. Obviously these woman did not ascribe to the professional standards of butchers.


Fresh chicken

The next chicken stand I went to had a young woman with a very large knife. I told her what I wanted and she agreed. She grabbed a full chicken from the pile, placed it in front of her and gave it a huge wack with her knife down the middle. She was cutting it through and something wasn’t working for her, so she set it aside, reached for another full chicken from the pile, and gave it a huge wack.

Her friend was on the outside of the counter and the two women were talking. I think my “butcherette” was having a problem de-boning the breast, so she handed it to her friend and gave her the knife. The friend continued to talk and laugh while surgically removing the bones. Her hands were bare, and who knows if they had been washed. She had long black hair that hung over my chicken breast while she performed surgery.

Lending a helping hand

Lending a helping hand

Within a few minutes she was finished, the chicken was thrown into a plastic bag, and for two huge boneless breasts I paid four dollars. In the grocery store, all wrapped and sanitary…and without the show, boneless chicken breast is $8 or $9 bucks a kilo (2.2 pds). My butcherette was charging me $5 a kilo, so I had just under 2 pounds of chicken meat.

When we got home Heidi washed the breasts we bought, and she cooked some of it for BBQ chicken pizza. It tasted great. No problems, no bugs, no issues. I realize just how detached I have become, and I judge others are as well, from our food source. Beef should be bright red, neatly cut , and safely protected behind clear plastic. This is a “cow”. Boneless, skinless breasts are shiny and plump neatly displayed on a shelf in a cooler. A chicken.

It’s not like that here, at least there are places it is not like that here, and I am thankful for the experience, and this reminder about what my food is and where it comes from. Besides that, it tastes delicious.