Wednesday, Mar 23, 2016

I want to talk a bit about ‘time’. It seems that I experience days here that are over before I know it, and I feel as though I didn’t get anything accomplished. I know how this happens. Living as we are and where we are here in Ecuador requires more attention and effort to the basics of sustaining ourselves.

At the top of this list is shopping, cooking, and doing dishes. It sounds silly but every meal has to be made essentially from scratch three times a day; every dish and pan through out the day has to be washed by hand; and groceries need to be bought, if not daily, then every couple of days which mostly involves walking in one or both directions.

I actually think this is fascinating because I have never really experienced it before. I want to compare the difference of feeding ourselves here in Ecuador vs in the US.

When I lived in the States we would go grocery shopping every 2 or 3 weeks. We had a big pantry, two 28 cubic foot refrigerators, and a free standing large freezer. Basically we could buy once then store, refrigerate, and freeze most everything we would need until we broke down and went shopping again. I personally do not like to grocery shop so I put it off as much as I could.

Here it is much different. We have a refrigerator/freezer combo that is 6 cf and 2 cf respectively. It is a perfectly good unit but it can’t hold even 1/4 of what just one of our refrigerators could hold in the states. In the kitchen there is no pantry, and cupboard space is limited. This means more trips to the market for not only refrigerated food, but for dry goods and staples as well.

And let’s just point out the obvious…there is no Costco with the quantities that can be had in a single trip, which we procured at every outing there.

Most places here do not have dishwashers. I didn’t realize how convenient a dishwasher was until I haven’t had one. So, three times or more each day, we are hand washing dishes, utensils, pots, and pans. I have to tell on myself, sometimes I think about not eating just so there are no dishes to deal with!

I can even take it one step further on the dishes front. When we became empty nesters, Heidi and I started using paper plates for many of our meals, so even the amount of time we spent loading and unloading the dishwasher decreased.

Cooking time was minimal because we bought items that could be mixed and cooked relatively quickly. Or we bought items completely cooked that only required to be heated up. The third option, which we did more than the others, was eat out. No mess, no fuss, just get up and walk away.

Our lifestyle was definitely one focused on convenience and efficiency. The funny thing is, that didn’t automatically create more quality in the time we did have. We still stressed, we still rushed, and we still became caught up in “the pace”.  We were actually really good managing it, but the truth is, it managed us.

So here we are walking to the market. Not just once but maybe 2 or 3 times during the day if we forgot something, or need an unplanned item. We are healthier and stronger. We say Buenos Dias, Buenas Tardes, or Buenas Noches to our neighbors, and to the locals we see and pass by on the street. It’s connecting.

Our choices are not unlimited here… you get what you get and you don’t pitch a fit. And the majority of our choices in food are healthy. Most of the food we buy has no preservatives, is not processed, and in the case of meat, chicken, and fish, is prepared fresh that same morning.

Because we can’t really “stock up”, very little of our food is wasted. It doesn’t sit in our pantry for several months into years and expire. What gets frozen gets used with no chance of becoming freezer burnt beyond recognition. Because we have limited space for things like paper towels, plastic zip lock bags, and the like, we are more judicious about using them. A wet cloth for spills and reusable jars and containers for storing are readily available. I think we are easier on the environment.

My wife has become a cook! Beyond the fact that it tastes great, there is something satisfying in creating what you eat. She just tried a bread recipe and it was phenomenal! 20160323_175207 It looked great too!

It isn’t a panacea living here. There are trade offs. But so far, even when I’m grumpy about having to back track to the store in the South American heat, there isn’t anything to be stressed about and I don’t have to be in any hurry.

As far as the overall pace around here? I could run faster than it could keep up with me…and as my workouts have proven, I’m often the guy running at the end of the group. So there you have it.

This evening we walked the 100 feet to the Malecon to just watch the sun set over the ocean. 2016-03-23 19.51.56  There were probably 50 othe2016-03-23 18.58.35r Ecuadorians doing the same thing.  It was stunning; it was unlike any other one before it.  It set before us with the easy familiarity of good friends who can enjoy each other’s presence without needing to speak.

This is why I am here.

I will end with some pictures for you to enjoy what we were blessed to be part of this evening.

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