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Showing posts from January, 2012

Mercado de Santa Clara

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I did my grocery shopping this week at a local produce market, Mercado de Santa Clara. From the outside, it doesn't look like much. There are basket tiendas around the outside of the building where you can buy some cool woven handicrafts. You can hear the bustle of the stalls inside as you are walking up.

I started off by going to the section with all the almuerzo booths to grab a quick lunch. Rows and rows of empanadas, humitas, secos, pollo broster, pescado frito, and sopa de gallina, all typical Ecuadorian food. I sat at one that had a plate of cucumber tomato salad, fried chicken and rice for one dollar. I was given only a spoon, and looked around to see everyone else also eating with just a spoon. My host family did this last year, but eating fried chicken with a spoon is near impossible, so I had to use my fingers sometimes to rip off pieces of meat. Some people looked at me like I was uncivilized. Clearly I need practice.

 Fried chicken that I devoured with a spoon
Rows of c…

Tallahassee, Florida

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Another overcast, cold day here in the Andes Mountains. I am blaring Best Coast’s album Crazy for You and it inspired me to write about a place that I have not mentioned in this blog very often: my home for the last four years.
I lived in Tallahassee, FL from 2007-2011 and got both my Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from Florida State University.
I’m not sure I would have enjoyed the city and university culture nearly as much had I not found my closest friends, but it is an interesting place nonetheless. I have heard it mocked on the tv shows Lost, Sex and the City, and The Office, but why?
At first glance, it does seem a tyical Southern town divided along racial lines by a set of train tracks. However, there is so much more to Tallahassee than a short visit has to offer. Like Quito, it’s not a place you would really grow fond of unless you had time to live there and get to know it, like a shy friend that you are glad you forced yourself to get to know. I never took any photos of the cit…

Movies/Books Anyone?

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Here are some movies and books that I have watched/read recently that left a lasting impact on me. If I post it here, that's because I highly recommend it (unlike so many other generic movies and books I fly through out of boredom).
Last Train Home

2009 Chinese documentary following one factory working family in China as they participate in the world’s largest annual human migration: 130 million workers heading home from big cities for New Years holiday. The movie did not seem like a documentary because of the way that it was shot and because of how unbelievable the story is. To support Western demand, Chinese factories draw people from the villages who are desperate to make a living and sacrifice everything to become slaves to a factory. Parents leave children with grandparents in the country, children struggle with the options presented to them: pushing through school in a dead end town, or dropping out and moving to a big city to work in a garment factory. This aspect of consumer…

Almuerzo

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Almuerzos (lunches) are the biggest meal in Ecuador. A lot of the local restaurants and cafes aren’t even open for dinner. I think most people typically eat at an almuerzo place near their job and then come together for dinner with family. My host family last year would always eat a big, fresh lunch, and then dinner would be the leftovers, reheated, still just as delicious.
I don’t get to eat almuerzos out in the city that much because I don’t get home until around 4:30 but it is exam week at my school which means:
I get out of school early every day! Yay!
I get to grade a massive pile of exams every day! Boo!
Anyways, here’s a sampling of a typical almuerzo (which cost $2.25).
La sopa: beef, potatoes, lentils
 Segundo (main course): Chicken in gravy, rice, plantains, vegetables, and fresh pineapple juice just off screen
My roommate pointed out to me how much people here add -ito to the end of every word, and now I have been noticing it everywhere. Today, every person in the restaurant who o…

Terraza Brunch

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I was invited to an amazing brunch hosted by a friend of mine this weekend. It was on his rooftop terrace and had a Panama hat theme. The views in Quito are stunning because of the valley and the Andes Mountains. Pichincha volcano is always looming in the background looking all beautiful as well (it also makes for easy navigation in the city).
Really great spread of food choices
The party was really well done, they had tons of food, mimosas, a couch, lots of hats to go around, and a dj! In typical Quito fashion, I was sunburned after only an hour and a half.
 DJ booth and view of Quito Hanging out with friends
I felt pretty fancy, kinda like the episode of Sex and the City when Samantha throws a rooftop party for all the neighborhood transvestites, minus the transvestites. My friend Pablo is trying to convince my roommate and I that we need to host a brunch on our fabulous rooftop, but I have to think of a fun/simple/classy theme first. I believe Carrie is saying, 'You talking to me?!&…

Vegetarian 'Meat'balls

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Cooking vegetarian in Ecuador is more difficult than in the States, for me anyways, because meat alternatives are really hard to find. I can't depend on tofu, soy chicken, tofurkey, soy ground beef crumbles, tempeh, seitan, vegan hot dogs, etc. I recently decided I want to find a way to replicate meat dishes on my own, completely from scratch. My first project? Vegetarian meatballs!

The ingredients included:
1 eggplant
1 zucchini
1 portobello mushroom
3/4 cup Italian breadcrumbs (brought these back from the States)
1 egg
2 or 3 shakes of parmesan cheese
2 or 3 shakes of granulated garlic
2 or 3 shakes of basil

I shredded the zucchini and then diced the eggplant and mushrooms into tiny cubes, throwing it all into a big bowl, and then added the other ingredients. During this time, I also had a homemade spaghetti sauce simmering. I got the family recipe from my grandma's sister a couple years ago. I love my Italian heritage (although I am also Irish, German, Syrian, and Russian).…

Con mi Corazon en Yambo

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Last year I read a fiction novel by Nathan Englander called The Ministry of Special Cases. It follows a Jewish family in Argentina who are searching for their son who was ‘disappeared’ by the government. This was the nightmare of every family in Argentina at the time, and to have your seemingly normal, pot smoking, university student son kidnapped would be the end of your world. The book is brutal and you get drawn in, desperately wanting to help this family find out the fate of their son. Everyone in the government and police force plays stupid. Being the history buff that I am, I started researching these events and was blown away with what I found. Latin America in the 1970s and 80s experienced 90,000 of the disappearances.
  I highly recommend this book

People could be kidnapped and killed by the police for a variety of reasons, and the stories remind me of the French Revolution’s Reign of Terror. In the book The Ministry of Special Cases, it is because the son has some books in his…

A Week of School Lunch

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Lunch is the biggest meal of the day in Ecuador. I tend to eat a lot at school and then I eat a small dinner at home. Teaching in the U.S. I always had to pack a lunch because school lunch made me lose my appetite. Then again, I do teach at a private school that can afford to have good food. The students' parents would expect that from the school.

My school completely redid their cafeteria this year, and I have to say, it's awesome. We have a snack bar (nachos, donuts, sushi, etc.), a sandwich bar, salad bar, and a full hot lunch. The hot lunch is 2.25 (maybe 2.50...) and it comes with juice, soup, a main entree, rice, a side, salad, and desert. The juices are always fresh squeezed. It is normally traditional Ecuadorian food although sometimes they will have lasagna or hamburger patties. My roommate once accidentally ordered guatita (stomach) and I didn't tell her until about one second before she took a bite. Classic. There are always two meat options, and about half way …

Quality of Life

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Ways that my quality of life has increased in the last 5 months:
Taxis. I can afford to take taxis pretty much anywhere in Quito. Most places I go cost a dollar or two.
Dance Classes. I go to a professional dance studio 8 times a month. It’s a Middle Eastern studio that specializes in belly dance! I’m not sure I ever feel more ‘myself’ than when I am expressing myself through dance. I have been in dance classes for 15 years and I can’t imagine my life without it, so I am really happy that it is so affordable here.

 Bellydancing back in the States
Private Spanish Classes. I have a tutor who comes to my apartment for 2 hours each week. She and I talk, drink coffee, work on some more advanced grammar stuff that still confuses me, and she customizes lessons for me. If she catches me repeatedly making the same mistake, she will bring in some activities the next class to help me drill whatever topic I need.
Restaurants. Food is so cheap, and even fancy restaurants are about the cost of an Appleb…