Moving to Ecuador meant, at the very least, setting up a new home. Although we rented a place that was very nice in a great, gated enclave and a wonderful view of the Pacific with super neighbors in a gorgeous setting, it has not yet become “home”. It has been comfortable and certainly more than survivable with furnishings, linens and even kitchen appliances, plates, glasses and silverware, there were still things we found ourselves putting onto a list. Things like light bulbs, a stock of basic food ingredients, condiments and spices, cleaning supplies, storage containers and the dozens of things one has around their home that makes life a bit more comfortable. We have been here about 6 weeks or so and it was time for the “Big Shopping Trip”. While our small community of San Vicente/Bahia de Caraquez serves us well for day-to-day needs (mostly), we needed things that could only be found at stores like Ace Hardware or a Home Depot-type store. We needed the large city of Manta, about an hour south of us. There, we would find modern malls, large super markets, and “house-ware” stores. I’m no fan of the shopping process but even I could see the need.
As we don’t own a car or other transportation (assessing our two and three wheeled options now), we needed to determine the best way to approach our shopping trip. We could ride the bus to Manta but once there…and with multiple stops and bushels of anticipated goods to be purchased while there, that seemed an unlikely option. We could take a taxi but taxis here are very small with tiny trunks and would not, we feared, have room for bulky items like trash cans and laundry baskets which were on our list. After checking with friends, we settled on a taxi operator who also provided “excursion” trips and offered a nice pick-up truck with driver for hire. The rate was, amazingly reasonable and this gentleman came with exceptionally great recommendations. We called him and although his English skills were almost non-existent, Diane’s Spanish was more than adequate to arrange the trip for Saturday, July 14th. We set the alarm and went to bed Friday night feeling almost as if it was Christmas Eve. Tomorrow, the good stuff would arrive. Oh sure, we’d actually have to buy it but still…
The truck and driver arrived ten minutes early and phoned us from the parking lot. He explained that he was actually the son of the man we spoke with as his father had another commitment and was unable to make our trip. Alber was in his mid 30s, clean, neat and professionally dressed. We discovered later in the day that he was a school teacher, specializing in teaching computer skills to young students. He worked weekends to assist his father’s business. He could not have been nicer, more pleasant or more patient as we drove to Manta and organized our shopping needs. We needed to go to at least four large stores that were all, fortunately, quite close together. He also patiently tolerated our “U-Turn”requests or “Retro” whenever I passed a motorcycle shop and felt the need to check out another bike or three-wheeled moto. (*Note* I’ve been riding motorcycles for over 45 years and am intimately familiar with them and all their benefits and potential hazards. I’ve also flown small aircraft in the bush country of Alaska for 20 years and have just recently moved to a developing nation. So please don’t bother telling me about the dangers of my consideration. LOL)
Diane and I first entered a nice, modern two-story mall and while we had been there once before, we could not remember exactly what stores it contained. We emerged after about two hours with a large cart filled with stuff and a carry-out person assisting us. Oh…I must mention that finding assistance in the stores is MUCH different than stores in the states. Every store is filled with uniformed staff members eager to assist. There is no need to search up and down the aisles for someone to help you. They are everywhere and a number of them were subjected to my combinations of limited Spanish, mime, sound effects and interpretive dance as I tried to explain my need for a toilet plunger and a bathroom scale. I’m afraid that my request for a bathroom scale drew a small crowd as I took an imaginary pencil and drew an imaginary scale on the floor. I then stood on the imaginary scale and showed my great displeasure at the result. The 5-6 folks that had gathered all acted as if it was a giant game of Pictionary and begin to toss out guesses to the clerk. In only a few seconds, the crowd and the clerk all applauded the gentleman who correctly guessed the answer and marched me over to where bathroom scales could be found. One gentleman insisted on meeting my wife and introducing himself with a large smile, welcoming us to Ecuador. We used our Debit card to pay in the major stores without incident and only showing a copy of our passport.
Diane had also hoped to find a hairdresser while in Manta. As it happened, we met another Gringo couple shopping in one of the stores and the woman was able to share the name of her hairdresser….who is an American from Colorado. For Diane, that completed the day.
We arrived home close to 8 o’clock, exhausted. We unloaded the truck onto the entry way of our place, settled up with Alber and began to haul boxes and bags into the house. Carmine, our beloved Chihuahua was thrilled to see us but was also thrilled to see his favorite patch of grass! With boxes and bags piled up barely leaving a path to the kitchen, I found my way to the kitchen to feed Carmine and then whipped a quick batch of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese (one of Diane’s favorite comfort foods). We scooted stuff out of the way to make room for a couple of plates of hot pasta and almost-cheese. I had been cramming olives and salami into my mouth while in the kitchen.
We recounted the day, tallied up our good fortune, caught up with email and facebook and went to bed.
As I write this, it is Sunday Morning and no one has yet put all this crap away!! There remain too many bags and boxes to be dealt with. I’m going to fix us some breakfast as the Pocket Babe is just jotting a note to some new gringos that came to see our condo enclave earlier this week. They will be visiting with us again soon, they say.
I think an omelet sounds good. Now, we have good stuff to put into it. And the Great Ecuadorian Retirement Adventure Continues.