When you pack to travel overseas, it's always a guessing game figuring out what you need and what will be easier to just buy when you get there. I've already become frustrated by a few things that just don't seem to exist in Ecuador.
To start with, there are no tightie whiteys. I left most of my underwear supply in the washing machine and it has turned out to be irreplaceable. I hate boxers and bikini briefs don't have a fly. I've tried a couple of pairs of boxer briefs, but they roll up my leg. I've been to a dozen stores. I even went to a fancy underwear store in the upscale mall, where underwear was at least $15 a pair. The closest thing looked more like a jock strap. And figuring out the appropriate size is impossible. Everything's full of lycra, so it looks tiny, even if it isn't. Sizes aren't in inches, and the one time I saw waist measurements, medium was 32 inches and large was 34, but I have a hard time believing this is standard. (Does an extra-large Ecuadorian really have a 36 inch waist?) The guide books suggest you only need two pairs of underwear: one to wear and one to wash. I guess I'll be living by that advice for the next few months.
I've also had a hard time getting school supplies. There are many papelerías, where everything is behind the counter, so you can't just look around; you have to ask for what you want. I went into a pretty big store to get your basic folder with pockets. No such thing. The girls brought me binders, report covers, notebooks, and I didn't see anything resembling a simple folder behind the counter. I settled on something like a giant plastic envelope.
After that unexpected confusion, I forgot to get the note cards I wanted for making vocab flashcards. After class, I stopped in another papelería and asked for "cartas de nota." The girl asked if I wanted lined or blank. I went for blank. She came back with a packet of blank notebook paper. I refined my description and got several possible sizes of envelopes. Then a little notebook. I tried a second store and they were equally baffled by my request. They got out a dictionary, and "note card" wasn't in it. It was clear that the problem wasn't that they didn't have note cards, but that they had never seen such a thing. What kind of schools never have their students use note cards? The terrible thing is, last year, note cards were ridiculously cheap at Big Lots, and I bought all they had. I have thousands of them back home, enough for every word in the dictionary. Now, I don't have a single one to take in and show as an example.