Wednesday, December 19, 2007

A Day in December

I went down to the old town the other day to find a couple Christmas presents. It was interesting to see what life is like here the week before Christmas. You do see strings of lights in windows here and there, and in the new town, where people have money and there are tourists, you see some decorated trees. The supermarket up there is selling various prepackaged gift boxes. Down by the La Marin bus station, there's a huge temporary store set up in an alley selling candy candy candy. You can pick your type, or scoop out of an enormous bin of mixed chocolates, lollipops, and animal crackers. The animal crackers seem to be important and are a part of every store's mix. For those in a rush, they have baskets of candy ready to go. It seems more like Easter.

Walking around, it was mostly just a normal day in Quito, but thinking about how different Christmas gets in the States--all the lights, the gaudily decorated malls and streets, the inescapable recorded carols--I started noticing the things I've gotten used to here. Just down from my apartment building, there's a little restaurant that serves meat and corn-on-the-cob (Ecuadorian style: bred for starch, not sugar, and weeks overripe) cooked on a little charcoal grill right in the doorway. The man is often standing there with a blowdryer in hand, getting the coals nice and hot. When Kerri saw this on her visit, she started laughing. It took me a minute to figure out what was so funny.

Down by the bus station, there was a row of three women and a man, sitting at sewing machines under the overpass, in case you needed any alterations or repairs done. The three women's machines were black with gold decoration, the style that was common in the States before World War II, though perhaps still produced here. The man's looked like it was from the 50s. How I'd wished I'd wished a tailor was so easy to find in Chile when my back-pack had a growing hole in the top.

I stopped in a tiny store to get a snack and bought a baggie of chochos, white disk-shaped beans, salted and topped with chulpis, crispy-friend corn kernals, and a tomatoless salsa of onions, lime juice, and cilantro. Later, I got llapingachos, fried mashed potatoes with fried egg, avocado, shredded lettuce, and beets. It wasn't cheesy and lacked peanut sauce, like it often comes with, but it still filled me up for a dollar.

I stopped in the supermarket, where they were playing christmas carols, among them, strangely, "Favorite Things" from the Sound of Music. Outside, a guy was juggling flaming torches in the intersection. I walked over to La Floresta to meet a friend and see one of the few Ecuadorian movies ever made, Qué Tan Lejos. It was a bit surreal, because I'd been in about half the places it was shot in. The characters travel from Quito to Cuenca, a trip that ends up taking a lot longer than expected. It's a really good portrait of the country, and I hope I can find it in the States to show people where I've been living. Unfortunately, the director has been reluctant to put it out on DVD, because in Ecuador, there's no such thing as non-bootleg DVDs. You just go into the corner CD/DVD shop and buy a computer burned copy of whatever for $1. Blockbusters you can get before they even appear in theaters in the US.

A couple beers with Meagan in the theater lobby/cafe, and a $2 taxi ride home. Such are my South American wanderings this week.

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