Friday, October 16, 2015

Odd Things And Other Stuff About Ecuador......

Before we left Panama I emailed the people we were house sitting for to make sure they had a coffee maker. The reason being is that we had planned to bring them some coffee from Panama as a little gift.  To our surprise the response we received was "no, we don't have a coffee maker." The explanation for this was that even though Ecuador grows good coffee it exports most of it. And because of this the locals tend to drink instant coffee.  So we opted to bring a few "coffee socks" with us to use since Clyde was against drinking instant. 

But the first time we browsed the aisles of the big, modern grocery store called Mega Maxi we DID notice coffee for sale both in ground and beans. We bought a brand called "Minerva" which turned out to be dark, strong, good and cheap.

So fast forward a week to report on our "real life" experiences ordering coffee in local cafes.  The first time was last week when we stopped in a café/bakery for a cup of java. We asked if they had coffee and they said yes, in the machine.  It was one of those machines that you'd find with other vending machines, where you make a selection and out comes the coffee. So we ordered two coffees but neglected to add......with milk.  What they brought to us was two cups of black coffee.  Clyde asked if they had some milk we could add but they said, "no."  Ok our mistake so we added sugar and enjoyed it anyway.  It was only $1

 This Is What They Gave Us At The Restaurant

Our Cappuccino's

Today we stopped at another café that had food, desserts and coffee.  Clyde ordered two coffee's with milk, a simple request we thought.  The man asked if we wanted chocolate in it or anything else? We said no and waited for our two coffees.  What the man brought was two large cups of MILK.  As he walked away I said to Clyde, "this is just milk with no coffee."  The man heard me and quickly returned with a tiny jar of instant coffee.  Really.....we thought?  Even IF we were ok with this it would have taken ALOT of coffee to turn this large cup of milk into coffee with milk, instead of milk with coffee.  Clyde asked if they had cappuccino and the women behind the counter yelled, "si." Clyde apologized and the man took back the cups of milk and went to make cappuccino.  He returned a few minutes later with two glass cups filled with coffee and a frothy top with cinnamon sprinkled on top. Although the coffee was tasty it was barely warm, which made us think that he added TONS of that milk we sent back. But the charge was only $3 for both so we really couldn't complain.

Back on the streets Clyde wanted to stop and try this weird mix called "espumilla" they sell everywhere here.  While it looks like ice cream and is served in cones, it's not refrigerated so we knew it couldn't possibly be that. The word actually translates to "mouse, or meringue, " which I didn't know until we got back here to look it up.  We asked the women in Spanish what it was and she went onto explain that it's very good......but really didn't answer the question. He paid his 50 cents and walked away with a cone of uncertainty.  Turns out it was a rather sweet type of whipped cream with some color added, dabbed into a cone.  It was too sweet for me and even Clyde had enough after a few licks, but at least we now know what it tastes like.  Me on the other hand wanted to try some "helado," or ice cream that claims to be, "100% Mora," which is "blackberry."  Blackberries grow here and are sold cheap everywhere, so this type of frozen treat is made only with them?  Or so the sign indicates. Also sold for 50 cents we shared a cone of the yummy stuff that was more my speed, a bit healthier and less sweet. We did buy some fresh blackberries in the store but neither of us liked them.  To me they had a rather earthy taste, something that just didn't appeal to me.

Creamy Stuff .....Espumilla.....In A Cone

A Close Up Of Espumilla

Guess This Guy Never Grew Up
Still Doing Chalk Drawings On Sidewalk
Frozen Fruit Dessert Cart

 Vendor Serving Up Mora Fruit Sorbet In Cone

While walking around we were approached by a group of teenagers dressed in khaki.  There were girls and guys, maybe ten of them all in the same uniform.  One excited little girl began talking to Clyde quickly in Spanish.  He asked her to slow down explaining that our Spanish was not perfect.  She asked if he spoke English and attempted to explain what she wanted from us in English.  She asked if we could help them by making a video. Clyde agreed and she handed us both a balloon and asked us to say something about, "I believe....." in Spanish while she took a video of us.  Although we really had no idea what it was about we went along for the ride.  I asked one of the girls what type of uniform they were wearing?  She explained that it was from a high school associated with the police department?  So I asked, "so you're all going to be police someday?"  Her reply was, "oh I don't know about that." Perhaps some type of military school?  Who knows.....but Clyde took a group photo of them and we asked for their email to send them the picture.  Just another strange encounter with the locals here.

Local Kids In School Uniforms

Earlier today we set out by bus to the town of Quisapincha that's know for selling leather goods.  cheap. The tiny town was nothing much except shops of leather stuff, everything from belts, gloves, wallets, shoes, purses, coats, hats and more. Since Clyde was in need of a few new belts that's what we went looking for.  Being a typical man he ONLY wanted TWO.....a brown one and a black one.  I told him he was allowed to have MORE than two, but he was content with just that.  He paid $10 for one belt that has a slit inside to hide money, a real "money belt," and a regular brown belt for $9.  Since we really don't know what leather goods go for these days we really don't know if prices were good or not.  Clyde looked at leather jackets that all seemed to go for around $80, but he passed up buying one.  But he did pick up a nice wallet for $9 even though he REALLY doesn't need one yet.  How frivolous......after all I only buy stuff that I those many pairs of shoes, blouses, course I'm kidding here.

Clyde Made A Friend On The Bus

Local Ladies On Bus With Large Pots

Leather Stores In Quisapincha

These Seat Cushions With Holes In The Middle Were Everywhere

Sewing Machines In Factory Where Leather Goods Are Made

Factory Where Leather Goods Are Made

Another Peek Into A Shop

Our Buses Lined Up

Views Of Ambato From The Bus
Local Bombero Station
Or Fire Department

Everywhere We Go Clyde Has To Find These
Since He Is A Retired Fire Fighter

And More

And He Was A Paramedic Too

We Stopped Into A Pharmacy To Look For Something
And This Old Women Was Behind The Counter Leaning On It

Locals Selling Produce In The Streets

Large Produce Market

It Was Everywhere

Tonight for dinner we walked to a nearby restaurant known for it's empanadas since our hosts raved about them. I have to admit that neither Clyde nor I really ever liked the Mexican empanadas back in Texas, but we had to try these anyway. We had plenty to choose from, like chicken, beef, mixed, cheese and more.  Prices ranged from .70 to $1.10 I believe which would have led us to believe they're tiny, but we were told the opposite. I ordered one chicken and Clyde ordered one mixed, along with something called a tortilla de verde (or green tortilla) for .60 and a strawberry fruit shake for $1.75. The empanadas were cooked right in front of the café for everyone to see and when they arrived at our table they were impressive.  Our meats were mixed with veggies served alongside a pepper and onion  type of sauce that seems to be served everywhere here.  Turns out the tortilla de verde was made from green plantain and filled with cheese.  For dessert we tried some "humitas" which are steamed corn cakes served in corn husks.  The filling was slightly sweet, sort of like a gooey corn bread. Not a favorite of mine but again, why not try them while here.  But we definitely will be heading back to the restaurant for more of the empanadas since they're cheap and really good!

Well Known Empanada Place

The Menu On The Wall

The Owner Cooking Our Food

One Empanada

Tortilla de Verde In Front, Sauce In Back

Dessert.....Steamed Corn Cakes Wrapped In Corn Husk

So another day and another dollar spent on dinner in this economical city of Ambato, Ecuador......along the gringo trail.

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