Friday, November 20, 2009

Dr. No, I presume? No, it's SuperMaxi! Part I

Well, here's another very odd occurrence... yesterday, Mike and ventured into Loja, with blues frontman Ken Schoppmeyer, to look at ordering a digital piano for the Dec, as Ken was picking up an amp to practice with.
[as an aside as to the synchronistic scenes all about... at BJ's before we left, I noticed a Yamaha DGX630 with a stand and seat, weighted keys and pedal, in a box that would just fit the limits of weight and size, but I didn't go with my intuition and buy it for later. Although Mike and Dec had been in that store before and looked around (as men do) they didn't see ANY 88-key keyboards. But this time, I noticed the very same box crammed into a corner of the store.  Take that you non-believers.]

Anyway, I wanted to have a gander at the 2 "gringo" stores: SuperMaxi (yeah, sounds like a feminine product) and Todo Hogar (everything for the home). All stores down here are small in comparison to the US, even these, as brightly lit, spaciously well-arranged and clean as they were. So, we hoofed it up the street from the center of the city to the strip mall that had these 2 stores, knowing fully well our only course of action, with bags in tow, would be to grab a taxi to take us to the taxi stand to wait for a taxi to take us back to Vilcabamba. Yes, that's how it works, generally, if you want to pay $1.50 each (Taxi Ruta). The bus is $1, but I haven't braved those waters as yet.

It was 12pm, and I had my last bio-energy session scheduled for 3pm with Jan, Ken's groovy wife (she's a blessing, she is). That might be cutting it close since even if we got in the Taxi Ruta right as we got there (fat chance), it was still a 40-minute death ride (for the faint of heart) to the center of Vilcabamba and another 10 minutes walk to Jan's spa. Upon spying the wares and comparing them to my extensively prioritized list in Todo Hogar, I realized that there was no way I was leaving without the bare necessities: stainless steel cookware and a decent knife.

So Mike made the call to Jan and she graciously offered a later spot at 5:30pm. Even in the back of my mind and out loud to Mike, I said maybe we should call a white truck taxi (Taxi Mixto) from Vilca to see if anyone can come get us here (generally, $15). We decided we wouldn't buy that much and we'd be able to muscle it back to the Taxi Ruta stop in time.


45 minutes later and with not very many goods, Mike finally resurfaced from Todo Hogar with the stuff, sitting on a bench waiting for me to emerge from TVenta! an As Seen on TV store that had a cast iron griddle. I swear everything is smaller here, but there it was for $15 and I had to have it.

So, for the last 20 minutes that Mike was standing in line waiting to check out, I was in that store trying to find out how much the Jack LaLanne Juicer Elite was ($299 as it turns out - twice as much as normal) and buy that damned griddle.

But then...

This beautiful older gentleman, turned and gave me a huge smile, shook my hand and pulled me in for a kiss on the check... not once, but twice. And all the while he was speaking very slowly in Spanish as if his pace would allow me to understand (though much more pleasant that how most Americans address foreigners by raising their voice to get through). His suave metronome sucked me in even though I was looking out the corner of my eye for Mike... I was entranced and just being polite all at the same time, trying to grip a word or two out of the melange.

And then I had it! He had some property for sale. And I was stuck. Ignorant of how to express that even though I was an American, I AM FLAT BROKE. He continued to write down the information on a piece of paper... so sweetly trying to explain everything to me. And all I could do was reply, "si, si". We exchanged contact info and he finally left with his stuff. 20 minutes!

What I thought he said was that he would be in Vilcabamba on Saturday for the cultural festival, and maybe we would see each other. Our parting landing a few more smooches on my cheek. I got my pan, after remembering my manners and asking after the clerk/owner.

It was now 1:30pm and we had to leave or I would be late. But Mike had already made the call and let me know I could breathe a little... And then I saw it. The holy grail of food stores in Ecuador (at least for a gringo). Before me lay the SuperMaxi of Loja.

Imagine, meats wrapped in plastic, a deli counter, Oreo's for God's sake! But my main goal was spices and some cleaning things. Not that it stopped me from dreaming.

But we had no time. As we approached the front doors, Mike plopped our stuff from Todo Hogar (including a box of stainless cookware - whoo hoo!) on the bench in front where some other gringos were waiting and chatting. I looked around and noticed that there was a Taxi Mixto (white truck) in the parking lot and greedily thought maybe we should make that call so I can SHOP!

But then again, I thought maybe just maybe we could find someone using one of those and split the fare back to Vilcabamba. After all, this is done here. And so as I entered the Wal-Mart of Ecuador, I saw Leila busy talking to the manager, and tada! Sparkly thought lead to me asking Mike to talk to Leila about sharing a cab when she came out.

I went back in on a mission to search and grab the main ingredients on my list. And I did pretty good until I saw the Oreo's and deli. Check this nastiness out which I purchased just to show you how funny language can be. Yes, it says "diaria". Google translates to "Daily Online".

I did not hit the deli, but I did buy a small piece of flat iron for dinner as a treat for us. Then as I rounded the corner I saw a cool woman poring over labels as Mike swept past me with Richard whom we met at a party a couple of weeks ago. Richard said they didn't have enough room to fit us in, but that the woman I just saw was having Lenin pick her up at 2:30pm. So after some quick introductions, we were confirmed a ride back home with all our crap!

I thanked the universe and kept on shopping. I found spices and pasta, cleaning items and oils, shredded cheese and local, natural potato chips. I did grab a bag of Oreo's which we still haven't tapped into. I didn't have much time, so I really didn't load up as usual, especially when I really have to read labels and decipher the codes, putting some things back because there is not a less toxic version. Ah well... it's all good in the end.

I waited in line for about 20 minutes, seems the norm here... but there we were with our ride and new company to get to know. We met Lenin's wife, Berta, a very sweet woman who knows where I can buy raw milk if I want. And we got to know Tamara from Switzerland. I'd like to get to know her better, she seems fascinating.

But, I digress... majorly. This was supposed to be about the guy I met in TVenta!

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