Monday, November 7, 2016

Shopping at the Cuenca Mercados

We love shopping at the mercados here in Cuenca, and have recently gotten some great deals from the Feria Libre mercado. You can get wonderful prices at the other mercados too. The prices are amazing:
This GIGANTIC papaya (see photo) along with 10 beautiful oranges was only $3. I wanted to give you a sense of the huge size of the papaya so included some other fruit in the photo along with the dollar bill so you can see the comparison.
This HUGE bunch of green onions (see photo) was $0.50. We cut them up and froze them!

The 6 DELICIOUS mangoes were $1.
The SUPER BIG 3 cauliflower heads and 2 SUPER BIG broccoli bunches were only $2.
A MASSIVE bunch of bananas was only $1.
A LARGE pineapple was only $1.50.
A BUCKET of tomatoes was $1.00.  
Two "cubetos" or 60 (30*2) large eggs were $6.60 (Yes, we eat a lot of eggs)
Bargaining is expected, and we did for most items. But even I couldn't bring myself to bargain for less than $0.50 for the green onions.

Helpful Hints:
1. Greet the vendors first with: Cómo estás. Buenos días. This is the way business is done in Cuenca and it is so nice to make that personal connection first!
2. Know your numbers in Spanish - makes it so much easier to recognize what they are telling you and when you are attempting to bargain back.
3. When bargaining, whenever possible, ADD to what is being offered, rather than offering less.  For example, instead of 4 mangoes or avocados, add 1 or 2 to the group, and offer the same amount.
4. When bargaining, buy more than one item from the same vendor, for example bargaining for both cauliflower and broccoli with the same vendor. Another example: the gigantic papaya was priced at $2.50 and the oranges were 8/$1 - we bargained for both asking for the papaya at $2 and 10 (not 8) oranges for the $1.
5. Always with a pleasant smile on your face and a small frown when you hear that first price. Remember that "por favor" and "gracias" works wonders. 
4. Have your money out, preferably exact change, and be ready to pay. (A bird in the hand...)
6. Go to several vendors, and find out what their going prices are. Often you will see other transactions happening so pay attention to what is being offered.  Don't be afraid to experiment.
7. Be prepared to walk away if you feel the price is not right. There are many vendors offering the same thing. They will often call after you if they are willing to accept your offer.
8. Be fair, but also remember they won't sell you items for less than they wish to.
9. When you find a wonderful vendor, ask them their name, "¿Cómo te llamas?" Usually they respond so sweetly and will ask you your name too. Most likely, then you will enjoy engaging in some other friendly conversation with them. And remember where they are and go back to them!
10. Have fun!

I'm sure others will have even more helpful hints. We enjoy our mercado shopping excursions, and try to do as much of our shopping at the mercados as possible. 

Good News Shall Come To You From Far Away

“Good news will come to you from far away.”

On the day my dad died, I drove home from work and stopped into our favorite Chinese restaurant for take-out food. As you can imagine, I just didn’t feel like cooking. The meal was delicious as always, and when I opened up my fortune cookie I read, “Good news will come to you from far away.”

My mouth gaped open in shock at first. What a fortune cookie to get on that particular day, when it was anything but good news. Yet my dad has always had quite an unusual and wry, even rude sense of humor, and this would have been just like him. I shook my head in disbelief, smiled and saved the fortune cookie message.

This was in 1997, almost 20 years ago. I continued to go to this restaurant frequently for the next 5 years but never got that fortune cookie message again.

Then in late 2001, I met Michael and fell head over heels in love with him. I’d moved away from the area at that point, but eventually we made the long drive and treated ourselves to dinner at the same Chinese restaurant. I shared with him over hot and sour soup, egg rolls and other delicious dishes including the best egg foo yung ever, that I really wished he would have met my father – they would have definitely hit it off together. I imagined how both their wits and senses of humor would have connected, and especially how Michael, the come-back King of all time, would have skillfully bantered with my dad. My dad truly respected someone who could deftly spar verbally with him. In fact, when he and his second wife (not my mother) got married, we joked that their wedding vows should include the promise to “love, honor and bicker in perpetuity.”

Imagine my surprise when I opened my fortune cookie and for the first time since my dad’s passing, found the SAME message received years previously. “Good news will come to you from far away.” I couldn’t speak and was quite choked up, even in tears. That was not exactly how I liked to present myself to the new love of my life. I wasn’t quite in the “it’s ok to be vulnerable” space with him just yet. However, it was apparent to both of us that my dad and/or his sense of humor was quite present during dinner, and perhaps he did have the pleasure of meeting Michael after all. I took it as a good sign that Michael and I would indeed be very good together.

Ok, so fortune cookies speak to me. Apparently, the angels definitely like communicating in this  forum, at least with me.

I remember attending my going-away luncheon at work, and being the only one to receive a fortune cookie message, “A new job is in the offering.” And I remember getting a fortune cookie with the message, “You have a calm and unassuming manner.” Well, that wasn’t me (or so I thought) so I asked for another fortune cookie, and got the same message; I didn’t ask for another one. And when I was running a life purpose workshop and had created fortune cookie messages, everyone chose exactly the right message for them. Including me – mine was “Forgive yourself. Then act as though you truly are forgiven.” There seems to be something divine percolating through in those messages.

Another time, when I was having a depressing challenge connecting with the joy in life, I drove to downtown Issaquah. First I saw a license plate including the word, “Joy” on it. Then I browsed around a metaphysical bookstore where I saw flyers advertising “Linda Joy’s” offerings and drew a fortune cookie message offered in a dish; it said “Joy is the feeling of grinning on the inside.” I went to the library after that, and as I walked in the door, there was Martha Beck’s book, “The Joy Diet” in front of me. So I got my “joy” reminders that day! 

So I was with my best college roommate friend some years later, celebrating the 4th of July weekend together. We treated ourselves to dinner at a Chinese restaurant (different place – 100 miles away), and I was commenting to her how it was July 3rd that day, which was my dad’s birthday and sometimes I still missed him. Yes, you know what’s coming – my fortune cookie message was practically the same, something like “Good news from afar can bring you a welcome visitor.”

You can’t make this stuff up. I loved getting my “good news” messages!

There were only a few times in the 19 years when I got other messages such as “You will hear good news today” and “An unexpected phone call will bring good news” and “Good things will come to you in due time.” I always smiled and quietly said hi to my dad. And I saved all the little slips of paper.

In 2016, Michael and I decided to move to Ecuador. This move was quite a leap of faith, as we were both officially retiring from the corporate world, we had little idea what was going to really happen next, and we were anticipating our upcoming adventure with joy and some wariness. Even though, a fortune cookie message had declared, “You are going to have a very comfortable retirement.”

I drove up to Bellingham to say good bye and visit with my best friend again. Along with another couple (we had all been college friends many years ago) and their son, we went to a Chinese restaurant, to celebrate this new adventure. I hadn’t had one of those auspicious fortune cookie messages for many years. As we were all choosing our fortune cookies, my best friend and I looked at each other, in memory of what had happened in years past. I was last to choose. This time, my message read, ‘Good things come in invisible packages. You will be delighted.” We were both kind of shocked and stunned.

I was so grateful for that wonderful reminder that there’s “something” out there that is caring for us, and sending us confidence and love and “atta girl’s.” Whether it’s my dad, or guardian angels, or God, it works for me. I loved getting that last message, so serendipitously, just before we embarked on our Ecuadorian adventure.

I taped all the messages I’d received over the last 19+ years on my laptop keyboard and brought them with me to Cuenca. They do have Chinese food here in Ecuador, but they don’t serve fortune cookies. So it will be interesting to see how future “messages” get delivered. In the meantime, I have my daily reminders of the precious love that transcends time and space.