Micah: Unmitigated


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Posts Tagged ‘ceviche’

Go West

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

Coming to you live from Guayaquil: This is not the prettiest of big cities, but it satisfies a few of my current needs. The street market is loaded with cheap electronics and the food market is loaded with cheap fish. It feels good to be back near sea level and to wear shorts again. Plus, empanadas are so abundant, they can be used as a form of currency.

Getting here was a long 7 hours of bus trips through rain and fog. It was fun to watch the scenery change to tropical, with flat land and large banana plantations. At one point, the driver blasted an unedited version of Eminem’s song “Without Me” for all ears to hear. I like to think that since it is in a foreign language, to them it sounds beautiful, like opera to us. Maybe some Ecuadorians think he is holding back tears while talking about love and women, and how his heart feels everytime his wife touches his hand. Or, is all of the opera I have listened actually vulgar and obscene. I vote for us all just listening in ignorant bliss.

Being Ecuadors largest city, the bus station here is enormous. In an attempt to get a cheap ride to the city center, I observed the 100+ route city bus system for about 30 minutes, but was unable to crack the code. With the sun setting, I opted for a $4 cab ride to a known hotel but walked to a cheaper hostal a block away.

The main drawback of this city is the cost of accommodations. My first night was $10 for a decent room. Walking the streets later, I saw a sign adverstising $6 rooms and decided to make the switch the next morning. Upon my arrival, they informed me that the cheapest room was $11 and that the sign was incorrect. So, I wandered the downtown streets some more and settled for another $10 place. It is not as nice as the first, but they might be doing my laundry for free. I was directed up, past the unfinished 3rd and 4th floors currently used to contain dogs, to a sink with a scrub brush. With the going rate only about $3 a load, I figured I would just take it to a shop, but the owner said that she found someone who would do it for me, and I handed my bag to a young lady.

Monday: After all of the the hostal switching fun, I hit the market for a delightful lunch. First, a bowl of some fish soup that was nice and thick. Then, a plate of rice with shrimp ceviche and a cup of juice. All fresh, tasty, and only $1.50.

Satisfied, I strolled the Bahia Street Market to hunt for bargains. Purchased some rechargeable batteries and got numerous wide ranging quotes for an 8gb USB storage device. I had one guy down to $21, but he was unable to locate the desired product in his storeroom. So, I went through again today, ready to haggle, and I think came away better off. I picked up a 16GB Kingston for $24, and so far it appears to work.  Hopefully, I am now done with all necessary electronics purchases.

The cleanest part of the city is their “Malecon 2000”, a long riverfront promenade. There are many shops and restaurants, but mostly just a nice boardwalk passing by a small zoo and a natural history museum. I followed it the whole length and climbed the stairs through the  historic neighborhoods on the hill. At the top, a tourist lighthouse with good views of the city and river.

view through the rain

view through the rain

Even strolling the dirty areas of the city, I kind of like this place. I like it when local action is going on all around me and for the most part, I am left alone. I like that they have a city park filled with free roaming large Iguanas and a turtle pond.



I think it is cool that for protection in the park, they just have 2 rangers armed with what look like tranquilizer shotguns. I enjoyed hanging out at the local empanada stands along their main commerce thoroughfare. A group of university students chatted me up in English, the best they could, with one girl calling the stand owner mom, while the owner called the girl crazy.

Today: Another market lunch, watched the Iguanas explore the park space some more, and made my daring though possibly stupid purchase.

Tonight: More empanadas and, now that I got my long pants back from the laundry, possibly some casino fun.

Tomorrow: Heading farther west, I hear life is peaceful there in the open air.  Though I feel like I haven’t been doing all that much over the past week, I think the beach will be good for me. No commitment yet on the Spanish school, I want to check out the city first and didn’t feel right about making a down payment online. Also, just found out that one of my favorite bands, “James”, will be doing their once a decade stop in Portland this October. That will be tough to miss. Animo a todos a ir a verlos.

E = 64

Don´t Drink The Water

Monday, May 10th, 2010

Checking in from Riohacha, a nice quiet city with a huge windy beach: I figured since I haven’t been doing all that much the past couple days, I would use this time to post about what I have been putting into my mouth. I touched on it a little last post and feel the need to elaborate. I apologize for the lack of pics, this computer doesn’t seem to like my camera. Let’s get started.

With my early physical exercise and now draining heat, liquids have been consumed in mass quantities. Agua, or water to you guys, is not as cheap as I would desire, thus I have been toying with the multiple ways it can be purchased. I began by buying the normal 600ml plastic bottles, that range from 75 cents to $1.25.  After seeing how fast I went through them I tried some other forms: 5 L jug which works for extended stays, 1.5 L bottle which is a little big for my day bag, and now the various sizes of water in a bag (similar to ice packs). The bag version is very cheap but must be transferred to a bottle to be portable. So, as you see, I have put a lot of thought into my agua consumption that I believe will help me throughout my entire trip.

Other liquids consumed are: The occasional cerveza (beer, cheapest styles are Aguila and Poker), Gatorade (a little expensive, but if you believe the ads, a necessary luxury), Jugos (fruit juices, such as lemonade or the rare smoothie con leche), and various flavors of soda (Orange is my favorite, I am similar to the Waponi in that way).

Now to the solid stuff: Trying to keep my costs down, I have sought out street food more often than a sitdown restaurante. The result has been a somewhat negative view of the food here in Colombia. While I still feel like the food in general here is below par, I have softened my stance a little over the past couple days. On Saturday in Santa Marta, I hit up a small place that was recommended by Lonely Planet. Serving only Ceviche, they do it extremely well. I orderd the 10 oz Combinado, which contained shrimp and other unknown fish, served in a white dixie cup with saltine crackers. I knew by the hord of locals sitting out front, silently spooning out the contents of their cups, that it would be good and it truly was. I walked mine down a block to the beach and sat there feeling ashamed for blasting this country’s cuisine without giving it a fair shot. In hindsight, the $5 cost of my dinner was worth it and now I will allow myself to indulge every now and then.

I have since sampled another ceviche stand and today sat down for an almuerzo ejecutivo (loosely, a set meal), which included some fish soup and a plate with chicken, rice, beans, and salad.  With the quality and availability of empanadas declining here on the coast, I see my palate expanding with hopefully positive results.

The fast/cheap foods that I have been putting down have mainly been of the fried variety. Empanadas, with my favorite being the pollo con arroz (chicken with rice), is still the favorite of the fast stuff.  Another one I enjoy is like a beef stew wrapped in a fried bread ball. Very hearty, with mashed potatoes and corn. An Arepa is the last of the fried stuff that I will acknowledge, it’s a flat corn tortilla like bread often filled with a fried egg, a good breakfast. I have sworn off the chorizo for a while, which normally was served with potatoes, due to some unenjoyable texture and suspect content.

Pizza has been tried twice, with last nights being quite good. A Hawaiian style that actually had a decent crust. They sell hamburgers a few places but I have yet to attempt since they are overpriced. Though I did try one hotdog wrapped in bread like a corndog, with positive results.  Overall, I guess I would say that I am mostly just disappointed with the quality of the cheap street food and that if you fork over a little more, you can get some decent grub.

Tomorrow, I hope to be in Cabo De La Vela and off the grid. You shant hear from me again until I am back in civilization. The small village runs on generators and has no WiFi hotspots.  The government convinced the Wayou people to set up tourist accommodations and to not kill gringos. Should be a good time.  Te veo en el otro lado