Micah: Unmitigated

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Posts Tagged ‘chorizo’

The Captive Mind

Tuesday, July 20th, 2010

I arrived in Manta on Thursday, getting my feet in salt water for the first time in over 2 months. The familiar Pacific Ocean littered with fishing vessels was just 4 blocks from my dirt cheap hostal. Few people actually swim at Tarqui beach, on the working class side of town. It’s mostly used for the fish market, traditional boat building, and driving on the sand to cheap seafood restaurants.

Better than my proximity to the beach, was living near the epicenter of the town’s market action. Early every morning, I could just look out my window and see the usual stands setting up and buses rolling by. All very real and non-touristy. During my 4 days staying in that section of town, I saw 1 gringo.

Bonus: That first night, I sampled empanadas from 3 different carts. Each one was 30 cents a piece, cooked in a pot filled with oil, and served with a garlic mayo condiment.

Friday: I walked 30 minutes across town, to the main beach “Playa Murciélago”. Very wide, flat, and crowded in the center. Low tide in the early afternoon results in a near 40 meter gap from water to soft sand. So, I sat on the wet matted down stuff, hoping for sun breaks and occasionally frolicking in the waves.

Saturday: I finally got to the purpose of my visit to Manta, checking out the Spanish school. The original plan was to do that Friday, but did not previously obtain the address. So, with coordinates in hand, I walked in search of “Academia Surpacifico”.

Up the hill, in a nice neighborhood, and at the intersection of 2 busy streets, it is close to things. I rang the bell of the office building and was greeted by a man crashing in the 4 bedroom student apartment on the 4th floor. The school is on the 3rd floor making for an easy commute, plus there is Wifi, ocean views (12 blocks away), and access to the rooftop patio. The fully furnished apartment with kitchen was one of my main selling points, and it was better than expected.

With no staff around due to it being the weekend, I just gathered info and planned to call Monday morning. Then walked downhill to the beach to waste the day away. With a grande cerveza in hand, I sat on a small dune, keeping a safe distance from the surrounding lip-locked couples.

sitting on the soft stuff

sitting on the soft stuff

Sunday: I strolled down to the fishing beach. Normally an early morning show, I was lucky to see a small boat unloading it’s catch, one crate at a time. That alone is interesting, but add in about 100 hungry osprey and sea gulls, and you got yourself an amazing sight. The men shuttling between the boat and dump truck have sticks but never use them. They seem to acknowledge the symbiotic relationship they have with the sea birds or are just tired from years of trying to fight back.

the operation

the operation

The fish are mostly small, but often a bird grabs a large one and is unable to hold on while being chased by friends. These fish fall to the sand, are picked up, and then dropped again multiple times. Before one of them shows he has the chops to swallow the meal. I, along with a few Ecuadorian families, was highly entertained and took numerous photos.

a pick up

a pick up

Breaking my attention from the fish mongers, was a religeous service taking place a little farther down the sand. They began to march my direction, before turning toward the water and getting wet. Not all worshipers joined, it was mostly just a crew carrying elaboratly dressed manequins on wooden platforms. They ventured out to waist height, then walked back the other way, parralleling the beach.

interesting church service

interesting church service

All the while, the sand standers walked with them and sang “Alabare”. There was also splashing involved, but I’m uncertain if it was meant to douse the manequins or the holders.

Monday: Made a phone call and arranged to start class on Tuesday. Settled in to my new lodgings and went grocery shopping. Buying for only a few days was difficult but still fun. (I can only sleep here for 6 nights because it is fully booked for next week.) I made a chorizo and potato chowder that should last me a few days. If I get bored over the next couple days, I may do a food post with recipe.

Other food purchases: I plan to make a spaghetti with chorizo later and daily cereal with bananas (no chorizo). I can’t satisfy all of my cooking desires in the short time frame, but this menu should help me pack on a few pounds.

About school: Plan is to do 4 hrs a day of 1-on-1 for 2 weeks. 6 days in apartment, then either hotel or homestay. Currently have one roomate, a female from Philly, who is studying medical Spanish.

Tuesday: Class from 8:30 am to 12:30, with break and free milkshake. Teacher is a female who doesn’t speak English and is with child. Very kind and patient but tough to fully understand all vocabulary by way of drawn definitions. I began learning masculine and femanine forms of stuff and proper use of “el”, “la”, “los”, and “las”. Also did plural forms. I am hoping I can get her to devote a day to casino lingo.

Right now: The weather is comfortable, but not ideal for swimming. I am content with lying on the couch, listening to Beethoven, and punching keys on my Ipod. It’s as close to home as I will get for a while, free from the everyday stress of traveling. Hopefully, I come out of this break with a reenergized body and a bilingual tongue. Y yo pensaba que estaba demasiado fresco para la escuela.

E = 79

2 + 2 = 5

Friday, May 21st, 2010

I have been worrying about money a lot lately. Forking over $11 for a dinner in Cabo and dropping $50 on a 13 hr bus ride to Medellin, I realize that I underestimated the costs of Colombia. I may have also overestimated my ability to haggle and patience to shop around.

I still have a lot to learn when it comes to finding the cheapest accommodations and food. Walking around with my pack after a hefty bus ride, I tend to pick a spot out of “Lonely Planet” and go with whatever price they offer me. I believe many of these hostels jack up their prices, once they see the constant flow of gringos one paragraph in a travel book provides. With my limited Spanish, I feel I lack the ability to properly scout the random non-published places. The Internet is a good alternative, and provided me with my current lodgings (free WiFi). Though, the owner said my room was double booked by different sites, thus I got a free “upgrade” to a room that was almost twice as much. When he showed me a room that barely fit the twin bed lying on the floor, I almost jokingly asked if my original room was smaller than this. The only difference I can see is that my new room comes with a 13 in., 2 channel TV.

I can’t help but feel skeptical about every price quoted to me and every friendly local. One instance in particular, a teen running a store counter in Cabo overcharged me a dollar despite my inquisitions about the price of each item. Not sure whether he added wrong or figured he could get whatever he wanted from me. Also; my hostel which had higher prices for us than what was in the menu, lemonade guy that has 2 sizes of plastic cups, and bus drivers that see how much you will pay. Those are the ones I have learned so far, but I am by no means done getting fleeced.

Today was a great exception to the life that has cost me $27 a day. Metro train to Medellin’s city center to see some sights, also led me to a massive, 2,500 stall, covered market. Many intimidating food options, packed with locals scarfing down large plates of sustenance. With no menus in sight, I almost wimped out and chose empanadas. I made eye contact with one cook and pointed to the soup in front of a man next to me. She said some things but I only heard the magic word “chorizo” and repeated it to her. The result: a huge set meal and pineapple juice for less than $2. I think the lesson here is to get away from the tourist areas, look for where the locals are gathered, and point.

Feeling good about myself and a little lucky, that night I went searching for a blackjack table. I found a $1 minimum game and settled in with my fellow degenerates. After a free cerveza, some live music, and a few fist bumps from table mates I couldn’t understand, I had won about $34 dollars. A very nice haul, amplified greatly by my current situation.

I capped the day with another reasonably priced meal, ($4.50 for pork, salad w/fruit, fries, arepa, and an Aguilla cerveza) at a non-menu establishment. Feeling pretty good right now, ready to tackle the next/last 30 days here in Colombia. Tomorrow, leaving the big city for the natural beauty around Salento. Se montó la gorda