Today we took a bus ride to Ibarra (pop. appx. 100,000) another city about 50 minutes away…give or take a dozen stops to let people on. Cost of bus ride only 45 cents per person. A cute little girl played hide-n-seek with us…and when she & her mother got off the bus, the mother wrapped the child on her back in a shawl to carry her. It’s not unusual to see children at the age of five carrying a two year old, and to see them playing unsupervised.
Walking down the street, we saw several businesses where cabinets, countertops and doors were being made. A solid wooden door here is $40…one that would cost hundreds in the U.S. We also saw several carts, where food is being hawked for lunch- rice & beans, fruit, roasted chicken and fried potatoes. The carts are pushed to different businesses, and the employees come out and buy lunch for just a buck or two.
There is an American style grocery store called SuperMaxi that is the “Winn Dixie” or “Publix” back home…you can get things like peanut butter, salad dressing, processed or packaged foods, and the meats are wrapped in packages or frozen. They also have a larger selection of convenient foods and goods that aren’t available in the villages or smaller towns.
Kywi (pronounced “kiwi”) is the Home Depot of Ecuador. Here you can find hardware, tools, light fixtures, (a fan for me!), gardening equipment, cleaning supplies, even a gas grill.
Several stores form a strip mall where you can buy clothing, shoes, electronics, and there is even a Hallmark store. The post office has the p.o. boxes outside on a wall, and all the banks have a security guard by the ATM. We saw every car dealership you could find in America – (Chevrolet, Kia, Mazda, Toyota, etc) and even priced some vehicles (which was fun because the salesman couldn’t speak English- he kept say $1800 instead of $18,000!).
When you go into a store here, the security guard walks you over to some “safes” where you store the packages you brought into the store…you can’t just walk around with a Hallmark bag in the Kwyi store, for example. You get a receipt, and collect your shopping bags once you check out.
The food court upstairs is extremely clean, and you can get tacos, sandwiches, burgers, ice cream, pastries, and fried bananas. So far, haven’t seen any fried cuy (guinea pig) but I’ve been told it’s available! This city is noisy with lots of traffic – constant taxis and buses. Public transportation is much more accessible and financially feasible between the towns.
Our bus ride back was an experience that we were glad to have lived through- steep winding roads up and down the mountain…what appeared to be goat trails with buses passing each other- blowing horns around the curves. Next time we’ll make sure to take the video camera!