June 12, 2010 1

Pop in a Bag, Paycheck in My Shoes

By in Ecuador, Quito, South America

When I first got to Quito, there were a lot of things that seemed very, very different. Sure enough, as I adjust, all the quirky things about Quito are starting to seem normal. I’m already okay with eating unrefrigerated eggs and drinking room temperature milk and soda. I learned the hard way that the “C” on faucets stands for caliente, not cold. I’ve also trained myself to not flush TP down the toilet, which was a cinch after spending some time in Moldova (at least the toilet paper here is white and soft, and you don’t have to use an outhouse or a weird trough-like thing). Oh, and I’m even developing an appreciation for soccer, which is pretty much mandatory unless you want to be a social outcast in this country!

Still, there are some things that seem silly to me. I had heard rumors about soda pop being served in bags in Central and South America, but I didn’t really believe it until I experienced it for myself. I couldn’t help smiling wide–like I had just won a goldfish at the fair–as I walked home with baggie full of Fanta, a calzone, and a side salad (pictured above, also in a bag).

Then came the hard part: figuring out the logistics of drinking pop out of a baggie. I think in normal situations you are given a straw, but the man at the pizza place was busy and forgot. I eventually had to resort to cutting a tiny hole in the bag and pouring it into a glass. Easy peasy!

Another weird thing about Quito is nobody ever has change. If you try to pay with even a $5 bill at a corner store, the cashier will act generally annoyed and sometimes even refuse to serve you. Whenever I notice I only have a $20 bill, I nearly have a panic attack and have to strategically figure out where I’m going to go to break it and what I’m going to buy to break it.

That being said, I guess it’s pretty obvious that I don’t normally carry a lot of cash on me. I usually keep $10 or less in my wallet, and if I need to carry more money I’ve become used to putting it in my bra (just in case!). But then came the issue of getting paid: I couldn’t really stuff my bra with all the cash I received, cause even an amateur mugger would probably notice my lumpy, stuffed bra and pick me out as a target. I asked around at work, and everyone said they walk home with the cash in their shoes! Genius.

Next time I’m going to try to remember to wear socks, though, cause sliding around on your paycheck with sweaty feet is pretty uncomfortable!

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