A Day At The Markets Of Gualaceo and Chordeleg

Up early, despite a late night.  My host family took me to a graduation party for some distant family member, and we didn’t return home until 1am.  But with only thin white curtains in my room, the sun wakes me daily at 6am.

I am grateful for routines.  My homestay family knows I like repetition in breakfast, so each morning is the same – fruits with yogurt, scrambled eggs, and a humita.  A humita is similar to cornbread, but better.

On the bus at 9:30am.  Forty-five minutes to Gualaceo, about 20 miles from Cuenca.  Fare $.65.  Off the bus in Gualaceo, I am disoriented.  I was in the town two years ago, but I certainly don’t know my way.  The solution is simple – just walk in the same direction as all the people with baskets and bags.

The Sunday market is fantastic.  Large, chaotic, with nearly everything you need available.  More bananas than you can imagine.  Fruits I have never seen or heard of.  Vegetables.  Household items.  Junk.  Meat.  Cuyes (guinea pigs) are roasting outside the market, tempting the locals, and frightening the few tourists I see.   Since they are roasted whole, they look almost ferocious with their teeth bared while on the roasting stick.

On a search of my own.  Where to find spots where I can disappear as much as possible, where the locals will soon forget I am there.  The goal is candid portraits.  I also want portraits where I interact with the person, but I am always too shy for that.  In any case, they are there to make money selling, not pose for pictures.

A few hours pass.  I am comfortable and happy.  After a week of spanish classes and studying, I need a day of familiar rhythms.  Walking, exploring, photographing.

Time for lunch.  I search for a busy locals spot.  If it looks clean and is filled with locals, it’s probably a good option.  Today’s almuerza is seco de pollo.  A piece of roasted chicken, white rice (ALWAYS white rice), some vegetables, a glass of juice.  $2.00.  I add a fanta for $.30.

Time to move on.  Time to explore Chordeleg again.  I was only in Chordeleg for a hour or so last time.  Ten minute bus ride.  Chordeleg is famous for locally made gold and silver jewelry.  Plus, the town is prettier.  Gualaceo has a great market but the town is not attractive.

Chordeleg’s central square is beautiful and relaxing.  A family asks me to take their photo in front of the church.  I joke that I have to charge them.   Explorations around the town, including the surprisingly interesting market.

On every corner, dulcerias tempt me with pastries and other sweets.  I cave and purchase a chocolate – of course – cake and mousse conconction for $.75.

Four pm.  Time to head home.  Another $.85 in bus fares.  Tomorrow I begin classes again at 8am.

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