When Life as Usual Isn’t…

When military families disappear from the internet, it is usually for a pretty mundane reason. I’ve been gone because we haven’t had internet in our new house… and even if we would have been fully wired from day one, writing would have taken a back seat to unpacking boxes, organizing closets, hanging pictures, and basically getting down the day to day schedule of everyday life here in our new home. It shouldn’t be that complicated, you say? Well, even a move in the US requires some readjustments but moving overseas requires even more.

Transferring milk in a bag to a jar… if anyone told me I would be buying milk with a blue smurf on it a year ago, I would have told them they were crazy.


For example, it takes forever just to go to the grocery store. Imagine, if you will, a store where very little is written in your mother tongue. Imagine being a label reader and needing to know what ingredients you are bringing into your home and then realizing that you don’t understand half of the labels that you’re reading. A simple trip to the grocery store has just become a complicated one. Add to that the things that you expect to find but just aren’t where you expect to find them.

Milk? Not in the refrigerated section. It’s on the shelf in boxes or in bags.

Eggs? Not in the refrigerated section. They’re on the shelf near the bakery but not near the milk.

Whole wheat flour? Doesn’t really exist. Found a small box with about 2 cups worth of flour and it’s all they had. I need to add that to my list of questions to people who have been here a little longer than we have.

White vinegar for cleaning? Exists but only in small bottles and is not as inexpensive as in the US. Why would white vinegar cost more?

Garlic and ginger? So inexpensive that you have to buy it in large, pre-packed amounts at the grocery store. I’ll be buying that from the smaller fruit and vegetable vendors in the near future.

Ground coriander? Doesn’t exist. But ground cumin does. Go figure.

Spices, spices, and more spices but no ground coriander.


And how about the things that you just have never seen before! How many new items do you bring home to try before your family just begs to be fed items they recognize? I’ve already introduced you to the tree tomato but how about naranjillas, babacos, banana leaves, varieties of potatoes unlike any of our own, the chochos and other legumes that we just don’t have in the US, local fresh cheeses, etc. etc. etc. It’s a wonderful experience but it means that shopping is never easy.

The good news? Slowly but surely we’re adjusting. And I’m finding more time to write… hope you’ll be back in the near future to learn about driving in Quito, about butterfly farms in Mindo, and about the Panecillo. Oh… and I started a fresh batch of sourdough starter. Anyone interested in the recipe or, if you’re local to Quito, some starter to begin your own pot?

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4 thoughts on “When Life as Usual Isn’t…

  1. Angie!
    It’s like a whole ‘nuther world!? While in Saudi, I found that some things I would expect to find in the “spices” section were actually fresh and raw, in the herb and veggie section. SOunds like there will be more trips to the vendors for certain things? I must agree that everyone else in the world (in cities, anyways) seems to like to boxed milk…maybe they get it from square cows?

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    • laugh out loud! I’ll let you know when I see square cows out in the farm fields!

      I’m looking forward to exploring a little more in the food department – need to get braver in talking to the vendors at the market. You know how it goes… you think you know the name for something but it isn’t what they call it at all and so you play this little guessing game in a foreign language trying to get across the one item you came for and they start trying to sell you everything else they have, whether you need it or not. I always can fall back myspicesage.com if I think ahead! But that’s really not as much fun.

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  2. Hey! Have you been to the local organic markets? There is one in the Carolina every other Sunday where I met a woman who makes and delivers homemade tofu – it’s been a life saver! I’ve also seen homemade whole wheat bread, goat cheese, plain yogurt, and all kinds of fruits and veggies. I know of an organic market in La Floresta on Wednesdays as well that’s like a CSA and you pre order your basket weekly.

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    • I have not heard of these markets… I’ve been going to a small organic market where I live (good yogurt and a decent but small selection of veggies). The one at Carolina sounds intriguing, however. Do you know if it will be tomorrow? And I would love an address for the one in La Floresta if you’re willing to share!

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