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This week we were big spenders at the Artisan market (same place I was cleansed at). Holly, Greta and I went while Maeve slept and Conor worked. The girls have both been pining for Ecuadorian dolls and when we were initially packing our stuff to come here, we promised to get them some jugetes de Ecuador (Ecuador toys). So 5 weeks in, I finally made good on my promise. Holly and Greta each got a doll, a clay pot and a miniature spoon. I bought a couple of wooden spoons, a tool for mashing potatoes/plantains and I couldn’t help but expand Maeve’s musical instrument collection with a set of maracas. It was lunch time at the market and cuy was on the menu with many people eating it. We bought plantain chips, popcorn, salad of tomato and green onion with a tomato juice poured over it and lime juice. Oh my goodness it was delicious! There were two other ingredients that are typically mixed in, but Greta only wanted what was familiar to her. Next time, I’m getting it with all the fixings! 

On the walk home, the rain came down hard and we got pretty wet!

A week and a half ago, we went to a crazy huge market here in Cuenca. It was honestly bananas and not my favorite experience. I’m not a big shopper and this place was kind of overwhelming. We did buy a fleece blanket for the girls’ bed and I bought a pair of sweatpants. We found some local spice called achiote.

Conor returned to this market one Saturday at 7am with a local family to observe how they do their weekly shopping. They spend $40 and that’s almost all their groceries for the week! Feria Libre is supposed to be a really cheap place to shop, but it’s too much for me!

On Tuesdays and Fridays, one can be cleansed at the market for $3. We went one Friday with out tutor and I tried it out. It’s a mixture of Catholic and Aboriginal beliefs.

First, a bouquet of medicinal plants and herbs is rubbed and torn to release the fragrance. The lady held the bouquet to my face for three deep inhales and then she began to whack my body with it while chanting. The whacking doesn’t hurt, but it really isn’t soft either. She used a strong hand. My whole upper body was thwacked multiple times, including lifting my arms to get my side body. Maeve was extremely concerned as she watched this happen and squawked and panicked a bit. When I had been sufficiently whacked, an egg was then rubbed over my body, my eyes, my face, my arms, my chest, my stomach (against the skin) and my low back (against the skin). She drew crosses with eggs on my forehead and eyes. Then the lady cracked the egg into a plastic bag, held it up to examine it and read it. She told me that I’m worried and I need to relax (so accurate). The next step included liquid (alcohol of some kind) that was super fragranced like flowers. The perfume was poured into my hand where I was encouraged to breath deeply of the smell. Then the lady poured some on my head and rubbed it in. Ok, here’s the crazy part. Then she put some of the liquid in her mouth and spat/sprayed it on my bare stomach and back and the back of my neck. That was an odd experience. Last of all, to close the energy doors to my body, crosses were drawn with charcoal on my forehead, stomach and the nape of my neck. 

A truly interesting experience! There were many small children and babies cleansed while we were there. When we asked some of our local friends about it, they were like, ya, we do that every week. Their kids too. I’m not sure that I’ll do it again because I’m sensitive to smells and I didn’t love smelling so strongly. If I did do it again, I’d do it on the day before a hair wash day! But, I want to take Conor to the market on a Tuesday or Friday so that he can experience this very interesting and very different experience. 

Cuenca has a few different markets. We finally made our way to one on Thursday. Grocery shopping is tricky for a few reasons: first, we can only buy what we can carry. 2. There are different ingredients than from what I’m used to. 3. It takes a good chunk of time to walk to the Super-maxi or the market, buy the food and walk home. In Quito, I would often stop in at the market on our way home from school. That was really easy to do. Here, we have decided that on market days, we will eat a meal at the market while we are there. 

This market is three levels and as soon as we stepped foot onto the “food court” level, a couple of women were immediately holding out meat from their pigs in their bare hands, inviting us, kind of forcefully, to have a sample. After we sampled, I felt obligated to buy, and buying eliminated the decision making process. And so we ate pork, potatoes, corn, salad and juice. It was great! I love the market experience. Next time we go to the market, I want to spend more time checking out the venders set up outside of the market.

We picked our apartment well I think. We are very close to el mercado (the market). My first visit there was so overwhelming. I think in part because we had just arrived and it’s so different! There are so many smells and almost any food item can be bought including cows’ hooves, just in case you are in the mood. 

The women that work there all wear lilac purple uniforms - aprons with hair coverings. And they all want you to buy! The women are very inviting - inviting to look and taste. The fruit of Ecuador is amazing. Blackberries (moras) grow year round. I’ve never had papaya or passion fruit until this trip. I try to eat avocado daily. I want to figure out the best way to consume more plantains. I will never be the same. Holly and Greta like mangos the best. Oddly, Maeve isn’t digging the fruit scene as much as I think she should!