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Thursday, December 14, 2006

Market Day in Guamote

This morning we headed down to Guamote, which is about half an hour south of Riobamba. We wanted to visit an authentic, non-touristy, indigenous market - and Guamote was it! From our little hotel we walked down the street, on the way out of town that the buses would take and after about three blocks we found this bus...

They were loading while we watched, and then after we got on they kept on loading. Bags and bags of produce, greens, clothing...everything. They even loaded two of these coolers full of ice cream!

Of course, once you get there, you have to unload it all, too.

Here are some pictures we took while walking around in the market:

While we were there, I really wanted to get an authentic poncho for the train ride. It´s cold in the morning, and I purposely didn´t pack a sweater, so I could get one at the market. Most of the ponchos are really colorful, but they´re made from polyester or acrylic. Obviously they´re much cheaper than handmade ones.
So I finally found a poncho that I liked. It´s a wool one, very plain. But then, I had to find the hat. Easier said than done, I found out. The largest size we could find was a 57, and I was a 58. After several rounds we finally found one. Now, the outfit was complete! How would people respond to the gringo in the poncho and hat?
We hadn´t even made it down to the bottom of that street before several people commented on it, admiring the poncho. As it turns out, we weren´t the only ones that knew there was a difference. People kept saying how nice it was, saying it was made from wool, wool from Ecuador. ¨Yes,¨I´d say, ¨ that´s why I bought it.¨ At the bottom of the hill, this man stopped me to tell me how much he liked it. ¨We´re the same!¨ he said. ¨Si! Like brothers¨I said, and we both laughed. He said we should take a picture of us both, to hang on the wall. So Susan took a picture.

When we went down to where the grain was sold, once again we got a good reception with the poncho and hat. We talked for a while about the poncho, which she said was dirty and needed a wash...and about the grain they sold, what kind it was...where we came from, where we lived, what kind of work we did, how much money we made...you know, small talk.

Unlike other markets that we´d visited, this one had an animal market, too. All day we saw people walking around with their pigs, sheep, donkeys and cows. We walked over to take a look.

So this guy has a cow for sale. Everyone is hanging around, pushing it a bit, looking it over...

This group of people start negotiating the price. After they agree on the price, the man there in the center tells his wife there on the right to get out the money. She pulls it out from under her shawl and they count it out.

After the seller has all the money in his hand (while still holding the rope) he counts it all. Any bills he doesn´t like, he hands back, and replacements are found. They´re very picky about the condition of the bills here. I´ve had several refused because they had a small tear or were excessively worn.

Here is the proud new owner! I asked how much he paid, and he told me he paid $150. When I talked to (I think) his father, I asked him how much it would be worth next year at the same time. He said $300. I said, ¨Wow! That´s a lot of money to make in a year.¨ He replied, ¨That´s a lot of risk...¨

Off they all go, walking home.

We got back on the bus, which was just as packed as the trip to the market. These people sat next to us, and once again they commented on the poncho and the hat. It was really a great experience visiting the market, and particularly the response that the poncho and hat got.

On the way home we ate the sugarcane that we bought the previous day in BaƱos. It was starting to go off a little bit - not in a bad way...it sort of tasted like rum. MMMmmm. We had fun...and then we got a little sleepy on the way home.

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