The boys have a three week vacation from school between semesters so we are traveling for two weeks in Ecuador. Two short flights and we were in South America, the boys and I for the first time. We are starting with a few days in Quito. A regular city! Stores full of stuff! Cheap stuff! Expensive stuff! All stuff I desperately wanted when I see it. Noah too is exhibiting symptoms. He needs skinny jeans, boxer shorts and converse sneakers – low top, any color but black. Let it be noted that before we left Seattle I suggested that he might want to move beyond the carpenter jeans, tidy whities, running shoes and plain t-shirts that have been his daily uniform since second grade. I guess he wasn’t ready.
We scoured the huge commercial market for converse knock-offs because the real ones from Panama cost $70. Why oh why couldn’t his fashion gene have expressed itself during the two weeks we had in NYC? He didn’t find shoes, but I am not so picky so I got some cheap flats and handmade short boots that are just like the Quechua women wear with their skirts. They probably won’t be as perfect with jeans next year in Seattle as I am thinking but oh well.
Next we try the huge shopping mall for jeans and boxers. I am literally telling salesgirls, you have got to be kidding when the Levi’s are $150. (Ecuador switched to the dollar in 2000.) Just like in Managua, imported goods aimed at the rich are super expensive. Since there is no middle class, there is no market for the real things at bargain prices. When I buy the $10 boxers with cash, the cashier asks me for my passport number and address and I have a little fight with her because it is just too ridiculous.
Next day, Noah and I go back to the market and buy 2 pairs of fake Levi’s with skinny legs for $18 each. All of the jeans sold in the market by nice Quechua merchants are $18. Unfortunately, they were either too rhinestoned or tight for me. As a Hannukah present, we bought Noah a pair of real Converse at the very crowded Converse store the day before Christmas. He is reluctant because he knows he can get them cheaper back in Nicaragua, so that just makes us more insistent.
Afterward, I hit the artesenia markets that are full of wool things and not very practical for life in Nicaragua. I discover a very nice aromatherapy shop and track down some alpaca yarn to knit in the car during our long days of driving. I really wanted to get the handmade guitar for Noah, yards of cashmere cloth, different colored candles for wealth, health and good fortune, ponchos, panama hats (always made in Ecuador) alpaca sweaters . . . but do I really need it?