I’ve been thinking about what’s new and what’s old, about phases of my life and what the future looks like. Myung and I went to Quito last week. On the one hand, getting out of town was good. On the other, three days in Quito was plenty and we found ourselves just wanting to go home. For sure, hard traveling won’t be happening again in the near future. That would definitely be “old”. Having a place? Well, we had a place in China until a couple of years ago, so having a place in Ecuador isn’t really new. Plus, we’ve both been fairly stable in places for much of our lives. So, is this old or new? Both, I think. In China, I never felt it was likely I’d end up there. I may end up in Ecuador, however. I say “may” because one foot out the door is characteristic of my thinking. It’s been over 10 years since I felt more or less permanent, so I’m going to call it “new” this time.
There are some obvious differences between any of my former “permanent” lives and this one. Obviously, one is that I’m retired. Another is I feel like my relationship with Myung will continue. It’s been a long time since I felt that way about a woman. Funny thing. When I was younger, there were so many years in front of me, I never thought about spending the rest of my life with someone. Now, with let’s say 20 years left, maybe that’s how it will work out. That’s makes for a new, fundamentally different outlook. Permanence isn’t a 40 year anything anymore. What will I do in retirement? “Be married” may not have been my answer before.
So, here I am, settled down. ( I always want to say “for now” or “whatever that means in my case”.) There are some new things about settled down this time. For sure, there are some big differences from when I was living in the States. The most obvious is what and how I eat. Mostly Americans will be reading this, so you know how it is there. As an example, I almost never made spaghetti sauce. Now I always do. (I cook the Italian stuff in our home.) I was middle class, so I could afford “good” jarred sauce and thought that was great. Plus, the tomatoes in the US, even right there in Northern California, were hard and usually tasteless. In developing countries ( I see China as a developing country.) farmers markets are where you buy produce. They’re not the piddling boutique markets you see in the States, selling high priced, perfect, artisan produce. Here, the sellers are often dozens of local farmers in direct competition selling much the same stuff. They have to compete on quality and price except for a few things for which the prices are regulated so it’s only on quality. To be sure, there is price fixing within any one market, and some markets are cheaper than others. The produce is fresher and riper. When the tomatoes are riper and tastier, and you have free time, why not make fresh sauce? Like, it’s not that hard to throw tomatoes in the blender and surf the net while it cooks down. Funny thing is that it wouldn’t be that hard in the US either, and the tomatoes aren’t that bad, but most people usually don’t do it. That’s just an example of what’s new about this time being settled. I have to admit, the price of decent canned/jarred spaghetti sauce, i.e. imported, is sky high and I can’t bear to pay so much.
In fact, we make most sauces. Salad dressings, soy sauce based stuff like teriyaki, barbecue sauce, most of that, we make. We do buy ketchup and mayonnaise. Myung has some Korean sauces she just bought in Quito, and we have quantities of oyster sauce, fish sauce and a few others. If it’s easy, we often make it, though. I’ve learned how easy it is to make most of things. It’s better, and a little different every time.
Another one is bread. “Good” was Semifreddi’s bread or Noah’s bagels. Warm bread was super special. We make our own, now that we have an oven. Again, so easy. Myung makes the bagels, buns, cookies, muffins, focaccia, meusli and most things. I’ve been making the bread and pizza. I never made bread before. Why pay $3 per loaf?
Who knows? Maybe we’ll have our own chickens like about half the Ecuadoreans.
Maybe we’re going native. It happens. If most immigrants to the US become Americanized, why can’t it go the other way? In fact, it does go the other way. In hard numbers, there are many, many expats who eventually just blend in, learn the local ways, the local language and etiquette, and so on. Hey, it’s something to do in retirement.
That reminds me, one reason China was hard for me was the language. Hoo, Spanish is so much easier.
All that said, you can take the girl out of Korea but you can’t take Korea out of the girl. We went to Quito to get a document for my taxes and to shop for Asian stuff you can’t get in Cuenca. We lugged daikons, sesame leaves and other greenery, jugs of sesame oil and oyster sauce, tubs of gochujang (most popular Korean sauce made of chili powder, glutenous rice powder, fermented soy beans and salt) and doenjong (which is similar to gochujang) rice noodles (You’d think they would have rice noodles in Cuenca but they only have the thin ones and those are a terrible Ecuadoean product yuk.) and some other stuff I can’t think of right this minute. At least they sell tofu here. I am not carrying bags of tofu on the bus. Not! Daikons, well, okay. They are only heavy, and worth it as Myung makes terrific radish kimchi and I get to eat some if I’ve been good.
As long as I’m comparing new, old, before and after. I can’t imagine needing a car here. If we go on a road trip or something, I can rent one. Meanwhile, we get around just fine on foot or in a bus or cheap taxi.
Speaking of buses, last week there were protests against the government. One of the actions was closing the road from Quito to Ecuador. So, we had to take a circuitous, 11 hour route back. Ugh. It was like one of those endless flights between Asia and the Americas. At least we’re in a country where you can challenge the power and agenda of the 0.1%. It’s not like that everywhere, ahem.
This stuff was running around in my brain and I thought it was about time to post something on this site. It needs some pictures.
Here’s a typical breakfast for us. Fresh farm raised eggs, Myung’s bagels, her blackberry jam, raw milk Greek and regular yogurt and butter, local honey, ripe fruit and Myung’s granola. Not in there is the fresh ground Ecuador coffee. In the name of full disclosure, the kiwis are from Chile. They are perfect every time, though.
…and during her singing the Beatles’ “My Love” with the Cuenca University Symphony under the direction of her cousin, William, who you might have seen in the barbecue picture in the last post. Yes, just maybe that’s how she got a spot on the stage, but she really does have a nice voice.
I think that’s going to do it for now. Be well, all of you.