An Early Morning Discovery

From Friday, September 22, 2017…


I can now say I have been to the largest market in the region
of Azuay: Feria Libre. It’s where bulk produce, fish, and meat are sold, like
Costco on steroids.  Visualize shopping on a football field packed with


I have been living with my host family for a couple of days
now. I personally understand how difficult it is for exchange students to
converse immediately. I could not understand anyone in my host family for the
first half of the day. I was incredibly frustrated to say the least. But my
ears are slowly catching on and I’m having to say less, “otra vez, por favor”.
Life has been very steady and relaxing so far with the family. My host mom and
host sister work on the weekend, which I didn’t fully comprehend what that
entailed until Friday morning. I was told to be ready to go at 4:00, 4:00am.


I woke up at 3:45 to get dressed in my warmest clothes: a
long sleeve shirt, a light jacket, a heavy jacket, and a scarf. I walked out of
my room promptly at 4am ready to get into the truck-taxi my host mom rented for
the morning. I was immediately told by my host mom to go back into my room
because the taxi was not here yet. I fell asleep for 15 minutes very warmly


I awoke to knocking on my door and bounced out of bed, down
the stairs, and into the truck. If you know me well, you know I can’t help
falling asleep in any moving vehicle. In about 30 minutes, we were in Cuenca at
a large market still pitch black outside. There were hundreds of buses, trucks,
and taxis and I didn’t really understand the size of the market untill we
started walking.


We entered a warehouse-size building and the entire room was
selling the same or similar thing: potatoes. My host mom knew exactly which
vendor to go to, because she goes on a weekly basis. She bartered and bought a
huge, 50 lbs bag, but then she walked away. I was like, “you are forgetting
something!” This moment of confusion happened very frequently throughout the


Vendors were using flashlights to show buyers their produce,
since it was barely 5 am. I trailed behind my host mom and host sister as I
gaped at the abundance of fruits and vegetables around me. The smell of the
ripening fruits was incredible.


My host mom continued to buy 10 ginormous yuccas, 60 mandarin
oranges, 2 pineapples, a package of limes, a large box of tomatoes, 20 bananas
still on the stalk, 4 heads of lettuce, and 20 regular oranges. I thought we
were ready to pack up and go home. There were still things to buy.

The fish section was next. They bought probably 15 fish from
one vendor. We then exited the fish area and bought another 10 of the same fish
from a different vendor. On our way back inside, we stopped to have cafe con
leche and tortillas. The tortillas here are very different from the ones back
home. They are similar to arepas but are sweet with cheese mixed in. They are
now one of my favorite foods so far I’ve tried. El Cabo is known for their
tortillas and chicken. We then returned to the original fish vendor and bought
even more fish.

We then walked past the live animal area and into the meat
section. I have never seen so many cooked whole pigs and chicken feet. We
bought hot dogs not the ready-to-eat kind, but for later. We also bought paper
supplies for their food stand. We then returned to the truck, and it was time
to go home and it was only 7:15 am.


The market experience was a new adventure and at the end of
the day I saw and ate from my host mom’s Hot Dog & French Fry stand. She
adds a tomato salad like a relish on top of the fries and hot dog. She also
sells whole fried fish. I sat on the stools you see in the photo.  Her
food was delicious and a great way to end my long day.

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The 20
mile drive from El Cabo to Cuenca can take 30-45 minutes to drive.

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4,000 varieties of native potatoes grow in the Andes.

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A potato vendor

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Next time I will ask what kind of fish we bought.

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More Pescado

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The smell of sweet fruit

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The chicken feet

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Hot Dogs by the rope (all photos above from Google images)

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My Host Mom’s stand. She sells food on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.