Minding the Shop

Joe Giallo - Ecuador


March 15, 2011

On any given Sunday, you can find me sitting under the blue umbrella on the right hand side of the Apuela’s main street, minding the family shop. Every Sunday, my host mom prepares a huge pot of fritada, fried pork, with mote, some sort of tasteless thing that I think is related to corn, as well as chochos, lupine beans, to be served with tostado, fried corn kernels. I sit out there, sometimes alone, sometimes with another family member, like my nineteen year old sister and her month old baby, or my grandpa, a venerable old man of 89 years of age, and try my best to sell the food and a variety of other snacks, like bottled drinks and homemade popsicles.

Of course, time and time again, a remarkable scene happens when I’m alone. A prospective customer is drawn by the delicious scent of my mom’s incredible food, and spies our little stand: the portable charcoal grill designed to keep the fritada and mote warm, the table with the chochos and tostado, and then me, sitting under the blue umbrella on a bench. Vaguely bewildered eyes linger on me for a couple of moments, and a look of confusion crosses his or her face as to why in the world anyone who looks like me would be sitting selling home cooking out in a middle-of-nowhere town like Apuela. This is market day, so they don’t know that I live here, or if they did know, haven’t yet realized that I now work on Sundays for my new host family. A lot of people from all around Intag come to Apuela on market days, so it’s not unnatural that they don’t recognize me. Although perhaps more surprising is that almost everyone who lives in Apuela proper knows me by sight if not by name.

This prospective customer, every time, ceases to look at me, and then shouts into the house, “A VENDER!” This translates roughly to something like, “I’M HERE, SELL ME STUFF.” Every time, I shake my head, and look at the customer, and tell them that I’m the one selling the food. They give me that same, “What in the world are you talking about?” look, and then: “En serio?” (Are you serious?) “Sí, por supuesto. ¿Por qué estaría aquí si no estuviera vendiendo comida?” (Yes, of course. Why else would I be here if I’m not selling food?) “En serio?” (Are you serious?) And then I sigh, get up, and try to sell the food. Almost without fail, my mother comes running out, and finishes the transaction for me.

I look at my mom, after the person walks away, and she shakes her head at me and laughs, telling me I really shouldn’t work in sales. She then walks back inside to do whatever else she needs to do, leaving me to mind the shop. I can’t help but laugh too.

Joe Giallo