Service in Our Small Coastal Town in Ecuador

If you are expecting to be fawned over, watched constantly and pampered while in a local restaurant in San Clemente, you may feel ignored. Not intentionally, mind you but just because the culture here is to allow folks time, time to sit and get accustomed to their surroundings, time to enjoy the others in their company, just time!  Plus serving you is probably not their only job, the server may also be the person cooking or helping in the kitchen. If you are in a hurry, you will not be happy with this cultural difference.

If you want a server who is all over you asking about your needs and wants this also will frustrate you. Here, when you are ready to order, all you need to do is signal the restaurant staff. Like at Viviana’s they leave us alone for the most part. When they deliver the menus which could be immediately upon sitting down or it could be awhile after we arrive, we order our drinks. Letting the server know that we will not be ordering our food for at least 15 minutes and if Joe and I are enjoying and are into our conversation it may be 30 minutes before we order. At that time we order another drink and wait on our food. We have never felt ignored just left in peace to enjoy the atmosphere, the people, our drinks, the great food and just how lucky we are to be in this beautiful area. We have never been given a check here, when we are ready to leave we find someone and pay them. Our experience in the old country was that when you were asked if you needed anything else many times they were really just trying to hurry you along –  give you the check and the boot so to speak.  They were more rushing you than serving you. An exception might be some of the truly finer – real expensive – places. But the fish meal at Vivianas is $4. complete.  Not plus tax, service charge, valet parking, etc. And its right on the beach.  And they smile, seem truly glad to see you again and not just because you are spending money.  That’s something we as Expats tend to ignore.  It’s not always all about the money yet that is how we see many things. I like their way better. Sometimes we are poor in other ways but only judge based on the worlds only measuring stick these days – money.

On the other hand most tiendas, stores or shops will have someone almost follow you around the store trying to help you. And most of the small tiendas and pharmacies do not allow you inside the store you would need to know what you wanted and ask for it.

Estrella and her family who run the tienda at the end of our street are the exception. I am allowed to roam the store at my leisure looking for the items that are of interest to me. Most places have been wonderful about allowing us behind the counter, this is because first we cannot see to read all the descriptions of the items and not being familiar with the products it is just so much easier to allow us to look for ourselves.

I guess the purpose of this post is to make you understand that you are not being ignored on purpose. This is the way things are done here. Snapping your fingers, whistling, yelling across the room or clapping your hands to get a servers attention are rude in any culture, in my opinion. Catching the eye of the server and motioning for them to come over, thanking them or greeting them with a smile and a hello will work far better than being upset with how things are done here.

If you want another drink get any servers attention and point to your drink…don’t wait for them to come around to ask you. Or get up and go over to someone and ask for a server to come to your table. Things are done differently here.

This small story may help to illustrate exactly what I am trying to say. When we lived in Panama our friend Keith would drive down to David the Provincial Capital of Chiriqui for his supplies. On the way he found a man swinging in a hammock selling beautiful pineapples. After stopping several times and purchasing a pineapple he ask the gentlemen why he did not sell other fruits and vegetables instead of just pineapples. The man asked why should he, he sells ENOUGH to support himself and his family. And he climbed back into his hammock not looking to change how his life is. We have been looking for that ENOUGH because in our opinion that is the true meaning of paradise for us.

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One of the first things we did was have Patricia put up very good hammock hooks and we found a great hammock for our porch. We want to be more like that pineapple vendor from Panama.

How envious we would be to find out we worked so hard all our lives to be able to sit under a tree swinging on a hammock and these folks found out early just how much they needed to have a happy and content life…this is what we have searched for, he does not want to change nor does he need to change, his life is complete…ENOUGH of everything!

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Our idea of the perfect day is switching between the lounge chair and the hammock several times.

We (Joe and I) are not here to change these beautiful people, their culture or their way of living, we actually want to be more like them. Relaxed, enjoying their jobs instead of hating to come to work each day. Please don’t try to make our Ecuador what you left, because if it was such a wonderful place there, why are you here?

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Geni and Larry

This lovely couple is visiting the coast as part of their tour of Ecuador. Geni and Larry hail from Alabama and we met because they follow the blog. Also in the picture below is David the son of Libby Rush a friend from Atlanta area that recently moved to San Clemente.

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They are staying in San Jacinto and made the walk up to Meiers for a few Pilseners and pizza last evening. Our town pretty much closes up after dark and we found ourselves walking home in a light rain with no mototaxi to return them to San Jacinto. This is one of those times when a car would come in very handy.

Geni and Larry I hope you enjoy the balance of your time here in Ecuador.

Joe the Birthday Boy

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Like most celebrations this past few months, Joe and I tend to always go back to Viviana’s for all the right reasons. Sitting at a beachfront restaurant sipping a cold Pilsener is probably one of the most perfect things on earth to do at this stage of our lives. As you see by Joe’s smiling face he and I are in total agreement on this fact.

Next, the food. Perfection. Yesterdays birthday boys choice was Arroz Con Mixto. This is a rich brown rice packed with your choice of two fresh from the sea treats. Joe’s choice – shrimp and calamari. When he was given his plate Eva the chef had thrown in baby pulpo (octopus) as well. AND papas fritas.

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Now don’t say a word, Joe wanted french fries (papas fritas) but Eva said that she did not have any so he changed his order from Shrimp in Garlic Sauce with French Fries to the Arroz con mixto  dish. But when his plate was delivered Eva had found him the potatoes he wanted…a starch fest for sure. Joe did not complain.

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Viviana and her cousin were out walking on the beach and stopped by to say hello and brought Joe a piece of birthday cake. This was tres leches which is a very rich cake with three different types of cream added to make it even richer.

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Viviana and Joe sharing a hug. She is a lovely young woman, a great entrepreneur and has a wonderful family that is so supportive of her and the business.

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On our walk back down the beach, Joe had to show his cliff diving stance with the beautiful South Pacific sunset in the background.

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What a great way to celebrate a birthday….we need to do this every week. Oh I forgot we do make it our Sunday ritual to visit Viviana’s for a late lunch each week. How blessed are we?

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One last photo of last evenings sunset. Happy Birthday Joe may this year be filled with blessings beyond your wildest dreams!

Our 1st Christmas in San Clemente

Today a group of expats gathered at the home of Mary and Lou Defrain for a lovely Christmas feast hosted by Mary and John McDonald and Mary and Lou Defrain.  What a special affair it was.

When I spoke to my brother John and sister Linda in Pennsylvania this morning they had gotten a light coating of snow but it was bright and beautiful looking out onto my brother John’s patio, what did we ever do before SKYPE and an IPad.  Here we had the sun shining, the breeze was blowing off the ocean and the temperature was in the  80’s. Just perfect for an outdoor gathering.

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Upon our arrival Lou offered to make us a drink and then we would be on our own for the next. He had a beautiful bar set up with a great looking rum punch that looked to pack a heck of a punch, red and white wines, a selection of liquors and mixers of your choice. Out on the deck we found a huge trashcan filled with ice and beer…an ice cold Pilsener, that hit the spot for Joe and I.

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A beautiful platter of sliced salami and several different cheeses with crackers was set out to whet our appetites.

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Then we were invited into the house to find the entire counter filled with delectable treats. After a beautiful blessing over the food given by John McDonald we found a veritable feast including beautiful roasted turkey along side smoked tenderloin of pork. Let the feasting begin as you followed the counter to the end you found a variety of salads, my favorites were the broccoli and the linguine, well maybe you will need to fit in the cole-slaw and the quinoa OH I just can’t make up my mind, they were all fantastic.

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After most of us needed to unbutton that top button on our pants, well maybe that was just me, desserts were set out. Again, they looked fabulous and I did try a few, like the fruit kabobs, oh my, and the lemon squares…we sure do have some wonderful chefs here in San Clemente. This also was a very difficult decision because everything looked so wonderful and well I couldn’t fit too much more at that point.

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The conversations covered a multitude of topics and all seemed entertained just visiting with this eclectic group of people.

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It was a wonderful afternoon visiting with friends, meeting new friends and just having a great time.

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It is very difficult especially this time of year to be so far away from family, I want to take this opportunity to thank Mary and Lou and Mary and John for making all of us Expats feel like we were with family. Thank you for opening up your home and your hearts to give all the Expat community in San Clemente and San Jacinto a very Merry Christmas indeed. And Jackie – great picnic table!

Joe’s Exercise Program for Retired Expats Everywhere

We have become very fond of Pilsener, the local beer of Ecuador. This is not an extremely potent beer it is 4.2% alcohol but it is very refreshing on these hot days especially if stored in the freezer for 3o minutes before you pop the top. And of course it should be served in mugs that have been stored on the door of said freezer for several days to get the temperature of the glass and beer just perfect. And even better you should be seated under the trees on your property to truly enjoy this beer moment!

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Todays topic is purchasing Pilsener by the case in San Clemente. First hail the huge delivery truck, give him your empty case and hand him $9 for 12 – 22 oz bottles. He will, in turn, give you .05 cents back and grin like a fool. The next time you hear the truck approaching and your case is empty hail it again, tell the guy who was grinning like a fool the last time that you want two cases. He will take your empty case, leave you two full and charge you $24 for the filled bottles (this includes the deposit for the second 12 bottles and container). Next time we need beer I will give him two empty cases and he will charge me $17.90 that is a real deal for us and of course we do not need to haul this back from the store. About seventy-five cents for 22 ounces of pure pleasure……….

Joe has decided that this is part of his exercise program.  Moving the cases from the front porch into the kitchen and then packing the refrigerator.  I agree this is a very good Expat Exercise Regime!

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