Thursday, December 5, 2013

It Takes a Village To Find a Saucepan

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San Pedro, 3 December 2013

It’s been a hectic few days getting settled in and I’m hopeful that today will be more tranquilo. My apartment is in a two unit building across the road from the lake, which is a good thing given how the lake has risen since I left here in July. The view is somewhat obscured by the trees but I can see the tops of the volcanoes in the distance. When asked where I’m staying, I reply, “Out in the far suburbs,” which seems to tickle people. It’s a much further walk into town from here than where I stayed previously. It should take no time at all to lose those pounds I gained while I was home.

My neighbor and I share a large veranda that’s separated by large potted plants. Robert Frost was right on when he wrote, “Good fences make good neighbors.” In this particular instance the fences have been replaced by plants. My neighbor is a bit reclusive and on the few occasions I’ve seen him out on the veranda, I’ve waved and said hello. He’s waved back and then quickly retreats into his apartment without saying a word.

The apartment consists of bedroom, bath and an open concept living, dining and kitchen area, as they like to say on HGTV’s Househunters. While basically furnished, there were some basics that I judged to be missing, especially in the kitchen area. For example, a simple saucepan.

It Takes a Village

On Monday I scoured the town looking for a saucepan. I set out thinking that people do cook here, so that finding a pan should not be too difficult a task. I was woefully mistaken. In the end it literally did take a village to help me find my pan. When I couldn’t find one in any of the tiendas, I began asking every gringo that I know – which turned out to be more people than I thought I knew – until one of them said he thought he knew where he could find a pan for me. He asked me if I wanted a lid with it. I told him I’d settle for the pan and could improvise a lid with aluminum foil if necessary. I told Johnny that I would be at Gary’s house for lunch and by the time I got there my pan was waiting – a lovely red and black porcelain saucepan made in Romania. I was anxious to pay Johnny but didn’t see him until the next day. He told me that the man in the store had to dig deep to find the pan and that he had only one of them. I had told Johnny to get me two if it were possible. I never thought a saucepan could bring such satisfaction.

The Amazing Q3 Store

Nor coat hangers. There were only two coat hangers in the closet when I arrived here. I remembered from my last trip going to a plastics store near the mercado where my friend Jan had gotten hangers. It was a no go; they didn’t have any. Then, purely by accident, when I wasn’t looking for them, I spotted them in the Q3 store – the equivalent of the dollar store except about two-thirds less than a dollar. Okay. The 39 cent store. It’s amazing what you can find in there for 39 cents. Like hangers. Two to a pack. So I got four packs and need maybe one or two more.

Now Old Man Rhythm Is in my Shoes, Won't You Let Me Take You on a Sea Cruise?

Also missing from the kitchen was some sort of roasting pan or baking dish. Although I don’t foresee myself doing much roasting or baking in Barbie’s Dream House oven, nonetheless, I needed a pan in which to make my meatloaf, and for that I had to go to Panajachel yesterday.

I don’t know if the passengers of the Titanic had it any worse when the ship struck the iceberg. I’ve written in the past that one should never sit on the first bench in the lancha but go as far to the rear as possible. This is one time you don’t care about the view. But when only the first bench is available, there is no choice, and such was the case yesterday. As the boat skimmed over the water, I was rewarded with the spray rising up over the bow and open side. At one point, the captain stopped the boat and pulled out the dreaded blue tarp, which requires cooperation from everyone in the front of the boat to keep it in place. It wasn’t a pleasant experience at all; it was mostly wet.

The trip home was much dryer but bumpy. The lake gets choppy in the afternoon and it’s best to finish your business in Pana as early as possible. Again, fate consigned me to the first bench and, along with my fellow passengers on the bench, and the man sitting opposite in the bow, we bore the brunt of the thumping as the boat slapped the water. We rose up out of our seats and I was sure that the boat was going to break about. At the same time I was holding on to the side of the boat, I was also trying to hold on to my belongings, but there’s a small loaf of bread rolling around in that boat this morning.

Johnny of the saucepan told me about a second-hand store in Pana where I might find a pan. However, it was a no go there, too. So I made my way up to the mercado with high hopes. It’s a much larger market than here in San Pedro. I found a stall with pots and pans and in very bad Spanish, with lots of hand gesturing, what I asked for was a loaf pan. All the woman had were some round, very thin aluminum pans that I judged wouldn’t survive a match flame no less the heat of a gas oven. She did, however, direct me to a store where I had previously bought a can opener, another basic commodity that isn’t easy to find here.

Joy in a Baking Pan

Imagine my joy when the storekeeper pulled out from under the counter a small Pyrex baking dish. I told him – in very bad Spanish, again – that I had come from San Pedro in search of this very dish. He laughed and told me that he had whatever I would need for my kitchen. Not unless he has a toaster oven and a microwave under the counter.

The microwave I can live without, but Barbie’s Dream House oven doesn’t have a broiler. That’s where a toaster oven would come in handy. Whatever was I thinking? I knew that Guatemalan ovens don’t have broilers. Most broiling – or grilling – is done over a barbecue grill or on a stovetop grilling pan. So much for those thick, juicy steaks I got at Price Smart.

From the Pyrex pan store, which in reality is a hardware store, I made my way to the Dispensa, the “modern” supermarket owned by Walmart that I’ve written so much about in the past. It’s basically a Walmart Neighborhood Market without the selection. The challenge there, of course, is that I have to carry everything on my back and in my hands and on to a boat. So planning is essential since I don’t have the convenience of putting everything in the back of my car. I have to decide what I can and cannot get in San Pedro and act accordingly. Since I was starting from scratch, I left the Dispensa pretty well weighted down.

And, after all that shopping, Gary and I went out to dinner last night at Alfredo’s where I had an excellent and very authentic lasagna. Alfredo, the owner and the cook, is from Italy and he took care of us. Very well, I’d say.

Tonight I’ve invited Gary over for Happy Hour on the veranda and for meatloaf. So this morning I have to go to the mercado for some vegetables. Another major task today will be changing the agua pura bottle without spilling the water all over the floor.

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