Warning, what follows is a drawn out account of a simple trip to the grocery store. If you were looking for tales of derring-do on the high seas, you might want to try www.tales_of_derring-do_on_the_high_seas.com instead. You've been warned.
Since I decided to stay at Costa Baja another day, I decided it would be a good day to go grocery shopping. So I made up a list. I knew I wanted some lettuce and tomatoes for salad but that's about all I knew of for sure. So I started thinking about what I wanted to eat. Largely due to the influence of Reid and Soanya (1000days.net), I decided I wanted to make rice and beans. Looked up a couple recipes on the internet and decided to get some dried beans for future use and some canned ones for immediate use. Also some onions, more garlic, and, if I could find it, a couple cans of chili.
I caught the 12:10 shuttle a Marina Costa Baja. This was one of his long runs that he makes out to the Soriana Market three times a day. Since he goes right by the Chedraui supermercado I asked Omero (our driver), "¿Puedo bajar cerca de Chedraui?" He assured me that yes, I could get off near Chedraui. Further, as we drove along, we talked a little. He knows possibly less English than I do Spanish but we managed to make ourselves understood. The upshot was that he told me that as long as I could be out in front of Chedraui at 1:20, he could give me a ride back as well. This is not a regular stop so he was really doing me a favor.
Omero dropped me off and I headed in. I dropped my pack off at the bus station-type lockers, grabbed a second cart (since a señora had snagged the cart I left sitting while I was stashing my pack) and got to work. First stop: produce department.
At about 29¢(US) per pound, I just can't pass up fresh pineapples. So, even though it wasn't on the list, I grabbed one. Next some tomatoes, a head of lettuce, garlic, a few onions... At this point, for some reason I reached down for my wallet. Maybe I was going to check that I had enough cash on hand before I got carried away. Whatever the reason, I reached down and MY WALLET WASN'T THERE! WTF? Amazingly, my first reaction wasn't "somene kyped my wallet". Matter of fact, that thought never entered my mind. Within just a few seconds I remembered that I had left my wallet on the boat. See, sometimes when I go up to take a shower, I like to leave my wallet on the boat just so it's not just sitting there in my pants pocket with my pants hanging outside the shower out of my sight. And, this is not a Mexico thing. I've always felt this way ever since we started using public showers. Anyway, the wallet was safely stashed on the boat where no one could get it. Well crappage! So I start putting everything back, retrieve my pack and head for the door. Needless to say, I was at my rendezvous spot with plenty of time to spare.
When Omero picked me up, I related my sad story. He took me back out to Costa Baja and told me that, if I got back to the shuttle stop in 20 minutes he'd take me back to Chedraui. I wasn't sure how that was going to work for him since his next run was not one of his long Soriana runs, but I said "OK". I hurried down to the boat, grabbed my money and headed back up.
While I waited for Omero's return I started loking at the schedule to see how he was going to do this. Chedraui is way out of the way if he's not going to Soriana and he has a schedule to keep. But then I saw it. This was the run that included his lunch break. he was going to drop me off on his way home for lunch. However, we had to stop by the downtown bus depot first to check for passengers. The bus depot is the normal drop-off and pick-up spot for folks going to or coming from Costa Baja. Unfortunately, there were about 4 or 5 people who expected a ride back out to CB. If there weren't, Omero gets a regular lunch break, but if there are people there, he as to take them back to CB before breaking for lunch. Mind you, his lunch break isn't extended to cover this, he just has to eat faster. And, now there was no way he could take me back to the store. I'd have to walk or catch a taxi. He did tell me to be sitting on the corner outside Chedraui at 1:45 if I wanted a ride back. I agreed and we parted ways.
I started walking the store. We do this all the time. But it is a very long ways away and I didn't really have all that much time to spare if I wanted a ride back, which, since my pack would be full and heavy, I definitely did. I passed up the first couple of taxis due primarily to my innate cheapitude but finally I asked a driver how much to Chedraui.
"Cincuenta" (50 pesos)
"Viente" (20 pesos)
"Cuarenta. No mas barato. (40 pesos, no cheaper)
Fishing into my pocket I pull out change that amounts to about 36 pesos and a couple of centavos. I hold it out.
"Is this close enough?"
He looks at it and says "Sí" and off we go.
Arriving at Chedraui, I repeat the first three sentences of paragraph 3 above. Now it's time to look for some ham hocks to flavor the beans I'm going to make. Buying meat here is an adventure as it usually isn't cuts we're familiar with. Also, seems like everything is packaged in, what to me seem like very small units. Anyway, I'm looking for ham hocks and not really finding what I need. I finally find something that sort of has that bony/fatty/slightly meaty look that ham hocks have. It's called "manitas de cerdo". Not ringing any bells but I figure, what the heck, it's just for flavoring and the price was right at about US85¢ a pound, so I grabbed a package. Okay, now to find some canned beans and canned chili. You know how in the US the canned beans cover huge long expanses of shelf space? The biggest difficulty is deciding which, among the multitude of choices (ranch style, Boston baked, BBQ, light red kidney, dark red kidney, made with molasses, original recipe, etc, etc, etc) to buy. Well, not so in Mexico. At least not so at the Chedraui on Abasolo in La Paz. The canned bean section took up about 3' of shelf space, maybe 3 shelves high. And the section didn't just include beans. I didn't see any chili although I did see "chili beans" which are definitely NOT the same thing. I found a large (maybe 20 oz. or so) can of red kidney beans and grabbed it. However, when I ran the numbers through my calculator, they looked a bit expensive. So I ran the can under one of those bar code scanners and it turned out the price that I was looking at was for something else. I WISH it had been for the beans! That stupid 20 oz. can was going to cost the equivalent of over US$5.00! NO FREAKIN' WAY was I going to pay five bucks for something that should have been about 50¢. So, i headed over to the huge dried bean section and grabbed a 1.1 lb bag of black beans (US$0.63) and a 2.2 lb. bag of pinto beans (US$1.04). Believe I'll just fire up the pressure cooker and save myself a ton of money. And eat better to boot. When in Mexico....
When Omero dropped me off back at the boat, I told him that we'd be leaving Costa Baja tomorrow. Not La Paz, just Costa Baja. Then I handed him an envelope containing a tip to cover our entire month's stay. We haven't tipped him once since we've been here and he never seemed to expect it or treat us any differently as a result. I shook his hand and thanked him for his friendly service. He assured me that if he ever sees us out walking to Chedraui or Soriana, he'd always stop and give us a ride, "no problem".
Back at the boat, I unpacked and stowed the groceries, cut up the pineapple ala Lulu and got ready to start soaking the beans. But first I really should check the propane level in our only tank (at least until Jay and Judy on s/v Wind Raven get here with our spare that we bought to replace the one that was ripped off). Guess what. No, the tank isn't empty but if I plan to have coffee and breakfast in the morning, I won't be cooking any beans tonight. Or anything else for that matter. Oh well, I polished off half of that pineapple while I was writing this.
Oh, and I looked up "manitas" in the dictionary. All I found was "handyman" or "hands". Huh? Hey, wait a freaking minute. Now I can see it. Manitas de cerdo are pigs' feet (looks like they're specifically the front feet or maybe just from a small pig) that have been run through a bandsaw lengthwise so they're about 5/8" thick. I also saw pigs' feet that I recognized that had been run through the saw crossways and were thicker, maybe an inch. So, manitas de cerdo would translate very loosely as "small pig's feet" I guess. Whatever. They'll season up the beans quite nicely.