Lat week I finally got around to buying a cell phone. I haven't really needed one until now so it wasn't high on my priority list. Then, in two days, I needed one twice. OK, I'll get one.
I was told to just go to any store that had a "Claro" sign and I could pruchase my phone and the minutes to put on it. The day after I realized it would have been very nice to have one I passed a store with the Claro sign and went in. It appeared to be just another tienda (little store) with fruits and vegetables, and an odd mix of assorted other little sundries. I didn't see a phone display, either, but I asked if she had phones for sale. She didn't speak more than a few words in English and I may be learning but it's not quite enough to manage a conversation. Nonetheless, I managed to get my needs across to her.
From under the counter she pulls out what appears to be a new phone and from her purse she brings out one that has definitely had some use. The new one was $80 and the used one was $20. If you know me at all, you know which one I chose. We covered the fact that it didn't have a charger but that I could get one from one of the electronics shops for $3.50. I pulled out my money and handed her two $10 bills.
When I got home and emptied out my pockets I realized I had given her two $20s not $10s. Crap! I'd just spent $40 on a $20 phone. I walked back up there and the store was closed. I took that as a not great sign. It's important to remember that stores frequently open and close based on a schedule that defies explanation. None of the stores I've seen have hours posted and there's a very good reason for that. They're open when they want to be.
The following day I was outside with my landlord and I told him about it. His response was, "Not to worry. This is Ecuador. She will give you your money." That still sounded a bit like Pollyanna but the following day I went back and she was open. She was just as charming as the day before when I had purchesed the phone (why shouldn't she be--she made an extra $20 the day before).
Through my limited Spanish and a fair amount of charades, I got it across that I have her two $20s instead of two $10s. She smiled and nodded her head and went to her little cash box and handed me a $20 bill.
OK, I'm now officially living in the South American version of Mayberry--and I like it.