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Export from Chicago

A couple of weeks ago we wrote about some of the unique things that we see often in South America that we would love to bring back to Chicago. But there is plenty that we miss from Chicago that the cities and countries here could benefit from.

1. Pizza

Before we left we went on a tour of sorts. Visiting spots we love eating foods we didn’t think that we would be able to find during our trip. Lou Malnatis was on that list. I think that we ate there 4 or 5 times in the last couple of weeks just to make sure we had gotten our fix. But it was because we knew there wasn’t going to be any Lou’s down here, not because we wouldn’t be able to find pizza.

MMMmm. I miss you so damn much Lou’s.

Ideally we would import Lou’s down here. But, seriously, I would take any pizza.  For some reason the pizza, no matter where we are at – and we have had it at just about every stop, is bad. Sometimes awful. Sometimes it’s OK. But it is never really good. In Ecuador it was the cheese. In Southern Argentina it was the crust, in Buenos Aires it’s the lack of sauce. We are going to be all over a good pizza when we return.

2.  Street Signs

We began to put this list together before we arrived in BA, so let me be clear, BA has street signs.  However, the rest of the places that we have been…not so much. In the Galapagos we got lost the first couple of times we went out walking in Puerto Ayora.

This is a map of Puerto Ayora in the Galapagos. Most streets don’t have names, so they simply number them on the map. And none of the streets had a street sign.

Because there are no street signs the directions that you get are confusing, especially if you haven’t mastered the language. “Turn right and then left”  “The right turn will be obvious” I swear…none of the turns are obvious, a right and then a left have yet to put us in front of where we need to be. We have begun celebrating arriving at our destinations on the first try. And all of this could be avoided, I think, if they would do two things:

  1. Name their streets
  2. Add street signs

3.  People respecting lines – especially in airplanes

This gets under my skin a little bit. But it really messes with Lindsay. Bad.

For the most part it seems lines are very optional. We have been trained in America to respect lines. Cutting or manipulating a line could very easily result in confrontation. Not here. No one does or says anything. Not the other people, not the staff at the end of the line – no one. So I just go with the flow, wondering to myself what the point of the line is if anyone can ignore. Lindsay not so much.

Lindsay really comes to life on airplanes when it’s time to de-board. I give her credit, she spends more time than I would on making sure that we have good seats near the front of the plane specifically so that we can get off fast. That plan quickly goes to shit when the people from the back of the plane start pushing and shoving all the way to the front before the doors are open. Because Lindsay always wants the window seat she is usually left defenseless to get out into the aisle and play blocker. That’s where I come in.

Right after the bell rings I spring into action playing blocker from all of the people trying to push and shove their way off the plane.

When the “ding” sounds and we can take our seat belts off and grab our overheard bags I get up and immediately take a spot in the aisle. I get our bags and pretend to be oblivious to anyone trying to make it past me. This makes Lindsay happy.

But seriously, it doesn’t matter what line it is, people seem to ignore what I am familiar with as basic line etiquette.

4. Service at Restaurants

The service at restaurants in South America thus far resemble, in some ways, the attitude in Europe – where they welcome you to sit and stay as long as you want. Which is great, you don’t feel rushed to get in and get out. But sometimes the service was just plain strange.  This was most prevalent in Ecuador, and especially in the Galapagos Islands.

A few times Lindsay and I would sit down and order our meals. This is breakfast too by the way – eggs, maybe some granola and yogurt – if we were feeling it we would even order some type of breakfast meat. Simple food items, nothing special. After 10 minutes or so the first meal would come out (one time, not kidding we ordered the same exact meal). The person with the food in front of them would sit there..waiting for the other meal to come. 10 minutes…15 minutes would go by. WTF?? Haha. Then you ask the waitress and she has little reaction..just an “oh yeah, let me get that for you.” So we sat at the same table, but ate our food at two completely different times.

Another time in Cuenca (Ecuador again..) we sat as a group of six at a Mexican restaurant. We all ordered and the waitress brought meals for three people. About 20 minutes later we asked her if the food for the other three people were on the way. She was under the impression that we had already been served (by her??) -and put a rush on our food. It came out eventually, but this is kind of the norm here.

This probably sounds like some sort of bitch-fest, but it’s not mean to be. But there is one more thing I’d like to change with service – besides the lack of – is that when you order a drink or a bottle of wine in the very beginning of your meal the restaurants more times than not will wait until your food is ready and served to bring the drinks to your table. I like having the drinks brought sooner, so you can enjoy prior to getting to food. Here that doesn’t happen so much – so you need to really make sure you put plenty of time between drink and food order. And that sounds easier than it actually is.

Good service! 🙂


5. Free drinking water

We completely understand that clean & safe drinking water is not always available especially in some remote areas, like the Galapagos. However, in bigger cities such as Cuenca, Buenos Aires, Montevideo, etc. it would be nice to have a glass of water (free) served with your meal. We have yet to come across it. All places you must order a bottle of water, sin or con gas and you pay about $2-$3 each. Even in the nice restaurants we mentioned in our previous post about closed door dining. No water available without a charge. (One exception is when at a cafe they will serve you a small glass of sparkling water with your espresso.) Every time you sit down at a restaurant, an iced cold glass of water is the first thing you get. Or drinking tap water from your place of residence without worry and just having it available. We really miss it, and it’s something we often take for granted back home. It’s funny each night before we go to bed we make a special stop at the nearby tienda to stock up on big bottle or two so we have it in the morning. Along the same lines are public drinking fountains. They don’t exist here (or we have yet to see them), but it would be nice if they did. I am getting thirsty with all this ice cold water talk.

At the end of the day there is a lot of differences- some better back home, some better elsewhere. We love experiencing both sides because it reminds us to appreciate what we have, and at the same time challenges us to try something new & different.

And on an unrelated topic, we’ve added a bunch of pictures from Uruguay and Buenos Aires – check them out!

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