Latest Adventure: Buying Furniture

Furniture shopping in Milwaukee was a pain due to the endless choices. When we were in the market for something, we could spend multiple days running around to furniture stores and department stores as we looked for the right piece and the best price. Matt and I are extremely decisive and hate shopping, so two weekends was about our limit. Furniture shopping on the Galapagos is the opposite: I ran around for the past month trying to find ANY furniture to buy. On Saturday, we committed to making it happen and finally were (mainly) successful.

Our apartment is a spacious one bedroom with an amazing patio that lends to the airy feel of the place.

It is above the doctor’s office/hyperbaric chamber (the doc who lives on site is our landlord), which is handy for telling people as street names aren’t often used here.

We rented it partially furnished; the main furnishings are included but few household items are. “Furnished” means some  patio furniture, a double bed (we thought it was going to be a king because that is what was in the apartment when we saw it, so I tri-fold the the king sheets we bought; one makes due on an island!), stove, refrigerator and microwave, kitchen table and chairs, and a sofa, wicker chaise and wicker chair. For a month we used action packers as our doorway table. In casual conversations with our landlord, I managed to finagle additional patio furniture and a computer desk (still working on a chair). But the living room furniture was abysmal. Matt referred to the sofa as an airport sofa, but it was actually less comfortable, disconcertingly grimy and unused.

As we have learned, it is best to bite the bullet and buy what we want to make life more comfortable sooner rather than later. We started asking around about furniture shops. “There’s one on Baltra past the bank,” Matt said one night. We headed over. “This?” It was a crowded shop with random items but there was a sofa and table and some dressers. “No, it can’t be this; she said it had a lot of good stuff. It must be closed.” After stalking the street for a few more days, I concluded that dingy shop was the place. I went in and asked if they had additional furniture or whether furniture could be ordered. The woman looked at me like I was crazy. Okay, I guess a furniture shop is anywhere that sells any random piece of furniture.

I continued to run down leads all over town, but never found what we wanted: a sofa, a cabinet for the doorway, some end tables. Or, I might see an okay sofa, but everything is sold as a set, so we couldn’t buy it unless we wanted the settee, two chairs and coffee table too. The coffee tables here are all small and out of proportion to the furniture. And they have glass tops. Matt still has the scar and PTSD from the exploding glass table in our Lima rental, so we were not interested those.

Exploding Table

Exploding Table

We did find one shop that had nice, handmade furniture, but it didn’t have the pieces we needed. We asked the woman whether we could have something specific made (at that time we thought we would have a cabinet made that would double as a doorway table and a bar for our glassware and limited booze supply). She seemed confused and kept pointing us to the items they had – a bookshelf or bedside table. Eventually she said we could bring in a drawing and dimensions, but we got the feeling that at the end of the day we would end up with either a bookshelf or bedside table. Ultimately we found this table at a different store and bought it on the spot.

Action Packer Replacement

Action Packer Replacement

The other option was to go to the “artisanal zone” and have furniture made. We asked questions: where is it, is there a person you recommend, do they have furniture ready to buy? The answers were vague and contradictory: someone would have a name, but we would never get it; someone else said they cater to the tourists but they have some furniture; another person would say the prices are expensive and it takes forever to get something made. We learned that we would need to have something made and then find an upholsterer to make the cushions for it.

Armed with this limited knowledge and the assurance that “any cabbie could take us there” we flagged down a cab late Saturday morning and asked to go to the artisanal area – where the carpenters are. The cabbie seemed to know what we meant and sure enough we headed out of town and turned down the road someone had pointed out to Matt. A few turns later, we stopped. “This guy does good work” our cabbie told us. We were parked on a dirt road in front of a gated lumberyard, complete with a chained, barking dog. What? Where are the shops, the wares, the storefronts? Our cabbie got out with us and called to the woman in the yard who sent out an older man. We chatted, explained that we wanted some furniture and then we all hopped back in the cab to head back to town where we understood the carpenter had a showroom. On the way back we drove through the rest of the “artisan area” – a cluster of probably 15-20 lumberyards and workshops scattered over a several block area, with no finished goods anywhere in sight.

Our cabbie (Angelo) and the carpenter (Rafael) chatted the entire way back to town. Matt and I sat in the back seat, ignored. Wondering what we had gotten ourselves into and sure that Rafael was Angelo’s uncle or other relation, we went with the flow. We ended up a few blocks from our house in front of a nondescript building. Rafael unlocked the gated and let us into the first level of a house where there were some lovely pieces of furniture. A few sofas, bedroom sets, tables etc. Matt and I had already decided on two chairs in addition to a sofa and we liked what Rafael had to offer. Next thing we knew, Angelo was helping us pick out our furniture, asking Rafael about finishes, explaining what we wanted etc. We  crossed a courtyard to the first floor of another house where there were some additional pieces. In the end we chose a sofa, two chairs, a coffee table (still small, but with a made-to-order wood top) and a small end table, which is a concept that does not appear to exist here.

More conversation ensued and we all hopped back into the cab to the upholsterer. We stopped here:



Rafael talked to a young guy, a kid really, and then we headed up an unfinished stairway to the work room, mindful of the edge the entire time. Rafael described the cushions we needed and asked what fabrics were available. There were some really hideous ones and a few that could work. To save time we wanted to choose something in stock and not wait for a cargo ship to bring some fabric. Once again, Angelo helped us choose our fabric. Where else does your cabbie pick out fabric with you? We selected one but I told them I didn’t think there was enough for all of the cushions (I’m no seamstress but it was pretty obvious even to me) and eventually the young guy conceded that was the case. More discussion and Angelo inquired whether they had a fabric that would coordinate. Go cabbie Angelo! We found one one from the limited options, placed our order and were assured it will be ready on Wednesday.

On the way to our house, we made arrangements with Angelo to pick us up at 5pm to go pick up the furniture (with the exception of the tables that Rafael needs to make for us). 5 came and went and no Angelo. I called him. ” I’m sorry, I’m busy now.” Okay, on to Plan B.  We walked over to Rafael’s store (thankfully Matt remembered where it is) where he and his wife were waiting. We apologized and explained that Angelo didn’t show up and Rafael says they can call someone for us to move the furniture. We talked more, established what we were taking and what he will make and then awkwardly kept waiting for the financial part of the transaction. Eventually we realized that they were politely waiting for us to do that part, because we had talked with Rafael about prices earlier, so we finally just said “okay, we want to pay do you want to pay here or in the other house” and got the deal done.

Rafael flagged down a cab for us and told the kid that he will be making two trips with our stuff. The kid looked reluctant, but helped load the furniture. Here is Matt taking the first load home.



All in all a successful day, even if the furniture looks somewhat like park benches until we get the cushions. Here is hoping they are ready on Wednesday. As an added bonus, our shipment from Peru is supposed to arrive this week, so we can finally get organized and settled.

Shop ‘Til You Drop

After three hectic days, we are finally relaxing on the couch watching TV. Yep, in our exciting new life we are watching 40 Year Old Virgin! We desperately need a mindless break after all the work and running around we’ve done. Some of the shopping highlights…

We did marathon shopping with (saint) Cruz on Wednesday. We spent hours at the mall, in the center city looking for deals (which we didn’t really find) and back to the mall. Ugh. Consider having virtually nothing in your house- no pots, pans, utensils, plates, glasses, coffee pot, tea kettle, rugs, toothbrush holders, toilet paper, cleaning supplies… you get the idea. Where do you begin? It is very overwhelming, to say the least.

Shopping here is just odd. What I would give for a Target! While most things are available, the selection is very limited. Take hangers – bet you didn’t think about buying those- and finding out there is one kind in all of Cajamarca, and they are just slightly bigger than a kid’s hanger. End of the world? No. Frustrating to spend $30 on a bunch of hangers that don’t really fit your clothes? Yes. Irritating to consider that we recycled/donated/threw out probably 200 hangers? You bet.

And then there are the things we can’t find – the elusive kitchen garbage can (for which the stores have bags), dish pan or kitchen rug. We finally found a dish pan, or close enough, today at a hole in the wall “hardware” store, which means we no longer have to wash dishes in a bucket! Still no luck on the rug or garbage can. By the time we were done shopping on Wednesday, every inch of Cruz’s Toyota Tercel was packed and we were all exhausted!

We got home around 5:30 and Matt and I set up the kitchen, our bedroom and one bathroom. We had brought one set of linens from home for our bedroom and bath and it was nice to have some of our own things in the house to make it feel more like ours. We took a break for a quick picnic dinner at our bar and finished up around 10:30.

Thursday felt like Christmas morning – we unpacked our luggage. Overall, we packed well; we have yet to find something we wished we didn’t bring, except maybe some clothes. (Less clothes and some hangers, next time!) While it feels like we have too many clothes here, we remind ourselves that this isn’t a vacation and we are living here now. I’m guessing that fact will sink in eventually!

We went back to the mall Thursday afternoon to do more shopping and to meet Cruz to set up my cell phone, direct tv and Internet. We shopped very efficiently this time and did so before we met Cruz as he had been patient enough the day before! Because we are currently on tourist visas, we are not able to buy any services. So Cruz has to enter into the contracts for us. We weren’t able to set up Internet because we need a utility bill to prove we possess the premises or something. The funny part is that the bills will be in the landlord’s name and not ours anyhow. So different from the US where you can walk in and buy anything. Once again, Cruz’s Toyota Tercel was filled when we were done.

Matt and I finished unpacking last night and celebrated at a local restaurant we ate at when we visited in April. Sinatra’s Fly Me To The Moon, our wedding song, was playing as we sat down and we considered it a good sign! We toasted with a Pisco Sour for me and a Chilcano de Pisco for Matt (note the flag!)

We still have some odds and ends to buy and eventually will get some bigger items we need, like furniture and rugs, but we are settled in. Thank goodness!

Note: As these posts are from my phone, I am limited when adding photos and the quality seems poor.