Thursday, November 18, 2010

Enjoying Medallin!

Just a quick note to say I'm here in Colombia once again for another visit! My first time to Medallin and they have been keeping me busy with lots of sight-seeing!

Here's a taste of what I've seen so far:

More to come, but I better get some sleep. The plan tomorrow is to get up early and go to the gym! Eek! :)

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Blogging from the Road

Internets.  In the Car.
Our rental car company offered an in car modem, that's also portable for hotels and whatnot, any place you can plug it in to a socket for power. It was $11 per day, one dollar less than getting a GPS, we can both use it at the same time, and we already used my laptop to Google the directions to Narcobollo, the Colombian restaurant that is a sister to the original one in Barranquilla that I visited with my profesora on one of our culture activity afternoons. We ate arroz con coco, tajadas, bollo limpio y bollo de mazorca, remolacha, suero, arepa con juevo, jugo de tamarindo y agua panel and got one more of each bollo to go. It was pretty close to the airport, but we got a little lost on the way.


Then we Googled directions to my Grandparent's house, and used Skype to call them and tell them we'll be late.


Empty Seat Beside Me

Flight was fine, had a seat to myself for half of it and listed to my iPod, took pictures of clouds and wrote down verbs I want to understand better. They seem to use the same word to mean a lot of things...


I would write more, but my laptop battery sucks, so signing off for now. Just had to write while we were on the road. :D

Corazon Partido

Woke up around 5:30 this morning and couldn't go back to sleep. This time I actually did cry, big, shuddering, quiet sobs, for the sadness of leaving this beautiful family. They have a togetherness I envy, and I'm sure many of my friends would envy as well. It's a state of mind more than just a physical presence, and it's a family bigger than just the immediate blood relatives. Quite beautiful and hard for me to describe more at the moment...

I had so many fears coming here - that I'd feel bored or lonely, that I'd get sick, that they'd get tired of me, but it was all for naught. I've felt so welcomed, supported, taken care of and happy here. It was a true break that I so needed to refresh and recharge, and I've learned so much more than just a language.

And while my Spanish isn't fluent, it's much much much better, and I've found myself in the last few days speaking whole sentences without pausing to think. Not sure how correct those sentences were, but that was the moment I kept hoping would happen. Hooray! Now I just need to continue when I get home!

I'll be happy to see my husband and family again after 2 months, even if they did go by quickly - my heart is just broken that Barranquilla and Iowa are so far apart.

(ok, I admit I got bored a few times, but that was when I did self portrait sessions, hahahaha)

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Chiva! (Big Fat Party Bus)

Uh, that's my translation, not necessarily the literal one. :)

Me with the Chiva

What an adventure last night - we got seats on a Chiva - which is basically a big party bus with a little live 3 or 4 piece band, that drives from bar to bar and lets everyone off to dance for an hour or so and then move on to the next place. We went to 4 bars in one night, and thank they lord they weren't smokey, and two of them were right on the beach!

I Freaking Love This Picture

We also took A LOT of pictures, if you go to my flickr set you can see that I was pretty insanely happy for most of the night. And that's with only one sip of rum, just to see what it tasted like (pretty much like all alcohol tastes to me - like burning! :D ).

Last Time Getting On the Chiva

Part of the deal was, beer on the first stop, rum on the second, little empanada snacks on the third, and at the end of the last stop there was a little dinner of steak, potatoes and salad (I think my ticket was cheaper because I only ate the cheese empanada things)

Final Bar, on the Beach

Yeah, I'm not really ready to go home yet.

Earlier in the day I was standing next to a stand full of traditional Colombian sweets, and G's mom and her cousin were "arguing" about which were the best ones to get for another cousin who is going back to his house in the states, and how much of each, and Vivi (the daughter of the cousin) was buying sweets too and asked me if I wanted anything. I grinned and pointed to the big coconut clusters I had my eye on (and had been ready to buy one myself after the other transactions were finished). G's mom asked why I hadn't asked for one before and Vivi said something about how I was her buddy and gave me a big kiss on the cheek. And I stood there with the sweet taste of coconut on my tongue, feeling welcomed and taken care of, drinking in the tropical colors and trees, listening to the "Negra" (it's not an insult here, it's even a term of endearment. They also call people "Gordo" (fat) affectionately.) packing up the sweets saying things like "Honey, help me out with this. Sister, hold this for me."


Then a little band set up on the corner and started to play, and as their harmonies melted together my full heart spilled over the brim and I almost, almost cried for the sadness of leaving this place, these people in just a few days.

It doesn't seem fair that it's so far away, and that even if I had the money to come here often, that traveling puts such a strain on the planet.

And lest any of you fear of my staying here forever, I'm quite clear that I've been on vacation, and if I DID want to stay long term I'd have to get a job and that would change the dynamic completely. The time off has done me good though. A few people have even commented that it looks like I've lost weight. I don't have a scale, and my clothes don't feel all that different that I notice, but it seems like I've been eating less, so I guess I'll find out when I get home. But it makes sense that it could be something, because an emotional weight has been lifted off my shoulders for these two months, and I haven't been doing the stress eating I used to do in the office. I hope that some of the things I've learned about how to relax and take it easy will stay with me when I go home, because I've been so happy here.

Saturday, March 29, 2008


A beautiful and coquettish traditional Colombian dance demonstration that was part of an evening of music and videos about traditional music and dance from various regions. This was just one couple, apparently during the Bambucos festival there are tons of gorgeous dresses and everyone dances barefoot and it's spectacular! (That seems to be a favorite adjective around here.)

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


Sunset, Santa Marta

Holy Week is a BIG BIG deal in this very Catholic country. A lot of people get the whole week off work. Pretty much everyone gets at least Thursday through Monday. (I think...) It has all been one big vacation for me, so I didn't notice too much of a change in my daily schedule, except we went out to the beach a couple times.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

In Which I Prepare Lunch

To preface, I have barely lifted a finger to cook my whole two months here. They have a cousin who comes to help cook and clean about 3 times per week, and I think also G's mom likes to make me food, it's like, fulfilling her purpose or something. Because I've made myself some pasta with ketchup about 2 or 3 times when they were out late and I was hungry, but the last time I was starting the water to boil and they came home and she was like "oh, no no, I bought stuff to make little pizzas, please, let me serve you!" I think especially since her youngest just moved out a few weeks ago she really does like to take care of me.

Sometime last week, G's dad declared that I would cook breakfast, lunch and dinner for the final two days of my stay, that his sister would come for lunch, and that I should prepare a list so we can go grocery shopping the weekend before. I told them I knew how to cook many things, but I was afraid they wouldn't like them. They said not to worry, they would eat anything and it didn't matter if there wasn't any meat, they would be fine. So I agreed, and we went on to have a discussion about the differences in breakfast foods between here and the US. (US tends to favor sweet flavors for the mornings) But it turns out I ended up cooking lunch today.

The story really begins early last evening.

VM, my nephew, was warming up some food in the microwave for the cranky parrot. Unfortunately he miscalculated the time or pressed the wrong buttons or something because it was for way too long and the little plastic food dish and all its contents got seriously shriveled up and the whole apartment smelled horrible. (and the kitchen continued to smell bad even into the morning).

G's mom is pretty allergic to lots of things and very sensitive, not to mention she was the one in the kitchen scrubbing the microwave trying to clean out the smell. Her eyes and nose got really irritated and she was sneezing most of the night. She took an allergy pill but it didn't help. (I'm not really surprised since I think it was more of a chemical irritant than allergic one).

We all woke up pretty late this morning and the poor dear was still feeling pretty wretched and stumbled to the kitchen to make breakfast, but was really only able to prepare coffee with milk and came to my room to apologize that it was just going to be bread and butter for breakfast, even though she had wanted to make other things, and we could try to have an early lunch. I told her not to worry and she went to lie down. After I ate my bread and butter I went to her room and told her that if she needed any help with the food to tell me, and she said that a little later we could see what was left in the kitchen because there wasn't too much.

So after a bit she got up and showed me that there was pasta and a mix to make cream sauce and there was a little bag of mixed asian veggies plus fresh ones and some frozen beans in the freezer. So I made pasta with cream sauce and a few veggies, some other veggies and white beans, and I made some little triangle toast type things out of a flat bread they had that I fried in a little olive oil with garlic powder and salt. I also mixed up a pitcher of raspberry juice out of a bag of frozen pulp and added some sugar.

G's dad came in once to check on me and said it smelled good, and helped me find some lids to the pots. The water didn't really ever get to that rolling boil I'm used to for the pasta unless I kept it covered, so it was actually the last thing I finished, and I set the table while it was cooking, remembering the napkins, (which is kind of a running joke because they ALWAYS forget the napkins) and then served up three plates and said "Listo!" (ready)

G's dad said something about how now they get to see how I cook, and I said I was nervous. But it turned out they liked it! G's mom loved the little breads and wanted me to teach her how to make them. I told her it was super easy, and then how to do it. G's dad declared that next week when I cooked for the they would also invite his sister AND his dad, who would be so amazed that the entire meal didn't have any meat. Then he went on to ask his wife if maybe they should even invite her cousin who they hang out with all the time, and I think also his daughter and her family for the weekend. He asked if I knew how to make soups and when I said yes he said he imagined that G liked them. He also teased that perhaps he would lock me in my room so they could keep me and I should tell G to come here instead, and wasn't it such a pleasant surprise that I knew how to cook. G's mom said she already knew because G and I had made something nice the last time we came, and she asked if anyone wanted the last piece of toast.

She also tried to do the dishes but I wouldn't let her, although I did let her put away the clean ones since I didn't know where they went. She thanked me again, said again that it was really tasty and went to lie down. So I hope she got to have some good rest.

Oh, also, the cranky parrot liked the pasta. He seems to eat anything, but he really likes mango peels and scrambled eggs. He was eyeing me rather woefully as I put the leftover pasta in the fridge, so I gave him a few strands and he started gobbling. I also broke up a saltine and put it in the dish, but he yanked out a couple of the bits that were covering up the pasta and tossed them on the floor like "Screw the crackers! More pasta!" so I got him big forkful and tore it up into smaller strands for easier eating.

All in all I think it was a very successful meal! Now I need to figure out a few menu options for next week, in case I can't find some of the ingredients for the dishes I'm thinking of preparing.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Water in Bags, Gloves on Hands

Water in a Bag

Some of the stuff we don't have back at home doesn't really surprise me too much - like the fruit stands and street vendors. Some stuff though, I never would have thought of, like all the things they sell in bags - water, milk, jam, ketchup, mayo, soda. Sometimes it's like - "I'll have a liter of soda/juice in a big plastic bag please!" and they fill up a bag like you'd use at the grocery store for veggies or bulk items, tie a knot in the top and there you go, empty it into a pitcher when you get home!

And then last night, we went to quite possibly the best restaurant EVER. Well, best in terms of my amusement value. We were driving home from visiting some friends of the family and G's mom asked me what I wanted to eat for dinner. I said, as I do at home quite often when asked the same question, "food". She laughed and started listing off different options. I jumped on "potatoes" because they were something I hadn't had in a while, and she said something about "oh wait, darn, we don't have (something something)" and I said, "french fries?" (something I hadn't had since I've been here) and at that moment we were driving by a little fast food chicken place called something like Pikoriko.

G's mom dashed into the grocery store across the street while his dad and nephew VM and I went in. It was very similar to a McD's or any other fast food place, plastic seating, tile floors, white walls with huge pictures of menu items, and a little net covered play place for kids with a bunch of climbing tubes and a ball pit. VM immediately started playing on the play thing, and we sat down and a girl came and brought us menus, which was so weird to me in a fast food place. And then my Father in Law asks what they have that's vegetarian and the girl is like, uhhh, nothing? (Which doesn't surprise me) But we find the french fries and order some of those. It seems like maybe they fry each batch to order, because it takes a while, and they come on a REAL ceramic plate with the little chicken logo, not paper!

Then G's mom comes and they order their chicken and some plantain thing for me, and some juice for me and soda for them. VM, busy "dunking" the plastic balls in the basketball hoop in the playplace says he doesn't want anything. Then the chicken comes and the girl says they don't have any of the plantain things, so they order me another plate of fries, and VM comes and starts eating mine and so they order ANOTHER plate of fries and I have some of his when they come. (Also F-I-L steals some of the fries from the first plate, which I wouldn't mind except it's my ENTIRE DINNER but luckily with the 3 plates, I had plenty so I needn't have worried.)

But anyway when they girl brings out the chicken, it comes with PLASTIC GLOVES that they put on to eat it! (like the kind I'm used to seeing food service people use to make your food) And that cracked me up SO HARD. I only laughed a little on the outside and I told them I'd never seen anything like it but I was silently lauging inside for like 10 minutes at least, every time I saw the ceramic plates and the plastic gloves. Now honestly, as a vegetarian, this could be something that they do all the time in the states and I just don't know, but I DID ask at least one non-veg friend and she said that whenever she goes out for messy chicken they just bring out a bucket of napkins. I guess it's a bit more more efficient in a way, one pair of gloves vs. tons of napkins? But it looks darn silly. :-D

And they do seem to use paper napkins a lot for other things - like to hold their sandwiches or pizza or little fried things. Sort of preventative to getting your hands dirty? I'm used to getting the hands dirty and then using the napkin AFTER to clean them, and having the napkin wrapped around whatever I'm trying to eat seems like an invitation to a mouthful of paper. But maybe that's just cuz I haven't learned how to maneuver it properly.

Going to the beach again today! Although I'm a wee bit confused because I thought they said we were leaving around 8:30 or 9, but it's 9 right now and G's mom just got up and is cooking something, possibly breakfast, possibly my lunch. Everyone else gets fish on the beach, but after my bad experience with probably the beach salad the last time I came here, that doesn't leave me with much to eat, so when we went out on Wednesday she made me pasta and fried up some deditos. (Deditos = "little fingers" =mini croissant type things with cheese inside). I probably woke up around 7:30 and didn't hear anyone out and about so I stayed in bed until I started freaking out because I don't have a clock in my room, and a little after 8 I got up and checked some emails, accepted a few new MySpace friends and started this blog at about 8:30.

Anyway, my beach bag is mostly still packed from Wednesday, so I don't have much to do, but I think I will go take a quick shower so my skin starts off clean before all the sunscreen I'm going to be slathering on it...