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...


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Barranquilla and the Iowa State Fair Need to Be Friends

I think the two of them would have a really great recipe exchange of greasy fried inventions.

Fried Plantain with the Works Click the picture to see it bigger.

This was a whole plantain smashed flat and fried, topped with tomato, onion, cheese, mayo, some sort of pink sauce and finished off with crushed potato chips. Dang was it tasty. Can't be good for you. And luckily I was sleeping alone, cuz that was a LOT of onions.

The drink behind it is a soda they call Kola. It's red and VERY VERY sweet... I personally found it a bit amusing that G's dad warned me not to eat too many fresh pineapple chunks because they were so sweet, when they drink this stuff almost every day. We also have fresh fruit juice pretty much every day at lunch - the fruit chunks are blended with water and sugar to taste. So it seems like the plain fresh fruit would be the most healthy, but whatevers!

Last night we went out for another fast food dish that I think could go over well at the State Fair, if they don't have something like it already. It's called mazorca desgranada and it's basically corn OFF the cob on a little plate and then it's topped with tasty things - mine had mayo, cheese and crushed potato chips. They seem to like to put crushed potato chips on everything here, they do it for hot dogs too. I tried to get juice, but they were out of juice. So then I tried to get orange soda but they were out of orange soda. All they had was Kola.

(Anyone heard Weird Al's song Albuquerque? (the part I'm talking about is about 5 minutes in, and if you're not a fan of dumb cartoon violence, skip it! hehe)
I said "You got any cinnamon rolls?"
He said "No, we're outta cinnamon rolls"
I said "You got any apple fritters?"
He said "No, we're outta apple fritters"
I said "You got any bear claws?"
He said "Wait a minute, I'll go check"
"No, we're outta bear claws"
I said "Well, in that case - in that case, what do you have?"
He says "All I got right now is this box of one dozen starving, crazed weasels"
I said "OK, I'll take that")

I'm thinkin' Barranquilla might dig walking tacos... (and I think it would be easy for a veg like me to substitute beans for the ground beef)

After dinner we took a walk around the park across the street. Funny I'd been here a month and a half and never gone and then two nights in a row I take a walk around the park. I'd gone the night before with G's aunt. She took me out to eat another tasty fried thing - I think it was called maribuñuelo? but in any case it was a buñuelo that I think was made with yucca and had cheese inside. Washed down with Kola of course. :-) (I just did a quick Google search and didn't fine maribuñuelo, but it appears that in much of the rest of the Spanish speaking world buñuelos are sweet - like donuts... there's that donut connection again...)

I need to load up some pictures of the baby shower from Saturday. More soon! I can't believe I only have 2 weeks left here!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Son Diferentes!

(Just realizing a few things might not be clear- Both G's sister and his mom are named Madeline (well I think technically one is Madelina and the other Madeline), but they are both Made for short and in this post I'm referring to his mom. Paola or Pao is his other sister, and Luifer is short for Luis Fernando, her husband)

Last night I packed up all my paper crafting supplies and lugged them up the 5 flights to Paola's apartment. (That makes it sound like she's in the same building... we drove there first!) We made lots of little things for Lucy's baby shower, cutting out these sweet little poem things with my fancy edged scissors and punching out shapes in the scrap paper for confetti. We also made little stand up gift tag sized cards with embossed baby stamps to scatter around the tables for decoration. We also tied pink and purple bows on to diaper pins. We were able to do all this because V's room was open for Made and Manuel to watch Pura Sangre, their favorite telenovella. I learned fairly early on that no matter where we are or who we are visiting, we have to leave at about quarter to nine so we can get back in time for it! Poor Manuel was starting to look fairly miserable at about ten minutes to nine, as I'm sure he didn't want to interrupt but really wanted to see his show, and his daughter had to convince him that no, REALLY, he would NOT be kicking his grandson out of his bedroom, the boys actually DO all sleep in the same room at night because it's the one with the air conditioning. So that bought us a whole hour more to craft. :-)

Luifer made us little personal pizzas for dinner. Made had made me a little personal pizza the night before. So of course Luifer several times tried to get me to tell him: "Which one is better!!???" To which I always tactfully replied, "Son diferentes!" (They're different!) Both had onions, tomato and cheese. His had more tomato sauce, green peppers and it was on white bread, and Made's didn't really have sauce at all I think, and it had zucchini and stuff. Both were tasty! It was also the 4th time in 5 days I'd had pizza! We went out with the kids on Saturday, on Sunday there was a mix-up with our order of vegetable rice that we brought to the beach house - it turned out to be chicken - so I had a granola bar at the moment and then we stopped for pizza on the way home. Monday night wasn't pizza but then Tuesday and Wednesday were. Whoo hoo! Good thing I LOVE pizza!

So crafting and pizza, it was a fun night. Then to top it all off, I had a big breakthrough Skype (instant messenger) conversation about Spanish with G when I got home, which I will share with you below. The lessons he's referring to are is my Rocket Spanish grammar book that I finally printed out, after years of only ever listening to the mp3's.

G: have you studied from the lessons?

h: yep I did a few today

G: oh nice

h: it's really helpful

G: cool
G: learning a lot?

h: I told my mom that I recommended she read it around the same time as doing the lessons
h: because I think it would have helped me more

G: ah

h: it's ok, I wouldn't have known

G: yeah

h: and now it's kind of just re-enforcing things that I've learned here in the past weeks

G: that's true

h: that now when I read "this is a word they use all the time in Spanish"

G: ohh right

h: I am able to say "oh yeah, that's right, I DO hear it all the time"

G: recognize words

h: whereas if I'd done it before coming here, I would think "what? I've never heard that word before! You must be joking!"

G: oooff

h: and it's also repeating a few times how one shouldn't expect that there would be a word for word translation of everything.

G: oh yeah

h: which I'm finally starting to understand that concept on more than just an intellectual level
h: it was a pretty hard one for me to accept!!!

G: somethings cant be translated
G: oooff

h: although I think I knew it intuitively a little somehow
h: that there was something "different" about Spanish besides just the words
h: more about the way the ideas are used

G: huh

h: I'm still kind of figuring it out...

G: yeah, by being there

h: but now that I know it's true I think I can accept and absorb it better

G: helps to understand that

h: rather than resist it and keep searching for the exact translation'

G: por fin!! (finally)

h: because I think before I thought that the reason i didn't understand was because I didn't have the vocabulary

G: haha

h: but now I'm seeing that I was resisting the "meaning", or trying to understand why the literal translation was so "strange"

G: yeah

h: like, hrmm... trying to think of an example...
h: like, everything here is "que lindo!!"

G: yeah

h: which is like, "how pretty" literally, right?

G: yup

h: but it's used for EVERYTHING

G: yeap

h: and I wouldn't use that in English all the time

G: in a sarcastic way too

h: sure
h: or like, here, it's seems that people use "suavecito" when food is really tasty.
h: which is like "smooth" right?

G: yup

h: and I would NEVER say in English "man, this pizza crust is soooo smooth!"
h: that would sound so strange!

G: hahaha

h: so anyway that concept of learning the meaning, rather than the translation is a really good one to comprehend

G: yeah, and you gain that in full immersion

h: right
h: and I've been beating myself up because I understand the meanings of things, but I can't translate, and I can't USE the words myself. but now I'm thinking that understanding the meaning is just an important first step

G: yup
G: very good
G: like "me voy"
(I go/I'm going, but no necessarily right at this moment)

h: big breakthrough (whew)

G: (applause)

I also had a conversation with G's mom, while doing the above mentioned lessons, about how words are different in different countries or even regions of the same country. I was saying how my mom and I have the same problem, where we listened to the mp3 lessons and thought, "ok, I've GOT THIS! I'm so ready to go to a Spanish speaking country!" But then, right away in the first conversations you have, they say (in Spanish of course) "What's up?" or "What's been happening?" or any other of 5 or more greetings I don't understand, instead of the "How are you?" that we learned from the lesson. I've learned that smiling and saying "Bien" is pretty much always an appropriate response. :-D Made told me that there's a different word for "boy" in lots of countries, I explained to her about the whole "pop/soda/coke" thing, and how if I tell the cashier I don't want a "bag" they put my groceries in a plastic bag, but if I tell them I don't want a "sack" they give my one box of cereal to me un-bagged. And the British/US differences: boot/trunk, jumper/sweater.

It's a lot to take in, but I think it's going to make the learning a little easier!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Have Washing Machine, Will Travel

In the last few years a plethora of mototaxis has exploded onto the traffic scene here in Barranquilla, because I sure don't remember them the first time I came.
Moto Taxi
Look closely, there are three people on that bike - there's a kid in the middle.

They are kind of maniacs on the streets - people already don't really follow the traffic rules and the motos zip in and out of the cars, regular and pickup truck taxis and the kings of the road, the busses. Besides people, they also transport all sorts of stuff, tires, groceries and huge stacked and bungee-corded crates of lord knows what. A couple nights ago I saw pizza delivery motos with a big metal hot box permanently attached to the back for carrying the pizza boxes. A day or two before that I saw one with what looked like a washing machine strapped to the back.

Yesterday I found out that it WAS in all likelihood, indeed a washing machine.

I've been doing an exchange a few times a week with Mirna, a sweet lady who is studying for her TOEFL test and can't afford English lessons, but heard about me through one of her friend's who is an English professor at Universidad Del Norte. It's been good because it's just one on one, and she's been helping me with the basic stuff that I need to fill in the blanks between what I learned before I came and the advanced intermediate stuff they were teaching during my immersion course. Yesterday we were talking about cultural differences between here and the US. She's a nurse and a teacher, and she has been to Atlanta before, hoping to get a job but didn't pass the TOEFL the first time. She's really intrigued by the whole idea of freelance and working from home, and wants to know why there were so many nail salons and why they are staffed by Korean men. Here there are much fewer and it's all Colombian women. They even come to your house so you don't have to out.

There's actually quite a lot here you can call into your house, including laundry machines! You can rent one for a few hours, or a whole day, depending on how much laundry you have to do. And they bring them to you on the back of a mototaxi! Apparently it's a very good business, as they don't really have laundromats here! And I guess the mototaxis are helping reduce the carbon footprint a bit, as does sharing a washing machine. Still blows my mind though.

If there's a Korean nail salon in every strip mall in Atlanta, there's someone on every corner and at every stoplight in Barranquilla trying to sell phone cards. Most people, if not all, have more of a pay-as-you-go format for the phones as opposed to a monthly plan. I think some of those places might also offer by-the-minute use of a phone to call pretty much anywhere, but not entirely sure about that.

The other thing on pretty much every corner and plenty of places in-between are little fruit stands. They maybe have a few different kinds of fruit, or some of them make fresh juice. I don't really understand though, how they make a living. It looks like a lot of sitting around in the shade, which is great, but even the one guy who was really pushy and came right up to our car window sold us a huge bunch of little bananas for about $1! I guess at the end of the day they've got their fruit to eat, and if they were able to sell enough to buy some rice or beans to supplement the fruit they are probably doing ok food-wise at least.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Wow, That Went By Fast...

So my official immersion course at the University over. The three weeks sure went by fast!
Profesoras y Companeros

On our last day we had a couple hours of grammar-ish type things and then we had a little celebration where they gave us certificates of completion and crepes with ice cream inside.
Crepes con Helado

And then we went to the zoo.

It feels a little like I'm 6 years old or something. Which is maybe appropriate considering the level at which I can speak by now. But with a bit of a sophisticated, grown-up twist. Kind of like ice cream crepes.

I've still got about 3 weeks real life immersion on my Grand Colombia Adventure left though. Time to practice, read, relax, maybe see a few city sights or even another city? Who knows? Calling it an Adventure is maybe not quite the right label, because I'm pretty content to just take it easy, mellow out and rest up for whatever awaits me when I go home. And mellow is something they know how to do well here!

Yesterday we took Made to the airport. Having her gone also means I'm more on my own for speaking, which is good for learning. (She speaks English very well and helped us out several times for translating things.) In any case she made it safe to Medallin and is doing well. The airport scene was emotional though, everyone cried, including me.

And her parents have been a bit weepy off and on for the past few days. I guess I'm softening the blow of the empty nest syndrome, but that also means it's going to be really hard for them when *I* leave. eeps.

That's far enough away that I haven't given it serious thought, what I'm going to do when I go home. The worst of winter should be over by then, although April has been know to have a freak snowstorm or two in the past. I don't have that utter dread I had last time I was here in November and I knew I was going back to work. I do have an at least part-time thing to do when I get back, and I'm thinking if I can handle it financially I'd like to keep it that way, because there are lots of other things I'd love to do, like volunteer a little for the radio station, and also for the community garden where we've been getting our vegetables for the past couple years. And if I do the gardening thing, we won't have to pay cash for the veggies, which would be great. I also want to get more involved in music - creating it, improving my skills - vocal, compositional and playing, promoting and supporting independents, etc. And I'll need to keep up with my Spanish so I don't lose it. That's a pretty full life right there!

I've also been instructed by most of my relatives here to produce a baby granddaughter with blue eyes. Bit of a tall, though not impossible, order methinks. My other sister-in-law's husband tells me (with a twinkle in his eye) that the correct answer to the people who say things like that is "We're working REALLY hard on that." They've already done their grandchildren-ly duty with three beautiful little brown-eyed boys, thus the pressure is on me for a blue-eyed girl. I can't remember the whole genetics thing, but G's mom's side has a bunch of blue and green-eyed Scottish Campbell blood, so I think it might be possible. heh heh.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Driving through El Centro

El Centro is the historic center of Barranquilla. Once beautiful and elegant, it's now overrun with vendors, but apparently you can get pretty much anything you want for very cheap! There are lots of plans in the works for restoring the district to more of its original beauty. You can hear my teacher in the background explaining things to us as we go.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Another Mini City Tour

Fishing on the River
Originally uploaded by hum97

On Friday we had another mini city tour, this time with our culture teacher. (Last week was with the grammar teacher) First we went to an area of Barranquilla called Las Flores, lots and lots of little fish restaurants since it's right on the river. It was EXTREMELY windy. I had an blended iced lemonade, which I promptly spilled down my front when I tipped the cup towards me while using the straw. I hate that :P But I seem to do it often. Which is why, much as I hate to use the plastic, I generally try to get a top for things whenever possible...

Administracion de la Aduana
Originally uploaded by hum97

Next we stopped by La Aduana - the old Customs building. It's a beautiful place that now has a big library, a little art gallery (that had an exhibit of abstracted Carnaval themes, I wish now I'd taken some pictures...) and also lots of offices. Next to La Aduana is a the first train station in Colombia, and also an old Train Engine. I'd been there before but this time there was a guide, and it was fun to actually understand a lot of what he was talking about (not just the words but the concepts) because we'd been learning about a lot of them in class already.

El Centro
Originally uploaded by hum97

Finally we drove through El Centro - the historic central part of Barranquilla. It's busy and bustling but also a very poor area. They call the residential parts "Barrios de invasion" - Neighborhoods of invasion - where poor people come in the night and just quickly build a living structure and then over time as they come across things materials etc, they slowly build up cement walls and such until they have a proper house and the city pretty much has no choice but to give them a paper saying "ok, this is officially your house". Seems like kind of a weird concept, but I guess that's how it used to be really in other countries too...

Click on any of the pictures to go to my flickr site for more photos from the tour day.

Friday, February 29, 2008


In this country with plenty of tropical fruits, I haven't eaten many so far on this trip. So the other day I went to the new sit-down-with-waiters-cafe at the U and ordered a fruit salad - Ensalada de fruta.

The cafe is in the same building as the internet cafe and other multimedia fun stuff to do. While I was waiting for my fruit salad I looked up to see this sign:


The next message that flashed across made it clear that there was a new service to rent laptops from the internet cafe, and not that you'd be able to have your way with a human lap for a few hours. Whew!

So then I got my fruit salad. It consisted mostly of apples, strawberries, cantaloupe and a few bits of mango.

I have an apple tree in my backyard at home...


Anyways, it also came with a super tasty yogurt/honey dressing. And it WAS really nice to have some fruit. And I WAS really proud that I did the whole thing by myself, from ordering to paying the check. Which was honestly all of 3 or 4 sentences, but hey I got it!

The next day I bought myself a highlighter marker from the bookstore. Also by myself. And this was even harder, because I didn't know the word for highlighter, so I had to try and explain it.

First of all I was just looking at all the pens in the cases, so he probably knew I was looking for some kind of pen, and when he asked if he could help me I said "no se la palabra en espanol pero es un marquiador(?) para (and then I made the gesture of using it) un parto de texto"

"Marcador?" he corrected me.

"Si" I said, repeating my highlighting gesture.

He brought me to the place where they were (the one display case I hadn't looked in yet) and took one out and showed how it worked and I said "Eso!" and then "Cuanto cuesta?" (That! How much?).

"En este color?" I don't know if the other colors were different prices, but the yellow one was something like $1.50. I bought it. I didn't even give him a ridiculously large bill just to make sure it was enough, because I understood how many pesos he said.

I actually can't remember if I said parto or parte or parta for "part of the text". G informs me that if I said parto that means birth, whoops! Whatever I said, the clerk figured it out anyway, and the point is I was really proud of myself to go all alone to a store where they don't speak english and get something I want, even in my stumbling way. In classes our professors know English and can help out if we get really stuck, but in the stores it's different.

It sounds a little silly, but stuff like that makes me feel a little more comfortable, knowing that I could probably stumble my way through a lot of situations. Which is good. Because in the past G (or someone, or my CD lessons) would give me some little script for going through a common situation. But the problem is, if the other person "goes off the script" I would be totally, utterly lost. And why would they stay on the script in real life, especially if they didn't even know there was one? Now that I know enough Spanish to improvise a little, it's a lot less scary to think about wandering out into the world, or what might happen if I ever got lost. Not that I'd really have much desire or chance to go wandering, but now I don't have to be so terrified of it.

Grammar classes are still kicking my ass. I can't remember if I wrote earlier that I had a mini breakdown in class the first week where I ended up crying because the teacher asked me to provide an example of a sentence in the imperfect subjunctive form, and I had no idea, not one clue of how to start. Hearing that pretty much all my in-laws and some of the professors at the U don't know much about the subjunctive either made me feel less stupid. With all this grammar stuff, I never learned it in English, so learning at totally new concept in a second language is pretty hard. And I didn't need to learn much grammar in English to write and speak well, so I'm letting myself off the hook a little, which, no surprise, actually makes some of the Spanish grammar easier to learn, because I'm not stressing about it as much. And while it would be nice to speak without sounding like a 6 year old, even at my level, I CAN communicate quite a lot, which is what I'm most interested in - communicating.

And then there's stuff like "Rent-A-Lap", and I just know that everything is going to be fine.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

My Mind Finds Answers While I Sleep

(A poem-ish expression of sorts relating to my experiences in the twice weekly "Club de Conversacion". Half the time we talk in English and half the time we talk in Spanish so everyone can practice the language they are learning. We meet with a new group every time, so the questions they ask are pretty much always the similar getting-to-know-you type ones.)

My mind finds answers while I sleep
and I wake up the next morning
knowing how to reply to the questions the brown-eyed boys and the bronze-skinned girls asked me the day before
But Lord only knows if I'll ever see them again, and by that time they won't care
If they even did at the moment they asked me

Do you like my city? Do you like the food? Why did you come? What do you think of the people? Why are you learning Spanish? What was your impression of my country before you came here? What do you think about your president? Do you like it cold or hot?

It's a test of sorts I think
to see if they can accept this outsider
I hope, I think I pass

Your city is very different from my little town, but I love it. I'm vegetarian. ("ahhhh!" they all exclaim in a mixture of understanding, wonder and incredulousness) but I love your patacones, arepas y arroz con coco. I came because my husband was born here and I want to learn his language. The people are AMAZING - happy, relaxed, with huge generous hearts and you know how to have fun. I want to be able to speak to my in-laws and my future children. Before I came here all I knew was this was the country of coffee and drugs, and I thought you ate tacos and salsa like Mexicans, but know I know differently. (I don't tell them I *hate* to talk about politics, but I do make a disgusted and embarrassed face at the sound of my president's name.) The ice and snow is pretty to look at but horrible to drive in, and I hate putting on and taking off all the cold weather clothes, so whenever I feel a little hot here I remember how cold it is back home right now and I'm happy.

My questions feel foolish and simple - Do you have siblings? What are you studying? Do you like English? Have you lived here your whole life? What do you do for fun? Do you have pets?

Many of them are studying things I don't understand, like mechanical engineering, and they are only taking English because it's required. Only a few have ever left their country and they know places like Miami and New York. For fun it's usually dancing, movies, TV or sometimes the internet. Siblings and pets vary, as to be expected, but most don't have more than 3 brothers and sisters. Sometimes I think they look embarrassed to admit they haven't traveled and they don't really like to study English much, but that could just be my interpretation.

It's hard, but little by little the answers and questions come out of my mouth easier.

I can't remember their names (there is always at least one Jose), but now when I walk through the campus, there are a few more faces I recognize. And some of them meet my glance and smile or wave, and those are the ones that let me know, at least for them, I passed the test.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

This is Where I Go to School

This is Where I Go to School
Originally uploaded by hum97
Pretty, no? I can't even imagine how cold and snowy it is back home, it's like a completely different reality. There are flowers, flowering trees, palm trees and apparently iguanas all over campus, though I've yet to see an iguana. :-)

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Me In Front of Una Frutera

Me In Front of Una Frutera
Originally uploaded by hum97
For the second half of classes on Fridays we have cultural activities. This Friday we took a mini City Tour and our Professora treated us to Tuti Fruti, a big cup of tasty juicy fruit salad. That would be why I'm so happy. :D

This frutera is across the street from the church where Luis Javier and Magaly got married, and the people running it were very friendly and happy to answer all our questions.

Friday, February 22, 2008

"Eso es!! Eso es!!"

I'm giving you my half of a instant messenger conversation I had with G on Wednesday. His responses were things like "wow, cool, that's great." :)

OH! Today was DANCE!
Me encanta mi profesora de danza.

oof, she's sooo funny!

young and very energetic, she reminds me a tiny bit of Jenna and Lucia

when we were dancing and doing it right she would say "Eso es!! Eso es!!"

and when we started doing something too "gringo", like moving our shoulders or flinging around our legs, she would give us a LOOK, and be like "ah ah aahhh!"

and she was trying to teach us the rythmns

today we did salsa, merenge and REGGAETON!

and she would mix them around and say "que ritmo (?) es?"

and if we got it wrong she would make a sad face and kind of collapse like 'oh, I failed at teaching!'

soo funny

and other times when we were doing a good job she would say something about "why am I here? you already know how to dance!"

she was asking me how I dance with you reggaeton (sp?) and I told her you didn't like it

and she said her husband (boyfriend? I forget) was the same way

and she also asked me if you would get grouchy if I went out dancing with her and the other students in a club
and I said I didn't think so

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

"I Would Say Van Gogh is Emo"

Probably the best thing I heard all day. In conversation club. Totally made my day, so true.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Oh Man...

So classes officially started today. There's only 4 of us and I've definitely had the least formal training of all of them. Luckily 2 are from the states, so when one of us doesn't get something, another one is likely to be able to help them out. The other girl is from China! She studied Spanish for 2 years there and has been here for several months, maybe 7 or 9 already, so she speaks and writes very well! The one guy is from Florida and has been studying for 14 years through school but says he still can't speak it, but he did really well, and he has more chances of hearing Spanish spoken in Florida than I do in Iowa. The girl from Louisiana's mother is from Barranquilla, so she's been coming here for the summers pretty much her whole life. She speaks really well but says her grammar is bad.

And then there's me, who magically tested intermediate by being a good guesser, a good test taker, and I really do understand quite a lot if the person speaks slowly but more importantly clearly. I have to keep reminding myself that I'm not stupid, just not as experienced, and that I have the capacity to get to where they are if I apply myself. With only 4 in the program this time, there's not a lower level that I can go join, but at the same time, it's better that there's so few. If I was this far behind in a class of 20, I'd probably be super lost for sure.

And, one of the periods on our schedule is dance! Twice a week for an hour! At least I'll probably get a chance to rest my brain a little then, and move my body, which will be fabulous.

Oh, on a totally happy note, I'm super proud of my radio show I sent in for this week! All women from Colombia! 100.1 FM in Fairfield, online. Tuesday morning at 9 AM CST. If you hear it let me know what you think!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

That's a Freakin Lot of Flowers!

That's a Freakin Lot of Flowers!
Originally uploaded by hum97
I don't think any of us, G, his mom, and certainly not me, were expecting my Valentine's present to be this big. I thought I was going to be lucky to get a couple flowers. I think G gave his mom a price he would have spent on me at home and she got what she could with that. She said it looked smaller in the picture.

The thing is roses are cheap because they grow them here, plus it's not Valentine's day in Colombia, so they prices aren't jacked up either. But oh my sheesh, I've never in my life gotten anything so big. I think there are 25 roses... And the heart is the perfect size for hugging - cuz I also didn't realize how much I would miss G, even after just one week. Thank the heavens for the internet and video chats!!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Geography Lesson

Geography Lesson

For those of you who have no idea where I am, Barranquilla is there with the green arrow. Once you get to Miami it's only about a 2 hours and 20 minute flight, and it's in the same time zone as the East Coast in the US.

It's fairly hot and humid year round - think Iowa summer, but with a lots of big breezes coming in off the ocean to keep things pretty bearable.

Oh, and see how far away it is from Mexico? It's a totally different country, totally different food. I've yet to be served hot salsa or any spicy dish, though I HAVE had a lot of rice and beans. And I hear the food from the coast is different from the food from the mountains. Just like we have Chicago style and New York style pizza, and the culture in the US is different from the UK, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, etc. Of course there are many similarities between the English speaking countries and the Spanish speaking countries, but thinking that all food south of Texas is tacos is both a huge and common mistake.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

My New Favorite Word: Rompecabezas

So, just like in English when you learn a new vocabulary word and suddenly start seeing it everywhere, I've been running into words over and over here in Barranquilla as well. Some of them are pretty common and I'm still trying to get the meaning properly fixed in my head - like vuelta, which literally means to turn; circuit; bend; curve; reverse, but they usually use the phrase "hacer unas vueltas" which the closest concept I can figure in English is to "do errands", but it's a little more all inclusive than just practical stuff, because during the vuelta you could also have lunch or visit friends for example, and I wouldn't categorize that under errands...

The other word that I'm finally starting to get is bastante. It means enough or a lot, and they use it A LOT. Seems fairly easy, but the problem is I got it stuck in my head that it means "already", based on the contexts I heard it in. Now I when I hear it I have to stop and think "it means a lot" and then re-hear the sentence in my mind and that way it's slowly getting re-trained.

One thing we couldn't find in my little dictionary at all was the word for basil. It came up because they brought me to a a vegetarian restaurant that had a pesto-like sauce on some gluten but it didn't have any basil in it. Cilantro, and parsley I think... but by the time you get the garlic and olive oil and some green leaves, it tastes pretty similar. Since it wasn't in the dictionary I tried explaining it, small green leaves, an herb, you can use it dry or fresh, and I must have gotten much of the point across because we went through we went through oregano, parsley, spinach, cilantro, etc. Finally when we got to a computer G's sister looked up basil on Google images, and we asked G over instant messenger and he said he'd had to look it up when he got to the states: Albahaca. Whew!

The other time Google images saved the day was with the food "yama". Which they described as a hard, orange vegetable. It was chopped up in rice, and I thought it was a yam, because it was the same color. So I was asking them if it was like a potato, and they said no no. That WAS in the dictionary - pumpkin, and they also finally they showed me a piece of it raw, and it really was like a pumpkin!!! But I still wanted to show them MY yam, so they'd know I wasn't crazy. So google images to the rescue!

Ah, but we still haven't gotten to my new favorite word - Rompecabezas! It means "puzzle". I saw it first on a book of puzzle games, and then on G's sister's facebook, she has a photo of her family that is broken up into little puzzle pieces you can put back together. And finally, I was researching female Colombian pop and folk singers for my radio show, and remembered there had been a Colombian girl named Melany Moloney who befriended me on MySpace a few months back. (Well, I remembered her name started with M, and then I looked her up. ;-) ) Guess what the name of her CD is? Rompecabezas! She explains: "I named the CD ROMPECABEZAS, because in Spanish the name constitutes the two words ROMPIENDO CABEZAS (translation - breaking heads) and I feel that this is the statement I am making with this multicultural CD". And that is part of why the word delights me, because I knew "cabeza" meant head, and the "rompe" part makes it sound like it's having a romp through your head. So it's a fun word to say and it gives me a visual that makes me giggle.

Melany has an Australian father and a Colombian mother, and her album (It's listed simply as Melany Moloney #1 on iTunes) has a diverse blend of rhythms and instruments - from rock to traditional Colombian instruments, and some of her songs on it have a few words in English. It definitely is a mix of cultures, and that concept echos to my experiences here so far.

It's interesting to think about communication in general. Another thing I hear A LOT is "entendiste?" - "do you understand?". And honestly that is a hard question to answer. Sometimes I DO completely and fully understand. Sometimes I don't catch any of the words at all, but more of the time, I get the essence of what is being said - I know we're going to have dinner when Made's boyfriend gets back, I know we're going to the school to find out why my classes have been postponed till next week, etc. But I couldn't repeat it back to you, or know what each and every word actually means - yet...

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Bailando en la Fiesta de Cumpleaños (or "Everybody is happy!")

These people know how to party! Last night I went out with G's parents to a joint birthday party of some of their friends. There was a live Papayera band and everything! It's too bad, when I uploaded the video it lost some detail, so it's hard to see the band, but that tuba player seemed to know when I was taping him because he'd dance around a lot more while he was playing if he thought he was on camera, at least you can see the glint of the instrument dancing around:

It was funny, they'd play about 4 or 5 songs, put their instruments back in the cases, sit down, drink some whiskey or something, and then after about 15 minutes get up and do it again. I really thought they were leaving several times, but looking back it makes sense that they'd protect their stuff in the cases during the breaks. I guess I'm just used to a rock band playing 2 longer sets and leaving everything set up on stage on stands and such during their break.

The Band
Papayera: a brass band with additional percussion instruments, characteristic of the towns of Colombia's Atlantic coastal region, that plays various types of dance music.(

I wasn't sure how I'd feel at the party, but it turned out I ended up dancing A LOT! Whoo hoo! That ear to ear grin on my face was fairly frequent throughout the whole night.

Once Again, Pink and Happy

One couple co-hosting the party lives in NYC and were down for his sister's birthdays, and they helped out a few times when we got really stuck on a word or two. Of course everyone is curious about me, what I'm doing, how long I'm staying, if I like it here. They love it when I dance, laugh when I shake my shoulders and marvel at my rhythm, which I guess is pretty good for a gringa, because I got lots of thumbs up and "Very good!"s

In the frequent conversations comparing the US and Barranquilla one thing describing the people here that stuck in my mind was, "Everybody is happy!"

I sure am. I woke up super happy and energized, and yet in a relaxed and lazy way where I was content to spend the day bumming around doing nothing much, uploading vids, chatting with G and A. I guess I've been needing this...

Friday, February 08, 2008

My Translator!

My Translator!
Originally uploaded by hum97
This is Kathy, Gilberto's cousin, and one of my "translators" here. Hooray! Isn't she gorgeous? She doesn't seem to sweat, like so many of the girls here... What's up with that? heh heh. Cuz me on the other hand, bright pink, crazy hair, but HAPPY.

Driving through Barranquilla

Just a little clip from the drive today - lots of taxis, lots of motorcycles, flowering trees, roadside stands, square buildings...

My Class Is In The Paper!

Today Gilberto's dad showed me an article from the paper that talked about the class I'm going to take starting Monday.

Español para extranjeros

La Universidad del Norte abre la convocatoria para quienes desean ingresar al programa ‘Español para extranjeros’, que iniciará el próximo lunes y se extenderá hasta el 29 de este mes. El Instituto de Idiomas de Uninorte ha liderado este programa durante los últimos nueve años, en el que han participado alrededor de 250 estudiantes extranjeros. El curso incluye cinco horas diarias de clase, recorridos por las principales empresas de Barranquilla y actividades extracurriculares como visitas a sitios de interés en Cartagena y Santa Marta.
(from the bottom of this page)

I can't really translate word for word, but it basically says that the University Del Norte is holding a class called 'Spanish for Outsiders', starting on Monday and going to the 29th of the month. The Language Institute of the university started the program last year and had 250 exchange students. The course includes 5 hours of lessons, teaches about/trips to the major businesses in Barranquilla and has field trips to sites of interest in Cartagena and Santa Marta (nearby cities).

Ok, let's see how I did, here's the Google Translator version, which isn't quite right either, but works:
The University of North opens the call for those wishing to enter the program "Spanish for Foreigners', which will begin next Monday and will be extended until 29 this month. The Institute of Languages Uninorte has led this program during the past nine years, which have involved about 250 students. The course includes five hours a day of class, travelled by major corporations in Barranquilla and extracurricular activities such as visits to sites of interest in Cartagena and Santa Marta.

Not too shabby, but it does make the point where I often miss a word or two that makes a big difference in the meaning. In this case, the biggest mistake I made was mistake nueve (nine) for nuevo (new), so I thought they started the program last year when really they've been doing it for nine. HA! That's good though, that they've been doing the program for a while now.

Carro de Mula

Carro de Mula
Originally uploaded by hum97
These guys roam the streets with a cart full of fruits and veggies, calling out their prices over a megaphone. Apparently I do a good imitation (it's rather nasal). :)

When I hear them I know I'm back here.

Today was a lazy morning, and then I went to the University with G's cousin Kathy. She's super sweet, knows English and goes to the University too, so she gave me a mini tour.

I'm not sure I understood the full story, but it seems that there are several people who want to take the Spanish class but aren't in the city yet and haven't taken the placement test, so they don't know quite how they are going to schedule things. I'm supposed to find out more tomorrow.

Speaking of not understanding quite the full story, on the plane to Barranquilla there was some thing about a guy who had a problem with his Visa and so everyone had to get off the plane with our carry on luggage for about 15 minutes while a team of uniformed people went and searched for something. I didn't quite understand what the problem was, but it didn't seem too serious, no one was panicking, just annoyed. :)

I also feel really bad because one of the things I "sacrificed" in order to fit stuff into my suitcases was a huge nerf gun toy for G's nephew. I said I'd be happy to pay to send it in exchange for being able to bring more of my stuff. But apparently he'd been told it was coming, and was really disappointed today when it wasn't here. I forgot just how exciting things are as a kid, and the look on his face made my stuff seem less important. He'll still get it, but it'll take a couple weeks... boo. What's frustrating is, I can explain "mail present because no room in suitcase" but I can't explain like "I really wanted all my stuff because it makes me feel comfortable and more at home and it will be fun for me on my vacation, and I feel really bad about not bringing the present." etc

I went out for pizza tonight with G sister, cousin and their boyfriends. Fun times, tasty!

Alright, it's rather late, I should sleep!

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Cafe de Juan Valdez

Cafe de Juan Valdez
Originally uploaded by hum97
I don't usually drink coffee on planes because I'm usually trying to keep hydrated, but I couldn't pass this up in the Juan Valdez cup. :) (also see "The Challenge" where I only got 2 hours of sleep the night before)

I Made It

From the Window
Originally uploaded by hum97
Despite the snow and cancelled flights to Memphis (tornadoes) and therefore VERY close connections, I made it to my flight on Avianca and I am here in Colombia, happy, relaxed, warm, and very tired...

The Challenge

The Challenge
Originally uploaded by hum97
How to fit all this stuff into 2 big suitcases and 2 carry ons... or how to decide what not to bring... This is also why I only got about 2 hours of sleep last night.

Click through to see this on Flickr with all the notes...

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

It's Really Happening!

Whoa. It's crazy to me to think that back in October I had this idea I thought was a little crazy, and now it's HAPPENING!! In just one week I am going to Barranquilla for two months!!

I guess it was in November that we discovered G's university has an intensive 3 week immersion program from 8:30 - 1:30, Monday - Friday, starting February 11th! The next one isn't till July or something. So I'll study hard for my first 3 weeks and then spend a month just practicing and being in the culture, as well as relaxing and recovering from the last few months of work.

It was pretty rough closing down our offices here, I have to admit. I've still been on board part-time this January, training my replacements by phone and computer from home. It worked out pretty well to still have a bit of money coming in for the month, but not try to start a new job before leaving the country for 2 months. Working part-time has really let me see just how much energy full-time takes out of me. I've started cooking again and have been getting little things done around the house like unpack a few boxes that have been sitting there since we moved in 1 1/2 years ago! I'm going to see what kind of a balance I can keep when I get back between having fewer hours of work but still bringing in enough income to do all the things like music lessons and whatnot that make me happy.

But for right now, my whole focus is to get ready for the trip!! I already have a bunch of my clothes packed, I got a travel guitar for Christmas, G is staying here so I don't have to worry too much about who will take care of stuff around the house while I'm gone. (I'm the one who makes more of the messes anyway. *blush*)

It feels like the biggest decision I need to make is whether or not to suspend my cell service while I'm gone. I think it'll save us some money to do it, but that also means NO VOICEMAIL. So anyone calling in will get a frustrating "This number is temporarily disconnected" message. I'm thinking that most people who call me also know me well enough that they've got my email, but I'm still a bit paranoid about anything else. ergh. Still have time to decide...