Colombia 2011

I’m not sure if it’s because I’m a sentimental person, or if it’s cause I watched the Real World finale today (yes, I watch that crap), or if it’s cause I have ovaries, but today I am missing Colombia. It’s the morning after I returned home {at the time of writing} and, yes, I have the post vacation blues. I get this often when I come back from a trip as I remember the fun times, the people I was with, and all of the little minute memories that my detailed brain recalls.

I was in Colombia for a week. I traveled down there with Joey and we were joined from the US by Scott, Christina, Alejandro and Amalia. And once down there, we were surrounded by Juan and Lala’s friends and family. Tons of them. All of them special.

The driving was crazy, as a two way street would quickly turn into a one way street, as cars would decide when and what they wanted to do. Two lane streets, would quickly become 4 lane streets, and cars would be swerving to avoid other cars and potholes.

Apparently I am much more fluent in Spanish when I have been drinking. Good to know.

I ate odd food such as pig intestines, pork belly, and crazy looking fruits. I was also sick to my stomach for a few days. I am not saying those last two sentences are related, because I did love the food.

Nearly everyone has a maid. It was awesome to come down the stairs and be offered breakfast, and to go back up the stairs and our beds were made, sheets were changed, and everything tidy and in the closets. I could get use to that sort of lifestyle.

I will take with me a lot of memories from this trip. But the most memorable will be all of the great people I was able to see, hang out with, visit with, catch up with, spend time with and especially laugh with. Laughter was omnipresent.

I have had a Colombian flag hanging in my apartment for the last few years. It always held meaning for me, in that it reminded me of my friendship with Juan. But now it holds more meaning, as my heart has further attached itself to the beautiful country it represents

Some recollections… {editor’s note: I probably should have broken this up into individual posts, but when I started, I didn’t think I was going to do nearly a day to day journal. Its even TLDR for me.}

Arrival

According to Joey, Supermodels work in customs in Bogota. Unfortunately for me, I got the guy that didn’t understand English. Eventually after calling his coworker over, he figured out that I was there for pleasure, and not business. Upon exiting the airport, there were droves of people, crowding, and holding signs and shouting for their loved ones arrivals. I felt like I was on the red carpet, as they were crowding the barrier. Our plane had arrived early, but fortunately we saw Juan nearly immediately.

Bogota Beer Company (Wednesday May 25, 2011)

Bogota Beer CompanyWe left the airport in Mauro’s car, waded thru traffic, picked up Alejandro and walked to the Bogota Beer Company. It was odd entering the bar, having to raise our arms, and be metal wanded. Though, I felt safer because they did. We enjoyed some really delicious appetizers and beer and it was a good welcome to South America.

Gaira Café (Thursday May 26, 2011)

Grammy winner Carlos Vives owns a restaurant, that is located within his mother’s old house. It is a place of live music, and good food and we had reservations. Our driver was late, and therefore we were late to the restaurant. Upon calling the restaurant, they said that if we were there one minute past our reservation, then they would give our table away. We pulled up 15 minutes late, and there was a crowd outside trying to get in. Fortunately we were still able to get in.

FritangaOnce in we ordered a crazy platter of appetizer type samplers (fritanga), and a few bottles of rum. The restaurant was in eating mode. But an hour later, it became theater mode as the workers acted out some sort of story. Shortly after it became concert mode, as a band was on stage playing live music. Shortly after that, it became dance hall, as more musicians were on stage, and everyone was dancing on and around the tables.

I tried all of the different food items, the chicharron, the empanadas, the chunchullo, and everything else on the fritanga platter. Apparently I got liquored up (I do like rum), and didn’t want to leave when it was time to leave. I kept asking for “10 more minutes.” Which became a running joke for the trip as people would not stop giving me crap about it. Of course, I merely laughed it off.

Museums (Friday May 27, 2011)

ArtifactWe visited two museums as well as drove around the city. Driving here is crazy, as I already mentioned. We went to the museum of gold and the Fernando Botero museum. The gold museum was basically a history of Colombia, with all of its old artifacts and descriptions.

The Botero museum holds a collection of Botero’s own paintings, as well as some of his private collection of pieces that included Monet and Picasso. Botero had a unique style that looked almost cartoon like. Most characters were quite large, quite nude, and often there was either a reflection or a little detail poking its way into the background.

LechonaAfter the museums, we had a delicious lunch at Habemus Papa. Ceviche, Empanaditas del pacifico, wine, and with a main dish of lechona.

A quick stroll down the street led us to Conosur, a cone eatery. Everything is served in cones, from ice cream, to crab.

And an odd story to cap this day. I had some night terrors, which in-turn, terrorized Joey who was in the same room. In my sleep, apparently I was shouting “Help Me, Get Away, Help me.” A little bit later, I thought I saw something in the room (I was half asleep), and I started panicking, scrambling, and shouting “Help Me!” again. This time, I shook Joey’s leg and had him turn on a light. It was really odd. I used a night light the rest of the night, cause I’m a little boy.

Wedding (Saturday May 28, 2011)

MatrimonioI expected an evening that ran as late as 4, 5 or even 6am. So I was surprised that this party concluded, and I was back home by 11pm. Although I was exhausted like it was 6am.

We were scheduled to leave with the bride from the house around 10am, so we couldn’t be late. She looked stunning as she came down the stairs in her dress. She rolled to the wedding in style, in an old Bentley. All of the American gringos rode in a separate car, through the rain, and through traffic for an hour and forty-five minutes. Upon arrival to the club, the church was packed, and it was standing room only outside under a tarp. The wedding started shortly thereafter.

After the wedding, the reception was just down the sidewalk at the main building of the club. There were two floors. When you walked in the top floor, everyone was looking over the balcony. You’d have figured that below were the bride and groom. But nope, it was the location of the television screen showing the Barcelona vs. Manchester United Champions League final game (Barca won 3-1).

cupcakeThe reception was a lot of fun. There was a mariacchi band that Juan had surprised Lala with, and there were multiple other bands. All sorts of latin music that was fun to try and dance to. At one time I had to try to resort to my small swing dancing knowledge to try and blend in. Pero, soy torpe. Good food, fun fellowship, and of course the flowing drinks – as they would come around with glasses of scotch and vodka all night.

Juan kept buying extra hour upon extra hour of the band, eventually the party was over. There were promises of an after after after party, but they didn’t occur for us.

I received a ride home from Juan Sr. (Juan’s dad), along with Juan’s step-mom, and his uncle. She made me laugh the whole way home.

Andrés Carne de Res (Sunday May 29, 2011)

No GunsWe headed out around 1pm for a lunch at Andrés Carne de Res. This place is 4? stories of chaos and sensory overload. But worth every ounce of it. Wow! Sadly, I was feeling a little sick from the night before, and couldn’t handle much of the delicious food. However, that did not stop me from trying it.

The restaurant is divided into multiple levels, with names like heaven, purgatory, earth and hell. There is even a children’s romper room area. Think TGIF’s but to the 100th degree. Clowns and musicians and many waiters mull around. If an American restaurant added these devious clowns (think cirque style, not balloon animal style), then clowns could make a comeback.

Arepa De ChocoloI had my new favorite Colombian dish here: Arepas de Chocolo. It was a crepe/pancake like texture filled with gooey yummy cheese. What is not to like? We also tried fried plantain with cheese (almost like a pizza), great steaks, lulo with spearmint, and an agua aromatica – a bowl of fruit, mint and hot water that acts like a fruit infused tea.

Later that night, we also ordered some pizza. Odd I know, but it was nice to try a different countries version of the Italian/American favorite.

Btw, everything delivers, not just pizza, in Bogota. Kinda like New York. At one time we ordered 3 cases of beer and had that delivered.

Nada (Monday May 30, 2011)

Coffee BagsWe did practically zero, zilch… Juan had some school work to get done, and since we didn’t feel really safe to just go wandering on our own, we stayed around the house most of the day. After feeling nauseous the day before, I didn’t entirely mind. We did make one trek out, about a block away to a mercado/flea market type place. Bought some souvenir gifts and returned home. At night, Juan went out to a birthday sushi dinner for his sister-in-law, and since I was still feeling a little bit sick, Joey and I stayed home. Juan’s sister, Ana, came over to hang out.

Oh, we also went down the street to the grocery store, and loaded up on coffee bags to bring home.When the attendant asked if we needed help out, I don’t think he expected to push our grocery cart up 6 blocks of cobblestone.

Send Off Day, Final Encounters (Tuesday May 31, 2011)

Colombian BreakfastIt was a day of eating, and having final reunions. We started with breakfast at Juan’s mother and sister’s house. Fresh arepa, pineapple, hot chocolate, empanadas, and calentao. Im a mother lover. I love Juan’s mother’s and they seem to love me too. They are sweet, energetic, funny, and always make me laugh and smile. This breakfast was no different. And in regards to energy, Ana ranks up there as well. She is quick witted, and opinionated (I mean this in a positive way). She likes to challenge, she likes to debate, she likes to engage.

Sadly, I could only eat about half of my food, as I was still feeling queasy. They had me take a pill for “tummy pain” this morning and the last night. I’m not sure if that is helping or making things worse. It is a shame to have so many new food options to try, yet feeling unsure about how my body will react.

We had to leave breakfast after a short while, because we had a lunch engagement. Today is going to be a meal to meal schedule.

Juan Valdez CafeAfter a brief stop at a Juan Valdez cafe, we made our way to Juan Sr. and Martica’s house. However, the ruler of the house is their yellow lab, Nala. We hung out there for about an hour, and then made our way to lunch with a few more of Juan’s friends. Still feeling sick and queasy, I had a bowl of chicken broth. Boring I know. But there were big dinner plans that I needed to get right for.

In between lunch and dinner, Joey, Pablo, Angela, Lala and I walked up the street where surprisingly, there was a mall. If we had known, on our nada day, we’d probably have come up here. We bought a host gift, and the rest of them had an ice cream. Pablo was calling his doctor friends, and then running down the escalator. He came back with yet another drug for me to try for my stomach. I took the pill graciously. When I got back home, I looked up the drug, saw it wasn’t approved in the US, and saw that a side effects were the squirts. Uh oh, this might be a long night (since I don’t want you thinking of me, and that, i’ll let you know, it didn’t have that effect on me).

We headed to dinner where we were joined by Esteban, Marcella, Pablo, Angela, Diego, Mauro, Jenny, Juliana and Lala’s parents. El Filetto was the restaurant, and omg, nom nom nom. Still struggling with my stomach, I couldn’t eat a ton. But the wine and the appetizers were delicious. I ordered Juan’s favorite cut of steak – Punta de anca. Wow. It was so good, juicy, tasty. I was sad to have to give half of it away, but was glad that such a great piece of meat did not get wasted.

We went back home where we were joined by Lala’s sister and cousin, who came by to say goodbye to us. We have an early morning coming (4am!!!). I was sad to be leaving, and was thinking I might just stay awake all night. But instead I turned in around midnight.

Leave (Wednesday June 1, 2011)

Arose at 3:45 am, and made our way to the airport. Because Juan was bringing 5 bags, we needed two vehicles to take the 4 of us to the airport. Juan Sr. drove one car, and Lala’s parents were in the other.

Crepes & WafflesAirport checking was both confusing and easy. We now had some time before our flight, and before we went thru security, so we had breakfast with Lala’s parents at the airport Crepes & Waffles. After breakfast, we made our way thru security, the final duty-free shops, and to our gates. Ciao Colombia, I came away more impressed than I expected.

At our layover in Houston, Joey and I went into the Continental President’s club. There was only snack food, and Skinny J wanted a “meal” so we were about to leave. But decided to have one beer first. When we were told the beer was free, our 5 minutes became 90 and we enjoyed a few drinks.

Food and People

I think, when recollecting this trip, what I will remember most is the crazy and tasty food, and the crazy and amazing people. There is a lot of love in this country, and lot of beauty, and a lot of heart. Colombians have a lot of pride in their country, and as it continues to transition itself, it is this pride that shines through. When I first booked this trip, I thought this might be my only trip ever to Colombia. But after enjoying the people, places, sights, and fun, I am looking forward to a return visit.

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This Week I'm Thinking About: Jonathan Wilt