Monday, April 2, 2012

La Vida Tailandia

La Vida Tailandia

Dear readers, it's true, I have moved on from Colombia. I have been livin' la vida Tailandia for a while now and I'm a big fan of it. If you would like to read some stories, see some pictures, and even a few videos, please look at:

It is an account of Thailand through my lens and words. I hope you enjoy it. I sure do love life here.

View from my house off the porch outside my bedroom.

Hasta luego Colombia. Sawadee khaa Thailand!


Monday, January 17, 2011

Carrot Cake - orginally written April 30, 2010

Carrot Cake 
{originally written April 30, 2010}

Ahh, the comforts of little things that make such a difference.

Today at a staff meeting we were served a tiny muffin version of a carrot cake. We haven’t had food at a staff meeting since August. We haven’t ever been served anything remotely like carrot cake before. In fact, I haven’t seen anything like it available anywhere in Colombia. One bite in and my mind was racing to another place. It was some bizarre synaesthetic reaction that took me a world away to a place called home. Oh yeah, that place, I haven’t been there in a while.

I’m now realizing just how much I do miss those little comforts. Although I haven’t liked my job here since I started, I have found things to love: the beach, people, nature, the fruit, surfing, warm weather, birds, geckos, and other animals. But when it comes the time to go home, I’ll be ready.

I miss Oregon. I miss my dog. I miss my family and friends. I miss my house and garden, my neighborhood, and oh good lord do I miss the fresh produce and other local, organic, tasty delights of New Seasons Market.

Who would have ever known something as mundane and innocuous as carrot cake had the power to stir up a whole sensory tornado of feelings.  Perhaps next time at a meeting, if there is food {which there probably won’t be} they should just serve something in the same type of plain and simple category only Colombian food. I’m sure if I were to eat an arepa at a staff meeting back in Portland, I’d have the same type of sensory rush, only in reverse. It would be just as odd for that to happen there as the carrot cake is here. Maybe I’m stuck in a state of metacognition and getting a bit ahead of myself.

There is one thing of which I am almost certain – carrot cake, when I eat it again at home, will once again just be carrot cake. It will not be some kind of mystical Alice and Wonderland type food that transfixes me and transports me mentally to somewhere else. Nope, in the US carrot cake will reside once again as its unremarkable self along side graham crackers and white bread. As for today, it took my mind so far away it might as well have been the liquid in a little bottle with a sign reading, ‘Drink Me’.

Cheers to the power of the senses of taste and smell.

Refecting Back

Reflecting Back

Since it’s just post New Year - a natural time for reflection, coupled with the fact that I’ve had time away from my life in Colombia, I thought I’d finally finish up this blog. I also noticed that the hits on this blog have surpassed the 10,000 mark. A big thank you to all you readers!

There are several pieces I wrote at various times throughout my time in Colombia that I left in various stages in the writing process, but hadn’t taken them all the way through to publishing. I thought I’d finish those off and wrap this up.

When people ask, “How was it?” My sister Wendy came up with a succinct and accurate one-sentence answer: It was kind of a mixed bag.

I tried to keep this blog focused on the positive or found humor in the negative for the most part, so I didn’t publish a lot of the things that made my life quite miserable at times. My daily life of school was really pretty horrible, however my vacations and travel in other places in Colombia were usually wonderful. My relationship with Yoyi also had its own plusses and minuses. Obviously, everything, everyone, and everywhere have things we like and dislike.

I will not dwell in the negative, but I will publish a few of the darker pieces that were part of my overall experience. I will also post some incredible pictures and places that are just gorgeous. I would also like to embed hilarity when possible.

Apart from the obvious closure that finishing this blog will bring to mi vida Colombiana, I’d also like to finish because I spent my Christmas vacation volunteering in Nicaragua. I would like to write a separate blog about the amazing times I had there. Stay tuned for the upcoming La Nica Experiencia.

For now, after a long break, let’s continue La Vida Colombiana.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Apologies for not Writing as of late

Apologies for not Writing as of late

I know it's been a while. The school year ended YIPPPPEEEEEE!!! You cannot believe my relief. I have been traveling and have partial blog posts written on many things, but the truth is that I will probably not publish them until I'm back in Portland.

Posts coming soon of places I have been in the past few months: Ciudad Perdida, Parque Tayrona, Quebrada Valencia, Bogota, Medellin, and tomorrow Yoyi and I are off to San Andres Island.

Things got very busy here, so I wasn't able to keep up the blog. Since school has been out, I've been traveling. I'll be home in the end of June. Although I've had some interesting and wonderful experiences here, I've also had a ridiculous number of frustrations. I am looking forward to coming home.

I will write soon.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Jirafa de Cerveza

Jirafa de Cerveza

It had been a nice day of surfing in Pradomar, Karen even caught her first wave.

Karen is up!

We took a brief musical journey to my apartment.

La luna bella

Elizabeth and Fatima

Elizabeth and Yoyi

Karen and Fatima dancing

Dave had a friend in town and we’d been wanting to go the Aguila World. Karen, Dave, and I had been calling it Aguila World so long I thought that’s what it was actually called, but apparently it isn’t. It does have a lot of Aguila... Aguila sofa... Aguila living room set...

...Aguila clothes...

...Karen loves sipping Aguila in her Aguila chair...

...and there is a globe sculpture with Aguila written on it out in front. The taxi driver knew what we meant. What it is actually called, I don’t know, but it should be called El Mundo de Aguila. The reason we wanted to go there was simple: the tower of Aguila.

Here it is:

Dave called it a torre de cerveza, which is what seemed logical, until we found out it has a much better name: Jirafa de cerveza. A giraffe of beer. This image delights me to no end.

It was kind of like drinking beer from a keg, so it was a little bit flat, but it was the novelty of drinking from a giraffe of beer that made it worth it.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010



I am usually a label reader at the store. When I first got here it took me forever in the store. Now I’ve gotten used to what I like, so I don’t take as long or look at the labels that much, especially since you almost never find partially hydrogenated soybean oil in anything here.

Well, yeah, um I maybe should start being a bit more careful. One day Yoyi was in my bathroom and said, “Amor, por qué compraste esto?”
My answer was, “Porque necesito vitaminas, amor.”
Then he showed me that the vitamins I had bought were specially formulated for adults older than 50. I know I had a big birthday this year, but I’m not that old. Whoops! At least they were on sale. Yep, Centrum Silver.

Perhaps the vitamin snafu was even on the same day that I bought the shampoo. The shampoo was the same brand as the conditioner I have bought before, it comes in a bag making it a more environmentally sound option, and it smelled good. So, I didn’t really give it much more thought until I was in the shower a few day later and read embrión de pato y sábila. I knew sábila was aloe, so I initially thought embrión de pato must be some kind of plant too based on the picture. The thing that was bothering me about this is that pato means duck and I was thinking that embrión kind of sounded like embryo, but I thought that I was probably wrong. I looked up the word embrión and sure enough: embryo. Eehhhwww! Yuck!

I really wasn’t feeling happy about this, especially since in my normal life, during pre-Colombian times, I’m a pescetarian. I could never eat a duck. I tried to fool or console myself, “Embrión de pato must be some kind of plant like corazón de madre isn’t really your mother’s heart, it’s just a pretty pink leaf.” …And then I decided to ask Yoyi.

Yes, embrión de pato is duck embryo. Oh no! I’m eating chicken, I’m washing my hair with duck embryo, I’m nothing but a vegetarian disgrace. Who am I? Well, in all honesty it’s like the egg-white or something, but still, I’m not feeling thrilled with myself.

I don’t think I’ve felt this embarrassed since I accidentally bought the nursing bras. What?! They’re comfortable

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Bocas de Ceniza

Bocas de Ceniza

It was a rainy Sunday afternoon in Barranquilla and instead of going for a walk, Yoyi suggested going to el rio. I knew he meant the Magdalena River, which is a border of Barranquilla. I had crossed it on the bus to Santa Marta, but I hadn’t really been there before.

Barranquilla is not a city for tourists, and because of this there is a lack of information for things for tourists to do here. In the unlikely chance that you ever find yourself as a tourist in Barranquilla, Bocas de Ceniza is good place to go.

When we got near the river it didn’t seem like we were in Barranquilla anymore, but more like a small town on a river in Colombia. Unlike the overly cementified Barranquilla, the road next to the river and train track was a dirt road, and there was even grass. In the river there were boats and barges.

We got to the Bocas de Ceniza trencito (the suffix –ito or –ita in Spanish makes things diminutive. This is very common to Spanish language in every Spanish speaking country I’ve been, but here they seem to do it more than anywhere else. Everything gets put in the diminutive for no real reason.) El trencito really was a trencito, it wasn’t a really a train, but it did run on a track.

Look at el trencito

Look at the engine

We waited for the train before to come back. We saw it coming and apparently it needed to be moved from the rusty track. The way this was done was that one guy lifted the front part off the track, then he and another guy pushed it. I thought this was hilarious Colombian engineering, but even Yoyi was laughing.
"Let's just lift this train off the track and push it over there."
The train engine was started much the way one starts a gas lawnmower. Then on the completely rusty rickety tracks, the noise from el trencito moving made it impossible to hear anything else.
Train vs. taxi

This looks like the beach at Puerto Colombia, but it’s Barranquilla.

Then we got to what made it really cool, the Rio Magdalena was on one side and the Caribbean Sea was on the other. I have seen this little spit before. From up the hill in my apartment complex, I have often wondered what this little strip of land was and now I was on it.

Where the river meets the sea: El caribe on the left rio Magdalena on the right
Meeting up with another train, we just switch cars with the passengers.

When the el trencito got to what was almost the end of its rusty track, we were able to get out and walk down towards the end of the land.

People who live here are obviously very poor, so they build with whatever they can find. I like the headboard from a bed.

Yesterday in Puerto Colombia we saw millions of crabs due to all the rain, but the ones here were different. These are more like spiders with 8 legs and they move fast. This one was dead so it was easy to get a shot of it.

The track literally had rusted away. It must be hard not to have things rust with a hot salty air from the sea.

Where the track had rusted away
The storm was rolling in, but amazingly it didn’t rain the whole time we were on el trencito or walking.

This is the way people fish here, no pole, just a spool of fishing wire.

You can see where the brown river is meeting the blue sea.

This guy was cooking something that smelled good. I’m pretty sure this was his kitchen.

Although we could see it raining in the distance, it didn’t reach us.

There is just something about the little baby tweet tweet tweet of chicks that is so cute.

What did the world do before these plastic chairs existed? This is the same as my desk chair at school.

Yoyi and I talked about next time renting bikes or a motorbike if we go again.

Here are few more pictures to give you an idea. Yoyi and I were in good company with Jesus, Sol y Mar, the dog that wanted to get on the train and ride with us, and guys playing dominoes.

This guy wanted to get on the train with us
This guy got a flat so our train picked he and his motorcycle up. He sat on his motorcycle while riding the train.

Yes, the motorcycle on the train
Yoyi and me on the train
Despite the amazingly few times I’ve been on any kind of transportation that has broken down in Colombia, while we were riding along, suddenly our driver jumped off the train while we continued on down the track. I didn’t know what had happened until someone said we had lost our chain. We indeed had. When I rented a bicycle for a month in Playa Sámara in Costa Rica, my rusty chain fell off everyday. I learned the words cadena oxidado because of this. It was starting to get darker and although they looked close to getting the rusty chain fixed, it didn’t happen. Another trencito was coming behind us. We didn’t have that much further to go so they decided that the other train would just push us the rest of the way. Yoyi and I were amused at this. It smelled like burning brakes.

Notice the train behind us pushing us, and the guy on the motorcycle
The view of Barranquilla in the distance
We got off the train and it was getting darker still. Barranquilla's fútbol team Junior had a big game on but this place looks ready for Junior year round.

Junior restaurant, notice the parrot, it's real
Where we had a dinner of amazing size

We ended up going into an enormous seafood restaurant on the river. The portion was as proportionally large as the restaurant, we split a robalo a la plancha and were full. The aguacero (storm) happened while we were eating, so when we walked out the dirt streets were now muddy rivers. We rode in the second mode of transport that I had never been on in Barranquilla, the bicycle taxi. It was kind of necessary, because otherwise I think I’d have lost a flip-flop in the street that had become a river.

Speaking of this, it sounds just like the aforementioned arroyo. I didn’t actually see what a real arroyo, but I did see flooded streets and other parts of Barranquilla that I’d never seen before. It was dark, and even if we had passed an arroyo, I don’t think a picture would have turned out. Yoyi knows where one is, so next time I’m home during the day and it rains, I’ll find one.

If you are wondering Bocas de Ceniza, means ash mouth. I can understand the mouth part, like mouth of a river, but the ash part was a mystery to me. Ah, but good old Wikipedia en español solved it. It gets its name from the color of the water from where the ash-grey polluted river water meets the sea.

If you'd like to read more about it, albeit in Spanish: