Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Visiting Guatape

My last day of Spanish class was yesterday and I had an option to register for continuation of the classes for the remainder of the week but I decided not to. I want my last few days in Medellin to be super chill and I just want to take time to do whatever I want whenever I want without the responsibility of waking up in the morning for class. I know! I have such a hard life. Anyway, so today since I didn't have class in the morning I decided to visit Guatape which is a town that's an hour and a half away from Medellin. I had to use the metro and a bus to get to the town.

I had read and heard about Guatape and I was curious to see the town for myself and get to climb the famous rock, "La Piedra del Penol." Check it out below. I actually want you to take a very good look at this rock and observe the stairs on the side, now picture taking over 600 steps up those stairs! no gym machine can compare to this. It was murder but so worth it once I got to the top.

 The view from the top was amazing.

I hang out at the top for a while just taking it easy and enjoying the view before embarking on the task of going down the many stairs. Actually going down wasn't bad at all and before I knew it I was at the bottom, definitely faster than going up. I had lunch at a nearby restaurant before heading to town.

Check out my cool ride............

Guatape town is small and very pretty with colorful houses and buildings. It's impossible to get lost because of the town's size and it was fun just taking a walk around the town and navigating the narrow streets while taking random turns. I thought the town looked so romantic, just check out some of the pictures I took and see if you can tell me otherwise.

That's it folks, I enjoyed myself checking out Guatape and just taking it easy enjoying the scenery around me. As I boarded the bus back to Medellin it started raining hard and I thought the timing could not have been better, I settled into my seat and took a long nap enjoying the sound and smell of the rain. I really liked Guatape.

Random Thoughts of The Day:

I seem to be a magnet for old men in Medellin because I get hit on a lot by older men around here. When I say older I mean really much older than me, some of them are old enough to be my dad.

Fernanda is always warning me not to be friendly with strangers and while traveling long distance by bus never to accept food from strangers. In the bus today this gentleman sat next to me and bought me some chocolate from a vender who had entered the bus to sell his stuff. I could hear Fernanda's voice in my head warning me so I held on to that chocolate until I got to my room. Incase anything was to happen I figured what better place for it to happen than in the safety of the house I live in, right? by the way the guy was "older," see what I mean? in all fairness though he was very sweet and not creepy like the ones I have encountered.

A year ago when I first visited Colombia the only words in Spanish I knew were how to say: hello, thanks, bye and other few very basic words. Today as I was taking a ride into Guatape town I was able to converse with the driver and understood a great deal of what he was telling me. Granted, I still have some ways to go with the language but I am proud of how much I have learned so far. Ooh! the driver was "older" and.................well, do I need to spell it out? yeah, he hit on me too. Seriously! is this a common trend around here?

Colombia has a lot of public holidays, I was talking to my host and his mum and they were saying they have about 20 holidays. Imagine that!

There is a dog in the house I live in and he likes fruits, papayas are his favorite. Every time I am eating papaya he comes next to me and gives me the cutest look so I end up sharing my fruit with him. My host said it's okay for the dog to eat papaya.

Monday, April 28, 2014

The Many Exotic Fruits of Colombia

Incase I haven't mentioned this before I have to say that Colombia has a lot of fruits, fruits that I have never heard off or even seen in my life. Thanks to the many varieties of fruits, there are also many kinds of fruit juices to be had and I have been enjoying trying the different juices.

Remember the tour I had not too long ago? well, the guide invited me to another one of their tours which covers some of the exotic fruits to be had in Colombia. The tour is actually called "Exotic Fruits Tour." The company was shooting a promotional video so they were offering the tour for free to a few people, normally they charge for this tour.

I figured it was a good opportunity to sample fruits that I had never tried before so why not? I love fruits and freebies after all. The group within the tour was small and we met up at the metro station before heading to one of the main markets in Medellin for some sampling.

The market was very colorful with all kinds of food produce and although it was busy with people going about their usual business, it was still easy to navigate through. Our guide for the tour bought some fruits and off we went to a secluded area within the market to begin our sampling.

Alrighty then let's do this.........

Some of the fruits we were about to sample.

Chontaduro - Looks like a tomato but tastes like a potato, strange really. You can eat it with salt or salt and honey. It doesn't taste delicious if eaten as it is but I found that salt and honey made it more appealing taste wise. Not appealing enough to make me want to try again though.

Guayaba or Guava in english - I have eaten guavas before so the taste was familiar to me, I like guavas so I enjoyed eating this.

Mamoncillo - It looks like a tiny lime and you would expect it to be sour but nope, it was a pleasant surprise. You have to bite the cover in order to break it then suck the fruit out of it's covering. It has a seed in it's core which you can not eat so you have to try and get as much of the fruit as possible, from the seed with your tongue and teeth. It's actually kind of slippery making it tricky to remove the fruit from the seed. It's sweet and it was one of my favorites.

Uchuva - It looks like a miniature orange but doesn't taste like it at all. It's sour and I did not like it at all. Apparently it's used as a chaser when drinking aguardiente, one of Colombia's national drinks. Very strong alcoholic drink by the way.

Lulo - This fruit is sour and Colombians don't eat it as is, they make juice out of it instead. The fruit juice is actually really good because of added sugar and it's common in a lot of places. You will find the juice in many restaurants or homes.

Did you think there was only one type of passion fruit? wrong! we actually got to sample three different types, each with a different taste.

Curuba - I didn't like this as much, it was sour.

Gulupa - It's a bit sour when not overly ripe but if you get one that's really ripe it tastes good. In Kenya I grew up eating this so i was familiar with the taste. When the fruit ripens the cover appears shriveled up, I prefer eating it in this state because it's sweater.

Granadilla - My favorite of all passion fruits, it's really sweet when ripe but can be sour when not ripe.

Guanabana - This fruit surprised me, it was sweeter than I expected and soft. Unfortunately I did not get a better shot of the fruit, it was very juicy. I have drank juice made from this fruit and it's delicious when served with milk.

That's it folks, in total we sampled about 22 fruits. Yes you heard that right, 22! and there were many more fruits that we did not get to sample if you can believe that. An interesting fact I learned is that a lot of the fruits are not eaten as they appear, they are instead used for juice which makes the taste better.

Random Thoughts of The Day:

I have a huge crush on someone, I am talking "smiling like a fool whenever I think of them, which is like all the time and counting hours till we can hang out" type of crush. It's making me re-think my dating stance while traveling through South America. This can not be good, can it?

I miss the diversity and rich salsa culture in Cali. In Cali I feel like I belong in a way that I don't feel here in Medellin.

If only Cali would have Medellin's weather and metro system. 

I am not sure if it's sunburn related but my foot has been peeling really bad and looks horrible! I hope it's not something else.

I don't know why but the Spanish school I go to here in Medellin is full of men, way too much testosterone. I have yet to see another female student. 

Traveling alone has it's pros and cons. Sometimes I do wish I was traveling with a companion but on the other hand, traveling alone has forced me to interact more with people and I have met interesting folks along the way.

I never realized this until today but I actually have come to know quite a bit about Medellin. Today I met this new student in class and I was showing him how to navigate this city and I felt like such a pro. I was so proud of myself.

When traveling long distance by bus here, you best wear some warm clothes because the air conditioner is cranked up pretty high so it feels really cold. Same case at the movies.

At the movies here, seats are assigned to everyone so you can't just seat anywhere.

Sometimes you meet someone and you have such an amazing time together that you think it's the beginning of something, be it friendship or more. This can go either way, you can either become really good friends/or more or go your separate ways without so much as exchanging any contact information. I have learned to enjoy people for the moment and not assume anything will come out of it, if it does well and good but if it doesn't I don't take it personally.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Medellin Nightlife

I finally got the chance to check out the nightlife in Medellin and it was more fun than I expected. My really sweet host wanted to take me out dancing since I had mentioned how much I love dancing, he suggested meeting his friends at a particular club because they were having a reunion. I was a bit hesitant at first because I thought I would be bored but decided to give it a shot. I am so glad I did because I ended up having so much fun!

His friends were super sweet and friendly and they included me like I was part of the gang, it was fun dancing with them and learning new dance styles from Colombia. I swear this country has many different types of music and dances, it's fun learning them.

Can you spot yours truly? the guy in the brown jacket is a really good dancer!

That's it folks, I had a very fun night and that's all there is to say.

Random Thoughts of The Day:

There is a dance called champeta which is common in the coastal areas of Colombia, let's just say you may need a pregnancy test after the dance.

My Spanish teacher was telling me that it is very common here for girls to get pregnant at 13 then their parents not only end up raising the girls, they also raise the grandkids.

Aguardiente is one hell of a drink. I only had two shots and stopped at that, I know my limit.

I have to admit I have seen so many good looking guys around here. I know looks are not everything but I can still appreciate an attractive guy.

I wish I had packed more tops than dresses before starting my trip.

I am glad I am renting a room from a local and I get to experience their day to day lives and learn more about their culture.

A lot of times when people ask what I am doing here and I say that I am traveling through Latin America for a few months to experience the culture and learn Spanish, I feel a bit frivolous.

Away From The City & Back

Today has been a busy day full of activities, just the way I like it. I had heard about Park Arvi; a natural reserve away from the city, and I had wanted to reserve a good chunk of my day to check it out and enjoy it's natural surroundings.

I had to take a metro and two cable cars to get to the park and even though it sounds like a long commute, it was actually not bad at all. I decided to make a stop at a neighborhood called Santo Domingo first before getting to Park Arvi, to check out the Spain Library which my host had suggested I visit because of the interesting architecture of the building. Unfortunately when I visited they were renovating the building so it was covered up.

Everyone had warned me about walking around the Santo Domingo neighborhood because of safety concerns. I was a little bit nervous but fortunately the library was near the metro station so I did not have to walk too far into the neighborhood to get to the library. I did not spend too much time at the library but I managed to check out all floors and the surroundings areas.

The library is supposed to look like three huge rocks but in the picture you can see it's been covered by a dark clothe like material.

To be honest the library underwhelmed me and I was ready to move on to park Arvi quick since that was the main goal to begin with. I took another metro cable to the park and the trip took about ten minutes.

In case some of you are wondering what a metro cable is, this is it. You can get amazing views of the city from them.

Onto Park Arvi, it is a very tranquil place to hang out and any nature enthusiast would appreciate the beautiful natural surroundings. I came across many campers and I could only imagine how cool it would be to camp out on the park's ground. The only thing that sucked is that the roads were not really pedestrian friendly and didn't have sidewalks, so you had to walk on the road and be careful about oncoming cars. The roads being a bit narrow, it was sometimes scary having to share the space with huge busses that passed by.

After my peaceful time at the park I decided to go to downtown to get my senses overly stimulated once again by the noise and large crowds. While in downtown It started raining so I decided to check out the Museum of Antioquia, a popular museum that houses a lot of work from Botero, a well known Colombian artist. Of course the museum also houses work from other artists.

The man himself, Botero..............okay not really, this was a card board cut out.

Love the colors...........

After checking out the museum for a while I decided to head out home because it was getting a little bit late. On my way to the metro I came across a very interesting cultural show that was highlighting various Colombian dances and music, of course I had to stick around for that............

There was even a hip hop urban dance group.

That's it folks, it was an eventful day and hopefully the night will be as eventful since I will finally get to experience the nightlife in Medellin. Is it only me or does anyone else think this post is kind of convoluted with all the details of the day?

Random Thoughts of The Day:

It's been raining a lot in Medellin, usually it's in the afternoon or evening to nighttime. Nothing beats taking a nap on a rainy afternoon with the sound of rain beating down the roof. Love it!

After lunch I usually like taking a siesta so when my Spanish teacher asked me how long I nap for I told her around two hours. She was shocked, she thought it was too long. How long are siestas supposed to last anyway? it's not like I have a job to go to after lunch anyway. PS: I am not rubbing that in, although it sounds like it.

I am deathly scared of lightning and thunderstorms. You should see how fast I close my window curtains when lightning strikes, like it would make any difference. Hey! whatever gives me comfort.

I wonder why some bathrooms here have two taps. Both have cold water so what's the point? some even go to the extent of indicating Caliente and Frio (hot and cold). It's like a bad joke especially after you realize there is no such thing as hot water, maybe they were going for a placebo effect?

I wish I knew how to add a drop down menu on this blog, I looked it up online but zoned out after reading the first few sentences of the instructions. I got intimidated with all the information. I still need to figure out how to upload videos from my camera onto this blog.

The Spanish accent in Medellin is different from the one I am used to in Cali. It sounds very fast and has like a singsong ring to it.

My host in Medellin was telling me to check out a cheaper grocery store near the house and she gave me directions plus the name of the store, The Uno. I thought it was a weird name and walked up and down the block several times looking for it without luck until guess what? it occurred to me that I got the name wrong. It was D1, you see in Spanish the letter D kind of sounds like the word "The" and of course the number after the D is 1 which is uno in spanish. The store's name was actually D1 not "The Uno." When I got back to the house and she asked why I was gone for so long since the store is right round the corner, I was too embarrassed to mention my error.

Reasons why Spanish is so complicated in my opinion: one word can have so many meanings so it all depends on the context, the verbs! don't even get me started on the irregular verbs and how drastic they change depending on how they are being used, everything has a gender and should be referred in the right gender assigned form as feminine or masculine......sometimes it's not always the case, some items sound feminine but are referred to in a masculine form.

You would think placing your used toilet paper in the bin next to the toilet instead of flushing, would result in a funky smell but nope. The toilets don't smell bad surprisingly..........in case you forgot this, I had mentioned that people don't flush toilet papers here because of plumbing issues.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

My Routine In Medellin

As I have mentioned before, I am visiting Medellin for two weeks and within these two weeks I am trying to do and see as much as I can since my stay here is limited. You know what? let me take that back, even though I say that I am trying to do and see as much as I can, my stay here is very carefree and without pressure to do or see everything that's recommended as a "must do" while in Medellin. I am going with the flow here and doing whatever I feel like doing and not what I feel I should be doing while in this city. Does that make sense?

My routine in Medellin consists of going to Spanish classes in the morning between 9 am and 12 noon, after class sometimes we (the students and teacher) may decide to go out for lunch together which is great because I have discovered some good spots that have good and cheap food.

Check out the massive burgers, McDonalds and the American fast food gang have got nothing on Colombian burgers. The best burgers I have ever had and very cheap too!

Gloves were handed out with the meal.........messes do happen you know.

How hilarious is this menu? was it necessary to put a big busted cartoon on there?

Hmmm? maybe I could give this Dolly Parton look alike some competition.

If I am not doing lunch with my classmates and teacher I usually head back to my room for lunch, relax a little bit then head out to discover more of this city. Today I ventured out to downtown and walked around enjoying the very vibrant part of the city. There were a lot of vendors selling everything you could think off, the crowds were massive and the noise level was high but I enjoy such environments so it wasn't a bother to me.

Believe it or not this was one of the less crowded area.

The things that happen around this church, Dios! I will just say this, walk away very fast if some old guy starts getting friendly and chatting you up.

The metro in Medellin, it has made my movement within the city so convenient, fast and super easy.

That's it folks, just taking it easy in Medellin and discovering new things about this city each day. I have to admit though, I do miss the salsa vibe of Cali.

Random Thoughts of The Day:

Yes, black people do get sunburned for those who thought otherwise. Today I was telling this guy how much sunburn I got in Cali and he looked shocked, he thought it was impossible for black skin to burn. We are not made of steel you know.

Most if not all juices here are served with milk. If you go to a restaurant and order mango juice for instance, they will ask you if you want it with milk or water. I always opt for the milk option, it's usually very rich and sweet.

Speaking of juice, there is an abundance of fruits in Colombia so getting real fruit juice that's fresh is really cheap.

There is a cosmetic surgeon's office above the house where I am staying at. They specialize in liposuction.

Watching a soccer tournament here is a lot of fun. The passion people have in the game is very contagious. My host last night invited me to go watch a soccer match last night with his friends and even though I am not a sports fan, I have to admit that I had a lot of fun.

Medellin doesn't appear to be as diverse as Cali.

Some old men here are very sleazy and I avoid making any eye contact with them - trust me, I have had weird encounters. Note that I said some, I don't want to generalize.

There are so many foreigners in this city that people don't get shocked when they realize I am not Colombian. In Cali I was always getting shocked expressions from people once they realized I am not Colombian.