Monday, January 21, 2008

Rhythm Of The Night

On Saturday, in honor of nothing in particular, my roommate and I hosted a party at our apartment. We invited people from school and just let word of mouth do the work for us.
At about 8:30 pm our first guests began arriving and by 10 pm there were a whole lot of gringos and two Colombians (who came with gringos) and no one else. Finally at 11:30 pm the party started. This was mostly due to the arrival of the ones who clearly know how to party, the Colombians. The salsa got cranked up and suddenly we had a real party.
I spent most of the night out on the balcony, allowing people to circulate to me. Sometimes that is more fun than making ones way through a party. I figured my roommate had that covered. The great part was that while I was sitting there, enjoying the night air and watching the salsa get hot inside, I got to practice my Spanish (and occasional Spanglish) with some new Colombian friends. It was nice to be told that I was speaking really well for only having been here six months. A lot of them knew some English too so between our limited language skills we were able to talk about a surprising amount of topics.
I also, again, got sucked in to the inevitable downfall of any conversation with a Colombain at a party in Colombia – aguardiente. This aperitif might as well be known as the “friendship shot” since it is very customary to be offered one after a conversation of any length; the longer the conversation, however, the more shots. This drink, which smells like licorice and has an after taste like acidic candy, is cheap and traditional here, at a around $2 to $4 a bottle.
Despite, increasing my likelihood of a guaranteed hang-over the next day, I felt fine. I slept most of the morning and afternoon, as the party roared on until about 4:30 am. Once again, the Colombians showed us how a fiesta should go down!

Monday, January 14, 2008

And On Your Left...

Greetings and Happy New Year...or I should say Feliz Año Nuevo!

After a great vacation filled with travel, family, and relaxation, I had three days of school (in which many kids were absent - really, is three weeks off enough?) and then another great weekend with VISITORS!!! My first official house guests were my brother, Rolland, and his girlfriend, Jamie.

They arrived early Friday morning and, after a slight transportation mix-up at the airport where my hired driver apparently had trouble picking out two gringos getting off a plane from Bogotá, they arrived safe and sound at school. The cafeteria was serving a very Colombian soup that day called sancocho so we were off to a great start to a crash-course in Colombian everything.

They sat through my last class of the day and the kids were very excited to have them there. During work time, several students came to introduce themselves...I suppose practicing mitosis can wait until next time. Even after class when the school was letting out and I was preparing to give a tour of the campus, several students sheepishly came up and asked to be introduced. As much as these kids talk in class, they are very polite and I do love them.

We caught a taxi home, sparing Rolland and Jamie the thrill of the "teacher bus." We had a couple beverages and enjoyed the sunset from both my balcony and the tienda on the corner. It was so great to be able to sit back, relax, and enjoy a conversation with someone I've known for a long time (yes, almost my whole waking life) and meet someone new. They were a little travel-laged having flown all through the night, so I graciously let them take a nap before dinner. After a brief reprieve we went to a trendy part of Cali with a lot of restaurants and had a great dinner. Jamie felt as though she were back in Spain versus Latin America based on the atmosphere and I attempted to show her some of the differences in the Spanish spoken here. Rolland also ordered all by himself - I guess "North Juarez" (aka El Paso, TX) is rubbing off a little! We made sure to congratulate him.

Saturday morning we had a nice slow start, slept in, and then walked to breakfast at a place about a mile from my apartment called, ironically, just Crepes & Waffles. It was more of a dessert breakfast than breakfast breakfast, but none of us complained. Incidentally, the restaurant is owned by a woman who only hires single mothers to work there. An all-woman workforce is very uncommon in Colombia. But I digress... We then headed to school to meet another teacher, Matt (who I traveled to the Pacific region with over Thanksgiving), who took us up to the Rio Pance outside of town and we enjoyed a fantastic afternoon sitting in the cold clear mountain spring water amongst the rocks, waterfalls, and butterflies. After a few hours we headed back into town and grabbed an early dinner with Matt at a restaurant that serves more meat than...well, its a lot. (My analogies are failing me right now...or are completely inappropriate.)

We then headed home to prep for a night out at the salsatecha. This meant a nap. After picking up my friend Tina (I needed a dancing partner too!) we arrived at a famous and popular salsatecha called Tin Tin Deo. We got there early enough to be guaranteed a table, and, after ordering our bottle of Bacardi, we began the process of teaching Rolland how to dance. It was slow going but he was doing pretty well by the end of the night although Jamie began to think the Bacardi was helping so she continued to pour. Rolland even won a CD with salsa music by local artists. The best souvenirs are free, right?! Later that night I made the Colombian equivalent to late night pizza - frozen empanadas - and we crashed.

The final and last day began with a mid-morning hike up one of the mountains that borders Cali to the west that is topped with three giant crosses. Another teacher friend, Lisa, joined us and we made it up and down in roughly two hours. The view of the smog-covered city was as beautiful as a dead rose but when you come from the flat mid-west, anything from high up is impressive.

We then headed home, had some breakfast, showered, and headed to the mall to do what Americans do best: be consumers. Jamie got her nails done and was really impressed with the tiny flowers painted across her big toes. I believe the quote later that night was, "Let's all just stop and look at my feet!" After spotting some Colombian "plastic," including the ever-elusive butt implant, we headed to get some dinner at a restaurant owned by the family of one of my students. On the way there we ran into another student (who ran out of a restaurant just to say hello, incidentally) and Rolland and Jamie got to witness the always awkward "kiss-hello with your student" scenario.

Dinner was delicious and I decided I really do need to go there more often. I invited a teaching couple from Wisconsin along, Sarah and Justin, to talk about Santa Marta and the surrounding area of the Colombian Caribbean coast, as that is where Rolland and Jamie were headed for the second leg of their Colombian adventure. (The 'Sconies had recently visited the area over Thanksgiving ergo...)

The last thing I remember about my dear brother's visit was stumbling down the stairs of my building to let the driver know they were coming in my sleepy 5am stupor. I even tried talking to him in Spanish and attempted to figure out what happened on Friday at the airport when they arrived. If I got a response, I don't recall. Too early to be functioning in another language.

Overall it was a fantastic visit and I am currently exhausted from playing tour guide all weekend but so glad I did. So, who's next...?