Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Coffee Country

With the heat of Cali, it is occasionally nice to retreat to a cooler locale, somewhere where a hot cup of coffee, agua panela with cheese or a hot chocolate can keep away the mountain chill.  I've been to much of the eje cafetero (coffee region) before and have come to know it as a fantastic reprieve from the bustle of Caleño city life.  Its proximity of about three to four hours by bus is also agreeable. During a recent long weekend I traveled there yet again with some friends to the colonial town of Salento and then on to some natural hot springs outside the town of Santa Rosa de Cabal.

Homegrown coffee on a lazy, rainy afternoon.
Countryside surrounding Salento.
Salento nightlife.
At the hotsprings in Santa Rosa.
San Miguel waterfall above the hot springs.
Along the way we enjoyed many of the local foods and novelties of the paisa region including very fresh coffee, buñuelos, river trout, and my personal favorite: bandeja paisa (say: ban-day-ha pie-sah).  This hearty meal consists of beans, a pork rind, an avocado wedge, an arepa, fried plantains, rice, a shredded lettuce salad, and some sort of meat - usually chicken or beef, but sometimes fish or sausage. It is also not uncommon to get a fried egg plopped right on top of it all.  The best part of stuffing yourself with this plate at lunchtime is that you will be full for the rest of the day and all for the incredible price of $3-4 USD!

The bandeja paisa in all its delicious hearty glory!

Monday, October 10, 2011

I Smell A Rat

Two tea boxes on the floor, a jar of honey in the sink, onion salt shaker resting sideways on the counter, kitchen cupboards hanging wide open with a bunch of spaghetti noodles falling out of their bag, extending precariously over the shelf ledge.  After a particularly long day Friday last, I arrived home to my apartment to find the kitchen in a strange state of disarray.

After eliminating the possibility of an intruder who likes to make messes in cabinets and leave, I began to suspect the visit of an animal of some sort, possibly a bird.  That hope was quickly dismissed upon pulling open one cupboard door and finding a rat the size of a small child peering out from behind my wine glasses.  Doors were slammed shut, an old mop handle was inserted through the cabinet pulls, and some masking tape haphazzardly applied for good measure; this would be dealt with in the morning.

The biggest rats I've ever seen have been the ones that roam Isla Gorgona and the back alleys and subways of Chicago.  Secretly hoping my own comprably-sized rodent intruder found its own mysterious way out, I went about "unlocking" the cupboard doors.  After momentarily believing my wishful thinking had come to fruition, I found it lurking behind the wall of tea boxes.  Plan B: Block off the kitchen so the only way of escape is through the patio doors where there is actually no escape and I can either sequester it outside and/or chase it around swinging violently with the aforementioned mop stick in an enclosed space.

I should mention that there is a fuse box located on the back wall of the kitchen cabinets.  This was part of my hope when I wished for the possibility of a spontaneously disappearing rat.  I have no idea where or even if this fuse box has some sort of outlet - construction codes are somewhat open to interpretation here - that rats, for example, could use to come and go as they please.  This rat decided to try, or at least avoid my mop handle, and hide in the fuse box.  For awhile the rat was winning the battle; no matter how much I prodded and banged around, it seemed to find a way to not only avoid contact with the stick but also not feel an urgent need to flee toward the patio as I had intended.

And then the rat unceremoniously layed down and a strange odor filled the morning kitchen air.  New problem: How do I extract a large electrocuted rat from the fuse box in the back of my kitchen cupboard?  After some creative maneuvering, with the help of a clothes pin and a plastic bag, I am happy to say there is no more rodent habitating in amongst my dinner plates and spices.  Although the stench of singed rat did hang in the air for awhile...