Saturday, January 24, 2009

Our Medellin photos

We have edited, captioned and posted our photos of Medellin, Bogota and Cartagena.
If you place your mouse over the photos, you can click to pause or go backward and forward.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Canadians for Obama

I'm going to watch the inauguration on the big screen - in a movie theatre. The event was organized by Canadians for Obama and Democrats Abroad. I'm going with my friend Kieran. Luis, unfortunately, has to work as an extra tomorrow and Wednesday. Get this. This movie needed a reporter, and they chose Luis. They didn't chose me. I guess Luis looks more like a reporter than I do. But part of it may be that we told our agent that Luis is available whereas she would have to check with me first because I've been busy with SAT tutoring and freelancing writing.
In other news, we were visiting our friend Kieran tonight, and when we came out, our car was not where we parked it. Oops! I parked too close to the nearest road. What pisses me off was that I was parked in an area marked for 1-hour parking. The sign was very close to the corner with just enough room for two cars. I guess it's really only enough room for one car.
I got a ticket for parking within 6 metres of the sidewalk of the nearest crossroad.
We paid $62.90 (Canadian, of course, so deduct 20% for US dollars) to pick up our car from the impound lot. Separately, I'll have to pay a $45 ticket.
The impound lot was in a part of the city I had never been to. On the way back, I was turning left when I suddenly realized I would have turned into a one-way road. So I made a quick decision to make a U-turn at about the same time that I spotted the flashing lights of a police car behind me. I couldn't believe it.
The officer was so nice. He just asked me what happened, and I explained that we were just returning from picking up our car from the impound lot. He said he wasn't going to give me a ticket. At least we got a break that time.

| |
| | one-hour parking
| | | |
| | \/
| another |
| car |
| |
| |
| |
| our |
| car |
| |
| |
|-crosswalk |-------------------------
| | nearest sidewalk
------ -------------------------

Friday, January 9, 2009

vancouver, here we come

We head back to Medellin on Sunday, then leave for Mexico City on Tuesday, where we have an overnight layover. We'll be back in Vancouver on Wednesday.
On Thursday, I'll be meeting with an SAT prep company about teaching the SAT. I'll also be getting back into my freelance writing.
Luis is finalizing his application for his equivalency in medical technology. He sent 200 pages describing his coursework to the Canadian Society of Medical Laboratory Technology, and fortunately, they said he doesn't have to translate all of it -- just the part related to medical technology. It costs 15 cents a word to translate documents, and the translation must be done by a translator certified in Canada.

Roaming around Cartagena

On Wednesday, we went swimming here on the beach right by our hotel. Luis was amazed at how well I could body surf, but I've been doing that since I was a kid going to Jones Beach. It's difficult to teach someone exactly how to catch a wave. But I showed him a bit and he caught a few waves. The waves are big enough but not too big here, so it's a good place to learn bodysurfing.
We had a nice dinner with the Canadian couple at Cafe del Santisimo on Wednesday night, then they headed back to Bogota for their trip back to Canada.
Yesterday we went on a nice tour to Isla del Encanto (Baru), one of the islands on the archipelago of the Rosario Islands. Luis took a tour from that island to go snorkeling. I went swimming.
The tour included a great lunch of fried fish, platanos, rice, salad and more. (Notice that every blog entry of mine mentions food.) There really weren't any waves on the island; it's quite calm.
After, we walked around the walled city. It is absolutely stunning, and I would recommend this city just for the walled city. It reminds me of Old San Juan, the old section of Puerto Rico. All of the balconies remind me of New Orleans. Plazas with fountains dot the downtown. And pedestrians walk atop the wall surrounding the city. There's also a cafe on the wall that we plan to visit today.
Today, we're going to spend the entire day in the walled city.
There's also a 45-foot volcano (yes, 45 feet) about an hour from here. The ashes have mixed with water, and it's now a mud bath with lots of minerals. We haven't decided if we'll make that trip.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

city tour of Cartagena

We did a nice city tour of Cartagena today. The walled city is really nice from what we saw, and I can't wait to see more of it just by strolling around.
The tour was in a chiva, which is a typical, colorful Colombian bus used in the country to transport animals, fruit and vegetables on the roof and people inside. Today, they've become a big part of tourism in cities.
We went up a large hill outside the city to a monastery. It had an amazing view of the city. We also went to a fort and traveled through the narrow hallways deep down into the fort. It was somewhat steep and at points slippery and wet, and I just kept hoping I wouldn't fall on my ankle that has finally healed from the fracture just over a year ago.
We also went to an emerald factory in the town after. That was just for the gringoes on the tour. I guess they figured we would buy emeralds. There were a lot of beautiful ones, but we didn't buy anything.
We met a nice Canadian couple on the tour. They live along Lake Ontario a couple of hours east of Toronto. We're going to go to a restaurant with them tomorrow night.
So glad that we've settled into a new hotel.

we escaped...

...from costa del sol
we have renamed it costa del hole, or costa hell hole. at the top of the hotel is a pool which has a roof over part of the pool. the roof has a gigantic hole visible from the ground of the 14-floor hotel, or you might say, hole-tel.
i am so glad we escaped. i will never break the law. Prison food is probably just a little better than food at costa hell hole, and I could never stand to eat such food for an extended period. They even had terrible scramled eggs. they looked really white, and luis said they had no flavor.
today we're doing a tour of the walled city.
we're looking forward to enjoying time in a hotel that doesn't smell like fish.
the Caribe is much nicer. and the lobby has decent air-conditioning, too.

Monday, January 5, 2009

we arrived at Costa del Hell

Someone recommended the all-inclusive Costa del Sol in Cartagena to us. I was reluctant because it was the bottom-tier hotel and there´s no food worse than an unlimited amount of bad food. We made the reservation through a travel agent who also said it was a good choice. We were traveling the day we made the reservation, so I didn´t have a chance to go online and check out
Boy, did I make a mistake.
Last night, before leaving, I had a chance to check out tripadvisor´s reviews, most of which said the place was awful, except for a few that seemed to have been written by the hotel manager.
We arrived, and the smell in the lobby that we were warned about was there. The floors were dirty. We immediately inquired about switching hotels, and we´ve spent our first day doing that.
Then we had lunch. There literally put out potatoes that were just boiled, just plain potatoes. There was pasta that I swore had no sauce whatsoever. Then Luis said there was a light sauce and I saw some garlic but couldn´t taste anything but pasta. There was a decent chicken dish.
I saw the Pepsi machine (i would have never booked there if I knew they didn´t serve Coke). But even worse, they soda machine didn´t even work. They had one bottle of soda in a plastic 2.5-liter container. When they ran out, the woman had to get permission from a higher-up to open another bottle.
Right now, I´m in the office of Caribe, a very nice hotel, while our travel agent looks into switching us to this hotel. Avianca, who put together the package deal, says there is availability starting tomorrow.
gotta go to avianca to change our reservation ASAP
more later.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Happiest People in the World

Here´s an interesting Business Week piece about the countries with the happiest people.
Canada and Colombia made the top 10 list. The United States falls behind at No. 16. Maybe that´ll improve on Jan. 20.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

the food of colombia

To the surprise of many people, Colombians do not eat spicy food. Colombians like very mild food. And Luis´family doesn´t even keep pepper on the table.

I´ve been amazed at how fresh all of the food is here.

At a festival, a guy prepared limeade from fresh limes and a machine that crushed the long pieces of sugar cane to squeeze out the cane juice.

This photo to the left isn´t just a fruit stand. It´s also a sit-down restaurant for fresh fruit. They produce amazing plates of freshly cut fruit with fresh cream and ice cream. It was so delicious.

I´ve enjoy many tropical fruits, many of which I can´t even remember the names. One piece of fruit looked like something that would come out of the stomach of a character in Aliens. Inside, it was full of gel-covered pits. You eat the pits and all. It was absolutely delicious.}

One day we stopped at a roadside restaurant for chocolo. I was full but I told Luis´family I always have room for chocolate. I was mistaken. Chocolo is a crispy pancake. The cook put whole grains of corn into a machine, which mashed it to a thick mixture. He then added a little bit of sugar and formed pancakes, which he cooked on pots over coals. They were absolutely delicious.

The strangest thing I´ve eaten so far would be Gelatina de Pata, which is a taffy apparently made from the cartilage in parts of a cow´s leg. (I think mostly the knee.)

Luis is holding a guanabana he found on a tree at his brother´s property.

Chorizo sausages are delicious.

Some empanadas, with cheese and arepa (the corn pancake), some beans and hot chocolate made from melted chocolate, milk and sugar.

Chicarron, on the right side, is fried pork.

on the left is fresh aguacate (avocado), some fried plantains, rice and a arepita (a small crispy corn pancake). See the banana on top right. Colombians eat a banana with many meals (during the meal, not after.)