Saturday, January 23, 2010

Colombian shopping spree.

I have found myself living in my own apartment in Bogotá. After jumping through all the proper Colombian hoops, I offically live here, rental contract and everything. But that being said, apartments here come completely unfurnished. I´m talking not even a rod to hang my shower curtain. So this week has been a massive shopping spree to make myself a home; one could call it nesting, but not like that, I´m not having a Colombian baby. . .that I know of anyways. Ahem(throat clearing), let´s change the subject.

Bogotá has some flipping sweet flea markets that happen on Sundays and are filled with a world of things, literally. As I shopped last Sunday, I found myself absolutely fascinated by the wide range of objects that one can purchase second hand in this oh-so-special place. Needless to say, and very obviously posted below, I pulled out the camera quite a few times for things that are only believable in e-print. Get your tissues, you are going to cry, out of hilarity, out of disgust or out of sheer happiness that you can certainly buy anything you want in Bogotá. Speculum. Used speculum. When I open my back-alley PAP smear clinic, I now know where I can buy cheap equipment.
These little guys were the only live things for sale, thank god in heaven for that.

WHAT?!?!? You mean to tell me the secrets to perfect hair have been hiding in this junk heap in Colombia all this time?!?!?! My carreer just took a huge boost! Yes! And if I look hard enough, I know I can even find a VHS player to watch this inspirational, life and hair changing video. It´s in English and everything(tears welling up in the eyes. . .).

Colombia is an equatorial country, how a single ski boot ended up here is a mystery. This was the only one, literally did not have a match that I could find. Memories of life in the ski town. I know some Texan tourists who would eat this up.
Antique barber chairs. I damn near drooled when I saw these beauties. However, I am curious if the giant clown head is included in the $1,500,000 Colombian peso price of the chairs. Maybe I could install a Flobee in the clown head, put the clown head on the client, wait for 3 minutes, remove the clown head, take the money and sit the next client down. Or maybe I could wear the clown head whilst cutting to scare the screaming kids in to silence. "Here comes the barber with my sharp implements! Don´t be scared little boy, it´s just a hair cut, ha, ha, ha(evil laughing)." That should shut the little shits up.
Being that blogspot only lets me post five photos per post, I have included a part 2 to this Colombian flea market madness, read on.

Colombian flea markets part 2.

This is so hilarious, and awesome!
For all of you that know I´m a die-hard cyclist, this sweet ride made me wish I was 2 feet tall.
Not only can you spend money in the markets, you can buy money. There was also many stalls with heaps of coins from around the world. As a coin collector and lover(that´s right I love coins), I had to control myself.

Roller derby anyone? Team America in the house. Stars and stripes til´ death!

Clearly this is what the speculum was for. Wow.

And finally, one can find grinning gold masks from pre-colonial times in the flea markets. Invaluable historical items. Just kidding, this is actually from the Museo del Oro(Gold Museum)in Bogotá, but I´ve been dying for an excuse to post it. Grrrrrr!
Representing only a small cross-section of the plethora of goods one can purchase. I had a blast killing time and money in the markets, and will return tomorrow to search out more stuff for my apartment. Please rest assured that I purchased none of the items shown here, but am considering a few of them. Hopefully some lucky Colombiano did not snatch them up before I can return to bargain with the sellers for these classic items.
Do not be surprised if there is a part 3 and part 4 to this post.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


There is a rather popular belief that world travel is nothing but 100% good times. I will now break all hearts and dispell this purely false belief. It seems that many folks believe that when one travels, it´s a party every other night, mind blowing scenery, historical sites, friendly locals, wonderful restaurants and hostels full of travelers from the world over ready, willing and able to share good times. Not a reality. I should also preface this by saying that I am not exactly the typical "world traveler", meaning I am not backpacking from place to place for months on end. I have come here to Colombia to live, essentially I am an immigrant.

This past few days has been particularly difficult for me, dealing with homesickness and culture shock(AGAIN, I swear there is no remedy). I am not exactly missing the USA, I am missing the fact that people can understand me when I talk and I am missing the people in my life whom understand me best. It is terribly lonely to do this. I have no friends, I have no family, I have nobody whom has known me for more than the six weeks I have been here. And out of the people whom I have met in those six weeks with whom I am closest, there is the language and culture barrier. I cannot talk to anyone when I am sad or stressed out, and when I try my Spanish usually just frustrates me more. Nor do the Colombians understand because most of them have barely left their city, let alone their country, family, culture and language.
Let me tell you how much I love it when someone speaks to me in Spanish like I´m a native speaker and then looks at me like I´m an idiot for not understanding. I speak Spanish, I actually speak it rather well, but that does not mean that I have been speaking it for the same amount of time as these people. I would assume that it is obivous that Spanish is not my first language and to slow down when one speaks seems to be something that would happen without too much effort. I guess I´m wrong on this one. Do the second language English speakers a favor, enunciate and slow the hell down when speaking to them, it makes life SO much easier.
I am also totally convinced that there is a country-wide staring contest going on between all the Colombians. I cannot walk down the street for 3meters with out some man hissing at me(their way of trying to get my attention, I find it sickening and offensive), or some kid looking at me like I´m an alien, complete blank stare, and even the women stare like I am naked or something. That´s right, men, women and children, even the dogs stare sometimes, no lie. It is something I have dealt with everywhere I have gone and I will never grow accustomed to it. I hate it, hate it, hate it. I do not remember us Americans staring at every foreigner walking down the street in our country, but hey, I guess that´s the difference.
That´s me down there, all alone in Bogotá.
I´m sure some of you are thinking, "Why in the hell is she there if it´s so terrible?". That´s not the point, but there are days and times when I just want to scream and cry and scream some more because being so different, being so detached from everything one has known is not easy. If there was a word to describe difficult times one million, that´s how it is to change country. The more time I spend out of the United States, the more respect I have for the families who come to my country looking for a better life, and I completely understand why they live in neighborhoods full of others like them. When I find the neighborhood full of Americans, I´m there! However 99.9% of Americans believe Colombia is a drug-filled land of pure violence on every corner, so I doubt I will find a group of other United Statesians anytime soon. Not even the Brits do it for me. Sure we can speak English together, but it´s not the same, their humor is way too advanced for me. All the Aussies are alcoholics, boring and annoying. The Canadians are great, but they don´t quite understand the highstrung-ness of Americans. That´s it, that´s all I got. All alone with my American anxiety.

Though difficult beyond description, it is also rewarding beyond description. The things one learns about oneself and one´s culture by detaching from it is invaluable. I would love to call up and chat with one of my girlfriends for old times sake, but I would spend my savings in a week doing that. There is a trade off for everything in life. And though I do not identify with the culture here as well as I may like, I also have discovered I do not identify with American culture either. So I might as well be here where the weather is better.
Post script. Yes people, I know I signed up for this, I´m not ignorant to that. I don´t hate this at all, I just want some familiar company sometimes! I will survive, and be warm whilst doing it.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Family time.

What kind of Colomiban holidays would I have had if I was not at some huge gathering of cousins, uncles, aunties, mommas, grandmas, etc, etc?? Naturally that´s were I was. I was "priviliged" enough to be invited to spend the holidays with my Colombian family, and it went something like this.
Christmas day I was invited by my own personal Colombian to spend with his family. My Colombian mom is pictured left, being very latina, heating up the grill with a blow dryer. Viva la vida. This gathering was loaded with young cousins, whom I am convinced are born with a sense of humor white people could only wish for. There was a pleothera of cousins, aunties and uncles, a grandma, and a baby-on-the-way. No Colombian family would be complete without a pregnant woman. I was more of an observer as I was slightly intimidated by the Spanish speaking nature of the gathering. But the party being loaded with kids, I found conversations of my own level of Spanish. Certainly all were curious who this gringa was. By the end of the day they all knew. Nothing major happens on Christmas day in Colombia, the parties are on Christmas Eve, this was just a good old fashioned family gathering. Pounds of meat were grilled and enjoyed, along with Colombian brew. A rather uneventful day, thank god, but enjoyable nonetheless.

The real party came the next week, for the New Year holiday. I was invited, yet again, by this particular Colombian to travel to another small city, Tunja, where his uncle, aunt and cousins live to enjoy the New Year. We stayed with the family, I got to share a room with the kids, since apparently the Colombian and I were not allowed to share a room(lame). Maria and Santiago, ages 7 and 11, have got to be the funniest kids I´ve ever met. Personality galore!!! On New Year´s Eve, I curled and styled Maria´s hair, making her feel like a real queen. That´s us, the two super beautiful ladies just before the party.

In proper Latino fashion, we partied at the house of the grandparents, dancing and partying until about 4am. I must admit, I have never danced in somebody´s house like that, but if you can´t beat them, join them. It was 100% Colombian good times. I learned how to do some of the basic dance steps and had the privilege of dancing with nearly every man, and practically every woman in the room.
Needless to say, sleep came easily after such a wild night, as Maria and Santiago demonstrate in their too-precious-for-words photo.

The next day, New Year´s day, it was back to the grandparent´s house for more grilled meat. I didn´t last too long this time. I was totally exhausted from the previous night. Most everyone else was battling a fierce hangover(not me, ha, ha). I was just battling exhaustion. At this point, I had eaten enough grilled meat for an entire year and opted out. My stomach and my mood were saying, "no, gracias". The New Year day passed without much action. The next day Uncle Cesar, Aunt Nora, the cousins, the Colombian and I departed for a few days of relaxation in a small town called Miraflores.
Miraflores is a town with not much to do, is surrounded by gorgeous Andes and has a perfect climate, like most of Colombia. I woke up the day of our departure for Miraflores with something fierce in my throat, and did not feel very well most of our three days in Miraflores. We passed our time at the local pool, something the kids could not get enough of. And due to my illness, I was allowed some alone time to rest in my room, not joining the family for every outing to the pool. When we were chilling at the hotel, the kids kept me entertained, along with the particular Colombian. I really cannot express enough how great these two kids are and how much I love spending time with them. They hammer me with questions about the United States and are constantly asking me how to say things in English. The kids were the highlight of my trip. Colombian adults don´t seem to understand that Spanish is not my first language and sometimes have me very frustrated with the way they speak to me, thinking I can understand perfectly. As if. Thus, the kids are my salvation.
After a week with the family, I was more than eager to get back to my life in Bogotá. Colombian families do EVERYTHING together, and it was hard for them to understand that sometimes I wasn´t hungry at the exact same time as every one else, but still had to go and eat. Being the Pura Americana that I am, part of me was dying for some alone time, some English-speaking time, and to just be goddamned left alone for a couple of hours to rest my Spanish-overloaded mind. I was granted the opportunity and it saved the trip for me. Plus, finding some alone time with the particular Colombian was also not of great availibility, sort of frustrating. By the end of the trip, I was feeling like a 30-year-old kid, not something I was very cool with. I´m sorry, but I will not answer to other adults. However, I kept my game face on and finally slept in my own bed last night, got up when I wanted and ate breakfast when I wanted.
It was a great week, it not a bit trying. Speaking Spanish for an entire week certainly helped my ability and confidence. Spending time and traveling with the particular Colombian was really special and I definitely thankful for the opportunities to spend time in ways very few other foreigners get to experience. I mean, when is the last time your Colombian uncle wiggled a piece of grilled cow intestine in your face whilst all your Colombian cousins laugh, knowing full well it was grossing you out? Good times.