Sunday, October 9, 2011

Gastronomy Festival

Today was the last day of the Gastronomy Festival ( at Corferias, a splendid display of food and treats from around the world. For merely 8 mil pesos, one could wander for hours and taste foods and beverages of all sorts. You need a keen eye for the free samples, but they're there. With an international arequipe competition, barista awards, and various cooking demonstrations, even the rookie foodie could walk away enriched. I recommend this event in the future! We left with full bellies and intrigued pallets.

Food art in the making

The Barista awards ceremony

Soccer with the "Recicladores"

On Friday evening at a cold and dark 11 p.m., I joined a group of acquaintances for "Proyecto Mete La Pata,” a soccer game between “recicladores” (the people who collect recyclable waste for a living) and community members. A friend organized this event with the goal of continuing it every month. 

The hope is that in playing soccer with this group of otherwise marginalized people there can be improved relations, engagement and empowerment, as well as a platform by which relationships are made that help everyone understand one another in a more meaningful way. It’s also a respite of recreational activity from an otherwise grueling lifestyle. 

Unfortunately, the first ball kicked was lost over the fence, but this allowed us time for one woman who was with her 11 year old son to explain the process of recycling to us. She arrives each evening in this location, near where she sells her findings, around 11 p.m. She says she usually finishes sorting her items by 1 a.m. She showed us what items were accepted, and the ways in which people are assisting the recicladores with separating out their recyclable waste. Apparently, orange colored bags indicate that they are full of recyclable materials. She said sometimes people will also label their garbage bags but that this presents a problem for those who are illiterate. She receives 300 pesos per kilo for her items - a hard day’s work with little return. 

In time, we got another ball and the game commenced. Everyone’s soccer skills were beyond me, so I found myself partaking in some snacks on the sidelines. Meanwhile, the 11 year-old son of the woman we met was out on the field dominating.

This is a public event and participation is encouraged. For more information see:

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Kites, kites, everywhere!

Kites are lining the streets of Bogota these days.

It's been a while. I was in the states for the last month but noticed very quickly upon my return that street vending had been taken over by kites - yes, kites. They're for sale everywhere. I've since figured out that August is officially kite season for its windy weather, so I partook in the fun. If you want to feel like a kid again go fly a kite - preferably in Parque Simon Bolivar. It was a blast!

Here's what 8 mil will get you...

Parque Simon Bolivar is the place to be!

It appeared as though some folks got crafty and constructed their own kites as my friend reported he does every year. I, on the other hand, spent 8 mil on a not so greatly constructed kite that I now intend on souping up for my next trip out. I tell you what, I couldn't get that damn thing to fly higher than the tree line but I had a good ole' time trying.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Creative Street Vendors

It's not uncommon to see folks turn their vehicles into tiendas. I love how beautifully displayed these shoes are!

One of the most fantastic things about Bogota is the daily joy of paying witness to creativity and resourcefulness in its highest form, particularly with street vendors. Although many street vendors don't often appear to think ahead about their location or market demand for their products, they do succeed at attempting to sell a product in a respectable (albeit often entertaining) way. It is fascinating to watch day in and day out, even after months of seeing just about anything you can imagine for sale.

It's often outright humorous for me. One time I had a guy try to sell me a fully inflated air mattress. He wasn't just posted on the street somewhere. He was walking all around downtown with a giant inflated air mattress. Even if I was in the market for an air mattress I would be unwilling and unable to walk, bus, or taxi my home with my fully inflated purchase.

You'll often see folks trying to sell goods at stop lights. The same flaw in logic occurs there as well. It isn't uncommon to see someone trying to sell you a coat rack, mop, or other large and awkward item (sometimes bigger than the car itself). I'm always asking myself, 'even if I wanted to by that how could I make the purchase and store it in my vehicle in the mere 2 minutes I'm granted at a stop light?'

The glorious part is, these vendors get up every day and put themselves out there. They do it with a creativity and fervor you don't see elsewhere. And for that, I grant them respect.

In the market for a magnifying glass? Any size you need!

A kid's train. I kind of wanted to buy it. It looked fun.

Endless hair products to fit your needs and desires.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Culture Shock

It feels cliché to discuss culture shock but I realized recently that I knew very little about it. Interestingly enough, I wouldn’t have had the slightest clue that’s what I was experiencing hadn’t a friend brought it to my attention and offered me some resources. 

I think I missed the “warning signs” because I kept reflecting on the “honeymoon period.” When I arrived to Colombia, everything was exciting, beautiful, and new. My perspective was that Colombians did everything better than Americans, the culture felt healthier in various ways, and I couldn’t get enough of the new foods, music, and company. Slowly, my perspective began to shift and I was fearful of the direction it was headed.

Since, I’ve realized my experience of turning inward, finding myself in a daze, feeling overwhelmingly frustrated by cultural inefficiencies, making grave generalizations, and my sometimes outrageous displays of behavior are all symptomatic of culture shock.  Mostly, it has manifested itself in my very inconsistent feelings about being here. Now it’s just a matter of waiting it out and maintaining awareness.

When I think about our real reasons for coming here it was, in the words of my yoga instructor, about “expansion.” So, I’m expanding even though it may feel as though I’m retracting. Asi es la vida – the ebb and flow of expansion/retraction and awareness between. 

Culture shock in a nutshell: honeymoon phase (everything is AMAZING), negotiation phase (anxiety, frustration, disconnect), adjustment phase (things begin to normalize), and mastery phase (comfortable). Here’s to hoping the transition from negotiation to adjustment will happen pronto! 

Here is a PhD comic that is somewhat applicable albeit more so to re-entry. Really, I just wanted an excuse to post a PhD comic. I've never gotten my PhD nor do I intend to but these comics are hilarious.