Tuesday, May 31, 2005

I like to think I use my powers for good, and not for evil

While I am sure no one in the United States would exactly describe me as waif-like, here I am nothing short of burly. Which is probably why I found myself hauling a Colombian woman with a broken leg, whom I had never met, up half a mile of bumpy, inclined, salt-paved corridors.

Allow me to explain.

On Sunday, one of our many, many, many, many tourist sites was at the Cathedral of Salt. To actually outshine the fact that I visited a Cathedral made entirely of salt (a mine in an old salt deposit from an ancient sea of yesteryear that has been tunneled and chiseled into an active cathedral) a truly remarkable event must have taken place. Indeed, indeed. The tour took us about ½ a mile into the mine (the front of the cathedral) at which point I noticed many a wheelchair circling the choir loft and altar. I thought to myself how nice that it was handicapped accessible; there weren’t any stairs that had to be avoided or anything. However, on our way out, we realized that the patchwork flooring of 4” deep and wide, bumps and holes was less than ADA desirable. After 3 minutes of watching this moth of a girl try to push her mother up the unruly slopes, I offered to take over. Isabel helped as well, but Isabel is about the size of one wing of that moth.

To make a short story long, it was easiest to sort of lay the chair half on its back and just roll the larger wheels up the terrain, but that required me to more or less carry half this woman’s weight. It was fine, there really were no other options, and after it was all over, Isabel was more winded than I was.

There is something to be said for an extra 30 pounds of American. I’ll take my good Samaritan powers over your unusually voluptuous figure any day.

What a weekend it was!

We certainly kept ourselves busy touring the likes of greater Bogota all weekend - very cool city, I gotta say. Anywhere that has meringue cookies on the street for the buying is a happy place. I have much to relate, and it will come in due time, I assure you.

I hope everyone had a happy memorial day, I love traveling but I do hate to miss any holidays that include hot dogs and cheetoes. I'll have to help myself to an extra helping come the 4th.

For today, I'll sign off with this little tidbit about Colombia... they have chicken flavored potato chips here. Chicken - as in poultry on a sliver of deep fried potato. No I didn't try them, I fear the repercussions.

Friday, May 27, 2005

The results are in

Thought you guys would be interested in knowing that after a worrysome 5-hour wait at the embassy, Isabel has a visa to come to the wedding.

Thanks for your prayers and pilates.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Isabel Needs a Visa

Tomorrow, Dr. J's sister and I are going to Bogota for the weekend for her appointment at the US Embassy. As of right now, she doesn't have a visa to come to the states for the wedding. The appointment is Friday morning at 7:00 a.m. and we will stay the weekend, I'll be back on Monday afternoon. So friends, I bequeath you ...

To my praying friends, pray that she gets a visa.

To my non praying friends, visualize Isabel with a visa in her hand during your yoga classes.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Personal Space

When Dr. J moved to the states, one of his main complaints was that when he didn't understand people, they would talk louder rather than clearer. I've heard the in-Colombia-people-actually-will-talk-softer-but-more-clearly-instead-of-yelling-at-you speech many times and I'm gonna have to disagree for the most part. However, I'm not really bothered by the loud talking, perhaps I'm slightly hearing impaired, who knows, but I'm greatly affected by the invasion of personal space whilst talking louder. I'm pretty sure I can't hear or understand them because holding my breath and trying to look comfortable requires about all the effort I can muster (I have this thing about breathing other people's exhale ... simply won't happen). If I don't know you very well, and I can touch you with my elbow, you are too close. If you see me squirm and awkwardly look on either side of your face rather than make eye contact, my eyes probably can't actually focus on your face ... thus, again you are too close. And this happens all day long.

Also, Dr. J's father is The Most Difficult Person to understand here, his voice is unimaginably deep, and it seems to be in a constant murmur-like state. Even if he patiently spaces his words out, it's SO unbelievably deep and monotone, I almost always have to get someone to repeat what he said. Not only that, but he never smiles when he talks, so it's this slow, low rumbling of a murmur, and of course, he's 4.5" from my face and his questions take for-e-ver, so it always feels like he's about to tell my he just ran over my cat. He'll come up to me and say, "Missy ... que ... ... queires ... mirar ... en la .... television?" but before he reaches the end of the sentence my emotions have already responded to, "I'm sorry ... I have ... to tell you ... your father .... has passed away", and I'm halfway to a nervous breakdown and on my way to find my toothbrush. And this is the only part of Spanish that is clearly not had any improvement whatsoever.

When I return in August I'm bringing surgical masks. And I have a birthday coming up if any of you want to jump on that for me.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Pepper, fishing and flooding

It’s true love. Despite what you may or may not misconceive about South American food, the only spices they use are salt and garlic. My salads, eggs and some other choice foods long for some cracked pepper. However, yesterday Dr. J’s mom bought some pepper at the store for me. I’m so going to marry that lady’s son.

Sadly, yesterday was the only day it hasn’t rained in quite a while, providing us ample time to make a day trip for fishing. I (along with Dr. J’s sisters and mother) was really dreading this, mostly because I’m not that thrilled with fishing all together, although sometimes it can be relaxing … you know, out in the woods, no one really talking, the calming waves from the water. It wasn’t quite like imagined though, we actually went to a sort of … how do you say … a fishing theme park. Complete with a miniature little water park for the kiddos, there were four small, stocked ponds (and by ponds I mean half the size of the one you just pictured in your head) surrounded by “stations” with a bench and an overhand for shade and two small pedestals to rest your bamboo fishing rod while you wait for the fish to nibble. After you caught your share of marine life, there was someone standing nearby to take it to the kitchen and prepare it for you along with a few delectable side items. Laborious, it was not. And no, I’m not kidding about the bamboo fishing rod. You really can’t complain about anything here, because as odd as the whole process was, the scenery is without a doubt, breathtaking.

With the rains this morning, we are on the brink of flooding over here. Soon you are all going to be able to sit around after work and watch the flood waters rise on CNN – I think you should have to throw back a shot of Jack every time you see a blonde girl fleeing the city with all the locals. Game ends when I’m positively identified.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Update: Things are good.

I’ll tell ya though, I’m exhausted. It seems like every night I have a social commitment and we never leave for any of them until 7 or 8 pm and get back pretty late. I like it when Dr. J’s youngest sister comes along because she has to be in bed early, so we get to leave a little bit earlier. I’m starting to actually need an afternoon nap.

And I am never hungry here. This must be what Jesus meant when he said a place where you will not hunger. We keep eating though. Fairly large breakfast, GI-normous lunch, bird food for dinner and extremely late, no snacks of any kind, yet every time we sit down my body is all – Again? But I don’t want any more food! I don’t know if it’s the heat (although it really hasn’t been very hot at all … sweatshirts galore) or the eating pattern. However, I have noticed the veins in my hands starting to swell and that’s a little odd. Maybe I’m aging rapidly here.

Much effort has been focused on non-English activities, I brought a lot of books with me to read, but now I’m thinking I might read half of what I brought. It simply takes too much time away from listening or speaking in Spanish. I’ve taken to watching a couple of dubbed shows on Nickolodeon, I couldn’t stand these for twelve seconds in English but it beats the hell outta watching Colombian soap operas, Whoop!! (Love thy Aggies as thyself) Not that those actors aren’t great, certainly they redefine dramatic roles, I think I just missed out on the Soap Opera gene. Not that I'm sad about that.

Karo, give Max Tivoli another go. I’m really enjoying it.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Just because you aren’t sweating through your clothes doesn’t mean it’s sweater time

It’s technically winter here, and by technically, I mean that it’s raining a lot. For those of you that are geographically challenged, we are practically sitting on the equator here, so no seasons. Anyway, we had about 3 dry days and it’s rained almost every day since. Sometimes at night but really, it has rained quite a bit.

Making it very humid. But not cold. Overcast. But not cold. It was about 85 degrees this morning cooler than last week, or maybe the same, but overcast so it felt … What’s the word … not cooler … umm … less hot. So I got up and got dressed and put on a tank top and some jeans for school and Dr. J’s mom walks in and tells me I’m going to freeze to death. As if this is possible on the equator. For a moment though, I thought to myself, did it turn cold during the night, then I remembered, no my window is open and I’m on the brink of perspiration now, so I should be fine.

As I walk through the entrance to school though, I notice that everyone is wearing sweatshirts or pullovers.

Did you hear me people? SWEATSHIRTS. And it’s in the mid 80 degrees with about 155% humidity. I took pictures just to prove it, I really have to figure out when a good time for uploading pics is, because I can’t keep these to myself. Too much.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Do I have a treat for all you coconut lovers!

Yesterday on the way to the club (and I did take pictures – some turned out good so I’ll work on posting them later), Dr. J’s father made a lurch to the right and we found ourselves staring at a sign that read, “Coco Hielo” … I think. That’s what we had anyway and all I can say is DELICIOSO!

Get yourself some shredded coconut (I’m thinking that this was unsweetened coconut, the sweetened kind would work, although it might be too sweet) and mix it with sweetened condensed milk and freeze it. Just enough to make the coconut stick together well. It’s “coconut ice” and it’s 95% coconut, 5% sweetened condensed milk – my portions may be off, it’d take some experimenting and make it to your taste. They made it in small glasses with a Popsicle stick in it, but you could do the same thing in an ice tray with toothpicks and have slightly smaller portions. It’s more of a food, than a Popsicle, just to give you an idea of the desired outcome.

Complete heaven.

La primera clase

I suppose today is the get-to-know-each-other day. This is what I remember most about the class. My teacher is a crazy lady. Unfortunately for me, she is the exact personality that I have the hardest time getting along with – you know, the very abrasive if-you-don’t-agree-with-everything-they-say-they-attack-you type. We spent the first twenty minutes or so with her asking me about things I like, things I don’t like, whatever … and every third thing I said I liked or didn’t like she had the opposite feeling so she would ask me why I don’t like them. Huh? I don’t like them, because I don’t like them. It wasn’t so much like why don’t you like this restaurant … because I don’t like that type of food/service … there was no reason. Like, I don’t like science fiction – why? Because, I don’t like science fiction. It doesn’t appeal to me.

She teaches yoga. I would love to take yoga but I never wanted to pay $10 per class. She tells me that $10 per class (23,000 pesos) is a very good price and I should jump at the chance. She tells me that yoga is one of the most important things in life and that it would do me a world of good.


She also tried to cut our class ½ hour short out of two hours. We stayed the full two hours, but she wasn’t happy about it. My assignment for tonight is to write a couple paragraphs about what I do and don’t like – for example: I don’t like people that try to con me. She took about 10 minutes to write about herself on the blackboard. It’s not that I don’t care about her likes and dislikes, but I’m not sure I learned anything except that she likes extreme sports, does not like to go to church, and does not want to have kids. I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say that she doesn’t like others that have or want kids or those that go to church. She squirmed noticeably in her seat when I said I liked to attend church. Dios mio.

I’m gonna regroup tonight and be more prepared tomorrow. Wish me luck.

On a good note, we had banana juice for lunch. YUUUUUMMMMM!

Saturday, May 14, 2005

La Galeria

This is not a fancy mall, and I am furious with myself for not taking my camera. We’ll go again and I will definitely take photos. Since it was raining, it probably wasn’t he most photogenic morning anyway. Actually, I haven’t remembered to take my camera with me anywhere yet.

So, what, you ask, is la galleria? Simply, it is a fruit market. However, think of it more as a gypsy carnival where the gypsies are all 5 feet tall and speak Spanish. The U.S. has so very few types of fruit compared to the rest of the world. It is very sad. It makes me appreciate how little Dr. J complains about the things he misses. If I grew up with all this fruit and then it was taken away from me, the world would know. There is a lot I can learn from Dr. J.

They never snack here (this is why they are SO very thin compared to us) so I suppose I have to wait for dinner or breakfast to try some of the luscious goodies from this morning. I think we bought 10 kinds of fruit and none of them were strawberries or apples or oranges. Many of them are to make juice. I introduced Karo to Juice a couple days before I left town, but for any of you that have never experienced South American juice – it is a MUST. Some of the juices are made in water and some are made in milk, but they are all thick and incredibly rich in flavor, very different than the juice we have. And people drink them with every meal, not just breakfast. However, no one really drinks water here and they all look at me like I’m nuts when I inhale as little as 4 oz at a time. I really don’t understand how they are not all completely dehydrated. Maybe they are, and it’s in the form of slender bodies and large breasts. I mock because I am jealous.

And the fruit is oh so cheap! We bought TWELVE of something green and juicy-like and it cost $0.50. FIFTY CENTS. Maybe a little less. Oh yeah, and the gypsy at that stand threw in an extra so I guess we got a baker’s dozen of fruta for like $0.45.

So next time, I promise to take pictures and I will definitely take pics of the fruit we bought and juice ... We’ll see.

Esta lloviendo

That would be that it is very, very wet outside, and I have the afternoon in. I’m in a horrible mood having nothing to do with the rain, but I am falling behind in the log of my journey so I will persevere. On top of that, I just realized that the hem fell out of both legs of my new Capri jeans proving the age old saying of, you get what you pay for.

We went to Dr. J’s aunt’s apartment last night and returned extremely early for a Colombian party – I think we were home by 11:30 or so. People around here really party. And I do mean, par-TAY. The last time I was here, I think I went to sleep during at least two parties because I just couldn’t say up any longer. And those of you that are shaking your heads because I always get tired early, it was about 3 or 4 a.m. when I was sleeping on the couch or floor or wherever I made myself comfy. Anyway, last night was tons of fun – good food, good company. His Aunts and Uncles really vary in age, therefore his cousins do also. There is a group of cousins about my age and another group about 15 years younger. His cousins that are close in age to me are great people and tons of fun – lots of them speak quite a bit of English. So the Spanish challenge is getting them to stop practicing their English with me so I have to speak in Spanish. The breaks are nice though. I got tons of offers to come and stay with them or go out with them if/when I get tired of staying with the in-laws. I will take them all up, not because I get tired of my in-laws (who have been just amazing!) but because it will be fun.

I never really get tired of speaking in Spanish (yet) because we constantly run into people that want to practice their English. And if I don’t know a word and I say it in English, chances are there is someone standing nearby knows that word and translates it for me. Not really a good thing for learning since I’m not forced to come up with something, but it really cuts down on the headaches. This is another reason why the class will be good for me. Did I mention it’s a one-on-one class? Good stuff.

Problem number two is that I seem to be satisfied with having countless conversations with myself in my head, so I’m not really listening as much as I should be. It’s so easy to just withdraw into my own little playground and just let the unrecognizable murmur fade out. I think my English is suffering too though. I keep writing sporadic words in Spanish. Sigh.

Friday, May 13, 2005

May 13th

I have absolutely no idea what day of the week it is. That happened embarassingly fast.

I am starting my Spanish classes on Monday and I can't wait! Generally, they are 2 hours a day, four days a week. Give or take.

The family is starting to trickle over and say hi. Tonight is the first major gathering, I've been told I have to get drunk to be initiated into the family. If I haven't mentioned it, the last gathering I attended that contained most of Dr. J's family had somewhere close to 80 people. I have two cousins on each side. Que sera.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Bienvenidos a Colombia!

The moment I landed in Miami yesterday, I began operating on the sandtimer of Colombia. The plane was delayed about 3 hours due to a malfunctioning air conditioner. I highly doubt there's a Colombian alive who can even tell the difference between an air conditioned and a non-air conditioned plane ride, but I'm happy to endure any sort of delays created by the smallest mechanical malfunction. What if the necessary energy from the air conditioner were unavailable to rig up an emergency landing worthy of Apollo 13? Let's not chance it.

You definitely have to adapt to the pace of things here quickly or the idleness will make you nuts. It's as if the whole country is on a morphine drip. Two o'clock in the afternoon and I've bought shampoo, spoke to someone about starting a Spanish class on Monday, and I'm about ready for my nap. Actually, Juan's father and I are messing with computers and email - if only I were slightly more computer savvy, this would be easier.

A couple of fun tidbits from yesterday's travel. I only slightly blended in on the plane, I spoke enough Spanish that I didn't stick out horribly, I could generally answer the questions asked of me, my clothing is distinctly American - but no one looked too much different from me (mind you, I'm still in los Estados Unidos at this point). However, dire transformations took place mid-flight and upon arrival, the women were all scantily clad and the men were wearing too much duty free cologne. The drench of cologne took place the moment we landed - thankfully I only had to choke in those fumes for a couple of minutes, however, I must have slept through the announcement that it was time for females under 40 to strip down to bras and underpants and I walked off the plane more closely resembling the men on board. While we were waiting in line to go through Customs at approximately 10:45 p.m., the management apparently decided to go home and proceeded to turn off the hallway lighting, leaving us to fumble through our customs declarations by kerosene. Oh, the fun that was had.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Chao! (yes, that's how you spell it in Spanish)

Although I had my day of laziness I have been mostly all consumed by social engagements and playdates that have had me running around like I've just been shocked by a 400 Volt gun. This week has flown by. I did go to a Ranger's game last night with my brother and his fiance. We were on the 8th row right behind 3rd base. Awesome seats. However, people in Texas really don't watch baseball - they just go for the nachos and beer. I remembered how when I moved to St. Louis I was surprised by how focused people were on the game. Then last night, I couldn't believe that no one would let me watch the game. It took me a while last night to get back into social mode ... show up half way through the 2nd inning ... get your beer on the way in ... I didn't even look to see who we were playing until the 7th inning stretch! I did win the dot game though - go Blue!!

Let none of you doubt my friend's abilities to powerhouse out a kareoke of Bobby McGee at her own wedding reception. Truly, it was a site. Some of you will have the pleasure of seeing an encore performance at my own reception in two months. Feel free to anticipate, she will not disappoint. I would post a picture except that I can't find my camera and the essence would be lost in a still photo anyway. Maybe I'll make a flip book.

I leave tomorrow. I spent 4 hours packing yesterday and still have miscellaneous things that need to be taken care of before my 11 a.m. departure. I think I'll end up giving myself a Spanish crash course (la leccion) on the plane (el avion) so I can get through customs with little effort. Yesterday I was informed that this weekend I am going on my first trip-within-the-trip, so I will be in Cali for 2 days, and then to Popayan for the weekend. For those of you that are counting, this will be my 7th home in the last 6 weeks. And yes, I am counting.

Wish me well, see you on the other side!

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

This one's for you ... you former coworkers, you

Yesterday was spent in a haze of previously Tivo'ed episodes of House, Desperate Housewives, Everwood ... and I think a partial episode of Law and Order SVU even slipped its way in there. Dad made my lunch and I had to simply trapse over to my grandmother's for the Tuesday dinner.

Sweet, sweet unemployment.