June 30, 2009

Three minute update: July 1

Three minute update: July 1
I've actually only two minutes. My long bus ride leaves shortly...

I'm not looking forward to a nine hour bus ride to Medellin from Bogotá. It costs $20. And my back already hurts... Yuck. But everyone says that Medellin is the mecca of fashion, design, cultural life, and dozens of other items "you can't miss!" I am greatly looking forward to it.

I literally spent all day indoors working on CouchSurfing. I volunteer in the New Member Welcome group. All new members receive two personal welcome letters, one local, and another international. 600 people send those greetings. And it's my job to oversee those 600, the tech issues, and resolve a miriad of random problems that arise. Thank god I work with three other moderators!

Today I wandered with CS Rene and Cris in downtown Bogotá. One of my favorite places was the military museum. Although I hate what it stands for, it was facinating to see the swords and pompous hats and uniforms, the guns and planes and cannons, the awards and medals and ribbons all representing a rich and real history from hundreds of years past.
I could not help but constantly think of my cousin Rob who has always been fascinated with history. I hope he is envious!

I also saw works of Picasso, Botero, Monet, Renoir, and dozens of other amazing and renoun artists.

Additionally, I was able to visit the Gabriel Garcia Velasquez center. What an amazing place!

Got to catch a bus...


June 29, 2009



Best definition: A countryside home. They are typically owned by whom Americans would consider to be middle class.

Fincas. I love them. And my following blog does about 5% justice to the experiences I am having.
Fincas are usually founded on the principles of Permaculture - Check out this Wiki link. You will like it. http// Basic principle: Design a human development that creates more self sufficient human settlement. It complements the ecology...

My finca encounters...

1. Pablo's finca outside of Quito, Ecuador. In El Quinche, Ec.

2. Organic finca outside of Quito, Ecuador - with CS Helen and Niki. In Malchingui, Ec.

3. Family finca outside of Portoviejo, Ecuador - owned by my roommate Maira's family.

4. Comfy weekend home finca outside of Cali, Colombia - owned by CS Felipe's family. In Rozo, Co.

5. June 2009
Expansive, extremely modern and comfortable finca in Espinal, Colombia, outside of Ibagué. Huge pool, excellent sound system... And about 10 years ago the entire family were captured by the Guerillas. Principle reason: The father flashed his money everywhere. And the Guerillas like money. Owned by CS Diego's family.

6. June 2009
Abandoned finca also in Espinal, Colombia, also owned by Diego's family. We slept under a tin roof. We ate roasted choclo, or overripe corn, on a fire that Diego built. And Cristian made FARC pizza, which he promised he would make over six months ago. Pizza roasted on open coals... With fresh tomatos, mozzarella, onion, garlic, and pepper. YUMMY! I ate until I could eat no more.

7. SOON...

June 24, 2009

Three minute updates...

I've decided that each time I sit down to the computer I will spend three minutes on an uber short update.
But since I've had a fantastic last week. I'll spend a bit more time.

6/07/09 - 6/12/09
Arrived to a Finca owned by CS Felipe (from Cali). Fincas are my favorite. I'm now on a quest to find more. It was outside of the town Rozo. There was absolutely nothing there except an amazing family of six who took care of the grounds, an 80 year old man who worked for the family for years, huge fruit trees (hooray for guayava!!!), a cutie dog, hammocks galore, birds of all sorts singing at every hour, a hornet's nest in my bedroom, amazing cooking, and and and... I loved it. The grounds were more than perfect. The flowers were gorgeous. The grass was like a golf course. I stayed there with CS Cristian for five days. A little too long for my taste, only because there is so much more to see in Colombia, but...

Check out photos of the finca on my travel buddy Cristian's site.

We headed back to Cali to meet with CS Jaime. We attended the birthday party for Farid Mondragon, an extremely famous goalie for a soccer team in Colombia. About every Colombian I meet is extremely envious.
More importantly, the party was for kids with cancer. There were at least 70 happy kids bouncing around, some with no hair, others with large braces, some with deformities, but all laughing at the four clowns running the show. To see all of them meeting their personal hero Farid, a once-in-a-lifetime moment, was amazing.
Cris and I traveled to Armenia to meet CS Camilo and Juanita... And seven other CS members sleeping on the floor! CS Bernardo, Melek, Cielo, Uri, Sebastian, Emily, Cesar, and Marie.

Uri, Cris, and I headed to a Mariposario, a butterfly farm, outside of Armenia. The grounds were SO lovely - We hardly saw any butterflies in the enclosed garden, but we did have a four hour tour walking amongst rare trees, flowers, and shrubs, and learning about both them and native species. I took a substantial amount of photos. I thought of my mum and also missed my own flower gardens. It was an amazing time.
BEST part of the entire trip: Remember Slimy the Worm from Sesame Street? I found him in the gardens. And he even wanted to crawl on my finger!!! I actually believe it was Slimy Jr - Because he was only about 1cm long. I laughed hard.

Mari (France), Cris, and I headed to a coffee plantation. We followed the entire process from harvesting the bean, husking it, drying the green seed, roasting it, and tasting two types of coffee beverages, both Chaqueta and Tinto. By the way - you need 7 grams of finely ground beans per 100cm cup of coffee, and you do need to heat it to precisely 22 degrees C. By the way - Please wait four minutes for the filtration process to complete.
Sleep: Armenia at Camilo's house. He and Juanita are SO wonderful! They play 50's and 60's music from the US all the time. :)

Cris and I wandered downtown Armenia. It was far from impressive. Noteworthy moment: I was wandering in the main square looking at screenprint art exposition and happened by a little cafe. The blaring music? KENNY G!!!! AHHHH! Memories of my mom endlessly playing the music as I was growing up! (Now where are my disks of Enya???)

June 11, 2009

Loving Colombia


Here’s a letter chock full of generalities and stereotypes. If you are from Ecuador or Colombia and unhappy with my words… Remember, this is my experience, and it is worth respect.

I sit in a sweaty bedroom in Cali, Colombia. Behind me on the bed and in a plastic chair sit two aficionados, or fanatics, of futból. Today’s game is between Colombia and Argentina, and people of both nationalities are present.

I’ve never seen such zealots for a sport before. No American fan of football, basketball, baseball, or any other pasttime can possibly compare with the immense passion of latinos with their soccer. If their team loses, they will literally be depressed for several days following the game.

In the mean time, I’m ready to write. I could care less about the game, and cannot possibly comprehend the rationality of watching a few hours of people running back-forth-back-forth-back-forth for only a goal or two. Uuuuf.

Cali: Connotation from my American perspective: Ridiculously dangerous. Dirty. The people are untrustworthy. You may be kidnapped at any time and held for a meater $5,000, the FARC knowing that any American family can come up with this cash. The place is filled with slimy 45 year olds wearing white Panama hats and cream linnen outfits and smoking big stogies. And they always have a young, semi-nude woman on their arm.

Cali: Reality from my life experience: Ridiculously friendly. Impeccably clean. The people are trustworthy. If you stay on the main highways, it is unimaginable to think you may be kidnapped. And the people are normal. Relaxed. All appear to be living a normal, content life. They are more than helpful at any time for any reason.

I am absolutely shocked.

To be frank, I enjoy the Colombian culture and country much more than Ecuador. I’ve found Ecuador to constantly reek of the rotting garbage in all the streets and sidewalks. The people who are not already your friends tend to be completely disinterested in helping. Those who work in retail or restaurants are flat out rude. I intentionally look for merchants who are smiling to patronize their business. And, thank god, I finally have a break from the continuous car alarms and incessant honking in the majority of Ecuadorian cities and towns.

Another favorite: Cali is smattered with green. Grass strips dividing traffic lanes are littered with mature, tall palm trees. Parks are found every few blocks. Flowers are not so common, but… At least it is not a city of cement as is Manta.

And what have I found here in Colombia?

Melt-in-your-mouth bananas.

Safety. I feel immeasurably more safe here than in Ecuador. And the obvious irony is laughable. I’m here in Cali, Colombia, supposedly filled with machine guns and people wanting to kidnap me… But instead I am with amicable people going about their lives in peace. Unlike Ecuador, they offer eye contact and cheerful greetings. I am slowly learning that if someone appears to want to help me with directions, they have no intent to rob me (unlike several experiences in Ecuador.)

Remember when I wrote to say that I was headed to Colombia? And that surely not much worse could be happening there than all the murders and attempted murders that happened in the two weeks prior to my writing the post? Three days later I was in the touristic center of Quito at night with a tall male and we were jumped and robbed at knife-point. I’ve never come close to urinating on myself before this moment. And now every time I see someone running, and even more when they are running toward me, I immediately freeze and freak out. I was robbed not just of my cell phone and cash, but of some sort of innocence and naivety of my false sense of safety.

Gigantic, modern malls. I have never seen such large malls in my life. The stark disparity between the weeny malls of Salem and the large, “modern” malls of Portland is comprable to the class of malls in Portland in relation to those in Cali. Cali has malls like the largest found in Houston, but on speed! Just to walk in front of each store front takes a sizable amount of time. It was lovely to see something stylish, trendy, and familiar for the first time in six months.

And I think I like Cali so much because of this – familiarity. People are more logical. They appear to be more likely to follow through on their commitments. They dress in front of the mirror, and the women do not show almost all of their breasts (thank god. I find this revolting.) There is green. Style. And clear intent to be helpful and genuinely cordial.

I pause in my writing to head to the back yard. I sit in a big black hammock under a mango and palm tree. I read "The World's Greatest Salesman," a gift from Sten. He is one of my favorite CouchSurfing members ever. And he loves chocolate ice cream and is from Estonia. Beat that.

Reality: The FARC still kidnaps people. They still rob. But not on main roadways, which are heavily covered with military posts and trucks and soldiers holding massive machine guns. Don't head off the road and you'll be fine. And they could care less about travelers on buses - Reality is, they know the people with money are those who take planes, not buses. Those are the people they bother, because their families have money to pay. So I guess I'll take the bus anyhow!

I 'll write more later regarding how the FARC and other groups still do terrorize the people of Colombia... But, as many Colombians have said, there has been tremendous change in the last eight years, and they feel they can travel in peace. As do I.


June 10, 2009

Travelers and Salsa Dancing in Manta

It’s amusing to note that for the last four months I have dissuaded travelers to spend time in Manta. I’ve told them about the city, and then suggested superior beach towns. There are two good things about Manta: Great people (the ones you are able to become friends with), and proximity to some fair beaches. I am so grateful for my friends, and so grateful to have the capacity to walk to the beach every day, but… Not having funky coffee houses to visit with friends is stifling. The city literally lacks culture of all forms. The music in the clubs is reggeton, the latin version of our grinding with hiphop music. Yuck. There is NOT ONE salsa club!!! Imagine – a city in Ecuador with no salsa club! This was one of the selling points of moving to Ecuador. Sigh. At least I am able to dance in the houses of my friends in Manta. My friends in Manta are the best! (Without them... I don't know where I'd be!)

- miss rose

June 3, 2009

So I've got Geographic Tongue

I'm missing a bunch of my Papillae, or the tiny white hairs, on my tongue.
Super weird. About 6o% of my tongue is nekked. :)

It's no problem. It heals spontaneously, I can still taste, and my tongue moves the same. I simply lose my sense of touch.

I find it most silly that I have Geographic Tongue... Perhaps if I'd stayed in the States it would have never happened!