Saturday, May 19, 2012

Ajiaco: What's Cookin'

I know I have written blogs about my Stage 2 Culture Shock and some of the things that have made adjusting to life in Colombia difficult...the food is NOT one of them.  It is AMAZING - the fresh fruit (and juice), picada, bandeja paisa, tamales, empanadas, canelazo...the list goes on and on of food and drink that I just can't get enough of but one of my all time favorites so far is Ajiaco.

It's been on my to-do list to try and make it - and seeing that this may be the first long weekend that I am not traveling, it seemed like as a good a time as ever.  Ajiaco is basically chicken and potato soup, it is served with mazorca (corn), avocado and rice on the side and on top of the soup you put sour cream (will the Colombia version of it) and capers which for me are what absolutely make the dish.  There was quite a bit of cutting and peeling and I learned a lot about potatoes (this soup has three kinds!) but overall it was pretty simple.

And it the end it was DELICIOUS!

The ingredients all laid out and ready to go.

Three types of potatoes - who knew?!

The final product - YUM!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

An unfortunate event

When I left for Colombia there were many reactions.  From my colleagues at Harvard the reactions were positive, from other friends there were some tears, from family and friends of family there was a lot of concern about my safety.  For the nearly 10 months that I've been here (wow!), I have never felt unsafe.  I regularly have to remind myself that I cannot and should not get in a cab, alone, from the street...but it is oh so tempting because it just seems like I'm going through a lot of unnecessary hassle for some made up idea of a danger that doesn't exist.  I go running in the afternoons alone.  I take the public transportation alone.  I live in a big city with a lot of people and sometimes the traffic and smog drive me insane, but mostly I am blown away by the beauty of the mountains surrounding the city, the dewy fields we pass on the way to school in the morning with the calves (I LOVE baby cows!), and the kindness and warmth of the people who live here and with whom I work.  I never feel afraid.

Today a bomb went off in the center of the city, killing two people and injuring many more.  I think many people are a bit shaken up and I realized that perhaps (only perhaps, this news would reach family and friends in the U.S) so I thought I'd just give a brief summary and let folks know that I'm okay.  Yes, bombs are scary and there is not a ton of information about the who and the why, but I still feel safe.  I even went for a run when I got home today.

The bomb is thought to be targeted at the ex-Minister of Interior, Fernando Lodoño.  His driver was killed, as was a police bodyguard.  Lodoño was injured and is the hospital but is okay.  About 40 others were injured (although this number varies from article to article that I've read).  The bombing coincides with the start of the free trade agreement between Colombia and the United States, so there is some speculation that there is a connection.  Some papers have said that FARC is responsible, others have speculated that others, even students maybe, that are angered by the politics are responsible.

Again, I'm fine.  More than fine.  Everyone is a bit more aware of their surroundings than yesterday, and obviously a bit sad that this kind of violence has popped up again in the capitol.  If there is more news, I'll keep you posted but for now, no worrying about me!

The best article I could find in English summarizing the bombing is from the New York Times:

UPDATE:  Another article that discusses a bit more of the politics shaping this event:

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Under the Sea

I am officially a PADI-certified Open Water Diver.

During this past 4-day weekend, I traveled to Taganga, Colombia on the Caribbean coast to take the practical portion of my scuba diving course...and check a few items off my bucket list.  Life-changing.

For the past few months I've worked to complete the theoretical portion of the course through e-learning.  If you are interested, check it out here.  It's super easy and very informative - I felt prepared for the practical portions and it allows you to get the certification in a shorter vacation. 

On Friday night I flew to Santa Marta, Colombia and from there took a 30-minute taxi to a less populated, more low-key town: Taganga.  It is a small fishing community that also has a large diving community and a lot of expats - traveling through or living there I wasn't really sure - but it was beautiful and provided a nice break from the craziness that is Bogotá.

The course was three days long - two dives on Saturday afternoon, two on Sunday morning, and two on Monday morning.  Each day included one dive with many drills and tests (required in order to obtain the certification).  I need to point out that the course was in Spanish - for a few reasons:  1) This allows me to check an item off my bucket list (take a course in Spanish).   2) This made everything a tad bit more difficult and scary.  When someone is talking about turning your oxygen off 12 meters (40 feet) under water but the details are a bit fuzzy about what you should do your blood pressure definitely creeps up.

Anyhow there were many tests - 200 meters swim in open water, floatability drills, skin diving, changing air at the surface and under water, etc. - but the best part was actually seeing this amazing underworld.  We saw turtles, seahorses, blowfish, eels, tons of fish I don't know the names of of hundreds of different colors.  It was breathtakingly beautiful.

Not sure what else to say.  AWESOME.  Here are some pics of the town and my diving.  I can officially check getting certified in diving off my bucket list.  I still haven't swum with a shark, however, which just means I need to go on another dive in a new place.  On my wish list: San Andres and Providencia.  Anyone interested in joining me?