Colombia is renowned for its variety and quality of fruit for very good reason. While South America as a continent is noted for fruit I never found it to be on a par with Asia but it seems I had been to the wrong countries before venturing to Colombia. Along with the ubiquitous papaya and watermelon came a plethora of fruit many of which I had never even heard of let along seen before. Perhaps the most exotic was the lulo, a very tart fruit found only in Colombia and a few neighboring areas of adjacent countries like Venezuela. Even within Colombia, it was not an easy find. In the area around Cali it was abundant but still not as popular as we had anticipated. It is not a fruit that is consumed as it but rather best lends itself to fruit shakes, the lulada the prime example. The fruit's very sour flavor plays off well against the added dulce de leche and/or condensed milk. It's an odd seedy green concoction but once tasted, we were surely hooked and looked for it often in vain thereafter.
the water here comes in plastic bags and without a knife it is quite interesting getting into them. You bite off the corner and the water sprays all over you and then there is no way to re-close it (hence the note to pack a binder clip next time)
However, you will get the hang of it over time and if you ask many of the vendors have scissors and sometimes even a straw ready. I brought a wide opening water bottle and found it quite useful just to dump the contents of the entire bag into that.
The good news it that bagged water is dirt cheap (25 cents US) and often delightfully cold. Bottles are available but are quite a bit more. The water in Colombia is potable in most of the country. Talk to the traveler where you are to find out for sure. I was totally on tap water in about a week and a half and had no issues (but I do have an iron stomach) even in the smaller towns.
I am totally in love with the Colombian people. They are so wonderfully friendly and helpful.
It is also a very polite and even formal culture. I think this example may say it best.
When ever you say thank you to someone they always reply with ¨con gusto¨ which means with pleasure. I just love that. Never your welcome...always with pleasure...what a sweet thing to say.
Another interesting thing here is the motorcycle laws. Motorcycles are a primary means of transportation for many here but during the periods of violence that have overtaken the country in the past...motorcycle drivers regularly were the ones who carried out the murders, kidnappings and initiated the violence that haunted the country.
So for many years it was actually illegal to wear a helmet. This allowed people to identify the killers since the killers before that time always wore full face masks and were almost impossible to id. The killers also blacked out their license plates. Now you are allowed to wear a helmet but you must have your license plate # on your helmet and on an orange vest to allow the police to ID you and to help stop the violence. Pretty smart isn't.?
I noticed that on Sundays, the various town councils would close several avenues and streets, or at least reduce several lanes of a major avenue and open up these free roads to cyclists, joggers and sports enthusiasts.
Once in Bogota, I actually saw a whole stage being set up with a huge group of people working out aerobics routines.
And the nicest thing is to observe many locals take advantage of this and spend a few hours keeping fit every Sunday.
My friend's mother runs an internet cabin-cum-photocopy services and she keeps herself locked inside, transacting through the grilles and admitting internet users who presumably look OK.
I also noticed many mom-and-pop shops have grilles at their entrances. People buy sweets, cigarettes, snacks, etc... through the grilles as well.
I guess this is due to the high crime rates in the cities.
A common phrase used here is ‘A la orden’, which means ‘At your service’.
Everytime I walked into a store, or thanked someone as I departed the store or restaurant, they would smile and say “A la orden.”
Colombians indeed offer the most smiley and sincere services. Bravo!!
Gabriel Garcia Marquez has been the most important writer. He has known as “Gabo”. He was born in Aracataca near the Caribbean Sea. He began working for regional newspapers and he was reporter. After he moved to Bogotá and he worked for “El Espectador” and after he was corresponds in Europe. He has written very much stories about the thing’s Colombian. His books describe the life diary, the politics conflicts socials and families and the characteristics typical of my country with the best power the imagination, mystery and real and the unreal of the human. He invented the “World”s Garcia Marquez”.
The most importants books are The story of a Shipwrecked, Chronic of a Death Foretold and the best masterpieces is One Hundred Years of Solitude, Love in the Time of Cholera. The book has been translate in much languages.
On the 1982 he won the Nobel Prize for literature and today he lives in Mexico and he has known as personal friend of Government Cuba. When he was diagnosed cancer he wrote about your life, he book it’s called “Living to Tell the Tale”. The last book it’s Memoria de mis Putas Tristes”.
Fernando Botero is the most important Colombian’s painter. He was born in Medellin, Colombia, on April 19th, 1932. He has two brothers and grew in his city and he studied in Jesuits school. He started painted at 13 years. After he went to study in Europe. The pictures are characteristics by inflated forms and exaggerated human figures, is both living history, and a living legend.
He has paint the culture Colombian, our authority and family symbols of power and authority are present regularly in his work, with images of presidents and soldiers. He condemns “militarists and the morals and manners of Colombia's bourgeoisie.
Today is very rich because his pictures are very expensive. He has donated arts collection, the best famous are in Bogota in Luis Angel Arango library and the Museum Botero in Medellin. When you visit Colombia, you should know these places.
In the Department of Santander, which includes Barichara and San Gil, the locals always use the formal 'usted' to address someone rather than the informal 'tu.' This applies even to family members and to boyfriends/girlfriends. So if you try to befriend the locals and they keep referring to you as 'usted,' don't think that they are being distant; it's just their manner of speaking.
Warning! This tip is for adults only.
I wasn't sure whether to include this and I'm sorry if it's inappropriate, but it genuinely is a local custom, and I think it would be helpful for travellers to know about it.
As I was told by several Colombians in Santa Marta, it is common practice in the north of the country for adolescent boys to have sex with donkeys. This is not just a one-time affair, like a rite of passage that a boy has to pass to become a man. Rather, it's more like a substitute for masturbation. Young boys are expected to do this, and they are told by their fathers when they reach a certain age that they should not have sex with the dogs because they could catch a disease, and they must not do it with the chickens because the chicken will die afterwards, but with the donkeys it's just fine. At first I wasn't sure if the guys who told me this were just joking, but a few days later I read the non-fiction book Smokescreen by Robert Sabbag, in which the author recounts how he was told the same thing. And just now a quick google search brought up a scientific article which also cites the same practice.
I guess the moral of this tip is that before you get into a sexual relationship with a man from the northern coast of Colombia, you should consider who (or what) he might have been with before you. This is one tip that I'm quite happy to write without an accompanying picture!
Colombia is a strongly Catholic country and Christmas is cellebrated in all parts. The Streets are lit up, everyone has a tree and, most amusingly, everyone has a nativity scene.
I say amusingly because, while a few are strictly traditional, In colombia, just about every figurine imaganable follows that star to Bethlaham. Baby Jesus is adored by trolls, nights in armor, little army men, it doesn't matter if they are on a whole nother scale, they just want in on that nativity. Even in the churches you find this odd plastic mix. Pios and paradoxical
Colombians are rightfully known for their music and dancing. Salsa, Marangue, Vallenato, Cumbia. No colombian party is complete without a dance. If you plan to get anywhere with the beautifully Colombian women you better have the stamina to dance right on through the night.
Driving can be rough in Colombia so the locals have turned to a higher power for help. It is possible to get your car blessed by a priest, there are shops that specialize in statues of the Virgin Mary for the dashboard and on every road there are shrines for protection. Many give offerings of headlights to gain protection for their auto. On some well traveled stretches I've seen over 30 headlights around a shrine
Colombians are more polite than Spaniards in terms of how they speak to each other. The most noticeable example of this is if you ask a question and they don't hear you properly or understand what you mean. Instead of simply replying with 'Que?' (which a Colombian would regard as extremely rude) you will hear 'Senor?' or 'Senora?' - even between mother and daughter. It will probably be appreciated if you do the same.
Not only will this be appreciated in a country where tourists are relatively rare, you will find that there may be monetary benefits for you as well if you are able to chat to the locals in their native language (you are likely to get a discount).
To be honest, being able to speak (and understand, which is much harder) some Spanish is really a must, as English is not widespread outside the educated middle classes.
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