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Friday, May 20, 2011

Colombia Adventures Continue

I know its been a while since I have written so I thought I would give yall an update. Colombia is still super awesome for me and by far my favourite country in South America (even if it is the rainy season right now :(   ) it rains all the time! An umbrella is a must! I have been here in the capital city of Bogotá and made some great friends thru CS (couch surfing). Everyone has been SUPER nice! Colombia has a really bad reputation on an international level and there isn't that many tourists here and that is really sad. People judge this country before they come here for themselves and see it! I know that the people who live here know that so they try extra hard to disprove the notion that every person in Colombia is a criminal.

I have had nothing but good experiences here thus far, it doesn't mean that I still don't act smart and stay on my toes I just know that not everyone is out to get me. I can walk at night in (most) parts of the city and feel totally fine. I know the parts to avoid so I do. They use pesos here and there is 2000 pesos in 1 USD. So obviously when you buy certain things the amounts can get pretty large. Not only that but the numbers are obviously in Spanish and not English so I tend to struggle with the larger numbers even though I am fine with knowing how much money to give for smaller amounts.

The other day I went to pay for something I thought was roughly 30 USD so I gave the guy that much money in pesos. I didn't see a problem with it because I thought that was the price but, the price was actually around 13 USD. So this guy could have totally robbed me and taken more money than was required but he pointed out my mistake to me and gave me my correct change. I am sure most people would do this around the world but I just wanted to make it clear that in Colombia they do the same.

I have been taking day trips in and out of Bogotá and around (I usually don't go further than 4-5 hours away with friends and then come back) and so far I have seen some amazing places and beautiful landscapes. Much of Colombia is still very Catholic and religious and has a lot of Spanish Colonial influence. There is many plazas and old buildings and church's and almost every street is cobblestone and not concrete. Here in Bogotá though there is a big military/police presence and they are all armed to the teeth. It makes me feel safer for sure but on the flip side of the coin I have a feeling that I would NOT want to mess with any of these guys/girls because they all have automatic rifles. Thus far I have had zero problems with the military/police. As a tourist they just leave me be and they are even really helpful if you need directions or something.

Most of these soldiers look quite young but I am sure they are competent and trained well. There is a bigger presence of armed guards etc near the president's house obviously but it is quite a large neat building I am hoping to tour it in the near future! Also, I want to go to a look out point that overlooks all of Bogotá and a church made totally out of salt! Another thing I have noticed is that there is a ton of motorbikes here and every rider is required to wear a helmet and hi-vis vest. In addition to this they must have their license plate number painted onto their helmets. I am assuming its so if they get knocked off their bike for some reason the police can identify them or so they can see it easier at night. Either way I think its a smart idea. I wish America would implement a helmet law. Its proven to save lives and it makes me mad that people are stupid enough not to wear them then they get hurt and my tax dollars have to help pay for an unnecessary hospital visit.

I got bit by a dog recently. First time in 2 years traveling I have ever been bit by a dog. This dog was growling as I was walking (it was someone's pet tied up) but I have walked by probably 1000 dogs in multiple countries in these 2 years who have growled at me and done nothing so I didn't think anything of it. I was with my friend and she was walking out of reach of the dog. But, this dog was just not happy. Before I knew it he bit my leg!

Luckily I was wearing jeans and he didn't get thru them much. I checked and there was a tooth mark but it wasn't deep at all. Much as if you bumped your leg against the table and scraped it or something. Just to be on the safe side I washed it out with alcohol/soap and water and then went to get checked out to see if I needed the Rabies shots. ( I was NOT looking forward to that as they are expensive and painful I have heard) but Rabies can kill you untreated so it was worth it to go get checked out.
I went with my friend so she could translate and the doctor's said I didn't need the shots. They said even if the dog had rabies (which I doubt) the cut was so small and not deep enough to infect me so I should be fine. But if I start foaming at the mouth I will let you know :P

I have tried a lot of amazing food and drinks here. I have had meat/potatoes/other stuff wrapped up in a huge banana leaf that was so yummy! I have had traditional Colombian soup that had avocados and other stuff in it. it was called Ajiaco. I have had Colombia's version of a hot dog (that is interesting hehe) amazing Chocolate milk-ish kinda stuff,some great coffee and I have had some great national beers plus a fermented corn alcohol drink. It was called Chicha Everything is cheap here and I can eat a full meal for less than 3 USD!

I recently moved hosts and she is a really cool girl :) I like her a lot. Her English isn't 100% but nor is my Spanish. We communicate in 50% Spanish and 50% English. It is working so far. Actually I prefer it, staying at her place I am forced to speak more Spanish and improve my Spanish and she is here to correct me. I also help her with her English. I have always heard the best way to learn a language is to get a boyfriend/girlfriend who speaks that language and live with them. I can totally believe that because my Spanish has much improved since staying here! There is many museums in this historic district where she lives. I have been to the Fernado Botero  Museum. It was free which was great. There was security guards in every room! They were nice and helpful though.

He is a really famous Colombian painter but he has the weird obsession of painting everything fat. I mean huge. He mostly paints fruit and people but he ALWAYS makes them very large like overly obese people. It is strange but fascinating at the same time. His other quirky thing is that when he paints a woman nude he paints her always with armpit hair. But, he also has painted some serious stuff too. Ten years ago the violence was much worse here in Colombia (Now it is isolated to other parts of the country most bordering Venezuela in the jungles) anyway he painted a picture of a car bombing but he painted in such a way that the whole thing looks like a cartoon. I am sure it was based on real events but I think he wanted to "soften" the image. He is an interesting fellow. I also saw my first real Picasso picture up close and personal in real life. He was also an interesting fellow.

One last thing, a few cities here in South America don't have any street names only numbers. Bogotá is one of them.  At first it was confusing to me but now it is easy and I wish every city was like this. You don't need a map ever you just need to understand how the number system works. There is one set of numbers called Carrea and a second set of numbers called Calle. So say I need to be at Carrea 11 and Calle 2. All I have to do is find my way to there (the numbers go up numerically and Carreas are from North to South and Calle's from East to West) and then there is a 3rd number of the actual person's house/business whatever. Its easy peasy.

Also today I managed to eat lunch and buy a shirt and 2 pairs of socks all for 8 USD :) I tried one of the weirdest things I have ever eaten as well. It was a waffle ish kinda thing called oblea (it was harder than a waffle and almost like a communion cracker. In the middle it had arequipe and chocolate sauce and cream and cheese (not cream cheese and cherry sauce) it was weird and wonderful. I also had an enormous portion of helado (ice cream) that was basically like a bowl of ice cream but instead of a bowl it was a huge waffle cone. It was amazing and so so good! It cost me less than 5000 pesos, that is just over 2 USD!  I love the ice cream here and the fresh fruit juice. I have never been so healthy in my life haha. Almost everyday I have jugos naturales or some fresh fruit and it is so so cheap and good! I will really miss it when I have to leave South America.

Well that's all I got for now. As soon as I can get my hands on some sort of a camera I will take some pictures of this beautiful country for yall :) Until next time,Tyler

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