Friday, January 1, 2010

Feliz Año Nuevo!

Happy 2010 everyone! I just want to start by expressing how incredibly happy and thankful I am to have such a great life, filled with the best friends, the most supportive and loving family, and the most fun and outrageous adventures a girl could ask for. 2009 was really an incredible year in Argentina and beyond, and I feel like 2010 is going to be another exciting time for me. Who knows what is around the next corner?

Anyway, right now I´m in Manizales, Colombia! I flew into Bogotá on the 29th and spent the afternoon and evening with one of Diana´s friends, Gustavo, who met me at the aiport and showed me around the city. I was absolutely struck by not only the beauty of Bogotá, but also how organized and clean it is. It really has such a great onda and vibe... made me want to spend a lot more time there. I loved the architecture, the cobblestone streets in the La Candelaria neighborhood, the festive lights everywhere, and the feeling of being in a big and lively city, though one which managed to feel more manageable and relaxed than Buenos Aires. I am for sure planning on spending a few more days there before I jet off to Brazil in February.

On the 30th I hopped into a car with Gustavo and one of his friends, plus the friend´s mom and sister... felt like I was in a clown car for over 8 hours on one of the curviest and most insane roads I have ever been on, through the mountains of Colombia to get to Manizales. Luckily I took a real name brand Dramamine and was fine, and really enjoyed the ride and the scenery, even if I couldn´t feel my legs after the first hour. Apparently the bus ride is longer and much more treachurous, so I was thankful for the car. Also, taking the car ride allowed us to make stops along the way for food and new treats like agua panela con queso (tea made from a fruit local to the area called panela, with cheese and fried bread on the side... you soak the cheese in the tea and then eat it with the bread... totally bizarre, but kind of delicious) in the town of Delgaditas, or juice made from fresh squeezed lulo or maracuyá (yummy fruits I´d never seen before), pan maritiqueño (bread made with a ton of butter so it is soft and a bit flakey like a croissant, but in loaf form... its famous all around Colombia, and I see why!) in the town of Mariquita, or my new favorite dish bandeja paisa (a massive mixed heart-attack-on-a-plate of beans, rice, fried plantains, meat, arepa, egg, and chicharrón). Wow, I like the food in Colombia.

Arrived in Manizales in the clown car around 9:30pm on the 30th, and after putting my stuff down in Diana´s gorgeous house and met her mom, dad, and sister (all super nice), I showered and dressed for a night on the town.. went out with Diana and her sister to a bar called Milagros which was decorated kitsch-cool with Jesus and Mary everywhere and filled with people dancing salsa and drinking aguardiente (anis flavored, so I hate it, but when pressured drank it anyway). Manizales is a beautiful small city in the coffee mountains (this region is called the Zona Cafetera) with hills and gorgeous views everywhere, so just enjoyed being out and about in this new place.

Yesterday of course was NYE-- FELIZ AÑO! It was a lot of fun, although it wasn´t quite what I expected. Diana had told me that typically on NYE her whole family gets together, and everyone brings a dish and they have a huge feast, and then go out dancing and partying after midnight... so what a surprise it was when around 7:30pm we learned that no one in the family was bringing anything and her parents were stuck at work, and we basically needed to cook everything for about 20 people!! So we got to work making a curry and a stir fry type thing along with a ton of fruits to snack on (traditionally in Colombia they eat grapes at midnight on New Year, so we had a ton of those especially), not exactly the typical Colombian food I had hoped for, but still turned out delicious. We feasted as planned and hung out at the house. Honestly, I missed watching the ball drop. Not having that image to focus on made me feel a bit disoriented as we counted down the seconds to the new year. The TV had some random image of a building on it, and when asked, no one could identify what building it was, so who knows what I was staring at as the clock struck 12... then HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

First things first, we all made the rounds around the whole room kissing everyone on the cheek and wishing them a Feliz Año. Then Diana went into a closet and dug out a suitcase and told me that traditionally you walk around the block at midnighton New Years if you want luck to travel all year long... so naturally, she and I took a spin around the block with a suitcase, and everyone who saw us made a comment about how we´d be traveling this year-- clearly a commonly known superstition. Let´s hope it works!

After the suitcase walk, a group of us took off to another neighborhood called Fatima, where supposedly everyone goes to party. There is a tradition where the neighbors make life size dolls, sometimes of famous people, and then burn them at midnight. We´d seen that one of the dolls this year was of Michael Jackson, and I was fascinated to watch them burn him in the middle of Manizales... however we arrived late, and when we got there the entire neighborhood had had a power outage and everything was black, and people we listening to music from their car stereos... we soon learned that the people who´d made the Michael Jackson doll had stuffed it with gunpowder, so when they set it on fire, it blew up and exploded into some kind of electric circuit and shorted out the entire neighborhood, right at the stroke of midnight!! Haha Michael Jackson! So yeah everyone was kind of recovering from that and waiting for the lights to come back, so it was I think more mellow than usual... we party hopped for a bit, drank a variety of drinks and met a bunch of people, and eventually ended up back at Diana´s house snuggled up for the night... so it wasn´t the salsa fest I´d expected, but was still a lot of fun, definitely interesting and entertaining and very different at a minimum!

The best was waking up today for New Years to a warm and bright sun! We packed up and drove the whole family to a river where we lounged on the shore and swam and got some sun... well, they did... I am apparently destined to be blindingly white forever.

Now.... the feria de Manizales goes from the 3rd to the 12th of this month that I really want to check out... there is another feria in a town called Pasto way down south called Carnaval de Negros y Blancos, at which everyone paints their faces either black or white and celebrates for a week in the streets. Diana is dying to go, and I´m certainly intrigued, so off we go! Tomorrow we´ll drive to Cali (5 hours south of Manizales) to see the city and pick up her boyfriend Chris. Then the following day we´ll hop in the car and head for Pasto together for the feria. We plan to spend about 3 days there and then drive the 15 hours back to Manizales, so I should be back around the 7the or 8th, in time to enjoy the end of the Manizales festival. There is a running of the bulls involved, which both horrifies and intrigues me, along with a ton of artisans and music and fun, so I definitely want to be back for that.

So yes, wish me luck on my crazy road trip all the way to practically the border of Ecuador and back (funnily enough, I am basically going to sandwich Ecuador, having been to Máncora in the far north of Peru and now Pasto in the far south of Colombia, without ever actually entering Ecuador... whoops) on some of the windiest roads you can imagine, through some of the most beautiful countryside in the world. I have a feeling I am in for an adventure!

A very happy new year to all! May your 2010 be happy, healthy, and full of new adventures!


Treezy said...

I love your stories. Can't believe you're missing Ecuador though! Although I am super jealous because I missed Colombia

heather said...

happy new year, sweetums. keep having those adventures. we love reading about them! xoxo