Find your Passion, and then Live it

Medellín, Colombia

Thursday, June 30, 2011

How travel makes you smarter, sexier and more productive

My friend Amira (a fellow Laurier graduate) posted a great article on her twitter account entitled... "How travel makes you smarter, sexier and more productive". Obviously I had to check it out.

The article discusses the four ways travel can help improve your life...
1. Travel makes you younger
2. Travel makes you smarter
3. Travel makes you more productive
4. Travel makes you sexier

After reading it I took a moment to reflect on my own travel experiences so far and wanted to give my personal thoughts for each of the 4 points brought up in the article.

#1. Travel makes you younger
For me, and especially in Latin America, the life style here is different, it's less stressful and more easy going then the "hustle and bustle" of the North American culture. Here things get done, when they get done. Yes, you might have "deadlines" but they are more guidelines than anything. With this change in pace of culture and lifestyle I find myself more relaxed and less stressed. And we all know that being less stressed and more relaxed slows down the aging process, or something along those lines.

#2. Travel makes you smarter
Travelling around the world is one giant learning experience. As an individual you have the opportunity to learn so much while you are abroad whether it's about countries, culture, people, food, customs, current issues, languages.... the list is endless. I think that is one aspect of travelling I love so much, because everyday there is something new to learn,whether its about the country youre in or even about yourself. Expand your mind, learn new things, evolve yourself.

#3. Travel makes you more productive
When youre abroad you want to make the most of your time, whether it's to check out as many different places as possible or just taking advantage of each experience that is presented to you while travelling. Currently in Colombia, Im trying to use each long weekend (basically 1 a month) as an opportunity to travel to other major cities within in the country. I want to learn as much as I can about Colombia, its people, and culture. I also want to explore the country to see how much it has changed from its period of violence 10-20 yrs ago. It´s going to help change my perceptions about Colombia as well as the perceptions of my friends and family. From a professional productivity standpoint, in my job, Im trying to take advantage of as much as I can, in order to learn as much as I can (once again everyday is a learning experience). Whether this is expanding my technical business vocabulary in Spanish, or taking advantage of oppportunities to work on various projects, both will help to expand my professional experiences while abroad.

#4. Travel makes you sexier
In the article it mentioned that travel makes you sexier because once you come home you will have some incredible stories that are perfect conversation pieces or topics for first dates. Personally, I agree, after travelling your world view changes, you have experienced somethings people will never have the opportunity to experience, so why not share? Not to mention, coming back and being able to speak another language is of course sexy. ;)

To check out the full article, click the link here:

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Watch This

"Remember that great love and great achievements, involve great risk"

Monday, June 27, 2011

Weekend trip to Jardín

This past weekend I travelled 4 hours outside of Medellín with my friends Sara, Thomas, and Leo to a town called Jardín. It's located at the very bottom point of Antioquia... which is the region of Colombia I live in. So it is technically a part the coffee growing region of colombia, since it verges into Caldas. We took a bus to the town, and on the way had some amazing views of all the plantations growing coffee. Very cool to see!!

We left at 7am in the morning (not so fun to get up for), and arrived into Jardín around 1030/11am. Once we arrived, we went to our hostel to drop of our bags and then walked around the main plaza in the town. Since it was a festivo weekend the town was PACKED with people. It had a great atmosphere, people were filling restaurants, there was live musical entertainment, kids were out playing with toys, balloons etc. The whole town just gave off a very fun, yet low key and welcoming vibe. After walking around a bit, we headed back to our hostel to grab some lunch. We had a typical Colombian lunch called Bandeja. Which consists of a piece of meat, rice, patacon, beans, salad and arepa. Pretty standard.

After lunch, we walked to check out Jardín's metrocable. Medellín has 2 metrocables, both of which are pretty impressive and offer some incredible views of the city. Jardín, being a smaller town of course would have a smaller metrocable... unfortunately it was so small it only had 1 cable car to carry 6 people at a time, which meant a long wait to head up the mountain to see the views of the town. BUT luckily I was travelling wtih great friends, and all we needed was some Spanish conversation to keep us occupied and laughing during the 40 min wait.

Once we reached the top, it was definitely worth the wait. It was a beautiful day, and basking in the sunshine we were able to see the entire town of Jardín while being surrounded by exotic flowers, plants, trees and coffee plants! We grabbed a drink and chilled at the top for a bit taking in the view with some photos.

Later on we walked up through the town to a place we were recommended to check out.... Jardín's candy factory. Um yes please. Upon arriving it was packed with people ordering various sweets, jellies, and cookies. I ended up buying a jar of arequipe (Colombian caramel sauce), fresh strawberry jam and some chocolate covered arequipe balls. Can you tell i like arequipe?

After getting our sweet tooth fix, we headed back to the main plaza and rented horses for a half an hour. The people of Jardín are very trusting, as they dont require you to give them a valuable or piece of ID to ensure youll come back on time or pay the fee. They just help you up on the horse, tell you to enjoy yourself and comeback in roughly 30 min. Gotta love Colombians. So that's what we did.... we each got up on a horse, and trotted/galloped through the tiny town of Jardín for the next 30 minutes.

Sara and I are making it a tradition that every time we go travelling together we want to ride horses, as we did that in Guatapé. It was a ton of fun, and the horses were really well behaved and followed our instructions well when we needed them to. We all just felt so free and relaxed just going around town on horses under the beautiful sunshine, it was definitely a great way to spend a part of our afternoon. Here are some examples of what the town of Jardín looks like....

For dinner we walked around town until we found one that offered a decent price for what we were looking for. And just what were we looking for? FISH. Jardín is located in an area where there are a lot of trout, and that's exactly what we wanted for dinner. Thomas, Leo and I had Bandeja de Trucha (trout dish) and Sara had Bandeja de Cerdo (pork dish). It was very tasty, again served with rice, beans, french fries, arepa, and salad.

After dinner we decided to chill in the main plaza for a bit drinking coffee and beer, and watching the sun go down. Afterwards we went back to our hostel and played cards for a bit on the porch overlooking the bustling plaza below. There were a lot of people riding horses throughout the night, and making the horses perform a specific trot, not sure what its called or the reasoning behind it, but it made the horses seem very uptight, with tight quick trots as they went up and down the streets. They did this for most of the afternoon and until about 12midnight. Very strange, but very impressive to watch. Thomas and Leo were more interested in the pretty women who were riding the horses :P

Monday morning we all got up early, ate some traditional Colombian breakfast (arepa, quesito, scrambled eggs, chocolate con leche) and then took a taxi to a local fishing place. Over breakfast we decided to place a bet.... the first person who catches a fish wins $20.000 pesos.

Arriving at the fishing place it was also a place where they make panela. Which is a like a block of brown sugar that is used for a typical hot colombian tea beverage. So we were able to see how that was made.

Then we were handed our fishing rods, which was a bamboo stick, with string/hook attached and bread/dough for bait. Hmm, this was basic fishing at its best. And so it began, the race to catch the first fish. ..... and the winner? .... surprisingly ... ME !

I ended up catching 3 fish, 2 one right after the other! Sara also caught a fish which she was ecstatic about. The boys? They unfortunately didnt catch anything. haha which was sort of funny and slightly amusing, that the girls were the ones providing the food!

After catching our fish, we had the kitchen prepare them for us, so we actually got to eat the fish we caught. Over lunch, Sara handed me my $20.000 that I rightfully won which a big smile on my face! After lunch we rushed back to Jardín, quickly paid our hostel and then jumped on a bus back to Medellín. Shockingly, our bus was EARLY! It only took 3 hours to get back, where as it was 4 on the way there.

Friday, June 24, 2011

"Colombia to be one of the 30 largest economies by 2050"

This morning I read an article in one of Colombia´s online newspapers, about how Colombia´s economy is projected to be one of the 30 largest in the world by the year 2050, according to HSBC Bank.

For a country to be considered in the group of 30... they need to have grow rate projections of 4% of higher. Colombia is projected to grow 4.5% each year to start then between the years 2020-2040 it is projected between 4.2-4.1%, then finally for the last 10 years a growth rate around 4%.

By the year 2050... Here is the breakdown to what may very well be the top 10 largest economies in the world:

1. China
2. United States
3. India
4. Japan
5. Germany
6. United Kingdom
7. Brazil
8. Mexico
9. France
10. Canada

Though its not a surprise to see the above countries in their respective places, it is interesting to note that out of the 30 countries in the projection forecast, 19 of them are emergent countries. The article then goes into explaining about BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) and CIVETS (Colombia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Egypt, Turkey, South Africa)... which are the two most popular groups of emergent countries (also something Ive written about before in my blog).

It looks like Colombia has a positive and healthy economic future. I hope that not only Colombia´s economy can change and grow but also the world view and its reputation about the country can change as well. Therefore, further changing people´s perception on what was once a dangerous and unsafe country, to what is now a happy, exciting, and growing place. Watch out world, Colombia has something to prove.

If youre interested in reading the article, here is the link. Be forewarned... the article is in Spanish... so if you dont speak the language, you can always use Google Translate! :)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

La Despedida de Kevin (Farewell Party)

Im super exhausted after this past weekend, becasue there was so much partying going on. Friday was the finca, Saturday was the Nacional championship and Sunday was Kevin´s goodbye party. A farewell party in Spanish is "Una Despedida"... so that´s what we had at Kevin´s house in Poblado. It was definitely bittersweet, becasue Kevin is hilarious and a super fun guy to be around, so we were all really sad to see him go. BUT we had a great night, so it was a great send off for him.

The despedida was filled with food, alcohol, great food, even better people, and a ton of laughter. We started the party with some chorizo sausage ontop of toasted french bread and a bruchetta type topping (it was delicious). After a while, Kevin suggested I teach everyone how to play flipcup. Since I am a proud Laurier grad, I was happy to share the amazing game that is flip cup with everyone :) Since we had people from 12 different countries at the party, we decided to have a World Cup Flip Cup tournmanet complete with elimination rounds (or as we call it at Laurier... Knights of the Round Table). Since the majority of people at the party were Spanish speakers I explained how to play in Spanish, and then clarified for the people who are just starting to learn.

After several rounds of flip later, consisting of different countries everytime, we had our final round. Which consisted of the following people:

Which represented.... Canada, Peru, Colombia, and India. The final winner ended up being me (thank godness... i would have been super embarrassed to lose at my own game), making Canada and Laurier proud!

After the tournament the rest of the night was spent talking with everyone, hanging out and just enjoying everyone´s company. Later on the in the night (After it stopped raining) we headed to the top of Kevin´s building to check out the spectacular views of Medellín.

At the very end of the night (or very early morning) we all said our goodbyes to Kevin, which was a bit sad. It´s been great getting to know him and hanging out with them in Medellín. We´ll miss you Kevin !

Nacional wins, Medellín goes crazy

Saturday night I headed to Envigado to one of the trainees houses, to watch the final soccer match between Nacional and Equidad de Bogotá for La Copa Postobon (Colombian National Championship). Now, Nacional is a Medellín team, and theyre really good. They also have a huge fan base, and the final game was held in Medellín, so you can just imagine the intensity of this game before it even started.

The city was covered with Nacional flags hanging from bars, windows and drapping taxis. The colours green and white were seen everywhere, whether it was people sporting their jerseys, people with their faces painted, or balloons and streamers decorating people´s homes. People were ready to cheer their team in one of the biggest matches of the year!

The game was pretty intense, as it was the 2nd game out of the 2 they had to play to win the final. Unfortunately Equidad de Bogotá won the first game (2-1), so Nacional (and their fans) were under a bit of pressure. In the second half, Nacional was up 2 goals... (but technically only one when counting their first game), so it looked like they were going to win the championship... however in the 3 minutes of over time in the 2nd half, Equidad de Bogotá scored a goal. Now the game was at 2-1 which meant it was tied at 3-3 when counting all goals from both games. So the final had to be determined via penalty kicks....which was awesome because it was so exciting and intense.

Luckily Nacional ended up winning the penalty kicks, and the entire city went nuts. Fireworks started to be lit, people cheering, honking in the streets. Everyone was celebrating. We went ontop of the roof to see all of the firecrackers and fireworks being set off throughout the city, it was awesome to see.

Traditionally when Nacional wins a final match like this, there are HUGE parties throughout the city. But the biggest party is in Parque Lleras (the main bar district of El Poblado). People gather there dressed in green and white, to celebrate and throw white powder at each other and foam. We didnt end up going there because we thought it would get too crazy but here are some photos from some of my other friends who went:

We decided instead to go to another park that also celebrates the victory of Nacional and was a lot closer to where we were at the time: Parque Envigado. We started walking and instantly we saw all kinds of people in the street celebrating. There was a cute little boy dressed head to toe in Nacional gear and waving a HUGE flag. He was so cute I had to get a photo with him.

While in Parque Envigado people were cheering, chanting, dancing around and just being crazy. Ive never seen such passion for soccer.

After checking out the celebrations we decided to hang out in Parque Envigado and grab some food and beers. I always love going to Parque Envigado because more low key but just as fun. Especially when youre surrounded with good friends. It made for a fun Saturday night. :)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

La finca al fin del mundo

This past weekend I travelled with friends from AIESEC to a finca in Girardota (about 40 min to an hour outside of Medellín). A finca for those of you who dont know, is the Colombian version of a cottage or ranch. Essentially it is located outside of a large city, somewhere in the country or in a mountainous area.

We travelled to Girardota by bus, and we were about 3/4 of the way there when our bus wasnt going to be able to drive up a certain part of the mountain given road conditions. (Apparently I have the worst luck with buses). So we stopped, in the middle of no where, but thankfully in Colombia there are these little shops located randomly throughout every part of the country where you can normally buy beer and snacks. So while we were waiting for people to decide how we were going to get the rest of the way to the finca, we were all chillin next to a field filled with cows drinking beers.

About 30 minutes later we were able to hire this man with a jeep to take us up the mountain. We managed to fit 15 people inside the jeep, the majority of us were stuffed in the back, 2 in the front, and a couple people riding ontop of the jeep (yea... that´s allowed in Colombia.
After a tight and uncomfortable 15 min later we finally arrived to the finca. It was definitely a remote location to stay for the weekend, as we were far from society in the country right in the mountains. Hence why this blog post is called "La finca al fin del mundo"... which means... "The finca at the end of the world". However, the views were stunning, and totally worth the crazy trip to get there.

The finca we stayed at was beautiful and was on a large piece of property. It had a pool, sauna, dancefloor and a room with a pool table, in addition to the standard rooms, bathrooms, kitchen etc. There were already a few people playing pool, waiting for everyone to arrive. Upon arrival everyone went through the property to rightfully claim their bed for the night. There were about 4 bunkbeds in every room... so they were cozy.

We had a few sessions regarding AIESEC stuff to start the night, which included introducing all the trainees, as there was 2 new guys from Perú who had just arrived that Friday night, and one new guy from Brazil. In total there were 5 of us (Trainees).... 2 from Brazil, 2 from Perú... and ME ! Representing Canada. After the AIESEC discussions were over, we ate dinner, and then promptly got the party started. I can´t get over how much we danced.... Im pretty sure I danced for a solid 4 hours that night maybe more. Our dancing consisted of reggaeton, salsa, merengue and my personal favourite... bachata. The majority of us were dancing barefoot because well... it´s hard to dance in flipflops.

I was also introduced to a new type of liquor called Pisco, which the Peruvians brought with them. Pisco is a typical Peruvian alcohol made from fermenting grapes. It is a colourless but very strong drink. It essentially tastes like wine, but packs a punch. We each took a shot to taste the Pisco... "puro" or in english "pure", then we mixed it with ginger ale, lime, and ice. It was delicious. I definitely recommend anyone to try it, if you get a chance.

So Friday night consisted of a LOT of dancing, pisco, karoke, and just enjoying being away from the busy city life. Saturday was a beautiful and HOT day, so we all lounged by the pool, chatting, drinking beer, and just soaking up the sun. Saturday was a more low key day as we were recovering from the night before, but it was nice to just relax and not have to do anything.

We ended up heading home from the finca around 4pm, back to Medellín, back to normal life. I could definitely get use to the finca life, it was super relaxing, wouldn´t mind doing that every weekend.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

My favourite word in Spanish

Recently someone posted a video on Facebook, which goes through various famous Hispanic celebrities and asks them what their favourite word in Spanish is. So that got me thinking.... what's my favourite Spanish word? I finally decided that it's: Vale.

It's simple, short and can have so many meanings. I first learned the word "Vale" during my first day in Barcelona 2010.... it essentially means "Ok", it's very continental Spain, and I love it.

Check out the video below to see what other words are people's favourite in Spanish <3

Friday, June 10, 2011

Positive Journalism on Colombia

It seems as of late, that the journalism about Colombia in various newspapers is overall very positive. Recently I received a card from my mom which inside, had a massive 2 page article, cut out from the Ottawa Citizen, all about Colombia and what a "magnificent country" it is.

The title of the article is "The Call of Colombia" and talks all about how amazing the country is, how it has significantly changed, and the amazingly positive experiences of the journalist who travelled there. Once again proving... Colombia is NOT what you think it is... it´s so much more.

I brought the article to my work, to share with my coworkers and they were over the moon that there are positive articles about Colombia in different countries. They were so genuinely happy and excited, and of course so proud of their country. One of my coworkers took the liberty of photocopying the article and posting it on two of our message boards in the office for everyone to see. Of course the article is in English, so it will be good practice for my office when they read it.

Check out the article for yourself below... the journalist also mentions in his article that Medellín was his favourite city. :)

Monday, June 6, 2011

Pueblito Paisa

Since today was a Festivo day in Colombia, I didnt have to go to work, so instead I decided to go to Pueblito Paisa with some of my friends. Pueblito Paisa is in Medellín on top of this fairly large hill within the city, and is a miniature version of what a typical pueblo (town) in Antioquia looks like. So it has a church, old fashioned homes/buildings, and inside each building you can see what old fashioned houses use to look like on the inside... so its filled with furniture, antiques, paintings etc.

One of the best things about Pueblito Paisa are the stunning views it offers of the city of Medellín, not to mention today was a GORGEOUS day, so the views were even better! You could see all of the mountains, all of the barrios throughout the city, and the skyscrapers in the downtown. Check it out:

After checking out Pueblito Paisa we started out trek down the hill, but found these slides you could take halfway down. So obviously we tapped into our inner child and took the slides!

The rest of my afternoon was spent lounging by my pool, soaking in the sunshine on such a beautiful day. I love festivo days!!