Find your Passion, and then Live it

Medellín, Colombia

Sunday, July 31, 2011

My Weekend at La Feria de las Flores!

First of all I just want to say that La Feria de Las Flores is by far one of the best things Ive done here. It's an incredible festival and it's just begun!

On Saturday I met up with a bunch of the trainees by a metro (subway) station near my house called Aguacatala to go see one of the first major events of the festival called La Cabalgata! La Cabalgata is basically a parade of people riding horses.... in all different kinds of clothing, hats etc and sometimes the horses are even decorated with flowers and flags as well.

So when the parade started I thought, ok, how many horses can there actually be? ... there were a lot... no that's an understatement, there were a ridiculous amount of horses, and the parade went on for like 4 hours. I dont think I ever seen so many people riding horses in one spot.

After checking out the parade for a bit, we headed to get some food. One of my new obsessions is Colombian bbq... or in spanish "asado". Particularly Im a big fan of things called "chuzos" which is essentially meat on a stick with a potato or two and a mini arepa. They're normally pretty cheap (around $2.000 pesos... which is like $1 Canadian) and of course delicious.

My big purchase of the day however was when I bought my Paisa shirt. These shirts are hugely popular during La Feria de Las Flores because the word Paisa (which is a person from Antioquia) is in the same lettering as the Pilsen beer logo. Pilsen is one of the most popular beers in Colombia, and I think the biggest sponsor of the festival. Anyways, so Ive been dying to get a shirt, and finally got one this weekend! They had a deal where you got a 6 pack of beer and a tshirt for $15.000 pesos (about $7.50 Canadian... READ: excellent deal).

After checking out the event for the afternoon we grabbed some food for dinner then headed to the center of the city to party! Some of the bars had decorations up in celebration of the festival ... balloons, streamers and paper flowers covered the outside of some bars. The bar district was packed with all different kinds of people celebrating the festival and just enjoying the night. The atmosphere lately in Medellín (ever since the festival has started) has been great, everyone is so happy and high spirited, Im loving the vibes Im getting from the city lately!

On Sunday (today), I once again headed to another event with some friends. Unfortunately it was pouring rain almost all day... :( but that didnt stop us from enjoying the day or the party! Today we saw a parade of Chivas (old fashioned Colombian buses which are now used to party throughout the city) as well as a large fairs ground which had craft vendors, food, drinks, and bands playing. I just cannot get over how many people attend these events it's ridiculous. I was definitely excited to see the Chivas, since im a big fan of them, the people riding inside were loving life, drinking, singing, dancing, and shooting this foam stuff on people in the crowds (Random but hilarious).

Even though it was raining, we still enjoyed ourselves, we danced in the rain to live music being played, checking out and tasting various foods and drinks, and just soaking up the incredibly atmosphere that is La Feria de las Flores!

I cannot WAIT for next weekends events because the most important event (Silleteros) will be on Sunday. So im really looking forward to seeing that. :)

Here is a video showing a part of La Cabalgata...

Friday, July 29, 2011

1st Night @ La Feria de Las Flores

Last night my friends and I headed to the downtown core of Medellín to check out the events going on in celebration of the 1st night of La Feria de las Flores. The event was held by Parque de los Luces. I never thought Id be able to see the park at night because ive been told that normally it's very dangerous. But since the event was being there, and there was a large police presence it was ok to go! It's very cool to see at night, because there are these tower things that light up at night, so it's like a modernized light display. So glad I was finally able to see it up close and personal at night! (because to be honest it's not as attractive in the day haha).

As we were walking to the main event, we got to see a pretty impressive display of fireworks to kick off the night. Check out some photos here:

Unfortunately it was raining quite a bit last night, but that didnt stop anyone from having a good time. One thing I learned last night is that people of Medellín know how to party and will enjoy themselves even if it is pouring outside. Once we got downtown there was a huge crowd of people with umbrellas, and ponchos singing and dancing as a free concert was put on. They had famous music groups and reggaeton artists play for the crowd. I got to see Golpe e Golpe play one of my favourite songs "Yo no sé como se llama" which was great to sing and dance to in a huge crowd of people. The atmosphere last night was great, the people were genuinely so happy, and just really enjoying themselves. You couldnt help but smile and have a great time, since everyone around you was enjoying themselves and so in the moment.

Here's a video to give you a feel of what the crowd and music was like!

More Info about La Feria de Las Flores!

La Feria de Flores (The Festival of Flowers) occurs everyear in Medellín during the first weeks of August, and lasts for approximately 10 days. The festival offers visitors over 140 different traditional and modern cultural events such as: Feria Nacional Equina (National Horse Fair), Festival de Orquestas (Festival of Orchids), Festival Nacional de la Trova, desfile de carros clásicos y antiguos (Antique and classic car parade), caminata canina (dog walk), tablados musicales y culturales (free music performances/concerts), Festival del Recuerdo y de la Canción Popular (Festival of Memorial and Popular Song), Concurso de Mujeres Talento (Talent shows), caravana de chivas, Campeonato Nacional de Sonido sobre Ruedas (National Championship Sound on Wheels)and more!

La Feria de las Flores is one of Colombia's most important, and popular cultural events which brings together all of Antioquia (region of Colombia) and thousands of tourists to visit the city of Medellin, in a space filled with the flowers, joy, music and fun.

History of La Feria de Las Flores

The first Feria de Las Flores was held on the 1st of May in 1957 and lasted 5 days. A Paisa (person from Antioquia) named Arturo Uribe proposed a parade of silleteros (people who produce beautiful arrangements of flowers and carry them on their backs) as a way to offer something new to other Paisas as well as integrate the culture. So for this occasion, silleteros were invited from the village of Santa Elena where traditionally from generation to generation, were engaged in flower production. The invitation was accepted for forty silleteros and audiences loved the parade which displayed the beauty and colour of the flowers.

From that very first Festival of Flowers, the Desfile de los silleteros (Parade of Silleteros) has always been the most important event. Las silletas (saddles) are made of wood, with a back and two handles for hanging on the shoulders, ontop of the silletas are a beautiful array of flowers in different patterns, or designs.Las silletas were originally used in colonial times to transport people in the mountains of Antioquia. So ever year, men, women and children carry on their backs with much pride the representation of their lives, history, country and culture with the arrangements of flowers.

Some Facts about the Silletas
- A saddle can weigh up to 70 kg and be 5m in height with a similar diameter.
- The traditional saddles are made from about 25 types of flowers, but some containing up to more than 70 kinds of flowers.
- The flowers that are used in the creation of the saddles are: pinocchio, lilies, carnations, agapanthus, sparks, sun flowers, tulle bridal gladioli, carnations, roses and orchids.
- On special occasions, in the saddle you can find a selection of very wild flowers which are very fragile and require special care.

Here is a great video (though in Spanish) that will give you a preview of the kinds of events, sites and sounds one can expect in La Feria de las Flores !!!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

DANE... Colombian version of Statistics Canada

Two nights ago I was chatting with my friend Basia over skype when one of my roommates came into my room and explained that there was a woman in our apt from DANE and wanted to interview all of us.

DANE stands for Departamento Administrativo Nacional de Estadística, and is like the Colombian version of Statistics Canada. DANE is responsible for the planning, organization, analysis and diffusion of official statistics. Apparently the woman was there to do a survey much like the census we have in Canada. I asked my roommate once again, to confirm, that she in fact wanted to interview me, as Im not Colombian. And she replied yes... so my immediate thought, ok this will be interesting, since the interview was going to be with a semi-government official and of course all in Spanish.

So after my 2 roommates were interviewed it was my turn. I sat down with the woman, who´s named I learned was Juli, on the couches in my living room, and we started the interview. She pulled out this PDA electronic device which she used to ask me questions from and also mark down my answers. She explained she was going to ask me questions about my personal data, my job and education, and about public services as well as technology.

The questions started out simple, when was I born, how long Ive been in Colombia, how long Im going to be here for, where I work, if I pay health insurance etc etc. Then she asked me specifics about my job, what I do, if my company pays for anything extra (like rent, lunches, transportation etc etc.... i was able to joke with her in Spanish and say no my company doesnt pay for transportation because I live across the street from where I work - ps. im so loving I can joke in Spanish now it´s fun).

Anyways I was pretty impressed that the whole interview went quite smoothly and I understood practically everything, there were only 2 questions (out of about 30-40) that I had to get her to repeat again because I didnt quite understand what she was asking me the first time. :)

It´s little things like this, that give me such a boost in confidence for my language abilities. When I speak now in Spanish I find myself more relaxed, and natural when I listen and talk to people - where when I first got here I found myself having to really concentrate and actively listen to be able to understand what I was being told. Now it´s more like having a relaxed conversation... and that just how I felt with this woman from DANE... relaxed, I wasn´t nervous to talk to her in fear I wouldnt understand her. I think Ive reached a new platform in my Spanish abilities where I can comfortably and more importantly confidently have conversations with many different types of people (not just my circle of friends, where I feel the most comfortable speaking) and understand practically everything. :)

The old saying has never been more true... Practice makes perfect!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Weekend of Waterfalls!

This past weekend I travelled with a few of my friends to a tiny town called Santiago near Cisneros... which is about 90min - 2 hours from Medellín. We were apart of a trip put on by a not-for-profit organization called "Juguemos en el bosque" (we play in the forest), which organizes outdoor and educational trips for underprivledged youth in Medellín.

This past weekend they planned a trip to a finca in the small town of Santiago with a group of young girls from an orphanage in Medellín. We got to interact with girls aged 6-16 and enjoy a beautiful finca weekend.

One of the greatest things about the finca we stayed at, was its location, because it had 2 things... 1) access to natural pools of water and waterfalls... and 2) an old train tunnel you could go through.

So let´s start with #1.Our finca was located on the top of a steep hill, which offered some amazing views of the mountains and the small town below. It also had a natural swimming pool, which is a large hole in the ground that has water flowing into it from the nearby river/waterfalls. The only downside is the water is freezing!! But... the town we were in was REALLY hot, probably more than 30 degrees, so the cold river water was very refreshing to swim in after basking in the sun.

My friends and I were able to climb various rocks to get to various sites of waterfalls. There were 4 in total we visited over the weekend, some bigger than others, and all very beautiful. You could sit on rocks next to and underneath the waterfalls... jump off other rocks into the pool of water below, or just bask on the rocks surrounding the waterfalls and enjoy the heat coming off of them.

My entire weekend was pretty much spent lying in the sun, tanning and swimming under waterfalls. Not a bad life. Have I told you how much I love Colombia ? ;)

And #2 The tunnel. On Sunday, we had the chance to check out this old train tunnel next to our finca. We were able to go through the tunnel on these train like motor car contraptions. You could walk through the tunnels if you want to, but I dont know why you would because
a) it´s PITCH black when you're side
b) the tunnel is extremely long, it took about 10-15 min to travel by our motorized car, so I dont want to know how long it would take to walk it
c) the tunnel was super cold

Once we got on our motorized train thing I couldnt help but laugh, because the whole thing reminded me of Donky Kong. If anyone has played that game, im referring to the part in the game where you ride a cart through a mine... it felt exactly like that but in real life.

Our motorized cars went pretty fast through the tunnel which offered a pretty cold breeze (wasn´t so nice, since i was wearing my bathing suit underneath my tanktop and capris). It was pitch black inside and a little scary since the motorized train thing wasn't the most modern of inventions, and the tracks would make eery screeching noises as we rode along them. All was black except when we were close to the end of the tunnel, and we could literally "see the light at the end of the tunnel" haha.

Once we were on the other side, we hiked through a forest, and arrived at another waterfall site. Where we spent a few hours to enjoy the sun, swim, and of course hang in and around the waterfalls.

Here´s a great group picture infront of the tunnel entrance by our finca to complete the weekend:

Also here's a video of what it was like to go through the tunnel and come out the other end. You can see how dark it was and how fast we were going at one point.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

La Feria de Las Flores

Every August in Medellín the most important festival of the year "La Feria de Las Flores" (the festival of flowers) takes place. It consists of parades, a pageant, automobiles, and many musical concerts. This year La Feria de las Flores will be from July 29th to August 7th.

The first Festival of the Flowers took place on May 1, 1956 and was organized by Arturo Uribe, a member of the Board of the Office of Development and Tourism. The festival lasted for 5 days with an exposition of flowers displayed in the Metropolitan Cathedral, which was organized by the Gardening Club of Medellín and monsignor Tulio Botero to celebrate Virgin Mary day. This flower parade represents the end of slavery when instead of flowers slaves carried men and women on their backs up steep hills.

The festival is known throughout Colombia and is the most important festival for Antioquia. Its essentially a week of partying, with displays of beautiful flowers throughout the city along with other fun events.

Here is a promotional video/song for the upcoming Festival of Flowers in Medellín for 2011 !! Enjoy!

La Vida... my favourite Spanish poem

La vida es una oportunidad, aprovéchala.
La vida es belleza, admírala.
La vida es beatitud, saboréala.
La vida es un sueño, hazlo realidad.

La vida es un reto, afróntalo.
La vida es un deber, cúmplelo.
La vida es un juego, juégalo.
La vida es preciosa, cuídala.

La vida es riqueza, consérvala.
La vida es amor, gózala.
La vida es un misterio, desvélalo.
La vida es promesa, cúmplela.

La vida es tristeza, supérala.
La vida es un himno, cántalo.
La vida es un combate, acéptalo.
La vida es una tragedia, domínala.
La vida es una aventura, disfrútala.
La vida es felicidad, merécela.

La vida es la vida, defiéndela.

-Madre Teresa de Calcuta.


English Translation:

Life is an opportunity, take advantage of it.
Life is beauty, admire it.
Life is bliss, savour it.
Life is a dream, make it a reality.

Life is a challenge, meet it.
Life is a duty, stick to it.
Life is a game, play it.
Life is precious, take care of it.

Life is wealth, preserve it.
Life is love, take joy in it.
Life is a mystery, reveal it.
Life is a promise, fulfill it.

Life is sorrow, overcome it.
Life is a song, sing it.
Life is a struggle, accept it.
Life is a tragedy, control it.
Life is an adventure, enjoy it.
Life is bliss, earn it.

Life is life, defend it.

Medellín: one of the top spots for coffee in the world!

My friend recently posted an article by BBC Travel to our Trainee facebook group which talks about the world´s best spots for coffee. Among those listed was the city of Medellín! Now im not sure how many of you know this, but unfortunately Colombia exports the majority of its best beans, so only mediocre coffee is left in the country. However, as Im not a coffee connaisseur I still think Colombian coffee tastes amazing even if it is the mediocre stuff, so I think I would be blown away if I got a chance to taste the really good stuff.

Which leads me into my next mission. In the article it mentioned that there is a café in Medellín called... Le Bon Café, which apparently sells "the good stuff". So I want to go there and try out their coffee in the coming weeks, and see what REAL Colombian coffee tastes like.

Other cities around the world that made the list for "top coffee spots" are:
- Addis Ababa (Ethiopia)
- Havana
- Istanbul
- Melbourne
- Rome
- Santa Marta and Valle de Dota (Costa Rica)
- São Paulo
- Seattle
- Vienna

To check out the rest of the article... click here

Friday, July 8, 2011

World Cup Sub-20 in 1 month!

Last night I went with my friend Sara to go pick up our World Cup Sub-20 tickets! So it´s officially! In one month we´ll be watching some of the best up-and-coming players in the world play right here in Medellín. :)

For those of you looking at this ticket and thinking I am incredibly rich for being able to afford a $33,000 ticket.... please remember that´s $33.000 pesos... which is about $15 CAD. haha so no im not a baller. Each game is about $7, so ridiculously cheap... god bless South America. :)

Here´s a commercial for the World Cup Sub-20 in Colombia!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Granadilla ... crazy exotic fruit

Today my client walked into my office eating a very strange looking piece of fruit. Out of curiousity I asked her what it was and she told me it was called "Granadilla", which is a type of fruit grown in Colombia.

This fruit has a semi hard orange shell which you puncture with your fingers and can easily remove the pieces to reveal the seeds inside. Now these seeds are covered in this clear mucousy slime, which sounds disgusting but the seeds + slime taste delicious. It´s a sweet and refreshing flavour and you basically slurp up the seeds/slime mixture. Here´s a picture of what the fruit looks like:

Here is some more background info about Granadillas:
Granadilla is native to the Andes Mountains between Bolivia, Venezuela and Colombia. It grows as far south as northern Argentina and as far north as Mexico. Outside of its native range it grows in the tropical mountains of Africa and Australia (where they are known as passionfruit).

The fruit is orange to yellow colored with small light markings. It has a round shape with a tip ending in the stem. The fruit is between 6.5 and 8 cm long and between 5.1 and 7 cm in diameter.The outer shell is hard and slippery, and has soft padding on the interior to protect the seeds. The seeds, which are hard and black, are surrounded by a gelatinous sphere of transparent pulp. The pulp is the edible part of the fruit and has a soft sweet taste. It is very aromatic and contains vitamins A, C, and K, phosphorus, iron, and calcium.

The main producers are Peru, Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Brazil, South Africa, and Kenya. The main importers are the United States, Canada, Belgium, Holland, Switzerland, and Spain.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Happy Canada Day From Colombia!!

Today has been the first time Ive REALLY missed Canada. Communicating with friends and family via email, skype, and facebook about Canada Day has caused me to feel a bit nostalgic, and therefore made me miss my country big time today!

I was also slightly jealous that all of my Canadian friends had the day off today, and I had to work. BUT! Have no fear! The awesomeness of Colombia will save the weekend, with ANOTHER festivo day on Monday (aka I dont have to work). So I too, will have a "Canada Day" long weekend, although it´s in another country. It´s sort of nice that I still have a long weekend to relax and celebrate Canada Day in my own way here in Colombia. I plan on partying tomorrow night (since some of my friends work Saturday mornings) and share/show my pride for Canada.

For my friends here in Colombia who are read my blog (and for Canadians who need a refresher)... Canada day is held every year on July 1st, which marks the day that Canada became an official country! Historically speaking this date celebrates when the British North American Act was signed and united 2 British colonies and a province of the British Empire.

So what do Canadians normally do on Canada Day? ... Well for one, we dont have to work. And when we´re not working we´re most likely doing one or more of the following things:
- Parades
- Fireworks
- BBQs
- Concerts
- Camping/Cottaging
- ... and of course lots of drinking

The arrival of Canada Day has caused there to be some interesting articles on Canada and Canadians. Here´s a couple to check out:

"10 ways to spot a Canadian"

"15 Things to see and do in Canada before you die"

So I want to wish a BIG HAPPY CANADA DAY to all my friends and family both in Canada and abroad! I hope everyone has a great weekend celebrating it!