martes, 31 de enero de 2012

Only in Colombia...and maybe Texas.

This weekend I was invited by one of the teachers at my school who plays in a folklore band to a festival that he was playing at.  What festival you ask?  Why the Festival del Frito of course...or the Fried Food Festival!

Colombians loooooooooooooooove theem some fried food!  Morning, noon, and night. I like to say that every breakfast is a hangover breakfast in this country.  Fine and dandy if you had enjoyed a little too much Aguardiente, the economical anise tasting alcohol favored round these parts, the night before.  However, not so great if you're still fighting tummy problems adjusting to the food like I still am!

But I digress...

Back to the fried food!  Probably the most well known fried food typical to this region that us gringos could readily identify would be the empanada.  The word comes from the verb empanar which means to wrap or coat in bread.  An empanada is dough folded over whatever stuffing you fancy-meat, cheese, and/or veggies-and then deep fried.  I have awoken many mornings to empanadas on my breakfast plate.

Perhaps the most typical street food and fried food of the region, something I saw on my breakfast plate often, are arepas. Arepas can be found all around Central and South America and are slightly different in each country.  The arepa typical here is a flat, round, unleavened patty made of cornmeal or flour which can be grilled, but is most often fried.  Other places will stuff and top their arepas with all sorts of goodies, even cutting is open and making a sandwich out of if, but here on the coast most arepas are just stuffed with cheese.  Cartagena is famous for their arepa con huevo or arepa with egg. To make this you crack an egg into the arepa dough, close it back up and fry it.  The egg cooks inside and it is delicious! 


And what day would be complete...or breakfast that matter...without patacones!  Patacones or one of my personal favorites (albiet not for breakfast).  Patacones are twice fried plantains. You cut up a green plantain and fry them on each side for a few minutes.  You then remove them to remove the excess oil and smush them  to make them more condense, and then fry 'em again!  These are a side dish eaten like french fries or potato chips. For those of you inclined towards cooking, I highly recommend giving them a try!

The fried food options in Colombia are endless (if my mom ever visits she'll get so many more options for her beloved deep frier!)!  Since I've moved to Cartagena I've managed to cut out a lot of the fried food though.  The host families are required to provide us two meals a day and I have worked out an arrangement that I make my own breakfast and then eat lunch and dinner with them.  This allows me to start the day out with a cereal or a piece of fruit (glorious!).  However, that doesn't mean that I'm suffering without fried food! I'll leave you with a picture of a lunch I was served a couple of days'll notice the patacones and a whole fried fish!  Miss you all and love you lots!

miércoles, 18 de enero de 2012

Soy Cartagenera!

So after a long week of 'despedidas' or good-bye parties, including one at the office (see above), and several tearful good-byes, I packed my bags got in a 'puerta a puerta' (door to door bus service) with six other amazing volunteers and arrived in Cartagena on Sunday to officially start  my volunteer service!

Cartagena Crew! Top Row: Victor, Abby, Mike B
Bottom Row:  Amanda, Christina, Me, Mike D

So I live in a neighborhood called Escallon Villa that's about 40 minutes outside of the famous walled city that some of you will be getting to know when you visit me ;)  And I've gone from an hour and a half commute every morning to just a  five minute walk to my school!  The back wall of my house is actually the back wall of the school!

So allow me to show you around my new home!  This here is a picture taken from the front door.  A big spacious area for a Colombian circle and dancing I'm assuming and the kitchen.  Down the hallway there are four rooms.  I live in a house with a mother and father their two single daughters and one married daughter with her husband and their five year old girl! 

I haven't officially named him yet but this is our water filter.  No more boiling water to drink it! So much faster and easier...

 And as if it weren't already a full house they also rent out rooms to people!  This next picture is of the structure they have built out back and divided into three rooms.  

I will be in the middle room with a family on either side of me.  I'm not quite sure how many people live in each room...but I think it rounds up to a lot!  Unfortunately my room is not quite ready for me. Even though the Peace Corps said that the room was fine, they decided to do some renovating.  Hopefully it will be done this weekend...can't wait to see what it looks like.  Here's a couple of shots of it now as a work in progress :)


And in case I don't want to interrupt or there's a late night, there is a separate entrance to get to the back patio so I won't have to go through the house.

And this is the view from the back door of the house to the amazing patio that my host mother (Lilia) has been working on for years.  The rooms they rent out, including my own, are to the right.  And that back wall straight ahead is the back wall to the school I work at!

A few more pictures of family the new family I'm living with. Be forewarned: Lilia looooooooves her some hats!

And last but not least here is a picture, taken at our bon voyage party in Barranquilla, of Christina and me.  Christina is actually the first person I remember meeting the day I arrived super late and super flustered thanks to flight delays to our initial orientation in Miami.  Since then I have seen here pretty much every day save maybe three or four.  She lived the closest to me in Barranquilla-which wasn't saying much since I lived en el culo de la mula...middle of nowhere if you will ;)-but it meant I saw her more frequently.  She also was in my Spanish class the whole three months which meant we spent four hours a day together in a group of 3 or 4 students every day save Sunday!  And now, she lives literally one block away from me!  It's soooo nice to have a good friend so close to hang out with and explore the city!

Thank you all for reading once again!  It makes me so happy to know that you all know a little bit about my life still :)  Things are getting off to a slow start at school.  There is a two week planning time before all the students arrive on the 30th of January to start classes. But more about that later...