Down to my last 2 days and it really has been a whirlwind “tour.”
Yesterday, my cousins took me to the Salt Mines at Zipaquira. It’s one of only two salt mines in the world with a cathedral underneath. The entire mine and all its relics and sculptures are made of pure salt. When you touch the salt structures, they feel just like marble. I took a taste and I will tell you pure salt is so much better than the refined stuff!
The facility is unique. They’ve basically turned it into a small theme park. It’s apparently the #1 tourist attraction in Colombia. After visiting, I know why!
On the way home, we ate at a very cool spot in Sopo where there is a large dairy plant. They have a cool little place to eat with products from the dairy. On the way back, we came into Colombia a different way and were able to view the city from a spectacular view.
Last night, was a much-needed break to just relax and catch my breath. More fun in store today and tomorrow, so stay tuned!
The last two days have again been filled with wonderful family, delicious food, and a terrific city and country.
On Sunday, I went with my cousins to their “finca.” Finca translates directly into English as “farm,” but it’s really not. It’s a weekend home where people in the city go to relax with family. Bogotá is a lot like New York City. Many people live in apartments because it’s easier in a city of 9 million or so. At the “fin de la semana,” they book it out-of-town to the country.
My cousin’s daughters and their husbands are my age. Funny that although we’ve only met once or twice, as I said before, it’s as if we’ve always known each other. We are able to laugh and tease each other (although I NEVER do any teasing) as family and friends. I am glad that I was able to bring them some American colloquialisms that they didn’t know such as “blackmail (long story but let’s just say it’s part of the teasing),” “chill out,” and “dude.” I’m glad I can do my part for the cause.
Yesterday, I spent time with my Tia Clara and her husband Hernando, my Tia Elena, and both of their families, which include many cousins and second cousins. Head to my Facebook page to see photos and names. This was the house I stayed at 40 years ago on my last visit. It’s funny how memories of the house and people quickly get unlocked from your memory when coming back. My aunts are a kick and I enjoyed listening to “cuentas” of my mother when she was young. Many of them I had never heard. They were also kind to share some old pictures with me and we talked about their lives and family. Oh…and the food. The beat just continues. The homemade food is out-of-bounds (again in Dan terminology this is really, really good). The Bogotá voodoo is that it just never runs out!
Today it’s off to the famous salt mines. Looking out the window as I type it is blue skies and chirping birds. Going to be another great day. More to come…
I’m in Bogota, Colombia this week giving a presentation on occupational safety and health to 350 executives. I’m glad we have an interpreter because my conversational Spanish leaves something to be desired. I’m solid on asking where the nearest bathroom is, but after that I’m nervous about accidentally causing an international incident. (Actually, I’m not too bad and I hope this will springboard me to improvement)
The really cool part of this whole thing is my return trip to Bogota after 40 years. My mother is Colombian and I made two trips with her in 1966 and 1971. I eschewed return trips over the years because I was just too busy chasing golf balls and girls (I actually caught one girl, or maybe it was the other way around, and we got married, so that one was worth it). Now is my chance to “go home” to my roots and re-connect with about 45 cousins and a myriad of aunts and uncles.
Family, heritage, and community shape individuals. No matter where you’re from or how long it’s been since you were there, “going home” is good for the spirit. In our culture of instant gratification, just in time learning, and high speed everything, I’ve found that going “old school” and taking the time to cultivate relationships and your history go a long way into creating a well-rounded and holistic individual.
Usted puede ir a case de nuevo!
This week’s quote – “”Tell a man there are 300 billion stars in the universe and he will believe you. Tell him a bench has wet paint on it and he will have to touch it to be sure.””
– Murphy’s Law
I had dinner with my Tia Lucia’s family last night at the legendary Andres Carne de Res. My cousin Bernardo told me there are two “must go” places in Colombia and they are the Gold Museum (check) and Andres (now check). This place is unbelievable. The food, the festivities, and the fun that spreads out over a vast area is pretty much indescribable…even for me;)
One thing I’ve learned on this trip (among many), is that when you are with “familia” it doesn’t take long to feel like you’ve known each other forever. It became obvious we all have the same blood flowing through us! What a wonderful group of people I get to call “familia.”
OK…enough mushy stuff. Here’s my review. When you go to Andres (next time you’re in the area, order the Lomo de Res (loin if beef). I was an idiot and didn’t take a picture of it. Thanks to my cousin’s wife Liliana for giving me the recommendation! The waiters keep bringing you other foods like empenadas and others that I can’t remember the name of. It’s that voodoo thing that you keep eating but more food keeps showing up!
One other tip. If you are with family and your native languages are different and you are all sitting at a large rectangular table, here’s what to do…
Park yourself squarely in the middle and put the best two English speakers next and across from you (gracias a Daniel y Laura). That way, you can just swivel your head and get great interpretations! That being said, I’ve found that most of my family (and most Colombians I’ve met) understand English very well even if they have trouble speaking it.
No rest on Sunday for me (which is fine). It’s off to the Finca to be with otros primos (other cousins). Mas manana!
P.S. I also got to meet our exchange student’s parents who made a special 2 1/2 hour trek from there home to meet me. These are wonderful people who are committed and sacrificed for their daughter to come to the States as a Rotary exchange student. I was touched and impressed by their humility and love.
After two wonderful days at the Hotel Sofitel, I was picked up by my cousins. The Hotel Sofitel must be the best hotel in Bogota…I can’t imagine better service. Thanks to Mario and his team for treating me so well.
I enjoyed another wonderful day. Here’s a quick rundown…
I visited my Tia Lucia. I’m certain we met back in 1971, but I don’t remember. She is delightful and has a spectacular view of the city from her apartment. Going to have lunch with her today.
Enjoyed the day with my primos (cousins) Maria Eugenia and Eduardo, my Tia Lolo who lives with them, and then got a chance to see their daughter and son-in-law Diana and Jorge. Diana is probably the one person I know best because she had visited the States on two occasions before, however the last one was almost 15 years ago!
Was invited out to dinner with my cousin Alberto and his girlfriend Sandra. We went to an outstanding restaurant called Club Colombiano (I think). I had this out-of-bounds ( a good thing) seafood chowder in coconut milk. I think there must be some Colombian voodoo going on as it seemed like I kept eating and the bowl never went down! The food and especially the company was terrific. Many thanks to Sandra who helped us as “interpreter;” her English is perfect and Alberto and I can’t say the same about our opposite languages. A great night!
Today I will get to meet our exchange student’s parents. I think I will get to spend more time with them than I did with her when we picked her up!
One thing I learned that was interesting. In Colombia, there are two days of the week you can’t drive our car. Really. It’s based on the last number on your license plate. Depending on what days that falls in (other than weekends), you have to find another way around. The intent was to get fewer cars on the road, but the result was just the opposite. People started buying more cars so they could alternate when the other couldn’t be driven! The auto dealers must love this law.
That’s all for now. I will keep you updated on my adventures!
My first full day In Bogotá just rocked. The people are all wonderful and the food is out-of-bounds (that’s a good thing).
I met Mario, the General Manager of the hotel and he pointed me in the direction of a beautiful park right next to the hotel. It’s 2 and a half miles if you walk or run the entire thing. The sub came out and I took a walk mid-day. Sort of reminded me of Central Park – not as big but the variety of people and activity are the same. I saw jugglers, business people, mothers with kids, boys playing soccer, and a whole lot of dogs walking (Captain Jack and Bella can learn manners from these Colombian dogs).
I enjoyed a terrific massage in the hotel. I’ll tell you, a full day of traveling (especially 9 hours in the plane) can be brutal on body and mind, and the massage was a needed treat to be ready for today.
Now the food. I told you I got a tip on a great Colombian dish called Ajiaco (Ah-ee-yaco). It’s a chicken soup with Colombian potatoes, spices, capers, cream, and a whole lot of flavor. The capers are what brought it for me. The side dish was rice, corn on the cob, and a delicious slice of avocado. I think we should be doing more of the avocado on the side in our restaurants. I had a terrific house “tinto”…red wine with dinner. For dessert, I had Postre de Natas. No idea what it was but my server Tatiana recommended it and she was right! Not bad for a smooth $46,164. Oh…pesos. About $27 in dollars;)
I ended the evening meeting with one of my fellow speakers, Tim Ludwig. Tim is a professor and consultant out of North Carolina. He’s an expert in behavior science as it relates to safety o the job. I’m eager to hear him speak.
Well, now it’s game time. I’m ready to knock it out of the park for these folks. It will be a different experience using an interpreter. As you know, humor in stories is predicated on timing and gestures. I really use the audience reaction as part of my speaking. This might have a “delay” through being interpreted. I will let you know how it goes.
A beautiful morning here in Bogotá. As far as the weather goes, I might as well still be in Poulsbo or Seattle. It’s about 60 degrees, gray overcast, but very pleasant. It will probably get up to 65 or so today.
I ate breakfast in the hotel restaurant with the doors to the patio open so I could see the street. Like I said, with the weather, it seems like I’ve never left the Puget Sound. I ate a terrific scrambled eggs and bacon breakfast with a mocahchino. Hey, I’m in Colombia…I’ve got to have coffee, right? My favorite barista at Starbucks know I take decaf, however that didn’t seem to translate here. Full octane for me so I will be ready to prepare for my program tomorrow!
One thing I found unique that I didn’t expect. I watched a little television before turning in last night and I was surprised to find at least a third of not more of the channels were in English. CNN, TNT, and others were on just like on my TV at home and had Spanish subtitles. Heck, I watched the end of Flashdance on VH1 trying to brush up on my Spanish and reading the captions!
Full day to enjoy the hotel and prepare for my presentation. It’s advisable to any business traveler, especially if you are a speaker, to get to your destination a day in advance to relax and rejuvenate. Game time tomorrow!
I will keep you posted on my activities so you can learn a little more about this wonderful city and country!
P.S. The waiter gave me a great tip for dinner. I’ll let you know how it goes…