Sunday, June 30, 2013

Market Day!

My eyes and taste buds were dazzled at the Satrday market in the plaza. Fresh fruits and vegetables were piled high under tent after tent. I was happy to find that venders were not pushy but instead very friendly and helpful. I sampled the papaya and mandarins and avocados: all ripe and delicious!

Yes, they even had organic produce

Since I had not had breakfast yet, I followed my nose to the aroma of meat sizzling on the grill. People gathered around at 8 in the morning to sample the pork, sausage, corn, soups and arepas (delightful little corn patties). 

I asked the cook to make me a plate with her favorite things. Right there she grilled up a piece of pork and lamb, as well as a banana and arepa (also grilled). She was about to plop a pata de vaca (cow foot) on my plate and I stopped her there (it was a little too early in the day to be that adventurous!).

This hearty meal fueled me for the rest of the morning. I left the market with a bag full of produce and a full belly.

My pannier has served as a perfect shopping bag that I can strap to my back. 

All of this cost me a mere 12,000 pesos 
(or roughly $6). 
It's difficult to see in the photo but the avocados are HUGE! They were also the most expensive (3 or 5k). The yellow carrot-like vegetables are called cubios. They are a root vegetable that have a reputation for being an anaphrodisiac. (Note this is the opposite of aphrodisiac.) This is fine by me since I won't be seeing my husband for the next 5 weeks!

The hostel and town of Villa de Leyva is bustling this weekend. Monday is the holiday San Pedro so a lot of Colombian families from Bogota have come down to get away from the big city. 
My yoga spot in the grass is now filled with tents!
I was surprised (and excited) that most of the guests are Colombian. I've been speaking Spanish non-stop and meeting some really nice people. 

This wonderful family made an amazing lunch from scratch and invited me to join them. 

Tonight was my first night "working" and it is SO FUN! I've been helping out in reception, checking people in, fetching various things they might need, and mostly just talking to everyone. I've found Colombians to be the most friendly and outgoing people I've ever met traveling. 
This afternoon I made maiz pira (popcorn) for the kids. Yay!

Friday, June 28, 2013

This little hamlet is going to be my home for the next 5 weeks!

I made it safely to the quaint town of Villa de Leyva.
After a cramped plane ride, I was able to lean back and relax in a comfy and spacious bus and take in the views of the Colombian countryside. (If you´ve ever traveled by bus in Latin America, you know what I mean. They have big, luxury buses for long distance travel that are both cheap and comfortable).

 From what I´ve seen so far, Colombia is a beautiful country. The road we took winds its way through green, rolling hills dotted with simple homes, cows, horses, farm workers and dogs. Pulling into Villa de Leyva was really exciting for me. This little hamlet is going to be my home for the next 5 weeks! Although I felt a little lonely yesterday, today I feel much more comfortable and I've made some fantastic new friends. Carolina is one of my favorites: she is the 6 year old daughter of one of the ladies who works here. This morning Carolina and I took a photo tour of the hostel for you to see. (Most of these pictures were taken by her- she has quite the artistic eye!)

The lovely Carolina

My bedroom- a shared dorm (although so far it's just me)

Open air kitchen and dining area

Beautiful garden in the front

Open space next to the dining area (perfect for our evening yoga)
Picking guyabas and cherries for us to enjoy. 

This is Luis and the pobrecito cat that has a cone around his head because he got in a cat fight. Luis is super nice and loaned me his bike today. 

I was stoked to explore on a bicycle! After exploring town on the the bumpy cobblestone roads I ventured off to an ostrich farm!

These creatures are massive! They are also quite assertive and scared most of the women and children! I was shocked that they let us in there with them. 

Yeah I was scared too for a moment! They move so fast!

Check out these dinosaur feet!

I definitely got my animal fix today. This goat made me miss Alpe. 

Just like a misbehaved dog

Cute baby lamas


My little pony (and mama)

What good would a visit to the Ostrich farm be without trying the local meat? It was lean and rich- a very tasty burger!

Riding away I was greeted by a friendly horse

It's baby animal season here and I love it! These guys were just hanging out in some grass on the side of the road. 

Street performers in the plaza. The artist got the kids involved in painting too. 

I think that's plenty for now. Tomorrow is market day so I'm sure I will have many more to share next time. 

The hostel is pretty empty right now but we are expecting more visitors this weekend and I'll start working (hopefully not cleaning toilets). ;) 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Why Colombia?

Reactions from family and friends about my upcoming trip has been varied, from excitement and envy to fear and worry. The most common response I get though, is "Why Colombia?" It's funny, I never really thought about why myself until other people started asking me. When Jarrod and I went to Italy for a month no one asked Why Italy? I think the difference is that most people have a good idea of what to expect from Italy and most people would like to go themselves, or have already been. Asking "Why Italy?" would be a silly question.

Colombia, on the other hand, isn't on everyone's bucket list for a desired destination. Most people don't know much about it except that it's somewhere south of Mexico and "there are cocaine fields and guerilla's down there!"

To be honest, I didn't know much about Colombia either, but I'm learning that there is far more than just cocaine fields and guerillas. It is a beautiful country with diverse landscape and vibrant culture. Security in Colombia has increased significantly in the last 5-10 years. There are still dangerous places, but overall it is much safer than before.

So my answer to "why Colombia?"

It's really not so much about the place. In deciding on Colombia it had more to do with the fact that Spanish is the official language, and the weather is tolerable in July and August. Working for free to live in a hostel isn't terribly exciting - It's not feel-good humanitarian work and in a country where a bed in a dorm room goes for $5, I'm not exactly getting a screaming deal either. But that's not the point. The purpose of my trip is more about immersing myself in the language and culture, something I did when I was 16 in Spain, and again when I was 21 in Ecuador. It's fun to be a tourist and travel around, but I also yearn to live like a local and be a part of a community in a culture that is not my own. It's a great way to see things through the lens of other people. I would have been just as excited to live in a dusty pueblo in Mexico, but Villa de Leyva, Colombia is what I found. It's not a homestay, which would have been nice, but I will be working with other Colombians and hopefully get the opportunity to feel like it is home for a little while.

Why Colombia? Why not?

Monday, June 24, 2013

Last Rendezvous Before Leaving the Country

For our last adventure together before we meet again in Colombia, Jarrod and I romped our Escape (aka: The Escapade) over Cinnamon Pass to Lake City, CO for his 50 mile trail run (no biggie).
The 'Escapade' at the top of the pass
The 4x4 road starts just north of Silverton, Colorado, over and through the beautiful San Juan Mountains and down to Lake San Cristobal, just outside of Lake City where the race starts. The pass climbs to 12,613 feet, which winded our trusty vehicle, but she still made it after taking a breather at the top.
Smoke from the fire on Wolf Creek was visible from the top.
It grew so large that Wolf Creek Pass (the way we would have driven for a less bumpy ride)

Picnic at the bottom of Sunshine/Red Cloud

We camped out with family and had 3 glorious days for hiking, playing in the ducky, and cheering on Jarrod and Justin during their grueling run.

Jarrod and I coming in to the finish line
(I was his pacer for the last 10 miles)
The man was all smiles at every aid station.

Mom climbed two 14'ers (Sunshine and Red Cloud).
It was her first big hike since undergoing chemo last year.
What a champ!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

I'm going to Colombia!

It's true. I resigned from my job, kissed my husband and pup goodbye (just for a little while) and now I am headed toward the unknown...alone. I won't actually be alone though: There are over 46 million people in Colombia and I have been in email communication with Oscar Gilede, the owner of the hostel that I will be working and staying at for the next 5 weeks. I'll be living in a town called Villa De Leyva, a few bus hours northeast of Bogota. Jarrod will join me in August and we will have an entire month to tour around together before returning to normalcy. Yippee!

This site will serve as a collection of pictures, thoughts, and other tidbits while I am away. The one caveat: I am terrible with consistency, so if this is only updated through the end of June, my apologies. You can always reach me through email ( or facebook. As long as internet is easily available and this doesn't take up too much time, I will (probably) update it regularly with what I am up to.

More to come!