Friday, May 31, 2013

The To-Do List

Time has flown by and pretty soon, I will be in my final month here in Medellin. And I have done none of the must-do activities you're meant to do. It's high time I took action by drawing up a list of the things I need to do. Hopefully, writing my list on here will give me the motivation to get the ball rolling.

Medellin... que chimba parce!!!!

1. Visit Plaza Botero
2. Go to Museo de Antioquia and Museo del Arte Moderno
3. Make it to Parque Arvi
4. Paraglide
5. Make it to a finca
6. Leave Medellin and visit Guatape
7. Be sh*t-hot in Spanish (get mistaken for a Paisa - is that too much?!)
8. Finally eat bandeja paisa
9. Attempt to salsa dance properly
10. Watch a football game at Estadio
11. Make the most of my last month here (sob)

Obviously, this is a short list and I imagine I will add more in the coming weeks. Fingers crossed, I get some of this done!

Any suggestions? What was your favourite activity you did in Medellin?

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Typical Colombian Tipples

Colombia has a surprising amount of drinks that I have never encountered before. Now before you roll your eyes and think that I'm being a drunken student layabout, the list will actually include both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages so there is something for everyone! Here are some of the usual suspects you may come across:

Jugos
Yes I know everywhere has juice but not like Colombia does them. Especially when they brag a host of fruit that are hard to get hold of outside of Colombia. Take your pick from lulo (tastes a lot like citrus fruit), guanabana (soursop), tomate de arbol and many more. You have the choice to have your juice water-based or milk-based - I'm told lulo or blackberry en leche are really delicious. If you get your juice from a street vendor, you might have the option to add a cheeky bit of rum or aguardiente to take things up a notch. Word of warning, Colombians add sugar to their juices so if you don't have a sweet tooth, it's a good idea to ask for your juice without sugar.

Fruit juice street stall, Cartagena.

Avena
Basically an oatmeal smoothie, you can find avena on just about every street corner. Remiscient of thin porridge, I'm not the biggest fan of it (porridge on the other hand I have a lot of time for) but it's a great option for breakfast-on-the-go.

Salpicon
Another street-side favourite, Salpicon is a fruit cocktail mixed with either the fizzy drink Colombiana which taste is akin to Inca Kola or Iron Bru or fruit juice, usually being orange or watermelon. It is often teamed up with condensed milk or ice cream.

Guarapo
Along with avena and salpicon, you will also find Guarapo vendors quite regularly. It is a concoction of pressed sugar cane juice, lime juice and ice. It is quite similar to Aguapanela which is the Colombian go-to remedy for colds and the flu. It is a nice combination of being tart, sweet and refreshing therefore it is godsend on a hot day when you need something to quench your thirst.

Now onto a few of the alcoholic tipples you might encounter on your Colombian travels...

aguardiente(1)

Aguardiente
If you don't get offered Aguardiente at least once on your trip, I don't know what you've been doing. It runs like water here and Colombians love the stuff. It is made from fermented sugarcane, tasting a bit like anise - I think it tastes a bit like a less sweet sambuca (which I deteste with a passion). To say the least, it's an acquired taste that takes some getting used to. But take note, a celebration is no celebration without aguardiente so be prepared to down a few shots of it.

Cerveza Michelada
This is one of my favourite drinks here however it divides the masses. It is the Colombian Marmite equivalent. Cerveza Michelada is basically a beer version of a Margarita cocktail (without the tequila or triple sec) being beer, lime and salt. I think it's the best invention ever especially as I miss my Desperado's fix from back home but the massive downside is that the salt makes you ridiculously thirsty! Still, it is well worth giving it a try.

What are favourite drinks you've encountered on your travels? Any Colombian drinks I've missed off the list?

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Why I love Medellín

It's about time Medellín started getting more positive press. It has just been awarded with the accolade of "Most innovative city of the year 2013" and more and more people are clicking on to the desirability of living in Medellín. I've already been raving about Medellín to friends and family so I might as well add my two cents to the blogosphere.

Regional Pride
It sometimes borders on the extreme but Paisas (People from Medellín) and Antioqueños (People from Antioquia, the region around Medellín) are very proud to be from the area. In fact, the slogan for Antioquia is "la más educada" which I think in any other situation would be seem arrogant, just adds to the charm of Antioqueños. To be fair to Antiqueños, the reason why the slogan is "la más educada" is to do with their development plan which nicely brings me on to my next point...

Innovation
You can see why Medellín are deserving of the most innovative city title when you can mavel at such sights like the MetroCable or Biblioteca España. Public facilities are well maintained - the Metro is spotless and places like the Unidad Deportiva Atanasio Giradot in Estadio rivals the London Olympic facilities. Medellín has a real entrepreneurial spirit and I think this has really contributed to the city's turnaround.

Bairon García Londoño
Unidad Deportiva Atanasio Giradot, Estadio. Facilities include a football stadium, swimming pools, gymnastic hall, softball stadium amongst others!


Nightlife
I have been awful for doing the cultural activities that you're meant to do but one bit of Paisa culture that I know very well is the nightlife. In some regards it is quite similar to British nightlife in the fact that they love a good prelash. However, you're allowed to drink in public places so everyone goes to the park (no one is freezing their nads off though) and shares a bottle of everyone's favourite, aguardiente. Medellin is big on salsa so no matter what, you're likely to be forced encouraged to give it a go. Where the night will take you, who knows, but my guess is wherever you go, it will make for an unforgettable night!

People watching
I love a good nose. Luckily, there's never a dull moment in Medellin and a quick walk to the supermarket will mean that you will encounter all sorts of characters. The constant yelling of "AGUACATE! PLATANOS MADUROS" down a microphone as a man passes you by with a trolley full of vegetables; the vendors hassling you to buy chiclets;  the stall-owners making their goods on the spot - you always notice something new everytime you leave the house.

Guatape
Guatape: One of the many pueblos closeby to Medellin

Proximity
Ashamedly, I have not left Medellín since returning from Cartagena. However, I have heard so many good things about the pueblos surrounding Medellín. I love the fact that it is fairly easy to escape the daily grind and find tranquility in just a few hours.

If you have been to Medellín, what did you enjoy about the city?

Monday, May 13, 2013

Jaime Garzón

Following on from my street art exploring, when I was browsing through the photos, I noticed this name pop up more than a few times, Jaime Garzón. At first, I thought he was a street artist (there goes the little street cred I had) so I decided to Google him.

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Time to learn a bit of Colombian history, kids. Turns out Jaime Garzón  was and still is an influential yet controversial character. He rose to fame during the 90s as a political satirist on TV in programs such as Zoociedad and "¡Quac! El Noticero". Spanish speakers may be interested to see an example of his work below:


However, this was not the only string to his bow; Garzón was also a journalist and peace activist engaged with negotiations with the FARC. Garzón began a law degree at Universidad Nacional de Colombia but his involvement in politics and journalism prevented him from completing his studies. Before stepping into the limelight, Garzón was mayor of Sumapaz, a district in Bogota. He is noted for having improved the standard of living in the municipality. However, he caused controversy when responding to a telegram about the number of legal brothels in Sumapaz. Garzón responded: "Después de una inspección visual, informo que aquí las únicas putas, son las putas FARC." (Translation: "After a close inspection, the only whores here are the f*cking FARC) His humour unfortunately did not go down well in the political world. Consequently, this amongst other things led to Garzón being fired.

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Garzón continued with his peace activism and journalism until his murder in 1999. The circumstances of his murder are still under investigation although it has been linked to right-wing paramilitaries. Garzón's legacy continues to this day, being a figurehead, in particular for students.

Image via Rubén.G

“Si ustedes los jóvenes no asumen la dirección de su propio país, nadie va a venir a salvárselos”,

How do you learn about the history of the places you are visiting?