Sunday, March 22, 2009

More people should come to Colombia

I would have to say that my parents had a great time here in Colombia. They both said on numerous occasions that it's too bad more people don't visit Colombia, because it's a beautiful country. I think they were really impressed with how kind and hospitable the people are here. They were helped in every way and never made to feel like idiots when they were having translation problems. In Medellin, they got to see the Botero Museum and the Aquarium, as well as take in a movie and do a little shopping. They stayed in a really nice area called El Poblado, where there are a ton of nice restaurants and shops. They flew back to Cali at the end of last week and got to do even more fun things. The night they got in, we went to this famous restaurant in Cali, it's a fusion of Thai and Colombian food and was excellent. The nice part about living here is that you can go to places like that and it's really not a strain on your budget, it's about the equivalent of what you'd pay for bar food in the States.

On Friday, since I had parent-teacher conferences, they were graciously invited to go to a coworkers house for the day. The maid was there to make them lunch and show them around. They took a little hike and went for a swim. I still haven't even been to her house, but it sounds beautiful. That night, we went out for pizza so I could show them how I've sacrificed since moving here. I took them to the place that has the best pizza that I've found, but it's still nowhere near as good as the pizza from Chicago. Yes, I'm a pizza snob.

The next day, we met up with our friend Yenny and went to the Cali zoo. The butterfly house was the day's favorite exhibit, it really is so cool. You walk around an enclosed little garden and there are hundreds of butterflies just flying and dancing around. After that, my coworker Adriana picked us up and took us to her husband's store (he makes jewelry) and we went shopping there. We even got to go upstairs to see where they were making the pieces. Then, we went out for some typical Colombian food for lunch.

That night, we went to my school to see the high school's musical. It was very good, we ran into some other teachers and even a couple of my students who were just thrilled to meet my parents...and shy I think too.

The next day, we were invited by one of my student's parents to thier "finca" which has a literal translation of farm, but really is a cottage weekend getaway house, usually with a farm, a house, a maid, and a pool. We had another typical Colombian lunch and just sat and talked and swam for the day. Another one of my students came with her parents too, so they did get to meet a couple more of my students. It was a very relaxing ending to a 10 day trip. Overall, I think they really got to do and see some unique places and enjoy their time here in Colombia. They kept remarking that it's too bad Colombia has such a bad reputation, because it's a beautiful country! I'd have to agree.

Monday, March 9, 2009

The 'Rents are Here!

I have no photographic evidence, but my parents are here, they're safe, they're learning a little Spanish and enjoying themselves. I STILL haven't finished writing about mine and Cesar's adventures, and I would like to finish that story on here, but I'll stray from chronological order in this one to tell you all about my parents' visit, so far. They got in on Friday night. I met them at the airport around 9 p.m. Where the international flights come in, people have to wait outside in this designated area for arrivals. So, I was waiting with about 100 or so other people. They were all waiting with flowers, welcome home signs, and presents. I was waiting with 2 bottles of water and that's about it. I saw my parents through the glass doors, their luggage was being searched by a guard and he was asking them something, and I was cracking up because I knew they had no idea what he was asking or how to respond. When that happens, the guards seem to just let the gringos through, which is good. We came home to my apartment that night, had a little bite to eat, then went to bed since it was pretty late at that point. We got up as early as our bodies would allow, I made some pancakes, and we took a taxi to the bus terminal to leave for Salento, a beautiful little town about 4 hours from here. The guide book compares it to Switzerland and it is just amazingly gorgeous. I wrote about this place in my last couple of blogs, it's the place where I realized I should never be on top of a horse ever again. Anyway, we got to Salento, found a charming little place to stay with connecting rooms and a gorgeous garden in the center of it, right in the heart of Salento. I took them that night to the town center to eat some of the famous trout that is caught in the mountain streams nearby, they loved it. The next day, we took a Jeep to this place called Valle del Cocora, where there are these really tall thin palm trees and a huge park to hike or ride horses in. We opted to hike and had a really beautiful time, it was sunny, not hot, not cold, not buggy, perfect weather for being outside. After that, we had this gourmet lunch for around $20, total, and that included a couple glasses of wine and dessert! It was a great meal at a place called Alegra. Then, I believe we took time to read and nap a bit and later went back out to the shops and walked around and bought gifts for ourselves...and a few others. The place where we were staying you could pay with a credit card, so we said we'd just do that. This information becomes relevant in a second, bear with me. As we went to settle the bill with our hostess, she informed us that just like the day before, her machine wasn't working for the credit card. So, we decided we would just use the ATM (cajero) machine and pay with cash. She told us where it was, which was in the town square, but when we arrived there, it was completely turned off, no lights, out of order. I asked if there was another one nearby and was informed that that was the ONLY one in town. We went back to our hostess to tell her the bad news, wondering what we could leave as a, a bunch of earrings we'd just bought? Probably not. She knew that my parents were headed to Medellin and that I was coming back to Cali, which meant we were heading to different bus stations the following day. Our very kind hostess, didn't want my parents to have any inconvenience to their big trip, so she offered to come on the bus with me (about an hour away) to Armenia and then I could find a working money machine to pay her. That's what we did. It was just another example of how hospitable and kind the people of Colombia are. My parents took a 5 hour bus ride to Medellin, with the help of a really nice girl who was going to the same bus station as them, so she helped them to buy their tickets and figure out where to go. I just talked to them, they're there, they're safe, they're going to enjoy Medellin for a couple days and then fly back to Cali on Thursday. I'm so happy they're here, they said that it's a shame people are afraid or hesitant to come here, because it's a beautiful place and they're loving their trip so far!