Farewell and Hasta Luego Food

Brisket with fixings, if you want.
Brisket with fixings, if you want.

In the frenzied days before my move to Colombia, each evening involves, sometimes twice, a “farewell and hasta luego” dinner. Each evening, the question is the same, “what type of food will you not be able to get in Colombia?” That’s something we’ll find out, but for now, my farewell meals have included: Vietnamese pho, banh mi, Chinese hot pot, Korean barbecue, American hamburgers, Italian pizza, British pub fish and chips, donuts, and coffee cake topped with coffee flavor ice cream.

A pork salad with 11 ingredients. It must be mixed up and made ugly.
A pork salad with 11 ingredients. It must be mixed up and made ugly.

During my time in Washington, DC, I have enjoyed exploring the eateries, and of the the new restaurants I’ve tried, I’ve most enjoyed the new “it” restaurant, Rose’s Luxury. The last time I went there, the tattooed-swears-like-a-sailor-waitress remembered me from my visit in February… and then she guided us through most of the menu, including drinks. I didn’t think all the dishes were worth it but since they change their menu on a continuous basis, there is usually something you’ll like, but it may not be on the menu the next time. Sometimes the dishes really work and the staff (with *#&&^% added for emphasis) are eager to explain how to eat the dishes to get the full alchemy of the flavors.

Fish? Chicken? Whatever topped with sandfire, a chefy vegetable.
Fish? Chicken? Whatever topped with sandfire, a chefy vegetable.

Okay, maybe this posting was just an excuse to post food photos.

List of Top 12 Expat Blogs About Colombia

The viewing platform on Isla Pirata, off the coast of Colombia.
The viewing platform on Isla Pirata, off the coast of Colombia.

After months of googling to the nubs of my fingers to read expats blogs in Colombia, I’ve compiled this list of my favorite ones. I’ve tried to concentrate on expats currently living in Bogota. Once in a while, one of the writers, living outside Bogota or living outside Colombia, has such command of the expat life that I will include him or her on my list. I’ve compiled this list based both on content and style.

1. Banana Skin Flip Flops: I think this may be the queen of expat blogs in Bogota. She has written hundreds of blog postings about her four years in Colombia so almost everything an expat might want to know is covered. This blog has a personal bloggy style which surrounds this author’s persona as a young blonde from England (which she is). That said, she is a professional journalist so this “casualness” is professionally done. Kudos to the queen.

2. Richard McColl: I include this journalist because he’s both an expat and a “global nomad” or “Third Culture Kid” (and well, I like to support members of my tribe). Plus, his writing and endeavors are “serious” journalism in the conventional sense. And he is currently living in Colombia.

3. An article from a guy who worked for See Colombia about life in Bogota. While he has moved on, I just like his writings about Bogota.

4. Flavors of Bogota: Written by an expat who’s best buddies with all the cool chefs in Bogota.

5. Bogota Eats and Drinks: I think this is also written by a long time expat. She was part of a Proexport blogger event in 2012 in Bogota. Aside from their own blogs, some of these bloggers are also guest bloggers for See Colombia. Read her article about it here. (Many thanks to the blogger for contacting me and correcting some of the facts about her blog).

6. Mike’s Bogota Blog: This guy is known for his blog about leading bike tours around Bogota, but his Bogota blog is also useful.

7-12. Here are a few from expats who live in other parts of Colombia (or only write about Colombia from their vast past experience), but there is something I liked about their blog (maybe the mention of fruit?): Transatlantic Adventure, My Former Nomad Life, Medellin Living, A Year Without Peanut Butter, Three Kids and a Cat, and Truly, Nomadly, Deeply

And to make it a baker’s dozen: I liked this article is about Colombia and I like the “cost of living index” idea of the site itself.

There are quite a few sites which collect expat blogs in general, including this one, Colombia page, which also happens to list 12 blogs in Colombia. Happy reading!

Kidnapped! 10 Stereotypes About Colombia

The ramparts of Cartagena.
The ramparts of Cartagena.

When I tell people that I’m moving to Colombia, I usually get one of two reactions. Excitement. Or excitement. Excitement about how lovely Colombia and Colombians are. Or, usually, excitement about the possible dangers. Here are the ten most common assumptions I hear about Colombia.

1. Aren’t you worried about getting kidnapped? (I wouldn’t go to Colombia if kidnapping was a guarantee. Duh!)

2. It’s dangerous. You will get mugged. Or worse. (Bogota, with seven million inhabitants, has all the usual dangers of a large city so I think my chances are equal those if I lived in New York or Bangkok)

3. Will you become a drug dealer? Or an emerald smuggler? (Why would you ask me that? Is it a conversation starter?)

4. I hear that plastic surgery is really cheap and of high quality there. Are you going to get plastic surgery? (Thanks for the suggestion?)

5. Colombian women are the hottest in the world. You will get divorced there. (Colombia ranks first in bird bio-diversity…)

6. You will get married there. (If I go to a wedding, I’ll blog about it for sure!)

7. Oh, you’ll be having a lot of romantic assignations (Okay, they put it more crassly.)

8. You will enjoy the steamy hot weather (Not in Bogota. The daily average temperature is 48-68 F, or 9-20 C)

9. Hope you like salsa because there will be lots of it. Any opportunity and Colombians start dancing! (Yup, bring on the vallenato, cumbia, hard salsa, salsa romantica, porro, and so on. More later.)

10. You will never want to leave. (The Colombian public relations slogan says, “the only danger is wanting to stay” so maybe they are right?)

Colombians and Colombia have been through violent times, but according to recent articles, times are changing in Colombia. Medellin, previously infamous, is cited as a model success story of urbanization; Cartagena is a popular tourist destination; most of the world’s cut flowers are grown in Colombia; and the culinary scene is growing. Even with all of this, people still equate Colombia with cocaine, kidnapping, and coffee.

Speaking of coffee, apparently most Colombians drink instant coffee, like Nescafe. With Starbucks’s launch, this week, of their first cafe in Colombia, it will be interesting to see how they change the cafe culture. Will Juan Valdez match the mighty marketing machine that is Starbucks? I will try them both in between my forays into new fruits.

The Best and the Worst Fruit in the World

The mangosteen, succulent luminescent segments inside the dull hard padded
The mangosteen, succulent luminescent segments inside the padded exterior.

In preparation for my goal in Colombia to try 100 kinds of fruit that I’ve never tasted before, I was thinking back to the best and worst fruit I’ve had so far. Surprisingly, it is not durian.

So far, the best fruit I’ve tried is the mangosteen. The mangosteen, which is commonly found in Southeast Asia, has an aubergine brownish color and carapace-like leaves on the top. Inside, the pulpy exterior is red and bleeds like the blood of berries. The edible parts are the white segments inside. A few of these segments have a large soft pit inside. The other segments have no pit so they glide down like manna. Having looked coast to coast for this fruit in the U.S., I had just about given up eating it here. But, then I went to a local “Little Vietnam” or Eden Center, in Falls Church, Virginia, and there, sitting on the sidewalk, was a lady selling mangosteens. At $16, the price for a bag for these well-traveled, dessicated, and bruised fruit was exorbitant.

The worst I’ve tried so far is the wood apple. The wood apple, which I tried in Sri Lanka, is brown, pulpy, and fibrous with the flavor of tree stump.

When I told one of my friend about my new challenge, it turned out that he had actually written a book on fruit. With the weary look of a man who has chewed his way through hundreds of bushels of fruit, he said to me, “Get a juicer. You will get tired of all that chewing.”

In Colombia, they have 150 official commercial types of fruit so my goal of 100 shouldn’t be too hard. Some of the names of the fruit I may find dance like sugar plum fairies in my head: curubas, badeas, caimones, chontaduros, guamas, mamuncillos, mairoños, grocellas, piñuelos, zapotes, and nísperos…

 

Independence Publishing – Publishing Your Own Book

The thing I like most about blogging is that it’s such an easy way to write. To tell a story. I can only think of a few people whom I’ve met who didn’t want to tell me their stories, and even then, they certainly had a story to tell. The skill of storytelling is a form of art. I support everyone’s right (ha! write!) to tell their story.

M's Adventures in Bangladesh, the book.
M’s Adventures in Bangladesh, the book.

After I published my photo book, M’s Adventures in Bangladesh, I got many, almost desperate (so great is this desire to share a story and to be published), questions about where to publish for yourself. In the past, this form of publishing was sometimes called “vanity press” but I like CreateSpace’s term better: independently publish. The printing process keeps getting more and more democratic. Most online sites have free options and publishing costs keep getting lower and lower. They even offer e-book publishing for those who want to publish in that format.

Blurb.com: on all the bloggers’ lips, apparently, it’s easy peasy and they will take your entire blog and convert it to a book for you.

Lulu.com:  less known, but I chose it because supposedly it would be easy to get my book on Amazon… but it’s not as easy as one might think. You can get an ISBN for your book if you want to sell your book in a brick and mortar book store.

CreateSpace: Amazon (yup, the magic word) owns this publishing house.

Also, there are many online printing companies to choose from (Snapfish, Vistaprint, etc.). My first attempt was going directly through my iPhoto program, but there were too many aggravating glitches in the program for it to be worth my while, plus they did not offer bulk discounts. I found Lulu easy. Perhaps for my next book, perhaps on Colombia or on food, I will try one of the other options. In many parts of the world, printing on the local economy is a very viable option, but for an ever-moving expat, online is the way to go.

Of course, you don’t have to sell your book. So, all you writers, bloggers, storytellers, raconteurs, tell your story. Even if, you end up doing a limited print run, of one.