Sitting in traffic, as one does, I was delighted to be distracted from the viral news of the day by my taxi driver’s choice of cumbia (he remembered that I like to listen to cumbia). A certain song with special verve came up on youtube (due to some glitch in his car stereo, this taxi driver plays songs off his phone), and I discovered a secret in plain sight — Grupo 5. This is a Peruvian cumbia band that has been around for decades. The young singer has such style and stage presence that for a few minutes I was fully into the cumbia schwang.
Also, while in traffic, I finally saw a “vanity plate” for this dog moving company. I’m not sure why this isn’t a bigger deal here.
Think Ink. Black food seems to be trending in Lima. There seems to be at least one black item on every menu. Most black dishes are made with squid ink. But a few are not. Here are a few restaurants and the black dish that shows some of the diversity in the black food.
Statera: Delicious aguaje butter made black and slick with caramelization that goes to the limit. Aguaje is a jungle fruit that looks like an armadillo egg. (I was told that since it’s high in estrogen transexuals eat this fruit in lieu of pills.)
Don Doh: They have a black burger where the bun is black. In this preparation, the squid ink seems to help keep the bread moist (also because it’s a “bao” style bun).
El Jefe: This is a barbecue place that serves burger buns with the meat, and some of the buns are black.
Food Rockers: This is one of the most unique dishes on this list. Their bourbon black ice cream is served with bacon and maple syrup on fries (yes, you read it right.)
Matria: The starter plate of bread is some of the most delicious I’ve had here. They make a black bread that uses a tuber. The bread is warm and sweet reminiscent of Kings Hawaiian rolls.
Jeronimo: Black rice with grilled octopus.
Central: one of the dishes is river snail foam. It’s black. Another dish was made of tuber flour.
Plus, lots of places make black pasta. At San Ceferino, the black spaghetti dishes look like writhing bowls of serpents.
Kumo: They have black sesame seed soft serve. It’s actually gray, but gray is a shade of black.
In Peru, in October, the Lord of Miracles (el Señor de los Milagros) is celebrated with a cake called a “turrón de Doña Pepa” which is a type of shortcake, with hints of anise and sticky with honey, covered in color sprinkles and stars. In the 17th century, during an earthquake which leveled Lima, one painting of Jesus remained intact. Other miracles were attributed to this painting and people began to venerate it. Every year, during October, this painting is taken on processions (with the faithful wearing purple and asking for miracles) in the streets of Lima.
And people eat turrón. It is available all year round but look for this heavy weight to make its appearance everywhere in October.
Truth is that it’s not carnival. That’s in February. But, it’s a small taste of carnival. With chocolate. You don’t have to get covered in chocolate but you certainly can if you want to.
The truck/float/group called Cocoa Devils have a party in July called “J’ouvert in July” to celebrate their trucks. It cost 650 Trini dollars ($100 U.S.) for one-night party that starts at midnight and lasts till daylight. For that price, you get a t-shirt and a drinking cup. Plus endless beer, tequila, wine, and food.
Aside from the main DJ truck, there are drinks trucks, supplemental speaker trucks to blast out the music, and food trucks. At one point, the trucks drive around the stadium providing a drunken parade for revelers to follow.
The food is hotdogs, beef pies, and “doubles.” Good drunk food to sop up the alcohol.
By 2 a.m., the party was well under way. Apparently, Trinis like to “wine” and “lime” which are to twerk and to drink. Actually, they like to do it in reverse: lime’n and wine’n.
What amazed me was the creative ways that people (mostly women) had altered their t-shirts into outfits with various forms of holes and tailoring.
The whole event is well organized with lots of security, toilets, and first aid. While it looked like debauchery, it was actually very neatly done.
The music was so loud that I wondered if my ears would bleed.
Here in Caracas, every morning, I hear the voices of children. Or so I thought. In actual fact, the cries are those of a parrot. These wild birds can make a cry that sounds exactly like children calling out in some make believe language. I keep forgetting that I’m in the tropics.
The photo is just here for entertainment value. It’s from Chacao market.
Once upon a year, in a little tiny land, at the top of Europe, there are strawberries so ruby and sweet. They arrive just after the sweet pea season. Visit Denmark in late August and you may may be able to get both. The strawberries are red like claret in the sun. Eat them fresh or covered in fresh cream.
Then, if you can find sweet peas in the pod, enjoy them as they are as succulent as crisp morning dew. But nuttier.
Oh, and they are healthy for you. How sweet is that!
Bogota is a big city with nine million inhabitants. The traffic is that of a big city. Muggings and robberies are normal here. Again, it’s not going to happen every day. I’m not sure what the crime rate is compared to New York, but Bogota doesn’t “feel” dangerous. It’s best to not go out alone after dark (male or female) and take the usual precautions that one would take in a big city. The rich neighborhoods are not free of muggings, sadly. There doesn’t seem to be anywhere really safe. That’s the main difference, I think, between, here and there (where ever that might be).
The people are big city people so they are not always perceived as the friendliest in the world. Outside Bogota, the people of Colombia are very friendly. Also, the friendliness level may change depending on if you are visiting a strata six or strata two neighborhood (six is the rich area). I find the people friendlier, the lower the strata…
And then there’s “scope,” scopelamine. Actually, on the walk up to Guatavita Lagoon, we saw the beautiful flower from which the “scariest drug” in the world is made. Read up about this online. Don’t get scoped. Watch your drinks when you go out.
Also, never let the waiter take your credit card out of your sight. Watch your wallet at all times. And, if you get mugged, don’t fight (at least that the advice I’ve been given). Unfortunately, some of the muggings have ended in murder which seems to exemplify how dangerous it is here.
But, again, I know people who have lived here for years and don’t feel that Bogota is dangerous at all. They walk outside at night by themselves and are fearless.
Some of the other downsides to life here in Bogota is the pollution. Also, to many, the fact that the weather is always 65 F, every single day, every day, for 365 days of the year… well, some consider it to be cold. This is not the tropics. It’s not Panama. I think that the biggest misconception that people have about Bogota is that they think this is a Mexico with warm weather, corn tortillas, beans, and sand. It’s not. It’s a cool, temperate climate with overcast days and rain on a daily basis. It’s also sunny every day. There is no heating or air conditioning in the apartments. Most people live in apartments. So, if you want a house with a large yard, then this is not the city for you.
On the other hand, if you like dogs, this is the place for you. If you like having a nanny (for your kids…), a dog walker, etc. then this is the place for you. Also, exercise, gyms, and plastic surgery are normal parts of life here. But, the sidewalks are cracked, the traffic can be awful, the drivers aggressive, and the politeness can drive you mad! In traffic, the drivers take out their aggression but in other ways, people are very polite, even when they keep telling you that you can’t pay there, or that you have to go to the next counter, or that the line is busy, or the till just closed, etc. It can drive you bonkers!
Mainly, for me personally, the lack of diversity and lack of quality Vietnamese, Lao, and Thai food is the biggest downside. But, give it 40 years.
The photo below is from one of my adventures when I went looking for a multi-pocketed “chaleca” vest like what the workers wear (and photographers and tour guides).
One of the nice things about the small pyramids in El Salvador is that not that many people visit them so you don’t get run over by camel (or llama) salesmen trying to get you to buy a ride or a photo. Getting out to the pyramids, and there are many, is relatively easy from San Salvador. It can all be done in a few hours along with other touristy things. Some of the pyramids still have sacrificial areas (chopping blocks for cutting off heads?) and walking alone around them allows one’s imagination to fill in the story.
I recommend it. Another nice thing about El Salvador is that the weather is so pleasant. I guess I’d never contemplated the weather in El Salvador.
The most popular search topic on my blog, other than weddings, seems to be what men wear in Bangladesh. So I thought I would blog some more about it. On a typical day in Dhaka, men still wear the “lungi” which I wrote about before. For a more formal event, men can wear a long tunic called a “punjabi” over tight white leggings. Or men can wear a “dhuti” which is sort of the men’s version of the sari. You can even use a sari. It’s tied and wrapped around to look like pants. Very elegant.