Feria de las flores

I was totally bummed when they told us we were going to the Flower Festival in Medellín. All I kept thinking was “eight days of girly, prissy stuff” and “why are we going for so long?” Usually our extra-curricular trips were only a day or two, so why would they make us stay in Medellín for so long? I immediately got on the internet to find other stuff for me to do around that part of Colombia. It was not going to be all flowers all week, and I meant it!

This trip quickly surprised me and changed my mind about flower festivals. When I saw the itinerary included a horse show, antique auto show, bikini contest, and musical concerts, I was super impressed. Here I was thinking the week would be all flowers and girly stuff when really it was fun for all.

The Medellín Flower Festival has been around for over fifty years. Originally it was all about the flowers, but in the 1990s they added more events to make the festival one of the most popular festivals in the world. And they hold two Guinness World Records for the most horses in a parade and the most flowers in a parade. The first day we went to see the record-holding horse parade. These weren’t just any horses, they were show horses. They did tricks, they pranced, and there had to have been at least 8000 horses. Their coats and manes were so shiny. I can tell they were brushed more than I brush my hair. It was nice to see how well these horses were taken care of.

desfile_de_silleteros2007

Yeah, the flower parade was nice, but the antique car show was incredible! My favorites were the cars from the old gangster movies. I pictured some of them with Tommy guns shooting from the passenger side window. Weird, I know. There were also the old 1920s first model cars. The wheels were so skinny that I couldn’t see how the tires were holding up the car. They were just so cool. It was like looking at a timeline of car industry history.

After the auto show, I hid out for a couple of days. As much as I wanted to see the parade of flowers, I couldn’t bring myself to actually go downstairs to it. Thankfully, our hotel was on the parade route, so I peeked out the window every once in a while. The event that brought me back to life was the pageant/fashion show. Colombia has some of the most beautiful women you could imagine. And it didn’t hurt that they were in skimpy clothes. Right after the show there were a string of concerts. I like Latin pop and rock, so these shows were right up my alley.

Overall, I had a great time. This trip was a far cry from the traditional festivals we were used to going to. I’d come back every year if I could. Especially since I met Silvia, one of the models in the fashion show!

Activities:

  1. Go to Google Maps (https://www.google.es/maps) and find Medellín. Is it close to Bogotá or other important cities? What is the climate like?
  2. What things can you see or do in the Feria de las Flores?
  3. Do you know any other celebrations related to flowers in the US or other countries? Do some research on the Internet if you need to.
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Colombian National Coffee Park

I’ve always had a special place in my heart for theme parks. I love the food, I love the games, I love the people, and I especially love the rides. So when I heard Colombia had a coffee-themed park, I knew I had to get there. It is right outside of Montenegro, and it is one of the coolest places on earth.

Have you ever heard of Hershey Park in Hershey, Pennsylvania? It’s like that, only with coffee. When we walked into the park there was a huge directory. I skimmed the directory for all the high points of the park. My eyes immediately went to the rides. There were bumper cars, bumper boats, a Ferris wheel, a free-fall, go-karts, and a roller coaster. All the rides were across the park from the spot we were standing, so we looked for the attractions that were closest to us then we made our way over to the rides.

National Coffee Park - Quindío, Colombia

It just so happened that the Interactive Coffee Museum was close, so we went there first. It’s a science and technology museum, so most of the exhibits were related to the science and the technological advances that have allowed Colombia to dominate the coffee-trading business. Before we left we saw a 3-D coffee movie. It was cute, but I really didn’t like the coffee bean flying at my face!

I got really annoyed with some people in the group. I won’t name any names, but someone didn’t wear the right shoes, so that someone complained so much that we decided to take the train tour around the park instead of walking through it. I wanted to go to the top of the lookout tower, but we couldn’t go because you have to walk up the stairs to get to the top. I wanted to go to the indigenous tribe cemetery, but we couldn’t go because the pathway was made of rocks and very uneven. I’m not complaining about the train ride. It was a fast way to see all the attractions in the park, but I wanted to be out there experiencing it up close and personal! The last straw for me was we couldn’t get on the bumper cars as a group because we all had to wear closed-toe shoes. At that point, I decided to go off on my own for the rest of the day.

Colombian National Coffee Park - Quindío, Colombia

After that, I went to see everything! I went to the National Coffee Museum, I went to the makeshift Quindian town plaza, I went to the coffee gardens, and I went horseback riding. I wasn’t alone for long. I met a guy named Martín and his sister Leidi when I was sitting at this musical theater performance. Being around them and all the fun I was having in the coffee park made me lose track of time. When I looked at my watch it said 5:00 pm. I was supposed to be at the bus at 5:00 pm! I ran all the way across the park, all thirty-six acres, in about fifteen minutes. Good thing I’m in great shape. But don’t think I didn’t get Martin’s contact information before I ran.

Activities:

  1. Do you like theme parks? Why or why not?
  2. Mention a few factors that contribute to make Colombia’s coffee so outstanding.
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Bolas Criollas

The crew and I decided to take a walk in the country today. We didn’t have any tours scheduled, so it was nice to have some down time. As we were walking, we heard a set of cheers. We looked around but didn’t see anyone. So we walked a little farther and saw a crowd was gathered behind a set of homes ahead. Of course we were interested in what they were watching, so we walked over.

The crowd was standing around this large, long, rectangular court. It was blocked off by wooden boards. It looked like the center was flattened dirt or pressed mud. I think one game had just ended, and when we got there, another was about to start.

There were two teams of four people. One team was wearing blue sweatpants with a white stripe and white-collared shirts. The other team was wearing red sweat pants with white-collared shirts. Each team did a 1-2-3-break! and three of the team members stayed at the end of the court and one team member went to the other end. A neutral person took this small, golf ball-sized ball and tossed it towards the single team members. Then the game began for real.

Bolas Criollas match - Photo by the Federacion Venezolana de Bolas Criollas y Bochas

All of the team members took turns rolling a round shot towards the little ball. I’m not sure about the rules or how you play, but all I know is each person took a turn rolling a ball. A few minutes later the game was over and the crowd was cheering. I was thoroughly confused, but it was cool to see a new game. It reminded me of bocce ball, but with MUCH heavier balls.

When we got back to the hotel I put “dirt court and rolling balls” into a search engine and the words Bolas Criollas came up. It said this game came to Venezuela with Spanish monks during the same time as the conquistadors. The native Llaneros adopted the game from the monks and for centuries perfected the rules and play. Bolas Criollas became an official sport in 1956, and now has a national team in Venezuela, Colombia, and Cuba. This game united genders and social classes through the years. It seemed pretty cool. Maybe next time I’ll get to try playing!

Activities:

  1. Describe how the game Bolas Criollas is played.
  2. How did this game start in Colombia?
  3. Do people in the US gather outside (in parks, etc.) to play any games? Why types of games?
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Colombian Food

One of the best parts about visiting all of these countries is that people open their homes to us for dinner. I must say, one of my favorite countries to eat in is Colombia. Last night we went to eat at Rosa María Betancur’s house. She’s about the age of my grandma, but she has so much energy!

The aroma of cooking food met us at the door with Mrs. Betancur. There was a mixture of spices that I couldn’t put my finger on. I inhaled deeply, then my stomach growled really loud and everyone laughed at me. Mrs. Betancur smiled, but she didn’t laugh out loud like everyone else. She motioned for us to come into the formal dining room where she had some chips and bread waiting for us.

I found out later that Mrs. Betancur won several contests for her cooking. The first dish she served us was a soup called ajiaco. She won first place in a local contest with this soup. It could have been a meal all by itself. There was chicken, three kinds of potatoes, corn cobs cut into small, half-inch rounds, all served in a rich broth. Then she put white rice, capers, cream, avocados, and bananas in the middle of the table for us to share. Mrs. Betancur said we put all of the ingredients in the soup or put a little of each element on the spoon and savor each flavor in one bite. Being the foodie I am, I chose to savor each bite. That was the way to go. There were so many lovely flavors and textures in my mouth at once. I wish the bowl was bigger because I wanted more. Little did I know that there was another course coming.

Ajiaco Soup

Before I could ask for another small bowl, another lady came out of the back with a plate of food. I was starting to get full, so the sight of this plate kind of freaked me out. It was HUGE! There were beans, white rice, a fried egg, sweet plantains, a full steak, and a homemade pork rind (chicharrón). Back home, my mother used to make me sit at the table and eat every crumb on my plate before I could get up. I ate and ate and ate and ate and ate until I couldn’t eat anymore.

I was absolutely stuffed by the end of the meal. I looked around the table and everyone had this stuffed look on their faces. So when Mrs. Betancur came out with a cake, everyone let out a big sigh. The lady helping her laughed at us and whispered something in Mrs. Betancur’s ear. Mrs. Betancur nodded in agreement and sent the lady back into the kitchen with the cake. When she returned, she had a box with the cake inside. I was grateful for the meal and even more grateful for the boxed cake. It was a traditional Colombian Torta de Coco (Coconut Cake), and it made a great breakfast the next morning.

Activities:

  1. What is ajiaco? What ischicharrón?
  2. What typical Colombian dessert is mentioned in the text?
  3. Which Colombian dish would you like to try? Why?
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