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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