A Trip to Colombia

6 03 2010

We’ve spent most of the week “visiting” Colombia. We read about the country and learned that Colombia is the fourth largest country in South America and the only one with both Pacific and Atlantic coasts. We have also listened to a dizzying array of Colombian music, including joropos (folks songs from the plains near Venezuela); Andean mountain styles such as pasillos, guabinas, bambucos, sanjuaneros; and Pacific Coast styles such as currulaos.

We learned about delicious (and not-so-delicious)-sounding Colombian foods such as ajiaco and hormigas culonas:

Not having exotic ingredients like a mound full of leaf-cutter ants close at hand, however, we made a more prosaic Colombian breakfast: Arepas con Quesito (or in this case, Queso Fresco) y Chocolate en Leche de Coco. Así:

Making the arepas was kind of a challenge, because I couldn’t find masarepa locally, and I didn’t think plain cornmeal would work, not being precooked. Instead I bought some kind of Moretti polenta mix, which I couldn’t read, being labeled in Italian. However, it did said it was “precotta,” so I figured it was as close to precooked cornmeal as I could find. It made excellent-tasting corncakes, although I’ve never tasted authentic Colombian arepas to tell you how close I got. I thought they would be even better with corn kernels mixed into the masa ala Maria’s, a Colombian breakfast place we loved in Minneapolis. With butter and crumbled queso fresco, they were marvelous, though.

Next, we learned some Colombian vocabulary, such as “chiva,” which is this:

Also, La Berraquera, which apparently means “What’s going on? How you doing?” and “pelo mono” (literally “monkey hair”) which apparently is how you describe blonde hair in Colombia.

We also looked at and learned about a variety of Colombian instruments, such as gaitas and flautas de millo, tiple, and guacharacas. We saw videos of Colombian festivals, such as the Carnaval de Barranquilla and the Feria de las Flores en Medellin:

We also saw lots of pictures of animals that live in Colombia, such as the tapir, peccary, and capybara.

Our minds thus saturated, we turned to making clay animal figurines out of homemade playdough (I made this playdough for a dinosaur island we made at Christmas, incidentally, and I must tell you that today, months later, it is still absolutely fine in every way; we stored it in ziploc bags in the interim and it’s exactly like commercial playdough as far as I can tell). We planned our designs on paper first. Here is Floppy’s butterfly drawing, and a tapir drawing that never made it to clay:

And here are the figurines we made: playdough plus beads, glitter, and toothpicks = snakes, butterflies, and that little lumpy thing is, Floppy tells me, a delicious hormiga culona:

Finally, Floppy recorded his travel in his passport:

He wrote:  “I learned some words like ajiaco. I saw some instruments and listened to some Colombian music. Gaitas were one of the instruments I learned about.”

He told me he didn’t “want to go back to New Hampshire” after this “trip,” so we’re still listening to Colombian music, at the moment abosao, but we will move on to bunde, arrullos, cumbia, porro, and vallenato, as well as some Colombian salsa, presuming I can find all that on youtube.

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