Friday, January 30, 2009

Language of El Valle -- OIGA, MIRE, VEA

In this part of Colombia, there are several very common expressions used to get your attention. Well, it is more like several different version of the same expression. They all translate to -- HEY LOOK, LISTEN!



3- MIRÁ,

And other combinations that include variations of the above. In some instances, the (pronounced: beh) is added to the end of any sentence -- kind of like the stereotypical EH used in Canada. For example, you could hear, "¿Cómo estás, ?" The answer would be, "Muy bien, ."

Kids in this part of Colombia might say, "Mirá, , dame ___." Which means, "Hey, give me ____." Or "Oís, quiero ____." Which would mean "Hey, I want ____." The words do not literally mean LOOK or LISTEN. They are just an expression to get someone's attention and it is also considered a respectful preamble to a request.

The use of the OIGA, MIRE, VEA is so common, it has been put to music -- SALSA music -- another hallmark of CALI -- which we will talk more about on MONDAY. Here is a preview:

This song is also available at iTunes. Look for Oiga, Mire, Vea by Orquesta Guayacán.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Souvenir Suggestion -- Bordados de Cartago

The city of Cartago, located about 2 hours from Cali, is known as the embroidery capital of Colombia.

Embroidery in the Valle del Cauca has its beginnings in 1540, when the Spanish Conquistadors brought the first hand embroidered items to the area. As the Spanish established themselves in the area, the Spanish women (mostly from Andalusia) brought with them the skill of embroidery. Gradually, their talents were shared with the native and mestizo peoples of the area. Masters of embroidery then transmitted their art from generation to generation and today, embroidery has become a tradition. In Cartago, entire families are devoted to the art -- embroidering blouses, skirts, guayaberas, and bed and table linens.

In appreciation of this tradition and its beauty, might I recommend a weekend or day trip to Cartago where you can purchase a blouse (for a girl) or guayabera (for a boy) as a cultural souvenir for your child/ren.

Check out some of the beautiful designs at the following site:

Also, if you missed out while you were in Colombia, you might want to consider purchasing on-line.




Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Abuelita Carmen's Sancocho de Gallina

One of the great traditional soups of the Valle del Cauca is SANCOCHO DE GALLINA (Chicken Stew). Here is a recipe that you can try at home.

1 whole chicken
1 large onion, chopped
1 cup of tomatoes, peeled and finely chopped
2 Tablespoons butter
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
10 cups of chicken broth
2 ears of corn, cut in several 3 inch long pieces
8 potatoes (preferably Yukon Gold)
2 plantains, green – not ripe, cut into pieces
2 plantains, ripe, cut into pieces
2 yuccas, peeled and cut into pieces
salt, pepper and cumin to taste
color (optional)
cilantro – cut in small pieces (optional)

Step #1

In a 8 quart pan, cook onions and tomatoes in melted butter.

Step #2

Put chicken and broth in the pan. Then, add the corn on the cob and the unripe plantain pieces.

Step #3

Cover and cook on Medium High for about an hour.

Step #4

Take out the corn on the cob and add the yucca, ripe plantains, and potatoes. Also add the spices to taste. Cover and cook until the chicken is fully cooked. Check broth level throughout the cooking process. It may be necessary to add more broth.

Step #5

When the chicken is cooked and soft, return the corn to the soup.

Step #6

Check the soup for flavor. Add spices as needed.

Step #7

Serve soup with a sprinkle of cilantro on top.

See a picture of Sancocho de Gallina at the following link.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Valle de Cauca -- Cali

The Department of Valle del Cauca (the Cauca River Valley) in Colombia is located on the western side of the country and faces the Pacific Ocean. El Valle, as it is often called, is definitely Tierra Caliente. The average daily high temperature is 88 degrees Fahrenheit or 30 degrees Celsius and top that off with with relative humidity often in the 70 to 80% range, and you really feel the heat.

The up side of the climate is that no one will expect you to wear a suit and tie to your ICBF appointment. This does not, however, give you a green light for shorts and flip flops. Most business people will wear nice cotton pants – Docker type – and a short-sleeved collared shirt. Women wear light clothing, skirts, blouses, and short-sleeves. For all other activities in el Valle, you can feel free to wear your favorite summer wear.

Valle’s climate not only helps define the clothing worn in the region, it helps to define the culture of the region as well. As with all of the Tierra Caliente Regions of Colombia, the people of Cali are more open and friendly. There is a much greater sense of trust and friendship, even among strangers, in this part of Colombia. There is also a more casual attitude among Vallunos (the name given to people of this region).

Even though there is a more casual attitude among the people of this region, Vallunos do expect that you will conscientiously use your best manners. They will expect you to be friendly and greet them and acknowledge their greetings. They will want you to graciously accept invitations and be effusive in your compliments. Also, make sure that you don’t take your leave without individually saying “Goodbye” to everyone in the room.

Another aspect of the casual attitude among Vallunos is the speed with which life goes. Life in el Valle is much slower than in places like Bogotá. People walk slower. They talk slower. They speak softer. Things may take longer. So, remember, they are not trying to bother you or make your experience frustrating, it is just part of regular daily life in this part of Colombia.

Monday, January 26, 2009

What do you think?

Do you enjoy reading the comics? Well, recently, an American Pulitzer Prize winner, created a comic for his "Mother Goose and Grimm" comic that has caused quite an uproar in Colombia.

Click on this link read it, and then give us your opinion in the comment section below. To make a comment, just click on the word comment below this post. A new window will open and you can leave your thoughts and opinions.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Words of the Week

So, you have been diligently studying Spanish in anticipation of your trip to Colombia. Now, here is a question -- if you are in Medellín, do you want to take your kids to an HELADERÍA?

Probably not!

While in most of the Spanish speaking world an Heladería is an Ice Cream store, in Medellín, an Heladería is a BAR. SO, probably not the place you would want to take you little one(s).

What about taking the kids to a GRILL in Manizales?

Again, probably not. A Grill in Manizales is a Discothèque.

You are with your kids in a restaurant and the waiter asks if you want a FRESQUITO -- what should you do?

Say, YES! A fresquito is usually a soda pop.

You see a bakery and you want some bread -- you grab that dictionary and look up the word for bread. Do you ask for PAN?

Nope! In Medellín, the word is PARVA.

So, PARCE, I hope this helps.

"What does Parece mean?" you ask. It is Paisa for amigo (friend).

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Souvenir Suggestions -- the CARRIEL

I had a good friend that adopted a child from Colombia. She wanted to buy her child something Colombian that would be significant and that her child could always have from his birth country. There are so many things that are unique to Colombia, so I recommended that she buy an item that would be representative of the region and culture where her son was born. In the case of Antioquia and the Eje Cafetero, there is nothing more representative of the Paisa culture that a CARRIEL. Heck, even Juan Valdez carries one.

A carriel is a leather bag often decorated with pieces of fur. There are a number of pockets in the bag and when you open it is looks a little like and accordion. There are also up to nine small compartments or hidden pockets. Carriels can be used to carry just about anything. In fact, the word Carriel has its roots in the English words “Carry All”. It was mainly used by farmers and campesinos, but it grew into a cultural symbol and is closely associated with the Paisa culture.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Abuelita Carmen's Fabulous Frijoles

People eat beans (frijoles), arroz (rice), and in most places -- arepas everyday. So, if you are adopting a child old enough to eat solid food they are probably fans of this cuisine. To help you prepare a meal that can be a hit, here is a recipe for FABULOUS FIJOLES ANTIOQUEÑOS.

1 lb. Red Beans, preferably Cargamento or Cranberry beans
1 small can (8 oz.) of tomato sauce or two large ripe tomatoes finely chopped
3 Tablespoons Butter
1 small onion – finely chopped
2 teaspoon powdered chicken broth
1-2 teaspoons Cumin or more if you really like the taste
1 Plantain
(Make sure it is VERY ripe or it will give the beans a bitter taste).
Salt to taste
Optional – add meat like flank steak, pork rinds, ground beef.

Step 1:

Wash the beans and put them to soak in water overnight.

Step 2:

Put beans and about 6 cups of water in a large pressure cooker. Bring to a boil and cover and let cook for about 30 minutes. Let out the pressure. Check water, and add plantain and meat. Cover and cook an additional 30 minutes. Let cool and let out pressure.

If you do not have a pressure cooker, you can use a crock pot. Put beans, plantain, and meat in the crock pot. Cover and cook on HIGH until the beans are soft.

Step 3:

Make a Guiso. Place butter in a large pan and sauté onions. Then add, tomato sauce, cumin, and powdered chicken broth. Cook together on medium high for about 5-10 minutes.

Step 4:

Add beans and salt to the guiso in a frying pan and cook in the sauce for 10-15 minutes. Add bean juice to the mix until you get the desired consistancy. Some people like beans more soupy, some more dry.


This is also a recipe for regular beans if you exclude the plantain and meat. These regular beans would be served in any part of the country. Also, cumin can be optional if you really don't like it.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Not to Miss Cuisine

The food of Antioquia and the Eje Cafetero is delicious. But just because you aren't going to Medellín or Pereira doesn't mean you can't try it. In just about every city in Colombia there is a restaurant or street vendor where you can try one of the following foods -- and truly -- you don't want to leave Colombia without having tried them. If you did miss out, there are many Colombian restaurants in major cities around the world including New York, Miami, Chicago, Toronto, Houston, Los Angeles, and even Paris. So, check out the phone book, find a Colombian restaurant near you, and have a little taste of Colombia closer to home.

Now, here's what's for dinner --->

Perhaps the most well-known meal in Antioquia and the Eje Cafetero is Bandeja Paisa. When you go to eat your first Bandeja Paisa, make sure that you are REALLY HUNGRY! Here is what you’ll get:

It might start with a bowl of soup, but the main course is a platter filled with red beans, rice, ground beef or steak, fried plantain, chicharrón (fired pork rind), chorizo (sausage), blood sausage, fried egg, avocado, and of course, arepa Paisa.

If you want to eat it like a native, then here are the keys. First, grab your fork and stab the egg yolk and allow it to run down through your rice and whatever is nearby. Then, grab the arepa with your hands, break off a small piece, and dunk it in the runny egg and eat. Next, make sure while eating your rice that your fork has equal amounts of both beans and rice before placing it in your mouth. Now, move on to take a few bites of meat. Make sure to use a knife and fork to cut the Chicharrón into pieces because if it is well cooked your teeth won’t ever make it through the skin :). Finally, put salt on the avocado and eat a bite with a spoon. Now, alternate all of the above in random order. Remember, beans can also be appropriately eaten when scooped onto the arepa. Most importantly, EAT IT ALL. Diet tomorrow!

If you really want to impress people, wash it all down with a bottle of Colombiana (a soda pop).

See a picture at the following link:

Another great thing to try is Mango Biche or often misspelled Viche (I've seen it written both ways on street signs.) Biche in Colombia means “Unripened”. So, what you are eating is a not quite ripe mango. These are served with lime juice and salt. They are a treat and can be safely bought on the streets.

See a picture at the following link:

Monday, January 19, 2009

Antioquia & the Coffee Growing Region

The area of Antioquia and the Coffee Growing region -- known as the Eje Cafetero (Risaralda, Caldas, Quindío) is a mountainous temperate part of Colombia. The weather is beautiful all year round and Medellín (the capital of Antioquia) is known as the “City of Eternal Spring.” People from this area are known in Colombia as the PAISAS.

Of all Colombians, the Paisas have the most distinctive culture. This culture has its roots in the unique way that the area developed. Settlers from Spain (Extremadura, Andalucía, and the Basque regions) came to this region. Notably, they came as family units and settled in the remote mountains of the area. The topography made large settlements difficult and most families remained separated. This meant that families became the central social unit and it helps to explain the size of Paisa families – having 10-15 children was not uncommon.

Many of the original settlers were Jews, who had been forced to covert to Catholicism during the Spanish Inquisition. Perhaps it is because of this that Catholicism is so predominate in this area and plays such an important role in the culture.

Most Colombians can spot a Paisa right away, they tend to be taller and fairer than the people in the rest of Colombia. But the real give away is their distinctive accent. They pronounce their “s” almost like a “sh” sound and there is a peculiar music to the way they speak. They use “vos” instead of “tu” for informal situations. They also have a plethora of unique vocabulary for all sorts of common items – (stay tuned for Friday’s installment on language).

Paisas are also famous for their business sense. They are true salesmen – my husband says they can sell you the moon and make you believe you are getting a great deal. In the real sense, Paisas are the industrial and commercial heart of the country. They are also very progressive and community oriented. This can be seen even in the orderly fashion they get on and off the bus. In Bogotá, people crowd onto a bus. In Medellín, people form and orderly line and carefully get on the bus. There is definitely a great sense of civic duty.

Medellín is the design and fashion capital of Colombia, not to mention home to some of the most beautiful women on the planet. Yet, the daily dress standard is not as formal as it is in Bogotá. You want to dress nice, but a bit more casually.

Interactions with Paisas are also less formal. Turn on your charm and SMILE. They love people who are happy and people who are genuine – don’t fake it or they’ll know it. Also, don’t be snobby. Accept their invitations to see things or eat things because they are extremely PROUD of their cities and they want to share it with you AND they want you to agree that it is the BEST thing you have seen or eaten – ever!!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Word of the Week -- Sumercé

In the 15 and 1600's, the use of the pronoun "vuestra merced" was the formal, respectful way to say "you" in Spanish. Eventually in the 17 and 1800's, it was replaced by the "usted" we know today. However, in the Altiplano Cundi-Boyacense, the "vuestra merced" eventually became "su merced" and then Sumercé (sue mare SAY).

Sumercé is used to address social superiors, or people who are perceived as social superiors. It is used throughout Boyacá and often in Bogotá when addressing older people as a way to show respect.

In families, children are often taught to use this with parents. I bring this up because I knew a family that adopted a sibling group. They had diligently studied Spanish in preparation for taking custody of their children. The mother was disappointed when her children rarely called her "Mamá", but rather kept calling her this unusual name "Sumercé". Not realizing that her children were actually showing the respect that most children would show their parents.

I want to add here that while Sumercé is not common in the business setting today, I have noticed that when I use it -- it always gets a smile. I think that lawyers, judges and ICBF workers do not expect a blond gringa to be thanking them with a "Gracias, Sumercé."

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Souvenir Suggestions -- the RUANA

So, you have adopted a child or will adopt a child from the Altiplano Cundi-Boyacense and you want to purchase them a great souvenir. Something that will reflect the culture of the region where they were born. What should you choose?

Might I suggest a RUANA.

A ruana is a woolen poncho that has its roots in the ancient Chibcha (Musica) indigenous culture. The story of the ruana starts with the following Chicbha legend:

According to the stories told to the Spanish by these Indians, the Chicbhas were once visited by a powerful, yet simple and loving God. This God’s name was Bochica, also known as Nemqueteva, and less often Sadigua. He appeared 3 different times and it seems unclear as to whether it was the same person all three times. Bochica is the most common name associated with the story that relates to the ruana.

According to the story, Bochica had white skin and a beard down to his waist – both were unusual as the Indians had dark brown skin and were Lampiños (unable to grow body or facial hair). He had bare feet and wore a long tunic that was tied with a knot at the shoulder. He arrived in the Bacatá (now Bogotá) valley a top a strange animal – which upon hearing the description, the Spanish chroniclers believed might have been a camel.

When Bochica arrived a top his camel, the native population did not know how to farm. They lived off the land. They wore little clothing and were often cold and hungry. When this great white God saw the hunger, poverty, and nakedness of the Chibchas, he taught them to cultivate the land, harvest the fruit thereof, and store food until the next harvest season.

He also showed the people how to get thread from native plants and then how to use the threads to make clothing. The clothing that was made was in essence – the ruana – a big square with a hole in the middle for your head.

When the Spanish and their sheep arrived, the plant fibers were replaced by wool. So the wool ruana of today is the ultimate mixture of the two cultures of Colombia. In fact, the influence of the ruana is so pronounced that even the name of one of the departments of Colombia comes from this piece of clothing. The Chicbhas used the word BOY for the ruanas (mantas in Spanish) that they made. Eventually, the name Boyacá came from the Chicbha BOY and the Spanish (acá or here) – it means Ruanas Here – or Land of the Ruanas.

So, a ruana would be a wonderful, significant souvenir for your child.

Where can you buy a ruana?

There are places in Bogotá, but if you want to take a weekend trip from Bogotá, plan to go to Paipa, Boyacá, for the night and then spend a morning shopping in the Ruana capital of Colombia -- Nobsa, Boyacá. Nobsa is located about 3 ½ hours from Bogotá in the very safe part of Boyacá. A great time to go is May 24-26 for the International Festival of the Ruana.

If you are already home, there is a chance to get them online or through friends. If you are interested, let me know.

Here are links to see more about ruanas and Nobsa.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Abuelita Carmen's Amazing Changua!

When we left to adopt our toddler, a boy 21 months old, I knew we would be spending the bulk of our stay with my in-laws. Actually, that was part of the appeal of choosing Bogotá over other areas. What I didn’t realize was how invaluable my mother-in-law would be in the process of his adjustment.

When we received our referral, we had very little information about our son’s appetite and culinary likes and dislikes. I quote, “He likes eggs, any fruit, and will eat meat with patience. For dessert, he likes jell-o with condensed milk on top.” Not extremely helpful, but I thought, “Hey – he’s going to be a great eater.”

Imagine my surprise when he wouldn’t eat what I fed him. We spent the first week in an apartment in Bogotá and it was a struggle daily to get him to eat anything. After our integration meeting at the ICBF regional office, we took a 3 hour trip to my husband’s home town. Enter Abuelita Carmen and her life saving recipes.

So, I will share Abuelita Carmen's recipe for sure-fire food success (at least this is what she called them). If you have adopted from, or are adopting from Bogotá, Cundinamarca, or Boyacá, it is likely that you child/ren has eaten this unusual soup which is a decendant of the native Chibcha indians.

Recipe for Changua (sounds horrible, but it is healthy and my son still eats bowlfuls 2 years later)

1 ½ cup water
3-4 green onions cut into ¼ inch pieces (cebolla larga)
1 /4 garlic tooth (diente de ajo)
Salt (lots to taste) (sal)

Boil these together until the water turns yellowy.
Take out the onion pieces and garlic.

Crack 1 egg and let it cook in the boiling water.

In the meantime make a piece of toast and butter it (use lots of butter or margarine – just not the low–fat stuff). If you are in Colombia, ask for a Calado, oft pronounced Calao. In a bowl, break the Calado into small pieces, or if back home, break the toast into little pieces in a bowl.

Add ½ cup cold milk to water/egg mixture and dump the whole thing on the bread in the bowl. You get 1 serving of milk, 1 of bread and 1 egg. My mother-in-law puts little chopped up cilantro in it, but I leave it out as my son kind of chokes on it.

Note, this is a breakfast food!
I found a link to pictures of a bowl full of Changua. Check it out!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Bogotá for Beginners

Since every family has to go through Bogotá at some point, we will start our culture tour there. Bogotá is part of the Altiplano Cundi-Boyancense. It is Tierra Fría.

In Bogotá, what you wear will determine WHO your are and HOW you will be treated. So, your clothing choices will be important. This is NOT the place for Crocs, Shorts, Tank tops, or Hawaiian shirts. This IS the place for EXECUTIVE OFFICE WEAR – NO CASUAL FRIDAYS. You will also want to come prepared for rain – lots of it.

Bogotanos think of themselves as the cultural and intellectual center of Colombia. For many years, Bogota was known as the Athens of South America. Bogota boasts an opera season, a philharmonic, a theater festival, a huge book fair, museums, expositions, concerts, etc.

Bogotanos also think of themselves as progresssive. Every weekend, Bogota closes its main streets and people are encouraged to walk or bike through the city. It also has impressive bike paths throughout the city where and estimated 300,000 bikers travel each day. Because of efforts like these, in 2006, Bogota was name the best big city in the world by Biennale Architecture.

All of this leads to a culture that values proper etiquette. Bogotanos expect that when you arrive you will greet them – and I mean everyone – with a “Buenos (Días, Tardes or Noches)” and a handshake. You also can expect to make brief small talk before getting down to business. They expect that when you leave a room you will bid farewell to every person in the room on an individual basis. Do not rush people. Do not be in a hurry – even if your kid is crying. Remember, if your kid is crying, it is your job, not theirs. You still need to be nice, polite, and do not make excuses to leave. Your vocabulary should include: por favor, gracias, and all those other important things you learned in Kindergarten.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Tierra Fría or Tierra Caliente

One of the defining characteristics of Colombians is that –well—they are difficult to define. Colombia is divided into several geographic regions. Each one retaining its own unique identity. This identity is reflected in the food they eat, the clothes they wear, the music they listen and dance to, their accent and vocabulary, and even the way they act.

While the country has 32 departamentos (or states), they can be grouped into several geographic regions -- roughly the following: the Atlantic Coast (el Caribe), the Eastern Plains (los Llanos), the Altiplano of Cundimarca and Boyacá (Altiplano Cundi-Boyacense), Santander, Antioquia and the Coffee Growing region (Antioquia y el Eje Cafetero), the Pacific Coast (la Costa Pacifica), the Cauca River Valley (el Valle), the Pasto Region (los Pastusos), Tolima & Huila, and the jungle (la Selva).

I will be talking more in depth about each of these regions over the next few weeks. However, for today, I want to simplify. Most Colombians can group themsleves into 2 groups: those from hot places “Tierra Caliente” and those from cold places “Tierra Fría”.

I first learned about this distinction long before I met my husband. I was living in Toronto, Canada, and working in the Hispanic community. Every time I met a Colombian, I would mention that I knew other Colombians. The new person would immediately ask, “Tierra caliente or tierra fría?”

While this may sound silly, it actually points to 2 very important aspects of Colombian culture. First, in Colombia, temperature is determined by altitude – the higher you are the colder it gets. There are no seasons as we here know them. Winter to them means – RAIN. Summer means – NO RAIN. [These two seasons alternate rapidly and without warning in places like Bogotá :)]. Second, temperature is a huge determiner of a specific region’s culture.

Most Colombians know or think they know what to expect about a person based on whether they are from Tierra Caliente or Tierra Fría. The stereotype goes like this: If you are from Tierra Caliente, you are a party animal. You are loud, open, laid back, and do not allow etiquette to get in the way of having fun. If you are from Tierra Fría you are shy, quiet, proper, formal, and well -- boring.

The truth is there are only two areas in the Tierra Fría group – the Altipano Cundi-Boyacense and Pasto. But, the Altiplano is the seat of Government and so they wield more power than this small region might otherwise. If the capital of Colombia were on the coast (Tierra Caliente), Colombia wouldn’t be Colombia -- it would be --- uh – well – Venezuela.

This is important for you as adoptive families because when you go to Colombia, the first question you will want to ask yourself is, “Am I going to Tierra Caliente or Tierra Fría?” This will help you not only determine the clothes you will pack, but what you might expect in terms of your interactions with the people that will be helping you with your adoption in Colombia. It will also help you understand your child and his/her/their idiosyncrasies. For those of you who are already home from Colombia, this might help you make sense of your trip and your experiences there, as well as understand your child better – especially those with older kids.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Colombian Word of the Week -- Juicioso

So, you are adopting a child over the age of 18 months and you want to be able to tell them to BEHAVE.

What should you say? Here is a great word that I highly recommend.

For a boy = Sé JUICIOSO (whee see OH so)

For a girl = Sé JUICIOSA (whee see OH sah)

It literally means "be judicious". But, in Colombia, it means "behave yourself."

Most kids will have heard this a thousand times, and they will be familiar with its meaning and the behavior you expect after they hear it.

Four years ago, a family I know brought home 2 children from Colombia. They asked me over to help teach the kids ESL. The adoptive mother was struggling with the language. When the kids started acting up, I reminded them to be JUICIOSOS. It helped.

To hear this word, click on this link.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Translation / Traducción / Traduction / Traduzione

Many of this blog's readers are from France, Spain, and Italy. So, I have added the Google Site Translator to the blog. I am not sure how great the translations will be, but I hope this can further help you learn about Colombia and its culture.

Muchos lectores de este blog son de Francia, de España, y de Italia. Así pues, he agregado el traductor del sitio de Google al blog. No estoy seguro si las traducciones son buenas, pero espero que las traducciones puedan ayudarle a aprender sobre Colombia y su cultura.

Beaucoup de lecteurs de ce blog sont la France, l'Espagne, et l'Italie. Ainsi, j'ai ajouté le traducteur d'emplacement de Google au blog. Je ne suis pas sûr si les traductions seront bonnes, mais j'espère que les traductions peuvent vous aider à se renseigner sur la Colombie et sa culture.

Molti lettori di questo blog provengono dalla Francia, dalla Spagna e dall'Italia. Così, ho aggiunto il traduttore del luogo del Google al blog. Non sono sicuro se le traduzioni siano buone, ma spero che le traduzioni possano aiutarle ad imparare circa la Colombia e la relativa coltura.

A special thanks to my new friend from France who took the time to help this technology challenged person figure out how to get this working. Merci Beaucoup! Sébastien!

Colombian Concept of Time

Colombians do not typically have the same view as Americans about punctuality.

However, most Colombians expect Americans to be on time (one of the stereotypes they have about our culture). It is expected by ICBF, a Casa Privada, your agency contacts, your taxi driver, the judge, etc. that you will be ready and on time – even if you are trying to drag three young kids along with you.

However, Colombians themselves may not be particularly punctual – and do not expect for them to apologize or explain their reasons for being late. Here is a great example, we were supposed to pick up our son from ICBF at 3 pm. We arrived 15 minutes early and finally met him 45 minutes after our appointment time. There was no explanation, just a long wait.

To summarize, your job is just to be ready and present at the originally agreed upon time. Do not get frustrated or angry that you were made to wait with a screaming infant/toddler. Just roll with it, and be prepared to entertain your child while you wait – for perhaps a long time.

There is one exception to this general rule. Even foreigners are expected to arrive late for a social function.

If you are lucky enough to be invited to a party or a lunch at someone’s house, plan to arrive 15 minutes late. If you arrive on-time, you will typically not find dinner ready and waiting on the table – so plan this into your child/ren’s snack schedule. You may want to feed them a snack about 30 – 60 minutes before you leave.

I was pretty frustrated when we took our 3 year old to a dinner hosted by some friends. I wanted to make sure he was good and hungry so that he would eat and not complain. However, the food was NOT ready and wasn’t ready until at least an hour after we arrived. My son was cranky as can be until he got that belly full. (Remember a typical dinner in Colombia may be served as early as 8 pm and as late as 10 pm.)

I have been invited to functions where we arrived 45-60 minutes late and they were just starting to prepare dinner. So, just keep this in mind.

Also, if you arrive early or on time, the host will feel uncomfortable as he/she will be busy getting things ready while you hover. My husband also pointed out that many Colombians will think that you are starving “muerto de hambre” if you arrive to a dinner party on time – and this is not a good thing.

I must add a caveat here. Many agency workers have had LOTS of experience with foreigners and may be more accustomed to following a US punctuality schedule – but if they aren’t just be prepared for the wait. For those of you who have been to Colombia, please feel free to share your thoughts and experiences related to time etiquette.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Touching My Heart -- Abandoned Babies

I read two articles in El Tiempo last week that I wanted to share. Last week, 2 infants were found abandoned in Bucaramanga. The first is a litttle boy -- who a nurse named Andrés Felipe. He was found stuffed in a suitcase. He has been taken to the Fundación Cardiovascular de Colombia. He appears to be a newborn of 28 weeks gestation. The doctors at the clinic say he will need to be at the clinic at least 2 more months.

The second infant, a little girl, was found in a cardboard box, wrapped in a sheet, and placed in front of a garbage can. Neighbors heard crying coming from the garbage, found her, and took her to a local health center, which then transferred her to the the hospital "Santa Teresita". ICBF has taken custody of the girl.

As adoptive parents and prospective adoptive parents of children like these, I pray that each one of us can say a small prayer for these children and the thousands like them in Colombia and around the world. I also pray that these children may quickly be united with loving parents who can help them feel the warmth and love of the family that they deserve.

Here is a link to the 2 articles -- only available in Spanish.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Día de Reyes Magos -- Three Kings Day

January 6th is a National Holiday in Colombia, and it officially marks the end of the holiday season. This particular holiday is known as the Día de los Reyes Magos -- Three Kings Day or the Epiphany. There is a great explanation of the evolution of the celebration of the Epiphany at the following site.

However, the key here is that in Hispanic countries, January 6th has become known as Three Kings Day. It is a commemoration of the day when the 3 Wise Men who had followed the Star of Bethlehem, arrived bringing their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

This holiday is widely celebrated, however, while it is a big deal in Mexico, Spain and other countries, it is less of a big deal in Colombia. There is a tradition that the Reyes Magos give gifts (like Santa), but in Colombia this tradition is usually only observed by the few people that have money left from their Christmas Eve gifting.

While this day should mark the end of the partying season, Colombians have a hard time letting go of anything that allows them to party. After all, Colombia was found to be the 2nd happiest place on earth -- right behind the island nation of Vanuatu. So, in reality, it is the beginning of a second wave of partying that includes things like the Carnaval in Barranquilla and any number of Férias, Festivales, and Beauty Contests.

Today, El Tiempo had an interesting article about the holiday.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Carnaval de Negros y Blancos

The Carnaval de Blancos y Negros (Carnival of Blacks and Whites) happens every year from January 4 –January 6 in the city of Pasto, department of Nariño, Colombia. This festival actually has its roots in the celebrations and festivals of the Pasto and Quillacingas Indians of the Pasto region, who would hold a celebration to ask the God of the Moon to watch over and protect their crops. Over time, their festivities united with the holidays of their Catholic Spanish conquerors (Day of the Immaculate Conception 12/8, Christmas 12/25, and Three Kings Day 1/6). Later these celebrations were joined by a holiday, the Día de los Negritos (Day of the Blacks) that was celebrated in Popayán.

Día de los Negritos was a holiday that had been declared by the Spanish crown. The holiday was declared after a rebellion of slaves in Remedios, Antioquia (1607) caused a panic among colonial authorities. Upon hearing about the rebellion in Antioquia, the large population of black slaves in Popayán began to demand a day of rest. The King of Spain, in order to keep the peace, decided to grant the black slave population of Popayán a legal holiday, January 5th. This holiday was celebrated by dancing in the streets and painting black the white walls in the city.

Eventually, the celebration of the Día de los Negritos spread to other areas including Pasto. However, in Pasto, the Día de los Negritos, was celebrated by the white and mestizo population as there were very few black people in the area.

Though there were always celebrations, the Carnival didn’t really take off until the 20th century. It eventually evolved into a three day plus celebration. The Carnival actually begins with the Pre-Carnival celebrations which commence on December 28. December 28 is the Día del Agua – Arcoíris en el Asfalto (Day of Water – Rainbow on the Asphalt), where people enjoy a giant water fight. December 30 is the Serenta a Pasto (Serenade to Pasto) where Trios perform. December 31 is the Desfile de Años Viejos (Parade of Years Past) – a Parade of Old Cars. January 2 is the day where each neighborhood shows off their culture and there is a big horse parade (La Cabalgata). January 3 is the Carnavalito – the Mini Carnival for the Family where the focus is on children.

The actual Carnival begins on January 4th with the Desfile de la Familia Castañeda (Parade of the Castañeda Family). I have read several different explanations for the name, but it appears to have started in the 1920’s when a family arrived in Pasto during the Cabalgata (Horse Parade) of the festival. This family came into the city accompanied by pigs and sheep and several children. The father of the family started waving to the crowd that had gathered to see the Horse Parade and a shout went up, “Viva La Familia Castañeda!” Eventually, the Parade of the Castañeda became institutionalized as part of the Carnaval.

January 5th is the Día de los Negros. Everyone paints themselves black to show that there is no distinction between races.

January 6th is the Día de los Blancos. This day everyone covers themselves in talcum powder or corn starch. There is a huge parade with displays of giant heads.

Here are some interesting links to see more about this unique Colombian festival.

Click on Galerías to view photos:

Friday, January 02, 2009

Deportista del Año -- Athlete of the Year

El Tiempo -- the Colombian newspaper -- announced its choice for Athlete of the Year. Their choice: Diego Salazar.

So, who is Diego Salazar? The Colombian athlete that took the Silver medal in weightlifting at the Bejing Olympics.

The Olympics in Colombia are huge! Only, unlike here in the US, they watch every sport no matter who is competing. Here we focus on our own country's stars. There, they know the names of stars from all over in all sports. Last summer, my father-in-law was telling me about a South Korean female weightlifter that he saw win the Gold. Did we even know that there was a South Korean female weightlifter, I ask?

Anyway, when Colombia won their first medal of the 2008 games, it was a silver medal in weightlifting and Diego Salazar became the first Colombian Male since 1988 to win a medal. To see the picture gallery of his win, go to the following link and click on Ver galería.

You can also see photos of his rather humble family home in Tuluá. Go to the following link and click on Ver galería.

To see the photos of Diego and other athletes that topped the list for Athlete of the year, go to the following links:

For Photos:

To Read the Article -- en Español solamente:

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Traditions for Midnight on New Year's Eve

Colombians have many different traditions (some of which are closer to superstitions) that are performed customarily at midnight on New Year's Eve. Each tradition has its own purpose and you cannot do them all; so, you'll have to choose your favorites.
Here is a list of a few traditions you can try in your home:

1. Twelve grapes
As the clock strikes 12 you need to start eating the grapes. Each grape represents one month of the upcoming year, and you are allowed to make a wish with each grape. But you have to finish eating all twelve grapes before 12:01 in order for your wishes to come true. So, have your wish list ready and eat quickly :).

2. Yellow Underwear
If you want to win the lottery next year or at least guarantee yourself riches, try wearing yellow underwear as the clock strikes 12. If you want to double your chances, wear the underwear backwards.

3. Shafts of Wheat
Make sure to place 12 shafts of wheat on your dining room table. This will ensure a year with plenty to eat.

4. The Suitcase
At precisely 12 o'clock, grab your suitcase and run around the entire block with it as fast as you can. When you have completed your journey, you increase your chances of taking a big trip in the upcoming year. So, for you people with itchy feet, forget the grapes and grab the suitcase.

5. Starting Out on the Right Foot
As the clock strikes midnight, make sure your first step is made with your right foot. This will start out the year on the "right foot."

6. Money in Hand or in Pocket
Make sure to have at least $1 in your pocket or in your hand as the clock strikes 12. It foretells a year of financial security. Remember, cash only -- for everything else there is Mastercard.

7. Sweep the Dirt Out the Door
Your house should be cleaned on the 31st and you sweep the last bit of dirt out the front door at midnight. This cleanses your home and brings good energy to your home.

8. Eat Lentils (Recipe to come soon, so you'll have to hold off on this one until next year).
At any time on the 31st of December, eat lentils. It portents a year of plenty.

9. Burn your Año Viejo
This helps you get rid of all your bad luck and mistakes from the previous year.

Make sure that you hug and kiss everyone in your house and wish them Feliz Año.

Happy New Year! Feliz Año Nuevo!

The Colombian Mommy