Saturday, 12 January 2013

5 months.....

¡Feliz año nuevo!

It's been a couple of months since I last wrote anything, so I thought it was about time to put something new up. 

Since the last post, my brother Tom has been out to Colombia to visit me and I've had Christmas and New Year out here. I also met up with a couple of mates who came to Colombia for a holiday. Apologies to Steve and Sarah for having to dance in an empty restaurant  >; )

I'm almost 2 months away from my 30th birthday and my target of being fluent before 30. Will I make it? Fluency is really a matter of opinion with languages I've found, everyone has a different idea of what level you need to be to be classed as 'fluent'. I expect to be able to class myself as a Spanish speaker by 30, but fluency will possibly take a little longer.

Communication is the purpose of language however and as I'll be able to do that without too much bother, I think I'm doing alright. I'll be pretty chuffed with what I've managed to teach myself in my initial 7 months in Colombia, leading up to my 30th.

I'll do a post with a video on my 30th birthday, to show my level at that point; hopefully I'll give a good account of myself!

So as I mentioned, Tom came out here for about 10 days at the end of November, which gave me an excuse to see more of Colombia, by showing him around.

We visited Cartegena, Minca (near Santa Marta) and Palomino, which was a couple of hours east up the coast from Santa Marta.

Long blog posts are boring, so I'll try to keep it short....but it will be long I fear.....!

Cartegena: Old Spanish colonial town, with a stone wall protecting what used to be the 'safe' for gold etc, before the Spaniards shipped it off Europe. It's home to some fantastic buildings, coupled with extremely hot and humid weather (it's on the Caribbean coast).

Above: Typical building within the walls of the original Cartagena.

                       Above: Photo from the stone wall itself, looking into the original town.

Above: Typical street....

Above: Defences from the stone wall....

Above: Our expected *calm* boat ride to a white sand beach didn't go according to plan. Pretty much like an 18-30 boat ride, but with families, who loved every minute of it.

Minca: Small town near Santa Marta, a bit jungle like.

Above: The view from where we were staying in Minca.

Above: This little hut with the Colombian flag was the communal bathroom. The hammocks to the right were beds for people travelling on the cheap. The hut above was mine and Tom's room, light coming from a little candle. Basic stuff!

Above: We took an hour or two's walk to a coffee plantation, where a lot of their machinery was made in London and a good 100 years old in some cases. We had a Spanish guide, so I had my work cut out translating for Tom!

Above: Another photo of the coffee plantation.

Palomino: Very quiet town on the coast, where I had no phone reception or access to the internet. Anyone that knows me is aware of how uncomfortable that makes me feel!


Above: Andrés DC, the famous (in Colombia) local restaurant. They have actors wondering around doing extremely random things. It's a lot of fun and probably the main thing since I've been here that's made me think, 'I wish my mates could see this'.

Above: Inside a salt mine, a couple of hours from Bogotá. They have a cathedral inside, originally to make the miners feel it was safe to work in there (it wasn't). 

Above: Brothers together again, after a year apart!

Christmas: Bogotá turned into Santa's grotto leading up to the 25th, they really do like their lights. People even have Xmas themed toilet mats here, it's pretty extreme. It's now the 12th of January and I'm told to expect most of the lights and outdoor Christmas trees to remain for the whole month. That'll be two months of Christmas decorations then.....

Thanks to Ricardo and Carlos' family for hosting us all and showing me how the Colombians do it. Muy amable!

New Year: I had new year with about 25 Colombians in an apartment, where I had the traditional 12 grapes at midnight (common in Spanish speaking countries) and champagne sprayed into my face. Formula 1 drivers are good at hiding how much that stings the eyes.

January has seen me step it up a level with learning new Spanish vocab, well aware that my 30th is sneaking up on me with unreasonable pace. I've already had 5 months out here and I have another 5 months before I leave Colombia to meet my parents in Peru. That'll be the start of my 2 month trip down to Buenos Aires in Argentina, where I'll get my flight home in early August.

It's all going quickly, being out here, but I'm finding this self teaching project a much better use of my time and life in general, than being sat around in Basingstoke, waiting for something interesting to happen.

I'm going to a Colombian wedding next weekend, which should be a great experience - photos to follow on the next post!

Hasta marzo!


P.S. This blog site is a pig to customise, which is why some of it looks odd on different computers etc. Apologies!