Monday, 7 January 2013

You say merengue

I've just realised I can't say "meringue" any more. I tried to type it and it came out "merengue". Which is Spanish for "meringue" (man, that looks really weird with the "i" in the middle of the word), and is also the name of a type of music that comes from the Dominican Republic and is exemplified by Juan Luis Guerra.

For some reason Sundays in Colombia are celebrated by baking merengue at home and driving to the side of a road somewhere busy and selling squares of it to people who celebrate Sundays by driving out of the city to find sticky sweet stuff at the side of the road. I don't pretend to understand this custom, but give me a couple more years and I'll get back to you on it. In the meantime, here's Juan Luis with one of his classics...

Saturday, 5 January 2013

3 things that nearly killed us this week

It's been a more than usually exciting week on the foreshortened mortality front. We are currently in Medellin, having got here after spending a few days in el valle, near Cali. We travelled north and decided to break the journey by stopping at the Santa Rosa de Cabal thermal spring complex. We lounged in volcanically heated water (up to a temperature of about 40 degrees, according to the book), and then dried off and walked back to the car. As the complex did not, as advertised, have any towels to rent, we had had to take turns with the one towel that my mother had brought all the way from Belfast to Santa Rosa de Cabal. This meant that the girls, the first to dry off, were already back at the car waiting for us as the boys, Oisin and I, grudged through the twilight to join them and head off to find a hotel. As we got to the car, Pati turned and yelled "HIJUEPUTA, una serpiente!" This roughly translates as "FUCK ME, a snake!" I froze for a second, and then turned to see a one metre long snake sliding past where the boy and I had just walked a moment ago. The lad minding the car park went "jesus" in a fairly un-reassuring way, and we all fumbled like mad to get into the car and lock the doors (not the car park lad, we abandoned him to his own fate, which seemed to involve directing the unsuspecting newly arrived 4x4 to drive over the snake. This was unsuccessful and only seemed to guarantee that he would have to share the car park with a really, really, irate snake.) As we stared at each other in disbelief, Pati told us that the car park lad had shouted that it was a "rabo de aji" (chilli tail) - "Coral Snake" in English. I did recall seeing black bands on it, which tallies with the description. A description that includes, according to the Wiki entry, the observation that "New World coral snakes possess one of the most potent venoms of any North American snake". Presumably the South American ones will be harmless, then, eh?

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

The White City

La Ermita, Popayan
Today we went off to Popayan. We've been staying in Pati's aunt and uncle's house in Palmira, close to Cali, and Popayan was a reasonably smooth two hour drive south from here. The last time I was there was in 1997, and I had good memories of the place - mainly white memories, as the whole of the city centre is maintained in what I presume is its original colonial colour scheme - white. Popayan is 1760m above sea level, so it was fresher than Palmira, which at 1000m above sea level has been doing a good impression of an open air furnace since we've been here.