Tuesday, March 6, 2012
Some friends suggested we visit the salt mines around Bogota. There is the famous “Salt Cathedral” which we are saving for when one of you comes to visit but for this trip we planned to go North of the Cathedral to another lesser know mine. Nemocon. This large mine is less touristy and as we found out, no English spoken there!
Fortunately our friends have a driver so none of us had to think about how to get there. Good thing as we turned off the main road and drove, and drove into the country on a beautiful, sunny day. The grassy fields were dotted with cows, the Sierra Nevada mountains rising in the background.
We drove into the little town of Nemocon and decided it was time to stretch our legs, explore a bit and find some lunch! A true colonial Colombian town, we were the only Gringos in sight. A grandpa walked up the cobble stone street holding the hand of his grandson. A peep in a window found an old woman with braids over her shoulders and a hat on her head, eating ajiaco (Colombian potato soup). We soaked it in, had a traditional lunch and walked up to the entrance of the mine.
Playing the “no hablo espanol” card (despite that the men in our group really are good speakers) we created a lot of clutter and purchased our tickets. We sorted out that we didn't want a Spanish speaking tour and no English guide was available. We waited a minute then decided to go in. No one stopped us. Later we realized we were supposed to wait for a tour, but “no hablo espanol”!
Having the mine to ourselves was quiet the adventure. This mine is the second largest in the country and has been in production for 400 years. It is still in use today.
Wandering in we suddenly came upon the “Magic Mirrors Chamber”. Long pools of water with antique street lamps bordering it looked like black glass reflecting the salt crystals above. Twenty-eight tanks of fresh water were used to dissolve the rock salt. I expected the Phantom with his ½ mask to come floating down the canal, his black cape billowing as he poled his gondola through the forgotten mine.
A small cathedral like area held a statue of Mary, and another area had a large heart carved out of salt.
Chad and the kids tasted the walls to verify that it was indeed salt!
We wandered the halls, seeing everything. Coming out into the sunlight we felt satisfied with the adventure of the day.
Saturday, March 3, 2012
It's early in the game. USA gains control of the ball. They work it up the field dribbling past the Japanese. The ball is center field. A fake to the right and quick pass to the left. Perfect set-up and the ball goes straight into the net. The crowd goes wild!
OK, the crowd consists of myself and my friend Karen. The team includes our husbands and Damon. The first game of the season for the embassy soccer league yields a 4-1 win over Japan.
The team is comprised of us Americans working in Bogota for the embassy and local hire Colombians.
Spanish words are being yelled around me. It's a great atmosphere and everyone is having fun. A great way to spend a Saturday morning!
Thursday, March 1, 2012
I hear the cry in the distance coming closer. Peeking over the balcony I see the Tamale Woman walking down the street pulling her cart of goods. It's Sunday morning and the city is quiet except for her voice echoing between the buildings. Her voice is strong and clear. With a kind of musical intonation she cries “tamale, tamale, tamale” pauses then cries it again. In Hispanic countries this is a traditional way to announce your goods. In Spanish it's called “pregon” or “to hawk”.
She pauses, and looks around to see if anyone will come buy her tamales. Sometimes her little girl is walking with her, up and down the streets shouting out. On Sunday it is traditional for the man to take care of breakfast and sure enough, a man hustles out of a building and up to her. They barter for a moment then she reaches into her bag and pulls out a steaming bundle wrapped in green banana leaves. He tosses the tamale from hand to hand while he hustles away.
Each country seems to have a different formula for making their tamales. My favorite is a Mexican tamale. Colombian tamales are really not that good in my opinion. Inside the banana leaves a bland corn meal mush holds part of a chicken and some carrots. You never know if you will get the leg or thigh or if you are lucky a small breast. Like most Colombian food, the blandness just doesn't excite me. But hearing her voice call out every Sunday morning has become an expected nuance to my morning. She is faithful, she does not change, she is there.