Thursday, May 19, 2011

Volunteering in Bogota

I am volunteering once a week at the Simon Bolivar Hospital. We are there a few hours to take care / play with the kids (infants to around age 15) while the parents “take a break”. The children are there for numerous reasons; post-op, physically challenged, terminally ill or just have been abandoned by their parents. It has been extremely fulfilling and I am so thankful that I have the time now to be able to give back.

My wonderful father sent coloring books and crayons for the children. Rachelle is tearing out pages for all of us to hand out to the kids. They have been a HUGE hit, especially the crayons. Normally we hand out 2 - 3 colored pencils and then have to collect them before we leave because we don’t have enough each week. Now the kids are able to keep the crayons and take them home.
Boxes my father sent from the states to give to the kids. Special thanks to the Ashland Kiwanis Organization whose members donated some money to make this happen!!
Fell in LOVE with Luisa! I would have walked right out of the hospital with her today...but I don't think her mom would have allowed it. :-)

Jonathan is 13 and has been there for 6 weeks. He is ready to go home!

Happy kids coloring.

She has recently been abandoned by her parents. Once she is better she heads to an orphanage.
Sweet Isabella... Her mother cried the entire time we were there because she just found out her husband was leaving her.
Sleeping babies are happy babies!
The mothers taking a break and working on different activities. As you can see they also are enjoying the coloring books.

She loved coloring.
In addition to volunteering, we are working on donations for the families. Each week we bring clothes to give to the children and the parents.

Andres was so excited to color and to talk to me in English.
Giving a big cheese smile.
Santiago loved getting his picture taken
Marco was all better and just waiting to go home.
All the wonderful ladies who we volunteer with. Went to lunch to talk about new ways to raise money and get more donations. They have a hard time saying Kirsten so they call me Kiki. :)

Monday, May 16, 2011

Catedral de Sal, Colombia

Visiting the Catedral de Sal (Salt Cathedral) is one of the top destinations in Colombia. Located in the town of Zipaquira, it has been declared the First Wonder of Colombia. Inside the Halite mountain, 200 meters underground, the cathedral is a Catholic church built within the tunnels of an existing salt mine. There are roughly 3,000 visitors who come on Sundays even though there is no actual service.

The climbing wall, which is just outside the entrance to the salt mine is the highest in Columbia and another activity for visitors. 
There are three levels within the salt mine and only 5% of the entire mine is part of the cathedral. Entering on the top level you pass the Stations of the Cross. Fourteen small chapels illustrating the events of Jesus last journey. The stations are each abstract with crosses in different forms and positions representing the meaning of each station.
I.N.R.I carved into the salt; Latin for Jesus of Nazareth King of the Jews
Dedicated memorial to miners who lost their lives five years ago in the mine.
After passing the stations of the cross, you reach the overlook where you can view the central nave of the cathedral.
The cathedral has three halls representing the birth, life and death of Jesus.
Sculpture of the creation of man, by Michelangelo, in the central nave of Cathedral.
The cross, largest underground cross in the world, is 16x10 meters and is carved out of the back wall with lighting behind it to make it appear like it is floating.
Nativity scene
The smaller chapel that is often used for weddings
Another main attraction is the water mirror. The surroundings are illuminated by the reflection of the light on the salt water creating an optical effect.
After visiting the salt mine we hopped on the tourist train and headed into the town of Zipaquira.
The main plaza in town.

Zipaquira Cathedral

City Hall

Was the trip worth it? 
The Salt Cathedral is pretty remarkable and we took the guided tour so it provided us with a lot of great history. I think if you have more than a few days to spend in the Bogota area, and it interests you, then go. Personally, I would not make a special trip if you are crunched for time. It is not a "must-see" attraction (in my opinion).

Monday, May 2, 2011

Comida en Colombia

One of the joys of traveling, for me, is to try the local food. Colombian cuisine is largely influenced by the Peruvian and Brazilian tradition so a lot of beef, rice, potatoes, chicken, and fish. They also have a lot of restaurants that offer seafood ceviche and sushi which I love. Parts of Colombia serve guinea pig and roasted ants and they are considered a delicacy. I have yet to try either and not sure I will!

We have been here for a month, five more to go, but have had our share of Colombian food so I thought I would provide a “crash course” in Colombian cuisine.

Arepas are flat, round and made of cornmeal. They are the basic side to almost any Colombian meal. Most arepas are grilled or baked and have melted cheese inside. They are a cross between a thick pancake or a thinner English Muffin. For breakfast, arepas are served either plain or stuffed with scrambled eggs while lunch and dinner arepas have meat and vegetables inside; like a sandwich.
Bandeja Paisa is probably the national dish of Colombia. It is a huge mixture of food that consists of grilled steak, fried pork rind, chorizo sausages, rice and red beans that is then topped with a fried egg and a side of avocado.
Empanadas are a popular snack in Columbia and can be found in most restaurants. They are either fried or baked and filled with beef, chicken and/or cheese as well as with rice or potatoes. Empanadas are usually served with Aji, which is a sauce made of cilantro, green onions, red or black pepper, vinegar, salt and lemon juice. It is very good!!
Aijaco Santafereno is one of my favorite dishes in Bogota. It is a hearty chicken and potato soup that has chunks of chicken, two to three kinds of potatoes, one piece of corn on the cob and an herb called guascas. The herb gives the soup a wonderful flavor. It is usually drizzled with some table cream, and capers and sliced avocados on the side.
Like a lot of South American countries, Parilla cooking is extremely prevalent in Colombia. The cuisine is simple and naturally flavorful, cooked over a large charcoal or wood fired grill.This is by far the best way to have your meat cooked!
Buñuelos are popular ball shaped fritters that are eaten as a snack. It is made with corn starch, small curd white cheese, milk and gets fried until golden brown. They are also a typical Christmas dish in Colombia.
Patacones are green plantains that are flattened and deep fried.
Calentado literally means “heated” and is a traditional Colombian breakfast. It is made with leftover beans and rice from the night before and then served with eggs, chorizo or meat. You will find this dish on almost any Colombian breakfast menu.
Horacio Barbato – All time FAVORITE restaurant in Usaquen
Oliveto Pizzeria – THE BEST brick oven pizza and pasta in Zona G
La Hamburgeseria – great place for live music & food is very good.  Lots of different burgers. Usaquen best location.
Crepes and Waffels - Great crepes and ice cream; all over the city
Patagonia – Argentina Restaurant in Usaquen
Wok – Japanese in Zona G and Zona Rosa
Armadillo – Best tuna steak
Astrid & Gaston – Very pricey but was good in Zona G
Fish Market La Fragata – Great crab cakes and seafood selection.  Best in Zona Rosa
Osaki – Great Japanese in Zona G and Usaquen
Andres Carnes des Res – Best in Chia; once in a lifetime experience. Zona Rosa okay
Mister Ribs – American style restaurant – great steaks
Casa Mexicana – Favorite Mexican place
La Famiglia – High end Italian restaurant in Zona G.  Great top floor bar / lounge area

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