Part 2 of my trip is off to a great start! I have been having so much fun here in Colombia that I have fallen off the wagon, if you will, with this blog. But, allow me to clamber back on and tell you about it.
Firstly, I touched down in the capital, Bogota, to see a few sites, such as The Museo del Oro (“Gold Musem”). It has the largest gold collection on the planet with more than 34,000 (!) pieces. Impressive, eh? I thought so. Forget those little rings and necklaces we have back home. If you like gold, you should come down and see some of this stuff.
World´s most expensive cereal bowl
Just outside of Bogota lies the Salt Cathedral. It lies deep in the belly of a salt mine they have been milking (using “modern” techniques) for 200 years. (And apprarently it is quite extensive, as they can continue mining it for another 500 years, provided its multiple levels don´t cave in on each other.)
The world´s largest underground cross (I’m back on the world “est” train, baby!). Btw, I have just discovered the “black & white” setting on my camera. Very cool.
I have spent the last 2 weeks in Medellin attempting to learn spanish. Learning a new language is quite humbling/frustrating. I was told knowing French would help, but I find it only confuses. Sure, it does help with some vocabulary. But, like others I know, the more Spanish I learn, the more French comes out of my mouth. They have similarities, but many differences. Or, as they say in SE Asia, “Same, same, but different.” But, my two Spanish instructors are excellent so I´m improving. It´s amazing how little English these guys need to use to convey Spanish to students who don´t know it at all. If I had to play a game of Charades or Pictionary for everything I owned, I would want these guys on my team. (Granted, I don´t own much, but I like the expression.)
I am studying at the excellent Universidad EAFIT. I cannot tell you how different this university experience has been from my last one. When I look back at Waterloo, I think of trudging through snow to get to campus, pulling all-nighters in smelly computer labs in the dungeon-like mathematics building, being surrounded by geeky, unkempt, poorly dressed math/CS guys like myself, etc. In Medellin (The City of Eternal Spring), the weather is always beautiful, the campus is swamped with good-looking, stylish, young women, and instead of spending my evenings writing code or studying, I party like rock star. Medellin is a blast for this. Within 24 hours of arriving in town, I was dancing on tables. And not those low tables that you eat at; I´m talking about those high, top-heavy, bar-stool tables. Epic. (Btw, have you ever tried dancing on these tables? Very dicey. I recommend getting some friends to hold it for you while you dance.)
I have been staying at the home of a local family, which I love. Maria, the mother, doesn´t speak a word of English. When I arrived, I didn´t speak a word of Spanish (“Dos cervezas, por favor” doesn´t really count). But, we get along great. She politely but sternly makes me correctly pronounce in Spanish all the foods she serves before she will let me eat. I have been living in this place and sleeping in the same bed for 2 weeks, the longest I have stayed in one place in almost a year. It´s great.
In short, Medellin is a blast. Many thanks to my old travel buddy, Bart, for the fantastic recommendation.
ASIDE: At this point in my life I feel like I would have been well served to have chosen different electives when I was in university. I was the guy who would take astrophysics just for kicks. Although I loved it, I wish I would have taken Spanish. (As I bum travelling around the planet, it is hard to remember all that time in university studying so hard and taking courses like Quantum Computation… I feel like it was some other guy named Shawn who did all this, and I´ve never met him :)
A couple other pics just for fun:
Hiking the Colombian hills outside of Medellin with some other EAFIT students
The only “manual” ferris wheel I have ever seen. The adult on the left, when he wasn´t accepting pesos from little kids, would spin the ferris wheel with his hand. How exciting. The things you only see travelling…
In a few days I head to the NW coast of the country. I want to visit the ruins of “lost city” that is a 3-day trek into the jungle. I feel like Indiana Jones. Hasta luego.