Word of the Week

¿Qué hay de nuevo, viejo?

This is Bugs Bunny’s catch phrase in Spanish! We know it as “What’s up, doc?” but in Latin America Bugs Bunny says “¿Qué hay de nuevo, viejo?” Literally this means – what’s new, old guy?


Cost of Living

To give you an idea of the cost of living in Armenia, consider that I live on about $600 per month. Here are some fun data points:

• 1 liter of milk – About $1
• 1 portion of fresh pineapple on the street, chopped into bite-size pieces – $.55
• A typical lunch in a local restaurant (including a simple soup or beans, a piece of meat, rice, plátano, avocado) – $3.30
• Breakfast (including scrambled eggs with tomato and onion, arepa, buñuelo, hot chocolate) – $1.70
• 1 empanada – Less than $.50
• A hair cut and blow dry – Less than $15
• A french manicure – $3.30
• A two-hour Spanish tutoring session – Less than $10


In Colombia, a meal isn’t a meal without meat. Needless to say, I’ve been eating my share of protein.

sancocho jpg

Sancocho- A typical Colombian soup with a chicken leg


Beef and beans


Chicken and fried platano

While everything I have been tasting has been delicious, I have been craving vegetarian dishes. I was struggling to think what dishes I could make here when a coworker gave me the  idea to make lentil patties. I then promptly found this great recipe that I recommend to anyone interested!  http://www.mycolombianrecipes.com/lentil-patties-or-meatless-burger


News From Colombia

There was big news in Colombia this week. Farmers are protesting the free trade agreements Colombia made with the U.S. and E.U. This ABC article gives a good overview of the situation:

“Agrarian workers, truckers, miners, and coffee growers in Colombia have staged a national strike for more than a week now to protest government indifference and economic hardships brought about by free trade agreements and lack of regulation. The strikers have called for marches, manned dozens of roadblocks on some of the country’s key highways, and fought riot police in an escalating conflict that is costing the nation more than one billion dollars.” Read the full article here.

As a result of the roadblocks and some protest-related violence, the U.S. embassy sent advisories to its mailing list, which I subscribe to. See below. While the major demonstrations are happening in other places in the country, there have been some organized marches along the main avenue in town here. The marches usually consist of individuals on foot and motorcycle holding signs and rings bells or noise makers, and they usually take place around 9:00 pm. There hasn’t been any protest-related violence in Armenia however, and daily life has been continuing as usual.

Also, this week, Starbucks announced that it will open its first location in Colombia next year – in Bogota. The company said it will only roast Colombian coffee beans in Colombian locations. The reaction to the news has been temperate/positive. The Colombia National Federation of Coffee Producers called this good news. And according to BBC, Colombia’s predominant cafe chain – Juan Valdez – is welcoming forthcoming competition from Starbucks as they expect it to boost overall coffee consumption in the country.

U.S. Embassy Bogota 
Security Message for U.S. Citizens – Update on Ongoing Demonstrations & Road Closures 
August 29, 2013 

Due to ongoing demonstrations and roadblocks, the U.S. Embassy strongly advises against overland travel outside of major cities in Colombia. U.S. government officials and their families are currently prohibited from travelling overland from Bogota to other parts of the country (air travel policy to/from Bogota has not changed).  U.S. government officials and their families are also currently prohibited from travelling overland between Cartagena and Barranquilla.

Road closures have particularly impacted overland travel in Boyacá, Cundinamarca, Putumayo, Cauca, Huila, Nariño, and Risaralda. Ongoing demonstrations have closed major and minor roads and caused shortages of consumer goods in some cities in these areas. 

A large demonstration planned for Bogota on August 29, is expected to impact public transportation and cause traffic delays and disruptions. Local authorities have closed public schools on August 29, and most private schools have followed suit. 

The U.S. Embassy reminds U.S. Citizens to monitor our demonstration notices at http://bogota.usembassy.gov/demonstrations.html as well as local media for developments. As always, we advise U.S. citizens that even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and escalate into violence. You should avoid areas of demonstrations, and exercise caution if in the vicinity of any large gatherings, protests, or demonstrations. 


Lost in Translation

It’s difficult to translate recipes. Recently, Jonathan and I were trying to make a recipe that I used to cook a lot while living in DC. It’s an Asian chicken dish that calls for the chicken to be dusted with cornstarch. When we went to the store to buy all the ingredients however, I realized I hadn’t Googled the Spanish translation for cornstarch. But being the resourceful people we are, we went around the flour isle trying to gauge the texture of all the different flour-ish type products (you know how cornstarch has a very particular texture…) After some time, we decided on a product that we thought was the right one. Well, I should also admit by the time we had finished gauging the texture of all the products in the isle, we were hungry and impatient, so that also affected the events that followed. In our hungry haste, we rushed and decided on one product: bicarbonato de sodio. In hindsight, it would have been better to take time to really think about what the label could have meant.

We went home and made the chicken. It turned out terrible. No, worse than terrible – it was inedible. Why? Because the flour-ish type product that I actually bought was baking soda! We had doused our chicken in like 1/4 cup of baking soda. I am so scarred by this experience, I don’t think I’ll ever try to make this dish ever again. The only silver lining is that we now have baking soda in the house in case we need to clean the floor or anything.



The word chevere is used a lot in Colombia. It roughly means cool, good or cute. You can use “chevere” when describing clothes, a beautiful view, a good time you had with your friends… the list goes on.

Here’s a sample conversation:

Person A – How was the movie?

Person B – Chevere!

Person A – Oh good. Can you show me the new hat you bought?

Person B – Sure, here is it (shows the new hat).

Person A – Oh, how chevere! I love it.

**Colombian friends – Please tell me if I’m getting this wrong in any way!**


There’s a bunch of cool types of tropical fruit here that I get such a kick out of! Here are some:


Tomate de Arbol – It tastes like a cross between a tomato and an apple

Maracuyá – Passion fruit! I must not have ever seen a passion fruit in my life, because seeing this for the first time here was quite a surprise






Last weekend I went to Manizales with some friends.

Manizales is known for being a university town and a hotspot for young travelers. Walking around the city, I definitely got that vibe. There are also some telltale signs of the robust tourism in Manizales – for example, some restaurants print their menu in Spanish and English (something I’ve never seen in Armenia).

Manizales is embedded in the mountains, so while the sun can be strong, the air is nice and cool. Also, since most of the streets run up and down the mountain, there are many steep, winding roads.

What I liked best about Manizales was the fantastic view from the top of the city. The place where everyone goes for the best view is called Chipre. It’s nice and breezy there. Many families were spending the afternoon flying kites. I didn’t get any good shots that captured the atmosphere of the afternoon, but here are some photos of the landscape.



This is me with my friend Juan David posing for a picture 






We stayed at Chipre long enough to see the sunset, which was beautiful!








There are plenty more photos where these came from, so if you want to see the full collection, just let me know.

Manizales is just a two-hour bus ride from Armenia, so if you’re interested in seeing Manizales for yourself when you come to visit, I’d definitely be up for going back.