A case of the sun is always sunnier on the other side
Most people I know dream of chasing the sun and living in a perpetual summer. Well here I am so my life must be sweet as, right?
Unfortunately the reality isn’t quite as glamorous. The idyllic relaxed attitudes and lifestyles you encounter on a tropical holiday, are really a by-product of living a life without change. That is to say we are all more relaxed and laid-back when summer and it’s long evenings with barbecues and drinks by the pool rolls around.
I’m sure there is a tropical relative of the SADs (which is when you don’t get enough sun because of a dark and grey winter) that sends you round the bend from too much sun, day in day out (not to be confused with sunburn). I hope I don’t catch it and go troppo, which, incidentally, is the name of the Stu Lloyd book I am currently reading.
This is a great piece of blogging by a ‘neighbour’ of mine (well, we’ve never met but she’s a fellow expat who lives in the next city, which to me is good enough to warrant the title) at Transatlantic Adventure all about living in the land of no seasons. She sums it all up excellently, have a read.
This is the second time I’ve lived in Colombia. The second time I’ve lived in a world of “no seasons.” Because of Colombia’s latitude and longitude (in other words–it’s closeness to the equator) there is VERY little, if any, change in temperature throughout the year. Yes, there are all sorts of temperatures to be found in Colombia from the freezing peaks of la Sierra Nevada to the boiling temperatures of la Guajira and the rainforest humidity found in Leiticia to the temperate, Spring-like temperatures of Medellín, and the somewhat cooler zones of Boyacá and Cundinamarca. In fact, Colombia has so many climate zones that it is the most bio-diverse country in the world!
Valle de Cocora, Salento
Now, that being said, the temperature in a specific place doesn’t really change. In other words, in Bogotá the temperature during the day generally falls in the 60s (Farenheit) and in Barranquilla in the 90s (Farenheit)…
When I was packing my bags to move to Colombia my hardcover Collins Concise Spanish Dictionary was on the yes list. Then on the maybe list. And ultimately ended up in danger of landing on the no list.
At 1.977kg on the kitchen scales it took up a decent portion of my luggage allowance. I started out adamant that it would be coming with me. I wasn’t going to buy a new you-beaut dictionary in Colombia that would cost a bomb and run the risk of not being as good (as discovered in a previous experience buying a not-to-be-trusted, inadequate dictionary in Latin America). I had also decided that my He-Man novio could do me the favour and carry it; it would be useful for him too and help to tone his muscles.
After seeing the mountain of belongings I was taking begin to grow like the local rubbish tip, I panicked about how much everything would weigh and started to think up weak reasons for not packing the dictionary.
Only at the final hour when everything was packed and weighed did I find I had both the physical space, and a spare two kilos for the behemoth. And so the dictionary joined us on our international journey and breezed through the airport check-in.
When we changed our plans mid-journey and decided to forgo our plane tickets, we suddenly had a much tighter (and stricter) weight limit to take on the bus. On our international bus trip we had to pay excess baggage, twice. Whoops! Suddenly the dictionary of my dreams was a dead weight, costing us money to keep it on the journey.
Cut to 2 months later and I’m now grateful I decided to bring the world’s weightiest dictionary with us because I’ve landed myself a gig updating some translations in a tourist guide to Santa Marta and I need to get the words right. At first I thought pobladores meant villages, but after confirming with Señor Diccionario, discovered it means settlers. It’s tricky little words like this and aledaña (outskirts) and the one I always forget destacar (to emphasise or stand out) that mean my dictionary is now worth its weight.
When asked what he would like for his ninth birthday, a present or a party, D chose a party.
Preparations began by choosing a theme, Ben10, and trying to find all the Ben10 party paraphernalia as cheaply as possible. I’m sure the invitations, plastic cups, cake plates, lolly bags, plastic tablecloth and cardboard neckties on elastic came from some rip-off company and so were cheaper because we weren’t paying for an officially licensed product. But then again, what do a bunch of nine year olds care about royalties.
I brought to the party planning table an Australian mentality: There will be games, there will be prizes, there will be fingerfood and there will be a cake worthy of inclusion in the Australian Women’s Weekly Birthday Cake recipe book. However without having been to a kiddie birthday in Colombia before, I didn’t really have anything to benchmark against. I mean, I could throw a great party by Australian standards, but how would this hold up in Colombia?
The day before the party I was busy making jelly cups. Unfortunately they don’t have Freddo Frogs here, so they weren’t to be frogs in ponds, but just plain old ‘gelatina’ in strawberry, grape and cherry flavours. I said to mi novio “I think 25 jelly cups is enough. I mean not all of the invited kids are going to come to the party.” Mi novio replied with:
“Things are different here, the kids bring along their brothers, sisters, cousins, neighbours, whoever. All they want to do is dance and eat cake/sweets/lollies.”
Sudden panic overcame me as I did the sums. 24 invited kids x 1 sibling + 1 parent + 1 more extra just to be safe = not enough food and drink.
We had the birthday cake (an elaborate test of my cake decorating skills dinosaur based on this plan), 25 jelly cups, little deep fried pastries with cheese inside, 7 litres of neapolitan ice-cream, 28 cupcakes and some wafer biscuits. After some dithering as to what I could make in an oven with no visible temperature markers, I decided we also needed honey joys. I hoped to goodness this would feed the hordes, I couldn’t have all these people think I was a bad hostess.
I spent the morning of the party icing the dinosaur. I have to admit I’m pretty pleased at the outcome given working in a small kitchen with no real baking tools, 30 plus degree humidity and with no proven cake sculpting skills under my belt. It also helps when practically all Colombians buy their birthday cakes from a cake shop, so the dinosaur created multiple wow factors. Wow! It’s a dinosaur! Wow! You baked it yourself! Wow! It tastes great!
Mi novio spent the afternoon blowing up balloons with the help of D, his cousin and his friends in the street and la suegra spent the afternoon putting away her precious ornaments.
At four o’clock the hour of the party arrived. Yet no guests arrived. Half an hour later and the sole guest was one of D’s best buddies from two doors down. As five o’clock started to come around, the house started to fill with kids and relatives. Mi novio and I were busy in the kitchen pouring cups of soft drink and sending out platters of cakes and jelly cups. No sooner had I arrived back in the kitchen would a child come up and hand me their finished cup/plate/spoon, only to be followed by all the other party goers. Whilst their tidiness was to be admired on one hand, the other (busy hand) was wishing they would just leave it under their chair to be collected later so they could stop interrupting us!
In an attempt to get the party revved up, mi novio wanted to commence with the games. So we played musical chairs, and then while he dashed off to the supermarket for serviettes and apples, he told me to start dancing to liven up the party and get the kids dancing. I succeeded in getting the 3 year old nephew to dance, but all the other kids looked at me awkwardly. So I retreated to the kitchen to make my honey joys.
The tiny kitchen was overflowing with used cups and spoons, trays, ingredients for honey joys and 600ml blocks of ice. The music was throbbing at the typical Colombian ‘nobody needs to hear anyone talk’ level and my feet hurt. Was it time to cut the cake yet?
But no, we still had to play the other games. Despite never having played, or even seen it played in real life, I had decided an apple bob would be fun. Because it was raining outside we had the tub of water on a chair inside and each kid had a turn at pulling an apple out with their teeth. I had underestimated how popular this would be with the kids, even with 12 year old girls. They relished the challenge and it was insanely hilarious to see their heads bobbing about and their faces come out dripping wet! Note to self, this is a game we can play again.
After pass-the-parcel where D started to sulk because the parcel never stopped for him to open a layer, we moved on to the cake and happy birthday. I should have remembered from last year that I would need to brush up my birthday singing in Spanish, however I overlooked this detail. The Spanish version of Happy Birthday they sing here seems different to that which I learned in Spanish classes. So I just smiled and murmured and took photos.
With the birthday cake dished out, the party started to grind to a halt, and mi novio and I could breathe a sigh of relief, pour ourselves a soft drink and eat a left over jelly cup. I had been petrified that a zillion kids would come, but there were only about 13. Most of D’s friends from school didn’t show up. I think if they did, it would have been chaos!
D went to bed happy, full of sugar and with lots of new clothes given to him by his guests.
And I went to bed thinking that at the next Colombian party we throw, we need to have ample drink and ice and just make sure we feed our guests as soon as they arrive. That, I think, is the key to a successful Colombian fiesta.