Monday, August 20, 2007

Aguardiente, Rumba, and My Colombian Wife

From what I know so far, in Colombia it is common practice to go everywhere as a family. Much of the day revolves around food and socialization. This bodes well for me as I enjoy eating and I´m very good at it too. Fabiola is a great cook and kept me well fed. She, like her family and friends I met, like to laugh and have a good time. So I fit right in, with my Spanglish and all. The famous Colombian writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez was right when he said, "five Colombians in a room invariably turns into a party."

As Luis Carlos had said after many aguardiente shots, "Every night is a party." However, Saturday we actually did go out to party in the neighboring town of Cota. Like I said earlier, Colombians like to travel as families. Luis Carlos's friends joined us, bringing their their two daughters, one of whom was 4, and a cousin and aunt. So it was two carloads full of Colombians and one gringo, as they like to call me. (Note: Although the word gringo can have negative connotations in some places, it is not deemed offensive in Colombia).
Ten minutes later we arrived at a large field that had a dirt area for parking, a long row of concession stands, and a stage for the bands playing. There were many security workers, and two of them flashed a light in the driver seat and then opened the trunk for a look. It was really a half-ass search, but it didn't really matter because the crime rate virtually doesn't exist in Chia and Cota. People just want to drink and enjoy their one night out (Colombians work six days per week but they make up for it with their numerous holidays and festivals). Many of the conncession stands sold corn, which is grilled and has bigger kernels and is less juicy than U.S. corn I'm used to. They also like adding a lot of butter and salt. It seemed like a weird mix, corn and beer and aguardiente. A large crowd had gathered and seemed to like it. Luis Carlos had brought an aguardiente carton and small plastic cups for shots. By then I had a steady buzz but he kept pouring me more shots. I'm a bad dancer but before I knew it we were all dancing in front of the stage as a band played with male and female singers. The female singers were half-naked, which I wondered how they felt because it was sweater-and-jeans weather.

The next day we went to visit friends of Luis Carlos and Fabiola for a cookout in Bogota. I woke up fatigued and had a slight headache and unsettled stomach. They grilled in a courtyard, mostly meat and some vegetables, such as potatoes and platanos. We sat around all afternoon as they grilled more and more meat, slicing it up and offering me more even after I said I was full. Looking around at the round bellies it appeared they ate like this often.

I sat next to the grandmother. Her name was Mercedes and she was 80 years old. Fabiola was laughing as she told everyone about my overindulgence in Cota. I told Mercedes about it and she threw up her hand, saying that it was good to have fun. Like everyone else, she only spoke Spanish, so our conversation was simple and usually involved a joke and a roar of laughter by everyone. For example when she asked me how I liked it here, I told her, "Colombia is very beautiful like you." Then I joked that she was my Colombian wife, and that we'd have beautiful babies. "But my hair is white," she said. "I love white hair," I said. We all had a lot of laughs.