Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Bogotan Rivalry

Last week  (well actually last month... I've experienced technical difficulties.. Too many trips.)  I went to my first Professional Soccer (futbol) game in my life. Who can blame me? Vancouver is the first team on the west coast to have a professional team and they are only a few years old. So basically I have never really experienced what I have heard to be the most devoted fans in all of the sports world, all I knew was from T.V.  and of course what you see on the news and T.V is exaggerated and you really can't believe it. Or so I thought. The Futbol game I went to was strategically chosen because it was between the two teams that call Bogota their home, The Millionarios vs Santa Fe. A classic as they call it here. Even though soccer isn't one of my favorite sports I had to see a game as Colombia is about to qualify for the world cup and as they say, When in Colombia, do as the Colombians.
Juggarnauts on deck. 

As we walked up to the stadium it was quite evident that this was a Millionarios home game as everyone was wearing Royal Blue and all the street vendors had their millionarios gear on deck. I heard later on that they only allow 1 section of tickets to be sold to the visiting team to help combat the combats. I decided to go with a neutral one and black outfit and I have heard about the Red vs. Blue color wars in California and I didn't Want to get caught on the wrong side. Better to play it safe in these types of situations. Once we get passed the initial Security check which doesn't allow belts, watches, umbrellas or ciggarettes passed, we stopped in our tracks to see about 20 police in full on riot gear just roaming around the stadium, That's when I realized how real it gets out here. After meeting up with some friends we headed to our seats about 2 minutes after the game has started. Surprisingly everyone was still standing and chanting something I couldn't understand. Finding our seats was a whole different issue. In Colombian fashion, the rules are ignored and our assigned seats held no weight, It was a free-for-all get whatever seat is open type deal. I ended up being alone about 7 rows up, right in the corner between a Uber- horny couple (I thought it was the Colombain valetines day, turns out it was only a preview) and a Family of about 5 with 2 little girls. My first experience of a corner kick of the other team proved to be interesting.. as he was setting up I learned all the Colombians who could not bring their watches and belts in, managed to smuggle in a whole grocery store worth of toilet paper rolls which they threw on the field as well as an Air Canada fleets worth of paper airplanes that were used to try and distract, or poke an eye out on the field.  The thing that was even weirder was that when the double length, Single ply toilet paper unraveled on the field, they just left it there for the rest of the half. 20 minutes into the game I realized that sitting during was not going to be an option and I accepted my fate standing for the entire 90 minutes, Plus injury time because we all know soccer players love to fake, or exaggerate their injuries. Although I do think its part of the Colombian culture because I see the same things happenening on the basketball court, but that's another subject.
Is that a belt I feel Kid??? 

The environment in the stadium was exactly what I had expected to see from T.V. They had a few sections of the Die-hard fans which were singing whole songs throughout the game with a Band and all. I don't know where they get all this energy from but I must say I felt a bit of jealous of the players as I wished their was a basketball environment possible of matching this party in the stands. They make NCAA college basketball fans look like they are Surrounding a tee waiting for Phil Mickelson to putt. Since it was such a family environment it really shocked me to hear what these parents beside me and everyone else was yelling. I think the most common word I heard all night was "puta," and they were yelling it at their own players as well.

"PUTA".... definitely not a childrens environment. 
As you noticed I didn't mention anything about the actual game or players as the game itself was really boring as it ended in a tie 0-0. After 90+ minutes of standing I was ready to get out of their and get a good meal in, only to see everyone sitting once the game ended... did I miss something? maybe there is an Overtime or penalty kicks. Nope, turns out they only let the one section with the Santa fe fans out and the rest of the stadium has to wait for half an hour. That's about 1 tenth of the stadium that was given a head start to get away from the rabbid fans supporting The Millionarios. It was crazy to see the exits that were close to us blocked by about 15 police with dogs. I wonder how many police they have to staff each game just to keep a Riot from happening. I immediately felt embarrassed when I remembered I showed the Vancouver riots to my classmates during a presentation. This is completely normal for them, meanwhile in Colombia they take it in stride.

When they Finally let us out it was now a battle of who is getting on the Transmillenio first. And I thought It was bad before just go back to my last post about the transmillenio and imagine 5.6 times worse. I'm just happy I got home in one piece.. Until next time my peoples. The journey continues. 

Jah Bless
Jah Guide
Jah Rule

Ps. Its really no joke out here. In the passed month after watching that game 3 fans were killed in Bogota for wearing the wrong jersey and 5 died during the celebrations after Colombia qualified for the World Cup. R.I.P 

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Medellin Reign

Buenas! I hope everyone back home enjoyed the last of their summer holidays as I know school is started this last week. I've been in school for over a month now, but I still feel like I'm on summer holidays... Gotta love Colombia. As mentioned In a previous post, I was in Medellin a few weeks ago for the Feria de los Flores, Or the Festival Of Flowers. They say this festival is as much apart of Medellin's cultural Identity as 4th of July is in the USA. It is over a week long festival that is highlighted by orchid competitions, music festivals and topped off by the parade of silleteros. The parade of silleteros is really a work of art and a show of human determination and creativity. The Silletas are wooden plates that are worn as backpacks which the Silleteros dedicate Non-stop days, or even weeks of decorating this plate that weighs upwards of 150 pounds, stands around 5 feet tall and can contain anywhere between 25-70 different flowers. Keep in mind that the Silleteros only means of transportation through the parade is on their 2 feet and the walk is over 2 kilometers long. The legend I heard about how this all started was that the Silletas were traditionally used (by slaves) to carry wealthy people up the Mountains in the province which  contains Medellin. Until one day a Lady convinced the regions farmers that the use of Silletas was best suited in the transportation of Flowers from the farms to the cities. And so began the tradition and dedication by the Silleteros to display their culture, history and life stories on their back. Of course, since it has become such a popular event the major brand and companies in Colombia have hired the Silleteros as a means of advertising as they now don the Company logos made of flowers on these highly customized backpacks.
Colombian Time... The Parade Started 2 Hours Late.

These Guys Are SERIOUS! I don't know how they do it at that age.

Gwado. aka Aguardiente. Never gets you drunk.

yess.. I ended up flying Avianca home.

I love how people just jump in front of the parade for pictures. jaja
They started cleaning the streets before the parade ended. Gotta Love Medellin..

The next thing Colombians mention about Medellin is about how much more advanced it is than the rest of the country. This is something I was aware of because Medellin was in my options of exchange destinations and in my research I found out it had received the worlds most innovative city award for 2013. This is something that has to be witnessed to truly be appreciated. After the hour trip by Flota (shuttle bus) to the City, we arrived at the Metro. From the outside it looks pretty ordinary, but as I walked onto the platform I saw signs in English and Spanish, views of the mountain side which Trumps the Views from the Canada Line in Vancouver, and security guards that guard the platform... From Food and Drinks. At first I was a bit angry I had to chug my fresh Maricuya juice, but then I couldn't find a piece of garbage or mess on the main platform or train which was definitely welcomed. One of the main reasons I liked Medellin is because of all there is to do outside. Most notably for me were the  FAT Bronze statues on display in the plaza Botero and the fully equipped outdoor gym. The Fat bronze statues must be the only overweight people I've seen in Colombia! I had to go back a second time because I found the park so enjoyable. 

Me and My Girl BARbara

Add caption

The freaks don't just come out at night in Colombia

My two amigitos 

Just a preview

The Train system is just a snippet of what makes the transportation system in Medellin so spectacular. Medellin is a beautiful city located in the Aburra Valley which is completely surrounded by hills. The unfortunate part is that on these hills is where the highly concentrated ghettos or "Comunas" are. The hills are too steep for regular bus transportation which posed a major problem for the workers on their daily commute to work. So Medellin, being the Innovative city that it is created a system of cable cars or gondolas as an extension of their regular metro system. With over a 5km route amongst the 3 different lines, the Residents of the Comunas saw their original commute of up to 2.5 hours to the city be cut down to under 10 minutes. The K line which we rode (Back to Back of course) has 4 stations which take you over one hill then up and back down a hill right behind it. I think the best way to imagine the route is picturing the landscape in the shape of a "N" (video below). The views from the cable car were amazing and once we arrived at the top we were in a neighborhood which looked over all of Medellin, which we were later told was a really bad idea. I had no clue while I was up there as we were happily greeted by the residence who could spot us as foreigners from a block away (I was with a group of aussies). Directly outside the station we found some amazing chicken pastries and these little slightly sweet fried balls of flour called Bunuelos which are very similar to the Fried dumplings seen mostly in Jamaican Cuisine. One of the most amazing parts about this transportation system is that it only costs one Train fare to get access to the whole Cable car system. This has got make it one of the cheapest sight seeing tours in the world. 

Back here in Bogota I have finally moved out of my host families home and have found an apartment living with some exchange friends. It was cool to live with Colombians for a while to experience the culture in the house but I had to do the one thing it seems like no other Colombian would do. Move out! So all visitors wanting to come to Colombia you know who to contact! *cough cough* Paula. ;) 

Jah Bless
Jah Guide
Jah Rule 

Monday, 19 August 2013

Tour De Monserrate and La Piedra Del Peñol

In my first month here in Colombia I've been blessed to have been able to go some of the most beautiful elevated places I have ever been to in my life. The pursuit of these types of lookouts have always been a part of my life as I flock to rooftops in big cities like Toronto, or when I'm back in Vancouver there's nothing like relaxing on the Balcony way up there looking over the city at My Best friend Spence's Apartment. 

But I'll let Jean-Baptiste Clamence from Albert Camus' Novel "the  Fall" explain how I feel,

"Let’s pause on these heights. Now you understand what I meant when I spoke of aiming higher. I was talking, it so happens, of those supreme summits, the only places I can really live. Yes, I have never felt comfortable except in lofty places. Even in the details of daily life, I needed to feel above."

Now all that's left is for everyone back home to see this beauty....

Jah Bless
Jah Guide 
Jah Rule

Saturday, 17 August 2013

First Weeks in Bogota Pt 2

It's been almost 2 weeks since my last post but anyone who has ever been to the legendary Medellin will understand how a weekend trip can turn into almost a full week of travel. I just returned from my trip to the Feria De Los Flores and I think I found the city I would want to live in if I were to stay in Colombia long term. I will have to do a whole separate post on my experience there as there is so much to say about Medellin, but until then its back to Bogota.

I always end up in Mountain cities and I love it. The Views are Incredble 

As much as people here say they don't like Bogota, I feel a certain vibe in this city that is unique from any city I've ever been. Maybe I enjoy the controlled chaos of the Transmillenio, which is the strangest form of public transportation I have ever seen. For all my Vancouver people, it's run by a fleet of 99 B-line type buses that operate on their own lanes and have their own stations as if they are trains.
The fleet. I really shouldn't be taking these pictures. They warned me.
The Bus-Train stations. 2 sets of doors to enter the bus. Don't ask why.

For some reason most stations even have doors that slide open when a bus pulls up. Besides the apparent safety features, a lot of the stations I've been on have the whole route map scratched out so its a matter of guessing and hoping you catch a bus that will stop at the station you need. I think the people added this feature to make it easier to "spot the gringo". If your lucky enough to get on the correct bus and are heading to your destination you will still have to deal with the huge pot holes in the exclusive lanes that bring every bus to a slow crawl. Rick Ross should have changed his lyrics in Mafia music to "I'm dodging debacles like pot holes in Bogota".
Couldn't dodge this one. The potholes are seriously everywhere. 

With all that said The Transmillenio is really is the best way to get around in the city, but every time I ride it I really can't wrap my head around why they would build all the infrastructure needed for a metro system but opt out for a bus fleet as their main mode of transportation. And another Shout out to my Vancouver people complaining about the bus transfer tickets not working on the new SkyTrain ticketing system. I've twice been locked IN to a station (yes IN) where the only way I could leave was to pay for another ticket. I needed to buy a special card to leave as well, so instead I decided to get my Spanish sweet talking on and ask an older lady if she could load her card up for me. On top of that, every feeder bus is private and operates on their own fare system. One trip can cost me up to 5,000 Pesos!! That works out to only about $2.75 so I guess I have no right to complain.
I got on 3 buses later... Lucky I still have my phone. I shouldn't be taking these pictures.
Entrance to the underground Salt Cathedral 

To get away from the Hectic city we decided to take a trip outside of Bogota to the Underground Salt Cathedral which is about 40 minutes away from Bogota in Zipaquira. It is one of two Churches in the world that are built underground in a salt mine. The original sanctuary was built by the salt miners as a place where they could pray and ask for protection from the Saints before they started work. The present day construction starts off as a series of tunnels that show the 14 different stations of the cross under LED mood lighting which then leads to a temple that highlights the Birth, Life and Death of Jesus.

One of the 14 stations
I love the setting, my phone camera couldn't do it justice

Can't believe this is all built in a salt mine. 

One of 3 Sections at the temple in the end. 

Representation of the birth of Jesus.

Main alter in the old cathedral. 20+ meters high

It really is a marvel of human architectural accomplishments and the intimate walk through the mine put me in a place of reflection and slowed my mind down to a near meditative state at some points. The one thing that really stuck out to me among all this beauty is that they decided to have a Black Jesus on the cross. This is the first time I have seen such a depiction in a major Tourist area and I don't know if this is a common thought in Latin America but I definitely found it interesting.

Black Jesus, Only 2 years old.
Due to requests from either my extremely busy or just less-educated readers the next posts will have less writing. ;)

Jah Bless
Jah Guide
Jah Rule

Sunday, 4 August 2013

First Weeks in Bogota Pt 1

Beautiful Bogota: Surrounded by Mountains, Level with the Clouds
Welcome back! I have just finished my first official week of school and that marks 2 weeks of me being in Bogota. Now that I'm here, I am not at all surprised that Colombia is currently rated as having the happiest people on earth. They have been nothing but friendly and helpful towards me and have consistently gone out of their way to help me even if I insist I will be fine on my own. It was a bit overwhelming at first but I have gotten somewhat used to it thus far. It has definitely helped me make the transition out here as smooth as possible, and I feel like I experienced a bigger culture shock when I took the 3 hour drive to TRU. I have already fallen in love with the city, and besides it being surrounded by mountains, it has nothing else in common with Kamloops.

The first thing I noticed about this city is how "Alive" it is. And that might be attributed to the Avocado man who woke me up at 7:30 am Sunday morning screaming on his megaphone about all the different Avocados he has to offer. I swear I thought there was only one kind. But by no means is he alone. In my short 5 minute walk to the Bus to campus, I come across everything I could imagine being sold on the street. Oh, you forgot your belt in your rush getting dressed in the morning?(which I did ) The street vendors have you covered. Long night partying and forgot to charge your cell phone? For a few dimes I can borrow one of the 15 vendors cellphones I come across offering calls to all the carriers in Colombia. Hats? Check. Feats by Fre? Check. And a wide array of Colombian specific food like Arepas con huevos, tamal, and a whole bunch of fruits that I have never heard of and I'm going to have to work up the courage to try.
Yes, I know. This is a bus stop.
 Oh, but the fun doesn't stop there. Once I get to my bus stop I get bombarded by the Drivers "assistants" yelling at me, telling me where their bus is going. So once I find the bus I need to take, my next hope is that he will stop for me, which doesn't always happen so I have to revert to my passed life where I robbed banks and jump into a moving vehicle... only this time the driver decides to stop once I leave the ground and I end up running into the door! Not a single surprised look on any ones face. You gotta love Bogota.
If you want a ride, Hop In. 
The Beautiful La Sabana
Once I arrive to campus, it is a completely different atmosphere.  Once you pass the Security guards you see Long brick walkways which lead to the main buildings surrounded by well kept, empty fields. There are a few bridges on campus that lead you over the only bodies of water I have seen since I've been out here. One of the first things I noticed were the outdoor basketball courts with a set of pull-up bars right beside them. I now know how I will be spending a lot of my free time between classes. One day I went to go shoot around and they ended up having basketball tryouts for the university team. I wasn't expecting much but I definitely didn't expect it to be like the episode in Fresh Prince of Bel-air when Will started to play for his High school team. Although it definitely was one of my favorite episodes (video below). One thing I definitely was not ready for was the altitude. 8629 ft is no joke. All in all the level of talent was recognized, and some great opportunities came from that day which will be covered in a later post. 

Heading towards the Concert on Orientation Day

Part 2 will be coming soon which will include topics such as Nightlife in Bogota, our trip to the Underground Salt Cathedral in Zipaquira, and The Transmillenio, which is Bogotas "unique" way of dealing with Public Transit. 

Well I'm off, Its time for me to stop procrastinating and book my Flights this weekend to Medellin's best festival, the "Feria de Los Flores." I have to make up for missing Caribana and Center of Gravity for another year Somehow! 

Jah Bless
Jah Guide
Jah Rule

Monday, 29 July 2013

The Introduction

Last days In Kamloops. Embracing The Vibes

 Welcome to my Blog "Travelling Through Hoops"! I'm A 5th year University student from Thompson Rivers University currently on exchange at Universidad de La Sabana in Bogotá Colombia. I will be updating as much as I feel is needed for everyone out there to get a feel for what this misunderstood country/city is all about. I decided to call it "Travelling Through Hoops" for two reasons. The first one is that even though Basketball is not the main reason why I chose to come out here, I must admit that without Basketball I would definitely not be here. And by here I don't just mean the place I'm currently living, but also as in my development and progress in all aspects of my life. A question I get a lot is why would I leave beautiful Thompson Rivers University where not only was I part of one of the fastest developing Basketball programs on the west coast, but I was also Captain of the team and it paid for my education and other perks such as Travel throughout Canada and The United States. For me the answer is simple, by meeting Exchange students from Saudi Arabia to Easter Island at TRU, I came to realize that being able to travel and immerse yourself in a different culture is an invaluable experience that I think everyone should do, especially while we are young. And what better way to do it then by going to another University where you already have a group of thousands of like minded individuals with common interests and goals who are more than willing to accept you as one of there own, and help ensure you get the most out of your experience abroad.

The look of ________

The second reason I chose to call it Travelling Through Hoops is in relation to the phrase Jumping Through Hoops. If you are not familiar with this phrase the ever so credible describes it as "to do a lot of extra things so you can have or do something you want". That describes my journey here thus far as I feel that if you really want to get something in this life you must do more than just the bare minimum, it requires a lot of extra work, time, discipline, risk and consistency amongst other things. I chose to come out here and my University sent me here to be what you can call a "guinea pig". They have no idea what to expect from the city and their partner University in Bogotá as the agreement is less than a year old and I am the first student to come to the Notorious Colombia, and I wouldn't have it any other way. I still have the same goals and aspirations as I did a year ago, but I want to challenge myself and take the path less traveled to see if I can make it happen abroad.

You can look forward to my video log series "Life of an Exchange Student in Bogotá". I feel will give you a better idea of what it's like out here because "If a picture is worth a thousand words, a video is worth a million".

I will leave you all with my favorite quote about Travel from The Essay on Self Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson:
"The soul is no traveller; the wise man stays at home, and when his necessities, his duties, on any occasion call him from his house, or into foreign lands, he is at home still, and shall make men sensible by the expression of his countenance, that he goes the missionary of wisdom and virtue, and visits cities and men like a sovereign, and not like an interloper or a valet."

Goodnight From Bogotá:

Jah Bless
Jah Guide
Jah Rule