Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Movie Review: Pan's Labyrinth

Last night, I saw Pan's Labyrinth, and whoa, it was DARK. Good, but really, really dark. The main character is Ofelia, an imaginative girl who loves books and fairytales. She is thrilled to encounter an actual fairy, who takes her to a labyrinth where she meets Pan. She learns that she is the reincarnated princess of an underground kingdom, and Pan gives a her series of tasks to complete that will allow her to return to her kingdom. In the real world, however, Ofelia's life is more nightmare than fairytale. Spain's Civil War has just ended, and Ofelia's ailing mother is married to a brutal and vicious fascist captain. He is the leader of a military unit charged with destroying the rebels hiding out in the mountains, unaware that two of his own employees are aiding them. So, basically, it's Jim Henson's Labyrinth meets For Whom the Bell Tolls. In Spanish. With amazing special effects. I just hope that no one brings a kid to see it, thinking it's a fantasy film, because there are some very graphic, violent scenes. Frankly, I'm a bit surprised that the movie has become so popular, because it's both unusual and foreign, but I guess I'm not the only one who liked it.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Rumors confirmed

The Police reunion is really going to happen, folks. They are slated to play at the Grammy Awards, and may be going on tour. I'm a bit worried, I mean, the Grammys (Grammies? whatever.) are so LAME! You're the frickin Police! King of Pain! So Lonely! Couldn't you have made your big comeback at the closing of CBGB or something, I don't know, a little edgier? What, are you hoping that John Mayer will jump up on stage and join you? (Ew. That thought almost made my head explode.)
On the other hand, there also exists the potential for huge amounts of awesomeness, and if they do come to Boston, I will most certainly buy a ticket.

Refugees on the pitch

This New York Times article about a soccer team of teenage refugees in Clarkston, Georgia has been getting a lot of press. It's on the long side, but worth a read.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Davis Square

I decided to make Davis Square in Somerville the first stop in my Boston Neighborhood Project. It turned out to be a two-parter. On Tuesday, I went to dinner at the Burren and drinks at the Joshua Tree with Ern and Debby. I liked the Burren a lot, but thought it looked oddly familiar, until I figured out that it is a sister restaurant to The Skellig in Waltham, where I’ve been several times.

Since the whole point of the project is to try new things, I went back on Sunday to walk around and check out some of the local shops and restaurants. Ern and I had a delicious Indian lunch at Diva- the buffet was around $12, a great deal. I tried goat meat for the first time and it was much more tender and flavorful than I had expected.

We then met up with friend and Somerville resident Chris and wandered around checking out a couple book and music stores.

Lastly, we stopped for tea and cider at Diesel Cafe. The place is more of a west-coast style coffee shop (East Coast = they put the sugar and cream in your coffee for you, West Coast = You do it yourself), packed with college students and hipsters on their computers. The high point of the day was discovering the old-time photo booth at Diesel, which led to this example of photographic excellence:

The Sunday afternoon trip was exactly what I had in mind- I had fun exploring a different neighborhood and going to some new (to me) places. I would definitely go back to Davis Square, and I'm looking forward to my next stop on my tour of Boston.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Weekend Report

Friday- After work, I went with a few friends to Pho Pasteur- an enormous bowl of spicy curry soup hit the spot on such a bitterly cold day. Next, we stopped by a crazy Chinese restaurant with a Nicaraguan bartender for a drink. My friend and former roommate Jossy was in town with her cousin Natalie from Scotland, so a group of us met up at Kennedy’s and then moved on Beantown Pub. So yes, basically, an impromptu Asian restaurant/ Irish bar pub crawl. We had a great time catching up, and in the process, consumed, oh, approximately one zillion beers. Here are some photos from the evening: don’t we look like a bunch of A-holes?

Saturday- Woke up A. wishing I had a time machine to take me to a point in the future in which I wouldn't feel hungover and B. wondering if I was ever going to grow up and behave like a responsible adult. A bacon and egg sandwich cured both the hangover and the self-loathing. I Went to the New Balance outlet to buy some new running shoes. Played soccer. Went to a birthday party in Worcester for my friend Karen, who is a post-doc at the UMass Medical Center. Since the party was full of scientists, conversation focused around themes like publications, conferences, and favorite pathogens.

Sunday- Spent the day in Davis Square, which will get its own post. Then, I drove Jossy to the airport and went over Jamie and Maria’s for dinner. Our friend Lauren was on a show on the Food Network (her boss is a chef and she appeared on an episode with him), and Maria taped it so we could enjoy Lauren’s television debut together.

Also, congratulations go out to Roger Federer for winning the Australian Open. I watched the women’s final, and man, Serena absolutely destroyed Maria Sharapova.

Name our party

My roommate Ern and I have decided to throw a Valentine's Day cocktail party on February 14th. One rule, though: no couples allowed. Only single people and people whose Very Important Others are out of town (Carolina once told me "I like that term Americans use for boyfriends and girlfriends. What is it again? Very Important Other?"). Anyways, the party needs a name. I am bad at naming things. Leave your suggestions in the comments, and maybe you'll win a prize.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

I'm a believer

Last night, Ern, JR, Neal, and I went to a Guinness Believer tasting at Boston Center for the Arts. No, it wasn't as good as Meg's recent trip to the brewery, but we did get free beer. I learned a couple of things, too. Guinness is nitrogenated, not carbonated, so that's why the bubbles are tiny and flow downward. Also, founder Arthur Guinness was so certain that his brewery would be a success that he signed a long-term lease, for nine thousand years. (Perhaps the true apocalypse will come when said lease expires.) We ended up sitting at the worst table ever, with four Eastern European men who wouldn't talk to us and kept trying to hog the free beer, but other than that, it was fun.

Here's a photo of JR with the Guinness girls and the MC, who later expressed annoyance at JR's appearance in the photo. And a photo of the contents of my purse, which was a handy vehicle for smuggling out pint glasses.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Book Reviews

Over the past month, I’ve read three books.

1. Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy. There are two types of books that I generally avoid: 1. Non-Fiction, and 2. Eastern European literature. I tried to read Crime and Punishment a few years ago but abandoned it after reading some 200+ pages that never piqued my interest. I even felt a bit intellectually inferior due to my strong distaste of these renowned classics, until a very intelligent former coworker confessed to me that she also harbored a hatred for the Russian masters (like, OMG, I totally hate those books too!). I decided to give it another go and selected Anna Karenina, and guess what? I liked it. The novel follows two central characters... Anna Karenina (well, duh) and Konstantin Levin. The story flips back and forth between the two protagonists… Anna is a beloved member of high society, married to a prominent politician, whose world unravels when she falls in love with a handsome military officer, Count Vronsky. Levin is a wealthy landowner who eschews politics and city life, preferring to devote his time and energies to managing his farmland. He is considered shy and awkward by aristocratic society, but is liked and respected by those who know him well. Although Anna is the title character, both protagonists are given equal page-time by the author, and I found Levin a much more captivating and sympathetic character. Anna, whose affair with Vronsky, essentially consumes and ruins her, is to be pitied, whereas Levin is to be admired. One striking note of Tolstoy’s novel is how, to a modern reader, it is so obviously apparent that Russia was ripe for revolution. The wealthy live in such extreme excess, in such marked contrast to the pitiful lives of the (much more numerous) peasants, one can’t help but think “Didn’t they see it coming?”

2. The Magician’s Assistant, by Ann Pachette. I LOVED Pachette’s novel Bel Canto, so I was looking forward to this one, and although I liked it, I didn’t love it. Twenty years ago, Sabine was working as a waitress when the handsome magician Parsifal called her up to the stage. She becomes his assistant, and falls in love with him. He’s gay, but eventually marries her so she will inherit his fortune. After his death, she finds out that his family, whom she had believed had died in a car accident in Connecticut during his youth, is alive and well, living in Nebraska. She visits them, and learns about the events that drove Parsifal away from his past, and forms a strong bond with his estranged family.

3. Sweet and Low, by Rich Cohen. Yikes! Non-fiction! This book tells the story of the sugar substitute Sweet and Low, invented by the Eisenstadt family from Brooklyn. One catch- the author is the estranged grandson of the inventor. Overall, the book contains some interesting history about the sugar trade and the development of artificial sweeteners. However, I had two major problems with it. The author holds a major grudge against the rest of the family because his mother did not inherit any of the family fortune in the will. In my opinion, that’s not a valid gripe. She married young, moved away, and never worked for the company. Besides, she grew up wealthy, they paid for college,…didn’t they do enough for her? An inheritance is a voluntary gift, not a requirement. She isn’t owed an inheritance and shouldn’t be resentful because she didn’t receive a gift that she was in no way obligated to receive. It’s hard to feel sorry for the author who whines about his comfortable upper-middle class lifestyle. Also, my major complaint about non-fiction is that some authors, including Cohen, use an overly didactic tone. They present their opinions as if they were proven facts. And footnotes? Ugh. Please use sparingly. Cohen also frequently alluded to certain events and people with a “to be explained later” tag, making the entire book feel like an introduction. A heavy-handed editor could have improved the book immensely.

More evidence that I am, indeed, a weirdo

Occasionally, I have to do something in the lab that requires me to wear a face shield, and when I put it on, I like to make Darth Vader breathing sounds.

Maybe I shouldn't have shared that.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

I'm with the airline on this one

Read the article, then decide. I think they forgot a sentence at the end. It should read like this:

"But that's too little, too late for the Kuleszas. The father said they would never fly AirTran again. The other 112 passengers stated that they would never fly with the Kuleszas again."

Monday, January 22, 2007

In the news

Q: What cartoon, named after a scatline in a Frank Sinatra song, was created by a Japanese-American who learned to draw in an WWII internment camp?

A. Scooby Doo. Illustrator Iwao Takamoto died earlier this month.

And now for something completely different...

While I was in Colombia, a kidnapped government minister escaped after being held captive for six years. Six years! That's more like a jail sentence. It was a huge news story that also received some coverage in the's an article about Fernando Araujo's experience.

Weekend Report

Friday- Went to the Cetlics game with my dad. They lost to the Sacramento Kings, but we still had a good time. Most of the Celtics veterans are currently injured, so the lineup was entirely rookies and young players. Delonte West and Al Jefferson both looked great, so that’s a small ray of light for the C’s, provided that Danny Ainge doesn’t do anything dumb like trade them. They should definitely get rid of Sebastian Telfair; he isn’t bad, but isn’t getting many minutes and would probably be a better fit elsewhere. I wasn’t too impressed by Rondo or Green either. As for the Kings, Ron Artest is sporting a sweet mohawk and a one-legged tights Florence Griifith Joyner look. Dude is crazy. He handles the ball a lot more that I expected, too. The Kings also have a sophomore named Kevin Martin who is nasty good- I hadn’t heard much about him, but he’s their leading scorer. He reminds me a lot of Tayshaun Prince- skinny and quick with a smooth shot.

Saturday- Worked, played soccer, and went to the Middlesex Lounge in Cambridge to celebrate Lisa’s birthday. I hadn’t been there before and I liked it- good crowd, great music, including lots of early 90’s middle school favorites. Trendy, but with normal drink prices, and beer on tap. There’s nothing I hate more than fancy bars that charge $7 for a beer and only carry Amstel Light. (Okay, I hate racism and injustice more. And Carol of the Bells.) The only complaint is that every time someone walked in through the giant glass door, a strong gust of bitter cold air followed. Until it got crowded, half of the patrons were still wearing their winter jackets inside. They need to put up one of those velvet curtains or something. Nevertheless, I had a fun time catching up with friends and celebrating with the birthday girl. I also got a bit drunkies and gave my number to a young little architect from Jerusalem. I wanted to ask him if he was Israeli or Palestinian, but decided that it might not go over well.

Sunday- Attended a Red Egg and Ginger Party for baby Maya, daughter of my friends Kim and Mike. In Chinese culture, red eggs and ginger symbolize luck and fertility. It is also customary to shave the baby’s head at the Red Egg and Ginger party, but they skipped that one. Basically, I chowed down on Chinese food for a couple of hours. I tried some interesting fruits called lychee and rambutans. Later on, I watched a certain football game that will shall never be mentioned again.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Not the best way to start the day

I'm headed out the door this morning, with a hundred thoughts running through my mind...I need to set up one more rack of tubes for my experiment....going to the Celtics game tonight...I love my new bracelet and purse I'm wearing...they're orange...oh good, here comes the bus...remember to UV crosslink the Northern blot....when WHOOSH, BAM! I hit a patch of black ice and go down hard. On my hands and knees. In front of an entire bus stop of people.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Don't try this at home, kids.

Three "urban explorers" sneak into the century-old tunnel system behind Niagara falls and live to post about it. Unreal.

via W-G

Spacy and irrittable... what I become in the absence of caffeine. For the past, um, three years or so, my daily beverage intake has looked like this:

Coffee, coffee, coffee, soda, soda, coffee, beer, beer

Or occasionally, this:

Coffee, coffee, coffee, soda, soda, coffee, wine, wine, wine

(Water used sparingly.)

This week, I decided to try to make it look more like this:

Water, coffee, water, water, water, water, wine/beer, water

The results?

Tuesday: Forgot my cell phone, mild headache all day.

Wednesday: Forgot my lunch and my new CDs I wanted to listen to. Forgot to add a key ingredient to one of my experiments. Threw a hissy fit at a coworker (a supervisor, nonetheless) because he moved a shelf in front of a piece of equipment I use. Apologized later, but still felt bad about it all day.

Thursday: Realized that lack of caffeine turns me into a brainless twat. I’m still going to cut back, but I started off the day with a giant cup of hot tea, and not of the decaffeinated kind.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Football and science

This evening, I was waiting for a gel to run and decided to check out the online NFL coverage. I started reading this article on, and I mostly agreed with the assessment of the Charges-Patriots game. Despite the turnovers, Tom Brady is an excellent quarterback, and appears to thrive on the stress of playoffs. The Patriots can fall behind, but as long as there’s time on the clock, they know that the game is not yet over. My MVP for the day was Troy Brown- a true team player who forced the crucial fumble. Although I do adore LDT, he lost his cool, and all the griping about the Patriots’ celebrations made the Chargers look like sore losers. Oh, they made fun of your teammate’s dance? What are you going to do about it, challenge them to a dance-off at the mall? Anyways, on to science…. early in the article, the author comments on how a recent Science article had 67 authors, which is common when a genome sequence is published. Reading this, I thought “Huh, it’s really odd to see Science (arguably the most important publication in scientific research) mentioned in an article about the NFL.” Then, I hit this section of the article:

Coming Soon -- Drive-Through DNA: "RheoSwitch -- precise, variable control of mammalian gene expression." Haven't you always dreamed of precise control of mammalian gene expression? Buy it here. Hmmm, wonder if they will send me a free sample of this pMYB5 control plasmid so I can try manipulating a little E. coli at home. Welcome to the world of the gene-device ads in Science magazine, which has been taken over by advertising for genetic materials and gene-manipulation laboratory devices. All of the full-page ads in the front of the magazine in a recent issue were for such products. (Advertising in the front of a magazine costs more than in the middle.) "Ambion's MagMAX delivers high-quality RNA to maximize the success of your gene expression studies," one ad says. "Achieve excellent transfection efficiency in some cell lines," a Roche ad promises. "One reagent convenience for DNA and RNAi transfection," an ad for Invitrogen proclaimed. "SpeedStar DNA Polymerase is a convenient, efficient DNA polymerase specifically
designed for fast PCR," Takara Bio promised. I liked my polymerase convenient! "Enter the world of reliable gene silencing," Qiagen's ad headlined. "Our next generation of high-fidelity Pfu-based fusion enzymes sets a new standard for PCR performance," Stratagene's inside-cover ad proclaims. OK, medical laboratories need to shop for products just like everybody else does. What's spooky is that these are slick ad-agency ads with graphics and sell lines. "MessageAmp II -- Biotin Enhanced!" cries an ad for Ambion, whose Web site promises, "Scale up easily to acquire more RNA." The magazine ad for Ambion has flowers and looks for all the world like a prescription-drug sales pitch. "DNA Sequencing for $2.50 per reaction," with "plasmid and PCR purification available" and "no charge for standard sequencing primers" proclaimed a recent ad in Science, while "Simplify Gene Silencing Experiments with Pre-Designed RNA -- Fast! Easy! Guaranteed!" declared another.

Looks like the author was totally freaked out by the biotechnology ads. It’s weird to think that something so commonplace and boring (polymerases? biotin? I use that shit every day.) is so strange and fascinating to someone outside the field. I don’t mean to be all “silly laypeople,” but Science is a trade magazine. If you were reading Auto Mechanics Weekly, you would expect to find ads like “Most Efficient Carburetor!” and “Smooth-gliding fan belt!” The products he listed are all standard tools of the trade, not used for creating fantasy hybrid organisms. And $2.50 isn’t even a good price for DNA sequencing.

Boston Neighborhood Project

When I was a kid, I thought people made New Year’s Revolutions. You know, lose weight, overthrow the government. I generally do not make New Year’s resolutions but create less stringent categories of “things I’d like to do better this year.” This year’s list is fairly typical: drink more water, save more money, pay down credit cards, get in shape, floss, stand up straight, and try new things. Try new things? A little vague. I am a creature of habit. In my leisure time, I hang out with friends, I play soccer, and I go out to bars- almost always to the same old places. In order to inject a little more spice into my life, I came up with the Boston Neighborhood Project. Once a month, I will spend a day in one of the many neighborhoods in Boston that I rarely frequent. For example, although I live in Southie, I hardly ever go over to the Fort Point Channel area. I could check out the new harborwalk, go to the ICA, and then get something to eat and drink at a nearby café or restaurant. Here’s the list of neighborhoods I came up with (I excluded places that I’m very familiar with, like downtown Boston, Brookline, and Harvard and Central squares in Cambridge.):

1. Fort Point- South Boston
2. East Boston
3. Dorchester
4. Jamaica Plain
5. Inman Square, Cambridge
6. Somerville
7. Charlestown
8. Brighton Center
9. Chinatown
10. Revere Beach

I’m still missing two months, so I could try two different neighborhoods of one the bigger places on the list (like Dot). Also, if anyone knows of interesting things to see or places to eat or drink in the areas I listed, or can recommend a neighborhood I left off the list, please let me know in the comments. Apologies to all of you non-Massholes for this Boston-centric post.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Tales from the airport

I know I already wrote all about my trip to Colombia, but I thought I'd share some stories about people I met at the airport. First off, a complaint: Why am I always the one who everyone tries to cut in front of in line? Do I not stand close enough to the person in front of me? Do I look too docile to tap someone on the shoulder and tell them to get to the back of the line and wait their turn? Because I'm definitely not. "Excuse me, but the end of the line is back there, jerkface." Okay, so I don't say "jerkface," but I do think it really loudly.

On my flight from Miami to Medellín, I somehow ended up with a first class seat. I definitely didn't choose it when I booked my flight, and I don't think I paid anything extra, and I didn't even know about it until I picked up my boarding passes. I always scope out the people sitting in first class when I board a plane. Rich people intrigue me. However, I'm beginning to suspect that most of the people who are sitting in the big, cushy seats are not among the fabulously wealthy, but are in fact lowly economy class travelers like myself who lucked into an upgrade. I sat down next to a corpulent, middle-aged American man. Shortly into the flight, he tells me that he's going to Colombia and hoping to meet someone. I am confused. He explains. A wife, he is looking for a wife. Apparently there is some sort of tour in which a group of around twenty American men go to Medellin, stay in a hotel together, and attend events where they meet hundreds of potential Colombian brides. (I check on the internet, and yes, it's true.) The man explains the whole system to me, oblivious to the incredulous and somewhat aghast look on my face. One would think he would be a bit more discreet about his plans. Doesn't he realize that many people find this sort of thing, um, in poor taste? I asked him "Well, aren't you worried about marrying someone you don't know? And are you concerned at all as to how she would adjust to living in a country in which she doesn't speak the language or have any family or friends? " His response: "Well, my first wife is from the Phillipines, and I got her out of a catalogue." No joke, people.

Fast-forward to the flight home. Carolina and I were one the same flight, and in one of the many long lines leaving Colombia (My luggage got searched TWICE. No internal body cavity searches, though. Phew.) we met a American guy. I asked him what he had been doing in Medellín (not your typical tourist destination, or so I've heard) and he told me that he was supposed to get married the week before but the wedding had been called off. In the next breath, he added "No, I'm NOT one of those sleazy guys who comes down here to marry an eighteen year old! My ex-fiance and I met in business school in the states and we dated for four years." We ran into him again at the Miami airport during a long layover and had lunch together. He told us the whole tale of his failed romance- turns out that a few days before the wedding, he found out from the bride's brother that she had been cheating on him. Very telenovela, no? He had already bought a house in Medellín and sold his business, and was still planning to move there. This surprised Carolina. "Aren't you worried about safety issues?" His answer: "Oh, I am half-Israeli and was a combat instructor in the Israeli army for three years, so no, Colombia doesn't scare me at all."

The last encounter was more of an observation. At Logan airport, in front of the baggage carousel, a couple was loudly conversing. Well, not exactly conversing. An American guy, who obviously didn't speak Spanish, was trying to explain to a Colombian girl, who obviously didn't speak English, how to make a phone call with a calling card. "NO.....DIAL ONE....FIVE....SEVEN...." Then, she sat down on the edge of the luggage carousel "DON'T SIT THERE....WHEN THE BAGS COME OUT IT WILL START TO MOVE....LIKE THIS.....BRZZZZZ...MOVE...NO SIT...." Hey, here's a little tip: If someone doesn't understand your language, talking slowly and extremely loudly is not going to help matters. It will, however, alert the rest of the passengers awaiting their luggage that you found yourself a teenage bride via a Colombian dating service.

Best in 2006

Here is my very belated end of the year wrap up post.

Favorite Movies of 2006:

  1. The Departed. Not just because I'm from Boston, this movie kicks ass. Killer soundtrack, too- I loved the opening scene with "Gimme Shelter" and the Dropkick Murphy's I'm Shipping Up To Boston made my heart pound. For those of you who attend my annual St. Patrick's Day party, prepare to hear it about a thousand times that day. I'm crossing my fingers that Mark Walberg, whose performance was entirely believable, subtle, and hilarious, gets the Best Supporting Actor nomination over of Jack Nicholson.
  2. Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. Brilliant, shocking, and so f%^ing funny. Just thinking about the naked scene makes me cringe and laugh simultaneously.
  3. Volver. A well-crafted story from a master storyteller. Spain's legendary director Pedro Almovodar at his finest.
  4. Casino Royale. Daniel Craig breathes new life into the Bond franchise.

Favorite Music of 2006:

  1. Two enjoyable bands that I discovered last year: Band of Horses and Scissor Sisters
  2. New album by and old favorite: We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions, by Bruce Springsteen

Men I wanted to bang in 2006 (because, yes, women are pigs, too):

1. Daniel Craig

2. Zinedine Zidane

3. Roger Federer

4. Clive Owen

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Becks headed to the US

David Beckham just signed a huge contract to play for the L.A. Galaxy. I think it's great for MLS and will generate a lot of interest in the league. Plus, he's wicked hot, and I'd love to get a chance to see him play. Even if he does have a girly voice.

Back in the USA

After a very long day of travelling, I made it back to Boston late last night. The last couple days in Medellin were a blur of shopping, packing, and saying goodbyes. This photo of the city was taken from Caro's father's balcony. Unfortunately, the down side of living high enough up to have a nice view is that it's incredibly noisy. It's as if all of the noise from the streets of the entire city is caught, amplified, and funneled into the windows of the apartment. We did manage to relax and drink some beers in a patio lined with coffee trees before leaving town.

Overall, I had a great trip, and I'd love to go back, especially to the Pacific coast. To end, here are some facts from Colombia:

1. Questions I was asked most frequently:

a. So, what do you think of Colombia?

b. Hey, where did you learn Spanish?

2. Colombia is composed of the following groups of people, in the following order:

a. Military
b. Police
c. Nuns
d. Unordained civilians

  • 3. Medellin has Dunkin Donuts! Yay!

4. Colombia is as safe as the United States (well, at least according to this poll).

5. The national liquor is an anise-flavored spirit called Aguardiente. I wasn't a huge fan of the taste, but I liked the fact that it doesn't cause hangovers.

6. Instead of tortillas, Colombians eat arepas, which is similar to a corn tortialla, only larger, thicker, and crispy. I'm a fan.

7. Colombians are crazy about Christmas. Lights, EVERYWHERE. Nativities, EVERYWHERE. But instead of Santa bringing presents, baby Jesus does.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Paradise Found

I got back yesterday from the Pacific coast. It was amazing. It was beaches, jungle, waterfalls, butterflies, fifteen pelicans flying sinlge file along the top of the waves, phosphorescent plankton creating miniature galaxies in the night water, a fisherman singing to a seagull perched upon his wooden boat, mud like quicksand, rain, fresh fish every day, a riverbed lined with smooth white rocks like a path through someone´s garden, reading with a flashlight under a mosquito net, the army camped out in tents along the shore, more rain, and clothes that never dry.

Carolina, her sister Carmenza, and I flew in a small plane to Nuqui, and then traveled by boat to their brother´s place, Pijiba Lodge. The lodge has a main house and several small cabanas, and at capacity, holds about 20 guests. Since we were visiting on the family discount (for free), we slept in the balcony in the main house above the kitchen. The other tourists were all Colombian, either from Medellin or Bogota, and because everyone eats together and forms small groups to take day trips, it´s easy to form friendships with the other guests. During the week, I bathed in a natural hot spring, went fishing and caught an albacore tuna, took a trip up one of the jungle rivers, and did a lot of swimming and hiking. Unfortunately, I don´t think the pictures really do the place justice- with all of the rain, boat rides, and treacherous terrain, I left my camera behind most of the time for fear of ruining it. Here are some I was able to take:

The initial boat ride over and the lodge (hard to see because of the trees):

Me, looking a like a big nerd, on the beach:

Boat ride up the River Jobi:

More jungle and a local town:

Hanging out at Pijiba (That´s Caro´s brother Gonzalo, our host, in the first picture):

And lastly, my attempt at taking an artistic photo:

Monday, January 01, 2007

Feliz New Year!

I just got back from a fantastic weekend at Caro´s family farm. Since my head is still cloudy from staying up until three in the morning drinking rum with Caro´s brothers and cousin, I´ll let the pictures do the talking.

The view:

The house and the bathroom:

The party:

We ate meat, we danced, we drank, we had a blast. I participated in a couple Colombian traditions. On New Year´s, people release giant, lit paper balloons into the sky. They´re like mini hot air balloons, powered by lighting a rag soaked in kerosene on fire. So, yes, a potential fire hazard, but fun. At midnight, everyone runs around the house carrying luggage for good luck, so I did that, too. One tradition that we skipped was burning a huge scarecrow-like doll, although we drove by hundreds of them for sale on the side of the road.

Tomorrow, Caro, her sister, and I are going to spend a week at her brother´s eco-resort on the Pacific coast. From what I´ve been told, it´s a very undevelopled and very beautiful part of the country, home of the Embera Indians (Native Colombians?). No electricity, no telephone, no internet. Hence, no updates for a while. Happy 2007!