Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Day 4

Similarities - India and Colombia:
There are many similarities between India and Colombia! Here a few examples:
  • People: Warm and friendly, especially towards foreigners. 
  • Traffic - Other than the fact that in Colombia, people drive on the right side of the road, you will not find much of a difference. Same aggressive drivers, motorcycles (I even spotted a Bajaj Pulsar, I used to ride this bike when I was studying in Bangalore), pedestrians randomly crossing the streets, cars parked in no-parking areas with total disregard for the traffic jams they create behind them.  I can go on! 
  • Family oriented culture: Colombians have strong family ties and have extended families. I was told that it's not uncommon to find married men living with their parents. 
  • Busettas: Private buses, in addition to the government buses.
  • Fruits: Tropical fruits like Papaya, Plantains which are quite popular, at least in South India. 
  • Ability to eat spicy food: Surprisingly, at least in Bogota, I have seen people regularly use a very spicy sauce made of chillies, onions and garlic in their food. 
  • Stray Dogs: yup. 
  • and many more........

Day 4. I expected today to be a long day due to the site visit to Santa Rosa neighborhood of Bogota where there is Centro Comparte, Greenhouse and the Gardens. I met with the PSF team (Gerda, Michal and Tracey) at 8 in the lobby and we took a cab to the Centro Comparte office. It was about a 40 minute drive up the mountain, 3000 m above sea level. We spotted a few Llamas on the way, lots of cops with automatic rifles and a picturesque landscape.

We met Sindy, Coordinator for Centro Comparte program at the Centro Comparte office. A Father of a church who owns the building also rents out the space for this office to PSF. Centro Comparte office provides essential knowledge for people in the vulnerable communities in and around Santa Rosa so they can find employment. Sindy and Tracey first showed us the computer lab where they provided basic computer training to approximately 60 people in 2014. They then showed us the Textiles room where people from the neighborhood get trained in sewing. 
Teo from PSF then did an excellent Powerpoint presentation on Centro Comparte and various achievements.

We then went to the Greenhouse, located on the top most floor of the building, where we met Diego and Ryan. Ryan is a German intern working with PSF. This particular Greenhouse if used by PSF for experimental purposes on urban agriculture. In fact, Ryan and Diego were experimenting a brand new method of growing vegetables and fruits which can serve you for 2-3 months on a single pallet! 

We spent about an hour with Diego and Ryan not only learning more about organic production of seedlings, organic pesticides, soil composition, water harvesting, etc but also enjoying the delicious Uchuva fruits (Peruvian Groundcherry) and plum tomatoes the size of blueberries! 

We enjoyed a nice lunch at a local restaurant with the PSF staff. 

The soup of the day was made of Raiz. We asked Diego what Raiz meant? He said it was made of Bull eggs.........................................Bull's eggs is a polite way of saying Bull's testicles. Therefore Raiz = soup made with Bull's testicles. The only person who ordered this soup was Michal ....... and he LOVED it (Sorry Michal, this is my blog, I get to say what I want :)) . 

The hike back to the office from the restaurant - after lunch, at least another 200m above sea level!  Not fun! By the way, I accepted a mandarin orange this time - but not from a stranger :) .

Sindy offering a mandarine orange:

We visited several gardens in the neighborhood which used the seedlings from PSF. It was really impressive to see that many families in these poor neighborhoods actually were maintaining and growing the vegetables in the garden. PSF is certainly making a change in these poor communities. 

Taxi Ride back to the hotel. 
So, I'm sorry to report that the world's tallest rollercoaster ride is not in the Six Flags adventure in United States... It's a ride with Juan Pablo from Centro Comparte to Hotel Nico! Let me introduce you to Juan Pablo Montoya (I'm convinced that's his name), our taxi driver who drove us to the Hotel from Centro Comparte office.

I'm Indian and trust me when I say that the cab ride was scary! To make it worse, Gerda Slagter who is from a small town in Netherlands and who has never experienced anything short of an Autobahn, was sitting in the front seat next to the driver! 

Gerda Petrified:

We almost:
  • got crushed by a bus
  • drove on a couple of pedestrians' feet
  • mowed down a couple of stray dogs
  • ran off the cliff on a few turns
  • got into a fight with another car driver who also jumped a stop sign
He was a total gentleman though, this Juan Pablo, because he would slow down, almost to a stand still, every time Gerda would try to take a picture of the panoramic views. I sometimes felt Gerda was doing this to slow him down. He was also playing the music that we requested! Rolling stones, Guns n roses, etc. Gerda mentioned that she had a Near Death Experience by the end of the trip.

Ironically, one of the songs Juan Pablo played in the taxi was "November Rain", which I understood is a popular song played in Dutch funerals!! 

Disclaimer: Some of the things in the above taxi ride have been exaggerated and should be taken with a pinch of salt. In the end, we followed protocol for requesting a taxi and reached the hotel safe. That's all that matters :).

Buenas Noches! 

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