Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Back for a Limited Time

Whew! There's something very Wizard of Oz about boarding a plane in the historic capital city of Colombia, Bogota(map), taking a nap, then waking up a few hours later in the US. Unfortunately I've had about an hour of total internet access during my stay in the ol' Bogota, which hurts me deep in my soul. How can I check random facts at a whim without the internet? Its like I have to rely on my previous education here.... shudder. So, readers, that means that you get a couple of general recollections of my travels rather than the day by day account.

This time I decided that I didn't want to annoy Angelica's family by living in their apartment for two weeks, so I stayed someplace else. Her dad got me a room in this pretty excellent hotel meant for veterans and their families. Not only was it a nice and very cheap hotel, but it was part of a compound containing several restaurants and bars, a few stores, a bowling alley, minigolf, swimming pools and so on. Everything was fenced in and patrolled by military police, which was really the best. I didn't have to worry much about the safety of my belongings. The subject of security leads me on a bit of a sidetrack...

Just to park in this place requires a bit of extra time. You have to stop your vehicle at the gate and show ID. At the same time, soldiers carrying very large guns check out your trunk. Often they have a bomb sniffing dog check everything as well. While this may seem like a lot, a trip to one of the many local malls isn't much easier. Private security mans the gates and the bomb dogs, but the process is mostly the same. Security patrols the lots and watches from above. I assume that this security is a remnant of more turbulent times, but it gives one a safe feeling anyway.

Here is a man dutifully watching over the mall parking lot from his guard tower.

Bomb dogs diligently keep the Hard Rock Cafe Bogota safe from terrorists and disco lovers.

A big thing that I had the opportunity to see was the 2007 Agro Expo. It reminded me a lot of the part of the Illinois State Fair(which I am going to miss this year, boo hoo) that deals with farm stuff. This was more on the trade show side of things, with some buildings devoted to something specific like meat packing equipment that someone outside of the industry would have very little interest in. Apart from the serious farm equipment, there was plenty for the average person to do. Like every good fair, there were all kinds of different foods to try, and I just happen to be a professional eater. I had food and drink samples shoved at my face from all directions, which is something I could get used to. Also nice: I couldn't understand the sales pitch following the sample, so I just politely left and went to the next booth. One of my favorites were small pieces of banana dehydrated until chewy but not completely hard, then covered in chocolate.

A little arch marks the entrance to the Agro Expo.

Here we have one of the most unexpected exhibits at the Expo. These people were selling all kinds of things made from the Coca leaf. I passed on trying any of this stuff... I imagine that a Coca soda might produce some unwanted drug test results in the future.

I happened upon an interesting demonstration of how a kind of unprocessed sugar can be extracted from sugarcane. Here the stalks of the plant are ground up and the husks removed.

On the other side of the sugarcane operation, the mashed up plant is boiled down to retrieve the sugary goodness. Its then poured into square molds to harden.

Here some teenage police enjoy the fair. I believe that there is some sort of mandatory service for young people in Colombia, unless you are rich enough to pay your way out of it, of course.

More Colombian adventures await. Check back tomorrow to be thoroughly astounded and/or amazed. I leave for Ashikaga, Japan on the 29th, so I only have a couple days left to pack and digest some last morsels of amercian culture. Keep it real.

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