April 28, 2011

Movie Review: The Two Escobars

Continuing with the soccer trend in my life lately, Kelsi and I watched an interesting movie last weekend entitled The Two Escobars.

This movie is part of the ESPN 30 for 30 series. The 30 movies are part of a documentary series about unique stories in sports history from 1979 to 2009. In essence, they were created for ESPN to celebrate its thirtieth anniversary of existence. However, the unique thing is that ESPN didn't just choose the top 30 stories from those years. Instead they chose the stories that people didn't always hear about, or that people didn't always know every detail of. They cover everything from rugby in post-apartheid South Africa to Michael Jordan's short minor-league baseball career.

You can view the trailer for the series here:

The movie we watched is about the rise of the Colombian national soccer team as they worked their way towards the World Cup in 1994 and how this coincided with the rise of well know narco-king, Pablo Escobar. Led by captain, Andres Escobar, the Colombian national team left for the 1994 World Cup as the favorites and were expected to win the whole thing. After losing their first game, the team also lost the second game when Andres accidentally scored in Colombia's own goal. For this, he was murdered in Medellin only weeks later, not a full year after the death of Pablo in the same town.

The most interesting part of the movie was the extensive discussion about something known as "Narco-soccer", or basically the idea that Colombia's national team had many more direct ties to Pablo Escobar than one might expect. The movie definitely makes you think about the relationships between businesses (legal or not) and sports, as well as the terrifying history that is still very much a part of Colombia's present.

Whether you are into sports or soccer this movie is definitely engaging to watch and I highly recommend it.

Here is an exert from the movie:

Futbol on the Brain

After watching the Copa del Rey during the "brewery tour" in Medellin, it seems as though soccer is everywhere in Colombia. I mean, more that it usually is given how much Colombians love them some soccer.

Yesterday, my students came into class for the last period of the day begging me to let us watch some of the semi-finals game for the soccer league in Spain, between Real Madrid and Barcelona. I said if we got through the lesson and they wanted to choose to do the homework at home rather than during work time, then maybe we could watch it. Sure enough, by 2:15 we were done with the lesson and so I said we could watch it. Within two minutes two of the boys in my class had the feed from the internet and we were watching the game live.

Now...when I say we were watching the game live, I mean my desktop computer screen was turned around to face the class and about 17 of the 20 students were crowded around the floor below. The coolest thing about watching soccer with students is seeing how into they are! And the girls just as much as the boys, which is cool since I am a pretty sports loving girl myself. :) They spent the next 15 minutes acting like soccer players watching other soccer players, so basically being overly dramatic about everything that happened on the field. Absolutely hysterical to observe.

I wish I had a picture of them all crowded around, but alas you will have to picture 17 eighth graders crowded together.

April 26, 2011

VIP, Yeah You Know Me

Airline delays...or actually just delays in general are the norm in Colombia. When I travel here I pretty much assume we will be delayed for some ridiculous reason, and if everything does go according to plan I usually spend the rest of the day marveling at our good fortune. (Like when we found a bus on the Medellin-Bogota highway just as we walked out the main gate at Rio Claro!!)

When we arrived to the airport last Saturday afternoon I was not at all surprised to learn that our flight to Bogota was delayed and we would therefore be unable to make our connecting flight to Medellin. Rudely dismissed by the lady working the Avianca check-in counter, we headed over to a somewhat more helpful woman who changed our plane tickets for the later flights and sent us on the way. Still annoyed, we waited in the Cali airport for a later flight. At the last minute (literally we were the last people to get on the plane), Avianca did put us on an earlier flight to Medellin. HOORAY!

Now...could we change tickets again and get back on our original flight to Medellin?

Of course not.

When they told me this at the Bogota office I got irritated and explained that this was our original flight. How was it possibly full when we had seats on it a mere two hours ago?!?!?! Well the lady wasn't budging, but did we want to wait in the executive lounge for the later flight? I told her we weren't "Executive Class", so that wasn't really helpful.

Not until she pointed out our seats to us did we realize that somehow our Bogota-Medellin tickets had changed into VIP tickets. Still believing it was too good to be true we hesitantly approached the Avianca VIP lounge in Bogota, expecting to be turned away as frauds, but in we went!!

Let me just tell you right now....the VIP lounge is a magical place. Literally magical. They have free WIFI (albeit a sketchy signal), free mini sandwiches, free fruit kabobs, free coffee, free tea, free water, clean bathrooms, swanky couches annnnnnnnnd oh yes, a bar. See? M-A-G-I-C-A-L.

Please note the comfortable seating, mini sandwiches, fruit kabobs and drinks.

Open self-serve bar? Seriously?

Obviously I had to zoom in to take this photo since Kelsi's seat was located so far away from mine.

We spent the next three hours in a land of bliss feeling like outsiders looking into the life of the Rich and Famous of Colombia...and eating lots of fruit, sandwiches and making mixed drinks using juice boxes. Excellent way to kill three airport hours before boarding a plane to sit comfortably in roomy seats...for a 45 minute flight.

April 25, 2011

Medellin is not a movie. It's a life.

Last time I went to Medellin my time focused primarily on the touristy things to do in the city, such as the Botero museum, Botero Plaza, riding the MetroCable and walking around the center of the city.

This time, Medellin was more of a stop over on the way to and from Rio Claro, so we did things a little differently. We stayed in the Poblado neighborhood, which is in the south of the city and definitely in the wealthier part of Medellin. Located about a 15 minute walk from the restaurant and bar center of the neighborhood, our hostel, Black Sheep, was an excellent choice for the weekend. Comfy beds, super clean, friendly and full of very relaxed travelers, it was definitely a good choice for our post-jungle sleeping!

When not enjoying our lovely hostel and early morning re-runs of Friends and The Big Bang Theory, we spent time strolling around Medellin. Here are some of the highlights:

Tres Cordilleras Brewery Tour
Ever since I first tasted the beers of Tree Cordilleras in Medellin last year, I knew they would be my favorites of Colombia. Primarily dominated by larger brewing companies that make up 99% of the beer consumption, Colombia is a country without a strong beer culture. The people here for the most part drink the same dull tasting pale ales (think of the beer you drank in college...that's what it's like). Therefore the idea of a local microbrewery is pretty unique so I was psyched to check out the actual place!

However, the words brewery tour are really used loosely here, because what I thought was a time & date change to the weekly brewery tour as a result of Holy Week was actually a time & date change for the Copa del Rey. An annual soccer match between the two best teams in Spain, this year's game featured Barcelona versus Real Madrid. These are definitely the two most popular teams (outside of South America) for people in Colombia to watch, so by the time the game came on we were sitting in a full house! Watching the game turned out to be super fun and we still got our souvenir glasses as well as five beers for the $15,000 COP ($8 USD) entry fee, so overall - WIN. I may or may not stolen us an additional two glasses in typical I-am-my-grandmother's-granddaughter fashion, but I ended up breaking one (oops). But at least now we have an extra!

My two favorite Tres Cordilleras flavors - Blanca (left) is an American wheat ale while Mulata (right) is an amber ale. Not pictured is the Mestiza - a typical American pale ale.

We figured out the brewery tour wasn't going to happen right around the time we saw people using markers to write bets on the office windows of Tres Cordilleras...

Enthralled by the game!

Pablo Escobar's Grave
After reading Killing Pablo by Mark Bowden and learning a lot more about the life of Pablo Escobar in Colombia, Kelsi and I both wanted to checkout his grave site located in Itagui, a small suburb of Medellin. We took the metro to Itagui, hopped in a cab and had him point us in the right direction. Since we were on Holy Thursday, the cemetery was pretty busy. I felt a bit weird being there since Pablo Escobar and his legacy is still a pretty controversial topic in Colombia. However, I did manage to snap these photos. We pretty much just went to the cemetery, looked around and left, but I am glad we went. He is a fascinating part of Colombian history and in a way it kind of gave me a nice sense of closure to reading the book...

The entrance to the cemetery built on a hill overlooking Medellin. In the end Pablo's "wish" came true as he is often quoted for saying, "Better a grave in Colombia than a jail in the United States."

Pablo's grave. A small emblem in the lower left-hand corner says "Don Pablo" as he was known by friends and associates.

Coffee, Coffee, Coffee!
Located in the Eje Cafetero, or Coffee Axel, of Colombia, Medellin is a city filled with Juan Valdez locations and also some cute cafes, which are a rarity for whatever reason.

Juan Valdez in Parque Lleras

Le Bon Cafe in Parque Lleras

Great sign in the cafe! I wanted to take this home with us :)
"With our hands full of love, we are free to toast more than just a good coffee."

Home to many malls and a busy center of town, Medellin is a great place for shopping. I found a super cute jacket/blazer thing in olive green than I basically didn't take off for the remainder of the trip...yet oddly have no photos of. Oops. Anway... so ends our Medellin trip. Hooray for week-long break from school!

Around the Plaza Botero and the Parque Berrio metro station.

Santa Fe Mall - super modern looking both inside and out - also home to delightful stores like Zara, Stravidarius and Bershka :) LOVE!

Disclaimer: Yes, the title of this post is absolutely taken from an Entourage episode. ;)

April 24, 2011

Jungle Lovin' at Rio Claro Nature Reserve

After our last Semana Santa (Holy Week AKA Spring Break) in the Amazonian jungle I pretty much fell in love with the nature and landscapes of Colombia. Despite my well known aversion for anything that has to do with animals or creatures of the forest, I love the experience of being in nature and there is no better way to do that than jump right in! So jump in we did and Kelsi and I opted for three nights and four days at Rio Claro Nature Reserve to begin this year's Semana Santa.

Located about three and a half hours by bus from Medellin, the Rio Claro Nature Reserve is built in order to protect this gorgeous river and its surroundings. The reserve is the only place to stay if you want to visit the river and they do an excellent job of providing great accommodations, fun activities and still remaining conscious of the environment around the reserve.

We stayed in a treehouse style cabana about a ten-minute walk from the main lodge. To summarize...there were two walls and a whole lot of jungle. The first night it definitely took me a little while to fall asleep, but surprisingly the forest/jungle noises were pretty tame and provided a nice backdrop of white noise for sleeping. The rain and thunderstorms every night definitely got my attention, but all was quiet and dry inside our cabana. Also, the weirdest bug we saw was about two inches long and a pretty harmless looking green tree bug thing, so overall... Kristin - 1 and Weird animals of the jungle - 0. WIN.

Scenes in our cabana

When we were not gazing out at the river below we entertained ourselves with the various activities at the reserve. Accompanied by some easy-on-the-eyes-guias (guides), we went rafting, tubing, zip-lining and caving! The only bummer is that all of these activities involved water in some way, thus there are no good pictures of them! Basically, the rafting and the tubing involved floating downriver, stopping at some points to check out a rope swing, the depth of the river or because we may or may not have fallen out of our tubes on a particularly intense set of rapids.

Zip-lining had us hooked up to a series of three lines which criss-crossed over the river. My favorite was the second one, which was 300 meters long and took you directly over the middle of the river!! I think zip-lining is one of those things that no matter how many times I do it, will always make me nervous, but it is such a rush to fly through the air only attached to a thin metal cable.

Wahoo ziplining!!

Last but not least, we went caving. This is an activity that we have for one reason or another, never gotten a chance to do on our more adventure-type vacations, but I am so glad we did it at Rio Claro! The three hour hike led us up river, where we crossed the river by holding onto a rope to avoid floating away in the current. Therefore, about 30 minutes into the hike everyone was soaking wet up to their necks. Awesome start. From there we carried on in the woods for a bit before coming to the entrance to La Caverna de Los Guacharos. Guacharo in English is Oilbird and is specific to the northern region of South America. These birds are nocturnal, thus their presence in the cave, and they navigate using sound, just like bats. However, unlike bats the oilbirds make a terrifyingly loud and high-pitched clicking noise which sounds pretty intense when you are in a cold, dark cave with what I estimated to be about a million of them.

Oilbirds...according to what my Google research tells me they look like. I wouldn't know because I didn't even attempt to get near the things in the cave.

So into the save we went, surrounded in darkness by the time we were about 100 meters inside the cave. Kelsi and I had been laughing earlier in the day about how we never would have imagined ourselves as girls with gear for trekking through a cave, but there we were in waterproof hiking shoes, quick dry clothes, lifejackets (not ours), helmets (not ours) and headlamps. Thank goodness too, because without my headlamp to guide me though the cave I think I would have freaked out at some point. Basically the hike was a lot like the part of Goonies were they are in the cave and there is a river running throughout it. At some points the water was only a few inches deep and at other points it was over our heads. The scariest parts were when our guide would tell us to jump or slide down into the next part of the cave and we just had to trust him that we wouldn't die doing so. At some points Kelsi would have to jump first, I would pass her the not-so-waterproof headlamps and then I would jump down into somewhat darkness. Insanity. After about an hour in the cave we saw signs of daylight and emerged from the cave by climbing down the rocky side of the river and then swimming across once again. Definitely one of the coolest experiences I have had in Colombia, but I think I echo Kelsi's sentiment of "Never again" upon exiting the cave. :)

After our three nights and four days of action-packed river goodness we were ready for some civilization and headed back to Medellin for Semana Santa: Part Two...

April 9, 2011

Calle 13 & ChocQuibTown Concert

Urban beats, huh? Yeahhhh...not exactly a part of my cute singer/songwriter boys with guitars genre that makes up 90% of my iTunes. However, a pretty rockin' concert experience if I do say so :)

Last night a group of us headed over to the Centro de Eventos del Valle del Pacifico for the Calle 13 with ChocQuibTown concert. After a long day at school (Sports Day...full of all day madness and babysitting), I needed coffee and an hour of serious down time to psych up for the concert, but it was totally worth it! We got there around 7 PM and the doors were scheduled to open at 6 PM, so with our VIP section tickets (only about $45 USD), we figured we would have no trouble getting in.

As with most things in Colombia that relate to organization, crowd control, logistics and large groups of people in general, we were dead wrong and the scene outside the concert venue was a mess. After some discussion we decided our plan for getting in efficiently was to push through the crowd of waiting people, play the "were just innocent gringos who don't know what's going on" card and be on our way. This sounds absolutely ridiculous, but seriously, after 1.5 years of living in a country of disorganization, where no one respects the line, why were we about to go wait in the back?

The plan led to some awkward moments, like when Kelsi and I were stuck for about 10 minutes in the men's security line and very clearly in the wrong place. But we made it happen, following Kelsi's lead by climbing a barrier to the girl's line in front of a very amused crowd of Colombians. Winners. After three very through security searches and the confiscation of Kelsi's apparently lethal bobby-pins, we were in!

The waiting game began with Miller Genuine Draft beers for Angie and I...served in plastic beer glasses, some Aguardiente (AKA Colombian licorice flavored liquor), and an opening band during which the lead singer busted out a flute. When ChocQuibTown took the stage we were more than ready! Recent winners of the Latin Grammy for this song, this group originates from the Choco region of Colombia, which has a high Afro-Colombian population. Their music is a unique blend of hip hop, reggae, funk and more. They definitely got the crowd into their show and looked like they were having a blast up on stage, an element which always makes a concert more fun for the audience!

$4 for an MGD to pass the time.

Opening band numero uno.

Opening band numero dos: ChocQuibTown in action!

A video of the song (as performed at the concert) that has become the group anthem - Somos Pacifico. Basically the lyrics are about how we are people from the coast and we are united together. People in Colombia take a lot of pride in the region of the country they are from, the same way people in the US take pride in the state they are from.

ChocQuibTown left the stage around midnight and we still had to wait for Calle 13 to set up. However, the wait was well worth it and when they took the stage around 12:30 AM the place went absolutely crazy. Lead singer and songwriter Rene Perez Joglar rushed on stage, took his shirt off halfway through the opening song (and kept it off for the duration of the show), and began with the band's popular "Baile de Los Pobres" The song is basically a social commentary on the differences between the lower and upper social classes everywhere, but specifically in their home country of Puerto Rico. Needless to say this song ignited the crowd and I literally could feel the ground shaking below me from all the dancing and jumping. The lead singer doesn't hold anything back when he sings and this was evident throughout the entire concert.

Backed by his stepbrother and sister, the singer fuels the energy of the group and the entire band and audience fed off this energy all night. For two other songs during the night he brought girls from the crowd up on stage, which is something I love when musicians do, and you could tell by the reaction of the girls and those still in the crowd that this was a pretty big deal. This group has also earned global recognition since their beginning in 2005, performing at the Latin Grammys in 2007, the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival in 2008, a concert to commemorate Ecuadorian Independence in 2009 and Cuba in 2010. While sometimes criticized for their harsh commentaries and strong (sometimes unpopular) social stance on many issues, they are a band with something to sing about, that is for sure.

Calle 13 takes the stage.
The whole band.

Related Posts with Thumbnails