One month into our eight-week trip of traveling in Colombia and Kidlet’s homesickness has kicked in. We’ll be riding along in a mototaxi or sitting together and suddenly she’ll whimper, “I miss my Dad! I’m homesick!”
Helping Kidlet deal with her homesickness got me thinking about the things that I miss. This is the longest I’ve traveled abroad, but, like a turtle, I carry my world around with me, so homesickness hasn’t troubled me much in the past. (Culture shock has been more my bag.) But after a month here, there are definitely some things I wish I had easy access to – things that would make Colombia feel more like “home.” Like Kidlet, I miss Hubster, but he’s not a thing, so I won’t put him on this list! (Will save that for another writing.)
Here’s a rundown of six things I miss while traveling in Colombia.
This is huge. I had grand plans when I first arrived, and began each day with a short, do-able regimen of 100 squats, 20-40 pushups, crunches, yoga stretches, leg lifts, etc. Then the altitude sickness in Bogotá got the best of me after six days and I simply couldn’t bring myself to do them anymore. Then we hit the road and were staying in hostels where there was no place I could perform these exercises with any degree of privacy. I fell out of the habit. And I get sweaty doing these exercises so I like to do them first thing in the morning, before my shower. Difficult.
My back-up plan had been to go on hikes with Kidlet on my back, but her carrier was in the suitcase that was lost in Bogotá, so even though we walk several miles a day, it’s at Kidlet pace. The only time my heart race is elevated nowadays is when I’m on horseback and afraid I’m going to fall off and be kicked in the head! There’s still time for me to figure out how to work in my morning regimen again, though it may not be daily and it may not be in the morning. Re-evaluating the situation is a must or I will suffer a LOT when I get back to the boathouse!
2. Non-Meat Proteins
Seattle is one of the top cities in the US to be a vegan, so I’ve been spoiled by the variety and availability to non-meat proteins at restaurants, cafes, food carts, and of course grocery stores. I miss chick pea salads, quinoa, lentils, veg*n Thai food, tofu, Field Roast, baked beans and other staples of my Seattle diet. In Colombia, we eat meat.
3. Non-Dairy Milk Options
Colombia’s milk consumption boggles my mind. I don’t even have the context to identify the varieties of milk I see on the shelves here. Powdered, concentrated, sweetened, in bags, lactose free, and many more, judging from the packages and labeling. Some milk products are refrigerated, most are not. If you love milk and milk loves you, come to Colombia! If milk doesn’t love you, be prepared to resist it. Yogurts and smoothies abound. Tortas soaked in milk, puddings, and caramels are the most popular desserts I’ve seen here, along with homemade ice cream popsicles (sold everywhere!) and scooped ice cream.
Kidlet, who loves ice cream, is tortured by the sight of grown men and children eating ice cream popsicles at just about any time of day. Frozen fruit juice popsicles are available, but these are all artificially flavored with artificial dyes, which she reacts to. It’s pretty sad for Kidlet. I allow her an artificially flavored (and sometimes dyed) popsicle every few days and she eats a slice of cake to satisfy her sweet tooth. Her skin is not great, but her eczema is controlled.
Breakfast and lunch are often served with blocks of queso – cheese – even if you specifically say “no queso.” or “sin queso.” Dairy can upset my stomach and I’ve avoided all but cream (cooked into things), butter (same), and some queso out of solidarity with Kidlet.
Again, we’ve been spoiled in Seattle with its offerings of vegan ice creams, cakes and cookies alongside regular desserts in most shops. Servers in the restaurants we frequent are familiar with the concept of dairy free and can prepare meals or guide us to meals without dairy. I wish we could eat cereal or the delicious granola they have here, but except in Bogotá where I bought soy milk in an upscale grocery store, I haven’t seen non-dairy milk available. It’s possible to avoid milk, but if you are severely allergic to cross-contamination, I advice caution here.
4. Big Salads
Colombia is known for the variety of its fruits. But vegetables, so far as I’ve seen, are mostly treated as an afterthought. Potatoes are ubiquitous – if you’re a meat and potatoes kind of person, come to Colombia! However, if you thrive on leafy greens, prepare yourself for disappointment. I have only seen broccoli once; kale, collards and chard do not appear to exist here at all.
In a large, upscale grocery store in Bogotá, the vegetable aisle was a single aisle, and the vegetables stocked there looked like basic vegetables you could find just about anywhere in the USA: carrots, onions, potatoes, celery, a few beets, a bit of cabbage, lettuce, maybe a red pepper, some really sad button mushrooms and garlic. Compared to half a dozen fruit aisles!
I miss salad bars, stir fries, vegetarian protein salads, and being able to order salad as a meal. I gobble up whatever napkin-sized salad I’m served here (often with pineapple or strawberries as a main component, along with the iceberg lettuce I wouldn’t bother with in Seattle), and am always left wanting more. The thirst for fresh, raw veggies is real in these Colombia streets! I’ve met other North Americans who’ve expressed the same sentiment.
My friend in Bogotá, X-, warned me in my first days here: “Colombian food is kind of bland.” No problem, I thought. I’m not a picky eater, I enjoy food but I’m not a foodie. And I’m the kind of person who can eat the same meal for lunch or dinner every day for a week and not get tired of it. But, man. X- was not joking! Salt and pepper seem to be the main seasonings here, along with chicken and beef broth packets loaded with sodium (probably MSG). Tip: Be sure not to salt anything you’re served until you’ve tasted it first!
I ordered a “Mexican style” burrito in the hopes of getting some fresh flavors, and it had a curry sauce – the mildest, least spicy yellow curry you can possibly imagine. The burrito wasn’t served with green onions, or salsa of any kind. Like so much Colombian food I’ve eaten, it was completely inoffensive, it just lacked flavor. The most flavorful food I’ve had so far has been at X’s house, where she cook using a variety of fresh herbs and spices (which she may have purchased in the US and brought back with her!). Also, I’ve had a few, good, imported chorizos that had some kick. I’ve been told that there are exciting restaurants in trendy neighborhoods of Medellín and Bogotá, but these places are not inexpensive to our budget. I may have to splurge on one of these later.
6. Clothes Dryer
Hanging clothes out to dry is charming and energy efficient, and would probably not be a problem if I had all my clothes. But I don’t. Kidlet and I are living out of a suitcase, and when it takes 3 days for our clean underwear to dry (because some days are cloudy or it rains), I get antsy. I spend far too much time keeping track of our clean clothing situation! I have even planned my travel around how long it will take me to get my laundry washed and for it to dry. I definitely miss my janky old clothes dryer.
Hope you enjoyed my list, hope to write again soon.