My parents departed from Bogotá early this morning, after spending a few days with me here and a week of vacation on the Caribbean coast, in Cartagena, Santa Marta, Minca, and El Rodadero. Highlights included tons of fresh seafood, delicious rum cocktails, an amazing array of Christmas decorations, a canoe tour through mangroves, hand-feeding a domesticated toucan, and more fresh seafood, washed down with fresh fruit juices.
I spent New Year's Eve with my parents and my coworker, Roger, eating a delicious meal at the elegant restaurant in the Hotel Tequendama and watching the Cúcuta New Year's Eve celebration in the lobby of another hotel on television, exchanging awkward hugs with everyone else present in the lobby at midnight and watching fireworks from the 14th-floor window of the hallway outside my parents' hotel room.
Before my parents arrived in Bogotá, I spent a week and a half in the Amazon, in Perú, Brazil, and Colombia. I traveled with five friends, all fellow Fulbriyhters but one, a good friend from Bowdoin who now lives and works in New York. Our first two days were spent at a nature reserve in Perú which I have promised myself to return to whenever I can and where we fished for piranhas, held caymans in our hands, fed bananas to capybaras at breakfast, kayaked across a starlit lake at night gazing into firefly-filled trees, and slept in hammocks in the jungle. Next we spent a typically touristy day visiting chocolate shops and zoos in Brazil- a tapir licked my hand!-, along with a dancehall where we were served caipirinha before midday and the Colombian military battalion where two pet jaguars have lived since a Colombian zoo closed years ago. We were the only civilians to ever tour the military base, and learned quite a lot. We spent the following two days staying in a maloka with a Huitoto couple, learning to prepare casabe from venomous yuca, weave palm fibers into thread to make jewelry, make baskets from branches, identify medicinal plants, and avoid danger while walking through the jungle at night. We spent the next day visiting an island with an enormous population of very friendly and adorable monkeys, a Peruvian village with a sadness-inducing display of captivated wild animals such as sloths, ocelots, and owls, an indigenous community (tikunas) that dressed me in their traditional clothing and included me in a demonstration of a dance that turned out to be the one performed at public celebrations of an adolescent girl's first menstrual period, and a gorgeous town called puerto nariño with orderly streets lined by regal açaí palms, on the shores of the river where pink dolphins can be observed swimming past. Our final few days (except for time spent at the ethnologic museum and shopping for souvenirs, along with watching many thousands of birds come to roost in the tops of the trees in a public park and climbing to the top of Leticia's tallest church tower) were spent in Sacambú, Perú, with another small indigenous community, where we canoed in a lake, caught more piranhas, spent a lot of time relaxing in hammocks, and swam in the river. Overall, this was my favorite trip in Colombia so far!