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For the love of Petronio Alvarez…


Every August, the city of Cali celebrates the Pacific music festival (Petronio Alvarez Festival) for 5 days. Here, they bring in various musicians from all region of the Pacific coast of Colombia. Since I started visiting Colombia in 2009, I’ve always missed this magnificent festival but this year I made it!!!


The festival was all I expected it to be – great music and pure happiness. I’m glad I was there. Even the rain did not stop the dancing on the third day of the festival. To cap it up, I had the opportunity of meeting 2 of the 3 members of ChoquibTown – Colombia’s most celebrated Hip-Hop group.


Before making it to Cali, I went to San Agustin to see the archaeological site (since I’m an archaeological junkie) and Popayan. I was really disappointed with both San Agustin & Popayan. San Agustin is a very ugly town and the archaeological site was equally depressing. The only good thing was the hostel I stayed – Hotel . It was up in the mountain, had very hot water for shower, Wi-Fi, and it was very clean. For Popayan, I only enjoyed meeting up with my friend Rudy. We meet up with other friends of Rudy and we cooked – I made the Nigerian Fried Rice & she made a delicious coconut milk soup from the Pacific coast of Colombia.

 col2   After Cali, I went back to Bogota and briefly visited Santa Marta. Although I have traveled a lot in Colombia, most of my travels have been within the Pacific & Andean region of the country so it was great returning to the Caribbean coast. Santa Marta is what you expect of a Caribbean town – hot climate, beautiful beach, great food (especially sea food), not fast paced and beautiful people. I enjoyed Santa Martha but was happy to return to Bogota. Visited Taganga while in Santa Martha, again I was disappointed and didn’t get the hype of the place. Taganga is supposed to be the party beach town of the Caribbean coast.

If you ever find yourself in Colombia in the month of August – make sure to go to Cali for the Pacific Music Festival (Petronio Alvarez Festival). Search the internet for specific date as it changes every time.

:) A Nigerian Queen in Bogota :)

Greetings from Bogota

Hope you all had a great weekend

The border crossing from Ecuador to Colombia was pretty easy. A 5-hours bus ride from Quito to Tulcan (the border town), 10 mins taxi ride to Rumichaca border, stamp out from Ecuador immigration, cross the bridge to Colombia DAS immigration to stamp in, take a 10 mins taxi ride to Ipiales bus terminal, there take a bus to Cali (10 hours), Bogota or anywhere in the country.

In Cali, I met up with folks from Couchsurfing, we went to a ballet show (which was interesting by the way) and later hung out in a canteen eating Empanadas and chatting. It was a great to be in Cali again, I met some of the amazing people there 2 years ago. Left Cali after 3 days for Bogota, it was a 12 hours bus ride and as usual it was cold in Bogota.
In Bogota, I stayed in a dorm room at Casa Bellavista Hostal, it’s a pretty nice and cool hostal. Very clean, free breakfast and cool staff. At this hostel, I met two graduate students from University of Minnesota who are doing research in Bogota on the same thing as I am, pretty cool right?


Last Saturday, my boss invited me to her house for her birthday get-together. That was my first time seeing so many black Colombians, guess what, I was looking for similarities between them and Nigerians. We dance the same, and I swear some of them looked like a Yoruba person while other looked Ibo or Ewe. Also at the get-together, I met a couple who also worked/research Afro-Colombians; the lady is a PhD student at UC Santa Cruz while the guy is an Anthropologist professor at university of Indiana. Yes to Networking.

This is my second week at the internship, last week I did lots of translation from English to Spanish and vice-versa, was introduced to lots of black activists and to the ways things worked in the organization. Last Friday, I attended my first staff meeting, it was really impressive to see the passion of the staff despite the ongoing threats they face. Just a brief history, black activists and organizations working with the black Colombians have been receiving death threat for some time now; some of these threats have been acted on. Just recently, a black female activist was assassinated in Medellin, so now you might understand the pressure my coworkers are under. One of the main points of discussion in the staff meeting was how to protect themselves and their family.

The office has eight permanent staffs but other folks come by to help out. Two of the three founders of the NGO also work there – the third founder is in exile in the U.S because of the threats directed towards him. I also met an old man who said he was a Yoruba descendent, and had been to Nigeria 34 years ago to learn the Yoruba spiritual religious, he is an herbalist now. Two of my co-workers offered to help me with my research and put me in contact with people who can help me further. Also, I moved in with one of my co-workers on Saturday.

I was invited to a fare-well party by two of my co-workers on Friday, I was fun, there I was introduced to Afro- Colombians university students. They told me they had a national organization that does community service work with the community. On Saturday, went to a birthday get-together of one of my co-workers.


So far I have been treated like a queen by the Afro-Colombian community here in Bogota. They said it felt good to meet folks from the “Mother land” since that’s their root and I told them it felt god to meet my brothers & sisters from another mother. In addition, this community is so generous and kind. After a week here, I know I made the right decision to come to Colombia and intern with an Afro-Colombian NGO.

Sad day at work today, the president of the NGO I’m interning received a death threat, she and others folks working with Afro-Colombian NGOs and UN agencies were given 20 days to leave the city or die.

In another two weeks, I’ll be giving y’all another update…..Until then ciao!

Budget: Money Talk – Colombia 2009

Below is how money was spent for my 10 months trip across Latin America (Aug 2009 to June 2010). Colombia was the first country, then I went up to Mexico and visited Cuba. I didn’t really do a estimation of how much I should spend. I just went with the flow. Now, I’m much better in creating a budget and sticking to it. I stayed in Colombia for 4 months and took Spanish classes for 3 months at two different institutions. I also took Spanish classes at Nicaragua and Guatemala. Some countries were cheaper than others. By far, Costa Rica, Belize, Mexico and Cuba were the most expensive. Those were the countries where I had to be very strict on how I spent money. Whereas, in countries such as Honduras and Nicaragua, I could afford to pay more for better hostels, take more comfortable buses and eat at nicer places. Panama and Colombia are in the middle tier, sometimes I enjoyed ‘luxury’, other times I was careful on what I spent money on. Below, you will find a breakdown on how money was spent in general and by country/city. Oh, a good amount went towards ATM and Credit Card transaction fees.

Country Total USD Per Day (USD) Duration
Colombia $5,914.78            $53 16 Weeks
Panama $1,148         $32.8      5 Weeks
Costa Rica $294 $49 6 days
Nicaragua $1,679.29 $50 5 Weeks
Honduras $1,110.69 $26.4 6 Weeks
El Salvador $255.48 $36.5 1 Week
Guatemala $951.13 $45 3 Weeks
Belize $277 $40 1 Week
Mexico $902.54 $44 3 Weeks
Cuba $910 $65 2 Weeks
Sub Total $13,442.91
Ticket $1,490.50
Shots & other travel gears   $1,138.06  Included Backpack, medications, travel insurance e.t.c
Total $16,071.47
 *Ticket was Multi-city:First leg: Atlanta – Miami – Medellin (Colombia). Second Leg: Cartagena (Colombia) – Panama City. Third Leg: Mexico City – Havana (Cuba) – Panama City – Guatemala City. Fourth Leg: Mexico City – Houston (Texas, USA)

Colombia 2009: Aug 13 to Dec 12, 2009

Colombia USD Duration
Medellin $4,862.78 3 Months
Bogota $200 5 Days
Cali & Buenaventura $540 2 Weeks
Cartagena $312 1 Week
Total $5,914.78 4 Months
Medellin: Breakdown USD Duration
Spanish classes $1,572 7 Weeks
Home stay (2 meals per day, Laundry & Internet) $1,540 8 Weeks
Belly Dancing $103
Student Visa $150
Others (Food, Entertainment, Weekend trips, Tours, In-City transportation) $1,497.78
Total $4,862.78
Panama (Panama City, Bocas, David, Playa Las Lajas & San Blas) USD 1148
Other (Hostel, food, drinks, transportation, e.t.c) $1,076
ATM fee $73
Costa Rica (Puerto Viejo & San Jose) USD 294
Other (Hostel, food, drinks, transportation, e.t.c) $280
ATM fee $14
Nicaragua (Managua, Leon, San Juan del Sur, Playa Popoyo, Isla Ometepe, Corn Islands & Granada) USD 1679.29
ATM fee $86.21
Domestic Flight $171.33
Spanish class & Homestay $260
Fedex Shipment to the USA $221.83
Other (Hostel, food, drinks, transportation, e.t.c) $939.92
Honduras (La Ceiba, San Pedro Sula, Copan, Sambo Creek, Tela) USD 1110.69
ATM fee $56.80
Other (Hostel, weekend trip, food, drinks, transportation, e.t.c) $673.89
Room & Board $380
El Salvador (San Salvador, Playa El Tunco & Mozote) USD 225.48
ATM fee $5.48
Other (Hostel, food, drinks, transportation, e.t.c) $250
Guatemala (Antigua, Lago Atitlan & Xela) USD 951.13
ATM fee $20.99
Other (Hostel, food, drinks, transportation, e.t.c) $815.14
Spanish class $115
Belize (San Iganacio, Hopkins & Caye Caulker) USD 277
ATM fee $5
Other (Hostel, food, drinks, transportation, e.t.c) $272
Mexico (Mexico City, Tulum, Merida, Oaxaca, Palenque & San Cristobal de las Casas) USD 902.54
ATM fee $10
Tour – (Chichen Itza) $35
Other (Hostel, food, drinks, transportation, e.t.c) $857.54
Cuba (Havana, Santa Clara & Trinidad) USD 910
ATM fee $10
Other (Hostel, food, drinks, transportation, e.t.c) $900

Please keep in mind that when coming to Colombia, you have one very BIG RISK…………….

the risk of wanting to stay 

Okay, I had to steal the official slogan from the Colombia tourism department “Colombia – the only risk is wanting to stay”. This is how I feel right now and if I had not bought my ticket, I might have been tempted to make Colombia my home for the next couple of years…………though I would have problems choosing between my two favorite cities -Cali and Medellin!!!!

My 4 month stay has unfortunately come to an end, I leave to begin my Central America adventure for the next 6 months. Colombia has been great and I’m very glad I choose this country……Below are the things that gave me sooooooo much joy and others that irritated me severely…

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The Joyful Memories…………. 
Medellin: I picked this city to start in because I thought it will allow me to settle in easily than the capital and I’m so glad with the decision. My first impression was like -wow, this is just like the States, very developed and modern. The water is even safe to drink and I drank directly from the tap for the first time ever (I always bought bottled water in Houston), the transportation system (Metro, Taxi & Bus) is well organized and efficient, there is always something to do and the night life is awesome. Medellin is also very environmental friendly – there are recycling bin & trash cans almost everywhere in the city, plus the city is close to some of the best get away spots like Guatape, Santa Fe, Manizales & others. Make sure you ride the metro cable at the Acevedo station. What more can you ask for in a city? Medellin has it all!!

Universidad EAFIT:I was not sure about this decision but very grateful I decided to take Spanish lessons in a university setting instead of somewhere else. This experience has made it possible for me to participate in the Colombia culture, have Colombia friends and much more. The program is so organized and the coordinator -Juan Fernando is so cute and helpful, if you have questions about anything -just ask him & it will be solved. Also with the Spanish program, you can sit in two undergraduate classes to help with your listening skills, be pair up with a conservation partner, get help with DAS, get help with choosing home stay & other accommodation options and meet real Colombians.
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Food & Jugos/Juice: SanChoco is the best meal in my opinion and jugo de Mora (blackberry), de Maracuya (passion fruit), de Lulo, de Tomate (different from the normal ones, these are special breed) and many more are available and they are fresh too. Usually the tipical foods consist of rice, beans, salad and meat/pork/chicken. Also Coca cola Colombiana is great.

Discotecas (In Medellin): wide varieties of places to drink and party in various section of town. Parque Lleras has a lot of Discotecas, bars & restaurant around, Barrio Colombia is also a great spot to party especially if you like Reggeaton & Hip-Hop music, Las Palmas is another section to party in, others are in the Industrial area, Sabaneta and La Estrella area of town. I sure did have fun here.

Host family & Friends: I stayed with two great family while in Medellin, if you are interested in home stay program, contact me and I can forward you any of the two families. Awesome friends both gringos and locals, am glad to have met them. My Colombian friends made it possible for me to appreciate the culture.

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Annoying Things 
Arepa: a staple in Colombia especially common in Medellin however I hated it with a passion. You might like it, so please try it before you make your decision. In Cartagena, they are fatter and have eggs, cheese and meat inside.

Plastic Surgery: OMG, this is like the fashion trend in this country. Okay, it seems like a huge percentage of females has a fake boob and a lot has undergone nose job. I was told by a Colombian friend that girls get that silicone breast while in high school – now for me, that’s plain disgusting.

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Okay, this is my last blog from Colombia the charming, if you ever decide to visit this gorgeous country – keep in mind, you might never leave because the only risk is wanting to stay…………….If you need information on Colombia, feel free to contact me and I’ll be glad to help you if I can.

Now I’m off to Panama and beginning Central America……wish me luck………..


Cold Bogota – Salsa Cali – ? Buenaventura – Beautiful Medellin – !Oh Cali, you will be missed!

I was happy to leave Bogota behind, it’s not that ugly but it is too cold. I only stayed 5 days and I met wonderful people at the hostel – Hostal Destino Nomada. I also went to the Salt Cathedral 2hours away from Bogota and Monserrate. The Salt Cathedral is very impressive – an underground cathedral made completely from salt, if you are in Bogota I suggest you visit. Monserrate has a beautiful view of the city and artisan craft market, it’s great but I prefer the metro cable ride in Medellin. The walls of Bogota are covered with political graffiri and they have beautiful streets in the La Candeleria district – around Calle 11 I think.

So on to Cali I went, the weather was not as hot as I was told by people and the city is very relaxed, everything goes at a slow pace in Cali, I stayed 4 days in Calidad house hostel where I met this loco guy from Belgium – we went to the zoo together. The Lonely planet travel guide book said it is the best zoo in Colombia so my hope was very high, anyways the zoo was not very big nor impressive but it is something to do during the day in Cali.

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I took a side trip to Buenaventura and hoped to see San Cipriano also – the trip to Buenaventura was very bumpy – the roads are very bad, there was traffic because of construction and the route is safe -heavily patrolled by the Colombian army. On getting there, I asked around from a hotel or hostel and I was referred to an hotel in town – I paid more for a room that I would have paid in Cali, Medellin or Bogota for the same class of hotel and the room was very shitty, dirty and had mold on the walls. The hotel was very loud also, the next morning I went about looking for something else. I couldn’t find anything better so I settled for Hotel Estellar Estacion- a very expensive one, at that time I had no choice, my allergies had gone from manageable to worse and I just needed a decent place to chill.

This hotel is absolutely spetacular – its in front of the beach, the cafeteria serves some of the best foods ever, the rooms are comforable and comes with a balcony – offcourse all these come with a price eehn, over USD 80 per night!.

Well left the next day to Cali, but stayed at Pelican Larry Hostel this time around, met more amazing people and the hostal staffs are awesome. Halloween night, we partied – you know clubs in Juanchito and Manga area stay open to 7am in the morning, it was fun watching people, some costumes are 100% ridiculus but well its halloween. I also got the chance to hang out with my friend’s family in Cali, i enjoyed hanging out with them, they are really wonderful people. Cali is a great place to chill, people watch and learn salsa – there is not much to see during the day but a lot at night. The Chipichape mall is the best I have been to in Colombia, at night people go there to drinks because they have bars in the centre area of the mall. I see myself living in Cali in the future, it remind me of my hometown in Nigeria – Lagos. I really wished I would stay in Cali but there I could not find a spanish school there. I changed my mind about studying spanish in Cartegena because the program there was more expensive than Medellin or Bogota and going back to Bogota was not an option for me, so it was Medellin again for a whole month.
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I planned on surprising my friends in Medellin so I didn’t tell them the precise date I would be coming back. I left Cali thursday night and arrived at Medellin 7am friday, went directly to my new host family house and to the Universidad EAFIT campus. I popped out in front of Lexie while she was chatting with Joe, NuNu and Stephan – the surprised look on her face was priceless – absolutely priceless, same went with Juliana, Iris, Violeta, Freddy, Oliver y Nicolas. I felt glad being with my friends again and seeing Son, Diego y Chris again was Chevere. This weekend will be chilled because a lot of my friends are having their final exam next week so they have to study a lot.

There are some stuffs I’m not too happy about but willing to try them. One is my new host family, I was hoping to return to my old host family but the school in Cartegena charges a USD$200 fee for cancellation, thats too much money to waste. The new family family seem nice, it is just the woman and her husband in a house in the middle of nowhere and no wi-fi. The other thing is I will not longer be taking classes at EAFIT, same reason as the previos, the cancellation fee is too much and I will miss the ‘Miss America’ beauty pageant on the 11th in Cartegena. But the other things I am very excited about is I will be returning to belly dancing, I would begin Volunteer work next week.