By Teresa Thuy

Colombia 2014: Day 5 – Feliz Año Nuevo

Colombia 2014: Day 5 – Feliz Año Nuevo

We have reached one of my favorite days in Colombia. New Year’s Eve! All of the family came together and danced, until the wee hours of the night (and the dancing did not stop, until 5 a.m.!) I had to partake in all of the traditions, but there was still much to do before the party started. I invite you to read about our last adventure of 2014!

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First, we stopped by Mauricio’s grandma’s house, where at the center laid the showroom.

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She had the prettiest birds that were not afraid to bite my long fingers off.

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So striking!12.31. colombia5

This timid toddler was playing, while his mom cleaned the floors.

12.31. colombia70Lulo is a fruit that tasted like the hybrid of an orange and a pineapple. AMAZING!  I had to stop myself from finishing the fresh jugo de lulo, or lulo juice, for a quick photo. I could not get enough of the abundance of the sweet, exotic fruit there.

12.31. colombia80The petals of these flowers looked like leaves.

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Don’t worry. We’ll be back, abuela!

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Monta llantas – Tire changing valley

12.31. colombia130We received the fastest curbside assistance for a borojo, which is a drink of milk, brandy, papaya, cinnamon, honey, and chontaduros, or peach palms. As you can see, gas was expensive. Take the amount, knock off a 0, and divide it by 2. That was approximately the price for a liter of gas.
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Downtown Cali

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Motocicleta – All riders have the license number of their bikes on the back of their helmets.

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 Street carts galore

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An array of belts in every color, texture, and width

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El Centro de Cali – You can find practically anything and everything for super cheap within these walls. We were told not to flash our cell phones and to wear our purses in front of us, since people move quickly on these bustling streets.

12.31. colombia19I bought a cup of salpicón, a cup of chopped fresh fruit in watermelon juice, for our shopping excursion. Shortly after, we saw a cooler of paletas, or ice pops of fresh fruit, in many delicious flavors. Take a big guess on which flavor I chose. Ding ding ding! #flavoroftheweek
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Then, we went to the Chipichape Shopping Center, which was built in old railway warehouses. This shopping center resembled an American indoor mall with the addition of a 3D movie theater and gym. Fancy!

I had my first Colombian hamburger at Hamburguesas El Corral. I ordered the Callajera, which was filled with mozzarella cheese, shoestring potato chips, ketchup, and mayo. So tasty!

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Some businesses closed early to prepare for the new year, while others were out of wood chips. We were determined to find some to fill our Año Viejo. After many stops, we thankfully found a garage that still had some!

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Everyone had their Año Viejos out on display. These were strategically placed, by some teenagers, in the middle of a four way street. Because these were in our car’s way, we were forced to stop, and they approached us with cans in their hands asking for lucky change for the new year.

12.31. colombia250We made one more visit, before we headed back. Can’t begin the new year without a deep clean! Cleaning is a must to rid the house of last year’s regrets and welcome a fresh start.

12.31. colombia420We, including my closest puppy pal, gathered around with the cousins, before an exhilarating street bike ride!

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Cousin Juan David tied the ends of his old jeans and shirt and stuffed them with wood chips. Then, we placed some fireworks sporadically throughout, added a hat and tie, and ta-da!! El Año Viejo! Cousins Nicole and Julian were ready to celebrate.

Once the clock stroke 12, we lit him up. Symbolically, this is a way of burning the old year’s regrets, anger, and failures, and welcoming the new year’s improvements, hopes, and resolutions! Love that!

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Ana was getting the food ready, since we decided to eat before midnight. T.M.I. ALERT! Another tradition is wearing new yellow underwear, a superstition that brings prosperity into the new year. Since my sister and I learned of this that day, we purchased and washed a bright pair.

12.31. colombia34Let’s chow down!

12.31. colombia33You know I love to eat!!

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Got the champagne poured.

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All of the family was inside, and the countdown began. 5-4-3-2- midnight! Everyone gave hugs with a kiss on the cheek and a “Feliz Año!” The grandmothers embraced each other with tears in their eyes. What better way to spend the last and first days of the year than in the arms of your loved ones!

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We ran outside to watch the show. In the background, you can see the other Año Viejos that lit up the streets. Since this was our first Año Viejo, during construction, we wanted to be safe and placed only a few fireworks in the effigy. Normally, these guys are supposed to blow up with a strike of a match. The head blew up after the initial light, and the fire went out. *crickets*

It took a few more lights, douse of alcohol, and an hour and 15 minutes, before it completely burned. Cousin Mary said it was “the worst Año Viejo ever”, and Tío Misael called it the “poorest Año Viejo”. High five, kids!

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A few ladies of the evening: Ana with her mothers and sisters. Let me tell you, Ana’s mother is a dancing machine. She danced with all of us, until 5 am! Happy to bring in the new year with my sister in South America with an amazing family!

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Ana dancing with her brother, Tío Pacho. The house was filled with over 40 smiling faces. We danced salsa and bachata all night long and simply enjoyed each other’s company.

New Year’s in Colombia was one of the most memorable experiences for me. Coincidentally, today is the start of the new year in the Vietnamese lunar calendar. Happy year of the goat! Vietnamese New Year, or Tết, is a big, week-long celebration in the Vietnamese culture. This is the perfect time for families to return home for reunions. I loved how family was just as important in their New Year’s celebration.

FUN FACTS!! Some Tết practices include giving new, lucky money in red envelopes (li xi) to younger family members and children, visiting with gifts and wishing longevity and good health to the elders, and wishing a Happy New Year to everyone! There are many more traditions that I hope to experience one day in Vietnam! 🙂

So, forget about the troubles of the past year, because this year will be better. I wish all of you, “Chúc Mừng Năm Mới”, or a happy new year filled with good health, prosperity, happiness, and love!!!


Teresa Thuy

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