For those of you who still don’t believe my account of the bizarre mood swings of Bogotá weather, Vicki over at the excellent Banana Skin Flip Flops has a post that pretty much perfectly sums it up. I may or may not have also refused to buy an umbrella for like a solid month, on the principle that eventually I would win and Bogotá would realize it needed to stop raining so much. Obviously, I lost.

Also, you should probably just check out her blog anyways, if you have any interest in Latin America/cool photos/a healthy bit of sass with your travel stories. It’s definitely a worthwhile read.

Food Friday: Ma-Ma-Mazorca!

It’s windy. It’s chilly. About every twenty minutes, it starts pouring like someone up there has a serious vendetta against south-central Bogotá. It is not exactly ideal conditions for a parade — or indeed, for any living creature to be outside, besides maybe amphibians.

one of the better excuses to consume lots of butter on a daily basis

Perusing the kernel-y offerings on a slightly more meteorologically appealing day.

But hark! Suddenly a glorious smell comes wafting down the street! I turn a corner, and there it is, shining in front of me like the Holy Grail: a mazorca cart! Technically, it’s smoking and steaming more than shining, but in this kind of weather, it’s really all the same.

So what, you ask, is mazorca? Some kind of mystical substance that provides shelter and warmth on the dampest of high-altitude afternoons? Not exactly, but something like that, and something that should be familiar to most of us. Hint: in Gringolandia, we call it corn-on-the-cob.

Okay, yes, corn on the cob is not exactly a new thing to those of us who grew up with summer in North America. Watching the sun go down from the comfort of a plastic chair at a barbeque while covering your chin with butter is practically a July rite of passage, after all. But for most of us, corn on the cob is a timely, seasonal food. It means grills, and lingering sunlight, and it’s only around for a few months, just long enough to remind us of what we’re missing the rest of the year.

waiting, waiting, waiting

The hard work of fanning the delicious, delicious flames. People who own mazorca carts must have awesome triceps.

So while mazorca is, technically, the same as corn on the cob, it doesn’t have nearly the same connotations. This is partly because Bogotá never feels like August in New England, but mostly because it’s readily — and cheaply — available in all kinds of places. No need to drag out the grill and lighter fluid when you can find someone else who’s doing your dirty, sweaty work for you. And don’t get me wrong — it is sweaty business, standing over hot coals, turning ears of mazorca over and over, waving smoke out of the eyes of your customers.

In addition to the lack of Memorial-Day-related-implications, mazorca also isn’t quite the same, taste- or texture-wise, as the corn we’re used to. Most of us in the U.S. eat primarily sweet corn — while mazorca is delicious, the kernels definitely don’t burst with flavor the same way sweet corn does. Mazorca kernels are larger and a bit tougher, almost starchy. The best description I can offer is that it feels like eating an ear of corn that’s halfway through the process of turning into popcorn. And when that concoction is slathered with butter and salt and handed to me in a napkin, steaming with heat, I can’t think of many things I’d rather be eating on a cold, windy, rainy afternoon.

bet those cows are jealous

Or on a sunny afternoon! That works too! Equal-opportunity mazorca eater, here.

Snitches, swans and snacks

death and destruction

Nobody warned me the apocalypse was scheduled for today

So, it’s the beginning/end of yet another week here in sunny hailing Bogotá. Oh yeah. There are massive, intense hailstones smashing against my windows at this very moment. It’s only vaguely terrifying, really.

Hailstorms aside, though, it’s been a pretty good week. I still absolutely love the kids and (almost all) the teachers at my school. I feel like such a nerd, because I wake up in the morning and I’m actually excited to go to school, just because it’s so much fun being with all the kids. I don’t even mind waking up before 6 a.m. to do this, which is just as shocking to me as it undoubtedly is to those of you who have known me for more than a week. The thing about getting up early here, though, is that it’s not nearly as hard as it is at home. Since it’s so close to the equator, Bogotá gets about 12 hours of daylight pretty much year-round, which is glorious. It also means that the sun rises by 6 every day, so I get to walk to school in sunlight, rather than in horrible cold darkness, as it would be this time of year at home. So a point to Bogotá, there.

Which leads us to the chicken-or-egg issue of how early everything starts here. I don’t know whether it’s a result of the lovely constant daylight schedule or that it just happens to be convenient that the sidewalks are visible when everyone’s walking to work, but people get up outrageously early. The public transportation systems start running before 5 a.m., and they’re PACKED by 6:30. Like I said, my school starts at 7, but most teachers are there by 6:30 — this retroactively gives high-school me nightmares. And not only do people have to get up early just to get to work, but they need to give themselves extra time to get ready, because most Bogotanos don’t leave their houses unless they look perfect. One of the other volunteers lives with a woman who’s a cosmetologist, and she gets up at like 3 a.m. to go to women’s houses to get them ready for work. That’s right, ladies. Here in Bogotá, you’re supposed to get a blowout and your makeup done before you even head to the office. Guess I’m never going to fit in here.

wait! keep reading!