We stopped in Giron on our way from Cartagena to San Gil.
San Gil was a mere 2 hours away. But we decided to break the journey after a sleepless night on the nightbus and explore this colonial city, a 15 min drive away by taxi from Bucaramanga bus station.
After checking at Las Nieves, a cute hotel facing the main plaza in Giron, we went out to look for food. It must have been around the time the school was out because there were a lot of kids in school uniform walking around on the streets.
I figured we should enlist their help in finding a cheap, local place to get food.
All it took was a single ‘Hola. Hablas ingles?‘ to one of them and all of sudden we were surrounded by friendly, chattering, kids in uniform eager to know every single thing about us.
They singled out a shy kid out of the crowd as the best English speaker who didn’t look too pleased to be in the spotlight.
‘What’s your name?’, we asked in English.
‘My name is Juan.’
‘My name is Jill, and this is Jack.’
‘Thank you!’, he grinned, and melted back into the crowd.
He said thank you after introducing himself! How cute. We started walking together and the barrage of questions started.
“Where are you from?”
“Are you married?”
“Where are you going?”
We indicated that we’re looking for food.
They got all excited and gestured that we should follow them. And we did.
So there we were, being led through Giron with its white washed colonel-style buildings, across a park, to the non-colonial part of the town where these kids apparently live in. In the meantime the conversations never ceased.
Sometimes multiple threads would be going on. I’d be talking to a kid about what her parents do (or trying to), and another one would grab me and start pointing at all the snacks on a stand talking slowly as if to a baby, ‘A-re-pas. Con hu-e-vo y queso. Eso es em-pa-na-das.’
Next we passed a fruit stall and the lesson continues, ‘Ba-na-na, man-za-na, ki-wi.’
They were laughing at our broken Spanish, and they were laughing when we couldn’t understand their Spanish. I think they were simply delighted to be the ones playing teachers for a chance.
Then they indicated that we’ve arrived at the restaurant of their choosing.
We were expecting your usual restaurant selling ‘set lunches’ filled with locals eating their lunch ya? Or something similarly authentic or at the very least, South American.
But we’d never expect them to take us to a Chinese restaurant.
Jack and I looked at each other, ‘I can’t believe they took us to a Chinese restaurant. Do you think it’s because I’m Asian?’, I wondered. Jack only shrugged.
Even though eating in a Chinese restaurant was the last thing we had in mind to do in Colombia, it was too late to back out. How could we, these kids looked mighty proud of themselves as if they’d just shown us the lost city of El Dorado.
They even helped us decide on the menu. See, we’ve mentioned somewhat in passing that we liked ‘camarones’ – shrimps. They spoke in rapid Spanish to the propietor and I heard ‘camarones’ mentioned many times. I think they were giving the owner instruction that whatever happened, we had to get our shrimp fix.
And as quick as they gathered, they shouted ‘Ciao’ with a huge smile and disappeared into different alleys towards their homes. Their good deed of the day accomplished.
So the propietor, who I’m sure was slightly confused at being invaded by two gringos and very noisy half a dozen kids, smiled awkwardly at us, pen ready.
‘Arroz con camarones? Dos?’
Here in Giron, the friendliness of the Colombian people come in pint size. But they’re potent. Sometimes you’ll never know where a single ‘Hola’ would get you.
Where to stay in Giron: I don’t remember the name, but the hotel we stayed was right on the plaza (60000 COP).
How to get there: 15 min taxi from Bucaramanga bus station – 7500 COP
hahhahhaaha this is soooo funny … i showed this post to my American husband and he thought this is soo funny, too … He wondered if the cook is Chinese or Colombian. Chinese food is everywhere …
Are you guys ever going to eat Colombian food?? Haha
Seriously, huh? 🙂 I have to say, that other than aji, we haven't really been too impressed with the food here, but luckily the friendliness of the people and the landscape so made up for it.
Looks like they're trying to feed you for a week! 🙂
It lasted us for 3 meals… and it was the half portion one. So much food! I wonder if the serve the full portion in bucket.
It's always fun to interact with the kids in a foreign country. We had some great conversations with some kids in Peru last year. One little girl in the main plaza of Cuzco tried forever to get us to buy her little knitted animals. She was a real saleswoman and I think she was all of 8 years old.
So how was the rice? It actually looks really good.
Kids can be so much fun. The rice turned out to be really good. Tons of shrimps and it was so much food it lasted us for 3 days.
What a great experience you had! Those kids were fantastic. The best pizza I have ever had was in Geissen Germany! Strange but true, so I'm not completely surprised by Chinese food. Hope the food was good. . .
It was great! Lots of shrimps and large enough to feed a family. Jack's a big fan of pizza (and he's going through a pizza withdrawal right now) – haven't really found a pizza place here in Colombia yet.
That's so cute! And the rice looks delicious 🙂 Was it as good as the kids thought it would be?
It was really good. See, we were expecting the kind of fried rice we'd get in the states? Lots of rice with wee little shrimps? Noooo…. there were so much shrimps. It was amazing!
Awww, so cute! I love interacting with kids. Most of them are so happy to talk if you just smile at them.
That's so true. And they'd giggle and pretend to be shy for like 5 secs…. then the non-stop barrage of questions and chatter would start. At least that's how it's been like for us here. Love it.
I'll definitely have to remember this place if I make it to Giron. Did you eat all that…wow!! Those kids knew what they were doing!
Nooo…. we didn't. There was so much leftover. Yes, those kids were so cute and definitely knew where to get a good deal on arroz con camarones 🙂
Kids can be so awesome! What an awesome story… how was your arroz con camarones?
How funny and cute story it is!
@koji – thanks. Those kids were cute 🙂
@allison – it was great! It so much food.
Maybe the kids thought you wanted universal food and not local food. Looks scrummy though! Kids can be funny when you are round and about. Others time they can be very annoying!
Sounds like you guys are having fun! I also find it interesting to see how "fusion" cooking becomes, I have an Indian friend here in Toronto, and he's been telling me how Indians morphed Chinese food into something else, so if ever I find myself in Mumbai, that's something to check out. How was the shrimp fried rice?
It was delicious! Fusion dishes we've experienced so far have always been interesting. We actually do have a chinese – indian fusion restaurant in the Bay Area. Great food!
Sounds like you had fun talking to the school kids. =) being chinese, i was pretty amused seeing how a mexican restaurant in tijuana cooked chinese food. they definitely adapt the cuisine to their own culture (like lime juice was put on every dish). Hehe… I guess you and Jack got your shrimp fix!
Lol – the funny part was that we didn't even want shrimp that much to begin with. We just kind of mentioned we like shrimp in passing – and the kids took it upon themselves to take us to a place that sells shrimps. The food was great though – so no regret.