122. The basic moves for me.

To get to Cartagena we had to go via Cali.

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I thought this would be me but it turned out it wasn’t. Stoked.

Apparently it’s the sporting centre of Colombia which, as you can imagine, thrilled me to the core.

So I wasn’t excited about a Cali stopover. I thought it might be like Hamilton, a sprawl you try to get through quickly. I was wrong.

We were there for a short time but in that short time we did something very right.

We went dancing.

My Colombian friend can dance. I think he picked up the moves in utero.  I don’t know that I can claim the same for myself. I’m not unco, but I’m a long way from being invited to audition for Dancing with the Stars.

I researched the spot for us. And we lucked in.  Salsa Pura was having a ‘Social’ I was told, that very evening.

A Social seems to mean the gloves are off for a couple of hours and everyone smashes it on the dance floor. Then there is a show. Then more dancing. Social dancing.

My friend taught me the basic moves and surprisingly I picked it up quickly. We joined the pulse of the floor.  It’s sexy as hell. I like it.

121. The perfect speed.

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My travel companion and I walk at two remarkably different speeds.

Of course, there is no universally correct speed for walking, unless you’re about to miss a bus or are taking part in a walking meditation.

Both of these things I’ve done and I have to be honest and say I’m more comfortable with the former.  It’s my nature.   I don’t want to be missing busses willy nilly to achieve this, don’t get me wrong. But if I can get somewhere fast I’ll likely take it over slow any day. Even on holiday.

I know right, what a pain in the fucking arse.

(That said, I’ve been flat on my back on a lounger on the hotel terrace for the last two hours. I’m doing nothing, really slowly today).

My friend, on the other hand, enjoys the walking meditation style of personal transportation.

There’s been some compromise, mostly on my part. You don’t speed up this straight edge Colombian easily.

Over the last couple of days, however, I’ve discovered that nature makes it easier for us to find the middle ground.

After a crazy few big city style days in Bogota and Medellin, it was sweet relief to find ourselves standing on the fertile coffee covered soil of Armenia on Saturday.

We had booked a half day private coffee farm tour  and ended up in the passionate and capable hands of Sergio from Expedicion Café (links to follow, WordPress is glitching out in Colombia).

So lucky.

I will forever be happy to pay handsomely for the perfect coffee after learning what a parlarva there is in getting a bean from sprout to mouth.

The farm was small and stunning, dripping in fruits, flowers and other vegetables as well as an astonishing range of coffee bean. The forth generation farm owner  Santiago joined our tour and complemented Sergio’s extensive knowledge with his own encyclopaedic resource.

The land worked it magic. I slowed. My friend quickened.  Nature was the winner on the day.

The tour ended at a café, where Santiago served us all a variety of espresso, with tasting notes,  and fresh fruit from the farm.

A perfect day at the perfect speed for both of us.

120. On the run in Medellín.

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We know these stories of Colombia before we visit: Pedro and his cartel, the comunas with the gun-toting slum lords, cocaine on every street corner.

On announcing this trip to friends, the two primary responses I got involved either cocaine or my personal safety.

I’ve been in Medellín for the last few days, and I can report from the front line that the epicentre of Colombia’s violent history has moved on.

It was only 25 years ago Time magazine dubbed it ‘the most dangerous city on earth’. Even 10 years ago, violence  still reigned, civil society had been destroyed and no one seemed to know how to put the city back together again.

Now it’s becoming famous for one hundred other reasons; it’s public transport, parks and public places, the eco-árbol (a tree-like structure that acts as an air-purifier) and the spectacular Orquideorama for growing orchids. The street art is out of the world and its everywhere.

We stayed in a hip neighbourhood  El Poblado, in an achingly cool hotel and we were surrounded by  an incredible array of bars, clubs and restaurants.

The only problem was the food I’d eaten before I’d arrived. Too much meat for me.  My stomach was less than interested in keeping anything on the inside of my body for the duration of my time in this reinvented city, so it was nil by mouth for me.

Trust me to be the only girl left on the run in Medellín.

119. Modern Family 2.

49612789_2432675060139250_4460221084746121216_nModern Family has always been a favourite sit com of mine.

Never in a million years did I think I’d be starring in the second version of it – involving one kiwi and a bunch of Colombians, instead of one Colombian and.. you get the picture.

My Colombian friend has a cool 31 years under his belt.  His dad is perhaps three or four years older than me. His dad’s girlfriend is 28. She has a child around 6. Grandfather is perhaps ten years younger than my dad.

Before I left the village on New Year’s Day, the grandfather called me into his room with my friend, who had to translate.

My friend couldn’t stop laughing at what his Grandfather’s advice was for me, then finally found the words:

You have an underage one there. But I like you. Look after him.

Not really part of the plan at all, but man I can smile sweetly when I need to.

 

118.Transmitting happy without words for 24 hours straight.

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Colombian grandfather and me.

 

I’ve been thinking a lot about my amazing New Year’s Eve experience in the small town two buses away from Bogota.

(I’ve been told off quite a lot about spelling both Colombia and Bogota incorrectly, by the way, with a passionate Latin tongue. So, I’ll be watching that in future)

I spent over 24 hours in the bosom of my friend’s family- probably about 40 of them.

Of that group there were three who could speak English. And I have about four phrases in Spanish; they take approximately 30 seconds to run through.

But I was a guest and they wanted me to be happy. So, I had to transmit happy without words – for quite an extended period.

I have to say they made it easy for me. I walked in the door and was immediately gripped by a dozen hugs from a dozen people, big passionate bear hugs with no escape.

Funny, I’m not much of a hugger really – but a good hugger makes it easy for anyone right (and uniquely not negotiable).

My friend was the chef for both of the big festivities, New Year’s Eve dinner (which happens at midnight) and New Year’s Day barbeque (so so much meat), so I really had to entertain myself.

You know, it’s not that hard to transmit happy; I’ve been trained by my dogs for years. Four simple things I have learned from them:

Be grateful you’re there

Assume the best of everyone

Smile a lot

Eat anything you’re offered

I also didn’t turn down any dances, even though 40 sets of eyes watched my every random move and I’m weirdly self-conscious about dancing without some kind of stimulant on board.

In this occasion I also had to wear what was offered as well, as hosts Isabel and David were particularly concerned I would be cold overnight so with no shared language they bought me the most ridiculous fluffy pyjamas from a local stall. I’m talking next level ridiculous. (There will be no photos of the pyjamas).

They made me look like a giant fluffy toy and there was much hilarity from the whole group. Initially I thought they were patterned with pink and blue polka dots but on closer inspection they were dog prints.

Which perfectly completes this little story.

117. Superstition is the poetry of life.

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I’m back in Bogota after being part of an extraordinary set of New Year’s Eve  celebrations in a small town called Facatativa, two buses away.

I was invited by my Colombian friend to attend his family celebrations, and in a heart beat I was in its epicentre.

New Year’s Eve here is full of superstition and ritual, and I kind of loved that.

They asked what New Zealand’s rituals were and I thought back to all the Queenstown ‘count downs to midnight’ I’ve attended where I slightly feared a bottle on the back of my head or a splash of vomit on my shoes. I didn’t have much to offer as you can imagine.

In Colombia, if I want to travel a lot, I’m supposed to run around the block with a suitcase.

If I want prosperity, I need to wear yellow knickers.

If I fill my pocket with lentils, and reach for some at midnight I will not go hungry in the year ahead.

If I really want to clean the slate from the year I’ve had, I need to set fire to a scarecrow kind of stuffed dude, also at midnight.  Burning him to cinders takes with him the remnants of what I want to leave behind.

I didn’t have much notice of course, but I gatecrashed someone else’s burning man and evaporated the feelings I didn’t want to take with me into 2019.

You can laugh all you want at the rituals and superstitions of different cultures, but when they’re part of a storyline that’s generations old and helps shape and inform the structure of important times, there’s something altogether magical about them to me. Poetic even.