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.

118. Bite me Colombia.

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iconic image from Studio 54

After a year when I have faced more challenges alone than the first series of Survivor, I’ve taken myself off to recharge.

So I’m in one of my happy places, 39000 feet in the air on my way to Colombia, via Houston.

Im re-watching a documentary at the moment about Studio 54 . I started it ten hours ago just before I skilfully mixed a lorazepam with a couple of glasses of Tattinger, so some of the detail first time around is sketchy. It’s okay, a bit of sketchy detail never hurt anyone but the falsely accused. And I’m taking a holiday from accusing myself of anything. It will make a nice change.

I wish I’d been there, at that time, in that club, for just one night.   A cultural phenomenon, Studio 54 was the catalyst of a societal  king tide which swept together the famous, the fringe dwellers and the ordinary but beautiful people into one hot mess.

The only photograghers at Studio 54 were official; they were there to document the cultural phenomenon at play. It was life before botox, flllers, facelifts, snapchat and Instagram live. So it displayed a different kind of beauty than our warped eyes have become accustomed to, and a different kind of freedom to play.

I hope this isn’t 125 minute viewing window isn’t going to make Bogata’s New Year an  anticlimax.

I don’t think it will. Hot mess Studio 54 styles should be easy for me.  I’m already a bit of a mess. I just need to turn up the heat in a place where almost no-one knows my name and burn the year off.

Come on Colombia, let’s do this.

117. Karaoke Me.

So we were out with our hosts, both attractive young thirty somethings who had the keys to the town.  And our hosts were determined to create memories for us, even if that meant we couldn’t remember it in the morning.

We started at Yardbird, an izakaya that specializes in chicken yakitori. Sake and hoots of laughter. How did they know these were my two favourite things to do on a Wednesday night?

Then they took our Varga virginity, via a suite of espresso martinis and an Asian elvis impersonator who serenaded Sarah like his tips depended on it.

Finally it was karaoke time. I don’t know where we were and I didn’t know who we were – until the microphones were handed out and the first song was selected.

Then we swiftly assumed our Karaoke personalities. Here’s how it fell.

The Blazing Rock Star: definitely Yannick. Most young male karaoke singers rule this genre and he was no exception. His picks came from the school of hard rock. He was the group’s emotional rock – he belted strong rhythmic 
songs that shifted us forever.

The Ultimate Big Fan: Ground control to Major Cam. An instant signature song. As he was singing, I instantly realised there is an undeniable cheekbone connection between him and Bowie.

The Bubbly Pop Idol: Sarah Sarah Sarah. She grooved and she moved and there were times when I thought she must have been a close friend of Taylor Swift’s – how did I miss that – and it was only a matter of time till she popped up on social media in a posse with voices like her own.

The Passionate Diva Wannabe: that would be me. Can I sing it without looking at the lyrics? I’m in. Is it a big emotional ballad? Watch me weep.  The crowd loved me, no really they did. Sarah even said we should start a band. This is a compulsory declaration at any good karaoke session.

We were in the lounge for hours, could’ve been days. We were also in the bathroom. And I got lost in the hallway at one point. There were a lot of Hong Kong date night couples serenading each other in private rooms. They were super cute, in a Sofia Coppola matching wool jumpers in the aircon  kind of way.

By the time we got out it was tomorrow and: yesterday all our troubles seemed so far away.

Spoiler alert: we haven’t started a band.

 

 

 

 

 

 

116. How to sweat champagne

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Turning up is everything 

I am sitting on a sofa in an apartment in Hong Kong. Wednesday morning. I was up yesterday morning at 330 to catch a flight here and once here had to immediately inhale a lot of champagne and other associated stimulants.

It would have been rude not to.

Staying in New Zealand time, it was a cool 24 hours later that I finally tipped into slumber.

Five hours after that I was awake and rearing to go, so I googled a hot yoga class and was downward dogging by 715am.

Captain Hindsight would suggest this was a decision that made no sense whatsoever. But of course I only ever invite him to the party after the event.

Truthfully? Probably still three sheets to the wind. Probably. Definitely.

My downward dog was wobbling and trembling, my mind impossible to steer in any direction for long. I even sweated, not something I’m famous for.

Did I leave when I realised I should have been stopped at the door by the yoga bouncer?  Of course not. I’m no quitter.

I pushed through. I pushed through.

Its two hours later now and I feel incredible.

Shall I tell you why? It’s called Healthonism. I’m not even making this up. Turns out that researchers have found out that  both alcohol and exercise trigger reward centers in the brain. Another study found out a positive connection between exercise and drinking habits, especially if the subject had a good workout on a particular day and rewarded themselves with a drink.

I did it the wrong way round, I’ll give you that. But I did it.

 

115. Thinking about the handbag.

It’s downstairs right now. The handbag.

By downstairs, I mean in Yves St Laurent. I’m in the Kris Lounge a floor above it, killing five hours at Changi Airport.

Should I get it?

I work hard. God I work hard. But I have big mortgages to show for all that hard work. So big. And I need to pay them off so I don’t have to work so hard.

Of course I have just come off two weeks working hard to simplify my mind, which should have an immediate and direct correlation to my life – a life which doesn’t need another handbag in it.

Right Jill?

I read a fascinating piece of non-news recently centred around a piece of research that identified the top ten items that give women a ‘buzz’ when purchasing.

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Some basket case paid 12,000 pounds for this.

Handbags, of course, were the winner on the day. Because handbags are basically the crack cocaine of the fashion world. You buy your first good one and you’re addicted forever.

Second on the list was shoes.

For fucks sake, they didn’t need to pay a researcher to tell us Daily Mail readers this.

The one thing that I thought was vaguely interesting is that underwear is down the list at number eight… but it was the winner of the most spontaneous purchase award if there is such an award to be given. I thought that was just me, but it turns out I’m as common as synthetic lace.

I’m giving myself an award right now. I’ve been in the Singapore Airlines lounge for two hours already and I haven’t been up to the bar. See how I’m simplifying my life already?

Or maybe I’m just making room for the bag.

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SHELL I?