Wednesday, July 26, 2017

A Dogs Life in Colombia

Colombia has so many colors, which was one aspect of the place that overwhelmed me. The other was the absolute kindness of the people there that was magical in a way I have not experience when traveling south of the border. In particular, it was how the Colombians treated street dogs that I found to be a good indicator of the kind of people that filled the country of Colombia.

The pain of my own dog having passed was still pretty fresh for me, so seeing dogs everywhere was a bit strange. In Nicaragua dogs were thin and hungry, as is also true in Guatemala, and other parts of Latin America I have been in. Here, however, all the street dogs I ran into looked healthy and hearty which seemed a bit strange. Then I got to see people interacting with the dogs.

My guide Hector had a dog come up to him in Finlandia and he reached down and just began rubbing the little shepherd behind her ears. She sat down and allowed herself to be fawned over by Hector, who rubbed her belly and said nice things to her. The dog rolled over with her tongue lolling out of her mouth, easily pleased.

As we walked up and down the streets the new dog followed us into various shops, being a sweet companion on our walk. Other dogs laid in shop doors or followed other tourists and travelers around, and each dog was met with the same sweet treatment. Hector asked if we wanted a snack and took us over to a little cart bar selling empanadas. Hector bought one for me and one for the dog, who sat down happily and ate the meat filled pastry. Then waited a few more moments for Hector to buy us both ice cream.

After the ice cream she finally sat down, contented, and allowed us to go on our way while other people came over and resumed the rubs and pets and general care of her and others. There is something so powerful about a people who is willing to treat all the animals on the street as if they are family pets. It was a very powerful feeling to see how the animals were treated and perhaps the thing that made me think the most about the prospect of moving to Colombia someday.

The dogs stayed in Finlandia and we drove on towards Salento, where we met new dogs, got some street coffee and mulled wine, and watched as the moon rose high over the Andes all with time to get me back to the airport for my hop skip from Pereira back to Bogota and finally all the way back to Chicago, the home I had barely just moved into but was also a place I was happy to call home once again.

Technicolor Colombia: Finlandia and Salento

Machetes, Wood and Lights in the Mountain

The country is perfectly situated in location to offer weather that is just on the cusp of Autumn all the time. The days are warm without being too hot or muggy, the nights are cool and sweet. My driver decided to take us up the wending mountain roads as the sun set to Machete Park, a park he has been coming to since he was a child. 

The colors are neon light and sweet. The taste of instant coffee is a trigger of memories of other countries that I have loved, and little parks on winding roads. We laugh and listen to the local singer who puts on her performance most nights, there to help the local retailers with their sales. She performs like a vaudevillian, like a burlesque singer but with all the trappings of perfect country modesty. She sings her dress and dances, skips around the tables, laughing and joking with the small crowd that has gathered to drink coffee and eat small plates of food in the dimming evening light. 

In the park we sit for almost an hour, just enjoying the music and the coffee and the cool breeze coming up the mountain before we push off to our next location. Hector winds us into a town hanging onto the edges of the Andes, a place he wants me to see, old dark bar that feels like it was grown out of the trees, rather than made of cuts of woods. Hector explains to me in Spanish, and while I'm a bit slow, I followed. Hector is  fan of the old things, the old bars built hundreds of years ago out of polished pieces of wood taken from the mountains. Hector is like the places he takes plots for our journey, a product of his time and place, deeply connected to his country. 

We drive form the bar forwards and up more mountains until we come finally to an old grill at the top of a mountain far out into the country farmlands. We eat sausages and chickens and potatoes and talk about life and the plans for tomorrow. It's practically midnight when we pull to a stop at the top of the mountain to look out over the city of Pereira, sparkling lights in the valley of the Andes mountains. I sleep exhausted sleep and prepare for the adventures of my last day upcoming. 

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The Land of Clouds and Rainbows

The next morning Hector meets me at the hotel and we walk to our destination where I spend most of my day doing what I need to do for the work things. That done I am set free to wander about the streets and find things on my own, which I do. 

I find a little restaurant across from some lovely street art. The art is reflective of the country. Religious holy works. The food is good here, the people friendly. My Spanish continues to get better. Each trip I feel slightly more comfortable in Central America, but Colombia is something very special. There is something about Colombia that is more beautiful than all the other countries I have been in. I wander about the streets feeling perfectly safe. At one point, my backpack (with my work computer) is open and a local runs up to me and tells me and helps me close my bag. 

There is something lovely in Colombia. 

My coworkers tell me that they will be picking me up later to take me to dinner and also to tour the countryside and I think this all sounds lovely. They tell me I will have to wait for awhile, but they will come get me around the evening time. So, I had to the rooftop bar in my little hotel to wait. There I sit and gaze out at the sky. 

The air is pregnant and full of water and fire. Something on the edge of becoming and I am wondering about what it about to happen. I order a bottle of wine off the menu from one of my favorite vineyards in Chile. I feel like Colombia is trying to keep me. 

Suddenly, the sun is shining down hard against the restaurant. There are no windows here, but they do manage to have some window covers to lower and they lower them just in time for the rain that suddenly starts. A fast hard downpour with loud thunder rolling off the mountains, and all of this while the sun still shines. 

And then I look out the window. 

And then I see the rainbow. 

And then I realize the rainbow is the sky. The rainbow is the clouds and the sky. There is no place where the sky ends and the rainbow begins. The rainbow is Colombia and the rainbow is they sky and I am sitting and having my wine in the land of clouds and rainbows.