The last couple days have been a relaxing respite from the chaos of the weekend. While I was sad to say goodbye to Nidia, it was really nice to have my own room at a beautiful hostel in the middle of a quaint colonial area of Cali and just a few minutes walk from downtown. El Viajero Hostel, at just $20/night for a private room, was complete with a swimming pool, bar, hammocks, wifi, clean hot showers, friendly staff, and free yoga and salsa classes. Couldn't get much better than that in my opinion.
After a restful night, on Tuesday I met up with Nidia downtown for a little shopping. She left around noon to pick up Flora from school and I spent the rest of the afternoon exploring around the centro histórico of Cali. I took a long walk, and got a feel for my whereabouts in a typical colonial town (I have a feeling I will see a lot of these on my trip) complete with Spanish style architecture, a central plaza and a couple beautiful old cathedrals. Later in the afternoon, I came back and sat by the pool where I met a couple from Adelaide, Australia, Simon and Renee. We hit it off right off the bat and made plans to cook dinner together that night. Before dinner however, we decided to check out the free salsa lesson.
Those of you who know me well know that I love to go out salsa dancing and have been doing it for a while. While I'm not a fantastic dancer, I have a fairly good grasp of the basics, or so I thought. Cali, Colombia is known as the salsa dancing capital of Latin America, so I figured some lessons would be good to learn the Colombian style of dancing. The class was taught by two handsome well-dressed Colombian men who began the lesson with some Zumba like dance moves. From there, they proceeded to “teach” the class by demonstrating some crazy show-style salsa steps that hardly anyone in the class, myself included, could keep up with, complete with shoulder shimmies, pelvic thrusts, and fancy footwork. I had a moment of panic that this was how everyone danced salsa in Colombia; my dancing would be no good here.
After the class, sweaty and invigorated, Simon, Renee and I sat down to Simon's homecooked (okay, hostel-cooked) vegetable stirfry. It was delicious and it felt really good to just eat vegetables and rice. Oh, and peanut butter (packets I bought in the JFK airport) and apples- a treat!
After dinner I decided to take the plunge and see what the salsa scene in Cali is really about, and if the dance steps I had attempted to learn in the class really applied. I went out with Juan, a friend I met on couchsurfing (http://www.couchsurfing.org) and checked out a fancy club called Siboney. To my relief, absolutely no one in the club was dancing steps anything close to what had been taught in the salsa class. In fact, the dancing was even more simple than what you typically see at a salsa club in the States. I fit in just fine. Juan and I had a great evening dancing and swapping stories. Turns out he has a brother in Santiago, Chile as well- another contact for me!
Today I spent most of the day with Simon and Renee. We attended the free yoga class at 1- a pretty standard class taught in English by a woman from California. The class could have been considered bikram or hot yoga as it was easily 90 degrees in the room in which we were practicing. After yoga, we grabbed a late lunch ($4 for a full meal at the cafe up the street) then lounged by the pool in the afternoon to cool off. Turns out Simon and Renee are also heading to Ecuador, a few days before I go, so there is a good chance we will meet up again in Quito.
Tonight I caught a quick flight to Medellin Colombia where I was greeted with open arms by the parents of Juan Montoya, a friend of mine I knew in Cincinnati and also one of my dad's former students. Since my arrival, I have been treated like a queen. The couple welcomed me into their beautiful (and huge) home with a glass of wine, an arepa, and the hospitality for which “paisas” (people from Medellin) are well known. Tomorrow I will be meeting up with another one of my dad's old students, Sam Farley, and his wife in Medellin where I will be staying for the next few days.