Starting Day 3 here in Medellin, Colombia, and still definitely enjoying my time in this beautiful country. Medellin feels quite a bit different than Bogotá and Cali. Overall, the traffic is lighter, the accents are clearer and the air is cleaner. People are generally quite friendly and I don't feel nearly as out of place with my short haircut as I did in Bogotá. Medellin is supposedly known for it's beautiful climate- unfortunately, I have seen more rain than sun here but perhaps that will change in the next couple days.
Thursday morning, I got up relatively early with Juan's parents, enjoyed a delicious breakfast of arepas, cheese, and fresh squeezed OJ, and rode in the car for 1/2 an hour through the rolling countryside of Antiochia (another name for this region), which to me looked like I imagine the hillsides of Switzerland would be- quaint cottages, grazing cattle, mountains in the background, very picturesque. We arrived at Juan's sisters highrise apartment on the outskirts of Medellin where we hung out most of the day, enjoying the company of the very cute 7 month old, Matias.
Lunch was served- pasta with meatsauce and ketchup (…?) and a couple hours later, Natalia picked me up. Natalia is the wife of Sam Farley, one of my father's former Masters students in the Jazz Studies program at UC. The past couple days I have been staying here at the house they share with Natalia's parents. Natalia's father is an architect who designed their beautiful rustic home. I'm staying up in the loft accessible only by the quirkiest flight of stairs I've ever seen.
Thursday was Natalia's birthday and we celebrated that evening with drinks, dinner and and a jazz jam session at a local bar. While Sam played, Natalia and I chatted with two very entertaining tourists- one from England and the other from Spain. I think that was the hardest I've laughed on this trip so far and it felt really good.
Yesterday I decided to play tourist a bit. I met up with a Guatemalan guy named Sergio who I had actually met at the hostel in Cali. It was nice to have company for the day. We visited the beautiful botanical gardens where I would say the two most interesting sites were a sculpture of tires (they sounded like a mechanic shop was inside as they deflated in the sun) and a gigantic iguana!
From there we had lunch and I tried the “bandeja paisa,” the traditional plate of Medellin complete with tiny portions of rice, beans, arepa, ripe plantain, chicharrón (fried pork rind), chorizo, fried egg and salad. I wasn't a huge fan of the chicharrón or chorizo (it's a little sacrilegious to say that around here) but at least the rice and beans were delicious.
Sergio and I then visited the planetarium which turned out to be pretty cool, complete with a museum of interactive exhibits and very knowledgeable staff.
Finally we hopped on the metro (which by the way is significant cleaner and calmer than Bogotá's Transmilenio) and headed to Plaza Botero, a park near the main museum downtown with dozens of sculptures by Fernando Botero, an artist famous for his portrayal of fat humans and animals alike. We walked around the town square and stopped for a coffee and pastry snack. I have found that I make it a goal to always stop in the church inevitably present in the center of colonial towns. No matter how chaotic the downtown of the city may seem, I always find quiet and a feeling of safety inside a church. Even if just for a few minutes, I find I can recenter myself and take a moment to pray, often for my loved ones at home.
I parted with Sergio and made may way back to Sam and Natalia's place. I was feeling motivated to walk 2.5 miles up the side of the mountain from the metro stop to the neighborhood where they live, and was a sweaty mess by the time I arrived- but the exercise felt good. Last night we went to Sam's students recital at the university where he teaches. We then enjoyed dinner at a very touristy restaurant called “Tres Típicos” where I tried “ajiaco,” a chicken soup with plantains, avocado, rice, capers, and cream- delicious! At this point, it was pouring rain so we decided to call it an early evening and went back to the house to drink a few beers and play cards (Sam and I taught Natalia how to play Rummy).
As I write this blog, I'm sitting out in the beautiful garden behind Sam and Natalia's place, listening to the sound of birds, rain drops, and Sam practicing piano. Suddenly I feel like I could be sitting in my own parent's backyard, listening to my father practice in the basement. Feeling a little homesick…