Looking back

Looking Back…

Well, it must be a sign that I am ready to go home as I have the urge to cook things. The last few days I have come back from the market with groceries and plans to cook supper in the hostel. Once it happened in an outdoor kitchen under a palm palapa and then again in a kitchen next to a cathedral with windows flung wide open to the sounds of the choir rehearsing. This was followed by the gentle cooing of pigeons roosting in the church towers. It was a nice change from our previous lodging where tipsy squeals of laughter and the pointy sound of stilletos on stone echoed in the hallways well into the night .

Tomorrow we leave for home. There are so many things about Colombia that I’ve loved and feared but have not been able to describe. We are in back in Bogota after one last bus ride through the mountains in the dark. A 16 -hour trip delayed by streams of semi-trailers and gravel trucks working in the pitch black along half-built roads carved into the mountainsides. Yesteday’s news informed us that FARC guerillas had closed vital roads in the area but had declared a moratorium on kidnapping and still planned to honor recent promises to release all hostages in the next few weeks. Despite their reasssurances I did not sleep a wink.  Very, very, very complex politics here.

Every bus-ride was memorable and some were seriously unnerving, made even more so by damn frequent roadside crosses. Did I mention the one where the bus crashed? We were left unhurt on the side of the highway and a policeman flagged down a ride for us… or the one where the driver had to add water to the radiator every few miles until finally the bus filled with steam and all the women pretended to be having a facial? Or the one where the ancient bus hurtled down a busy highway for hours while the scar-faced, cartel look-alike attendant hung out the door hollering for more passengers? Then there was the one where the minivan driver paused… for just a few seconds… under an overpass to accept a ‘package’ from someone waiting in the shadows. We made a concious effort to avoid the driver’s piercing eyes in the rear-view mirror. Yet, we continue…

While travelling these roads I often remembered high-school physics class as I frequently had the opportunity to note the abscence of the ‘angle of repose’ on roadside embankments… hmmm… this road is merely a ledge is carved into the hillside with remnants of landslides here and there. There is a very good reason to avoid road travel during the rainy season.  Enough about the roads already…

A few days ago we had the priviledge of being in the company of the Gaumbiano people, one of the most traditional indigenous people in Colombia and who continue to struggle for their rights to land and water. They live in the hillside villages surrounding the town of Silvia and arrive to market every Tuesday in chivas, colorfully painted, open-sided buses with benches that are jam-packed with people, produce, animals, both inside and on top. How lucky to be in Silvia on market day ! The Guambiano traditional every-day dress for men is a ‘crown-royal’ purple skirt trimmed in pink. Women wear the same colors in a shawl. Most older women have bobbed their still-black hair, while the younger ones wear it long, and both men and women top off such fine style with a bowler hat. I will definitely send a picture!

In closing I will share a few more things I have noticed and learned about Colombia… it has large middle-class population who rarely smoke cigarettes, wear reflector vests while riding motorcycles, don’t tend to use drugs, have wonderful graffitti artists, have an internal struggle which they are trying to overcome, cultivate hundreds of varieties of potatoes, are mostly very patient drivers, have tiny bakeries on every block that manage to bake bread  from scratch in a 12 x 12 foot shops, combine old and new without blinking, mostly use public transit….

Once again, buenos noches amigos… Gabriel Garcia Marquez celebrated his 85 th birthday while we were here and Randy and I celebrated our 40 th anniversary this evening … and …. a special greeting for Darry… see you soon. 

Love Monika and Randy