Friday, September 10, 2010

Medellín, Colombia

I haven’t been here long enough to make any real analysis of Colombia as a whole – but I can say for certain that it’s hard to believe Medellin was once the most dangerous city in the world. It feels exotic and a bit edgy, but not too much of either. I was welcomed off the plane by Pablo Carvajal, someone who I met through a great resource called Couch Surfing. I saw his smiling face and a sign with my name, and was immediately at ease after a red eye flight from LA to this new continent. We rode in his car to a great restaurant where I had my first Colombian meal – arepa (thin bread made from corn), rice, beans, fish, salad and platano (plantain) for dessert. Yes! Back to the tipico meal!

I went with Pablo to his home and met his lovely mother… they were both so welcoming and she gave me a bracelet that I love so much, I’m not sure that I could have picked a better one myself! We went for delicious desserts and then I took the bus into Medellin city center. I went to the apartment of Kevin Post, also a Couch Surfer who transplanted from the US to Colombia. Immediately entered a party which lasted until the wee hours of the night… tested out the Colombian rum (pass) & attempted to dance the salsa (fail).

Checked into Palm Tree Hostel ($9/night, good for socializing, horrible beds) for a few days and have met some very interesting and intelligent people. I feel elated by the new perspectives and stimulating insights. It feels great to affirm once again why I love travel so much! The growth and experiences cannot be equated in other environments.

Medellin is a mountainous city, and three times I’ve rode up different cable cars to the tops of the mountains to have a view over the city. The amazing thing is that the slums are located up the sides of these lush hills, so you get a very close bird’s eye view of an area of the city you probably would never see otherwise! Amazing to see the dilapidated tin roofs, crumbling brick buildings, clothes lying flat to dry everywhere there’s space, kids running around, dogs barking, people cooking, music playing… life is everywhere in this area.

Have wandered all over the city on foot, there are plenty of parks and museums to see. One of my favorite areas is Parque Berrio, where there are sculptures everywhere by famous Colombian artist Fernando Botero. I love art museums because they express the ideology and culture of an area so much more than any words can ever say. At the Museo de Antioquia there are so many Catholic scenes depicted, and of course all the portraits of important people are males with fair skin. This predictable uniformity saddens me – but it is the reality of South America and I know I need to get used to it. There is plenty of amazing art that expresses the real passion of the people here and I loved getting to know it through their work!

Got vaccinated for free for the Yellow Fever, so check that disease off the list for the next 20 years. Went with Pablo to his University while he did some paper work – was nice to be there and have that collegiate feeling once again, but only as a tourist this time. All in all, Medellin has two thumbs up in my book. A nice way to start off this South American adventure!


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