Monday, January 25, 2010

Sorry we were late, but...

There are lots of reasons why one might be late for an appointment in Colombia. It might be because you had to shower in a bucket because there wasn’t any water coming out of the spigot. Possibly it’s because of traffic - getting stuck behind large trucks on a narrow, winding road on the edge of a canyon that competes with the Grand Canyon for impressive heights and vast vistas means you have to wait for a chance to pass and the courage to do so. (There are few guardrails and the ones that are there are more for looks than function.)

But this is my favorite reason: yesterday we had to wait until a horse which had gotten loose was captured because it was standing in the middle of the road between the houses in Barichara. A few days ago it was the cattle shown in the picture above which impeded our forward progress. On the way to Bogota we were slowed down because of a herd of goats in the roadway had gotten free of the tethers which had them grazing along the roadside. There is plenty of visual entertainment while traveling in this charming country.

When driving on a back road over the hill to San Gil, we saw several uses of the Mother Mary statue which caught our eye. Unfortunately due to the wretched baud rate on the modem we use, we won't be able to post the pictures. One was planted in the middle of a pond very much in need of water and the other one was erected beside the road where there was a sharp turn (missing it would mean a quick trip down a very steep incline to the valley below) and several headlights had been placed at her feet, possibly as a reminder to make sure your lights are working before navigating this particular stretch of road at night.

In a week we head back to the U.S. to conclude some of our business affairs and to appeal to the Colombian Consulate for a retirement visa. We have determined that living here, while challenging on many fronts (language, culture, services) it is also richer and simpler at the same time. I discovered more time for my artistic energy and Jey-hu found a little more time - after dark - for reading just for pleasure.

There are 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of darkness. People in the country tend to go to sleep around 7 or 8 and get up at 5 or 6. In the ‘metropolis’ of Barichara, everything gets pretty quiet after 9 p.m. (including the church bells) and it all starts up again around 5:30 a.m. I have to say that the country lifestyle is more appealing from the noise factor. We have been staying at a casa in Barichara to help the owners out by supervising some construction projects while they are away. It has given us a chance to determine that metro living is NOT for us. Here is a list of some of the noises which on one day - all at once - nearly put us over the edge:

  • motorcycles, especially those where the operator is racing the motor
  • Roosters crowing
  • fireworks, mostly rockets
  • dogs barking, then dogs howling (at the fireworks)
  • crying children and laughing children - just outside the door of the casa
  • electric saw trying to cut through Colombian wood (incredibly dense & heavy!)
  • someone hammering something hard, probably Colombian wood
  • cars with squeaking brakes
  • trucks with loud horns
  • church bells at 5:45 a.m., followed by more at 6, 7, 8 and 9 (yes, it was Sunday)
  • male voice repeatedly calling out something that sounded like “mee-lah” and another
  • male voice at full volume singing off key to Karaoke featuring loud Colombian music
  • insect noises - like crickets chirping under the bed and
  • mosquitoes buzzing around our heads

I’ve probably left a few out... but in the campo the list is shorter: crowing roosters, bellowing bulls, birds chirping and bug noises. All the city life noises can be heard out there but they are moderated by the dusty 2.5 kilometer distance so they are don’t have the same impact. And while we have bugs and mosquitos in the campo, I have to say that there seem to be more of them in the pueblo. And we don’t have netting here, so it’s hard to determine if the missing netting is the key to fewer bug bites or that there just are more of them.

We both agree we are going to miss the people we’ve met and the smells of the area which are generally very agreeable - blooming things, cooking things, and earth smells. We won’t miss the loss of inches and pounds that has happened here! (We’ve both lost at least 15 pounds.) I intend to continue studying Spanish and getting better at it and even Jey-hu has been able to learn a few phrases and said he realizes he has to learn a few more. Never having studied a foreign language of any kind before, it’s harder to wrap his mind - and tongue - around unusual sounding words. Just ask him to say “tree” in Spanish...

(This view is from San Jose Alta, on a road high above the campo looking back toward Barichara, approximately 6,000 feet.)

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