“Living” in Colombia—Weed, wine and women!

“All journeys begin at home.  That moment when you pull the front door closed behind you is one to relish…like the “glug” sound when you first pour from a bottle of wine.”

I read this line this morning as I was getting ready to write.  It’ s from International Living and Eoin Bassett.  Thank you Eoin it’s perfect to get me rolling. 

When we started our journey in January our goal and dream was to live in three or four places each year.  Traveling is one thing but having the ability to LIVE somewhere foreign is why we are out here. 

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Traveling is so much fun but you always go “home” in a few weeks.  Back to work, back to the comfort zone.  This blog is titled “Our hearts” our idea is to document our travels and truly sink in somewhere and feel like we are home wherever we are in the world. 

The past six weeks we have lived in Medellin, Colombia.  We went to school to continue our study of Spanish.  Going to school five days a week, four hours a day is a routine, a structure of sorts almost like a job.  It gave us a chance to learn not only the language but the culture as well. 

We shop and cook our vegan meals and explore the wines of neighboring Argentina and Chile.  Eating vegan in Colombia is a challenge because the culture is set up around carne, pollo and camerones.  Part of the culture shock for us is; here to eat meat is a sign of wealth and success.  When we say “sin carne” they look at us like we are crazy.

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Here is a description of Colombia from a website called InSight Crime.  InSight Crime is a foundation dedicated to the study of the principal threat to national and citizen security in the Americas: organized crime.  You can follow them on Twitter as well.  @inSightCrime

“Colombia has been in a civil war for  over half a century and the rise and fall of drug trafficking empires, Colombia has made huge strides in improving its security situation in recent years. However, it remains beset by guerrilla rebels and criminal networks, and the Colombian underworld is a potent mix of ideological organizations and their remnants and organized crime where the boundaries between war and crime are fluid. These armed groups and criminal networks are involved in an extensive range of activities including drug production and trafficking, arms trafficking, money laundering, extortion and illegal mining.”  

http://www.insightcrime.org/colombia-organized-crime-news

One of our friends told us that as she grew up everyday was marked with tragedy as a family member, friend or neighbor was killed by gangs either by gunshot or bomb.  Even now she said as celebrations of holidays are marked with fireworks people still cringe, duck and wonder when the fireworks could actually be a car bomb exploding someones life because of a line crossed. 

The bottom line is Medellin and Colombia are still dangerous.  Pablado, where we lived, is relatively safe but outside this little bubble you can find yourself in harms way. Somehow though it does all work for the Colombians who live and work here.  The gangs, cartels and drug lords work together to create a sense of normal in a city that is still recovering from anything but normal. 

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If you travel to Medellin you will find beautiful people inside and out.  This modern and thriving city is full of young people going to work, dressed to the nines in high rise buildings with women wearing high heeled shoes attached to legs and bodies that will make your head spin.  Caroline turns to me with her big beautiful eyes and says…”Where does that booty even come from?” 

You could wake up, look out and think you are in Seattle, Vancouver or Denver.  Just  like these fine cities you will have the pleasure to smell the distinct smell of Colombian Marijuana.  No, we didn’t taste it but the smell is distinct bringing back memories of another day.   

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Medellin, Colombia

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Guatape and “The Rock”

La Piedra Del Penol, Spanish for “The Rock of Guatape”!  The rock shoots 2,135 meters or just over 7,000 feet, straight out of the earth.  The elevation here is 2,000 feet higher than Medellin.IMG_2355

The drive from Medellin is over an hour out of the valley and over the mountains through beautiful countryside dripping with green.  The fincas, or small farms, dot the landscape of rich Colombian soil that grows fruit, vegetables and flowers all year long in this land of “eternal spring”.

In the distance you begin to notice the rock, a mountain jetting from the earth that our guides tell us is four times as larger under the surface.  It is quite beautiful.

Our plan, like many, is to climb the rock’s 659 steps to the top.  The man made steps are stitched into a crevice of the rock and go straight to the top.  The hike is a switch back of cement stairs that climb to the top of the rock. The altitude and steepness of the climb get the heart pumping and the head light.  The view is spectacular with waters in the distance as far as the eyes can see.

We were driven and guided by Juan Camilo and Esteban of All Access Colombia.  They are great guys that will take good care of you from start to finish.  Juan Camilo speaks perfect english and Spanish and when we told him…”Somos estudiantes de Espanol qui en Medellin y en Mexico.  Necesitamos practicar por favor.”  The Spanish flew inside the car as they explained Colombian culture and  told us stories of friends and co workers.  It was fantastic and as we listened we understood.  We are getting this Spanish language.  We are hearing the words and understanding.  I know we will speak well soon!  I know because now when I can’t sleep instead of counting sheep I’m conjugating verbs and thinking in Spanish. 

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Medellin-Steps-The Metro and the Pick Pocket

In Medellin we walk!  No cars, no taxi just walk and the metro to get us in and out of our longer walks.  We set our step goal at 12,000 steps per day which is about 5 miles.  What a great work out at any altitude.  Especially this one.  Medellin sits at 1,495 meters which is just under 5,000 feet.  We just stride on by the honking, noise of the motorcycles, trucks and taxis.  Oh, and by the way. Do NOT expect them to stop for you while crossing in a crosswalk.  Caroline jokes that she hears them step on the gas as we cross the streets.

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Medellin!

We arrived to live in Medellin in mid July for 5 weeks.  Our first seven months in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico were fantastic but we set out on this journey to live in three or four places a year.  We are living here in Medellin and learning here.  We meet people, talk to people and learn the culture as best we can.  The city is clean and fresh especially after a hard rain.  We are feeling at home and relaxed. 

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Medellin, Colombia

We are in school in Medellin at Total Spanish and we are learning new verbs and phrases different from Mexican Spanish.  Both work together well and we continue to learn.   Our teachers are kind and patient.

The barrios are incredible! Including Comuna 13 which was once considered the most dangerous neighborhood in Latin America.  We learned that Hip Hop Art continues to be credited with bringing the barrio back from the brink of crime and drugs.  We met the artists and saw the amazing spray paint art that changed a neighborhood. 

July is when the Fieria de las Flores takes place.  A festival of flowers that fills Medellin with flowers, people of course, music and food.  The Orchid competition and display at the botanical gardens is world class. 

Parque Arvie is an ecological and archeological park in Medellin that sits high above the valley.  Recently a gondola  like tram was built to bring people in to the city from the hillsides and to deliver people to the beautiful park above the city.  Check out the video of our trip down.  Just like a ski lift at your favorite ski hill.  Mine is Snowbird!

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