See that? Softer now, no?
Ok more stories. Back in Bogota with the Brothers Sherman.
Well, but first our plane stopped in Medellin, and we still had to make our connection at the other, larger airport on the other side of town. Our bags were stashed at the Pit Stop still, because we didn't care to carry them out West. So we touch down in Medellin maybe two hours before our next flight, and we're on a mission.
Zip-zip, grab our bags, snag a cab, on our way in no time. The driver found the Pit Stop straight off, which was rare; although, after living there for three weeks, you'd think I'd be able to give directions. Again, zip-inside, grab the other bags - here, even had time to sneak a peak at my gmail in order to take advantage of a plastic present Tom had brought for me, from my Mom - and boom, back in the cab and on our way, 90 minutes to spare. No more than half an hour to the airport, no problem.
So, it's a chicken-or-the-egg situation. See, we can't be sure whether the cab's rusty clutch had made this man age prematurely, or if, in fact, the elderly man was just somewhat clumsy, often forgetting what gear he was in, and thus summarily gumming up the gears. We suspect it was somewhere in the middle.
It was funny at first. Until we stopped for gas. Right before he pulled into 4th as we approached a gradual hill. Then, when the huge Airport-This-Way sign suggested we take the first right of a round-a-bout, our earnest friend slowed around the bend two-hundred and seventy degrees, and eventually made a left. I am sincerely convinced he was doing the best he could, and truly hold no malice toward him. I suspect he simply had no idea we were in a hurry. And on the plus side, I got to listen to a whole GirlTalk album, shit I never heard before. Kept me entertained.
As it is, we made it to the gate on time anyway. Of course we did. Ahh but wait, the nice people at ADA, with their magical self-repairing planes, had made a phone call for us back in El Valle, hadn't they? Making an inquiry on our behalf, in case we might miss our connection. But they hadn't confirmed any changes yet, had they? Oh, well yes I see, you can switch the time of your flight once for free. How convenient, good policy. What's that you're saying, we're confirmed on the 9 o clock flight, not the original 6? Okay. No, that makes sense. Thank you. Si. Gracias.
This serendipitous delay led us to some basement diner in order to find the first proper bandeja paisa I ever saw. I've seen better since, but this first time was a glorious event. Beans and rice, fried platano maduro, some form of carne (almost steak) with that sunny-side up egg perched on top, waiting to bleed all over the plate; chorizo (so much more than a hot dog), and the deep fried fat that tastes like bacon (with the name I can't remember), and an arepa, like a flour-colored hockey puck, reluctantly soaking up the left over juices. Here:
Take note: this is a beautiful photo. Everything is happening. The food has been explained, but the salsa de aji is there on the left, next to the Club Colombia beers. Poker, Pilsen and Aguila are the other three most popular beers around here. They are all pilsners and are all generally about a dollar, with 4% alcohol content relative to volume. Club Colombia has 5%, and can be a thousand pesos mas costozo. We were also in the midst of a fierce game of Rummy; those are Tom's points you see splayed out on the edge of the table. I could be wrong, but I do not believe we ever completed this game. It was the first game, however, when cards started falling for me. Although, at the same time, I support Tom's theory that because we switched decks, the cards were finally getting shuffled properly, so the game became more random, thus I got lucky.
We had been sitting, waiting for the plane to fix itself in El Valle, wondering where would stay once in Bogota, when Sherm's old friend Mateo called to insist that we stay at his place. He and his lovely new wife Viviana live on the North end of la septima. As hosts, they were most generous, providing Tom and I fat air-mattresses on the floor, while Sherm had his own room. Viviana brought us coffee before we stood up everyday. There was breakfast, too. It was truly heartwarming to be taken care of so carefully. That first night we - meaning Mateo, Sherm, Tom and me - emptied a proper full-size bottle of aguardiente. Easy.
Next day, we got up and cabbed downtown to Plaza de Bolivar for a Mockus/Fajardo rally. Antanas Mockus and Sergio Fajardo are both former mayors, I'm now told, of Bogota and Medellin, respectively. They were the duo representing the recently-created El Partido Verde in these most recent presidential elections. This rally was their last before the first round of voting. There was some music, but we mostly only heard Mockus speak before sneaking off for awesome Mexican almuerzo. He tries to explain his nuanced views by speaking very slowly, and people find him difficult to understand. It seems he is too liberal, too intellectual for the people at this moment. It was a profound experience though, being in the midst of this, listening to the chants of "La union (beat) hace la fuerza!" This says a lot:
Just look, I mean: the girl on her fathers shoulders, braving the rain and the pain in her shoulders as she tried to hold that green sign up high; the older girl standing next to them, arms outstretched in hope of some undefined deliverance; and the woman on the right, focused, and fiercely pumping the sunflowers in her fist around in a circle above her head; that's El Colegio Mayor de San Bartolome in the lefthand background, El Congreso de la Republica closing the square; and all the way on your right, ladies and gentlemen, let's hear it, Mr Thomas J Myers! Okay, everybody! He and I got lucky our raincoats were the right colors for that rally, his yellow, mine green.
In that first round of voting, Santos and Mockus were the two top vote-getters, among a number of candidates. Santos won something like 49.7%. If he had had 50% plus-one-vote, there would have been no run-off. As it was, there was a run-off this past Sunday. Santos won with 69% of the vote, to Mockus' 28%. In essence, Santos is the conservative choice, and is seen as a continuance of current President Alvaro Uribe's policies. The result was, unfortunately, expected, but it was a step in the right direction, I think. I know many Mockus supporters who did not vote.
For Sherm's final night, there was a reunion of sorts. Sherm and Mateo invited friends from their Fulbright days for a barbecue. It rained all day while Tom and I ran about town collecting the necessary goods for said barbecue. This involved kababs, chickens and bbq sauce, two pineapples, more aguardiente, charcoal and, of course, flowers for our lovely hostess (this was Tom's idea, and scored us big points). Sherm spent the day giving surprise visits to old friends, and Mateo has a job. (There were sunflowers involved in the bouquet).
As it came time to spark the charcoal, the rain was still in the process of stopping. The moment demanded drastic action. Something had to be done, and I believe we all knew precisely what that thing was. There was a laundry room with windows, with tile flooring and the remnant stench, hidden and permanent, of stale, putrid water. Perfect. We needed to seal off the area to minimize the influx of smoke into the rest of the apartment.
The series of pictures explains...
Ahh yes, the deck is better. Rain over, coals hot, Tom and I took over cooking to let all the old companions converse. Perfect spanish moves too fast for us anyhow. Fantastic times. Nothing short of classic.