un fin de semana para recordar, parte uno

by Jacqui

Would you believe me if I told you that here, a whole pineapple costs about $0.50?  And that’s at the expensive market.  A can of imported, gelatinous, condensed, but nonetheless somewhat of a personal creature-comfort soup is more than $4.  It’s true.

The topic of this post is not Foods of Colombia.  I’d expect a well-deserved backlash if it was, since one of the two foods I’ve mentioned is tomato soup.  The food post is coming.  More research is required.  The perfect arepa has yet to be discovered.  I’m still shopping around for unforgettable fruit juices and flaky pastries that could bring a person to tears.  No, this post is about last weekend.  I’ve been working on it since  this morning yesterday morning.  First at a French cafe that played electronic tango and served cafe con leche, then later at home over a mustard, mozzarella, lettuce, and yuca chip sandwich.

Wow.  The tomato soup was one thing, but that last admission?  Raises some serious questions as to my qualifications on food writing, doesn’t it.

Last Friday, we packed our mosquito spray, sunscreen, a deck of cards, and swim suits, and we headed for Rio Claro.

We rented a cabana room with one wall completely open to the jungle.  We danced with swaying palm leaves.  We beat-boxed to the sound of a thousand cicadas.  A gecko skipped across my feet (once while I was awake, and once while I was in bed wondering what sort of creatures we were disturbing at that very moment).  We forgot a flashlight, but luckily Mary brought her blackberry so didn’t have to crawl home in the dark from the lobby to the cabana.  The fresh air knocked us into a deep sleep by 9 pm, and a steady rainfall kept me dreaming.

We fell asleep near the celadon-colored river for which the property is named.

During the night, the rain was busy turning that gem-colored river to a murky tint of tan.  To be serious for a second, the photo below is a visual representation of a very real and common problem in Colombia,  the unfortunate erosive effects of the typical climate on the mountainous terrain.  Well-suited to grow a wide variety of crops (coffee, sugarcane, bananas, wheat, potatoes), but ill-suited to withstand the high amount of yearly rainfall that keeps much of Colombia in a constant shade of green.

The next morning, we drank coffee and ate eggs on green wooden chairs in the middle of the jungle.

We zip-lined in the middle of the jungle.

Do I look dauntless?  Tranquil, even?  I wasn’t.  I was terrified.  My legs were trembling.  Heart was thumping.  I thought I was going to throw up all over our perfectly sweet, highly amused, teen-aged guides in orange, also above.  The same guides who, after dealing with us for forty-five minutes, must have felt inclined to do something a bit more daring.  Here they are floating joyfully down Rio Claro, seconds after they’d soared through a set of decently rough rapids with nothing but life jackets to shield themselves from jagged river rock.  Show offs.

Can you the blue blurb in the photo below?  That’s a butterfly.


Here’s another.

After lunch on Saturday, we walked to the front of the property to wait for a bus because that’s the way to get back to Medellin if you don’t have a car or a motorcycle.  We probably could have hitchhiked, which we considered for a solid seven minutes (just kidding, family).  We stood by the side of the road and waited for a bus, any bus, to rumble around the corner.  One was scheduled to pass by at 1:30, mas o menos.  Everything is mas o menos in Colombia.  It means more or less, approximately, give or take a few.  It allows for a nice pocket of pliability and usually enough time to locate a couple of beers for the journey, however long or short.

The bus stopped and the co-captain leaned out the door to wave us in as we trotted with our backpacks across the road.  He greeted us with a toothy smile, called us reinas  (or queens, in Spanish), gave our beers an approving nod, and we were off before we had a chance to identify open seats.  Which brings me to the topic of seat neighbors.  Sometimes you hope to sit next to someone interesting who will change your life with illuminating, forthright conversation.  The kind that makes you see, so crystal-clearly, that yes of course he wasn’t the one for you, that someone more suitable will surely come along, and yes, within the next three decades, that timing is everything and although you’ve heard it seventeen thousand times before, for some reason unknown to you, this is the time it actually sticks.  That the choices you’ve made in life are up to this point have made you who you are, don’t you see?  Fear is an acronym for False Experiences Appearing Real.  Or, my personal favorite, and a much less philosophical definition:  Fuck Everything And Run.

Sometimes you hope to sit next to someone who will barely acknowledge your existence.

And sometimes, you hope to sit next to someone like Ranello.

Ranello could rock a unibrow like no one else.  It rose and fell in an amusing cadence as he spoke and joked with us in broken English.  He pulled out a trophy and proudly told us that he’d won it in a competition involving improvisational singing and joking with audience participation.  He said he knew a version of English, called Bullshit, before he let out a big belly laugh that reverberated through the bus and quickly infected both Mary and me.  Pretty soon we were all laughing together.  It is my belief that if you can effectively tell a joke in a language that’s not your own, you have achieved an enviable level of social success.

Parte dos, to come.

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