Monday, October 5, 2009

Simple Pleasures

The past two weeks have been rather, well, normal - by my new Colombian standards at least. My life here now has a nice rhythm of its own to follow. Tuesday through Friday ticks right along with school activities and classes (although I´m missing my primary and secondary schoolers – school is back in session in a week and I can´t wait). Friday night as my last class gets out at seven, I head to the main plaza on campus to meet up with my friends and the beat chills out a little (not like it was ever too hectic to begin with, not to worry), generally morphing into salsa or merengue before the night is up. Saturdays have been days to hang out in Cali while the last two Sundays I´ve been up at the crack of dawn to head off hiking and getting a breath of fresh air accompanied by mountain views of which I will never tire, all at a nice vallenato pace. Finally Monday arrives, chatting on Skype in the mornings while planning the week’s academic activities and catching up on my reading list in the afternoon with a rather jazzy vibe. Not to say that things aren´t going to change, but it sure is nice to finally have a routine.

I continue to love the hours in my conversation club. We´ve been looking at some North American art and setting up a bit of an art gallery in the classroom with works from the likes of Hopper and Rothko. Many of the students have never been to an art gallery or museum and I´m hoping I might have piqued their interest a bit because there are a couple of modern and contemporary art museums in the city to visit. This upcoming week I´m showing the cute and quirky rom-com Waitress for our recently inaugurated English film club, what I´m hoping will be some nice lighter fare after Trainspotting. I am going to try to organize my clubs for the beginning week around themes from the movie and on Columbus Day and all its implications on Thursday and Friday.

I have added a couple of other teaching ventures to my schedule as well – teaching my new preacher´s wife English a couple hours a week and helping my new gringa friend with her español. It´s been good to get the experience of one-on-one tutoring as well as teaching a language that isn´t my own! Katie, the new American in town, and I have become fast friends. She works for CIAT, an international agricultural development think tank based here in Cali and I´m really interested in her work. All goes well with the amigos colombianos as well. The university has a talent show at the end of the month and although our actual talents are still being worked out, you can be sure we will all be participating.

As far as cultural diversions go, I stopped in to see the biggest Colombian tango show of the year last Wednesday and it was exhilarating. I talked enough about how I feel about Latin dancing in my last post, so let´s just keep it to I loved it and I want to be able to move like those tangueros. I´ve also been hitting up the hiking trails a bit as you can see from the pictures in my last two posts. I hit el cerro de las tres cruces hace ocho días (eight days ago here meaning a week ago. Colombian use 8 days to mean a week and 15 to mean two. Can´t say that wasn´t a little confusing at first), and Kilometro 18 yesterday. Km 18 sits, as its name connotes, 18 kilometers outside of Cali up in the cool breezes of the mountains. The two highlisghts of our day for me were, not too surprisingly, the food and the beautiful fincas with bright blooming flowers and green mountain top views for as far as the eye could see. Sevane, Katie and I went with a Colombian friend Clara and more or less munched our way along out 10 km hike. The fare included arepas de choclo with cheese in the center which is the rough equivalent of fluffy corn break, hot chocolate and coffee with cheese to dip and or melt inside the piping beverage, and a variety of juices from blackberry to lulo. You already know I´m all about the tropical fruits, the hot cocoa with cheese I´m going to have to get used to – but it was certainly interesting and really, can I dislike anything involving chocolate?

Amongst my various reading I have come to the close of my first attempt at Gabriel García Márquez en español. Over the past few weeks I read 12 Pilgrim Stories – a dozen short stories about South American and Caribbean nationals on journeys of various lengths in Europe. Although the occasional tale was light and uplifiting, the majority were quite tragic. Most involved female protagonists meeting their maker or going mad and many had a tinge of Márquez´s famous magical realism where the seemingly incredible happens amidst a story which otherwise strictly adheres to the natural laws of this world. Not to say I didn´t enjoy these more tragic tales, but as I sit here in reflection, the three stories I enjoyed the most dealt with simple pleasures – a man admiring a sleeping beauty on his transatlantic flight, barely exchanging a word but remembering her for the rest of his days – two brothers being raised in landlocked Madrid, far from their seaside Cartagena, turning their parentless apartment into an imaginary underwater getaway – a Brazilian woman living in Barcelona and teaching her dog to find her future gravestone all by itself so it can visit her after she´s gone. These stories capture for me a truth I am living. Some of the simplest things bring me great joy here in Cali – whether that be a one time encounter with a person who gripped me so I will never forget – a fantastic journey in my imagination to a place once traveled or soon to be known – getting to know someone new, coming from an entirely different place and discovering a myriad of commonalities. Every day there is something small to take, appreciate, and be thankful for.

A look to the future shows my last week without volunteering at Fundación Libertad y Paz and the Corporación Educativa Popular while figuring out how to permanently fit in some French classes I´ve started and some weekly yoga I´m going to try out this week with Katie. Next weekend the Fulbright ETA whose working in Cartagena is visiting Cali and on Sunday and Monday (puente!) and then I´m heading down to colonial white-washed Popyán! I´m quite excited about my first visitor to Cali and our long-weekend travels. Can´t wait to get some of you down here for a visit – you know you want to!

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