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This post is a kind of half-way reflection on my journey so you will probably notice that the narrative is changing from travelogue to philosophy!! A lot of it has been written on the morning of 25th. Late afternoon in Spain.
A friend of mine in the UK was concerned that I am being taken for a ride! And to that I reply, I know... I am! I knew that months ago. And I am having the time of my life! One or two arguments but that's no surprise bearing in mind the difference in age and culture. And that a very large part of the relationship (if not all) is about money. I know that.
Without having Nini as a contact, it is unlikely I would have come here. For a while I toyed with the idea of Argentina but it is an awful long way. I never considered Colombia until I met Nini online. And after the Christmas weekend, I have a new friend! So please don't worry about me, I am having lots of fun! And Milena who comes in to clean my flat is like an agony aunt (paño de lagrimas), she is so kind. We chat on WhatsApp sometimes.
I don't expect Nini to love me or even like me very much because, on more than one occasion, I have used a word which to her is anathema. "NO". It is like thrusting a crucifix at the devil! (When I said "no" to her staying at the disco in Cartagena, she said later that she was shocked that I said it.) I am not even sure I like her very much. She has the most beautiful body, I hope I can say that without sounding lascivious. Maybe that is why I find it so easy to forgive her!!
People read about scams where beautiful girls, often in Ukraine (and here too of course) offer friendship plus a little more. And then they fleece the poor guy. Maybe they steal his bank details and he loses thousands of euros. There is no "little more" here and there never was any possibility of that.
Sorry, it is rather an ugly photo! I just had some lunch after some food shopping in la 14. Trout is very popular here and that is what I had. The lunch also included a fish soup which unfortunately I can't show you now, plus a lemon-flavoured drink. And that came to 12,500 pesos which as you know by now is a little over 4 euros.
One thing that has suddenly dawned on me! Very few people are smoking, maybe the taxes are very high. I smelt marijuana last night but hardly anyone is smoking. Quite remarkable. And very few people are overweight. And alcohol is restricted to relatively small areas of the city, for example, close to Plaza Bolivar which, like all the main squares, is currently illuminated by millions of LEDs for Christmas (lots of current!) In most of the food outlets such as the one in the photo, there is no alcohol. It is wonderful because I have completely got out of the habit of drinking although I will be doing some catching up tonight!
I have a practical joke for Nini. I bought a small bottle of aguadiente for the party tonight but I will give it to her on the condition that she puts it down her bra (you have to read the post from Cartagena to understand the joke). Maybe I will wait until she's had a few drinks in case her sense of humour is in short supply. Or maybe I will get cold feet and just give it to her. Maybe she is not so good at laughing at herself! I have no idea how much she told her family about the last night in Cartagena and, if she did, it would have been her version. But sometimes things which were slightly painful at the time are very funny on reflection. In fact she was wearing a strange wrap-around top with a bare back which served as a bra, so I just gave her the bottle and told her of my plan. I don't think she quite understood me.
I have jumped forward a little. I spent the afternoon of the 24th relaxing and listening to music on my Bose Quiet-Comfort headphones. Organ music by Franz Schimdt. Violent key changes, wonderful - it would have suited my mood for later! The noise cancelling is amazing. The rumble of the traffic around the bus station descends into total silence. I can't remember if I wrote about it before but on the long journey from Barcelona to Bogotá, the battery in the headphones rapidly went flat and I didn't have a spare. I thought desperately what else in my bag used AAA batteries to no avail. The next time I came to use my laptop, I took out the wireless mouse. Do'h. And what does it use for its power?? There is a slot in the headphone case for a spare battery so I will make sure that is occupied on the way back. But I expect to sleep for a lot of the time.
At 7.15pm, I picked up the bags with the presents and took a taxi to Nini's home. I arrived a little before 8pm. I gave Nini a bottle of perfume for her mother which she had asked me to buy for her at la 14 earlier that day. It was 25 mils. She gave me 20. "25", I said. I never saw the other 5 mils. It is less than 2 euros but my mood dropped. The straw that broke the camel's back came to mind.
And what made things a lot worse was that I was very anxious about an online friend of mine in Europe who had texted me in Skype that she had been out with friends, maybe drinking, and apparently didn't know how to get home. I said to take a taxi. She said that her friends wouldn't let her go, which I didn't understand. I didn't hear from her until the next morning. I was writing.. "where are you?"... etc. to no avail.
So, as the evening passed and the family chatted away with Nini tending to take control of events, I became more and more uncomfortable. "What am I doing here, among these people with whom I have nothing in common apart from the language?" I wrote previously that I enjoy spending days with Nini but in the evenings when she dresses up, she looks like.. well I think you know what I mean! Heck, she's 22; it's allowed. So that makes the relationship totally crazy. The same happened in Cartagena. What relationship? The truth is that, if I give her what she wants, then she ends up having no respect for me. Despises me even. That is what has happened here. It doesn't take much brain power to work that out! But I am sure I have said this before, I don't wish to criticise her. It is her country, they are her friends and family. I am the outsider and it is wrong to judge her by my European standards. If anyone is at fault, it is me. But I don't feel too bad about that!
And she is welcome to the help with the nursing college, and the clothes, the holiday in Cartagena, the phone. I am not super-wealthy but I am well-off on account of not having a family (neither a car nor a mortgage). And having lived through the 80s and 90s when everything was up-up. If previously I had had a family it would have soaked up far more than I've spent here by an enormous factor. But here, Christmas 2016, it will stop.
The plan was to dance till late, maybe sleep an hour or two. But I rapidly went off that idea (was I ever on it?) and started thinking about an escape route. Sometimes I can live the high life but not when my spirits are low. If I left it too late, I was thinking, I would not be able to find a taxi. So at 11pm, I took my leave of them. I took my bag off the bed and was about to explain things to the group who were around a table outside. But Nini met me by the entrance as I came out and I received a stern lecture about how I had been invited... That was to be expected. I tried to explain that it was pretty strange for me to be there in the first place, so it was not so strange to be leaving. I translated "fish out of water", into "pece afuera de la agua". So I left quickly and never got a chance to talk to the group, especially mum who is very warm towards me.
I walked to the top of their road which you can see in the post of 7th December and within about 10 minutes I was on my way home with an enormous sigh of relief. When I got home, I texted Nini to explain to the others why I left, because I got some strange looks from the family. I received no reply - her phone was in her hand always - so I deleted the message after about 10 minutes and went to bed. Still no reply from my friend in Europe. I woke at 4am, looked at my computer, no reply. But by then it was morning in Europe. "where are you?" I wrote. I went back to bed and slept till 7am.
Imagine how I would have felt had I stayed. I feel fine this morning, physically. Rather upset with my European friend who finally replied at 5am and vowing to keep my distance from Nini and her family for my remaining 2 weeks. Up to the Christmas weekend, I was committed to delivering presents at the party last night but now I can walk away. It would be ironic if I fell out with two friends in one night. Haha, maybe I will go back to Cartagena for a week and soak up more of the Caribbean sun. And I don't want to get too fond of my lawyer friend! And, although things are much safer now, she warned me that I would have to be more careful in Medellin than in Pereira. And it is a 5 hour bus journey. In 2 hours I could be sitting by the Caribbean again.
I have a footnote which doesn't really belong here. It is about forgiveness. I am sure I wrote about it previously. But Nini has the idea that only God can forgive. But I said that it is the person who forgives. God gave us that grace, to be able to forgive. So sometimes, I feel that, even if we have made up, there is still a lingering fire smouldering! That happened last night when I left early. Hey, it's allowed, it's not a hanging offence. To me it is one of the most important parts of a friendship, to be able to forgive. Otherwise it continues to cause pain..... to both parties.