Monday, 5 February 2018

Time for a holiday!

It's a Monday morning and I'm looking ahead to the week. On Thursday I go to Bogotá for 2 days and then to Santa Marta for 4 days. I bought my tickets for the flight to Bogotá with my Avianca LifeMiles so it cost me just the admin fee of $10. I plan to visit the Immigration Office to apply for my visa and Cedula (ID) but I'm getting cold feet about buying or renting a place here. Maybe my best plan is to wait till October and see how I feel then, there is no hurry. But I am very happy here. I've met lots of people but I've only really made one new friend, a young girl called Mayerlin (like Madeline in English). We went out a couple of evenings ago and ended up in one of the oldest bars in Pereira (photos). Mayerlin chose a small upstairs room. A "space" would be more accurate!

Actually it was getting dark outside, the photo gives a wrong impresssion.

She seems to like my company and we're going to Santuario, her home town, when I come back from Santa Marta.

I have never been to Bogotá before so I will have the opportunity to visit one or two places such as galleries and buildings of interest. I booked into my favourite hotel, Ibis which is in the centre and close to the museum.
Then I booked a flight with Viva Colombia from Bogotá to Santa Marta which is on the Caribbean coast not far from Cartagena de Indias where I went with Nini last year. I will tell you all about it here. The flight was very cheap, about €90 return. Avianca was more expensive. Santa Marta looks far more interesting and beautiful than Caratagena which is basically a port. Santa Marta is the oldest town in Colombia, where the Spanish first landed. So it is sure to be steeped in history, I'm looking forward to that. And also spending some time on the beach, of course! It will be a nice change to indulge myself without my "family" of Nini, Alex and Sofi in tow. In any case, I have virtually lost contact with them after Nini's last tirade against me. So it is bye-bye, sadly. And that certainly influenced my decision to remain in Spain. So Nini did me a favour! In any case, the money that I give them stops this month because it is now up to them to sink or swim. Neither of them has a job and there is no help from the state.
I have no regrets about sticking with Nini for so long, despite her angry rants. In a way, I have used her. And she clearly has some kind of problem -full of bitterness and anger about.... I know not what. I have come twice to this beautiful country and I would never have done so without first knowing her. And now I am feeling much better, maybe I had a mild dose of flu during January, I don't know.
And on the subject of feeling better, I went on my longest bike ride so far. By the standards of Girona with my 75km round trips, it was not far. The sensor for my bike computer fell off in the bag in transit and it needs a couple of nylon straps to fit it again. And then yesterday, I lost the computer itself, it fell off the handlebars without my noticing (it connects wirelessly to the wheel sensor). So I will have to buy a completely new set. Or maybe I won't bother. I have attached one or two photos.
Before I came here, I noticed the main road which goes around Pereira and I looked at in in Google Street View. It is called Variante Condina. But it is not easy to get to. All the roads in the region of Cuba go down precipitously into the centre rather like spokes in a wheel, there are no cross country routes because, in between there is a deep ravine. That is Colombia for you! So I have to go down, hands gripped tightly around the brake handles and then I have to climb back up the other side. My objective was the roundabout which I can see clearly from where I live. From there, I take a very steep but short climb (photo) up to an area called Montelibano, Mount Lebanon, I guess. It is like a plateau. Then I take another short climb (I am very near to Cardal where Nini lives) and then finally I arrive at the interchange with Variante Condina. I went a little further up the hill but it was mid-day and very hot, so I turned around and went back home.

There is access to Variente Condina here.
One way is to Armenia. The other direction, back to Pereira.

to Armenia, 50km

back to Pereira

My Scott carbon-fibre bike which I brought from Spain
A typically steep incline!

I know... I've used this photo before!

A change of subject... I remember writing about this but maybe I never published it. A couple of weeks ago, in the centre of Cuba I saw an Indian woman carrying her baby to her chest. She was wearing the most beautiful red dress, as if to appear at some special event. She was small and very beautiful and very Indian. I was very struck, very moved by seeing her and I asked Nini about how they were viewed in the community. She replied that it was very low because "they don't work". Maybe I asked the wrong person, I want to learn more, to meet some of the people who were the original occupants of this country.
And then I started thinking about the arguments that are flying around the UK about the British colonies. And I thought about the Indians in the USA, Aborigines in Australia. My problem with the students (because it is mostly students who are kicking up a storm) in the UK is that one can't re-write history and there have been many benefits from colonisation, not only Spanish and British. However, it was their country and much land was stolen and thousands killed. But it was a different era. I feel that they should be held in high regard. Unfortunately what tends to happen is that the original occupants of the country have no work, they live in settlements which are subsidised by the government and in many cases descend into alcoholism. But judging by the woman's dress, it is obvious that she takes great pride in her appearance.
Another encounter......
Then today, I was in the centre of Pereira meeting an American couple, about my age I would guess. They signed up for my Meetup group meeting this evening but, since they were the only ones who said they were coming, I cancelled the meetup and met them for coffe in Lucerna which is a beautiful enormous coffee shop and restaurant near to Plaza de Bolivar. Also there is a patisserie. I didn't know it existed so I am grateful to my friends for discovering it. Afterwards, I spent the whole day in the centre, firstly in Plaza Victoria, then I went to Parc Arboleda which is a shopping mall. I bought some clothes in Stradivarius, my favourite shop in Girona. Basically, it sells women's clothes but many of them look fine on me too. Er.... well some are borderline!

On my way back to Plaza Victoria, there is a pedestrian bridge with a strange aluminium walkway and sitting by the side were two Indian women with 2 children and two babies. They weren't actively begging, just sitting there on the ground. One man walked by with a cup of mango slices and one of the children ran up and begged a slice from him. But generally they were ignored. So I sat an a concrete block nearby and watched them. And then a young guy walked up to them and opened a plastic box with cakes and one or two other items which I guess he had planned to give them. As he walked away, I approached him and asked him about them. He said that they were helped by the government and lived in settlements as I already knew but he said that the women on the bridge were displaced but I didn't understand him very well. It didn't sound too good. We chatted for a short while and then parted company. I asked him about the forthcoming elections in March but he was very sceptical about any change. Juan Manuel Santos cannot stand for re-election as President because he has already served two 4-year terms. By the way, as part of his education in his youth, he attended the London School of Economics.
Later that afternoon, I bought two cups of fruit slices, just over €1, and gave them to the women. I usually ignore people begging or at least give a blessing but, firstly they weren't holding out cups or asking for money. And secondly, these are the direct descendants of the people whose country this was. Maybe I am getting a little too idealistic on this subject, but it moves me that they have maintained their integrity and culture. Many of the people passing by are also descended from them of course. I often think about the mixture of European and native descent in modern Colombians but I don't think they give it much thought. The guy I spoke to said that Colombians have a short memory about their cultural heritage! Mayerlin, if you read this, put me right if I am mistaken and I will change the text!

1 comment:

  1. I like reading your slices of Colombian life. Enjoy the trip.