A Travellerspoint blog


Thunder and Dogs

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We heard thunder for the first time in a long time today. It gave the usual thrill. Reminded me of when we were in Camiguin, caught out in that rainstorm when we went to get dessert. We walked back on the beach with no flashlights, our way lit only by periodic flashes of pink lightning, and Chris so scared he wouldn't speak. I thought it was beautiful. At every strike I paused to look, but not for very long, driven on by his seemingly furious fear. Lucky for him that his fear becomes a quiet fierceness. Mine is all panic and gasps, tiny screams. Like today, when we encountered the barking, growling dogs on the narrow trail, and all I could imagine was them lunging and sinking their teeth into our arms and legs. Chris snapped at me to stop looking so scared--my body was the very picture of arrested flight--but of course I couldn't and was only made more nervous by his admonishments. It is always this way with me and the dogs of Latin America. I am 5 times their size, but I know and they know it wouldn't take much to defeat me. Well, if Chris can be afraid of lightning, can't I be afraid of dogs? Four people died in Mexico City recently from maulings by stray dogs. I never thought to be afraid of a dog until our travels (except for when I read Mo Yan's Red Sorghum). It could just be bias, but I think my fear is more reasonable than his (though perhaps more counterproductive as well--unless lightning, too, can scent fear). I haven't thought of a solution yet. Maybe a stick. Or some bread?

Posted by chschen 16:00 Archived in Colombia Comments (0)


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In these quiet places we more often than not stay at hospedajes that seem to double as people's houses. Here at Viajero we are the only guests of a kindly old woman who appears to live alone. It is a house that reminds me in spirit of my parents' home--a potted plant on every surface and in every corner; kept clean but not overly clean; practically decorated with individual objects displaying a tendency toward taste or personality but with no unifying vision, the result of which is an impression of lived-in coziness. I suspect my own home will be the same one day.

We are inexplicably tired. Perhaps from walking too long beneath the sun. All day long Chris heaved little sighs of fatigue. I listened without comment, only trudged on to the next archaeological site. We descended into countless tombs, snapped the obligatory photos (of course I sneer at myself for taking them, but I can't stop). Later we thought how strange it was to essentially be touring a cemetery (albeit an ancient one), poking around in the emptied out burial chambers of strangers. Why it should seem odder today than at other visits to archaeological sites I'm not sure. Perhaps in other places you get the sense that there's more--the rubbles of homes, a palace, a worship area. Here--just graves. Graves without purpose, for these bones have been carefully swept up and locked away. Bones of important people, sometimes painted (though I dare not imagine the grisly scene that accomplished that). I could never be an archaeologist. One tomb seemed like another. I could not imagine the people they used to contain, could not imagine those people's precious lives, used up, finally. Many tombs contained a child, buried with one or two adults. Famine, plague, war, accident? Too ancient, too unfathomwble.

Do I come here for the pretty views then? Why do I come?

Posted by chschen 16:00 Archived in Colombia Comments (0)

San Andres de Pisímbala

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Tonight we sleep in the tiny hamlet of San Andres de Pisimbalá, wherein there are only three small general stores. One main road bisects the town, and, while it's paved for a few hundred meters or so through the center, on either side it is dirt road again. A picturesque whitewashed church with a thatched roof is the village's only notable destination, but we were immediately charmed by the peace of the place. Everyone threw us veiled but curious looks, and a few young women could not stop giggling at us while we ate empanadas from their stand.

Of course, dark descends early here. Without interest, Chris is forced to play Go on the iPad. I read and wonder why on other nights I feel I don't have time for it.

It's so quiet. Just the occasional roar and thrash of a dog fight. Here you see many humans, many animals missing limbs, pieces of limbs, ears, fingers. Often they turn beggar. At one of the Ciudad Perdida camps we saw a tabby cat with three legs. Agnes learned from the owner that the cat's father had begun eating him when he was a kitten--apparently something that father felines attempt with all their newborn male offspring. Thankfully mother intervened, and now we have a sanguine three-legged cat, who must receive extra food and pets for his handicap. So life is cruel, pervertedly kind. And from the comfort of our condos we gape and shudder and forget. How can we say we connected, human to human? Equality is a sham they teach us in grade school. (It's not a sham; it's an aspiration.) We're tourists in many ways, gliding through lives we don't understand, aren't equipped to understand. It's fear and complacency that keeps us bodily rooted in ourselves, separate and blank. Also not knowing where, how to begin.

It seems I'm always tempted down this line of thinking. Stifled guilt. World touching world--isn't that what traveling is?

Posted by chschen 04:04 Archived in Colombia Comments (0)

Hanging on to Colombia

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Sometimes I'm almost bored with what we're doing now. Bored because I'm tired, and I think, After this is this, and then this, and then this. And I look into the distance for when I can rest, and it seems so far away. For example, in a few days we leave Colombia, but I've grown accustomed to Colombia and its relative comfort, to know that cities and towns and villages will be laid out in a grid of calles and carreras, that we can withdraw from any bank but Bancolombia, that 1800 pesos equals a dollar, that we should be able to find a comfortable but basic hotel room for 25000 COP, that set lunches include a juice and a soup, a meat, rice, ensalada, and a side, and can range from 4500 to 8000 COP in our price range, that almost everyone is friendly and everywhere we go we initiate a wave of "a la orden" from anyone selling anything (which is everybody), that the juice shakes we love are called jugos naturales here and they are best en leche, and that when we leave we will have to start all over again. There are frightening stories coming out of Ecuador that I am trying my best to ignore (strangling muggings, etc.). It's tiring. Why not linger here in Popayán, the "White City," popping empanadas de pipián forever (or at least until our visa runs out)? But two flights tie us firmly to Ecuador, so on we go. Not quite yet, though. Tomorrow: Tierradentro.

Posted by chschen 16:00 Archived in Colombia Comments (0)


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After suffering another night of troubled sleep, I could not rouse myself at 5:45 this morning, so we find ourselves still in Salento, sitting on the balcony and listening to the clip clop of high-stepping horses amidst other less charming street noise.

We didn't do much today. Just visited Restaurante Andrea (this time sampling the trucha campesino--delicious), climbed up to the mirador for another glimpse of Valle de Cocora, peeked into a few artisan shops, and then spent the rest of the day napping and reading.

Hostal Bienvenidos seems truly a family-run place. I can detect no other guests besides us, and yet a whole troupe of people seem to eat, cook, and sleep here--running the bakery and the crafts supply stores next door. At night and in the morning we hear all the racket a family typically makes (and smell its good food smells as well), and we feel for a moment as though we are in a home again. I keep wondering if we might not pay a bit more to sit down and eat with everyone else, but I get tired trying to think of the words, and anyway we have our trucha place.

Oh God the sky is pink now, and its little masses of perfectly puffy clouds are all lit up in quiet, humble glory. I think of Rachel who always said that beauty made her cry, and I feel my throat going thick.

Posted by chschen 16:00 Archived in Colombia Comments (0)

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