Sep 12 - A Visit with Botero

We flew into Medellín this afternoon. What a difference! Everywhere is green with trees, I hear birds again, the weather is nice with a bit of humidity, there aren´t random holes in the sidewalks, and the people look a lot more wealthy. The sticker shock of the prices has also been pretty obvious. It feels a lot more like Toronto prices now--so we may need to be a bit more cautious with the purse strings.

I booked our accomodations on airbnb. It's the first time I've used it. We found a room in a nice bright apartment smack dab in the posh area of El Poblado. The host seems super friendly and the place is great. It's like staying at a nice hotel without the super high prices.

After dropping off our bags, we went straight to the metro and made our way to the downtown core. The first thing I wanted to do was visit the plaza of Botero statues. If you like cute chubby things, you'll love Fernando Botero. His animals are voluminous and solid. His nudes look adorable, not even a speck of obscenity at all. Penises look squeezable and breasts look cuddly. Bums are irresistably touchable. It was so fun seeing all the different statues in the main square, and then going into the museum to see his paintings. If only I could bring one of the statues home with me, I could squeeze its buttocks all day long!



ATM exch rate: C$1 - COP$1750
taxi, airport to el poblado: P$60,000
metro, el poblado - dwntwn: P$1900
taxi, el poblado to dwntwn: P$8000
ticket, museo de antioquia: P$10,000
statues in Botero Plaza: free!
food, fresh guanabana juice: P$2200

Sep 21 - Día de Amor y Amistad

Just like Valentine's Day in Canada, they have a Day of Love and Friendship here in Colombia. Felipe and I walked around for the day, some of the streets were closed for pedestrian and bicycle traffic only. We wandered to the Castle Museum--a true castle built in the middle of the city.

The gardens were all decked out for the special day with flowers and picnic areas for amorous couples. We snuck in there disguised as a couple of cool straight dudes going for a walk in the pretty garden.






Oct 4 - Airbnb Virgin

I've never tried Airbnb before. It seemed a bit weird going outside the hotel system and staying at someone's place. But the fact that we are staying for such long periods of time, and that having a kitchen is a necessity, we decided to give it a try in Medellin.

It was a pretty good experience overall. It's a pretty sleek website which makes it very easy to find a place to live. We've stayed in two places so far, the first a shared apartment with the host and the second in our own place. Both had their advantages. Living with the host was a lot more social, but we missed having our own privacy.

I made the mistake of commenting to his maid that baked beans (which some Colombians eat day and night) immediately makes me think prison food. She was a fun lady and took it upon herself to cook us a great "bandeja paisa" (crispy chicharron, chorizo, crumbled meat, avocado, fried plantain patties ("patacones"), bowl of tasty "hogao") complete with a bowl of baked beans. Although delicious, it's still seems like prison food to me.


Oct 5 - Speaking With the Paisas

I really haven't given an update on my Spanish learning so far. After taking lots of Spanish classes over the years, I'm at the turning point where I am going from dabbling in another language to achieving fluency. But it is so difficult to iron out the little things and avoid basic mistakes. I'm pretty frustrated at this point--I feel like I should know enough to speak and understand Spanish better, but my brain just can't quite do it.

Felipe and I have increased our Días de Español (Days of Spanish) to a full 2 days a week. Any more and I think I would go crazy. It's so draining being unable to speak properly, unable to express my ideas the way that I want, and having to be corrected constantly on basic things. And not understanding what other people say...seriously frustrating.

We've also met some local people and made a few friends so that gives me a chance to practice on outsiders as well. The local "paisas" have a special accent here. I would describe it as a cross between Spanish and the Swedish Chef. Lots of songlike intonations and I can't understand what the hell they're saying. I've come close to asking the people to speak with less of an accent please, but Felipe gives me a stern look making me reconsider.

Overall, I feel pretty disappointed that my Spanish isn't more fluent. It's a long road.


Oct 6 - El Peñol de Guatapé

We met a cool new friend and he took us for a day trip to Guatapé, a small town outside of Medellin. Life here looked a bit more relaxed. The houses all had "zocalos"--tiles with pictures that represented the building they were on. Horses if someone likes horses, people in wheelchairs for the hospital, chickens for the local rotisserie. It was a cute and colourful town.

Nearby is the Peñol de Guatapé, a huge black monolith with about 700 steps to climb. At the top are great views of the surrounding lakes. It was a bit cheesy the gift and snacks shops they had at the top, it made it feel more like a tourist trap.

We ended the day with a picnic, stopping by the side of the road with a clear view of the Peñol. It was an awesome day to share together touring the countryside.

serious discussion
view from peñol de guatape
orgullo paisa
peñol countryside
sitting in guatape
zocalos on the houses
our own paisa
more zocalos
colourful chiva


Oct 13 - A Day at the Finca

Felipe and I are thinking of buying a nice winter home in Colombia. A way to get away from the harsh Canadian winters. Those -40C days in winter are only good for telling stories to amaze others that people actually want to live in Canada. In Colombia, country homes are called "fincas", similar to the cabins or cottages at home. We got invited to a beautiful one in an area called Retiro. It had beautiful architecture, decorated with a perfect mix of old and new, and trees around it full of fruit that we ate right off the branches. Screw winter--it's time to get a finca!

beautiful finca
feijoa and guava
making yummy risotto
getting ideas for our own place
rain rain go away


Oct 19 - Weekend at the Coffee Plantation

A few hours outside of Medellin, and you get into the coffee zone. Cute towns where life buzzes around the central plaza, the church is always full, and people do a double take when they see an Asian walking down the street.

The coffee plantations are impressive, with rows and rows of coffee bushes growing up steep hillsides. It's like walking through a painting. We got a tour and saw how it goes from a juicy red berry on the bush to a small black roasted bean. Starbucks begins here.

I should drink more coffee.

concordia church
el cafetero
buñuelo time!
the finca at the coffee plantation
delicious bbq dinner
red flower
more strange plants
walking through the plantation
coffee beans ripe and ready
coffee plantation
walking with the dogs
more coffee plantation
fresh mandarinas
preparing lunch


Nov 1 - Leaving Medellín

Today is our last day in Medellin--it's been a month and a half here. I must say that I really took a liking to the city. It not a touristy city, other than the Botero stuff downtown, there isn't lots of wow factor. But it is super liveable. It's called the city of eternal spring because the weather is constantly between 15 and 25C. The city is super green. The city prides itself on being liveable and puts a large part of its budget behind recreation, education, and infrastructure. The Estadio complex is amazing and really felt like a communal hub constantly buzzing with local activity. The city has made efforts to re-include the living poor into greater society by improving services and transportation to their neighbourhoods--I think this is impressive considering that Colombia stands as a country with one of the worst Gini index levels in the world, so keeping the poor integrated into society shows real effort to combat their problematic reality.

We thought about buying a place here. Maybe live here in Colombia 5-6 months of the year during the brutal Canadian winter. A 500 square foot apartment like the one we lived in near Estadio cost 70K plus less than $100 a month for maintenance fees. About 4 to 5 times cheaper than Toronto.

The people here seem pretty nice. They're not as openly friendly and curious as the people in La Paz. More like a big city politeness to strangers. Being "the only Asian in the village" was not a big deal here, good or bad. Invariably I would be asked if I was Japanese, probably because of the beard that would grow because I'm too lazy to shave. Some people even started talking Japanese to me--like fluently. The people who have lived abroad take their opportunity to start giving me everything they know--which makes me feel a bit embarassed because I end up shrugging and switching back to Spanish. I feel like I have the responsibilty on my shoulders to know every Asian language there is.

So I guess it's on to the next adventure. I really enjoyed my time here and all the things that we did. I'm pretty sure we'll be back one day--maybe as fugitives from the snow up north.




see itinerary