I wanted to capture this moment. I’m sitting on my bed in my $10 per night Airbnb in Medellin, Colombia, looking up at my curtainless window view. It has started to rain a little and I can see the birds flying by this amazing scene. My host is in the kitchen, washing up the dishes, after serving me homemade empanadas for breakfast (yes, the $10 includes breakfast, although she also made me dinner last night because we spent all day touring Medellin and I paid for the bus tour). Curtainless windows are perfect for this view. Who would try to cover this up? This is a magical moment for me. I have spent the past 3 years traveling around the world by boat, visiting almost 40 countries, but I am allowed to have simple magical moments, aren’t I?
This Airbnb is in a neighborhood called Buenos Aires and is outside of the hustle and bustle of El Centro or downtown area. But it’s just a subway ride away from everything in El Centro and the popular El Poblado neighborhood. It’s in a group of about twenty high-rise apartment buildings, nestled against the foothills of the mountains. Unlike other places in the sprawling city, there is nothing to block my view, which is seen in the pictures here, foothills, climbing to mountains with green and luscious grass, bushes, and trees. For the first time in months, I am sleeping in a bed with the window open, unafraid of mosquitoes, and enjoying the cool breeze that comes into my room. It’s “claro” why this city is called, The City of Eternal Spring.
I really enjoy what travel apps like Airbnb and CouchSurfing provide. Not only are they typically low cost or lower cost than most travel options, but they come with the biggest advantage to a traveler; A built-in travel guide. They are just normal people who are sharing their space with you and giving you the opportunity to share what their life is like. I get to practice my Spanish more than I would at a conventional hotel and learn about local customs and practices. On this trip I also have had the chance to learn about cooking from my host and have enjoyed her traditional cooking style.
Yesterday we walked through Botero park and saw his statues, talked about the Medellin hookers walking nearby, took a cable ride over the amazing city, learned the subway and bus system, discovered that bicycles are free in the city and part of the public transportation system, saw beautiful and creative graffiti, spoke inside of two halves of a moon, told the time through a solar wall clock, and the list goes on. There is so much to see in this vibrant city that reminds me of LA in size but is more raw, more primal, and yet modern at the same time.
The food is delicious, from empanadas to chorizo or a typical lunch plate, everything is good and fairly inexpensive. The typical lunch plate of the day which always includes soup, rice, beans, meat, and typically fried plantains is around 15,000 pesos or $5. A cup of coffee is typically 5,000 pesos or $1.50. If you get a mocha, which is my preferred coffee, it will cost you 7,500 pesos, around $2.50!
At least ten of my friends have warned me to be careful in Colombia. The media has done a wonderful job of warning everybody about the dangers of Pablo Escobar’s Colombia. But we mustn’t forget that that was 20+ years ago. Colombia today is a beautiful and safe country for the most part. Of course, you need to avoid places in the city as you would in any major city, but it’s nothing like what you see in the movies or Netflix series about a country exploding under the reign of a drug kingpin. Today’s Colombia is friendly and accommodating. They are happy to see you in their country and often stop and talk to you out of the blue.
Yesterday afternoon I was taking a picture of the stupendous sunset occurring, framed by the majestic Andes Mountains and clouds, and Henry started talking in my ear about how happy he was to see me in his country and how he had a brother in Canada. Without asking he noticed an Americano standing there and felt the need to have a conversation with me. And I’m glad he did. We had a nice exchange with my broken, although constantly improving Spanish, and went on our way.
Today I am going to go see another of the many beautiful parks here, Parque Arvi, visit another graffiti filled neighborhood called Comuna 13, and go eat my heart out on a plate called bandeja paisa at Restaurante Santas Melonas. Wish me luck. I may decide to ignore my flight out of here next week and stay forever.