Cheers to one month of travel down. I’m headed out of Medellín on my way to Manizales. Kind of upset to leave such a cool city, kind of really happy to be leaving the hustle and bustle for the countryside in Cafetero.
After the first week of class, I went out with my classmates in Poblado which started with dinner at the infamous Crepes & Waffles. I had the Peruvian Chicken Crepe. The following hours involved some more drinks in Parque Poblado, philosophical conversations with another American on a very similar path, and dancing in some of the discotheques. I had been trying to save money and not get sucked in to the gringo party scene at least immediately during my time in Medellín. That being said, a big night out, even in the most expensive neighborhood in Medellín, won’t completely drain your wallet. For a bit of context on prices (since I’ve gotten lazy with conversions)…
- As of today (21 November 2016) there are 3181 Colombian Pesos to the US Dollar
- So an empenada which could cost 2000 Colombian Pesos and is also written as COP $2.000 or $2mil, will cost 63 American cents.
- Beers, which I find more useful (and appetizing) than the Big Mac index will cost $9mil in Parque Lleras but only $2mil in Parque Poblado ($2.83 vs $0.63)
When in doubt, just use a currency converter from Google (COP » USD)
Over the weekend, I did some more exploring of other coffee shops in the area: Cafe Cambria, Al Alma, and Hija Mia. The final of which was closed all 3 times I tried to visit, but I do mention because it came highly recommended by one of my fellow coffee-obsessed vagabonders. Permgamino remains a favorite for so many reasons but Al Alma had some pretty amazing Chemex brewed Titiribí.
Also on the weekend I was able to explore Jardin Botanico (gratis), Parque Explora (one of the coolest science museums I’ve seen), and Parque Pies Descalzos (a park where being barefoot is highly encouraged… ha! I’m home). We (some classmates and I) also went out with some of my new friends from Couchsurfing. We went to Rio Del Mercado which is the new fancy food court in Medellín, not dissimilar for Gotham West Market in Hell’s Kitchen. Afterwards we went to Sabaneta to try some of the biggest buñuelos I’ve seen yet.
This week was also my second week of Spanish classes at Toucan which went great. I was in a larger class with week and a new teacher and we all got along really well. All my study throughout the week led to a final 10 minute presentation on the topic of our choice; I obviously chose to lecture on the life of David Bowie. Because, duh. Out of class activities included a visit to see panela production in Girardor, more salsa lessons, a film on indigenous life, psychedelic plants, and the conflict between those wanting to learn and those wanting to protect their culture in Colombia called ‘El Abrazo De La Serpiente’, and the intercambio with students from the English school. This was a big confidence boost for me as I got to chat in a group with some English speakers who we’re below my level in Spanish and some Colombians who knew less (relative to my Spanish) than me in English; I usually find myself at the other end of the group spectrum.
Having the focus to practice Spanish the past two weeks was great. I would typically have class from 9 – 1.After class I would normally go back to my homestay (an apartment owned by 2, 65 year old sisters named Luz and Blanca who didn’t speak any English) to have some lunch. I’d try to do some reading of the Spanish novels I have with me and keep using DuoLingo, maybe watch some Harry Potter in Spanish since this past week was a marathon. 4-7 would be an activity with the school and dinner with classmates. Evening would be for trying to chat with locals over some drinks in (I’m sure you can guess by now) Parque Poblado.
One of the final big events for me in Medellín was the Miradaje Wine and Food Festival: a huge stadium filled with wine (and beer and whiskey) tasting and food sampling. I spent about 7 hours there and got my fair share of samples. Highlights were trying to talk intelligently about wines in a second language (gravitating towards the Malbec and Pinotage), spending more time with my teacher from week 1 (John), a new craft brewery debut of their IPAs and them wanting to know about US IPAs from me, and 15 lechona empenadas. Compare the cost of this event (COP $26.000) to the Greenwich Wine and Food Festival back home.
So here I am, one month into travel, realizing that a) this is the furthest I’ve gone on my own and b) my time in Colombia is half over. I plan to go back to the US for Christmas before going ‘somewhere’ (plans not fully formed yet) in South East Asia. Maybe some will read and think that I’m not “spending enough time” in South America, but this trip… it’s not for you! I’ve been daydreaming about certain places in the world for far too long without ever knowing that they we’re really like. Over the next several months, I’ll finally know. After that, if I want to go back and spend more time there, I’ll be able to. And it will need to be more time, a slower pace, as I won’t be able to keep paying for single night accommodations without working forever.
More good news… thanks to my travel partner to Manizales (Jara), I can share some pictures!