Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Good and the Bad (but more Good or Amusing)

After two years away from Colombia, there's many things that I'm happy to have again, like good coffee, good music, libraries, and decent public transportation including Jeep Willys that are at least thirty or forty years old. Cheap food. Good fruits and veggies. Cultural events. Fresh flowers. Artesanias. The termales. Beautiful countryside that I don't want to stop looking at even to take a picture. An empleada to wash and iron my clothes every week and clean the apartment (this is not because I'm lazy, but because it's so cheap and people need work). There are some other things that I wish had gotten better in that time, such as:
  1. Driving. Put a taxi driver on a mountainous road, and I'm bound to feel sick within 5 minutes. Taxi drivers who insist on asking where you're from as soon as you get into the taxi and then propose marriage. Good thing is they believe I'm from all kinds of strange places that I'm not, which can be fun.
  2. Bagging grocies at the supermarket. The baggers love tying the handles in knots that makes the bags hard to carry. They're also very good at putting way too much or way too little in one bag.
  3. Starting on time.
  4. Building sidewalks and entrances....bathroom and indoor tile gets slippery when it's wet don't you know.
  5. Banks. After one month my Bancolombia account still isn't working right.
  6. Building in general. I can hear everything going on in my brand-new aparment building, everything.
  7. Customer service for television/Internet/gas. Especially since it's outrageously expensive.
Granted, these things don't really make me mad, they just make me sigh and say, "Colombia!" There's many things in Manizales that are better than they were on the coast, like the DAS (who smiling at me and flirted while giving me my cedula instead of scowling and mumbling), and the roads, which are well taken care of and clean.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Crazy Manizales Weather

So, apparently weather here changes on a dime, and flying in and out will always be a bit of a problem. The airport runway is set up in the mountains almost, so rain, clouds, you name it, it closes. It can go from sunny and 75 in the morning to freezing and raining in the afternoon. Wouldn't be so bad, but how do you dress? I find myself most of the time with a scarf and coat, which I may need when I put it on and then not need it anymore in twenty minutes. And even more interesting is that a couple minutes "down the mountain" and it's warmer and not so crazy. There's only been one morning here so far that I've been able to see the Nevado from my window. Alex and her friend came for two days, so I got to go to the termales (hot springs) for a little while which made up for the cold, although it was also a reminder that Colombian taxi drivers are certified crazy.

In Manizales

Arriving in Manizales was a little bit of a trip, and a reminder of how different life in Colombia is from C.A. It wasn’t the first time I’d been a flight where an airport was closed for bad weather, but it is the first time they didn’t fly us to our final destination! The plane landed in Pereria a half hour late, and then Aires proceeded to put us all in a little buseta with the luggage stacked on top. I was supposed to have arrived in Manizales at 4:45, but ended up getting there around 9. No problem, but wouldn’t it make sense that if a flight is paid for they actually fly you there? Just curious, not angry, and more than a little sore by the time I got there...love being back in Colombia!

Manizales is much colder than it was when I was here two years ago for semana santa. The wool coat and scarf I got in Bogota were excellent purchases, even if I didn't end up doing much else there. It’s rained every day and for a good part of the day except for today (Saturday). I like being able to walk from place to place here, and the San Francisco-like streets are going to give me some nice calves after 10 months! The apartestudio that the Colombo had waiting for me is more than cute, and co-workers have been great so far. I went on a cold-weather chiva (same idea as warm weather, but just not the same), and have been happily falling asleep every night to my neighbor’s blaring vallenato and salsa. There’re seven universities here, so the city feels and looks young, and there’s so many events going on that my head is spinning, especially after two years in San Sal. Overall, people are so very nice. Work is a little slow for me now, trying to get used to a new schedule and the general chilliness (most definitely going to have yellow teeth from drinking large quantities of yummy coffee!).

Food is much cheaper here than I’ve become (re)accustomed to, but I’m going tohave to bring back a large bottle of hot sauce! I love being able to call friends here again, and my first visitor will be here in less than a week! Next week is the regional ELT conference in Pereria, which I need to get working on, but I'm still feeling a little conferenced-out after July. Other than that, my time is occupied cooking and reading, talking to Edwin through Skype, and some walking around if it's not raining.

Monday, September 01, 2008