Almost three years ago to date, I left the Atlantic coast of Colombia to join the English Language Fellow program. I had no idea that I'd ever go back after a year of living in Barranquilla and teaching at Universidad del Norte. It was a tough year, partially because Barranquilla is not exactly a paradise by any means, and because I was coming out of a six-year relationship with someone. I probably would have stayed a second year if I hadn't joined the ELF program, but I'm not sure how much I would have liked Colombia had I done that.
I've been in Manizales for 10 months now, and like it a lot. The people and the place have nothing in common with the coast. I began to remember while I was sitting in BOG waiting with all the costeños for the flight to leave. And getting off the plane at BQL, with trash all over the floor. And taking the circunvular and seeing all the dust and run-down buildings and traffic. All the people without homes. The stray dogs. The unkept streets. The arroyos. The brown-gray color of the water where the Magdalena meets the ocean (a friend who was still teaching in B'quilla refused to let him students use blue for the Magdalena, only brown or grey). Sure, there are some things that I'd missed, like being able to sit outside, wear sandals, and eat comida arabe. The way people speak. Music everywhere. But Manizales is much more like home for me.
May 30th, the day I left, there wasn't a cloud in the sky. Leaving Manizales, the plane takes off and circles out over Chipre, then heads back towards Bogota. The view was unforgettable...the nevados in the background, with Manizales down in the valley, and nothing but green as far as I can see. Too bad most days you can't see anything!
Here's Grandfield, looking the same, but with another whole floor on his house and eating more than bread, cheese, and fruit. Friends that I miss.
You can see the disappearing beach near Puerto Colombia (global warming??). It used to be full of palapas. The pier is also in the distant, but half of it collapsed into the ocean because they didn't take care of it. Sigh.
In Cartagena I was suprised to find that some of the teachers in my workshops were guys that I'd met three years ago when a group from the University of Cincinnati came down for a course on applied linguistics. It was great to reconnect with them, and find out that my professor is bringing down another group this month for the same course. Maybe I'll get to use my silla ganadora from Avianca and go pay them a visit!
One new development in Barranquilla was that my friend Kathleen's husband, Jaime, had made a couple of vallenato songs/videos which aren't half bad (although I'm the first to admit that vallenato isn't my most favorite music ever). He's calling himself Jimmy now, which I found particularly amusing!
I went back and visited Uninorte, which was looking cute after adding some new buildings and some plants. I even had a generous job offer from another institution, but not enough to make me want to leave Manizales.