I've spent two full days in Cali now. Its a fun, relaxing, neighborly and well-cared for place from what I can tell. I am staying in the San Antonio neighborhood at a French run hostal with stained glass windows and tiled floors, near the beautiful San Antonio church. I feel completely safe walking around after dark. There are a lot of little shops, bakeries and a surprising number of international, organic and vegetarian places. People spend time outside enjoying themselves and the great weather (80's but lower humidity and breezy with cool air at night for sleeping and no mosquitos).
Yesterday, I tried to go to the modern art museum (my gudiebook said it was open on sundays) but it was closed. So I stopped at an organic cafe and was immediately befriended by two 60ish colombian men (Jorge and Bill) sitting on the patio with their dogs. They thought I looked lost and started talking to me to help me out. They both lived and went to boarding school in the US - New Orleans, Connecticut, Houston, and San Francisco so spoke English. One sells organic insect repellent he imports here from the US. Bill kept going on and on about how I should start learning Poruguese instead of Spanish, how its a true language and more people speak it around the world than Spanish apparently including 6 countries in Africa. I did not know that. Then, their artist friend, Jorge Calero, wandered over to us. He's lived in Portugal for 6 years and told me the same thing as Bill. I walked over to see Gorge Calero's artwork and it was pretty interesting, abstract/fantastical/themed on the 4 elements. He said I could buy one for $250 and have the canvase rolled and shipped. I have his website in case I want to.
I would like to start an art collection from places I travel and I did like his whimsical work - it was real - not cliche.
The other Jorge (last name Valencia), invited to take me on a walking tour with his dog, Paco. So I went with him and he showed me the river walk, down town and some other cool sites for several hours, so pleased that I liked his city.
I told him right away that I have a boyfriend who works in the bike industry, just in case he got any other impression. He said biking is huge in Cali. Every Sunday, they shut down a major street and it belongs to cyclists from 8-1. Indeed, its bike friendly and I noticed a lot of bikers and better traffic and roads than in Cartagena. Jorge asked if I could ask my boyfriend about getting a discount on a bike from his shop and having it shipped here as bikes cost twice as much in Colombia! I said I would ask. He said he recently moved back to Cali from the states 3 years ago and its his favorite Colombian place, but its changing as not so great people from other cities in Colombia come here bringing crime, poor driving, bad manners.
I met the two men again today for coffee and Jorge gave me 5 Colombian DVD's to watch. So nice and unexpected!
Its a tricky mix between being hesitant, wary, coming across as timid even, guarded with my bounderies up to being open to talking to strangers, coming across as confident, bold and friendly. Traveling around Colombia is a learning experience for sure that takes me out of my comfort zone since I know minimal Spanish and am a woman traveling solo.
Some part of me likes to be pushed out of my bubble that way. Not all the time - I like traveling comfortable places too like New Zealand, Europe. I can't wait to go to Japan. But being in latin America makes me more grateful for what I do have, the life I get to live in Santa Fe, etc. The more time I spend in latin america though, the more certain I feel that its not somewhere I'd want to live myself. I'd like to sometime live in a foreign country, but would prefer a country that has a high level of spiritual awareness. Most of Latin america feels pretty full of young souls more interested in the material consumption. Nothing at all wrong with that, but that's just another reason it pushes me out of my comfort zone and why I gravitate toward Santa Fe. Too bad its so cold and dark in the winter in Finland, sweden and all those nordic countries!
Today, I chilled out more, caught up on work, meditated, talked to my mom and had a long distance energy healing session from her (matrix energetics) since my back is feeling compressed from stress (also had a long distance session yesterday from a woman who does seimei back in Santa Fe so my back is improving again I hope), walked to an artisan market and a local colombian cafe for lunch, lounged around on the hostal terrace, practiced Rosetta Stone. Now I'm back in my room and might watch one of those Colombian movies I was just given.