In and Out of Touch


In and Out of Touch

It’s hard to keep the ones you love close when they feel so far. Skype really makes a difference when you need someone to talk to, someone who speaks your language: crazy. Fortunately, this past week I had a visitor: David B, from the good ol’ Mini-Apple. I just sent him off yesterday and was pretty busy running around while he was here, but it was SO refreshing to see a familiar face.


Mostly we just walked around, ate food and caught up. He and I left Minneapolis around the same time, so both of us have been on a different life path for the past two months, give or take. On Tuesday morning, he left for Ecuador. Lauren and Lyric (pictured above) did the same, trading their comfy nests for suitcases and sofa beds.
Just about every day someone asks me, “Why are you here?” and I want to ask them, “Why are YOU here? Do you love it? Or is there somewhere else you’d rather be?” Not having the comforts of home can be super stressful. I sometimes wonder where I put things, close my eyes and can picture said missing item in a dresser or nightstand that I’ve given away or sold or left at my parent’s house. It’s easy to feel like the things that comfort us will always be just out of reach, but I don’t think that’s only true with living away from home. One might feel the same way in stagnancy. I know I did.
It’s been raining every day this week. I ride my bike or ride the Transmilenio or ride in a taxi and try to focus on staying dry and taking one thing at a time. Work has been crazy and inconsistent and I’ve been running all over town. I want to fill you all in, but I have to wake up at around 5.15 tomorrow morning to make it to a 6.50 class. I’ll try to post an update soon.
I may not get enough sleep, but I get by with a little help from my friends…


Camping in Guatavita

First off, I’d like to mention that due to a very heavy backpack, I opted to only take with a disposable camera on the weekend camping trip. I’ve including a mix of those and some pictures that I took on Pablo’s camera and some from Camilo’s camera.


On Saturday we met up early in the morning, our backpacks brimming with snacks, sleeping bags, blankets, layers and a variety of other just-in-case knick knacks. When we all had arrived—Camilo, Francisco, Pablo, Juanita, Mayra and myself—there was still a discrepancy concerning where we were going. We looked at the signs at the front of a line of buses to see what our options were. After several sequences of ‘Roca, Papel, Tijeras’ (Rock, Paper, Scissors), we agreed on Guatavita, a town in the mountains about two hours northwest of Bogotá, with lots of lagoons. As it turned out, Camilo has a friend, Diego, who lives up in the mountain.

Upon arriving, we met up with Diego, who collected our bags and drove them up into the mountains so we wouldn’t have to hike up with all the weight. We drank coffee, ate a Picada of about three cows and pig and a variety of other animals, I’m sure: I refrained from asking. The hike was about 45 minutes to an hour, the majority of which was at a 30 degree incline. Not exaggerating. We huffed and puffed as the sounds of the town slowly faded away and were replaced by mooing and country dogs barking.


When we finally arrived to Diego’s house, he showed us where we would be camping. Down the road, on a plot of dusty land, sat a geodesic dome; composed of metal bars in the shape of triangles. It sat in front of rocky sediment. Directly across from it was a fire pit; a little hut made of sticks, scrap metal and tarps; and a city bus where Felipe lived, the man who rented out the land. He had converted the bus into an apartment to escape from the city on weekends and brainstorm his latest sculptures. He put on Bob Marley and welcomed us, amicably.




photo: Pablo Lopez Aldana


Beside the “hut,” or little storage shed, is the bathroom: also made of sticks and tarp. The following day, Diego and Felipe would build a door out of a few long sticks, nails and some pieces of plastic. The toilet is a deep hole: if you are…. “releasing” liquids, you don’t have to do anything; for solids, there is a bucket of dirt and a shovel next to the hole for you to cover the scent.


The men quickly got to work preparing the campsite. They raked the land beneath the dome for rocks, to set up the two tents that would fit inside. After, Camilo set up our tent outside the dome. Mayra and Juanita began taking out the food and putting it on a picnic table which sat directly beside the dome. We spent the rest of the day setting up the tents, sitting by the fire, listening to music, drinking Aguardientes and watching the sky flash with lightning.


Photo: Pablo Lopez Aldana

When the sun set, it was COLD and WINDY. I was not prepared. Always the first to go to sleep, I ended up conking out at about 8 PM; shivering in the tent, which protected from the rain but shook in the turbulent wind.

I woke up at about 6:30 the next morning. Dragon flies the size of handguns shot through the morning-in-Guatavita sky: it is a diagram of the different kinds of clouds. Behind the bus, giant plumes of clouds like scorched-earth smoke slide across the hills in the wind. I look back at the dome. Yesterday, the guys found a giant tarp on one of the rocky planes to cover the dome. When they opened it up, it turned out to be a GIANT, plastic advertisement for the last Harry Potter movie. I existed the tent that morning to see the mountain fog rising over the zealous face of Daniel Radcliff with the words: TODO TERMINA JULIO 15 (IT ALL ENDS). Fortunately, this was not a prophetic sign. In the morning, it was still toe-chillingly cold. The night before, Felipe lent me a pair of his coral jeans to go over my leggings. While I waited for the sun to come up, I ran up and down the road to stay warm, holding up the jeans by the belt looks as I did so. As I shuffled along, the sun filtered through a thin patch of clouds, spraying dusty light over a field of grain.

Photo: Camilo Rios (me being super cold)

That day was comprised of a trip to the lagoon, lunch in the town (Ajiaco, avocado, rice and chicken: yum!), playing with wild dogs, eating lots of sweets, playing dominoes and more relaxing.



(the bus pictured above is a “Chiva,” a traditional form of transport in rural areas of Colombia, always painted colorfully, as shown.)


That night, I passed out on one of the sofas in the bus house, so I can officially cross “sleeping the night in a city bus on top of a mountain” off my list of life goals.

On Monday (another Colombian holiday), we collapsed the tents, finished off the food and headed back into town before heading back to Bogotá.


In the future I may go back to the area to do some work with Felipe: he wants to build an Eco-Hostel with more buses on the land, but needs some help with English. Until then, I’m going to enjoy the hell out of my bed and running water.


No Internet, Daylight Saving Face

All day yesterday, the internet was out. I asked one of my roommates if it was from the storm and she said it was most likely that someone stole the cable box. As such, I went to a coffee shop with my mini computer to get some work done before my evening class. What I forgot to consider was that my little computer, which I hadn’t used for at least a week, had responded to the Midwest time change and changed to an hour behind Bogota time. I left the coffee shop to my house with an hour and a half before my class, which takes an hour to get to. I got home, had a quick snack, and looked at my Colombian cell phone: not 5:15 PM, as I was expecting, but 6:15 PM; 15 minutes before my class.

I grabbed my things, ran out the house and down the road to the major avenue and tried to hail a cab. Unfortunately, it wasn’t that easy. When it rains, most cabs are full. Fortunately, after about five minutes with my arm out, I found a man exiting a taxi, fought off a nun (just kidding) and got in. We started heading towards my student’s house, but the traffic was AWFUL. At 6:45 I called my student, said I wouldn’t get there until about 7:30 and tried to explain the clock situation, which sounded– even to me– like a load o’ horseshit. I heard through the found her yell to her mom. A minute later she said that that was very late and we should just cancel class for the day. So there I am, stuck in traffic, 20-some minutes of metered taxi time, feeling irresponsible and embarrassed. I got out of the cab and took the Transmilenio home, which, at the very least, was cheaper. When I got to my station, I stopped for some Comida Rapida; essentially fast food. I ordered a SuperChori for 3.000 pesos ($1.50), which is a sausage in a hot dog bun loaded up with mustard, little crispie fries, onion and ham. Quite good, actually, but not enough to erase the shame of missing my only class of the day!

As I left the restaurant/shop and began walking home, I ran into two roommates who were buying beer and cigarettes from Oxxo, a mini mart chain. I told them what happened and they laughed and told me not to worry.

When we got home, the internet was still out. “When there’s no internet, what else is there to do but drink beer?” they said. I hadn’t spent a ton of time bonding with them and hey! No internet! So we all sat in the living room and chatted about various things including intentions of having an art exhibition at the house, seeing as we’re all artists. I asked if they’d like to use some of my art paper and then retrieved some from my room. The four of us ended up hanging out until about three in the morning, the front door open, listening to the rain, drinking beer and drawing, listening to Buena Vista Social Club and passing around a Cuban cigar.

So all right,
there’s no internet, daylight savings screwed me up from thousands of miles away,
but I’m in Colombia.
I’m making friends, making art and maybe,
making progress.