When I left Argentina, I had a gut feeling that I would be back soon. I still had quite a bit of pesos that would be useless to me once I left and I hung onto them anyway specifically because of this feeling. I spent the night at the Lima airport leaving a sign leaning up against me saying something to the effect of, “My flight leaves at 8:00am. If you see me still asleep here at 7:00am, please wake me up. Many thanks.” When the flight landed in Bogotá people cheered and they turned on some loud bumping salsa music to escort us off the plane. I traded my neck cramps for a smile.
My plan was to stay in Bogotá for a week and then head straight to the coast to find a writing haven, lest I be tempted to start exploring the entire country. Bogotá took me by surprise. It was chilly and overcast, modern and hip…none of which I expected although I’m not sure I knew what to expect.
The first thing to catch my attention and my heart (via my taste buds) was all of the fresh fruit carts everywhere. Coconut (fresh or candied), mango (2 types), watermelon, pineapple, plums, mora, guanabana, guayaba, papaya, avocado, the tart passion fruit and its sweet sister granadilla, those tiny sweet bananas, cantelope, “tomato tree” fruit as directly translated…not coincidentally, this would eventually become my weekly shopping list. It is one of the best and cruelest parts about traveling, to experience something so completely amazing and eventually have to leave it behind when you move on. And so I dove fully into the “completely amazing” part of this tropical phenomenon and had fresh fruit juice and fresh fruit several times a day. I would love to fly my sister to meet me in Colombia and we would just sit on a curb in front of bright and wild graffiti putting the ‘passion’ in passion fruit, eating it until our tongues are puckered as puckered can be and can’t handle a single bite more. Tart, crunchy, tropical vacation in edible form, and I am biased towards its name…passion fruit (maracuya) is a truly wonderful fruit.
I am happy to report that even the Colombians seem to draw the line at frying their fruit, because I promise you they seem to fry just about everything else. They have restaurants where you get plastic gloves given to you at the table to help manage the grease.
At least they just own it… “We fry things, take your gloves, buen provecho.”
Corn empanadas…fried, arepas: basically corn dough patty filled with eggs, sausage, meat and such…fried, papa rellenos: mashed potato balls filled with meat and egg…fried. Deep fried and exactly what you want out of street food, yum. Much of our time in Bogotá was spent wandering and eating, trying to catch the sunlight at that magical, golden hour when the colorful buildings of La Candelaria district would glow.
We bought a box of wine (I wish I could tell you it was the last time we did that; “Toto, we’re not in Argentina anymore” – Dorothy) and leaned up against a wall of a small plaza to people watch. Hipsters came through with their skateboards, students gathered around the platform where a storyteller was engaging the crowds, and in front of us sat a couple of guys with guitars. As the sun set, the police came to shoe everyone out and we naturally followed the stragglers who were following the guitars. We ended up in another little plaza, sitting in a circle on the grass, grinning at the jam session we were now a part of. More and more people showed up and they started singing. A couple of bikers joined in, using their helmets as drums. And then two guys who could just as easily have been crashing a wedding, pedaled up on bikes wearing suits, with a saxophone and melodica (thank you Wikipedia) in tow. At this point I thought to myself, if I do not join in I will forever believe this is just a dream. I found a pouch in my purse I use for make up and loaded it with keys and coins and jingled my heart out.
Since I arrived in Colombia, I had had nightmares about being robbed and my body had been a mess, perhaps because of the fried food, but I feared something much worse…I had made a mistake in leaving Argentina. I realized that I had been like a young lover comparing this new love to an old one, Colombia vs. Argentina. This moment naturally put me in touch with part of my process for going through a change…create something. It was exactly the kind of experience that I needed to let the melody carry away my fears and put me in the present moment with that warm and fuzzy feeling of a special, serendipitous adventure.