Category Archives: travel

No time for that

There are a lot of things this blog could be about. In the week since I’ve gotten here, I’ve learned about some interesting things.

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Such as: the name Pablo Escobar is kind of forbidden here. Or perhaps not forbidden, but taboo. One of our walking tour guides only referred to him as Voldemort. Which makes total sense, given the damage he did to the city and to the country. However, soon after his death they sold tours of his houses. Even his own brothers led tours through the ruins of his homes. Earlier this year, a building in El Poblado (the ritziest area in the city) built by Escobar was destroyed for no other reason than that it was built by him.

Also there are at least 40 hippos that are descendants from his personal zoo that now live in the rivers; the largest enclave outside of Africa.

But there’s no time for that.

metroI could talk about the Metro, which as I already said is super modern. What I have learned is that was built by the citizens of Medellin just as they escaped the troubles and it serves as a civic symbol of rebirth. It’s the only metro in the country, and it won’t be paid off until 2080 something, but the stations are spotlessly clean and the cars always full and the people are very proud of it. Also the metro stops are always playing 80s English songs like Karma Chameleon or Call Me.

But there’s no time for that either.

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I could tell you that this is a dog friendly country, with big and small dogs everywhere.  Over half of all people have at least one pet. Some towns have public feeders for any dog to get some food. The street dogs are well fed and not threatening and people bring their dogs into malls and banks and everywhere. I even read that they’re establishing a bus line so people can travel with their pets.

But there’s no time for that either.

Metro_de_Medellín,_Colombia

The thing that has struck me about Medellin most of all is that it’s really a first-world city.  It has few hallmarks of the developing world–the streets are clean (garbage and recycling bins everywhere), drivers follow the traffic lights, motorcycle riders barely go on the sidewalk. The people are super friendly and (two would-be pickpockets notwithstanding) it’s felt safe everywhere I’ve gone.

But there’s not even time for that.

What I really want to talk about it is how weird it is to travel blog. You have to start traveling with an eye on “content.” You must take notes throughout the day, do research and conduct interviews, or change what you want to do in order to create something interesting.  But at the same time you don’t (or at least I don’t) want to do the standard, SEO based fluff pieces recommending 4 star hotels and restaurants full of unhappy rich people.

It feels inauthentic.

There is a low-key pressure to find interesting things, to document, and to observe. Not all blogging is like this, of course; some of the how-to is simply a list of facts. On the other hand, when you are traveling with “blog vision,” all the information you receive can be sorted and processed. But for thoughtful pieces, you need to collate information, add analysis, put together photos, do some kind of layout, and then disseminate via social media. When you’re on the road, it can take a lot of time. When I was traveling long term (2014-2015), I’d periodically have to take 1-2 days off just to blog.

I’d like to blog more, but ….

But there’s no time for that.

 

 

Cold cities are all alike; every hot city is sweltering in its own way

20191108_154806Some thoughts after my first 24 hours in Medellin

Human brains are pattern-seeking, so it’s pretty common for travelers to form initial comparisons to places they know. Thus Medellin initially struck me as part Brisbane and part Mandalay, a sprawling palm tree-laden city built on hills ….

This is just a list of first impressions, mind, so small sample sizes abound and all opinions are subject to change.

It’s humid here but not sweltering, not anything on Asian heat. The traffic likewise is pretty chill–there are motorbikes but it usually comes in the direction you’d expect. I’ve seen more Volkswagon bugs here in one day than in the last couple years elsewhere.

Looking at the map of the area, I saw there was a Hooters. I pointed it out and Zulia laughed knowingly. “Have you been?” I asked her. “No,” she said, pausing. “But I think you’ll find just walking on the street is pretty much the same as going to Hooters.” And do you know what? She was not wrong!

It’s kind of cliche to describe the residents of a country, especially a developing country, as kind or generous but in this case it does seem to be true. I’ve already seen several random acts of kindness on the metro or in the streets

It’s a mix of the developing and developed world; fruit cart vendors push overladen carts past a modern metro station.

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Speaking of fruit, there are lots of great fruits here, some that I’ve never seen before. Giant avocados and guavas and passionfruit, something called lulo, a kind of soursop called Guanábana and goji berries all abound, but so far my favorite is pithaya. It looks like dragonfruit but whereas dragonfruit tastes rather tropically and peppery, pithaya tastes more like vanilla pudding.

Many countries have a lower rung of immigrants/refugees that make up a lower rung of the work force. The Burmese do it in Thailand, the Kazaks did it in Uzbekistan, and the Swedes do it in Norway. Here it is Venezuelan refugees, many of whom are forced to roam and beg or work in menial jobs. I’ve noticed that the poorer the country, the better their English and it rings true here. Venezuelans speak excellent English! Which I’m not claiming is a good thing, but it is definitely a thing.

That’s it for first impressions! I’m looking forward to learning a bit more about the area.