Saturday, August 29, 2015

Two Friendly Visits

Friends and Food! (and wine)

Let's see if we can find the most important events from the past five months and talk about them briefly.  It will be like a game!  A game of catch-up, or Retro-Blogging, as I like to call it.

The boys in the centre
In early April, Maurizio’s friend Phil visited us on his way back from Cuba, staying for a weekend.  He is a very successful young businessman whose company was recently (and handsomely) purchased by the creators of a certain well-known online game featuring brightly-coloured bon-bons, and so he decided to travel the world for a bit before starting his next company.  On Friday, he and Maurizio walked around the city centre while I was at work, and that night I got to join them for a delicious steak dinner, followed by cocktails near Centro Andino.  We were doing our best to find a lady companion for Phil, and entertained ourselves by scoping out and analysing each girl we saw, but he kept insisting that he just wanted to hang out with good friends and enjoy himself.  The mojitos were free flowing, and really strong, so we all got a bit tipsy before wandering out to find an Über.

On the way, a homeless guy overheard us speaking in English, and he came up and introduced himself as a New Yorker who had come to Colombia for love and later fallen on hard times.  He was apparently well known by some of the doormen around, one of whom he addressed by name. After chatting us up for a while, he eventually asked for money, but we honestly did not have any on us, which is why we were looking for an Über instead of a regular taxi (because you use your phone account and credit card rather than cash). We told him as much, and I think one of us found a 2,000-peso note for him, and he went on his way, enjoining us to stop and say hi any time.

Oxford alumni watching the Tabs get thrashed on the Tideway
On Saturday afternoon we went to the Monkey House Pub, which is the closest thing to a British pub in Bogotá, to watch the Boat Races (including the first women’s Boat Race on the Tideway!) with other local Oxford alumni.  I had found the event on the internet when I was googling where we could watch the race, and I got excited that there was actually a small alumni community here.  They only ever meet up a couple of times per year, and most of them are Colombians who went for a one-year business degree or some other sponsored programme, but it was still lovely to reminisce, and to enjoy the races with a crowd of others (though it seems none of them were actually rowers).  There was even a Tab or two there, though the majority of us were Oxonians, and of course the Dark Blues swept the competition away that day.  On our way out we stopped to talk to the owner of the pub, a lovely Englishman who is looking into developing his own cider orchard in Colombia (cider is extremely hard to find here, because they don’t have the right varieties of apples, so all ciders are imported).  We fully support this idea, and we hope to keep in touch with him!

That evening we took Phil out to Usaquen to see the shops and restaurants there, and then went to La Cesta to meet up with Juan Pablo and his mom, who was in town to support JuanPa while he was having some tests done.  We enjoyed their delicious cappuccinos and pains au chocolat, and then it was time to take Phil home so he could pack for the airport. He promised to visit us again, perhaps after he has purchased his own plane and learned how to fly it overseas—and he was serious.

Friends visiting Villa de Leyva
In mid-May we had another visitor: Geralyn, a friend of Maurizio’s from his time in Canterbury, though she now lives in Eugene, Oregon.  She had been extremely helpful to us when we were purchasing a speed coach for our boats, which happened to be offered secondhand for a great price from someone in Eugene.  Geralyn went to pick it up for us, and she not only brought us that, but also some delicious cheddar cheeses, which are hard to find here.

Geralyn stayed for a week, and I had to work for much of that time, but Maurizio showed her many of the sights in Bogotá.  One one of the weekdays, I had a scary run-in with one of the locals on my walk home from the bus, and I arrived a bit shaken up.  Geralyn gave me a fantastic massage which helped me to relax, and she was really comforting and supportive.  I will always remember her kindness, because she hardly knew me at that point, but she knew exactly what to say and do.

At the weekend we went to the Catedral de Sal, which is a cathedral carved into a former salt mine, with large, cavernous rooms, stone angels, and eerie blue lighting complemented by looped recordings of “Ave Maria”.  Even though it is clearly a tourist destination, it still has a sort of reverent stillness and awe to it, if only by virtue of its immensity.  We also took Geralyn out to the lake so she could see the rowing boats—of course, the poor thing decided to stay inside reading while we went out in the singles, but it is a lovely venue in which to do that!

The church and the the rain
After the row, we made our way to Villa de Leyva, a popular destination and a national monument because it still looks very colonial with its cobblestone roads and pretty, whitewashed buildings.  It is supposed to have really good museums, but unfortunately our journey there on the twisty mountain roads had taken us nearly 3 hours, and we got there too late in the day to get into museums.  We did wander around a pretty little park, look at all the art in the church in the main square, visit some of the shops, purchase a hand-woven rug for our flat and a new mug for Maurizio, and eat a nice Italian meal at an outdoor restaurant that had live music. We had also bought peaches by the side of the road on our way there, and the next day Geralyn baked us a peach cobbler which was absolutely mouthwatering!

We spent the rest of her visit talking, sharing thoughts and ideas, and eating way too much at various restaurants, and we sent Geralyn back to Eugene with promises of coming to visit some day, because her descriptions of her own peaceful little town on the edge of a wood made us eager to see it, ourselves.

Soon to come...June and July!

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