Saturday, May 31, 2014

Matters of The Heart

After my date with my crush we said our goodbyes without any promises or expectations, sometimes you have to be realistic and move on. Yesterday when I was hanging out with Angelica I couldn't stop thinking about him and Angelica was asking me if I thought he would try to contact me before I left. I did not have an answer to that but figured maybe it was for the best that we got done with our brief goodbyes. After all, I was leaving Cali in a day's time heading to another city called Popayan before heading to the border of Colombia and Ecuador to cross over.

I got home late on Friday night and since my phone had completely died on me, I immediately hooked it up to a charger and turned it on eager to see if I had any missed calls or messages. Turns out I actually did, I had several missed calls and messages from him. He had been trying to reach me because he wanted to see me before I left. He had even driven to my apartment hoping to get a hold of me since he wasn't having any luck on the phone, he lives almost an hour away. I could not believe it. His last message wished me a safe journey and expressed regret at not having seen me one last time. It had been sent half an hour prior.

I immediately called him and sent him a message but got no response. It was already midnight and I felt like time had already run out, I was going to be leaving Cali in a few hours time. I left my phone charging in my room and went to take a shower, when I got back I had three missed calls from him and a message. Talk about wrong timing! I called him back twice but got no response. I sent him a message to tell him what I had wanted to say to him over the phone...............

Friday, May 30, 2014

Afro Colombian Pride

I just adore my friend Angelica, thanks to her I always get to learn about interesting festivals or events taking place in the city and I also get to meet some of her cool friends. Through Angelica I came to find out that May is the month of celebrating Afro Colombian culture here in Cali so she had invited me to one of the main libraries in the city for an interesting exhibit highlighting natural black hair and it's versatility. It was an interesting exhibit and I enjoyed reading some of the testimonies from the women and girls featured, talking about how they have embraced their natural beauty without feeling like they have to conform to certain standards of beauty that are not favorable to them.

After checking out the exhibit we went to two different plazas in downtown that had: food vendors selling typical food from the pacific coast of Colombia that has rich African influences, vendors selling natural hair products, African inspired jewelry and clothes. We also got to listen to some really good music from the pacific coast that utilizes the marimba instrument a lot. The vibe was really nice and it was interesting to see how a lot of the African influences in music and art had been preserved and carried forward to the present generation.

Here are a few pictures I managed to take............

At one of the plazas we came across these lovely ladies that were so friendly and sweet and enamored by my locs, as I have mentioned before locs are not common at all among the women here in Cali. I chatted with them for a while then got to check out some of the clothes they were selling, It sucks that I did not have enough money on me because they had cool tops that I really would have liked to buy.

Moving on to the second plaza there were more people, more food options and the music was really good.

Later on in the evening we met up with Angelica's boyfriend then ended up at a party that was being held at Angelica's alma mater. We had some drinks, listened to some music and called it a night. It truly was a day well spent.

That's it folks, I had a good day with some lovely people but I feel like I did not do this post justice. Blame it on a cloudy mind.

Random thoughts of The Day:

I have noticed a strange phenomenon that I have yet to understand. I have met dudes who have assumed I was younger than my age and for some unknown reason felt the need to low ball their age and tell me that they are younger than they actually are. Upon finding out my age they usually get shocked then proceed to tell me their real age. Believe it or not I met a dude who told me he was 34 only to find out dude was 45!!! he had assumed I was in my mid 20s. Really??! cutting out 11 whole years? some people are ambitious.

In answer to some questions I have received about my Crush, yes he is 100% Colombian and we met at a language exchange event. We speak a mix of English and Spanish (Spanglish) as I try to hold conversations in Spanish and he does so in English. It's a good way to practice each other's language. He is a GREAT salsa dancer and that just adds to his appeal. I have to admit though, he was guilty of low balling his age as well before finding out how old I actually I'm, hey! I never said the man was perfect.

It's COLOMBIA not COLUMBIA!!! Colombia is a country in South America and Columbia is the capital city of South Carolina in the US. It's amazing how many people misspell Colombia the country.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Dating In Cali, Colombia

Aaah! the long awaited date, where do I begin? I know I said that depending on how the date went I would write about it or not but later on I figured that whether it went horribly wrong or fantastically right, I would still write about it because both instances would still count as experience in dating while in Cali right? besides, who doesn't like reading about affairs of the heart once in a while anyway? the good and the bad. So about my date......... how did it go? hmmm? how can I describe it?............hold on while I take a sip of water, I am thirsty given the fact that I haven't drunk water the whole day. Ooh! okay yeah the date, just building some lame suspense here. Was it good? you are damn right it was! It was sugar and spice and all things nice rolled into one and without further ado I will get right into it.

My crush had told me that he was going to call me this morning to confirm what time he would pick me up and true to his word, he did contact me in the morning to verify the pick up time. That in itself earned him several points because from my experience living here in Cali, I have learned that a lot of people never keep their word and it gets on my nerve. We agreed that he would pick me up at 11:00 but he ended up getting caught up in some errands so he stopped by at noon.......he earned more points by contacting me prior to our meet up time to excuse himself for running late and letting me know that he would be getting to my place at noon. Yes people, I am a sucker for common courtesy.

He finally got to my place and picked me up in his car, I was expecting a motorcycle which is very common around here but I wasn't complaining, a car was even better (PS: I am not superficial a motorcycle would still have been fine by me). I had suggested checking out Rio Pance since for the longest time I had wanted to go to this river but never had an opportunity to do so. From the pictures it looked very pretty and a lot of people from the city go there on weekends to relax in the area and swim. I figured what better way to break those first date jitters than hang out in beautiful natural surroundings where you can explore and have lots to do other than sit across from each other having lunch or dinner and trying not to act nervous.

When we arrived at Rio Pance I knew I had made the right suggestion because the area was so beautiful and serene. The river itself had clean clear water that just called out for a dip and the surrounding area had hills and lush vegetation that added to the appeal. I wasn't dressed appropriately for taking a dip because I had figured we might just end up walking along the river bank but my crush had come well prepared, he had actually brought extra shorts for me to wear and one of his tank tops just in case I needed to change my clothes.........can you say major earned points? for real!

We got into the water and had fun just lazying about and talking about everything and nothing. At this point it felt like we had known each other for so long and there was this playful familiarity that had grown between us. We both recounted the first time we met and admitted to having felt attracted to each other and we laughed about it because of the way we both were trying hard to hide our initial attraction although it was pretty obvious to each of us. Le sigh! the courtship games that men and women play sometimes.

He took a lot of pictures, mostly of me because he said..............never mind what he said here are some of the pictures he took. It was an overcast day but good thing it did not start raining until long after we had got out of the water.

After hanging out in the river we decided to get some lunch around the area and afterwards he suggested showing me the cascades of Rio Pance which were supposed to be very beautiful but would require some hiking to get to. I was definitely up to it so I figured why not?

On our way to the cascades we came across this bridge which was a bit scary because it swayed with every movement and I lost my balance several times, to his amusement.

There he is, you didn't think I would show his face now did you? I have to respect his privacy.

When we started our hike we took a shortcut through this nice hotel and the resident cat took a liking to us, I am a cat lover so when I first spotted the cat I immediately got down to my knees and started playing with it. I was so focused on the cat until I looked back and noticed him patiently waiting for me to be done so we could continue on to the cascades.........such a sweetie! as we continued walking we looked back and noticed the cat following us. It was the cutest thing!

For the rest of the hike and back the cat stayed by our side, sometimes it would run ahead or lag behind and we would call out to it saying, "vamos gatito" and it would run to keep up with us. Isn't that just the most adorable thing? we nicknamed him "el gatito" (little cat).

I have to tell you as beautiful as the view was on the way to the cascades, the hike was a killer! I was huffing and puffing while sweating like a pig but he was so sweet, he would hold my hand and stop to wait for me to catch my breath and still called me beautiful even when I was drenched in sweat and was feeling really icky. Swoon!

This was my happy dance when we finally got to the cascades, soon after this picture was taken I slipped and almost fell on my butt. It would have been an embarrassing moment but we both just started laughing so hard, then he gave me a hug and told me I was cute. Swoon X2!

At the cascades finally!!! notice El Gatito behind me? we hung out at the cascades talking about sweet nothings while holding each other and just enjoying the surroundings. El Gatito was ensconced between us and purred throughout, It was the cutest thing.

It was getting dark so we decided to head back to the car, this was the last picture that was taken with El Gatito because as soon as we arrived at the hotel that we had cut through as a shortcut, the little sucker disappeared. We figured maybe the cat lived in the hotel and knew it's home so once we got back there was no point in following us further.

PS: On our way back to the car we came across littered bottles of liquor, he picked them up and carried them until we got to the hotel so he could properly dispose them. Le sigh! a man after my own heart.

That's it folks, I will stop this update here but I have to say it was a day well spent!

Random Thoughts of The Day:

Sorry! there are no random thoughts of the day because all I can think of is him and by now I am sure you have read enough about him. Toodles!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

La Topa Tolondra

La Topa Tolondra is a salsa dance club that one of my friends here in Cali introduced me to and I fell in love with it the first time I visited. I wrote about my first visit here. It's a small club and with one glance you can pretty much see the whole of it, it's definitely not one of those clubs that you can wander around in for a while searching for your friends because you can see everyone at once. It's not fancy by any means but the quality of music makes up for any shortcomings that the club may have. They play strictly salsa although toward the end of the night they do play some good music from the pacific coast that have a heavy African influence.

When you enter La Topa one of the first things you will notice are all these pictures and drawings on the wall depicting some great salsa legends. I like the pictures because I feel like they add character to the place. There are small stools and tables on the side and in the middle you have the dance floor which despite being small, always has some space for dancing even when it's full of other dancers.

Every Monday between 6 pm and 9 pm the club has a language exchange program where you can socialize with people from different parts of the world visiting Cali, as well as Colombians who want to practice some English. It's a really cool social event and you can meet some interesting people. At 9 pm salsa comes on and the dance floor is open for dancing until 1 am. I would definitely recommend the event to anyone visiting Cali and wanting to meet people or practice their salsa skills. Friday and Saturday nights are also good times to go out dancing at La Topa.

The crowd is really cool and you don't need to go with a partner because you will always find someone to dance with. It's not uncommon to have a lady ask another lady to dance or see two women dancing salsa together the whole night. I had been told that a lot of lesbians go to the club because it's gay friendly..........more so toward the women I think because I have never seen two men dancing together.

Here are some pictures I have taken at La Topa, enjoy!

This is during the Language Exchange event hence the many flags.
Language Exchange event.

It's not uncommon to see people take out maracas in the club and play along with the music that's on. Really cool.

That's it folks! La Topa is clearly one of my favorite clubs in Cali so far. Maybe I will get other favorites as I check out more clubs but for now this is it.

Random Thoughts of The Day:

I am so excited because I have a date tomorrow with this guy I have been crushing on for a while. I met him at La Topa...........yet another reason why I like the place. Depending on how the date goes I might write about it or not.

Turns out the elections that were held this past weekend were not the final elections. The election was to get the top two candidates, the final election will be held in June I believe and that's when the president will be chosen.

I wonder what time kids go to sleep here. It's not uncommon to see kids outside late at night during the week. Don't they need to get up early for school?

Every time I mention Bogota or Medellin to afro Colombians, the first thing they all say is how racist those two cities are.

I met this nice guy at one of the language exchange events at La Topa. He raps about social issues in Colombia that include race and poverty and we ended up having an interesting conversation. Anyway when the topic became lighter and we started talking about other things, I brought up one of my favorite Colombian music group called ChocQuibTown. Turns out he actually knows them personally and performed with them a while back before they really blew up and became huge and popular. The poor guy had to endure my constant raving about ChocQuibTown even when he tried to steer the conversation toward his music. Later on I felt so bad but in all honesty we did talk a great deal about his music as well.

When I leave Cali one of the things I will miss is how sweet people sound when they add in these affectionate words or phrases to their daily conversations even when they don't know you. For example it's not uncommon to go to the store and have the cashier refer to you as amor, cariño, muñequita or hermosa, it's just an affectionate way of talking that's common here.

One day I told Fernanda how much I like the way men around here talk when they are expressing their feelings toward you. I think it's so cute and romantic. In her own words this was her response, "Yes these Latin men really know how to charm a woman but be careful about falling in love with them, when they are in love with you they will make you feel like you are high up in heaven but once they loose interest, they will drop you so fast in the most cruel and heartless way." yikes! one of my Spanish teachers in Panama had told me something along those lines as well. Dear heart please take note of this.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Presidential Elections In Colombia

This coming Sunday (May 25th) Colombians will be going to the polls to elect their president and as is common during election time, there are a lot of preparations underway. Security has been heightened because as I have been told, there are guerrilla groups that may want to sabotage the elections with violence so vigilance has to be observed. There have been cases of bombings in public places. On Friday evening when I went for a walk to my favorite park near my neighborhood I noticed so many cops on the road and when I got to the park the cops were replaced by army guys. They were all over the place holding their rifles like they were ready for action, it was a bit intimidating.

In addition to security there are other precautions being put in place. I just learned that the day before elections sale of alcohol is banned and all bars & clubs are closed for business, this is to make sure that people go to the polls with sober minds and to avoid any drunken related incidences. This is all new to me as I have never heard of such laws so it's interesting to observe. Cali being a very lively noisy place full of music, it will be interesting to see how Sunday will be like. When I went out on Friday night the club was packed and I heard it's because that's the last night people can party until after elections.

There are five candidates running for presidency and the current president, Juan Manuel Santos is one of the five - he is the second guy on the left. If he wins this will be his second term in office.

Photo courtesy of wikipedia

As you can see in the picture above there are two female candidates running for office. I was having a conversation with one of Fernanda's cousins and she said that the women had no chance of winning because Colombia is a very Machista country that would never elect a woman as president. I haven't lived in Colombia long enough to experience the power dynamics between men and women so I can't really talk about the machismo in Colombia but Fernanda's cousin is not the only one who has told me this.

That's it folks, I hope the elections will go smoothly without any negative incidence and may the best person win.

Random Thoughts of The Day:

Colombians are required to take part in the preparation processes for elections, once selected to do so failure to participate results in a fine. Fernanda and her cousin were selected so they will be gone the whole day on Sunday.

Elections are always held on Sundays in Colombia.

Everyone I have asked thinks that Santos the current president will be re-elected, I am just relaying what I have heard so take this with a grain of salt.

It's scary when a taxi driver drops you off and warns you to watch out and be very careful in this city. It makes you wonder about the safety of the city and the possible dangers.

The policemen in Colombia look so harmless compared to the ones in Panama. Those guys in Panama were packing some serious heat and looked like they were ready for war.

I love the feeling I get when I am in the club having some drinks and getting slightly tipsy while listening and dancing to some good salsa music. I can only describe it as amazing!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

My Travel Essentials

There are certain items I consider essentials while traveling and while I can not list everything that I carry with me on here, I will go ahead and highlight a few that I like to have on me at all times.

Handbag - I always carry smaller handbags like the green one pictured above because of the compact size that makes it very convenient to carry around. It's amazing the amount of stuff that goes into that bag.

Umbrella - Got this umbrella at Target a couple of years ago and I can't begin to tell you how convenient it has been for me, just take a look at it. It's tiny, can fit in my bag without any size issues and it serves it's purpose well when needed. Cali is super hot so I use it to shelter from the sun and before anyone calls me high maintenance, a lot of people in this city carry around umbrellas to protect themselves from the sun. When in Rome do as the Romans do right?

Chapstick - I don't really need to explain this do I? chapped lips never look cute on anyone so this baby right here keeps my lips well moisturized when needed.

Notebook & Pen - The day I loose this notebook I will cry..........okay maybe that sounds too dramatic but I know for sure it will be a loss to be felt. This notebook has a lot of information that include: addresses, important contact information, itineraries..........yes, I usually write down things I want to do while visiting a certain place. It also has a lot of random stuff that I write down for future reference. I am old school so I like to write down stuff the old fashion way.

Sunglasses - For those sunny and bright days.

Camera - While traveling you never know when you will come across something amazing that warrants a picture so I keep this with me when heading out, gotta be prepared at all times.

Phone - When has a cell phone never come in handy? with a current Colombian sim card I have a local number so I can make calls when needed, I have Whatsapp installed so I am constantly in touch with my people, I also have videos and pictures that I have taken when using a camera wasn't as convenient. It also serves as my alarm when needed.

Copy of Passport - There is no way I am carrying my passport around with me, I leave it in a safe place and instead carry a copy of a page out of my passport that has all my identification details on there.

Cash - I don't like carrying my cash card around or huge amounts of money for safety reasons so instead I carry a small amount of cash with me. I make sure it's enough for any unexpected emergency or random purchase.

Watch - I like to keep time plus I think it also serves as a cute accessory.

Compact Mirror - For those moments when you need to check and make sure that you don't have anything stuck to your teeth after a meal. Hey, stuff happens.

Scarf - You see that material that has butterflies on it? that's one of the light scarfs I like to have with me just in case I need to cover up. In Cali I haven't had to use it because of the heat but in Medellin it came in handy.

In addition to the above items, I have a few others that I like to have in my luggage.

My Laptop - I call this my baby because I am so in love with this laptop. I use it for a lot of things and it suits me well for everything that I need to do online.

Nook - Ya'll thought that was a real book right? that's my nook and it has enough books stored in it to ensure any long road trips are not boring. I got the cover to not only protect the device but to conceal it as well.........hey, you just never know. The quote on it reads, "Life itself is the most wonderful fairytale." It's from Hans Christian Andersen, love it.

Hat - I like protecting myself from the sun so what better way to do this than use a hat right? it conveniently folds for easy storage and doesn't take a lot of space.

That's it folks, just thought I would share some of my travel essentials.

Random Thoughts of The Day:

Some of the men in this city are unbelievable and not in a good way. You can meet a seemingly nice guy who shows an interest in you only to find out they are married with kids at home. This will usually come up in the conversation unexpectedly and the guy will not even feel shame for hitting on you while they have a family at home. I am usually left with a WTF expression on my face, the nerve of some men.

How hungry do dogs have to be to eat grass? I have never seen a dog eat grass until I encountered the many stray dogs in this city.

I am back to taking salsa classes with Luis, long story................anyway, this dude is just hilarious when he tells you about his life. he is a single dad living with 4 of his 10 kids. He used to travel a lot when he was young because of salsa dancing and as a result he has a kid in Venezuela, Russia and the US in addition to the ones he has in Colombia. He says aside from his kids he has two passions, salsa and women. He showed me pictures of some of his current female "friends" (he has several) these women are gorgeous! he chuckles whenever he talks about his female "friends" declaring, "I am not married and I had a vasectomy so I am free!" hmmm? no you are not buddy, there are still diseases that you have to worry about.

I call this the "Mandigo concept" the stereotype that all black men are well endowed. I can not count the number of times In Cali that I have heard that word mandingo being thrown around to indicate the private parts of black men. One time we were leaving dance class when Luis spotted one of his female students with a black guy. For the rest of the walk home he would tease the girl saying that she must be happy because she has a mandingo then he would make a gesture with his arm to indicate what he meant. Conversations here are very unfiltered so I hardly get shocked anymore.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Where To Stay In Cali

So you decide you want to visit Cali and stay for a while, let's say a month or longer. You are not really into hostels and staying in a hotel for that long would cost you more than you would like to spend. What other alternative would you consider? renting a room perhaps? in the end it is cheaper and you can have your own privacy if you wish plus you can get that "homely" feel that I am sure anyone can appreciate. Sounds great right?

In Cali I would definitely recommend renting a room in St Anthony neighborhood. This is a hip and cool neighborhood that's: pretty, quiet, scenic, has a cool artisan market and small boutiques where you can get cool stuff. It's also within walking distance to the chaotic downtown. I like chaotic downtowns so being within walking distance of downtown Cali would be ideal for me personally but If chaos is not your thing, the neighborhood is far enough from downtown to avoid all that. There are rooms to rent within the neighborhood for those who are planning to stay longer in Cali and rent can vary depending on the property and how much you are able to spend. I have a friend that lived in the neighborhood and was paying $250 per month for rent and her place was very pretty.

The neighborhood is very hilly so you can get a good work out just taking a stroll while enjoying the scenery of the city. Due to the hilly terrain you have good opportunity to get some amazing views of the city, I would recommend an evening stroll when the sun is not as hot.

PS: Remember the movie I wrote about Here? some of the scenes were actually shot in this neighborhood.

That's it folks, currently I live in a different neighborhood with a roommate but when I leave Cali to travel to other places and come back, I am definitely getting a room within the St Anthony neighborhood.

Random Thoughts of The Day:

These damn mosquitoes don't have boundaries, I have a huge mosquito bite on my butt cheek! it's not even funny and don't ask me how the sucker managed to get there in the first place.

My time in Cali is fast coming to an end as I prepare to travel elsewhere. I am so ready to leave and see what else is out there.

Last night I went out dancing with a new friend I met at the Language exchange event I had mentioned before. We were about to use a bypass bridge to cross a busy road when she grabbed my hand and pulled me back to the street. She said she had noticed this guy watching us and as soon as we started climbing the stairs leading to the bridge, he started approaching from the back. She said she didn't get a good feeling so she suggested we wait until he had crossed the bridge. I had not noticed anything weird but her reaction made me realize that some of Fernanda's warnings about safety are not far fetched after all.

Some of the presenters I have seen on TV wear revealing clothes that are better suited for clubbing.

I have noticed quite a number of men in Cali have nicely manicured finger nails. I was talking to this lady who does nails and she said she has a lot of male clients that get their nails done.

I will never ever pay for services in advance unless I am 100% sure that the services are worth it. Remember the dance classes I was so excited to take? well, let's just say the sweet dance teacher I was raving about has a problem with being professional. I have been trying to reach the guy for a refund. He has a very cute son by the way..................yeah I know that's the last thing I should be  thinking of.

Speaking of dance classes, I think Tango is just a boring dance to learn. I would rather watch professionals perform the dance than learn it myself. Yes I said it!