Not too be confused with an amazing R&B artist who has incredibly sexy songs, but rather my first weekend after arriving in Medellin.
Did I ever mention how perfect the weather is here? The temperature is honestly always great, for whatever you’re doing. No one has air conditioners or heaters, because there is literally no need. Don’t get me wrong; it gets hot, since Colombia is on the equator and all. But really, when I wake up each morning, I open the door to the terrace and let the breeze sweep in. I hate to even close it at night, but rather not have something foreign stroll in.
So it’s the weekend! I survived one whole week at work and a full week in Medellin! Friday night I am exhausted and literally crawl into bed and have my friend help me order Chinese delivery. I know…it sounds terribly American, but I needed it. I sleep in a bit, not past 9:30 though, just in time for breakfast. I love me some huevos and arrepas. Seriously though, I am in shock the small portion fills me up, but it’s delicious.
After breakfast, my goal is to go to Exito and my friend ends up coming with me. Half because I think she worries about me, and half because Medellin makes her a little stir crazy since it’s her small hometown. Exito is like a Target or Wal-Mart in Medellin. They have everything you could need from a new pressure cooker to a new underwear set. I particularly need to make some copies and buy some groceries, since my last trip to the supermarket was miserable. Seriously, we don’t refrigerate eggs or milk here?!
Prices are very comparable to the U.S. Face cream costs me about $7, peanut butter $5, sandwich meat $5, etc. I don’t know what everyone was talking about telling me things would be cheaper here…I’m a little concerned my living stipend might not be enough! I also found out a gym membership is anywhere between $45-$75! That is way more than the U.S. So I am learning that it’s a certain type of lifestyle that costs this much.
We escape from Exito in time to hit some crazy traffic, but finally make it home for lunch. Cecilia is preparing another very traditional soup for the family. It is similar to ajiaco, but with beef, potatoes, yuka and both ripe and unripe plantain. Truly decadent. I feel the need to crawl back in bed. It’s just a siesta right?
Three-ish hours later, I start to coordinate with some co-workers and I rally for dinner at one of their apartments followed by drinks and dancing for the beginning of Festivale de Flores. Pasta with the girls is so nice. I bring wine and it’s just what I need to reenergize from the long week. Once we arrive to the first bar, the whole office is there and I think again to myself, ‘are we really going to be co-workers and buddies?!’ No one else seems as awkward about it as I do, so I try to relax and just keep up the drinks.
I leave after the second, more dancey, bar because it’s important to leave something when it’s good instead of letting it spoil. Plus, I have to be up early for the cable car park, Parque Arvi. Two of the girls and I share a cab, which is great since they tell the driver where I need to go. Taxi’s are the one relatively cheap thing that has surprised me here. A fifteen or twenty minute ride might only cost $3-6 dollars.
Sunday morning begins seamlessly. I crawl out of bed, open the door to the terrace, make coffee, create some more flashcards, and have breakfast. I am excited for cable cars because I will see another classmate from Brandeis and meet her family, as well as enjoy the city from the mountain top and to understand the favela neighborhoods a little more.
To get to Parque Arvi, we have to take the train all the way to the North side of the city and transfer to the metrocable. The system is amazing. I’m told it was adopted using technology from European ski slopes and it was an intervention made by the government to create accessibility for the poor living in the favela’s.
I did not truly comprehend the distance and steepness of the mountain we were swiftly climbing by cable car. I also did not realize the metrocable system was not just a tourist thing. It is literally a means of transportation for those living in the sides of the mountain; the sides of the bowl if you will.
The sheer number of houses and people that populate this area is incredible. I’m having mixed feelings because I am being told it is a good thing for the people because now they can get to work. However, I can’t stop thinking about all the young people. I ask about schools and education, but there is not much to say. There is one school, and I can hardly imagine it accommodates for all of these houses I see and the quality…forget about it.
But I know this already, don’t I? This is the cycle of poverty. The poor stay poor because quality education nor opportunities for livelihood are not offered to them, good jobs are never presented to them, health is always put on the backburner in exchange for survival. These children don’t have a chance. It’s happening everywhere too, developing country or not, access to quality education is not a universal right.
I feel privileged and poised to try and make an impact in these circumstances, but I am also intimidated by my position. I know I shouldn’t think of it as an obligation or responsibility, but it’s hard not to feel compelled to act. I see these kids wandering the streets in the evenings, trying to sell passing cars a pack of gum or a toy of some sort and all I can think is I wish you were in bed, resting for school tomorrow. Who robbed you of this luxury? Because it is a luxury isn’t it?