Columbia Update #2

Kiira writes:
It feels as though we have been in Colombia much longer than six days. Something about traveling long hours in foreign places stretches time, which is wonderful for our group as we try to glean as much as we can from our time in South America.
Barichara, the most picturesque and well-preserved town your mind can conjure, is full of white walls, cobblestone streets, and views that go off into eternity. We took a few days at our hostal to get acclimated, practice our Spanish, and begin to feel more at home in Colombia.  On our second day we walked the Camino Real de Guane, a short walk from our perch in Barichara.  [A piece about that hike appeared in the last post.]
 photo
While still be unaccustomed to the heat and humidity, our group has taken advantage of the afternoon siesta time to catch up on sleep and work on course material. In addition to digging in on Spanish, students also started working on Gabriel Garcia Marques’  Chronicle of a Death Foretold and began reading to prepare for tropical ecology studies on our upcoming jungle trek.
On our third day in Barichara, Oliver, who is teaching the Spanish component of our expedition, sent students out in groups with a scavenger hunt with the goal of gathering all the goods we needed for a midday feast. After practicing with each other and getting up the confidence to talk to locals, groups dispersed from the main plaza and returned an hour later laden with goods and in good spirits after pushing their limits in Spanish. We dined on pan, queso, mango, dulce de guayaba, granadilla, pitaya, uvas, platano, y aguacate. Some of those fruits have names in English, others don’t. [The curious reader may want to consult a Spanish-English dictionary!]
Here is Jack’s perspective on collecting lunch and speaking Spanish in Barichara:
Today I attempted to speak Spanish with locals.  On a scale of 1-10, I think my speaking was about at a 4, and my understanding was at about 2. Attempting to speak was a huge confidence boost for me, though: I now know that people like it when you try to speak their language, and they aren’t offended if you’re not good at it. I’d like to improve more over this trip because I sometimes feel embarrassed that I cannot communicate in the language of the country I was born in.
Kiira again:
Our final meal in town was at the best restaurant yet, a short walk down the ridge from our hostal overlooking the Andes. The highlight of the meal was patacon, deep fried platain topped with shrimp, cream sauce, onions, peppers, and five pounds of deliciousness!
On Friday we woke early to our first rain, packed out gear, drank our cafe con leche, and headed for the bus station. Three buses later (and another day of travel under our belts) put us in Santa Marta, ready for our time on the Caribbean coast. The group is looking ahead to our Ciudad Perdida trek and to spending time near the water.
Bacchus writes:
After 20 hours of traveling, we crawled up the stairs of our hostel, grateful for beds but literally in the dark about our surroundings. That all changed the next morning as we congregated on the roof top terrace to eat fresh-cut papaya and pineapple, and sip coffee looking out over the Caribbean. But one can only look out on the sea for just so long before the sirens’ song beckons. So we streamed out the hostel in single file and meandered the streets of Santa Marta.

photo[1]Santa Marta is a different beast than Barichara. Whereas Barichara is all colonial charm, white walls, and views without end, Santa Marta is a real city, covered in grit, and serenaded with unrelenting vehicle horns. There are hustlers hustling and teenagers congregating, with nothing to do but point their boom boxes at one another to see whose is loudest. Nonetheless, at the beach, everyone is innocent.  We were no exception, as everyone splashed each other while jumping into the sea, oblivious to the strolling vendors selling shrimp, flip flops, and imitation sunglasses. Frisbees were thrown, bodies were covered in sand, and we gringos took on the customary pink tone that screams, “I was at the beach.”
Only hunger was sufficient to induce our return to town, where we ate a quick lunch before returning to the hostel for a siesta and our afternoon classes. Much of the material focused on the next leg of our journey, a five day term to Ciudad Perdida, the lost city.
By now our group has departed upon that trek; our next post will share stories of that experience.  By all accounts, the group is working well together, learning rapidly, and savoring their amazing time in Colombia!
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