January 4th found me packing up my life once again… heading south to the land I’ve lusted after since we parted… hasta Colombia.
24 hours in transit and I’m lost in a head cold and pressurized cabins and then finally, we touch down in Medellín and the fog in my head clears like the plane descending from the clouds. Here I am, arrived to what will be my new home for the next three months.
Medellín, the city of eternal spring (aptly named for its near perfect weather all year long) greets me with a cool breeze on a warm night while a taxi driver whisks me from the airport to the centro, where I’l be living in the center of the downtown area.
Now, Medellín is Colombia’s second largest city with about 3 million inhabitants in the greater metropolitan area. While it doesn’t have the rich cultural appeal of the capitol city of Bogota or the romantic beauty of Cartegena on the Caribbean coast, there is something special about Medellín which I haven’t quite put my finger on. Probably the friendliness of the paisas (locals of Medellín) or the ideal weather… but I’ll get back to you on what exactly it is that makes this city tick.
Medellín is set the Abbura valley, divided by a river running north to south. Coming from the airport, as the taxi crested a mountain and we descended into the valley, I was awed by the splendor of millions of lights stretching across the valley and creeping up the mountains on either side. During the holidays, from early December to mid January, Medellín is transformed into the city of lights. The entire city, from roadways to store displays to apartment windows and parks, all are alit with Christmas lights. A glorious welcome to light up 2011.
The apartment I am living in is this spacious five bedroom apartment in a building whose penthouse used to be owned by infamous drug kingpin Pablo Escobar. A doorman greets you upon entering and the building opens up to a large fountained courtyard populated by statues and large leafy plants where the noise and bustle of the city are immediately quieted. The apartment, located on the third floor, also serves as the headquarters for the online newspaper I will be working for: colombiareports.com
is Colombia’s leading english news source, with about 200,000 readers monthly and about 7,000 per day. When I was in Colombia last year that figure was 6,000 so it seems it is gaining steady momentum in the three years of its existence. It is the brainchild of Adriaan Alsema, who is my editor and landlord and who immediately made me feel at home.
The apartment boasts five bedrooms, a massive living room which serves as the newsroom, a kitchen, two bathrooms, a balcony and a large courtyard with blooming flowers, creeping vines and cozy places to sit and chill. My bedroom is large enough, with a painted tableau of historic Venice covering one wall. I have been provided with a wardrobe, a massive desk, a bedside table and a thin mattress on the ground. I unpacked my few belongings into the room to claim it as my own.
About five minutes before I arrived, I was preceded by a tiny tail-less kitten by the name of Tornillo, which means ”screw”. He is a manx kitty, which is this special breed from the Isle of Man that have only a short, stubby tail, extra long hind legs which gives him the appearance of a rabbit and superb hunting skills. I immediately felt a kindred spirit with this new kitty and took his presence as a sign of good luck.
The apartment is usually bustling and full of people working or hanging out. Colombians, Dutch and Canadians speaking Spanish and English interchangeably and easily. So far I have not felt lonely due to the constant presence of others and yet can recede to my comfortable bedroom for quiet if I need it.
Work will start up on Monday, although I still haven’t a clear idea of what that will be like, so until then I’m getting grounded and writing exceptionally detailed blog posts. Stay tuned…