Thursday, August 2, 2012

If You Find Yourself in the Mountains Of Colombia

I was just flying in through the clouds outside the mountains that surround Medellin, chatting with an Israeli tourist who was in Medellin for the festival of flowers (he referred to it as the Mardi Gras of Colombia... I didnt have the heart to tell him that he was going to be disappointed and this isnt a secret covert massive parade party session on king street...)

For those of you who dont know or dont remember, I'm in Colombia now as part of my thesis research.  I'm studying something very technically nerdy that is made interesting by the complicated histories of the cities that I am visiting here -- Bogota and Medellin.

I just finished a four day whirl wind series of interviews in Bogota. I think I've been eat, sleeping and breathing my thesis for the past 2.5 weeks. Dont get me wrong, this has been great. Now as I am sitting for over an hour not worrying about work, however, I notice how overwhelming/awesome/exciting/interesting/intense it has been. Really, I guess most of this summer has been this way.

[on the plus side, I rarely feel tired because there is coffee everywhere all the time and it's fantastic. I'm enjoying all of it so much! I suspect this drink-all-of-the-coffee campaign I seem to have going on isnt great... but whatever. I'm sure I'll go back to normal when I get back to Boston. #YOLO..? I guess...]

I've learned a lot of history, read through pages and pages of new legal codes, talked to politicians, journalists, professors, researchers, reform advocates, watch-dogs, taxi drivers, campaign managers, students, and artists about this wonderful, confusing and thought provoking country. I had some time to wander through the colonial downtown, to go out to a horse farm where the forests touch the sky, and through the business districts of a city once feared by the world. It's so full of secrets. Behind the smiles there are memories that make you shiver.

The best conversations I've had were candid. Passionate. Full of truth in the eyes of the beholder. The worst were full of silences, slanted brows and glares, exaggerated movements, standing in the window facing away from me and growling an unrelated response to my questions.

I love the role of interviewer. You get to see how many different ways people process the same questions and ideas. Who allows you to have a conversation with them, and who makes it as painful as possible. One silent space between your questions at a time. You see the people who weave stories out of thin air and bring you right into them. They make you remember. (They are the ones I wish I could drag out for the TEDxYale stage...) It's an ongoing experiment where you realize that regardless of where you are in the world, you will find some of everything.

In the best cases I felt a sliver of my heart drop to the floor. Sometimes with fear of those moments and hoping to God Mexico doesnt head so far and fall so hard... some with pain for the other person. I was humbled by stories I took down in my notebook, scribbling quickly and hoping that I could catch everything before it slipped between my fingers and into the shadows under my chair. I showed up to an interview an hour early, and waited an hour and a half for another one. I sat in hours of the legendary Bogota traffic, enjoying the view of twisting roads and numbers I still dont understand heading into the mountains.

I had arepas of all shapes and sizes, though to be blasphemous and completely honest: I only ate one that I really liked.

And now I have some of those faces etched into my mind. The love these people feel for their country, all in different ways, reminds me of my own love for Mexico. It's complicated. Hard to package, impossible to sell. So many warts and bruises amid patches of shiny and beautiful and something you want to hold close to you. Despite it's claws.

Colombia is beautiful. Even with the wrinkles and cracks, I feel at home here. Which, I've learned, is harder to find that I thought it was. I am lucky to have found a few places I love as dearly as Boston and Mexico.... and perhaps this country is heading that way.

No comments:

Post a Comment