Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Only Risk is Wanting to Stay

Danger is perceptual.
The media paints strange abstract pictures of foreign lands, and everyone has places they fear in their own hometown.  There are statistics, & statistics sometimes fail.  No one really ever knows.  Thus risk.

Travelling through Colombia is like Running from the rain.  The heat in Cali is dreadfully perfect.  The Caleños don't pray for rain, they dance.  This is the Salsa Capital of the World.  In fact, they had to change the rules in the Salsa Olympics so Caleños would not win everytime.  Their speed in superhuman.  We are showered with sweat instead.  The only place we relish the cold showers.

I've been staying at this hostel for a week now.  Carlos, the owner, welcomes you at the door with free salsa & yoga classes.  The turnover rate here is very low.  Some people have been here 2-3 weeks, scheduling their return.  It's nice to have a home for now.  A safe corner for my things with friends & always something happening, even if it's nothing.  Sleeping in a bed is luxurious.

Last minute homework before arriving made me stiffen up.  Travel Advisories are to be taken with a slice of lemon chaser.  The US issued one December 2010 for Cali, not just because it's big scary Colombia, but because the kidnapping rate has grown incrementally.  The map given to me by my first hostel had a big white splotch in the middle with the subtext saying DO NOT WALK HERE.  We live on the edge of that area now & go there to eat, shop, buy groceries, go to concerts or watch ballet.

Cali is shrouded in mystery, or so it seems.  Considering the length of our stay, we hardly know anything about this city.  We hardly bring our cameras out, to avoid trouble.  It's a strange almost comforting feeling knowing there is no physical recollection of these days.  Lack of self-consciousness is refreshing.  Cheering on mimicry (or failure) at salsa lessons, even when the Cops are the ones watching.  At room tempurature it's hot yoga, but none of us are the ultraflex masters, so we shake & sweat & laugh later.  Tossing rings into the Sapo throne, which is a fabulous piece of carpentry.  Bringing our dancing shoes out at night, every night.

(There was a percussion festival, an International Ballet festival, & a cultural festival this week - of which I keep getting my wires crossed, but persevere.  Finally!  Live music!!!)

The Argentinians cooked magificant pizza for everyone Friday, & are brilliant musicians & dancers.  Natalie (Germany) lived here a year a while back, & since it's her last weekend, always knows the cool local places to be - she points & educates me.  Cullum (England) spent a month on a shamanic quest south-west from here & can point out things about me I've never told anyone - we look for the underground.  Doron (Israel) is a ballroom dancer with a slick sense of humour - I kick his ass at Sapo & he returns the favour on the dancefloor.  Mix with 15 other people all over the world.  My Hostel Life.

When we discuss danger, we are preaching to the choir.  It's sometimes more evident than other times.  Last night at the bar one of us heard a story from a woman whose brother had been killed the night before.  In explanation, she said "This is Cali.  These things happen."
...and there's sometimes dancing on the streets.

We are protected by the occasional helicopter armed with machine guns, and the lock on our front door.  We've heard the stories, & scars to show.  We are protected by each other & common sense.
Then we go our seperate ways.

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