Category: Colombia, 2016

Reflections on Colombia

February 18.  

February 18. Breakfast in the hotel, followed by a bit of repacking. Half of our group left for the airport at 5:15AM, but I have a civilized 11AM departure for a 2PM flight. So I take a last walk in Bogatá, sit at a cafe and have a couple decaf cappuccinos and take a dozen or so non-memorable photos of folks passing by. 

  

Transfer to the airport and check-in go smoothly, except, ironically, the bug spray that I bought to protect against Zika that I did not use once, gets confiscated. Go figure. My driver spoke no English, so it was a last opportunity to speak Spanish. For reasons that are unclear to me, I have access to the LAN (American’s partner airline) VIP lounge. I’m not complaining, as it’s comfortable, and there’s lunch. And, even better, turns out I’m upgraded for the flight to,Miami.

Now, for some reflections on the trip.

It was a very good trip.  

Four experiences stand out for me.

First, Carnaval was a spectacle, to be sure. Elements of it were reminiscent of Fourth of July parades in the States. But there was a difference, primarily in the crowds, who were infused with great spirit and energy, and were far more than just spectators. As an aside, Carnaval, and, indeed, the entire trip, gave me some respite from the even more bizarre carnival going on in the US political campaigns. With the availability of news through the Internet, though, I certainly did not escape the campaign altogether, but it definitely was subdued by distance.

Second. At the other end of the spectrum from Carnaval, the tiny island community of Islote Santa Cruz was unique, and experiencing it twice was a treat.

Third, was simply walking through many different neighborhoods, talking both verbally and non-verbally to people and photographing whatever caught my eye. Though this may seem unexceptional, I find it immensely enjoyable, not only the people, but photographing the graffiti, and colorful windows and doors. I wish I’d taken some time to brush up on my Spanish before the trip, as greater facility with the language would have made the neighborhood visits even more enjoyable.

Fourth, was my connections to people I knew from the States, Brian (and his girlfriend, Laura, who I had not known) in Medellin and the Christies in Bogotá. I suppose it’s a bit odd to be considering meeting folks you know as a highlight of travel, but being able to connect like that in a foreign country has a special appeal. An unexpected pleasure of traveling. As an aside, the dinner I had with Brian and Laura at El Cielo was truly memorable. Every once in a while, a meal or a hotel rises to the level of significance to the trip, as a whole. Dinner at El Cielo is an example.

Certainly there were other things I enjoyed: the Punta Faro resort for a nice change of pace, the afternoon learning about the Wayuu culture and even some of the shopping. A few things went wrong: lost luggage, excessive heat, longer than planned travel and a rather defective boat ride. But those sorts of things always happen, and become part of the fabric of the trip.

As usual, Nevada ran a very good trip. She is fun and flexible, allowing people to make their own choices and go their own ways. And, though this is not essentially a teaching trip, she is available as a resource to everyone.

The more photography I do, the more I realize how much I do not know, and probably never will. A good part of this is my own choice, as I’m unwilling to devote the time and effort it would take to make great leaps forward. Yet, I continue to learn some, and am generally content with the balance between learning and not having to make the effort to master the technology or to invest in, and schlep, a lot more equipment. Some of the photographic settings were very challenging–tight quarters, low light, movement, contrasty light, use of flash, bright sunlight–and I struggled, often unsuccessfully, in dealing with them. And I’d make some basic mistakes, such as changing settings to deal with a particular situation and then forgetting to change them back when the setting changed.  

Still, there almost certainly are a few images worth saving in the thousands I took. And that’s enough to keep me going. A bit like sinking a putt on the 18th green, after a mediocre round. Basically, I operate on the principle that given an infinite number of monkeys with an infinite number of typewriters, they’d produce all of Shakespeare. I regard myself as one of the monkeys. But I’m hoping that I’ll make at least a little effort between now and my next trip to become a more accurate typing monkey.

The group was basically a good one. As always, there are some I liked better than others, but then, hard as it may be for you to believe, I’m probably in the lesser-liked grouping of some of the others on the trip. It has not seemed necessary, or right, to comment particularly on the group members in the blog.

I’m acutely aware that the ability to continue to take this kind of trip is not guaranteed, so I intend to try to take them frequently, as long as I can. This trip was not particularly trying, except for the heat along the coast. Still, I’m not as nimble jumping on and off of buses or as able, or willing, to schlep large luggage as I once was.

Taking you all along with me was a great pleasure, and I thank all of you who took the time to read this blog, and especially those who commented, either by posting or email. Those comments are an inspiration to me to keep on writing, and posting.

A lovely bit of symmetry and coincidence to conclude. Some of you may recall my pre-trip post in which I spoke about the American artist who lives in Turkey, and my fascination with how different our lives have turned out. I have not been in touch with her these last two and a half weeks and, as she seems to have an almost religious aversion to blogs, she has not followed the trip. As I was packing this morning for my return home, I got a wonderful email from her talking about the arrival of Spring, the pink blossoms on prunus trees, chicks that will soon be hatching, a water supply that is likely to last only until August, because of the drought, her chimney collapsing and the arrival of the first grasshopper of the horde that she’ll need to fight off. I was reminded that her world is probably more foreign to me than the one I’ve inhabited these past couple weeks. And it’s so good, through the miracles of technology, to be able to share her world with her.

Carol and my next trip, in early May, is going to be a very special one, as you’ll find out soon. It will be good to travel with Carol again, as I missed her on this trip. (But my greater desire to travel and focus on photography makes an occasional trip alone a pretty good compromise for us.) Until May, then, hasta luego.

Reflections on Colombia

  • lauri pollack

    As always, thank you for the fascinating voyage. Wonderful!

  • Kathy Hornsby

    Thank you, Arnie. I’ve read all of your posts and thoroughly enjoyed your insightful commentary….not to mention your humor! As I was in Colombia with Nevada several years ago, much of what you’ve written brings back fond memories of my trip (the heat not being one of those fond memories…) Most memorable was the infectious and inclusive spirit of those celebrating Carnaval – as you have noted in your blog. And I’m sure it was a welcome respite from the US political carnival. Please give my best to Carol, and I eagerly await details on your trip in May!

  • Paul Woo

    Save travels and welcome home Arnie. Just in time for Cub’s spring training musings and gossip, no less. You should blog about the cubs this year – please!

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