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True Bloom, The Colors andTradition of Antioqua

February 3.

After breakfast, we head to the airport. I’ve noticed that airports aren’t that much fun, even when things go pretty well. Very short line to check in at the Bogotá airport. We’ve been tipped off by Federico which door to enter which saves us a potentially very long walk. Short line for baggage inspection, but difficulties start when I tell them I’m not going to take my belt off, because my pants will fall down. This sets off a chain reaction that requires the Secretary of Transportation of Colombia fly in to okay my going through.

We go to our gate and sit, waiting for our flight until, ten minutes later, I realize that in all the fuss over my belt, I forgot to take my damn bag, I head back to the baggage clearance place and see my bag just waiting, but when I go to pick it up, a security guy stops me and begins talking in Spanish. When I tell him I can’t understand, he takes out his phone and using Google translate says that I need to identify two things that are packed in the bag so that he knows it is mine. I do that, get the bag and walk back to our gate, where I join Carol. Ten minutes later, I look up at a monitor and discover that our gate is no longer our gate, so we go to our new our gate, which is not very far away from our old our gate.

Finally, we board our plane and wait over an hour and a half for “a part.” I’m a little bored, so here’s a shot of the guy in front of me.

Once we take off, it’s a 45-minute flight to the “City of Eternal Spring,” Medellín. We are met at the Medellin airport by Brian and transported to the Andes mountains.

Just outside Medellín in the peaceful town of Santa Elena we encounter a treasure of a different kind: fields of flowers! The vast majority of flowers that are purchased in the United States for Valentine’s Day are grown right here in this region and, later in the day, we visit an enormous flower farm to learn about flower production and the cultivation process of export-quality flowers.

We start the afternoon with a truly special and rare treat: visiting the house of a family that has been participating for 42 years in Medellín’s world famous Flower Festival as “sillateros.” Sillateros carry enormous flower displays, which may weigh over 200 pounds, for nearly 4 kilometers on their backs in remembrance of the times of colonial slavery. We hear all about the tradition and the huge flower festival in early August in Medellin from a woman who has participated for 42 years herself, learning about all the rules and restrictions, watching her put together a flower arrangement from scratch and seeing some of the many ribbons she has won. She talks with great energy and enthusiasm, as Brian translates.

We continue on to a large flower farm, where we are served an excellent lunch. We are then shown around the farm by the son-in-law of the owner and hear about and see all aspects of the flower farming process and see the large variety of succulent plants he is growing, all of which is quite fascinating. Both Carol and I underestimated the son-in-law when we first met him (Brian confessed later that he’d done the same, that the fellow looked sort of like a homeless guy), but we later became very impressed with his determination, attention to detail and creativity. We walk around quite a lot, so my walking sticks come in very handy. The weather is lovely in the sun, but chilly in the shade because of the altitude and rain..

 Afterwards, we are shuttled over to Cannúa, Colombia’s very first sustainable, boutique, luxury ecolodge. The impressive project is designed from the ground up based on permaculture principles and is a leader in ushering in the future of responsible tourism. Brian is justifiably proud of what he has created and the values it fully embodies.

 We go back to our very comfortable room and relax a bit before dinner. Brian has given us a choice between a deluxe cabin and a room in the lodge. We choose the latter as more convenient.

We have a very good dinner at the hotel, Brian popping in and out, as his other duties permit. The staff is young, friendly and attractive. We retire rather early, hoping for a good night’s sleep.

Very interesting day. We’re certainly not in Kansas (Bogotá) any more, and the change is refreshing.

 

 

 

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