This is how it happens, then. Slowly, almost imperceptibly, things fall into place.
You leave the city for a smaller town. You ride the bus, watch the countryside change. You walk around, find a park, watch a family playing basketball in the twilight. Multiple generations – the girls mostly, their father, mother, and grandmother. You head to the plaza, buy a latte, and sit on the steps of the church while evening services sing out the door. You watch a procession carry the virgin around the plaza, down a street. She doesn’t come back until the next day.
While sightseeing, you get caught in the downpour and don’t mind. You run into the owner of the comedor where you failed to consume the menu del dia because you couldn’t make the food go down the tunnel of knotted nerves that used to connect to your stomach. She comments that you are wet, you’ve been caught in the rain. She invites you back for another try. You have just the soup, this time, so you don’t waste food. And it’s perfect. Fresh, warm, filling. Your appetite has returned. When you pay, she lets you know the next day’s menu, so you can plan ahead.
Outside, the workmen leveling the cobblestone street – by hand, digging up the stones and rearranging them in a less treacherous fashion – are back to work. As you walk by, one raises his pick jokingly, as if to hit his coworker on the head. You notice and you laugh out loud, which makes all of them laugh with you.
You don’t care that you walk all the way to the ostrich farm and find it closed. Instead, you take a picture of a cow, and an oriole, and talk to a guy who’s twenty feet up a telephone pole hanging wire. You don’t mind when you find a little scorpion in the bathroom; you just put on your flip flops and do some thinking. You take a nap and listen to the second rainstorm of the day. After, a woman scrubs water down a large street with a very small broom.
You see some fossils. The town is small enough that you run into everyone again – the lunch lady, the coffee lady, the guy you asked for directions – and they all want to know how the fossils were. They want to know If you liked the ancient stone structure like Stonehenge (only not, only smaller, only tiny and completely phallic – so how do you tell them you thought it was great without sounding like a perv?) and if you’re coming by later, for coffee, for lunch.
When you return to the Bogota, the city is more familiar. You get off at the right bus stop. You see landmarks where you change to the express. You sit through rush hour and laugh with the woman next to you when everyone, already packed like sardines, gets pushed a little more in places that aren’t pushable. What else is there to do?
This is how it happens, then. How the unfamiliar becomes familiar. How the nerves recede, for now. How you let the world in.
To see more pictures of my travels in Colombia, click here