(The picture above is from Barichara, the beautiful mostly-colonial-era town that’s painted white. I lost all my pictures from the other two cities, Raquira and Villa de Leyva so sorry about that)
Hello everyone! Here’s my next blog post regarding the little places that I’ve been here in Colombia. Most of these villages, or small towns, are artesanal places – which I love!
I’ll be honest and admit that I’ve needed to take some time off from my blog because of the Presidential election. Needless to say, I was devastated with the result. But thanks to some friends who talked with me about my feelings on the result and on people who voted for him, I think I’m at a much better place now. Hence this post!
Last we talked, I was in Bogota staying with my friend Eric (who graciously let me stay at his place and use his amazing wifi and hot showers), but I soon left to go to Villa de Leyva. It’s a small town (not a village) that’s north of Bogota about 6 hours??? Something like that. Anyway, I arrived far later than I had intended (this happens all the time when you travel) because I had a late start in the morning (no one’s surprised), then decided I wanted to have expensive Italian food as my last meal in a big city (it wasn’t that good, though it was expensive), and then caught the bus around 2:30pm and arrived when it was pitch black outside at 8:30 or 9! BTW, it gets really dark here at 6pm!
Thankfully, I sat next to a lady on the bus to Villa de Leyva and she worked at a hostel (honestly it seemed like she owned it but whatever). It was a little off the beaten path, but I negotiated a stellar deal for a private room (which is heaven, for a traveler), for only $9/day! Wahoo! I also negotiated the opportunity to use their kitchen, which means I can eat healthier for cheaper! Hehehe. The hostel is kind of far away, being on the edge of town, but I was extremely happy with it and even had a 40-minute dance-off with a 4 year old girl for one of the nights. We watched the Fitness Coach or something like that on youtube who does hip hop dance exercise videos. So much fun!!! I did it by myself for about 20 minutes and then she got courageous and joined me for the last 20 minutes haha. Sometimes to invite others along, you need to be ridiculous yourself and then they decide “if this crazy guy can do this, the I can too!”
Villa de Leyva is a beautiful town to relax and enjoy yourself. I did a bike tour for one of those days with a winery tour (it was alright), 3 “museums” (2 for dinosaur fossils and 1 for measuring the seasons through measuring shadows of the sun), and ended up eating lunch at a restaurant where all they gave me was smoked meat and potatoes (ugh so much meat and no veggies lol). I spent 3 days, one day to just relax, one day to explore the city, and one day to do the bike tour. Villa de Leyva is also a popular place for wood craftsmen, which I had no idea. Actually, that’s a little deceptive. Villa de Leyva has a lot of carpentry for using wood with construction (which is very different from carving wood to make art decorations). I’ve thought about going back and spending 2 weeks here to watch a carpentery master work and maybe learn a few things about carpentry, but it seems that it will be more about measuring the wood pieces into pre-given measurements and I can already do that.
After this, I went to another small town, Raquira. It’s such a small town that there’s no wifi anywhere in the town. Nowhere, not even expensive hotels! That was a bit hard for me because I like to reach out to people, through whatsapp or fb messenger, and I couldn’t do that for my entire time (3 days). However, I did meet a wonderful family there who showed me around their fabrica, which is the name for their clay-making area. Oh did I say that before? Raquira is famous for ceramics! They make ceramic pots, vases, bowls, plates, cups, piggy banks (I’m not even joking, like huge piggy banks lol to store your valuables and money when people don’t use official banks), and whatever else they think they can sell.
The people at my hostel were very nice and next door was a shop that sold a bunch of items. I loved everything they had at the shop, but I couldn’t buy anything because I didn’t have space. I did, however, just practice my Spanish, and one thing that I surprisingly enjoyed was being treated as “sir”. The lady at the store that was really nice used the formal “tu” form of verbs every time, and she was very formal with me (si senor, si senor). I actually really liked it and wondered why English doesn’t have the formal you forms (usted/ustedes) for verbs. Anyway, besides this side-note of really enjoying talking with her and being treated so formally and with respect, I also asked the lady if she knew someone that could show me how to work with clay for a bit, and she had someone take me to this fabrica where I met this lovely family!
The oldest son was a young man named Wilson, who speaks quite good English, but who told me that he only knows it from songs. (He knew the word “landscape” and I guarantee you there’s no way he learned that from a song, though I suppose he might be right in saying that they didn’t teach English in school when he was going to school.) He is 27, roughly the same age as me, and had nailed up at the back of the fabrica an inspirational quote from Steve Jobs about following your heart and listening to your inner voice. I thought that was a weird quote to have on a wooden post in your fabrica, and he told me that he wanted to leave his family business and travel around the world. Wow! It turns out that his brother is about to move to Australia for work, so they are a pretty adventurous family, and I think he wants something better for himself than his Dad’s work – he especially wants to travel to Europe. I was surprised and pleased with his courage and self-knowledge. I told him there are lots of opportunities to work in Europe through WWOOF or HelpX or any myriad of ways, and that I could help him if he desired. He also said that he read the book “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” and that the book changed his life. 🙂
While there, I also got to work with clay because it was their holiday. (They have many more holidays than we have, somewhere like 20.) I made some horrible bowls (which are surprisingly hard but fun), some horrible plates, and just enjoyed playing with the clay and the spinning wheel. I would love to maybe return and work on their fabrica for two weeks. The entire family is so nice, and I even came back that next day to just help them out with whatever they needed. I helped load their truck with goods that they were going to take the next day to Bogota to sell, and the products of their neighbors, which is how I met this uncle (who I like a lot – he has a good head on his shoulders and I think is a good judge of people). His mom kindly fed me, and his brother played guitar and sang for me. (His brother should stick to guitar lol.)
The next place I went to was San Gil, which is famous for anything adventurous. I did a canopy tour (which is basically a bunch of team-building activities that I did by myself lol – like crossing a shaky wooden bridge, or zip lining, or climbing up a net that’s always moving around, etc.) and tried to do paragliding but there was no wind so I couldn’t do it. At least I got my money back. I was going to do a 50m bungee jump, but after the canopy tour, my body and mind were so exhausted that I just had to take a nap. Gotta take care of yourself!! After my two hour nap, it was too late for bungee jumping and so I just ate dinner and re-met a Canadian girl Nathalie who I had met in Raquira! What are the odds!? We had a great time just talking about our trips and what we learned and what we wanted to do.
I also visited, for literally one hour, the small city of Barichara. It’s about 30 minutes from San Gil, and it’s a lovely, tiny town. I think it has some nice restaurants solely because I saw multiple wine bars and two sushi bars. Like, a sushi bar in a tiny village??? What is that about?
This village, Barichara, is famous for its stone masons. Now THAT’S awesome. Maybe I can return and stay here for two weeks and just hang out with a stone mason that’s cool and can show me some stuff??? Or to duplicate that idea, maybe I could do two weeks in Barichara for stone, two weeks in Raquira for clay ceramics, and two weeks in Villa de Leyva for wood??? That’s definitely something I’m thinking about. I love Colombia, so I’m trying to think of ideas of activities for me to do because I want to be here until February.
After San Gil, my friend Ali from the Credit Union came down to visit her brother (and me, I’d like to think), so I returned back to Bogota for her! It’s been fun seeing her and seeing Eric and his wife. I also met a great British couple who have a resort or something in the Caribbean coast, so maybe I can stay at their place for cheap when I go there! 🙂 They seemed so nice! It’s so great to meet people.
Here are some things I’ve learned:
I’ve learned to think more about the value of time. Here, I have nothing but time. I have saved money, obviously, but my money’s not growing lol! I’m not earning any more, I don’t have any residual income, etc. Therefore, I think more about how I can stretch out my money even if I sacrifice time (like doing cheap buses instead of flights). I also think about how, when I have a lot of time (an indefinite amount of time, in fact), I can spend more time with people. For instance, whereas I might have felt rushed when spending two hours with someone I don’t know for dinner…I’ve changed my mindset and realized this is great. I’m happy to be here! Or to give another example, I’m also happy to “waste” a whole day just helping Wilson load clay jars into his uncle’s truck, or spend an extra day in San Gil because why not? I don’t want to be rushed! Being able to develop relationships or give myself time to relax is more valuable to me than “wasting” a day or spending a longer time than I had previously expected. Of course this means that I have to be flexible, but hey, if you’re traveling, then you will develop this trait within yourself very quickly!
My next blog post is coming soon and details where I am currently. :O This blog post is a bit behind on schedule, sorry.