Vacation from the Vacation

Friday, August 2 – Sunday, August 4

We went to the airport, and took a short flight up to Medellin.  The flight was smooth.  “Some thunderstorms, nothing to worry about” said the captain.  The flight path led over the western reaches of the Amazon jungle, which will look like West Texas within the lifetime of some reading this.  Maybe even most.

At Medellín, we were met by our dear friend Tibi, who drove us through town, down the valley to Barbosa.  We stopped for empanadas.  Val and their son Marco met us there.  Then he drove us up the hill he lives on.

We were introduced to Tibi twenty years ago when he was in high school in Silicon Valley, and stayed in touch as he moved around, finally settling in Medellin where he’s been for the last nine years.  Several years ago he and a business partner bought a huge plot, and built a little cabin on it.  After a falling-out, he bought another small plot (only 5 acres!), met Val, a beautiful woman (who was also an architecture student), designed a nice house (4 bedrooms, each with its own bath, party deck on top), and built it in a year and a half with the help of two of his neighbors on the hill.  

About six months ago, Tibi and Val had a son, Marco, and this house gives them the space that they need.  It was awesome, after all that touring, to just sit in this house, drink wine and beer and not aguardiente, smoke some homegrown, amuse ourselves with the antics of Marco, and their cat and dog, and relax.  It was a vacation from the vacation.

Over the course of the three days, we did get out a bit.  We went to a trout farm up the road, which had several ponds.  There are sticks with fishing line and a hook, you put a blob of food on the hook, dip it in the pond, jerk up when there’s a bite, and put the resulting trout in a bucket.  When you have enough, you bring the bucket to the staff, who grills the trout and serves it to you on patacones, which are essentially thick tortillas made out of plantain.  Rice on the side, of course, and delicious salsa.

We also went to a neighboring house which grows coffee beans.  After we arrived, Tibi’s friend poured 5 lb of coffee beans into a huller.  After the hulls had been removed, the beans were put into a roaster.  Meanwhile, they served some filling snacks.  When the beans finished roasting, he put them in a bag, and I took them home.

Tibi’s next-door neighbor turned 77, and had a party.  We went for awhile, but our little shot glasses were constantly refilled with aguardiente (made out of water, 29% alcohol, sugar, and anise), and we’re not really very good drinkers.  Also, there was constant dancing with women of all ages, and we’re definitely not dancers.  After awhile we went back to the house.

We went and saw the cabin on Tibi’s original large plot, which seems to cover half a mountain.  He hasn’t actually seen much of it, it’s so large.

It was a most pleasant way to spend three days, and it was inspiring to see the life Tibi has created for himself.  Traveling with Val and Tibi, I felt very explained.  Passers-by saw: a pretty, very young looking girl with a baby, a slightly older handsome man, and whichever two guys were with them, wouldn’t have mattered if we were giraffes, we were all contributing to the ongoing social organization of the villages of Colombia, and there was nothing to doubt or object to or wonder about.

(When it’s just us and Tibi, we are dating so far above our level, that to discerning eyes, it must seem like a transaction.)

Monday, August 5

We had a full day of flying to Panama, Houston, and home. The taxi to the airport arrived about dawn.  Tibi had arranged it in some village fashion.  There are people within a thousand meters of his house who can do almost anything required to sustain life.  During the years of smuggling and revolution, they had to.

An hour’s delay departing from Panama because of thunderstorms, but our connections were not tight.

There was a crazy girl on the last leg of the flight, to San Francisco.  She stood up in the aisle most of the way, singing “Beat It” and “Billy Jean” and chanting “go to hell,” and “God is great.”  She became extremely restive when anyone asked her to sit.  Eventually a veteran with enormous reserves of empathy and composure talked her down.  When we got to the gate, a flight attendant announced, “Please remain in your seat while the paramedics…”

We last saw Maya strapped to a gurney screaming in the arrivals area, surrounded by about ten cops and her mother with an “Again…” expression.   Tom Cruise made the correct decision, agreeing not to take Dustin Hoffman on an airplane.