Wednesday, July 19, 2006

¡Felíz Cumpleanos!

The live vallenato band is thumping and grinding (organ-grinding, that is) at a cheerful and volumious level two flights down here in the backpacker hostel I'm crashing in for two nights. I couldn't take it in the suburbs any more, so I booked a room at the Palm Tree Hostel in Medellín proper. Here it is:

Somebody´s niece is having her 18th birthday tonight, so there´s a band and an incredible amount of grilled meat piled up. Hostal guests are invited to join the party for 10,000 pesos, but I'm not hungry right now and not entirely sure I'm ready to party in español with total strangers. I did meet one of the other guests earlier when I was checking out the festivities--she's from Seattle and working on her master's in public health. For those who are curious, we spoke quite a bit in Spanish, and then one of the aunts of the birthday girl joined us for a little bailar (dancing) up here on the top floor by the computer.

Getting here verged on my worst nightmare about traveling solo in Colombia, but gracias a Dios, everything turned out fine. Taxis are muy interesante here, to say the least. First of all it's worth your life to drive in the traffic, and the back seats of taxis mostly don't have seatbelts. I would say my Spanish is good enough to chat up taxi drivers a bit, but not good enough to get out of trouble if they don't know where they're going. Let's just say that has put a bit of a damper on my ability to take in Medellín nightlife.

So tonight I took my very first solo taxi ride at night. Leidi, the maid out in Envigado, called the taxi. I tried to give the driver the Palm Tree's street address but he didn´t pay attention to the A in Calle 52A and just made like he knew where he was going. He didn't. I spent 10,000 pesos and my blood pressure went through the roof during our tour of some shady-looking neighborhoods, during which I was beginning to wonder if he was lost, running up the meter, or planning to mug me or worse, especially when we appeared to be hitting a dead end in one of the shady backstreets. In the end, I think he was just lost, but it was enough to make me quite nervous. Finally we passed a Metro station and I said '¡dejame por favor!' which I hoped meant Let me out! Whatever it meant, it worked. The guy told me the station was Estadio but when I got inside I discovered it was Poblado, which isn´t even on the same line. I was just grateful to be out of the cab, even if it meant hauling my now rather heavy suitcase a few blocks.

So then I got here and walked into a fiesta muy grande. And I have a room on the first floor right in the middle of the action. And I'm supposed to be back at that same Poblado station at 7:45 a.m. to go to a colegio (school). Whee!

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