Saturday, July 15, 2006


To see a bit of Medellín, check out this link:

I´m writing this from the Internet café at the Hotel Nutibara in downtown Medellín. Once the fanciest hotel in town, I'm told, its elegance may be a little faded, but it is a great spot to take a load off after lots of walking and window-shopping downtown. Here it is:

I keep getting lost here in downtown. Somehow I'm not following the Lonely Planet map's orientation. I keep having to ask directions which is always an adventure since I'm never too clear how well I understood whatever was said. A very nice older gentleman walked me here to the hotel when it was all of about two and a half blocks away. I'm sure he could tell I was pretty disoriented and that just telling me directions wasn't going to penetrate my language barrier.

Things I´m loving about Medellín: climate (perfect!), scenery (spectacular!), potable water (in plenty, and even a hot shower in my suburban apartment), the Metro (newer, nicer and cleaner than any US public transit system I've ever been on), the vast majority of people I've encountered (friendly and helpful), the play I went to last night, which starred one of my Spanish teachers.

Things I´m not loving about the experience, none of which are Medellín's fault, most of which have to do with my lodgings, which were arranged by the Nueva Lengua language school. NB: I have two teachers at the school, both of whom are female--my first female Spanish teachers, gracias a Dios--both of whom are good, and both of whom are interesting people who extend themselves beyond the classroom. For that, I'm very grateful to Nueva Lengua.

But I wouldn't recommend the school unless you're someone who wants to stay in the suburbs. They put their students up in Envigado, which is a middle to upper-middle class suburb of the city. It is close to the Zona Rosa, aka party central, and to lots of great shopping, but our lodging is not that close to the Metro and taxis don't know where it is. So if you came with the idea of exploring the city, it's not so fun. And the so-called homestay is very unhomey. There is no dad, the mom is on vacation, the son is 20-something and working (selling cookies, he tells me), and we get to hang out with the maid. No disrespect intended to her, she's great and I like her a lot, but if I wanted a family homestay I could have stayed home and hung out at Dawn's house and saved a pile of cash!

It's also been more than a little weird to go from visiting country folk without mucho dinero to probably the most bustling commercial center in Colombia, and hanging out in some of its posher areas. My homestay here only confirms my observation that worldwide, it's generally the poorest people who are the most generous with their hospitality. And frankly that was so heartbreaking to be the object of for ten days straight, followed by the coldness and stinginess present in my current homestay--my fellow classmate says before I got there they weren´t feeding her enough!--it was all enough to make me cry in front of one of my teachers during class yesterday.

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