I survived Dengue and headed to Barranquilla for Carnaval. My friends and I had a fabulous time watching beautiful parades, listening to classic Cumbia music, and dancing the night away in the streets. I was careful not to overxert myself or to drink too much, and I worked really hard to keep myself hydrated under the hot sun (harder when recovering from Dengue). On my last evening in Barranquilla a big group of friend and I went to a very popular dance party that is held there every year, Berbetronik, where I got to se one of my favorite groups, Sistema Solar, perform.
I went back to work after returning from my trip and I'm really enjoying my classes this semester. I get to work a lot with my boss, who is one of the greatest teachers I have ever met, and my conversation classes are a lot of fun.
On Friday afternoon, my great friend Laura and I headed to Armenia, one of the principal cities of the coffee region, by bus. The trip took about 9 hours. Our hostel in Armenia, Casa Quimbaya Backpackers Hostel, was lovely and had a delightful little cafe bar on the premises.
Saturday morning we headed to Salento, which I think is my favorite place in Colombia, beside San Agustín. It's just a gorgeous town, with lovely buildings, a peaceful atmosphere, and tons of wonderful places to eat and to drink coffee.
After leaving our things at our hostel we took the 1-hour walk to the coffee farm Finca Don Elías, where we were lucky enough to meet Don Elías himself. His grandson Carlos led the tour in Spanish, and I interpreted to English for the German and Korean members of the tour group who were more confident in their English than in their Spanish. After learning the coffee process, along with how El Niño has led to this and other coffee farms losing an entire semi-annual harvest, and finding that the beans which would be ready for the subsequent harvest were only 50 percent as many as what is normal for them. This has led to higher coffee prices. I also learned that nearly 95% of high-quality coffee produced in Colombia is exported with nearly all of the coffee that remains in the country being sold to visitors. In the supermarket in Salento, the available coffee was the same low-quality (though inexpensive) blended coffee sold here in Bogotá.
Sunday we rose early and prepared ourselves for the 25 kilometer Valle de Cocora hike. We rode in a packed-to-and-past-capacity jeep to the start of the trail. The views, on the cold and foggy morning, were incredible. We passed peaceful cows grazing in green pastures (like in a cartoon movie) and climbed steep hills to our first stop, the acaime hummingbird sanctuary, where we drank some delicious pineapple chicha and observed many dozens of brightly-hued hummingbirds. Next we continued the hike up over the top of a mountain and down into the valley below, overrun with the iconic and incredibly tall wax palms that are Colombia's national tree. We returned tired to Salento and rested in our hostel's comfy and welcoming hammocks.
Monday we visited Pereira, where we met our friend and fellow Fulbrighter Lindsay for a delicious coffee. Our flight back to Bogotá was only 30 minutes- we spent more time deplaning in Bogotá than we did in the air- so we had plenty of time to prepare for the coming week, and for Laura's departure. I miss her so much already, but am happy to know she is home safely and starting work right away in the Duluth public schools. Yay Laura!
This weekend I've decided to stay in Bogotá, to recuperate energy and save what remains of my monthly stipend. I've accepted a job in Costa Rica for part of the summer, and am still waiting to hear from Fulbright about next year - I'm really hoping to stay in Colombia as a Senior ETA. Well, I'll keep you posted!
Have a great week, everyone!