Seedy and Delicious – A Walk Through Medellín

Throughout its history, Colombia has been a remarkably stable, successful and peaceful country, except for a brief period of turmoil between 1499 and 1995.

I learned this – and many other facts about Colombian history, customs, culture and food – during a four hour walking tour of downtown Medellín from Real City Tours. The company advertises itself as giving the “real” scoop on Medellín, and they deliver. Our guide, Pablo, was one part storyteller, one part history professor and one part teenage girl madly pouring her heart out on Whisper. It added up to a fascinating day of touring.

I got to the meeting point at the Alpujarra metro station a few minutes early for the 9:14 a.m. tour start, so I mingled near ten obvious tourists who were too shy to break the ice by saying “Hey, we’re a bunch of white people in shorts standing in the foyer of the metro station – ya think we’re all here for the same tour?”

But no, we all studiously avoided eye contact until Pablo arrived and rounded us up. Then we made introductions. There were the usual collection of Americans, Dutch, Australians, Irish, Germans and one couple from Hong Kong who call into question my white people joke from the last paragraph.

Pablo was great. A life-long Paisa (as those from Medellín are known), he took us to plazas and parks, palaces and historical buildings. At each he gave us a taste of Colombian history mixed with his own winking editorial comments on the what makes Colombians tick. It was not just a walking tour of the city, but also a walking tour of the Paisa psyche.

Pablo taught us to form a tight circle (“A Colombian wall”) the first time we stopped for a history lesson. He told us that Colombians are very curious, and if we didn’t stand shoulder to shoulder we’d soon find people pushing into the center of our circle to see what was going on. We laughed at this, until 30 seconds later people started trying to push their way into the circle to see what was going on.

At each stop Pablo catalogued the triumphs and tragedies of Medellín, from the Spanish massacres to the building (and subsequent failure) of the railroad, from politics to the drug cartels and finally Medellín’s rebirth as a world-class city with an amazing transportation infrastructure. Along the way he pointed out towering new libraries where squatter’s camps used to stand, prostitutes loitering in the shadow of the beautiful Iglesia de la Veracruz cathedral, and street vendors selling cups of guarapo, a popular drink of sugarcane juice and lime that looks like radioactive Mountain Dew.


My favorite place on the tour was Plaza Botero in the heart of downtown. Fernando Botero is a world-famous Medellín artist, known for his paintings and sculptures of people and animals with exaggerated, bulbous dimensions.


Plaza Botero features of a dozen of his works in a large open square filled with pedestrians and vendors, shadowed by the Rafael Uribe Uribe Palace of Culture, a dramatic building that was designed by Hungarian architect Agustín Goovaerts. The project underwent a number of starts, stops and changes of leadership during its construction between 1925 and 1982, leading to an oddly compromised design that is gothic revival in the front and modernist in the back, a sort of mullet palace.


The final stop on the tour was Parque San Antonio, a large public plaza that serves as a stark reminder of Medellín’s history. In 1995, a bomb placed under a Botero sculpture exploded, killing 23 people. In the aftermath, authorities prepared to remove the damaged sculpture, but Botero himself implored the city not to do so. Instead, he donated an exact replica, which today stands next to its broken twin as a reminder of the tragedy and an homage to peace in the future.

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As Pablo was quick to point out, despite a history of tragedies – the Spanish conquest, a checkered history of radical paramilitary groups, the drug wars of the 80s – the Paisas have persevered. They remain some of the most happy, friendly and upbeat people in the world.

* * *

I was very excited for my next adventure – the Exotic Fruit Tour. Due to Colombia’s mix of equatorial, coastal and mountainous terrain, this country has some of the highest biodiversity in the world and is home to dozens of native fruits that are little-known in the rest of the world. I’ve always stuck to the party line of apples, grapes and bananas, so I was both intrigued and a little scared of the tour. I am not known for my wildly adventurous tastebuds. My tastebuds are more like your Grandma Helen who lives in Ames, Iowa, and thinks a day trip to Des Moines is living on the edge.


I met the tour at Plaza Minorista, a giant indoor farmer’s market a few metro stops from my apartment. This time I made a point of introducing myself to the others waiting for our guide – there was a couple from Great Britain, two Canadians from Calgary and Montreal, and a Swede wearing some sort of hemp parachute pants that made him look like MC Hammarskjöld.

Our guide was Juana, a perky Paisa who had spent 14 years in Europe and was the only person among our tour group whose English I could actually understand. She distributed taste spoons to each of us and explained the rules of the day: no blocking the aisles, no getting run over by carts, no five-second rule if you drop a fruit. We plunged into the farmer’s market, which was a whirlwind of activity – vendors shouting, shoppers arguing, laborers pushing overladen carts and one dorky Swede in balloon pants carrying a tiny spoon.

We stopped at a stall and had our first fruit of the tour, the guayaba. It was mildly sweet and pleasant. Juana explained that the guayaba has properties that aid with digestion, and added “it’s not a coincidence that this is the first fruit on the tour.”


I had been assuming that we would maybe try one spoonful of each fruit, a dainty taste before moving on to the next. But no, Juana handed each of us an entire half fruit to dig into. I did the math and realized that eating half each of the 18 or so fruits promised on the tour meant that I was about to consume the equivalent of nine entire fruits in the next two hours. Nine fruits, I should add, that my stomach was wholly untested on. This may be more fruit than I’ve eaten total in the last six months. I had visions of a dramatic night spent in el baño and the next day having Fernando Botero erect a sculpture of my stomach in remembrance.

We pressed on. The fruits kept coming, relentlessly. We ate the lulo, an orange-like orb that is said to have narcotic properties. We ate the chontaduro with honey and salt. It had a chestnutty texture and is said to be an aphrodisiac.


At another stand we examined the albarroba, a giant black seed pod of a fruit that Juana opened with a hammer. The meat of this fruit came out in chalky, powdery chunks. “Tastes like compressed, mummified moth,” say my hastily-scribbled notes.

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Halfway through the tour we stopped at a small booth in the corn section of the market, where we watched expert shuckers remove the kernels from cobs of corn in about three seconds flat, using only what looked like a small box cutter. We sat on plastic stools while a woman cooked us fresh arepas de chocolo, which sounds like a sex crime perpetrated by a certain breakfast cereal Count, but are actually thick, grilled tortilla-like cakes made from yellow sweet corn. They were about the most delicious thing I’ve ever eaten, like a crisp cornbread that didn’t need any honey.

We pressed on. The pitahaya was one of my favorite fruits, sweet and subtle with a creamy flesh and a bulbous outside. Juana told us that it had “laxative properties.” I was pretty sure that my AirBnB was going to be a laxative property in a couple hours, if you catch my drift.


The mangostino had a pleasant flavor but was difficult to eat around the large stones on the inside. The uchuva is a tart gooseberry that comes in its own wrapping paper. And the nispero was the sweetest fruit on the tour, like a tiny bowl of fruit-flavored ice cream in an unassuming brown rind.


We ate sugared tamarindo sticks and passed around a heavy guanábana, which looks like a giant cactus poop. Juana made sure to teach us the proper pronunciation – the accent is on the middle syllable so that it rhymes perfectly with a certain Muppet song.


We ended on a series of passion fruits – granadilla, gulupa, maracuya and curuba. Overall I found them, like parts of downtown Medellín, a little too seedy. We wrapped up the tour by heading upstairs to a juice bar for complimentary juices, a group picture and learning the lyrics to Ü Can’t Touch This in Swedish. Just kidding. Actually, we said our goodbyes and I headed home to wait out FRUIT EXPLOSION 2015.

It turned out that my stomach came through with flying colors, but after eating fruits with digestive, laxative, narcotic and aphrodisiac properties I did have a very conflicted night of dreams.


Attempted Murder

It turns out that Colombia is more dangerous than I thought. A man tried to kill me on Saturday.

That man was Daniel, the guide for my Medellín bike tour.

When I signed up for a half-day Medellín bike tour I assumed it would be a nice relaxed pedal on fat-tire cruiser bikes along tree-lined paths, stopping every few blocks to let the panting, out-of-shape tourists at the back of the pack catch up. What I didn’t expect was grinding up hills on high-end mountain bikes and then bombing through busy freeways and on ramps in downtown Medellín with cars whizzing by inches away on either side. Basically, the panting out-of-shape tourist at the end of the pack was … me.

Daniel’s been running bike tours in Medellín for a few years now. I caught a taxi to his apartment, using the EasyTaxi app to summon a cab to the front door of my condo in about one nanosecond. EasyTaxi is said to be safer than hailing a cab on the street, though I think “Robbed by taxi driver” is one of those travel urban legends like “Enjoyed flying on US Airways” that has been overblown. Nonetheless, there’s something fun about pressing a button on my iPhone and having a driver pull up in less than a minute. I’m pretty sure this must be what it feels like to be Donald Trump.

Anyway, joining me on the bike tour was Chris, a 50-something Californian who is here on a “journey of self-discovery.” He’s apparently interested in “affecting change in our world from a grass-roots level,” but right now he’s “taking time out to really get in touch” with himself. If I told you he lived on a houseboat in the Bay Area, I bet you would not be surprised.

The final member of our pack was Prahlad, a mid-20s New Yorker from India who currently lives in Bogotá and works in fraud prevention at Citibank. He came directly to the bike tour after landing at the airport, and apparently had already set up a date for the evening, which confirmed my suspicion that he had a lot more game than the rest of us combined.


After getting outfitted with helmets and gloves, and signing a release form that I probably should have read more closely because I’m pretty sure it included phrases like “inadvertent decapitation” and “repatriation of remains,” we set out on our ride. Daniel advised us to keep close and watch his hand signals carefully. He showed us the signals for “Follow me,” “Wait for traffic to pass,” and “Oh my god there’s a bus heading right for you!”

Just kidding. There’s no point in a signal for that. There was constantly a bus heading right for me.

The first stop on our tour was the Cerro El Volador mountain, which I had just hiked on foot the day before. To say that my sea-level adapted lungs were not keen on pedaling up a grueling incline on a heavy mountain bike would be an understatement. I made it about 1/3 of the way up before I had to dismount and do the walk of shame, pushing my bike to the top. When I finally reached the summit we took a break while Daniel pointed out the key neighborhoods of the city, regaled us with tales of Colombian women’s penchant for plastic surgery, and dropped the factoid that Cerro El Volador was the city’s prime dumping ground for bodies during the drug wars. I decided to wait and refill my water bottle somewhere else.


We re-mounted our bikes and bombed down the mountain at high speed, then made our way to downtown by merging our bikes directly through a busy intersection where a two-lane highway merged onto a four-lane superhighway, weaving in and out of cars while buses and motorcycles shot past at maximum speed. I’ve done a lot of stupid things on my previous travels – ziplining, rappelling, snorkeling, renting from Alamo – but this was by far the most dangerous. At one point we were weaving through speeding taxi cabs in a sketchy downtown neighborhood, leading to a possible scenario where one could be run over by a car and subsequently robbed by a pedestrian at knife-point.

We took a break for lunch at the Botanical Gardens, where Daniel recommended ordering a salad so as not to get overly filled up. I ordered a 12,000-calorie plate of food in the interest of not passing out. Chris told us about his plans to discover the meaning within himself, while Prahlad thumbed through pictures on Tinder (I’m presuming).

Properly fueled up, we headed out for the second part of the tour, which consisted of bombing through dedicated bus lanes, dashing across freeways on foot and stopping every three or four feet for me to catch my breath while Daniel shared anecdotes and historical tales about the city. I would recount these to you if I hadn’t had a stroke while riding.

The next day was Sunday, and I was excited because it was Ciclóvia. Every Sunday in Medellín (and many other cities around Colombia), they close down a number of major streets to cars from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. and make them into giant bike-and-running paths. For those who live in Portland, it’s like our once-a-month Sunday Parkways, only here it happens every week and they close down 25 miles of streets. And these aren’t dinky side streets — these are major thoroughfares through the heart of the city.

My AirBnB comes with a bike, but when I tried to lower the seat I realized that it was jammed. I also found that the front brakes were stuck shut. The bike did not seem rideable. Undaunted, I threw on my running shoes and walked over to Avenida del Rio for a jog along the river. As advertised, there were tons of people out biking, running or rollerblading this long stretch of highway. It was fantastic.

After a short run I was pretty pooped, so I came back to my condo and decided to have another go at the bike. By turning it over and pile-driving the bike seat repeatedly into the ground, I managed to unstick the seat post and get the bike adjusted to an appropriate height. It’s probably good that I’m not a chiropractor. I also undid the front brakes entirely, figuring no brakes was better than a wheel that wouldn’t turn. Thus outfitted on a rickety, squeaky, poorly-adjusted, unstoppable death trap, I headed out for a ride.

On my way back toward the Ciclóvia I ran smack dab into the start of a city-sponsored community ride called Ciclopaso Por Los Derechos De Las Mujeres (“Ride for the Rights of Women”). I thought what the heck, and merged in with the group of 500 or so riders for the free event. It was a slow-paced ride, which was good because the bike I was on had the acceleration of an anchor. One older gentleman was doing the ride with a dog perched on his shoulders:


There was much cheering and good spirits on the ride, and every mile or so the entire pack would slow down to allow the stragglers (i.e. me) to catch up. Then our motorcycle escort would head out again and block traffic as we rode through Medellín’s streets.

After an hour of riding, we passed right next to Cerro El Volador, and I began to have nightmares of a third trip up the mountain in three days. Luckily, we only skirted the mountain and eventually made our way to downtown, where we stopped near the science museum for a brief rest and bags of water (which sounds goofy, but cleaning up 500 bags of water is so much faster and easier than 500 plastic water bottles).


After two hours of riding, it occurred to me that maybe I should have asked how long the ride was before I joined in. Maybe I misunderstood the title of the event and it was the Ride Until Women Have Achieved Full And Equal Rights. I probably should have brought a snack.

While crossing back over the river toward what I presumed would be the end of the ride, my legs finally threw in the towel and said “Nope, here’s where we cramp.” Two and a half hours of hammering in the sun on a $15 bike will do that to you. I was stopped flat, my legs so cramped that I couldn’t even take a single step. After some self-massage and stretching, I was finally able to gingerly walk my bike the mile back home.

In two days I rode more than the last three years combined, and Medellín’s bike culture made me feel right at home. Like Portland, it’s a community that loves to come together for cycling. Unlike Portland, the people here apparently wear clothes while riding. Go figure.




I think Colombia has a counterfeit money problem. The reason I think this is because every time I buy bananas down at the local grocery store the employees examine each bill as though I were a high-profile international criminal involved in ransoming hostages.

Every cash register has two employees. When I hand the cashier a bill she examines it carefully, holding it up to the light and rubbing it suspiciously between her fingers. Then she hands it to the second employee and together they point out the appearance of certain security features, such as a watermark or the absence of “Get 10% off your next Vistaprint order” printed on the back. Finally, once they are in agreement that the bill looks kosher, the cashier cops one last feel before putting it into the register.

Between this routine, and the fact that the exchange rate means I’m walking around with a half million pesos in my fanny pack, I’m definitely starting to get a feel for what it must be like to be an international criminal mastermind.

[Note to self: check Wikipedia to see if wearing a fanny pack automatically disqualifies one from being an international criminal mastermind.]

Luckily, I don’t have to go to the grocery store that often, because street vendors provide many of the things I need around here. For instance, there’s a woman in front of the tienda across the street who sells delicious grilled chorizo on arepas every night.


And all of my avocado needs are easily met by the avocado salesman who wanders up and down the street for what appears to be 24 hours a day shouting “Aguacate!” at the top of his lungs. It took me two days to figure out that the shouting at sunrise coming from the street below my 6th-floor condo wasn’t a caffeine-deprived early riser shouting “I got coffee!” over and over again. I really need to work on my Spanish comprehension.

I may or may not actually be on the real 6th floor, because my condo building inexplicably has a -1st floor. Apparently “P” or “B” wasn’t good enough for the parking garage; someone had to go and get all funky with algebra. I’m told that there’s a barbecue area up on the roof, but I haven’t yet had a chance to venture up to the 8 – 3/4th floor yet.


Absolutely the best part of this condo is that it has a garbage chute accessible right outside my door, leading down to (I presume) a dumpster on the -1st floor. There’s nothing that turns me into a gleeful eight-year-old boy faster than listening to the satisfying thunk-thunk-thunk-smack of a trash bag rattling seven stories down the garbage chute. I believe that throwing junk off of buildings satisfies a universal human drive — at least for dudes. I’m 95% sure that’s why the Mayans built the pyramids.

Besides street vendors, the other notable feature of this neighborhood is the highest per-capita collection of beauty salons in the world. There are at least two hair stylists on every block. Either someone’s figured out a loophole in the whole law of supply-and-demand, or there are a lot more two-headed Colombian women than I was lead to believe.

On Friday I walked about a mile from my condo to Cerro El Volador park, an extinct volcanic bulge in the center of the city. It took about 90 minutes to get from my place to the top of the park, but I was rewarded with a gorgeous 360° view of the entire Aburrá Valley and the city of Medellín. I was also rewarded with a reminder that Medellín is at about the same elevation as Denver, and I was panting like a beagle on a treadmill by the time I got to the summit. The top was a peaceful respite from the noises of the big city, as I sat among the trees and watched hawks and buzzards fly past. The only sounds were the occasional cries of parrots whizzing past, and my oxygen-starved heart beating at 290 beats per minute.


The weather in Medellín is absolutely delightful. It’s known as the City of Eternal Spring, owing to the combination of equatorial proximity and high altitude. Pretty much every day gets up to the mid-70s or low 80s, and at night the temperature stays at a pleasant mid-60s. We’ve had a mix of clouds and sunshine, with the occasional powerful afternoon thunderstorm. With its unique geography, Medellín somehow manages to be both dry and humid at the same time. Come to think of it, this may explain the preponderance of hair salons.

So far I’ve managed to sunburn myself twice, even under a full cloud cover and wearing sunscreen. At least I hope it was sunscreen – I can’t really read the tube. It’s entirely possible I purchased toothpaste from the farmacia and my scalp is just minty fresh.

As they say in Spanish, aguacate!

Getting There is 23-1/2 Hours of the Fun

When you tell people you’re about to spend two weeks in Medellin, Colombia, their first reaction is to tell you that you’re going to get murdered. But when you explain that Pablo Escobar has been dead since 1993 and Colombia has rebounded from the drug cartel days to become a vibrant story of redemption and rebuilding, they tell you that you’ll probably also get kidnapped. Old reputations die hard.

I’ve been wanting to visit Colombia since I went jogging in Barcelona a few years ago with a Colombian expatriate. He extolled the virtues of his home country as we ran along the Mediterranean, or at least I imagine he did because my Spanish is a little shaky. It’s also possible that he was from Columbus and I should be visiting Ohio this month.

Anyway, about two weeks ago the travel bug bit me hard, so I cashed in some last-minute frequent flier miles and planned a trip for Medellin. I have an American Airlines credit card which nets me a free South American vacation every year. I get one mile for every dollar I spend on everyday purchases and two miles for every dollar I spend on American Airlines. If they ever come up with a credit card that gives miles based on purchasing cat food, I’ll be able to afford a flight to Jupiter.

Over the years I’ve gotten pretty laissez-faire about planning my international trips. In the early days, I used to try to plan out every detail and make sure I packed just the right things. For this trip, I threw some items into a carry-on backpack and headed for the airport. There’s nothing I can’t pick up in Medellin that I couldn’t get in Portland, unless I have some kind of crazy vegan salmon jerky emergency.

The one preparatory step I did take was contacting my credit card issuers to alert them that I would be traveling internationally. There’s nothing less fun when overseas than having your credit card put on hold because the computerized fraud algorithms balk at an unusual purchasing pattern that looks like:

March 14: PetSmart, Portland, OR
March 15: PetSmart, Portland, OR
March 16, PetSmart, Portland, OR
March 17, Todo Lo Que Comer Pollo, Medellin, Colombia

Setting up the travel alerts went smoothly until my Bank of America card, wherein I got an error message that I would paraphrase as:

Colombia? Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ... uh, no!

After talking to a nice customer service agent, the upshot was that they won’t even put in a travel alert for Colombia because of astronomical levels of fraud. “You can try your card, and it may or may not work,” said the helpful lady. I may or may not pay my bill.

My flights were long but uneventful. Mileage tickets are rarely the best times or connections, and this was no exception. I left Portland at 9:30 p.m. and immediately had a scheduled layover in the San Francisco airport from midnight to 7 a.m.

[Side note: When you’re trying to make a tight connection after landing, you inevitably end up on an airplane jammed full of people who show no urgency or competency for exiting the plane. It’s like being in tent city full of squatters who refuse to be evicted. But when you have seven hours to kill until your next flight, the plane clears out in two seconds as if it were a giant can of sardines and someone opened the top and shook everyone out.]

I walked to my next gate and tried sleeping on the floor, but was awoken every half hour by the loudspeakers blaring a reminder to NOT LEAVE LUGGAGE UNATTENDED FOR THE SAFETY AND SECURITY OF EVERYONE. This would have been useful information if there had actually been anyone or their luggage in the airport at 3 a.m. The only people present were me and the late-night workers operating a suite of noisy machinery such as an industrial-strength vacuum, a motorized floor waxer the size of a Zamboni, and a leaf blower. I’m not 100% sure about the leaf blower; I was wearing a sweater over my eyes and the sound was drowned out by the voice reminding me to NOT LEAVE LUGGAGE UNATTENDED FOR THE SAFETY AND SECURITY OF EVERYONE.

I didn’t get a lot of sleep.

I did sleep for about three hours on the five-hour flight to Miami thanks to the world’s best travel pillow. I always feel a bit goofy inflating this pillow next to my seatmates, like I’m about to do balloon-animal tricks at a six-year-old’s birthday party, but soon I was too asleep to care. When I awoke I dug into my family size bag of beef jerky and finished reading Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind (recommended!), which of course had the following paragraph:

“Today the global average is only nine murders a year per 100,000 people and most of these murders take place in weak states such as Somalia and Colombia.”

Thanks, reading.

It was an easy 90-minute layover in Miami, then one final three-hour hop across the Caribbean to Medellin. Before departing, the gentleman in the window seat next to me flagged down a flight attendant to urgently inform her that there was fluid dripping off the wing and it might be a fuel leak. She assured him that she would let the captain know, in the same tone of voice I imagine parents must use when reassuring their children that they will check under the bed for monsters. A few minutes later she returned to let him know that the captain had declared the liquid to be “condensation,” and also in the event of a water landing there was a Cthulhu under his seat.

Passing through customs in Medellin was quick and perfunctory, and I didn’t even have to declare the 25 kilos of beef jerky I was carrying in my backpack. I went to an ATM and withdrew $600,000 Colombia pesos — the exchange rate is 2,629 pesos to the dollar. I feel like a gazillionaire here every time I buy a pack of gum.

I jumped into the first taxi I saw, gave the driver the address of my AirBnB, and settled back for the one-hour drive into Medellin.

Until I decided I was being kidnapped.

Here’s the thing: I usually have a pretty good sense of direction, and it sure did not feel to me like we were driving in what I imagined to be the right direction for Medellin. Plus, I was pretty sure I had read that there was a modern four-lane highway from the airport to Medellin, and we were currently on an undivided two lane highway winding slowly up through the mountains. Plus, we had blatantly ignored a number of exits that had signs for Medellin. Plus, it occurred to me that there was nothing on the outside of this white car that actually said the word “Taxi” – I had just jumped into the first car where someone had shouted “Taxi!” Plus, there was no meter. Plus, the driver was being awfully quiet — usually Latin American taxi drivers are up for some idle chit-chat. Plus, the driver kept putting on his turn signal as if he was about to turn off onto a long dirt road leading to a secluded hacienda where I would be held for ransom. I mentally kicked myself for not doing a credit check on my emergency contact.

It occurred to me that it would be incredibly ironic to get kidnapped immediately upon arrival in Colombia. This might set some kind of world record that could only be broken by getting kidnapped while exiting the plane:

“Wait until the aircraft has come to a complete stop before unbuckling your seat belt. As you exit the aircraft, please step into the open trunk of this idling Nissan Sentra.”

So we were driving along windy mountain roads, and I was making panicky calculations as to whether I could leap from the moving vehicle and use my backpack to cushion the fall as I escaped from my abductor. Luckily, a few minutes later we reached the toll booth for entry to the four-lane highway, and I relaxed because it seemed like a really incompetent kidnapping strategy to bring your victim through a toll booth with security cameras; plus, take it from the cheapskate who scheduled a 7-hour overnight layover at SFO to save a few bucks on airfare, I believe it would be poor financial strategy to plan a kidnapping route that included tolls.

The driver delivered me right to the door of my AirBnB condo and charged me the official, government-regulated price of $60,000 (about 35¢ USD, I think).

I was met at the door of the AirBnB condo by Gloria, the landlord’s agent, who gave me a tour in Spanish. A few minutes later the landlord arrived and gave me the exact same tour in English, which was a nice test of my listening comprehension. It’s a good thing — based on my Spanish competency I probably would have peed in the microwave.

After a good night’s sleep I spent yesterday exploring the neighborhood, grocery shopping, working with my office back in the USA (the internet here is strong and reliable, much like the coffee) and going for a run. I also got to watch a massive thunder and lightning storm. I’ll spend more time exploring the city over the next few days, but so far I like what I see. It’s a beautiful, verdant, energetic city, surrounded by tall mountains which provide gorgeous scenery during the day and a twinkling nightscape after dark. Also, it feels completely safe whether walking around during the day or at night, although I am remembering to NOT LEAVE LUGGAGE UNATTENDED FOR THE SAFETY AND SECURITY OF EVERYONE.