It has been way too long between posts- I apologize. The good news is that my excuse is Having Too Much Fun. It’s been a whirlwind couple weeks that included a number of visitors, a lot of English speaking, and some needed soul recharging. It all started with my lovely little sister Alicia who stopped by on her way home from a summer of volunteer work in Ecuador.
Alicia and I have always been close, but we spent the last few years trying to navigate a changing relationship- from little girl:mother-figure (10 years age difference) to Two Adult Sisters. Last summer we traveled to Nicaragua together and I found myself confused about my role. Was I her cool travel buddy or her guardian? Was I supposed to join her in flirting at the bar or was I supposed to glare at the boys protectively? This summer it felt like we were meeting on equal ground. She was an easy going, mature guest. She speaks Spanish, she understands how to navigate Latin American culture, she deals with the heat and the food and the men like a pro. She was just as happy to salsa dance until 3 am as she was to cuddle up in bed with Netflix and a margarita. I think part of it was that Alicia is growing up (into an amazing young woman I might add.) But another part of it is that I am rediscovering how to have fun…in the old fashioned 20-something way that I kind of skipped for most of my 20-somethings. As part of my Great Life Change (also known as my Saturn Return- look it up) that started this last summer, I have managed to let go and live a little. And that includes laughing and dancing and meeting new people in a way I haven’t done for years. And yes, it often lasts until 3 or 4 am. And I love it.
The weekend after Alicia left was Festival Petronio Alvarez a gigantic free music festival in Cali that celebrates Pacific Colombian culture, specifically AfroColombian culture from the coast. A number of Fulbrighters from Medellin and Bogota came to town for the weekend so Elena and I traveled with a pack of ladies and we had a wonderful time.
Every evening, as the breeze came in and sun started to back-off we wandered down to the Pan-American Fields where we spent the evenings dancing to marimba, drums, and maracas under the full moon and treating ourselves to new sensory experiences straight from the coast. Fried plantains covered with shrimp in coconut sauce. Fried potato stuffed with shark. Arroz con Mariscos. Ceviches. Shrimp empanadas. And of course, bottle after bottle of Arrechón and Viche. Viche is a bootleg backyard sugar cane alcohol. Not delicious. But Crema de Viche and Arrechón…YUM. Arrechón is a funny story. The word actually means “pissed off” except on the Pacific Coast where it means “horny.” Yup…it’s supposedly a very potent aphrodisiac known for improving male virility as well as cleaning out all the female “parts” in preparation for reproduction. =) And it’s the drink of choice at Petronio. Made of Viche, sweetened condensed milk, peanuts, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Turns out it’s also a very potent hangover inducer.
The weekend of Petronio, I was also lucky enough to receive a visit from Pilar Bernal de Pheils who is my mentor and professor from UCSF- the reason I am in Colombia right now. Pilar is from Cali and I had the pleasure of accompanying her, her mother, and a few other professors on a day trip to La Hacienda El Paraiso, a historic old hacienda/plantation outside Cali.
The best part of the trip (besides being Pilar of course) was the chance to appreciate the countryside around Cali. Without a car, my options for getting out of the city are limited. And maybe it was Pilar’s enthusiasm (you could really tell that the beauty of her home touches her soul) but I absolutely fell in love with the countryside. The deep green valley flanked on both sides by towering mountains. The gigantic trees with roots that reach for miles, their branches hanging with spanish moss and bromeliads. The cattle grazing, the villages we passed, the colonial haciendas…all amazing.
On Monday one of my very best friends in the world, Victoria, arrived for a visit. She arrived baring gifts (directly off my List of Requests). She was my wing woman for the week, accompanying me to new parts of Cali I had been too shy to explore on my own. It was so wonderful to be loved by someone who knows me so well- just what I needed.
Word on the street is that the Ethic’s Committee is done with their initial review of my project and I should have a list of revisions in hand soon. Which means that Phase 1: Recruitment is just around the corner! Today I wandered around town until I wandered into “Professional Printers” block, picked one that looked good (kind of like picking a Tarot card…I just go with my gut) and had my posters and brochures all printed off. So exciting!
These will soon be gracing the walls of the Centro de Salud Siloe. I’m not counting on getting very many phone calls since no one ever has any credit on their phones around here, so my plan centers around charming the nursing assistant (“You look lovely today! Oh yes, you are KEY to this study because all the patients trust and respect you sooooo much…oh and here is a small gift, a token of my appreciation for all your help with recruitment…”) so that she will collect names and numbers for me on a sheet of paper. Every Monday I will swing by the clinic to collect the *massively long* list of interested participants. As soon as I have about 12-15 confirmed eligible women (I’m anticipating anywhere between a 25% to 50% no show rate…) I will schedule and hold my first focus group. But that is for a future post…once actually have something to report!
Thank you all for baring with me these last weeks and for all the comments of love, support, and encouragement. I’m missing the fall (all your photos of pumpkin patches and leaves!) but am still enjoying all my hours spend swimming in the beautiful outdoor pool and the evenings in tank tops. Abrazos for everyone!!!