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Birds, Buses, Bars and a Basilica

Fresh Chismoso from Jardin, in Colombia’s Zona Cafetera

Wandering onto the panela park, pre-moonlight, watching the sun in retreat, a crusty old pastel star tonight,  pink in the clouds and full of itself. Masked streets, faces lit up – plaza gawking — the cultivated art of doing nothing.

There sits Jorge, in front of La Tampa, a man who once drank 38 cups of coffee in one day, then just like that he quit the stuff. His wife said it made him jumpy. Now he walks the streets singing Tango and eating papaya. 

Later my neighbor, who runs cows along the stone path to town was feeding bananas to his brahmas yesterday…and they couldn’t get enough. I’d never seen that. These bovines are treated very gently and do not shy away from a pet on the nose. So far he has not detected any desire on the part of the animals to swing from trees.

They all probably find foreign visitors here rather amusing, and why not? Many of the younger visitors cram 10 to a small hostel dormitory for less than ten dollars a night, buy an empanada, then spend thirty dollars drinking. No small accomplishment where two shots of anejo rum and two beers sets you back about five dollars.

There are not many gringos here since the town has only recently graced the world’s shallow compendia. The ones that do show up are generally seasoned even if hand signals are their major Spanish component. 

On Sundays the campesinos that work the coffee fincas come to town. They are loud boozers with bad music blasting in the cantinas, but no altercations. One such worker asked me in English where I was going one day and I told him I was headed to church to pray for him. The next time he saw me he parroted my phrase, only he said he was going to church to play for me. I got the concept.

High up above town, at nearly 8000 feet, the Reserva de Orchideas beckons. Mangos and rain accentuate the green scene. Palms perch mixed with pine trees, monkeys, eagles, sloths, bears and pumas. These are joined by thousands of birds and a vast assortment of other mammals. Wild waterfalls abound along jungle paths and mountain vistas.

This afternoon I heard tell of a young man who wore so much cologne that his mother here in Jardin knew exactly when he left work in Andes on the bus (30 minutes away) and when she could start dinner. Tonight, he’s having chicharron with avocados, rice and fried plantains.

And if that doesn’t float your arepa, this morning the local loco ate all of the bananas I hung on the patio’s iron grillwork last night. When I gave him a bill for the fruit he said he would not pay since I taught his cats to understand English and undermined his feline authority. 

He’s crazy but not stupid. What he doesn’t realize is that they are mad for cheese and olives.

-Miguel  Manypenny