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Entries about medellin

CouchSurfing in Medellin

“The City of Eternal Spring”

sunny 79 °F
View To the equator and beyond! on tltisme's travel map.

Medellin is an extremely nice city. At just under 5000 feet and less than 500 m from the equator it boasts a perfect climate, basically between 75 and 85 year round (short and t-shirt weather for a Maine boy day and night). The city has an exceptionally clean, modern, straightforward, and popular metro system, the best in Latin America, (allegedly possible through the wealth accumulated here by narcotraficantes) which includes three different metrocable (gondola) lines running up the mountainsides that the city has expanded into in all directions. Over the course of our five days there we rode all but three stops worth of the metro system and made sure to ride all the metrocable segments which were great (and cheap) entertainment. As the six person hanging capsules were whisked along you were given stunning views of the city as a whole while simultaneously allowing flyby perspectives into individual homes and neighborhoods perched on the hillsides. We visited some great parks, cheap restaurants (3 course set dinner for around $4), relaxing gardens, popular bars (my favorite boasted the best michelada, beer mixed with límon and salt, and served endless complimentary popcorn), interesting museums, modern malls (one with a huge aerobic dance class taking place at night that I have a great video of), and markets full of intriguing food, fruit, produce, and crafts. I was constantly impressed by the helpful and friendly people and often surprised by the apparent affluence and modernity.
We CouchSurfed for the first time and it struck me daily how amazing and easy it was. CouchSurfing is an online network of people both offering and seeking lodging and/or social interaction with strangers. Amy and I had made an account this summer offering the cottage on Islesboro but did not receive any requests while we were available. There were many options in Medellin and we ended up staying with a Laura Fernandez (a recent graduate of Florida State University who is back in her home country with her father, applying for masters programs worldwide). Laura's father was head of the environmental and social consciousness division that he had created at EPM, one of the largest energy providers/utility companies in the world. Oscar Fernandez's coffee table and bookshelves were packed full of books by environmentalists, economists, and scientists about climate change and sustainable living and he and Laura had both attended the United Nations Climate Change summit in Durban, South Africa last year. I had recognized an elephant patterned fabric in the apartment as South African made and was intrigued to hear about the summit in Durban (which I had visited briefly in 2005 to meet the senior class trip from Islesboro). Amy and I were given the office/library room with a pallet on the floor for our five days there and allowed to come and go as we pleased. We ate our first dinner there with Laura and her father but mostly we had the place and kitchen to ourselves and considered the free lodging a sweet deal (not to mention the pool access we took advantage of one afternoon). CouchSurfing is larger than I thought and we have found many people listed in towns such as Otavalo, Ecuador. We are encouraged by our experiences with the network so far and will certainly look to continue finding hosts and people to meet along our trip.

Posted by tltisme 16:17 Archived in Colombia Tagged metro couchsurfing medellin botero metrocable Comments (1)

Developing, Developed Colombia…

While the designations “first world” and “third world” are still widely used to label nations across the globe, the terms “developed”, “underdeveloped”, “developing” have begun to replace them in our continued attempt to place ourselves in some hierarchal order. At university, I spun in circles around the development-definition turntable: Was development simply having access to safe drinking water and basic healthcare, or did it include rights to education? Did development mean increased wealth, westernization, speaking English? Or was it something more like just living a happy, productive life in a way that reflects and celebrates some deep, cultural tradition? Perhaps it meant international free trade agreements or, rather, supporting local farmers in the open market? Highways constructed through the jungle to connect sprawling urban centers, or, instead, preserving natural habitats for people to enjoy for generations to come?

In the past six years, I have been face-to-face with hundreds of indices, rates, goals, protocols, agreements, treaties, measurements, predictions, estimates, abstracts and proposals, each arguing that their definition of development was correct (all this, before even mentioning the word “sustainable”!) All these definitions have taught me is that there isn’t a very good one, and that development means a great deal of things, and measuring it can be messy. For me, my understanding of what it means to develop continues to be informed by my experiences abroad.

While I have often found myself trying to sum up my experiences in Latin America in some two sentences for friends and family who have never traveled here before, it was always a disservice to generalize about this immense region that spans more than a continent. Every single barrio, pueblo, ciudad, departamento, geographic space and climactic zone is infinitely diverse. So far, however, Colombia stands apart from most any generalization about Latin America of which I have been guilty in the past.

The following are some of the pre-question asking observations I have made about Colombia and its development:

In and around Bogota, a sprawling cities housing nearly 11 million people (that beats the Burroughs of New York combined), there are newly constructed 30-story office and apartment buildings, immense networks of paved roads, large-scale construction projects por todo parte, larger, newer cars being driven, and cables, lots of cables (electric, telephone, television and computer cables) making millions of connections. Throughout the countryside, there are plenty of streetlights and the roads are new or well-maintained. We have taken public transport anywhere we’ve needed with ease. In addition, we have been able to drink water from the tap without a problem most everywhere we have traveled so far.

In Medellin, thousands of people and businesses await the tourist influx: newly employed workers wait to assist visitors to their immaculately-landscaped private parks equipped with hiking routes, free bikes to ride, adventure courses and learning centers. These workers travel hours by efficient metrolines and metrocable to heights 2000-feet above the city center to prepare to guide visitors through hundreds of attractions.

What Colombia seems to be missing amidst its growth:

Enough tourists to take part in its natural beauty and burgeoning cityscapes. Colombia appears ready, but apparently many tourists are yet ready for it, in large part because Colombia has yet to shake off its bad rep: you know, that pesky narcotraficante…Pablo Escobar and FARC and coca and kidnappings one? We allow ourselves to be blinded by a haunted past, even while Colombia has undergone a real transformation in the past decade and a half, mostly because the people of Colombia are tired of these associations and are proactive about change and the possibility of ending drug trafficking and guerrilla violence for good.
More about these developments in my next post…

Posted by AmyERichards 13:55 Archived in Colombia Tagged tourism bogota colombia development medellin developed Comments (0)

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