Places to go in 2011…. Cali, Colombia

12 01 2011

I got an email from my best friend today that said “NYT voted Cali in top places to go in 2011…. live it up.”  And in fact it did– check out #10 here on the New York Times top 41 places to Go in 2011.  It was interesting for me to read the little travel blurb about Cali– because it basically summarized all that I had heard/seen in my short time here.

More than anything, I can’t believe how different it is here than Medellin.  Cali also sits in a valley. But it sits in a HUGE vast valley. Therefore the city, with a few exceptions, is relatively flat.  So that is difference #1.  Difference #2 it is way way hotter here.  This is primarily due to the fact that we are about 500 meters lower and we are a lot closer to the ocean, so there is added humidity too.  And this change in climate means a lot more tropical trees and plans here in Cali as well.  But I think the biggest differences are the people themselves. Often as travelers, it is easy to begin to stereotype a nation… and I don’t even mean bad stereotypes, but you start to think that you understand the peoples of an entire nation because you get to know a few hundred habitants of a particular city.  It’s like saying that you understand people in Texas after you have visited New York… it just can not be done.

The population here is Cali is much more diverse than what I saw in Medellin– or maybe saying it is diverse yet incredibly homogenized is a better way of saying it.  Walking down the street you see people of EVERY color, size, and shape.  And this has had a major impact on the culture of this city– they have african american influence, carribean, spanish, indians, and all these cultures have come to an amazing cultivation, this amazing assimilation, here in Cali that is hugely rich in Salsa and Rumba, music festivals, bull fighting, and TONS of cultural events. 

The view from my new window... sadly, no pool

I am living in an apartment with a fantastic woman, Mercedez (but everyone calls her Negra) and her sister.  She could not be more polar opposite from Glora, but is absolutely an amazing and inspirational person.  We live in a second floor apartment above Magnolia… who I lovingly refer to as the “Gloria of Cali”.  This is because they perform the same jobs– they assist the families from the US and several European countries who come to Colombia to adopt kids (Magnolia is pretty busy because there are currently 3 families here awaiting kiddos).  She helps the families navigate the city, the court system, the language…. yep, thats right ladies and gentlemen. She speaks english!!! An answer to my prayers. However, we have mutually decided to speak Spanglish, with an emphasis is Spanish, so that I can continue to learn.

Today I had my first meeting with Oscar Scarpetta.  I am not sure how many of you all followed Anita and Tanya’s (super kids volunteers and also duke alumni) adventures. They were here last summer and did some amazing physical therapy work with the kids– you can check out their blog  if you want to read more about their trip.  I had an amazing meeting today with the director, Julietta, and the director of the health department, a neuro-psychologist named Carlos.  This is a significant time of change for this huge orphanage (it houses over 120 kids 0-20 years-old).  The leadership is new and they are full of  “yes we can” energy. The big problem… the “yes we can” attitude has to overcome a pretty major financial deficit that has been building over the last few years. 

To me, it seems a perfect partnership for Super Kids: they have the knowledge, the ideas, the desire… they just need the resources.  They need our help bringing all these projects to fruition.  So that will be a big part of my time at Oscar Scarpetta. Yes, I will be a physical therapist.  But I will also spend time working with the administration, brainstorming, writing projects, and well— making this place with so much potential become a more safe, stimulating, and nourishing place for the kids to live. 

And with that, welcome to Cali.

KO

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6 responses

12 01 2011
Kel

Keely, I love reading your blog…keep up the great work! You are awesome, I would never me able to communicate (you know how much trouble I have with even English)

Did you see that Durham was #35 on that list? so you can cross 2 cities off that list!

17 01 2011
Nani

we are looking at your blog about christ
mas and New years. glad you and gloria
got home after the gas tank was
empty. i loved reading about all your adventures. I live you very much, granddaughter. In think of you each day.

17 01 2011
Nani

I live and I love you very much!!

17 01 2011
Nani

I pray for you each day and that
you are safe and happy.

Do you want to hire your grandma to
be your secretary? I am a computer
wiz!!!

20 01 2011
Nani

Hi Keels,
We just read your last three blogs and they are very good. I think they should be published in the New York times or the Baptist Standard! I love to hear about your work with superkids.
Good night and God Bless You. I love you.

Nani

21 01 2011
Joshua O'Dell

You’re neat.

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