Friday, Mar 15, 2019
The family of my host own a finca (farm) in the mountains above Medellin. Alicia, my host, was kind enough to invite me, and my roomies and fellow classmates, Jann and Zita who are from Switzerland, to visit this gem of a space in the rolling, green mountains of Colombia. Alicia’s kindness and generous spirit has been a staple part of the Colombian experience I have enjoyed while living here.
The home at the finca has a story book feel to it. It and the surrounding land is filled regularly with the many descendants of Alicia’s grandparents who owned this large sprawling farm.
When we arrived Alicia and her cousin made us a fantastic lunch in the big open kitchen. Zita enjoyed the freshly made coffee.
Another Kind of Finca
The area around Alicia’s finca is filled with many other fincas. This country was made for farming and growing. Yann, Zita, and I walked to one particular finca that grew flowers. We just showed up, knocked, and asked if we might be able to quickly see the flowers. The owner was more than generous and gave us a tour which lasted more than 2 hours. I have found the people in and around Medellin very friendly and extremely generous in spirit.
There is a parade held in Medellin each August called Desfile de Silleteros. In the history of Colombia, the peasants and indigenous people carried wealthy Spaniards, members of their own families, or cargo on sillas (chairs) that they secured to their backs. A person would sit in a chair and be carried on the back of another. For long journeys, wealthy Spaniards would travel with several men who would take turns carrying the members of a family the entire length of a journey.
After the arrival of the mule, the animals did the heavy carrying of people and goods. Today the people remember the Silleteros…the men who carried goods and people in chairs…by filling the sillas with beautiful flowers grown locally in the region and formed into beautiful and elaborate arrangements.
The man who owned this finca created an arrangement for his silla on the spot for us. First he took us to different areas of his finca to gather the flowers which he then arranged for us in the silla. He even gave us an opportunity to be Silleteros ourselves.
Muchas Conversaciones En Espanol
When we finally returned to Alicia’s finca, her brother and sister-in-law had arrived. Together we all sat around the big living room, drank wine, ate cheese and other snacks, and had conversations about many different topics…all in Spanish. For me this was a highlight of my week. I was in an environment where no English was being spoken, and I had to force myself to listen, speak and stay with the conversations.
Now, could I understand everything? Absolutely not, but what I couldn’t figure out, I was able to ask it be said in a way I could understand. The people in the room were generous and always made every effort for me to understand. I was also kindly corrected when I said things wrong.
At one point in the evening, as we were kept warm from the mountain chill by the heat of the fire in the corner hearth, I was hit with a sense of joy. It came from the contrasts. Colombian, Swiss, U.S. people, all speaking Spanish together while listening to an old Beatles tune being sung in English. The contrast worked.
For me it is in the contrasts of life that I find some of the most delicious experiences of living. This night was one of them.
Several of us visited this hill in the middle of Medellin. It offers a great view of the surrounding city. On top of it is a local museum filled with many interesting photos of people, life, and activity in Medellin in the early and mid 20th century. Plenty of places to eat and shop as well. Wherever we go, it is always a good time with my fellow classmates.