Monday, January 19, 2009

The Accidental Farmers Of Medellin

More so than at any other time, when I travel I begin to employ all of my senses, rather than relying on sight alone. The odor of exhaust intertwines with the warm, golden aroma of unfamiliar pastries and the steamy smell of pavement after a rain. I run my hands along carved marble facades or feel the uneven pitch of Bogota´s cobbled streets. under my feet . I revel in the rich, creamy texture of carimoya (to look at, uglier than celeriac, but to eat, reminiscent of a sweeter, fruity avocado) and take delight in the fact that, instead of the canned melodies of an ice cream truck, here in Medellin I am serenaded by a banana salesman with a PA system. At night, I fall asleep listening to the periodic whistle of the night watchman. (Apparently armed only with a whistle and a stick, he wanders the neighborhood from dusk til dawn whistling every so often to scare off malcontents. This one man "security force" is endearingly reminiscent of bear deterrent strategies for the woods like saying "go away bear!" in as deep a voice as possible.)

I travel for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the wake-up call to life that accompanies this sensory barrage. It can be exhausting sorting through and make sense of the accents, the vocabulary, the utterly unfamiliar ways of doing the most mundane tasks. But when I happen to look down and notice that paisas (the people of Medellin) are using peanut plants, with their clover-like leaves and petite yellow flowers, as a lawn cover, I can`t help but grin, and wonder what other familiar sights and sensations are hidden amidst the exotic ordinariness of Medellin.

7 comments:

Anthony-Masterson Photography said...

Wonderful reporting. I feel as though I am there. I can taste the air. Cheers.

OM

andrew said...

a second here. very evocative post. one quibble, however. yelling "go away bear!" really does work! and besides, do you have any other suggestions?

bran said...

Enjoy your trip, MK. We will miss seeing you at the farm here in Georgia! - Brandi and the boys

EJ said...

Why call them "accidental"?

I agree yelling does work for bears, might not night watchman also work?

MK said...

I meant nothing pejorative by the word "accidental"--merely that the peanut crop is not the primary goal of paisas (as far as I know, no one harvests their lawns). Interestingly enough, Alina informs me that the Medellin night watchman idea was exported to a city in the US--maybe Miami?--and crime in the vicinity noticeably decreased. I am nevertheless glad that I do not have to wander the streets all night long, preserving the peace!

Alexandra said...

I am officially, utterly, devastatingly in love with your writing, MK. As previous comment posters have said, your posts are so vivid and perfectly descriptive. I'm glad to be able to vicariously experience Columbia through you and your writing!

Although Atlanta and this bacon-lover miss you!

mrtumnas said...

Beautifully written post! I had no idea previously that bears could understand English.
Found your blog from civileats.com -Lovin' it!