Stranger in a Strange Land

Moving to a small town in Colombia, South America requires adapting and learning daily. This is especially true when you are obvious American in looks, do not speak Spanish and have spent most of your life in American cities. Add to the mix the normal small town curiosity of anyone new.
When I first decided to settle in Colombia, my wife and I purchased a home in a small town just outside the nation’s capital city of Bogotá. My spouse had lived all her life in the city of eight million people, so this was a change for her also.

At 6 a.m., we stepped out of our garage door to walk the four blocks for her to catch the bus to work. The town is a picturesque place nestled between beautiful green mountains. It features cobblestone streets, a city square with a gazebo, benches, shrubs and trees. One side of the central park is anchored by the early 19th century church. Brightly colored artisan shops stores make up most of the rest. The only distraction is an incorrectly built plastic sided stadium whose metal roof contrasts with the clay tile roofs, obscures the mountains and whose noise pollutes the normal tranquility. But that time in the morning was excellent for taking photos so I always carried a small camera in my pocket. My left hand did something that I have never seen done by a Colombian. It carried a cup of coffee outside the house.

We were running late that morning so no time was taken to look the other way down the street. Walking hand in hand with a brisk tempo our feet negotiate the uneven stones. From behind comes the unmistakable sound of running hoofs on cobblestones and we jump to the narrow stone sidewalk. My left hand maintains a tight grip on my coffee cup while the right releases my wife’s hand and pulls the camera out of my pocket. The man passes me running at a jog just as reflex brings the camera to my eye. With her utter swinging side to side a cow follows on a long rope and starts bellowing displeasure at the pace.

Stranger in a strange land The photographed couple made a right turn at the next street. Two blocks away the bus arrived. Time, tide and small town buses wait for no one. My wife started a jog, then a run. I followed running slightly behind her. My one hand still held hers while the other grasped the spilling coffee cup out from my side. I looked at the bus to see if it was waiting. The normally passive and sleepy faces of the passengers were pressed against the glass, probably to witness a gringo with a spilling coffee cup in his hand being pulled by a Colombian woman. At one of the middle windows a lady put a camera to her face.


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