Strangeness in San Luis

Our days in the countryside always present surprises.  No matter how much we plan, we end up making new friends, going to unexpected places and getting information while sharing a meal with someone we hadn’t even planned to meet.  So Friday was a typical day of field work – spontaneous, surreal, and somehow productive.

We woke early, ate two arequipe pastries, and drank weak coffee and bubbly water.  Then we went to the municipal government building, for an interview with the ombudsman, and numerous people greeted us by yelling “Hey!!” from their offices and smiling and waving as if we had known each other for years.

After our interview we headed to the river with our new friend, “Gallego.” (Everyone in rural Colombia goes by nicknames. Sometimes people don’t even know each others’ real names).  I was totally unprepared for our trip, as I was wearing flip-flops, and we had to share a rocky path with horses.  But it was still well worth the hike, as Gallego showed us all of his favorite swimming holes from his childhood all while explaining the history of the conflict in San Luis.




The old sports facility that was abandoned during the conflict and is now in disrepair.


Path to the river.


One of the main economic activities in San Luis is cutting wood and selling it. These horses are carrying the wood to a central location where it will be picked up and sold in a city.

Swimming hole

Swimming hole.

Swimming hole2

swimming hole 3

Jake swimming against the rapids.

At the last stop on the tour – a swimming hole where young lovers go for privacy – we got attacked by an African bee.  Even after stinging Jake on the head, the bee kept after us, and we all ran back onto the path to escape.  Then, just a bit further along, we were threatened by four very aggressive and honking geese.  Like a bullfighter, Gallego used one of our towels to distract the nipping geese while Jake and I ran past them.

Finally, we arrived in the town square exhausted.  Jake changed out of his bathing suit in the public bathroom so he’d be ready for our next meeting, and we ordered tintos at the kiosk.  As we sat and laughed about the killer bees and killer geese, the cement began to shake beneath our feet and we realized it was an earthquake!  But the tremors stopped as quickly as they began and so we laughed it off and headed to our next meeting.

We presented our work to the 12 members of the municipal council, while they took attentive notes.  The formality of the meeting and microphone made me feel strange, as I hadn’t fully changed after the river and was still wearing my bathing suit under my pants.

After the meeting we got back on the road and drove 2 miles in the dark to a community leader’s finca, where we had dinner with his family, showered, and got into bed in one of their guest bedrooms.  I slept soundly, until both Jake and I woke at around 5:30am and listened to the rain on the metal roof before drifting off to sleep again.

It was a good day.

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One Response to Strangeness in San Luis

  1. Dad says:

    Was it Updike who wrote “The Swimmer?” Jake seems to be swimming his way across (or through) Columbia. Not a bad way to go.

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